Finding the Right Words to Label False Ideas
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Ever hear a false claim but struggle to come up with a way to articulate why it's false? In this episode, Elizabeth Urbanowicz demonstrates how to identify false ideas and how to practice finding the right words to communicate why the idea is false.
Note: The following is an auto-transcript of the podcast recording.
Hello friends, and welcome to the Foundation Worldview Podcast where we seek to answer your questions so that you can equip the kids God has placed in your care to carefully evaluate every idea they encounter and understand the truth of the biblical worldview. I'm your host, Elizabeth Urbanowicz, and I'm thrilled that you've joined me for another episode of the podcast today. Today's question says, "How do you find the right words to label a false claim? I can recognize when things are the wrong message... but do not always get the right words to explain it." Such a great question because how many times does this happen to all of us? We recognize that something isn't right, something isn't true, yet we have a difficult time articulating it. And now, I really appreciated this question because I think the questioner actually identified two distinct things in the question.
But the first thing is we need to have the ability to identify and evaluate a false claim, and then we need to have the ability to explain that error to others. And we want to make sure that both we and the children that God has placed in our care can do these two things. And for those of you who have gone through Foundation Careful Thinking Curriculum with the kids that God has placed in your care, you know that is the exact two things that the curriculum seeks to do. In units one through four of Foundation Careful Thinking Curriculum, we're actually directly teaching and training and equipping kids to identify and evaluate every claim that they encounter. First, what is this claim? What have I heard? And then how do I know whether or not this claim is true? We spend four whole units on doing just that, and then in unit five we get to the second part.
How do we communicate that truth clearly in love to those around us? Now, a few things just as we think through, okay, how do we first identify and evaluate these claims, and then how do we explain and articulate them to others? When we're thinking first just about identifying and evaluating false claims, I think it's really, really important to remind ourselves and to train the children in our care to do so with charity because the goal of seeking truth, just like our goal in anything in life should be to love God because that is the greatest commandment that we love the Lord our God with all our heart, soul, mind, and strength. And then the second commandment stems right from it to love our neighbor as we love ourselves. And so if we're loving God and loving other people, when we recognize a false claim, we want to make sure that we're doing so with charity, that we're not just out there as heresy hunters delighting every time that we find a false claim.
Because specifically in 1 Corinthians 13, Paul tells us that love does not delight in evil. When we find something that's false, that's not true, if it excites us and makes us think, yeah, I'm going to bring the truth to this, we need to take a moment to have a heart check because love does not delight in evil. We should be grieved that there's a false claim out there. We should be grieved that others are held captive by that false claim. We should be very grateful that we haven't been taken captive by it, but we shouldn't be super excited. That's one of the things that I really caution people with when there are "discernment" ministries. Most discernment ministries are just out there, kind of like watchdogs, which we do need watchdogs, but are just kind of pouncing on anything that is not true. Now, there are times when things are happening that the truth needs to be spoken firmly in love, but we should not just be delighting in finding ideas that are false. It should actually grieve us.
Second, we need to make sure that we understand a claim correctly before trying to help others understand why it's not true. And I know that many people who follow the Foundation Worldview ministry also follow BibleThinker Ministries that Mike Winger runs. And one of the things that I so greatly appreciate about Pastor Mike is how careful he is in his evaluation of different ideas. A lot of times when people are out there trying to evaluate ideas publicly, they'll create a straw man. What they'll do is they'll just take one line from something or one random idea, pull that out of context, and then pretend that it's something completely different, and then show how that idea is false, where Pastor Mike is always very careful to really research something carefully so that he is evaluating it correctly and that he is guiding others correctly as he's evaluating it.
And this is something we want to make sure that we're doing because we don't want to be uncharitable and we don't want to be evaluating an idea that somebody else doesn't hold. I mean, think about how many times you've heard somebody say something about Christians and you're like, that's not what I believe at all. That's not what scripture teaches. We want people to fairly evaluate us and our ideas, and we need to give that same courtesy to others. We also need to be careful, especially when we are working with children and we're trying to help them understand the truth of the biblical worldview, that we're not creating straw men of other worldviews or other ideas. Because if we then very easily knock down those straw men, and one day our children leave our homes or our churches or our schools and they realize, hey, that idea that my parents or my grandparents or my aunt or my uncle or my Sunday school teacher or my third grade teacher told me about, that's not what those people believe at all. They're going to start to wonder if everything we've taught them is inaccurate.
I actually just had a conversation about this with a friend earlier this week. She and I went for a walk, and her background is in biology, and before she had children, she actually used to work in a lab doing experiments for different medications for different diseases. And right now she is homeschooling her children. And she said that she was just kind of a little bit frustrated that in their homeschool co-op, the way some of the other parents have been presenting Darwinian evolution is they've been presenting it in a very straw man way and then have been knocking it down. Now, my friend as a biologist, she is thoroughly convinced that the biblical worldview showing that God is the creator and sustainer of all is true, and that the theory of blind unguided evolution is not at all what lines up with either scripture or with reality, but she wants to make sure that her children have an accurate understanding of what the arguments are from the naturalistic perspective so that she's not setting up a straw man that they can easily knock down, but then find that there's other arguments that they've never heard of or that they've never understood the arguments correctly.
And we want to make sure that we're being very careful to do this, especially when we're working with children. Just another word of warning or caution is just to know that carefully evaluating ideas well usually takes a lot of time and practice. And especially to be able to think well on our own, it really requires that we spend significant time learning the basic laws of logic, learning about logical fallacies, learning about what is proper support for a claim, that we actually invest time learning these things and then practicing them. That's actually why we create curriculum at Foundation Worldview because we're very passionate about understanding how God designed the human mind to learn and then creating materials that align with that design. And if we want to equip our children to think this way, we can't just hand them a book and expect they're going to read the book and then understand how to think well. And we can't just expect that we have a few random conversations or we teach them a few basic laws, and they understand it. They're going to need continual practice.
And the same is true for us. Sometimes people will write into the ministry with a question, and when we respond, they'll say, "How did you respond so quickly?" And the reason for that is because a lot of times with these things that we're sharing on our webinars and podcasts and in interviews and in our curriculum are things that we have spent a lot of time thinking through. We didn't just learn how to carefully evaluate ideas overnight, but it took a very long time and careful practice. So we need to make sure that if we want to really follow the command in Colossians 2, to not be taken captive by the hollow and deceptive philosophies of this world, it's going to take significant investment of time and energy.
Now, how do we explain our thinking well? Again, this takes time and practice in learning how to explain things well, to answer questions well. Now, most of the time, for those of you who don't know me personally as a friend... if you're just seeing me online or hearing me on a podcast, you'll hear me give stories and advice about real life situations where conversations went well. Praise God! There have been a number of times in my life where these careful thinking conversations have gone really well, but a lot of times in the moment when I come across an idea that I know isn't true and I evaluate it, in the moment, a lot of times I'm not prepared to articulate well why that idea isn't true, or I'm not prepared to ask someone a really good question. I'm a slow processor, so a lot of times it takes me a day or two to really evaluate an idea well, and then to formulate good questions, to ask others to get them thinking.
So a lot of times when I hear an idea that's not true, and especially if it's in a personal conversation, I'll just listen. I might think of one or two questions to ask the person, but usually when I have an opportunity to actually talk with that person and share with them why I don't believe what they just shared is true, it's usually a day or two or more later and I'll ask, "Hey, remember when we had that conversation about X? Are you okay if we circle back to it because I've had some more time to think about it, and I'd like to share some things with you, or I'd like to ask you some questions." And so we need to remember this in our conversations with our children as well. If our children are presenting an idea that doesn't line up with reality or as contrary to the biblical worldview, a lot of times we have this internal freak out moment and we feel like we have to fix everything right in the moment where if we already have some good questions to ask our child and a good way to guide them, we can have that conversation in the moment.
But most of the time, emotions are going to be running so high just freaking out that our child just said that we're going to need some time and space to think about that, to pray through that, to formulate our answer, to formulate good questions. And it's okay! Parenting, engaging with children, discipling children... it is a marathon. It is not a sprint. And so it's okay to circle back the next day or a few days later. Now, just regarding a few helpful tips and thinking through like, okay, how can we explain these things to others? A lot of times, because we live in a fallen world and because we are fallen image bearers, communication is difficult. I mean, think about how many times you've said something to your spouse and you've thought, you've communicated it so clearly and they have completely heard something different. I was just in a situation where I was having a serious conversation with someone, and I even practiced active listening with this person where one person would say something, the other person would reflect back what they heard, asked if that's correct, and the other person either affirms or denies it. We had practiced active listening, and yet somehow we were still totally missing one another <laugh>. And this happens. And so sometimes conversations are going to be difficult, but just a few helpful tips if you can think of an analogy or a parallel example to something that can be really helpful when I'm, especially when I'm talking with teens about the concept of gender identity or transgenderism and how someone might feel like their gender doesn't align with their biological sex, but that contradicts reality because feelings don't always point to reality. A lot of times, a teen will just sit there and nod, but if I can give a parallel example, it's so much easier to hit home. And so I'll ask a question and I'll say, "So what you're saying here is, you know, your friends or you just think that it's possible for our feelings to point to reality in a way that our bodies can't."
And I'll say, "Let's think about that in another area of life. If feelings always point to reality." And I'll ask them, "Have you ever had a friend who's struggled with depression or have you ever struggled with depression? Or you know someone who's struggled with depression?" And just talk through that and say, "Usually when someone's struggling with depression, they feel like they're not valuable. Sometimes they might even feel like they're worthless. And so when we think of a friend, a dear friend that we have who's struggling with depression, and they feel like they're worthless, are their feelings pointing them towards reality? Are they truly worthless?" And that example can hit home so hard. Oh, our feelings don't always point to reality. Or even talking, even if they would agree, well, my friend's feelings might not point to reality, but isn't it the kindest thing to do just to call them by their preferred pronouns or to affirm their gender identity and then talk through....
Well, think about someone who struggles with an eating disorder. Someone who struggles with anorexia is always going to feel like he or she is fat, even if they're terribly underweight and their body is just emaciated. So when we have a friend who struggles with anorexia and feels like she's fat, is the kindness thing to do to agree with her and to tell her that she's fat and that she should continue to not eat? Examples like that can really hit hard with truth in a way that just stating something can't.
Another thing I like to do with younger kids is when I'm talking about ideas in the world that just are lies, but they sound sweet. The example I like to give is of a Boston Cream donut, and you can even buy the kids in your care, Boston Cream Donuts, and you can actually ask at the donut shop for them to take one Boston Cream donut and not fill it with Boston Cream.
And this is a perfect example. Talk about how hollow and deceptive philosophies, they look sweet on the outside and you bite into it and then, oh my goodness, you're expecting this delicious Boston cream and what's inside? A pocket of air. If you're talking about a phrase in morality like, "You do you" ... "don't judge anybody"... "you're fine." I can give a really easy example. Cut in line in front of somebody, and all of a sudden, "you do you" is no longer sufficient. People get very upset when you suddenly step on them in a way that's treating them unjustly. So just using analogies or parallel examples. Also, if you're having trouble explaining something with words... a lot of times we understand things visually, not just audibly, but we understand things visually and we understand things physically. So you can draw a diagram. Just draw a diagram. If you're trying to explain something, just draw different circles and arrows on a page that can really help people understand something.
Also, you can use hand signals. I was just having a conversation with a friend last week, and she was explaining how, in her homeschooling, she didn't think that they were doing such a good job of using an accurate portrayal of scripture. They were explaining something in science. They were talking about the sun being the center of the universe. And then they were saying, in the same way, Jesus needs to be the center of our universe. And she was like, I don't know what's wrong with it, but I just don't want that to be the lesson for my kids. And I said, oh, what you're seeing is you're seeing two different types of things. What you're wanting is you're wanting your co-op to actually show your kids how the evidence in our solar system points to a designer and how that aligns with scripture. What the curriculum is doing that they're using is they're using science material to teach a spiritual truth that has nothing to do with science.
Is that spiritual truth real? Yes, God should be the center of everything because we're supposed to love him above all else, and he is our creator and sustainer. And so we are talking through this, and it wasn't quite clear how I was explaining it. So I started using hand motions, and so I said, "Over here is the scientific truth. Over here is the biblical truth. What you're wanting is you're wanting your co-op to show how science and scripture align." So I showed the two different hands and then put them together. I said, "What your co-op is doing is taking science, and rather than showing how it aligns with scripture, it's just trying to slap it on top of scripture to teach a biblical truth, which that has nothing to do with the science." And so I kept moving my hands back and forth to try to explain that.
Did I explain it perfectly? No. Did we have to have further conversations? Yes, but the hand motions helped. Also, think of questions to ask. It's okay to circle back once we understand, you know, what someone has said or what someone is arguing to ask questions to get to know it deeper and then to circle back, to be able to then think through, okay, how can we explain why we don't think that this idea is true? Just a reminder, all of this takes time and practice. It's not going to happen overnight. I would encourage you that if this is a passion of yours, really learning how to think well so that you can live biblically faithfully in a very secular world and equipping your children to do the same thing, start directly praying and asking God to give you opportunities to grow in this, and then intentionally invest time into learning how to think well.
A lot of times the way I learn to think well is I listen to podcasts where people think well. So a podcast that I love to follow is put out by Stand To Reason. It's called #STRask. It's a podcast where people write in with questions similar as they do to this podcast, but they're usually more philosophical questions or questions about things that are happening in culture. And then Greg Koukl and Amy Hall spend 20 minutes evaluating the question and answer and just showing people how to think well. So that's a podcast that has really helped me, so I'd encourage you to go check that out as well. Well, that's a wrap for today. As always, if you have found this podcast helpful, we ask that you would consider liking and subscribing and sharing it with others in your sphere of influence so that we can begin equipping even more adults to get the kids that God has placed in our care to carefully evaluate every idea and understand the truth of the biblical worldview. As we leave our time together today, my prayer for you is that God would richly bless you as you continue to faithfully disciple the children He's placed in your care. I'll see you next time.
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