Saturday, March 28, 2015

Equal and Opposite Reactions....

From my last post:

……..because of the enlightenment and several subsequent movements that have “dissed” scripture, fundamentalists pushed back in a Newtons Law kind of way…...for every action there is an equal and opposite reaction.

Now that is a really interesting thought….this push back thing. When I first heard it (in the sermon by Adam Hamilton) the light bulb lit up. Isn’t that the truth! Yes, indeed, I have witnessed this, both at large in the whole wide world and specifically, in my own little corner.

At large, I have seen people take on a do or die attitude when an idea questions, threatens, or discredits one of their sacred cow beliefs. Ideas and beliefs that might not have seemed all that important become hills to die on or at least issues that merit taking a firm stand on. And of course, I have seen this same law at work up close and personal in my relationships, my job and within myself....

The birth of the Five Points of Calvinism, TULIP, comes to mind. What a great example of this push back.

The controversy between Arminianism and Calvinism arose in Holland in the early 1600’s. The founder of the Arminian party was Jacob Arminius (1560–1609). He studied under the strict Calvinist Theodore Beza at Geneva and became a professor of theology at the University of Leyden in 1603.  Gradually Arminius came to reject certain Calvinist teachings. The controversy spread all over Holland, where the Reformed Church was the overwhelming majority. The Arminians drew up their creed in Five Articles (written by Uytenbogaert), and laid them before the state authorities of Holland in 1610 under the name Remonstrance, signed by forty-six ministers.
The Calvinists responded with a Counter-Remonstrance. But the official Calvinistic response came from the Synod of Dort which was held to consider the Five Articles from November 13, 1618 to May 9, 1619. There were eighty-four members and eighteen secular commissioners. The Synod wrote what has come to be known as the Canons of Dort. These are still part of the church confession of the Reformed Church in America and the Christian Reformed Church. They state the Five Points of Calvinism in response to the Five Articles of the Arminian Remonstrants. (See Schaff, vol. 3, pp. 581–596).  

That rather longish quote above is from John Piper’s website, Desiring God….and hey, if anyone knows Calvinist doctrine and history, it is John Piper!!

The so-called Five Points were not coined by the Calvinists to clarify their beliefs for their own benefit and edification. They emerged as a response to the Arminians who chose five points of reformed doctrine to oppose.

Isn’t that interesting? The beliefs of Arminius were birthed, very likely, as a response to his ultra-calvinistic education. That led to the 5 point Remonstrance…..that initiated a response, the Counter-Remonstrance.

I’ve seen this “law” of Newton’s played out in real life….my own life and the lives of those around me. There are many things that affect and form our beliefs and behaviors. This is just one of many subtle, often unconscious, factors. Nature/nurture, cognitive biases, prejudice, cultural influences, maternal instinct, mimesis…..and so on and so forth....

Obviously, the formation of our opinions and beliefs cannot be oversimplified or “boiled down” to a theory of physics or to any ONE theory, bias or influencing factor. However, thinking outside our own personal box of beliefs can lead to introspection that can lead to a startling clarity also known as a wtf moment. Sometimes it can even lead to a change of mind/heart. But not necessarily because we tend to be very comfortable in our own state of "belief inertia."

I came upon that term while looking for interesting quotes from people wiser than me to beef up this blog post. I found two new to me blogs that struck my fancy.

Eric Raymond’s blog Armed and Dangerous and Less Wrong, a Community Blog devoted to refining the art of human rationality.

The temptation is always to claim the most points with the least effort. The temptation is to carefully integrate all incoming news in a way that lets us change our beliefs, and above all our actions, as little as possible. John Kenneth Galbraith said: "Faced with the choice of changing one's mind and proving that there is no need to do so, almost everyone gets busy on the proof." And the greater the inconvenience of changing one's mind, the more effort people will expend on the proof.

The effort people expend on the proof is the "equal and opposite reaction" part of Newton's Law.

In response, Eric Raymond opined that belief inertia (which happens to relate to another one of Newton’s Laws, the law of inertia) is also due to the fact that:

Changing beliefs is not costless, and may commit you to a decision procedure that is too heavyweight to be worth some very marginal gain in utility.
This post is getting long so I am going to end with another quote I found and continue with this same topic in my next post.
 If we watch ourselves honestly we shall often find that we have begun to argue against a new idea even before it has been completely stated. Wilfred Trotter

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