May 3, 2010

Pragmatism

Just another go round with the Jung Typography test which I took last week. One of the chief characteristics of the Rational-Mastermind personality type is Pragmatism. I often say that I am very pragmatic, yet I didn't really know what that would meant (outside of being practical). A quick trip through Merriam-Webster's dictionary told me that it does indeed mean practical. A pragmatic person is generally concerned with the facts moreso than with intellectual ideas or theories. I am this way, but I actually do like theories and spend a great deal of time contemplating them. For example, when I was in college, I dreaded taking Philosophy. I had heard all these horror stories about it, and believed that it would be so far over my head, and that I would subsequently get a bad grade (and fearing my grade point average sinking -- didn't want to risk it). Yet, once I got into the class, I found that I loved the content. Yes, some of the writings were very difficult for me to read, but overall, I got enough of the gist of it to be able to get an A in the class.

Once I completed that course, I found myself drawn to other studies in Philosophy. I have read a number of works from the 18th century, as well as studied numerous theological works that border on the philosophical. I find the whole study to be stimulating.

This idea of pragmatism, however, has stuck with me. I am a "just the facts" kind of person, and in further study into the philosophy of Pragmatism, I see that I tend to follow the ideas of this belief fairly consistently. I believe in experience as validation of an idea (a central tenet). I believe that facts need to be tested, to be proven. I believe that value and facts are the same; but I differ starkly on the idea that there is no moral ground, that value is relative to the person or people espousing it (in essence that what is good is proven good, and therefore, can be called good). This view is what our modern day philosophers call Relativism, and it permeates our societal thinking. If it is good for you, then it is good. It is taking this idea of facts as validated by experience to the extreme. It simply shows where this philosophy falls short -- just like all the other humanistic attempts at creating an idea of thought. It runs itself right up against the Apostle Paul's warning in Romans 3, 5 and 6 (in short -- "There is none good. There is no one that does good.") If you take Pragmatism on face value, then one could argue that the Nazi's extermination of 6 million Jews or Stalin's annihilation of his own people was good -- why? Because it was good for them, so it must be a good thing. I think not.

Morality is the squeaky wheel and religion is anathema to the pragmatist (who doesn't believe God exists because He cannot be classified as real). I am a paradox then: a pragmatist who believes in a real Eternal God, a Personal God, who loves and lives and saves. Weird juxtaposition of views, considering I rely so heavily on factual data and analysis. I guess God needs logical and rational analysts, and He created such a one as me. LOL!

As I think on my views, on my behavior, and on my ideals, I see how much I rely on factual data for evidentiary conclusions. My son is exactly the same way. I heard him say this to his dad last night: "Dad, if you want to win this argument, simply show me the evidence that what you are saying is true." Ah, my little logistician. Probably not such a good idea that I gave him my college textbook on critical thinking (on how to deduce and structure arguments)? LOL!

My son is a chip off of this old mama's block, and I am loving it. There is nothing better than logic to protect him from the faulty arguments of a decadent and deceived generation. Yes, he is saved too, so he is doubly-well covered (the Holy Spirit -- the author of all Logic is with him). Young people are being raised today with this philosophy of Relativism, and as such, they cannot think rationally or logically. They only think about themselves and what feels good. If it works for them, then what's the beef?

Logic and rational thinking is a gift from our Heavenly Father. He has given us brains and intellect and intends for us to use them properly. Our mental faculties are there to help guide us, to keep us from falling into the easy traps set by Satan and those who follow after his value system. Logic dictates, is often what is heard; yet very rarely do we see people acting and behaving in a logical and rational manner. In my experience (my pragmatism is showing now), logic doesn't dictate. No, emotions dictate, and reliance upon emotions is the death-nell to rational thinking. I am not opposed to making emotional decisions, and often, we have to consider emotions as one of many facts. However, we must be wary of relying solely on our emotions as a deciding factor in any important decision.

The Apostle Paul warned us of this as well, and encouraged us to "hold fast to the teaching" he taught through his many letters. We need to hold fast to the Word of God, not letting our emotions pull us off center. It happens, it happens to me all the time. But, rational and logical thinking must dictate my behavior and my approach to any major choice or decision. The facts must prove themselves out, the evidence clearly observed. Experience is key, but only so much as it sets the facts and evidence in order (gives them testimony). Then in final conclusion, the statement of belief must align perfectly with the Will of God (the very Word of God). If so, then it is a done deal, a logical argument brought to full conclusion.

Well, anyway, that is how my brain works and I see how my pragmatism benefits me. It has served me well, so long as I don't allow it to take full reign over me. You can be too practical, just like anything else. Too much of a good thing, well, can sour one's stomach. Balance is always a good choice.

One additional thought: today as I was working on my plans, I began to think about my relationship with the Lord, and about how much I cherish His friendship. Not many people consider the Lord to be their friend. They seek Him for salvation, for provision, for security, for forgiveness, etc.; but not many consider Him a friend. I used to seek Him for these other reasons too, but a couple years ago, began to look for His friendship. In doing so, I have come to experience God in radically new ways. I cannot tell you how much I depend on His friendship. I love Him, this is for sure; but I love to be with Him more. I love the time we spend in conversation, and how He knows me so well. I love the fact that He likes me, He really, really likes me. He likes me just as I am, and enjoys spending time with me too. I think friendship with God is probably the very best, the very highest, and the very greatest thing we can attempt to find. It is worth all the heartache, all the hurt, all the headache -- all the other hellish things we go through each day and week and month and year. It is the ultimate thing to seek because in doing so we seek to know Him, we seek Him first and foremost, and always with one purpose in mind: to worship Him as God. Yes, He is my friend and I love and cherish our relationship. I can think of no other thing in this life or the next that I desire more than to know Him, to love Him, and to be His best friend.

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