Monday, January 13, 2014

Why You Should Be Teaching Your Children To Argue

Should we be teaching our children to argue?  If we expect our children to be able to defend their beliefs, then we need to teach them how to state a premise, to give an explanation that defends that premise and then think through the reason as to why or why not their premise is right or wrong.  Wait, isn't that arguing?   According to the dictionary online it is.

My guest today on Embracing Your Greatness, my radio show on RADIO MARIA was Matt Fradd with Catholic Answers.  We discussed his DVD "How To Win An Argument Without Losing Your Soul".  It became clear within minutes that I picked a guest in which more conversion must be had.

We are called to evangelize but to do that it means we must understand what an argument is and what an argument isn't.  I must admit, when I think of the word  "Argument" I think of a heated debate with veins popping out of a person's forehead and pointing fingers and scowling faces, stiff body postures and definitely yelling.  But that is not what an argument is.  In fact, it is the opposite of an argument.

According to my online dictionary an argument is a reason or set of reasons given with the aim of persuading others that an action or idea is right or wrong.  A great example of this would be of a lawyer being asked by a judge to give his or her "closing arguments" to the jury.  Typically that would not include veins popping out of their heads, yelling and scowling and and the like.   Rather, the closing argument would be a summary statement of one's belief, a few statements to back that believe up and then restating the belief.

For example; "My client cannot be guilty of this crime.  Two eye witnesses place my client out of the country during the time the crime was committed.  The DNA evidence was contaminated because the police did not secure the crime scene and three forensic specialists agree that the results were inconclusive.   This proves that my client is not guilty of the crime he/she is being accused of."


So if an argument is laying a case for or against something then we need to be arguing more and teaching our kids to do the same.

It has become strangely apparent to me that people are having a very difficult time laying out an argument and then entering into a conversation to defend their position.  I think this is because we have forgotten how important it is for us to exercise our brains by using philosophy to broaden our understanding of things.  One reason might because of pride and a misunderstanding of justice.

When we are always right or "argue" a point from a position that we know everything and there is nothing to learn, we miss an opportunity to understand a world that may not use the same terms and definitions we do.  That is why the Socratic Method is a great tool in learning how to argue with people of different faiths or beliefs.  I love the example used on Wikihow.

Statement:  This table is blue.

This table is blue

Question: To a Blind Person is this table still blue?  If no: Proceed to Next Step

Is the table blue to a blind person?

If Yes: What makes it blue to a blind person and not green or pink?
            If someone can't see, what makes the table blue?  Is it their perception? Is it the rods and cones in our eyes that see the color? Is it the light that reflects the color? Is it the pigments or chemical composition that create a color?

This is the most fascinating aspect of using the Socrates Method to argue.  In asking these questions we teach our children the why's and a deeper understanding than just a right answer.  How can we effectively dialogue with someone who may have many different reasons for believing what they believe? We must know what OTHER people believe before we can share OUR beliefs.  To begin evangelizing before we know what the person in front of us believes and why would be like going to Mexico and speaking Chinese.  That would be stupid. Something stupid is something that does not make any sense.  Speaking a language that someone cannot understand would make communication impossible.  Desiring to communicate but choosing a method that is impossible does not make sense, therefore it is stupid.  See what I did there? I just stated a premise and then laid the foundation of belief for that premise.  That is the Socratic Method, well, it is the dumbed down version.  I work best with the dumbed down versions.

The next step for those who decide that table is blue only to those who can see it is to change the initial statement to take the exception into account.

Does a person need to see it for it to be blue? 

Now we challenge the new statement with another question.  "If the table is in the middle of an empty room, where no one can see it, is it still blue?".

What if there is no one to see it?

This reminds me of the question "If a tree falls in a forest but there is no one there to hear it, does it make a sound?"

This exercise is very important because it begins a discussion/argument on what is sound.  Two different arguments can in theory be very right.  Remember, the point is not to be right, it is to be humble enough to listen to the other persons point of view so as to better understand their logic, their reasoning, their beliefs and thus be more capable of communicating ideas effectively.

This is where I have failed miserably as a parent.  I plan on rectifying this today.  I have understood my children need to be better at defending their beliefs but I have been hard pressed as to how I can help them as 6 year olds, 10 years olds, 15 years olds and 20 somethings on the importance of being able to know why they believe something and then know how to effectively (the key word being effectively) communicate their beliefs to others.  This is evangelization folks.  Communicating their belief in Jesus Christ and their fullness of faith as Catholic Christians.

So where do we begin? According to Matt Fradd ask you child to tell you what a sandwich is.  One example he gave was asking his child "What is a bed?"  His son replied "It is a hard thing."  So he responded with "So it is a rock."  His son replied, "no, it is a big thing."  So Matt stated "It is big, like a truck?"  His small son got giddy and replied "No! " then looking down at his sheets with writing on it stated.."it has writing on it."  Matt laughingly stated "Ah, so it is like a book."  Some may think this is  a silly waste of time with a 6 year old.  I say it is exercising the mind of a future evangelist.  What makes something something.  Teaching ourselves to ask questions so as to allow someone to better communicate, thus not alienating them with us preaching our beliefs but also it teaches our kids to think about why they believe something and how to communicate it in a way someone can understand it.

Brilliant.   Who would have thought the most effective way to teach our kids to be evangelizers would mean to ask them questions and then teach them to argue with us about their answers.

Let me tell you that I have learned so much from people as I have traveled across the globe speaking. I remember meeting a woman on an airplane that was a practicing witch and believed that mother earth was the goddess that effected events in her life.  For the first hour she felt that I was arguing with her to be argumentative.  I was not.  I truly desired to know why she believed what she believed and what were her experiences and "truths" that brought her to her conclusions.  My first obstacle to overcome was the language barrier.  It became very clear to me that when I said "God" we were talking about two different things.  It took at least another 30 minutes of the socratic method for me to understand how to talk about God with her.  Terminology is very important.    The other obstacle was to get her to see that I was not trying to be right or change her mind, rather I wanted to get her to begin thinking about why she believed what she believed.

Too often we think we are supposed to throw people over the walls that separate them from God.  What would happen if we throw people over a wall? They would most probably become injured.  God does not force himself on anyone and neither should we.  The Holy Spirit is what opens peoples eyes to the truth.  Instead of desiring to throw people over the wall, lets bring them a ladder.  Then their progress over the wall can go as fast or slow as they need to go.  It will also be there when we leave.  Evangelization begins with humbling ourselves to know that God has a plan for each of our lives.  He is not dependent upon any ONE person to bring someone to Christ.

If we want to evangelize, we should begin with asking questions.  We should then define our terms.  We should be prepared to state a premise and then to argue it.  When we argue we should be listening to the person we are arguing with so we can better understand their objections with the hope of planting a seed of desire for truth in their hearts.   When people seek the truth, they more often than naught find God.  

So when Matt Fradd was asking his child to describe what a bed was,  he was actually teaching his son to one day become a great Crusader for Christ.  Way to go Matt.

Friday, January 3, 2014

Hell Is Proof That God Loves Us


The fact that hell exists is proof of God's love.  Without a choice to go to hell there is no free will, there are no choices, there is no love.  If there was not a hell, then God could not honor our choice to reject Him.  Hell makes choosing God possible, without there is no choice.  If there were not a choice to go to hell we would be animals, without choice, relying on our instincts to dictate our lives.  
Photo from Mighty Mag Christian Cartoons

But does God pre-destine a soul to go to hell? The short answer is no.   According to the Catechism of the Catholic Church Predestined means that we are selected for divine adoption by an eternal decree of God (Eph 1:4). “Predestination is a mystery revealed but not fully understood; what we know for certain is that God is free to act as he chooses (Ps 135:6) and man is free to accept or reject his blessings (Rom 2:6-8; Sir 15:11-13). No one is predestined by God for eternal damnation” (CCC 1037).

photo From Holiday Wallpapers
Predestined and predetermined are two different things.  We are in fact predestined for heaven.  The old Baltimore Catechism says this about why God created us: “God made me to know Him, to love Him, and to serve Him in this world, and to be happy with Him for ever in heaven."  This goes against the argument that some protestants have used to say God predestines some people to go to hell and there is nothing they can do to change it.  They believe that some people are  chosen and brought into existence for this purpose, to go to hell.  This is false.  God does not desire it nor does He bring into being a person so he can then “send” them to hell.  

It is a person’s free will that destines a person for hell.  God’s gift of free will allows each person to choose heaven or hell.  There are two choices really.  “I am a handmaid of the Lord, be it done unto me according to they word” as Mary said or “Not my will but thine be done” as Jesus said.  The alternative is  “I will not serve” which was the response of Lucifer.   

So how is one to understand how a person is “predetermined” to go to hell? When we understand the immaculate conception we understand predetermined. Why is this? Because the Immaculate Conception reveals the very timelessness of God.  God is outside of time and space.  God is present, past and future all at the same time.   God applied the graces merited by Jesus Christ on the cross and applied it to Mary at the moment of her conception.  

Photo from Meditations of Zion Blog

How could He do that? Because God knew Mary would say yes.  This did not mean she did not get to chose it, it just means that because He is God He exists outside of space and time.  He is past present and future.  God knows no boundaries.  He knew she would say yes it happened already outside of time and he preemptively applied the grace.  This is of course my laymen terms for such a complex theology that only a theologian (which I am not) could explain it concisely.  

You could say that Mary was predetermined to say yes and be the mother of God.  Bl Anne Catherine Emerich talks about this in her 4 volumes that Mel Gibson used to write the screen play for “The Passion”.  She said in her writings that God desired to bring about the salvation of the world sooner but it was not until St. Anne and St. Joachim that two loved like the trinity into which Mary was brought and in which she would say yes to being the mother of God that God could then move forward with His divine plan.  That shows you how much God honors our free will.  He won’t even save us unless we allow Him to, that is how much He respects our free will.

It is hard to understand how the graces merited on the cross by Jesus Christ were given to His mother before she was even born.  Another way to wrap ones head around this mystery is to contemplate the Eucharist.   At mass we experience Calvary.  It is because the Holy Sacrifice of the mass is able to pass outside of space and time, literally making present the body of Jesus Christ, that this is possible.  We are not re-creating Christ’s death and crucifixion, nor are we re-sacrificing Him, rather we step through a mystical veil of time and space and Calvary is made present.  We are at the foot of the Cross.  

This is why we pray for the dead or why we ask for the Communion of Saints to pray for us.  Our prayers can bestow graces to them before their deaths.  We can pray for those who died and our prayers can merit graces that outside of time can be given to them before they died to help perfect their nature.  It is this mystery of timelessness that many of us cannot understand because we are temporal beings. We are bound by space and time but God is not.  The spiritual is not.  Angels pass through this veil easily because they are not bound time space as we are.  Perhaps this is why some Saints could bi-locate.  They could pass through the veil because it is a reality created by God to govern the physical realm.  However, we are spiritual and physical beings.  Therefore, we too are able to pass through the veil in ways known only to God and in our Glorified bodies we will move as fast as our thoughts and will pass through walls much like Christ did when manifested into the upper room.  He passed through the veil, the dimension that separates us.  

At the moment of conception God creates a holy immortal soul and infuses it into the body of that child.  At that moment God knows all of the choices that person will make before they make them, never diminishing their free will.
Fork In Road photo stock

It is the choices they will make that will determine their final destination.  All souls are destined for heaven.  This is the the truth of the trinity because every person is created in the image and likeness of God who is Love.  God is love poured out and overflowing and in that excess of love He creates Holy immortal souls.  This means we are all created to love and be loved.  If we do not chose enter into that love we reject God (who is Love) and chose the alternative.

The fact that hell exists is another proof of God's love.  Without a choice to go to hell there is no free will, there are no choices, there is no love.  If there was not a hell, then God could not honor our choice to reject Him.  Hell makes choosing God possible, without there is no choice.  If there were not a choice to go to hell we would be animals, without choice, relying on our instincts to dictate our lives.  

God does not force himself on us but rather allows us to decide if we will be with Him forever in Heaven or if we will reject Him and spend eternity in Hell.  We will exist for all eternity, where we do it is up to us. 

 So if we are not predestined to go to hell are we predetermined to go to hell? What does predetermined mean? In this context predetermined means that before it happens it is already known to happen.   Souls are predetermined for hell because their choice of hell is known by God before they live it out. 

James 1:13-15, "Let know one say when he is tempted, 'I am tempted by God'; for God cannot be tempted with evil and he himself tempts no one; but each person is tempted when he is lured and enticed by his own desire. Then desire when it has conceived gives birth to sin; and sin when it is full-grown brings forth death.”

It is our choice to sin that determines whether or not we spend eternity in hell.  When a soul is pre-determined to go to hell it means that God knows that they would reject Him regardless of His invitations or intersessions.   He knows it because He sees their decisions, sees into their personhood, knows their hearts and understands all of their choices and gives them the freedom to choose.

Free will is a very powerful thing.  Even the devil has no real power other than what our free will gives him.  When we submit our will to evil and enflesh it, that is when the devil is able to oppress us.  Free will is something we should all contemplate more.  It transcends space and time and can condemn a person before they are born (because a birthday is a time and God is outside time).  On a positive note, it can also save the entire human race.  Jesus and Mary are proof of that.