I am teaching two philosophy classes at MCCC this fall. They are: Introduction to Logic, and Philosophy of Religion.
Logic is about evaluating arguments. This is different than being argumentative. An “argument,” in philosophy, is one or more statements that lead to a conclusion. If, from the statements to the conclusion, there is what is called a “claim of inference,” then it’s “logical.” With a little bit of logic under one’s belt one is then prepared to consider the big philosophical discussions that present arguments either for or against the existence of God.
When I turned from a form of indifferent agnosticism to belief in God many years ago, I was an undergraduate at Northern Illinois University. I became part of a campus ministry called Campus Crusade for Christ. Two of my leaders were great scholars who both went on to get Ph.Ds in philosophy. They introduced me to a verse in the Bible that has stayed with me all my life: 1 Peter 3:15 – “But in your hearts set apart Christ as Lord. Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have. But do this with gentleness and respect.”
Even as I type that verse right now I am thinking, what a great piece of the Bible that is! I break it down three ways.
#1 – “In your hearts set apart Christ as Lord.” The word “set apart” literally means, “be holy.” “Holiness,” literally, is “set-apartness.” Which means, for me, this: at the age of 21 I made a decision to live my life entirely for Jesus. Jesus became my “Lord.” So, in all I do I look to him for direction. And my hope, the basket I am putting all the eggs of my life into, is about knowing Jesus and making Jesus known to others.
#2 – “Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have.” OK – I have this hope. But does it have any rationale to it? Personally, while I know a lot of very good Jesus-followers who “just believe” in Jesus, this has never been enough for me. I worked as a pastor at Michigan State University for 11 years, and most of the students I met felt this way too. In fact, most of the students in my classes at MCCC who are either wondering about God and if he really exists or are already God-believers want to know that there’s some kind of logical basis for either their belief, unbelief, or agnosticism.
Here is where Logic and the Philosophy of Religion come in. Because one of the main thing philosophers talk about is God, God is a main part of my MCCC courses. In Philosophy of Religion I teach: a) the major arguments for the existence of God; b) the major atheistic arguments against there being a God; c) and what the major world religions say about “God” or “gods”; plus a few other things along the way. (The textbook I use is right here.) I find that most of not all really get into these discussions and the learning that goes along with it. In fact, I believe this: today’s university students are looking for people to talk with about this without the discussions becoming one-sided and imperialistic. That, for me, is where the third point comes in.
#3 – “But do this with gentleness and respect.” I love this. I have seen a lot of un-gentleness and disrespect poured out of the mouths of “Christians” over the years. Mostly I think it is not only ineffective but really turns people away from the Real Jesus. Getting really angry and controlling quickly turns a potential dialogue about God into a one-sided preachy monologue. If you are reading this and you are a passionate believer in God and Jesus, the good news is that you can chill out when talking to others about the hope that is within you and trust God to do a work that you cannot do yourself and were not meant to do. And, FYI, I’ve had some atheistic students who behave more like Jesus than some so-called Christians.
I find that at MCCC, and in Monroe as elsewhere, people are greatly interested in God-talk, whether they believe or don’t believe. If in my classes I can legitimize that discussion and provide a safe place to engage in it then I am very grateful for the opportunity.
(The picture is of the La-Z-Boy Center at MCCC’s campus.)