David Brooks’s op-ed in the New York Times on “The Mental Virtues” reminds us that “character tests are pervasive even in modern everyday life. It’s possible to be heroic if you’re just sitting alone in your office”:
Thinking well under a barrage of information may be a different sort of moral challenge than fighting well under a hail of bullets, but it’s a character challenge nonetheless….
[T]he mind is embedded in human nature, and very often thinking well means pushing against the grain of our nature — against vanity, against laziness, against the desire for certainty, against the desire to avoid painful truths. Good thinking isn’t just adopting the right technique. It’s a moral enterprise and requires good character, the ability to go against our lesser impulses for the sake of our higher ones.
Montaigne once wrote that “We can be knowledgeable with other men’s knowledge, but we can’t be wise with other men’s wisdom.” That’s because wisdom isn’t a body of information. It’s the moral quality of knowing how to handle your own limitations.
Citing the book Intellectual Virtues, Brooks lists ways we can work on the virtues needed at the computer keyboard. For example, regarding “firmness,” he says, “You don’t want to be a person who surrenders his beliefs at the slightest whiff of opposition. On the other hand, you don’t want to hold dogmatically to a belief against all evidence.” Here are the six he describes:
The success of any given apologetic argument is not whether it wins converts or strengthens the faith of any given believer, but whether it is faithful to Jesus. The reasons that are given, the rhetoric that expresses these and the life of the apologist and the larger community of faith must, then, demonstrate their truth.
I love that. And we try to cover all three of those areas—knowledge, wisdom, and character—in our Ambassador Model. Dr. Sire's words are a good reminder to review the Ambassador’s Creed if you haven’t done so in a while.
Not Just Any Ol' God by Brett Kunkle: “The cosmological argument points to the beginning of the universe as evidence for God as the Great Beginner and gives us reason to think He is an all-powerful being because He can create a universe ex nihilo (out of nothing)…. Teleological or design arguments give us more information about God…. Not only does a finely tuned universe point to a Fine Tuner, but it also demonstrates care and concern for the flourishing of His creatures…. The moral argument points to God’s good character and His social nature…. If these arguments for God are successful, not only do we have powerful evidence He exists, we also have knowledge about His nature and character. He is a transcendent, necessary, and personal being. He is an intelligent agent using that intelligence to the benefit of His creation. He is a powerful being capable of amazing acts and capable of getting His messages across. He is moral in nature, a Being of incredible goodness.” (Read more)
How Did You Come to That Conclusion? by Alan Shlemon: “The person that makes the claim bears the burden of proof. In other words, if someone offers a point of view, it’s their job to give reasons for it, not your job to defend against it. Too often, though, believers bear the burden of proof when it’s not their responsibility. They try to answer every objection that is mustered against their view. This keeps the Christian in a defensive posture the entire conversation. It also makes sharing your faith a difficult and unpleasant experience. If I felt responsible to respond to every wild objection or story that someone could spin, I’d feel hesitant to share my faith as well. It’s time to stop giving free rides and begin enforcing the burden of proof rule. Whenever someone raises an objection to your faith, ask a simple question: “How did you come to that conclusion?” This question is not a trick. It’s not unfair. You’re simply shifting the burden of proof back where it belongs – on the person who made the claim.” (Read more)
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