Tuesday, June 22, 2010

Faulty Boolean Logic: "I am right! So, if you disagree with me, you must be wrong"

At the church camp two weeks ago, we were reminded of this well-known Indian fable about the four blind men and the elephant. For those who have never heard it, the fable tells of four blind men who wanted to know what an elephant is like. So, one day they chanced upon an elephant and the four blind men began to feel the animal in order to know what it looks like. The first blind man caught the elephant's trunk and declared triumphantly  that the elephant was like a watering hose. The second blind man caught the elephant's tail and said, "My friend, you are wrong. The elephant is like a rope." The third blind man felt the elephant's leg and protested, "No you're all wrong. The elephant is like a tree trunk." The fourth blind man felt the elephant's body and announced with finality, "All three of you are dead wrong. The elephant is like a wall." So, what's the moral of the story? They are all RIGHT and they are also all WRONG! Boolean logic says that if A is true, then non-A is false.  But in this instance, A and non-A are both true. But taken singly, A and non-A's are also all false!

What's the point in this? That churches that follow the Boolean logic commits a logical fallacy: "I am right. If you disagree with me, you are wrong!" Often churches defend their particular doctrines or practices because they are very sure they have got them all right. So any churches that believe or do otherwise must be wrong! But why can't the other churches who believe or act differently from us be right too? Aren't we guilty of  Boolean logical fallacy when we think in this fashion? When churches exhibit this kind of mindset, it leads to divisions and criticisms of other churches' practices and beliefs. This often bewilders the outsiders who think that Christians are a quarrelsome lot because they often fight over petty issues. 

Paul says in 1 Corinthians 13:9, "we know in part and we prophesy in part." All of us (whatever our denominational distinctives) only have partial knowledge of the God's truth. When other churches believe differently from us, we ought to humbly learn from them so that together we may have a fuller knowledge of the truth. Attacking others' beliefs and practices is a sign of spiritual immaturity and causes the churches all round to be spiritually impoverished because we are unable to profit from the different perspectives that others can give regarding the same truth.

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