Friday, February 7, 2014

New Website

Please join me on my new (more professional) central hub for my work. It will have some things carried over from this blog, and many new essays and resources. Moreover, it will be much more active than this one. "Think On These Things" won't be deleted, but I will no longer add to it.

Wednesday, May 8, 2013

Education's Blind Spot

When we have an unhealthy focus on educational assessment, we begin a sad descent into honing methods of fact delivery and retention. Of course, this leads to the expectation that all teachers adopt this focus, all the while neglecting the foundations of knowledge that lie in disrepair. Thus, students receive (and perhaps, if the teacher is particularly good, retain) facts without any idea of where to put them, what to do with them, and how to evaluate them. An amassment of details hardly prepares someone to understand and sift for the truth among those details. Many are even unsure about how to respond to the harsh reality of truth. Truth, unbeknownst to many, stands cold, detached, and firm; it does not adjust according to our feelings. How much can a student truly learn, then, if her emotions are the primary arbiter of her beliefs? The affect and the mind of such a student will thus be at war, and without a healthy respect for the rigidity of truth, the unanchored heart shall be tossed about by every wave and wake of the educational sea. In contemporary education, there is a great, indeed important, effort to impart facts to the students, but precious little is being done to train the minds who receive and interpret those facts. Of course, teachers still exist who pour their knowledge, heart, and strength into a robust education of their students. May the tribe of those tired souls increase.

Saturday, January 26, 2013

The Bible and Logic

"Therefore when I was planning to do this, I did not do so without thinking about what I was doing, did I? Or do I make my plans  according to mere human standards  so that I would be saying  both “Yes, yesand “No, noat the same time? But as God is faithful, our message to you is not “Yesand “No.” For the Son of God, Jesus Christ, the one who was proclaimed among you by us – by me and Silvanus  and Timothy – was not “Yesand “No,” but it has always been “Yesin him." 2 Cor. 1:17-18, NET

In this passage, Paul shows respect for the logical laws of non-contradiction ("Yes" is not "non-Yes") and excluded middle (either "Yes" or "No"). Contrary to the claims of some Christians, logic is not merely a human invention. Rather, as Paul affirms, fallen humans tend to distort logic, sometimes by making decisions with insufficient thought or by simultaneously saying "yes" and "no" to the same question. Indeed, the laws of logic are not of human origin, but are woven into the fabric of the universe, stemming from the character of the Creator himself. 

Friday, January 11, 2013

A Plea to Cedarville University, and to Any Other School Considering the Disposal of Philosophy

I just wrote this for a group trying to save a Christian university's philosophy program. I post it here because anti-intellectualism is still alive and well, and simply ought not be-- especially not in Christian colleges and universities.

Any time an institution of higher education decides to kill a philosophy program rather than rallying behind it to help it succeed, the school intellectually handicaps its students.The reasons for this judgment are plentiful, but I shall make this as brief as possible. Philosophy is not just for eggheads or people who want to toss ideas about for a living. More than any other discipline, philosophy actually teaches students how to think well. Logical reasoning, persuasive speaking, and clear writing are all central to the discipline. You cannot succeed in philosophy without being able to clearly formulate, acquire support for, and then lucidly communicate your thoughts. Moreover, philosophy teaches us how to evaluate and sift good arguments from bad arguments, providing us with some intellectual stability in an ever-shifting world, which means in short that philosophy trains critical thinkers. These are all things that are coveted qualities in all people across all areas of life-- Christian and non-Christian alike. But what of the Christian in particular? Does she need philosophy? Sadly, Christianity has suffered for generations from a severe public relations problem. This is because Christians, despite being heirs to a robust knowledge tradition-- indeed a philosophy-- have for generations been neglecting (in droves) the cultivation of the mind. When we reclaim the desire to think well as Christians, then we will increase in conviction and thus in influence among those souls who were previously convinced that no reasonable person could possibly be a Christian. If only we encouraged and trained more wise, knowledgeable, articulate Christians, then we would be a force with which to be reckoned. In short, philosophy is vital in our mission to go and make disciples of all nations. We shun it at our own peril.

Sarah Geis, M.A., Philosophy of Religion (Denver Seminary)
Currently adjunct professor of philosophy at Denver Seminary

If you would like to help save Cedarville's philosophy program, write a statement with your name, attach a profile picture, and send it to

Monday, December 31, 2012

11 Ways to be a Better Thinker in 2013

Some people are born smarter than others, but not everyone who has the capacity to think well does so. Moreover, naturally intelligent people may be riddled with intellectual vice (such as sloth, misguided curiosity, etc.), a problem that tempts people at all levels of intellectual gifting. Simply having natural intelligence helps, but this is not sufficient for being a sound and wise thinker. An individual could be a gifted memorizer thus a straight-A student, and yet fail to develop a true love of learning because of hours squandered away every night surfing the internet. Being an intellectually virtuous thinker requires deliberately cultivated habits. As you behave, so you will think. The mind is plastic, not static, and our intellectual habits will shape our minds-- for better or worse. Here are just a few humble suggestions for building a more robust thought-life, in no particular order.

1. Write down new words, ideas that interest you, or things other people say which strike you as interesting. Keep a note pad and pen where you can easily access them, and record these things immediately. When you get the chance, use the notepad to remind yourself of these recent thoughts, then buy a book on the subject, discuss the idea with friends, or determine to use the new word sometime that day.

2. Engage in concentration training. For instance, resolve to read for 30 minutes each day without checking Facebook, your email, or getting up for a snack. When this is no longer a problem (and, in the digital age, it will not be easy), then increase to 45 minutes, then an hour.

3. Be a good listener. You will find that shutting up and letting others do the talking will give you much to think about and will help heighten your sensitivity.

4. Spend the majority of your time around people you find to be wise and articulate. Iron sharpens iron.

5. Read as often as possible, but don't just read anything. Spending the majority of your time in poorly written or poorly reasoned books can easily poison your sensibilities. If you have limited time to read, then stick with books you know will be edifying, such as G.K. Chesterton, C.S. Lewis, J. Gresham Machen, Os Guinness, David Wells, etc. If you must read an inferior text, then detoxify as soon as possible with a truly excellent book.

6. Edit your words in your mind before they exit your mouth. Always speak in a manner that would not haunt you if it were transcribed.

7. If you are going to write an email, or post something on a blog, Facebook, Twitter, or the like, think about it, check for errors, and gauge its appropriateness before posting. Adopt a "waiting period" policy for online posting.

8. Be suspicious of anything which purports to be a new idea. Often, it is something that has been already beaten to death and addressed by brilliant people in ages past.

9. Embrace marginalia. Read with a pen, and write down summaries, elaborations, and questions in the margin. It will help more of your reading "stick."

10. Learn to be comfortable with silence, even when talking to other people. The best thinking and deepest conversations occur when there is room for pausing and thinking.

11. Study logic, grammar, and rhetoric. It will help you to be more persuasive, and it will also keep you from being as easily swayed by the words and antics of others.

There are so many more, but this is at least a start.

Tuesday, December 4, 2012

Two New Apologetics and Ethics Courses At Denver Seminary

Here are two recommended courses for the spring semester, 2013, which are a part of the fledgling Christian Apologetics and Ethics degree at Denver Seminary.

1. Contemporary Apologists. Two credit hours, taught by Dr. Douglas Groothuis. 4:00pm-5:50pm, Wednesdays.

Catalog description: Helps students understand the works of key contemporary apologists so that they are equipped to engage in contemporary world apologetics. Offered spring semesters, odd years.

Become conversant in the works of current key figures in the field of apologetics, and in the process, sharpen your own skills.

2. Social Ethics, Two credit hours, taught by Dr. Larry Burtoft. 12:00pm-1:50pm, Tuesdays.

Catalog description: Constructs a biblically rooted paradigm to apply to contemporary social issues, responding to questions such as: What would a Christian social ethic look like? Has the church anything to offer in the way of public policy? Can the church hold definitive positions on issues such as human rights, politics, economics, poverty, racism, sexism, homosexuality, and bioethics?  

Help us spread the word about this excellent program!

Christian Apologetics and Ethics on Facebook:

Official website:

Saturday, October 27, 2012

Voting for Romney: One Last Stand Before Election Day

I mailed in my ballot about a week ago, which contained a vote for Mitt Romney and Paul Ryan. Many conservative voters have been hesitant to vote for Romney, and some have decided to support third-party candidates instead. There are many reasons for this, but I am convinced that the Romney-Ryan ticket is the right choice, despite the fact that I do not consider Governor Romney to be a true conservative. While this little essay may be an exercise in futility, I hope it will serve as an explanation of why I believe that conservatives and Christians can and should vote for a politically moderate Mormon (this time around, anyway).

The first step in my argument is to address just what I hold to be the purpose of post-primary voting. Many people, including individuals whom I know and respect, believe that we should vote for the person who most closely aligns with our values. But this is not always so. If voting equals support for the person most closely aligned with our values, then we should not feel confined to voting within the two-party majority. The problem is, why limit your selection to the people listed on the ballot? Is not the person most closely aligned with your values you yourself? It seems that this view would at the very least allow, if not compel, people to write in themselves (or at the very least their best friends) at the voters block. Take care not to misunderstand here, for values is still a vital consideration. However, it is not the only consideration.

In addition to considering the candidates’ values (such as ethical theory, political philosophy, voting record, religion, etc.), the other main quality to consider is electability. In my estimation, this is the most important principle of major voting decisions. The reason for this is simple: if we assume that all candidates are imperfect (a safe assumption, that), I am most concerned that my vote represent one less vote for the candidate whom I believe to have a real chance to do the most damage to the country. In other words, we should vote against the greatest of the evils. After the primaries, according to this view, voters have the responsibility to find out who is the most dangerous of the frontrunners, and do everything in our power to ensure that the worst of the lot does not get elected. This requires a very different approach to the vote. It requires that we not view a vote as an endorsement, as a claim to identify with a certain candidate, nor as even a vote for. Rather, it is a strategic vote against. A vote, in this view, is a strategic move to ensure the preservation of our country.  In the two-party system, the only way to take votes away from the worst candidate is to vote for the other major contender. Thus, to those who hold to this view, a vote for a conservative third-party candidate is, in fact, a vote taken away from the Republican candidate, and therefore, increases the gap between the Republican and the Democrat candidates. This is how voters of this mindset can, in good conscience, say that a vote for a conservative third-party candidate is a vote for the Democrat (in this case, Obama).
The next task becomes to determine who is, in fact, the worst candidate. This season, we have a major candidate (Obama) who poses a direct threat to our Constitutional system as we know it (my purpose is not to convince the reader of this here—the evidence is all around for those who care to responsibly research), and the other major candidate (Romney) represents a religious group-- theologically a cult-- which is fundamentally opposed to historic Christian orthodoxy. However, Romney does still believe (generally) in the founding political principles of this nation. What is a politically conservative Christian to do? Are we not to oppose all perversions of the faith? Yes, the Christian should of course be primarily concerned with preserving and defending historic, biblical Christianity. However, without the religious freedom provided by our Constitutional system, the defense of the faith becomes exponentially more difficult. Moreover, the role of politicians is to protect and uphold the Constitution, not to defend the Christian faith. The uniqueness of the Constitution is that it is a Natural Law document. The candidate who believes that all rights come from God, not from the almighty State, is going to be more predisposed to limit the role of the federal government. When rights are believed to be given by the State, then those rights can also be revoked by the State. Given these considerations, the greatest threat to America is the candidate who believes (at least in practice—deciphered by past speeches and voting record) that rights come from the State, not from God. That candidate is Barack Obama. Yes, Mormonism is heretical, and idolizes America and the Constitution for religious reasons. However, it is better to vote for a non-Christian who makes the mistake of too much reverence for our Country and founding documents than a (possible, but unlikely) Christian who wants to “fundamentally transform America” and believes the Constitution to be outdated.

So, I am not voting against my conscience. My conscience tells me to preserve the American experiment as long as possible, for although ailing, it is America qua America that is the last great stronghold of religious freedom, justice, and economic prosperity. A vote for Romney-Ryan is intended to stop the bleeding, and set us up for greater reform later. A vote for Obama—whether directly or indirectly—is a vote to pull life support, and we may not have the chance to reform later. Therefore, I voted strategically for Romney, even though I do not endorse him politically or religiously. And given the reasons discussed, I am not compromising my values by so doing.