26 August 2010

Thinking like a Christian: a (sorta) parable with a pernt

by Dan Phillips

There was a young student who took an interest in math.

He bought himself a textbook, which came with a teacher's guide. He had heard much about this textbook, and looked to it for instruction.

Then in his studies, he came on a complex problem. But he had great confidence in his math skills. This was not the only book he had studied; he had learned from many other competing books as well. So he decided to apply their formulas and methods to this problem, and he did so with great diligence.

An hour's worth of calculation left him sweaty, proud at his achievement. He had the answer: 43,147,343,590. Now he was ready to reach for the plum, with the inevitable happy results.

Yet when he opened the teacher's guide, his face fell.

It said the answer was 47. He had come up with the wrong answer.

Wrong? But he couldn't be wrong. He'd worked it through, thoroughly and carefully. He'd applied every method and formula he'd picked up from the other books. Okay, maybe not, let's check.

So he went to the other books, reviewed, refreshed his memory. He bought the newest textbooks, and looked at them. He started all over, reviewed, re-calculated. This time he spent two hours.

But now the answer was 63,147,343,601.

He did it again and again, but each time his number got larger; and each time, the teacher's guide did not change. That 47 was crystal-clear, unambiguous.

And so he faced a choice. He had to choose:....



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69 comments:

Robert said...

I guess the question is do we see ourselves as slaves of Christ? That is what the Bible says Christians are because He purchased us with His blood. And if we look at what He tells us about how the world will receive us and who has authority over the world, then I should think we'll have no debate over whether we judge the world by the Bible or the Bible by the world. Anybody looking to do the latter is certainly not acting as a slave of Jesus Christ.

Sheldon Clowdus said...

First off, I think even to imply that his answer to the math question was "wrong" shows that you are intolerant and don't really love anybody, especially our intrepid mathematician. If you really loved him like you say you do, you would accept his answer and praise him for how hard he worked and for the fact that his heart is in the right place. You wouldn't be worried about "right" and "wrong" or other antiquated concepts like that......

Seriously, though, the answer is 47 and he needs to figure out what he is doing wrong. He probably will take the first option I presented though.....

bou2010 said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
witness said...

"That 47 was crystal-clear, unambiguous."

The problem is when some teach or say "well, the teacher's guide may say 47 here, but let me show you how it doesn't have to be 47.

David said...

The choices, as I see them:

1. Say the teacher's guide can't be right, and walk away from the problem.

2. Accept that the teacher's guide is right, memorize the answer, and walk away, never having worked through the problem.

3. Learn from the textbook, applying its principles step by step, and continually check your work against the teacher's guide. And work the problem until you get to that answer.

Good pernt.

Terry Rayburn said...

"Average your own answers and go with it. You are a god." - Oprah

"Use the Teachers Guide. Lean not on your own understanding." - Solomon

"Pray to Jesus. Then go with what feels right in your heart." - Christian Mystic

"Either one is fine. The right answer for you may not be the right answer for me." - Postmodernist

Truth Unites... and Divides said...

"Thinking like a Christian: a (sorta) parable with a pernt"

Consider these folks supporting and affirming BioLogos: Keller and Waltke.

They are Christians.

Who at times (according to the anti-theistic evolution stance of TeamPyro) are not thinking like Christians on the issue of origins and other related matters.

Which speaks to a general point that Christians sometimes don't think like Christians ought or should.

Which really should not come as a surprise.

DJP said...

Rule 5, Bou. It's not your blog.

DJP said...

Terry, that's a terrific and creative add-on. Thanks.

Gov98 said...

"That 47 was crystal-clear, unambiguous."

The problem is when some teach or say "well, the teacher's guide may say 47 here, but let me show you how it doesn't have to be 47.

Shoot, some people just come out and say "Hath God really said?"

The argument I love the most is when people say that disbelieving science's "reverse extrapolations" would say that God is somehow deceptive. Like if God tells us, hey idiot the Earth is 6-10000 years old, and I can find a reason to question that, it's God's fault. Sorry God does not choose to stop of from making up delusions and it's not God's fault.

bou2010 said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
DJP said...

Gov98, along the lines of reverse-extrapolations and deception: read this.

DJP said...

Bou, you are in the no-tolerance-for-derailing zone. If you'd like to join the discussion on-topic, feel free.

Webster Hunt (Parts Man) said...

This has to do with your post a while back on inerrancy, doesn't it? The student in your parable believes SOMEONE is inerrant. . .

Brian Roden said...

You mean the answer isn't 42?

DJP said...

Ooh, Webster, good point and thanks. I'm going to add that.

bou2010 said...

Isn't this post about evolution?

Because of the tags is evolution.

Webster Hunt (Parts Man) said...

bou2010,

Evolution, Atheism, Legalism . . . pretty much any thought system that puts man as the inerrant one and God the questionable One.

Gov98 said...

Gov98, along the lines of reverse-extrapolations and deception: read this.

Lol...I've been reading you for a while Dan! I enjoyed that post the first time(I think it's right on) and this time.

Robert said...

Terry,

I think you could add the following, too:

"The truth changes over time." - Modernist

"Truth is what science shows us to be true." - Enlightenment philosphers

It is amazing that society is actually merging thoughts between Enlightenment and postmodern philosophies because postmodernists are supposed to believe there is no objective truth. Of course, maybe that just shows that postmodernism is just an open rebellion against God and Christianity.

David said...

Brian Roden is correct.

Signed, Doug

Zaphon said...

Teacher to Student:

When are you going to get 100 % in my class?

Then, sit down, be quiet, LISTEN & LEARN.

Psalm 119:104 I gain understanding from your precepts; therefore I hate every wrong path

Tom Chantry said...

Of course it is, Brian - now if only we knew the question...

Mary Elizabeth Tyler said...

I think R.C. Sproul said it something like this (not verbatim, though), when he opens his Bible, he finds that the Bible is judging him, NOT the other way around.

It is so true, Dan, when our thinking does not line up with God's Word, and we are so set on seeing and doing things our way, who then is our God? God tells us countless times in Scripture to listen to Him. And as we all know some people are very hard of hearing.

I want to see and do things from only one perspective: I have judged my ways horribly, horribly wrong, and God's ways superior, so therefore I follow after....

Steve Drake said...

DJP from 7/13 post:
"We begin our thinking with the premise that God the eyewitness cannot err in His revelation of what happened, or ...
We begin our thinking with the premise that man the non-eyewitness cannot err in his reconstruction of what happened."

Epistemic thinking. Fantastic. I'm going to write this down. For Christians, the choice should be obvious, but as TUAD has stated 'Christians don't think like Christians ought or should'.

Of course, many who say they are following the Teacher's Guide, would say they are not 'reconstructing' what happened. Which leaves me in a quandary at times as to know how to respond.

stratagem said...

He should go with an answer that feels right. Or, take a poll of his classmates and see what the consensus is, and go with that number because one shouldn't insult their classmates by going against their feelings, if he did, then their self-esteem could suffer, and of course the consequences of that would be terrible.

Boy was that easy!

DJP said...

...or count the textbooks' answers? If so many lead to a different answer, the one can't be right, right?

mikeb said...

How about we try to convince everyone that the latest greatest textbooks can easily be reconciled with the teacher's handbook. After all, how do we know the teacher's handbook is 100% accurate? Maybe the publisher made a mistake? Maybe when the teacher's book was written 47 was the "culturally" correct answer, but today things have changed, so maybe 47 isn't correct anymore? Or maybe if we just feel strongly enough about another answer, we can make that answer true and forget about the teacher's handbook altogether, Because who does that teacher think he is anyway?

Mark B. Hanson said...

"Out of all the numbers that could possibly answer that problem, how can the textbook be so arrogant as to believe that it alone has the correct one?" - Christopher Hitchens or one of the other modern athiests.

DJP said...

mikeb - so... adjust for inflation?

(c;

Canyon Shearer said...

An excellent post and a great application...

...but for the sake of your readers whose attention span is...squirel...anyone who has ever read Doug Adams knows the answer is not 47, it is 42. It would have burdened my conscience not to point that out. :)

witness said...

But the fact remains there are people, Christians in fact, who for whatever reason cannot see the 47. The seven, to them, looks an awful lot like a one. They see 41 where we see 47.

This is where loving and patience should begin. This is where we can be like Jesus.

Eric said...

Or, one could say: "Well, you say that Bible teaches original sin arising from a historical Adam, but I know of my sin by my own intuition, and so I care not for your man-made doctrine of original sin arising from a historical Adam" I affirm what I know to be true, not what the Bible says is true.

http://biologos.org/blog/darwin-and-dr-mohler-the-truth-comes-out/

I love the explanation for posting on Huffpo. This guy is so far out of his league in taking on Dr. Mohler. He has and will continue to be brought to the woodshed for a sound spanking if he insists in continuing to defend his cause and defame Dr. Mohler.

Everyday Mommy said...

Golly…Roger Olson says inerrancy doesn't matter.

Sir Aaron said...

The student should throw the textbooks away and declare his unbelief in mathematics. Then he should troll mathematician websites to convince them that mathematics is merely a farce created by Scientists to control the masses. He could even throw around neat words like no true scotsman fallacy or ad hominem.

Steve Drake said...

Great link EverydayMommy, especially the comments that follow Olson's blog.

I love that moniker by the way. It speaks to the high calling for which you chose that name. May your efforts bear fruit in Godly children who know the Truth that sets us free.

Robert said...

Eric,

Thanks for the link. It seems that Giberson is happy with his liberation from the Bible's historical account. "Thank goodness I can accept this UNPROVEN theory of evolution and figure out how I want to interpret the Bible to where it can fit in the theories of the world. And if you try to tell me the Bible says something different, I'll just tell you that you're a fundamentalist. And by the way, doctrine is just a human construct...not fact." Does he not believe in the work of the Holy Spirit to open our eyes to the truth of Scripture? Maybe that is just one of those prose sections of Scripture that we fundamentalists don't understand.

Robert said...

Those quotation marks were my parenthetical interpretation, byt the way...didn't mean to confuse.

Webster Hunt (Parts Man) said...

"Of course the answer is 47. . . 47.332654875154542544152. . . etc, because surely 47 isn't sufficient enough."
The Legalist

Tom Chantry said...

Wow. Giberson's response, cited above, is a perfect demonstration of what is being said on this blog. His response consists of 90% posing and blowing out his chest (Thanks-for-admitting-that-I-was-right-and-you-were-wrong!) and tugs on the heartstrings. In the remaining 10% he argues that doctrines are constructs and they should fall in light of new scientific evidence. Unbelievable!

A sample:

Does the saving power of Jesus vanish if sin becomes something that developed through natural history, rather than appeared all at once in the Garden of Eden?

To which, of course, the answer is simply, "Yes."

Webster Hunt (Parts Man) said...

On second thought, that should be "47 + .332654875154542544152. . . etc" to clarify.

verification word: aludisil - it's what post-moderns take to keep them from answering the question you asked.

Strong Tower said...

.42 the ultimate answer to the ultimate question Is

Adams explained that all the reasons outside his own were bogus. Because he said it was so, it was so: At the end of the first radio series (and television series, as well as the novel The Restaurant at the End of the Universe) Arthur Dent, having escaped the Earth's destruction, potentially has some of the computational matrix in his brain. He attempts to discover The Ultimate Question by extracting it from his brainwave patterns, as abusively suggested by Marvin the Paranoid Android, when a Scrabble-playing caveman spells out forty two. Arthur pulls random letters from a bag, but only gets the sentence "What do you get if you multiply six by nine"?

“ "Six by nine. Forty two."
"That's it. That's all there is."

"I always thought something was fundamentally wrong with the universe" (source wikipedia).


There is something profound about the insight, however. It depends upon who is asking the question. The only one who can arrive at the right answer is the one who decided it would be so. All hitchhikers share the common GIGO problem...

We might say that problem is sin.

There is another aspect we should consider also. Sin is not the causal agent of the ultimate answer and even without sin, the creation can never get to the right answer just as the characters of a book can never know the existence of the author except that he puts himself in the book...

we might say that is what is meant by a transcendent and condescending God.

Our ultimate answer is a tautology. I am that I am. For us an impossibility, for God the only one.

Eric said...

Tom,

"Wow" was my reaction as well. So many words...so little content.

Tom Chantry said...

So many words...so little content.

You mean to say the young lady in tears over whether or not she could believe just a little bit of what the Bible says doesn't count as content?

Sheldon Clowdus said...

I don't think I like the tone of this math textbook.......

Eric said...

Tom,

It only counts as content if you're pulling from the "liberal handbook for avoiding facts" and have chosen to employ the popular "my emotional example trumps your factual argument" tool. As you rightly pointed out, the major thrust of his retort centers on posturing and emotional appeal.

witness said...

Jesus seems to affirm the "Textbok" account of Creation here:

And Pharisees came up to him and tested him by asking, "Is it lawful to divorce one’s wife for any cause?" He answered, "Have you not read that he who created them from the beginning made them male and female, and said, 'Therefore a man shall leave his father and his mother and hold fast to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh'? ~Matthew 19:3-5(ESV)

I mean do they have the same perception of His understanding as they do for Dr. Mohler? How do they view Jesus' reading of the Scriptures?

donsands said...

"Yet when he opened the teacher's guide, his face fell."

Where your treasure is, that's where your heart shall be.

The Word is such an incredible treasure.

I have, (my flesh that is), at times been pulled away with the things of this world, not to mention Ole Slew Foot's subtle half-truths.



"The law of the Lord is perfect,
reviving the soul;
the testimony of the Lord is sure,
making wise the simple;
the precepts of the Lord are right,
rejoicing the heart;
the commandment of the Lord is pure,
enlightening the eyes;
the fear of the Lord is clean,
enduring forever;
the rules of the Lord are true,
and righteous altogether.
More to be desired are they than gold,
even much fine gold;
sweeter also than honey
and drippings of the honeycomb.
Moreover, by them is your servant warned;
in keeping them there is great reward." Psalm 19

witness said...

By "they" I mean the BioLogos folks.

Stefan said...

The other thing about math is that 47 is always going to be the sum of 23 plus 24, or 7 squared minus 2, or the square root of 2209, or what have you...

In all cultures, in all languages, at all times in human history, and indeed throughout the universe, at all points in time and space. No amount of human ingenuity, evasion, or obfuscation can alter the laws of numbers.

joel said...

Couldn't he have just found some other similar problems in the textbook who's answers were close to his and then refused to harmonize the answers. Thus, concluding that the answer is up to the individuals personal preference.

Teenie said...

I can't believe the textbook and teacher's guide were not first checked with THIS.
[/s]

Robert said...

Back when they wrote that book, the answer was 47. However, times have changed and now the answer is 42. Maybe in another 10 years it will be 65,562,981,276. Just have to wait and see.

DJP said...

Teenie, that's priceless. I thought it was the Onion at first.

Stefan said...

"ToneCheck"!?

Sheer genius!

That one comment takes the cake.

Teenie said...

DJP,

If the manuscript for your Proverbs project is running a little long, I'm sure running it through the "ToneCheck" will help shorten it a few pages. ~8-D>
But it would also turn the solid food into a mushy pablum.

I sure hope Phil (or you or Frank) can make use of a product image from that site in a future post....

nedbrek said...

"How do they view Jesus' reading of the Scriptures?"

Some commenters believe Jesus was limited by His upbringing, that He was limited in His truth telling by the limitations of the culture.

A more generous (to them) reading is that He was "dumbing it down" to fit their expectations.

Daryl said...

witness,

Jesus thought that because he has a product of His times don't ya know.

If He came now, well BioLogos would be the 12 disciples.

Daryl said...

Umm...was a product of his times...

Jacob said...

I love this parable, DJP. And i bet it goes right over the head, or in one ear and out the other, of those it intends to convict.

Insert here the verses about preferring darkness to light, being blind to the truth, and the foolish presupposition of the heart that begins by denying God.

Stuart B said...

Did the rulebook say it was 42 of what?

Stuart B said...

Or 47, excuse me.

Jacob said...

Here's another quote to add to the growing list of what types of people say:

"Whether the answer is 47 or not, such questions makes me uncomfortable, therefore I avoid even pondering them in the first place, instead distracting myself with the busyness of life and a variety of entertainment and pastimes" - Most of my unsaved friends.

:(

Sir Brass said...

The student ought to set the other textbooks aside and see how that one textbook with the teacher's guide says to work a problem like that and do so :).

This is totally sola scriptura. All the others are derivative issues that come up when man goes to another authority: sola ego, sola homo sapien sapien, etc.

Sir Brass said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Sir Aaron said...

@Tom Chantry:

I'm with you on that one. Once you deny the historicity of creation and Adam, the rest of the Bible unravels like a cheap sock.

@everyday mommy: I'm stunned. Stunned! Talk about a low view of Scripture.

Bill R. said...

I think a Christian would know the answer without having to choose. Even though we think at the time we choose to believe the word of God is true, the rightness of this knowledge has been revealing itself loudly, becoming more and more obvious, or as Jonathan Edwards might say 'like we know honey is sweet'. It is with the aid of the Holy Spirit that we know any wisdom at all, and without His help it seems foolish.

“4 and my message and my preaching were not in persuasive words of wisdom, but in demonstration of the Spirit and of power, 5 so that your faith would not rest on the wisdom of men, but on the power of God.” (1Co 2:4-5 NAS95)

Jim Pemberton said...

Strong Tower, kudos for bridging the Hitchhiker's Guide references with Dan's post. Douglas Addams has a humorously warped way of approaching the questions the secular world has but doesn't know how to ask. He doesn't really present a satisfactory answer though.

As for the article, it is a different way of talking about presuppositions, particularly each individual's primary presupposition. Every atheist has a perfectly good reason for denying the existence of God. It's a perfectly wrong reason, but given that it is foundational to their thinking, the truth is perfectly obscured by false presupposition.

We who are truly Christians know God because he has revealed himself to us. All other presuppositions aside, that is our foundational one. As part of his direct revelation, we recognize that he has provided particular and authoritative revelation to us in the scriptures. So from a practical standpoint we call sola scriptura foundational.

Having studied physics, I've worked on formulae far longer than a mere hour or two and there is no absolute answer in such complex equations because after a point the equations become descriptive rather than immediately practical.

Where logical descriptions of God rise above our capacity to understand, we must trust that answers given in the context of a situational pattern follow a true formula. The temptation that relativists fall to is in thinking that where logical descriptions of God rise above our capacity to understand, we are at liberty to make up our own formulae that is understandable. What makes it understandable or not depends on if we have pursued the truth or are in denial of the truth. This goes back to our most basic foundational presupposition. If God has revealed himself to us, then we will pursue his truth in scripture. If he has not, then we will pursue whatever formula gives us the answer we want.

Seth said...

After 2 tries, I'd do what any self-respecting engineer would do.... work backwards from the answer in the teacher's guide to discover my error.

Induction, induction, induction...

More to the pernt...
http://bit.ly/9aFa9v