Proverbs 18:21 – Your power to kill

Death and life are in the power of the tongue, and those who love it will eat its fruits.

(Pro 18:21 ESV)

During times of war this proverb is quite literally true. The phrase, “Loose lips sink ships” originated during World War 2 to remind people that they need to keep military secrets secure because spies could be anywhere. If strategic information got into the wrong hands, death would be a very real possibility. A little closer to home (and absent any military theme) our words have the power to build and destroy both ourselves and others. If we speak unwisely we destroy our reputation. If we speak harshly to others, we destroy them. We can similarly be cautious in our words to build up both ourselves and those around us. Sometimes a lack of speech may actually serve to build us up, “better to remain silent and be thought a fool than to open your mouth and remove all doubt.”

In all cases, be careful what you say, if you say anything at all. Like nuclear energy that can power a nation with electricity, or destroy it through a bomb, our words carry more power than many people care to admit. Speak responsibly.

Reason and Intuition – Chicken and Egg

I’ve been wrestling a lot, lately, with the proper relationship between reason and emotion. Part of the motivation for this conflict in my own mind is because I know people who gravitate to one or the other of these, and they often look down upon whichever of the two they do not gravitate toward. But I find myself drawn to aspects of both, and repulsed by the overemphasis of either. I see value in emotions, even though I see how they can be unreliable and lead to wildly inaccurate beliefs about reality (and completely pointless or harmful actions that are based on those beliefs). Conversely, I obviously hold reason in high regard (as you will know if you’ve read Arguing with Friends or poked around my site for a bit), yet I can see how rationalism can seem cold and heartless, and that some of the most horrific atrocities in human history have had surprisingly coherent reasons behind them.

I see merit in both and I see drawbacks in both. How am I to understand their relationship? Continue reading

Proverbs 18:17 – Cross-examination

The one who states his case first seems right, until the other comes and examines him.

(Pro 18:17 ESV)

Imagine a court where the accuser’s lawyer was allowed to ask all the questions of the witnesses, but the defendant’s lawyer had to sit by and watch. Or a debate where only one side was allowed to make their case. Sometimes we may be swept away by the lofty rhetoric and flowery words of a politician making huge campaign promises and inspirational speeches about the grandeur of his or her nation.

But the next morning the newspaper commentaries dissect the politician’s speech. The debater is given a chance to offer a rebuttal. The defendant’s lawyer takes her turn to cross-examine the witness. When a persuasive case appears to have been made, never assume that’s the end of the discussion. There is always another side. If you have to go looking for it, search it out. Don’t let the issue rest until both sides have been heard.

Koukl talks to a waiter

I enjoyed listening to the opening part of Greg Koukl’s show Stand to Reason some time ago. You can find it by scrolling down to November 18, at this link. Very briefly, Koukl had a fascinating chat with a waiter, but the conversation simply didn’t go anywhere! They talked about all kinds of interrelated stuff that was all connected to the big questions of life, but they didn’t get anywhere in their conversation. The waiter’s thoughts and reflections were widely scattered and generally incoherent. Understandably Koukl found this rather perplexing and a little frustrating.

How is it possible to talk for that long with a single person, about so many subjects, and simply not make any real progress in the conversation? Quite simple, actually. Continue reading

Proverbs 18:13 – Listen first

If one gives an answer before he hears, it is his folly and shame.

(Pro 18:13 ESV)

Listen first, speak later. This should go without say, right? I quote Schaeffer in my book who said that if he knew he only had an hour with a person he’d spend the first 55 minutes asking questions so when he spoke for the last 5 minutes he would know that what he was saying was relevant to the person. This cannot be overemphasized; listen, listen, listen. Ask questions. Learn to ask GOOD questions, probing questions, worldview-unwrapping questions. Ask them respectfully, listen carefully and then respond wisely.

Art of Reason – Ancient earthquakes

The inability to understand what makes a good argument, and the inability to critique arguments is one of the key ingredients in miscommunication and the tendency to become argumentative. As described previously, good arguments help keep the tempers down. In order to develop a sense for logical glitches it helps to examine bad arguments to see where they go wrong. This is something else I would like to explore through my blog. The first “Art of Reason” example comes from a Christian website so I cannot be accused of deliberately making non-Christians look bad.

By the way, I intend to mix up my Tuesday posts a bit. I’ve been focusing on debriefing conversations so we can all learn from them, but I’ll start diversifying the content a little bit. “Art of Reason” will be one of the themes I use to diversify.

Continue reading

More advice for internet dialogues

I just posted recently on a video by Greg Koukl sharing some advice for dialoguing online. You can poke around my blog  to see why I think this is generally a bad idea for most people, but for those who feel called and compelled to do so, here is another little article with some solid tips for what to do and not do.