Clear Thinking

Are Conspiracy Theories Really on the Rise?

"A 'conspiracy theory' is a theory that explains an event or set of circumstances as the result of a secret plot, usually by powerful conspirators.... These conspiracy theories are not simply restricted to a fringe population. At least 50% of Americans believe in at least one conspiracy theory, ranging from the idea that the 9/11 attacks were fake to the belief that former President Barack Obama was not born in the U.S." - Intellectual Takeout

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The problem of living inside echo chambers

"When a person gets all their news and political arguments from Facebook and all their Facebook friends share their political views, they’re in an epistemic bubble. They hear arguments and evidence only from their side of the political spectrum. ...An echo chamber leads its members to distrust everybody on the outside of that chamber. And that means that an insider’s trust for other insiders can grow unchecked." - The Conversation

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Handling Controversy With Rules of Persuasion

"No matter the theological issue, we can be sure that a litany of quick-fire responses often only exacerbate the issue for those who are in need of biblical instruction and theologically nuanced clarity. To that end, I would suggest that the antiquarian tripartite modes of persuasion (i.e. ethos, logos, and pathos) are helpful when seeking to engage in theological controversy." - Church Leaders

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From the Archives – Toward Arguing Better

Conservative Christianity needs more people who argue well. It does not need more people who quarrel well!

Scripture opposes quarreling, along with the behaviors the KJV renders as “strifes, backbitings, whisperings, swellings” and “tumults” (2 Cor. 12:20). But arguing is something else. Scripture calls us to argue and to do it well. Every Christian is obligated to develop and exercise the skill of thinking and communicating clearly with the goal of persuasion.

With that as a working definition of argue, let’s consider a few basics for arguing better.

Argue for the right reasons.

Why do people argue? Unflattering reasons come quickly to mind. As sinners, we often argue to gain the esteem of others, to defeat someone we don’t like, or to try to win an imagined (or real) competition for loyal supporters. Sometimes people argue because they have a contrarian disposition and enjoy the challenge and repartee. (For these, the question is not “Why argue?” but “Why not argue?”)

But for Christians, the proper goal of argument is to establish the truth or rightness of ideas or actions.

And a servant of the Lord must not quarrel but be gentle to all, able to teach, patient, in humility correcting those who are in opposition, if God perhaps will grant them repentance, so that they may know the truth (NKJV, 2 Tim. 2:24–25).

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Is the Bible Anti-Intellectual?

Viewed in isolation, some passages of Scripture seem to convey that there is a special danger in the human intellect—danger that is greater than the hazards of, for example, “the heart.” Sadly, these passages are often viewed “in isolation” in churches strongly influenced by revivalism, romanticism (see also IEP), or both.

Used as slogans, passages like the following seem solidly anti-intellectual:

Knowledge puffeth up, but charity edifieth. (1 Cor. 8:1)
God hath chosen the foolish things of the world to confound the wise. (1 Cor. 1:27)
Beware lest any man spoil you through philosophy and vain deceit. (Col. 2:8)
Ever learning, and never able to come to the knowledge of the truth. (2 Tim. 3:7)
Trust in the Lord with all your heart and do not lean on your own understanding. (Prov. 3:5-6)

Based on passages like these, anti-intellectuals teach that Christians should focus more energy on “matters of the heart” in contrast to the intellect. Study and analysis should be viewed with greater suspicion than impression and intuition (supposedly, the special domain of the Holy Spirit). The quality of worship should be gauged by what’s felt more than by what’s thought or learned.

But these are errors, and we can correct or avoid them by looking more comprehensively at what Scripture reveals about the inner man. What follows is intended as a start.

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