Theists, Agnostics, and Atheists, OH MY!

Your Rent-A-Friend starts a long walk through the Metaphysical Map starting with God. When it comes to God, there are only three positions anyone can take: They know He’s there, they don’t know, they pretend He isn’t. Every religion on earth, from Atheism to Zen fits in here somewhere. But your view of the world will remain cloudy, and your metaphysical map will lead you astray unless you begin with the true God, Jesus Christ.

Come Learn stuff, and get Smarter! And thanks for letting me be your Rent-A-Friend.

Read more on these topics at the Rent-A-Friend Blog:

Fake Math and Flying Spaghetti Monster

Your Rent A Friend is listening to: Count Basie Radio on

His Mood is: Good, baby! It’s ALL good.
(Rent-a-friend’s note: The email address at which to reach me is now a hotmail address for reasons which elude me. In short, if you ever wish to email me, it will have to be at hotmail because my gmail account imploded and cannot be recovered. Like the deathstar. Poof. I knew I should have put a screen on that thermal exhaust port!)

If you’ve been reading this blog faithfully (and by the look of my stats about four of you have), you know that I have been attempting to prove the existence of Objective Truth as outlined in my Metaphysical Map. If you haven’t been reading my blog, you probably think I am on powerful drugs which are not necessarily prescription. Let me assure you all that I know exactly what I’m talking about. I am talking about TRUTH! And part of the reason I am talking about truth is because I wish to tell you about Jesus. It’s not as much of a stretch as you might think to go from Metaphysical outlines of objective truth to a Jewish carpenter who claimed to be God.
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Brain Fat and the Metaphysical Nickel

Your Rent a Friend is listening to: Louis Armstrong and Ella Fitzgerald

His Mood is: A little frazzled, a little swingin’ (Which is better than just frazzled)

In order to wrap up our journey across the Metaphysical Map, it is time for us to take a walk around Belief and Knowledge. Get your metaphysical shoes on, strap on your backpack of previous knowledge, and bring some philosophical bug repellant. When we get there, we’ll make hypothetical S’mores!

Let’s recap where we’ve been: GOD creates reality, which includes rubber ducks. I see the rubber duck, and I see it as yellow, which it really is, so what I see is the truth. I have “The Rubber Duck Experience,” which I think was the name of a Jimi Hendrix album. Or it should have been.

My experience of the ducky is now processed in my mind. My experience is chewed thoroughly by the teeth of reason. Reason asks WHY? and HOW? And if it’s classically trained and well versed in Shakespeare, Wherefore art Thou? And then my logic licks the sides of my experience for those tiny flavors of intangible truth which can be discovered with WHAT IF? And then, when I have made connections and met categorical boundaries and defined things according to context and previous experience, my brain takes the step of Faith and swallows my experience so that it can be digested in my memory and metabolized into the muscle of intellect and the fat of useless knowledge which only gets recalled while playing Trivial Pursuit.
If you’ve heard this metaphor word-picture before, I’ll give you a dollar. Suffice it to say, I could continue the metaphor, but let’s all be glad that I did not. It would have used the phrase “Brain Fart.” But I have more class than that.
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Everyone is Entitled to My Opinion

Weigh your choices carefully!

I stumbled into a great facebook post recently. See if this sounds familiar:

A friend of mine had expressed a disliking of a particular movie. The person she was talking to berated her for her opinion, as if her personal taste in movies could be compared to having interchangeable tooth/toilet brushes. Because she didn’t feel the same way he did, he chose to criticize her and call her ignorant, which of course did nothing to change her mind. It only made her angry. If we looked into it, I expect we would find much of the Middle East peace talks going along these lines.

The online response of her friends was the typical reply to such a situation: “Everyone is entitled to their opinion, (So far, so good) because an opinion is neither true or false- it is subjective.” That last part is where they are wrong. Well, it is my opinion that they are wrong, and I am correct, which makes my opinion true and theirs false. Ok, before you go throwing full wine bottles at your computer screen, let me explain.

You’ll notice that, in earlier posts, I put Opinion below Belief and Knowledge on the Metaphysical Map. You might have wondered why it wasn’t put with Perception or Experience. The reason is, an Opinion is a statement of absolute, transcendent, universal truth expressing a believed piece of knowledge which is either TRUE or FALSE. Did I just blow your mind? I know I did. I could hear it from here. Take my hand. It’s going to be OK! And there’s nothing wrong with a little therapy if you need it.

When someone expresses an opinion, it is one of two things. It’s either a statement about the speaker (“I like pizza”) or it’s about some object on which the speaker is offering judgment (“Pizza is better than aerospace technology”). When I give you my opinion, I’m either talking about me, or I’m talking about something else (in this case, pizza). In the first statement, I am saying something about ME- specifically that I like pizza. This is either true or false. I could be lying. It may be true that far from liking pizza, I despise it, because I am some godless hippy communist pinko creep PRETENDING to like pizza so I can infiltrate your society and corrode it from the inside. Or maybe I’m just lactose intolerant.  Thankfully, neither of those is true, so it remains a TRUE statement that “I like Pizza.”

Why is this not subjective? Because it is ALWAYS true for everyone everywhere that I Like Pizza. It doesn’t matter if YOU like Pizza. I will still like pizza no matter how YOU feel. It’s not always about YOU, you know. We share a Reality, and in the REAL universe, I like pizza. If someone ever tells you that I do NOT like pizza, they are a liar. Do not give them your credit card information, nor vote for them.

In the second statement I am comparing two things. Sometimes people do this when they really mean to make a statement about themselves. When I said “Pizza is better than aerospace technology,” I REALLY meant, “Given the choice between them, I would choose Pizza because I am not lactose intolerant, but I am afraid of heights.” This, much like the First World War, is a result of poor grammar. Once again, the statement is either true or false, but it is intended to be a statement about my personal response to things.

But what if it’s not? What if I really am comparing Pizza Hut to NASA? In this case, I am comparing these things, not to themselves alone, but to some external standard of good and bad. To say something is “Better” only makes sense if there is some standard of GOOD to compare two things against. The one that conforms most closely to the definition of “Good” is the one which is “Better.” So, we must ask in what ways these things are similar so that they might be compared. How about this: Both cost money. We could say pizza is better because I can get a large pepperoni pizza for five dollars, where as ANYTHING made by NASA costs more than the gross national product of South America. And I can promise you it won’t be delivered to your door in half an hour or less. But if by “Good” I mean, capable of sustaining life in a low orbit for prolonged periods of time, then the better of the two (and it’s a close call) would be NASA. Without the proper aerospace technology, you would be dead before the pizza was even out of the box. Even at five dollars, that’s a bad deal.

Maybe you don’t compare Italian foods to various technology fields. I can see no reason why you wouldn’t, but it takes all kinds to make a world. Since my standard of “good” above is based on my personal preferences (Either I prefer to spend $5 at a time or I prefer to survive the trip into space) and not on some external standard (like calories or cubic inches) then there is no reason I should expect you to judge according to this standard I set up for myself. You might argue that pizza is better than aerospace technology because without pizza you would shrivel and die like a plant in the desert, making the shuttle and the most advanced satellites irrelevant. This is valid. But what if I said “Pizza is CHEAPER than aerospace technology.”? Cheaper is a math concept. Pizza is cheaper, because it costs less money. A thousand jillion dollars is clearly more than $5, making pizza the “better” (meaning cheaper) alternative. This is not up for argument. If you think it is, you’re either Bill Gates or the sultan of Brunei. In either case, I would be willing to be adopted into your family/last will and testimony.

What then can we say about someone who demands you consider a certain movie as “Good”? Maybe he is comparing the film to some standard of quality (“The movie was in focus and had audible dialogue” or, “This movie did not contain Keanu Reeves attempting to use a British accent”). Maybe he really means to make a statement about himself (“This movie made me cry like a little girl”) and he wishes for you to feel the same so that he will not feel like such a sissy. Or maybe he’s a jerk who doesn’t care what the conversation is about and he’s just trying to pick a fight. If he’s this third type, just walk away, man. Just walk away. Everyone is entitled their own subjective emotional response to external stimuli, but when you choose to express those feelings, choose your words carefully because if you don’t, you will sound like a jerk. Of course, that’s just my opinion.

Text Without Context is Pretext for Proof Text (And a Person’s a Person no matter how Small)

Hold onto your hats! I, your Rent a Friend, have just made an amazing discovery which will shift the balance of religious debates forever! I was considering the declaration of such people as Richard Dawkins (author of The God Delusion) of there being NO God. As a Christian I know the Bible is completely true and free of errors, so I did a quick search on to see what the Bible says about that. And you know what I found? The Bible says “There is no God!” It says it fifteen times!

You think I’m lying. Well, let me quote you few verses:

Deuteronomy 32:39 “There is no god…”

2Samuel 7:22 “…there is no God…”

Psalm 14:1 “…there is no God.”

Over and Over! You think I’m messing with you? You think I made these up? On the contrary. These verses are in no way altered from the original! I looked it up, and then I coped and pasted it here! Have I just BLOWN YOUR MIND?!?!?!

Some of you are probably asking what I’ve left out. And that is an excellent question which brings us to my topic for the day: CONTEXT. When searching for truth in words or the universe around you, the CONTEXT is an important starting point. The Context is, in short, the big picture- the when, where, why, and who which will make clear sense out of the ideas, facts, or events being investigated. In my quotes above, for instance, I’ve left out a little context. When you put it back in, you find the first verse is God saying “There is no god BESIDES ME,” and the next is someone saying to God, “There is no God BUT YOU.” The best one here is Psalm 14:1 “The FOOL says in his heart, “There is no God.”” A little bit of context changes things a bit, wouldn’t you say?

Sorry Richard Dawkins. I guess I can’t help you after all.

Let us now consider the Metaphysical Duck. Our ducky is a small yellow rubber ducky. Suppose I am holding him as I’m typing and I write, “I am holding the ducky right now.” However, you don’t get around to reading this for weeks later. By then, not only am I NOT holding the ducky, but I can’t even find him since having done laundry. He’s lost under the pile of clean clothes that I am lax in putting away. So, is the statement TRUE or FALSE? In order to decide, you must consider the CONTEXT. The context of the statement was the time at which the statement was written. It does not say I am ALWAYS holding the ducky, it only says I am holding him “right now” with the understood context to imply that “right now” tells us that, at the time of the writing of that sentence, I was holding the ducky. It does not say anything about the time AFTER the writing of that sentence.

Similarly, if I were to say “Ronald Regan is the president of the United States,” this would be false because I am saying it NOW, in 2010. If I found that exact same statement having been said or written in 1983, it would be true because the statement IMPLIES the time. The time at which something was said or written, and the person who said or wrote it is its context. Without the context, there is no way to determine if the statement is true of false.

Another piece of CONTEXT is Prior Knowledge- the things you have already learned. Consider this statement: “MY rubber duck is exceptionally large!” IS this true or false? If you’ve read my previous posts, you’ll know the ducky of which I speak to be around 4 inches tall. This doesn’t answer the question, but it helps. If you also know how big an average rubber ducky is (between 3-5 inches tall), you will know that, in the context of typical rubber ducks, my statement is false. If aliens somehow have transformed him into an 80 foot tall mecha-ducky, we could all agree in THAT context that he was exceptionally large, and fairly likely at some point to wind up fighting with the Power Rangers.

Here is the trouble with some words. How big is “Large”? Is it 200 pounds? Is it six miles? Is it twenty five liters? $4,000? There is no answer to that, because it is a term relative to the context. Compared to the starting lineup for the Miami Dolphins, my ducky is VERY SMALL. Compared to a dust mite, he is HUGE. Thus it is the responsibility of both the speaker/writer to convey the context clearly and the listener/reader to discover the context. Without an understanding of CONTEXT there is much which cannot be determined to be true or false. I think you’ll find that lots of arguments are really based on this misunderstanding. Just listen to anyone arguing about which of two movies is BETTER. Do they mean, “Better at showing alien heads exploding?” or “Better at not whipping the camera around until I want to hurl,” or “Better at making me laugh with inappropriate sound effects,” or “Better at bringing in ridiculous amounts of money at the box office,”? Most of the time people will rant and rave at each other about which is BETTER without ever defining the context of BETTER AT WHAT?

I think we could avoid a lot of angry cafeteria fights (And probably most of those Political News shows) if everyone spent more time defining their context and less time assuming what it might be. One thing which is true no matter who you are or when it happens is this: If you spend an hour fighting with someone, using all of your reasoning skills and college style vocabulary words to demolish their position, but then you both find that you actually agree but simply had no idea what the other person was talking about, you are going to feel REALLY stupid. In this context, I’d like to suggest that maybe listening is better.

Oh, and in case you were wondering what the title of this post means (Text without Context is Pretext for Prooftext), it simply means this: Scripture without context will be used by people to try and get the Bible to say whatever they want it to say, instead of (With context) what it actually says. But as Dr Seuss taught us, everything is more fun to learn when it rhymes.

The Nerd to MetaDucky Dictionary

Greetings fellow Philosophers! This is your Rent-A-Friend with today’s Metaphysical lesson. First off, I need to tell you what Metaphysical means. I was talking to my suave and cool friend, Bert and I told him about this blog. He said, “What’s it about?” and I said, “Metaphysics.” He replied, “I don’t even know what that means.” And I thought, of course he doesn’t. He isn’t a nerd.

Don’t worry, I know you aren’t either. Someday, thanks to friends like me (Rented or otherwise), cool, good looking people like you will know all the wild stuff nerds have been hording for themselves. To start with, META is a Greek prefix (It goes at the start of a word) that means After, or Beyond. Chemistry asks “What’s it made of?” Physics asks “What does it do?Metaphysics asks “Why is it and why does it do what it does?
In short- BEYOND Physics is Metaphysics. So, let’s go beyond! Today I’m just offering you the basic definitions. Nothing fancy. In the near future I’ll get into details. This is a reference for those of you looking to understand your rubber ducks. Metaphorically speaking.

Life, the Universe, and Everything

Keep this in the Glove Compartment

GOD– Eternal, all powerful, self-existent, Creator of the universe and all things physical and spiritual.
God is (More or less indirectly) the cause and ruler of all rubber duckies.

Reality– God and his creation. Includes the physical universe, time/space, spiritual creations, events and all of the properties of God and his creation.
Anything Real, including rubber duckies (does NOT include the ducky in your dreams)

Context– The real facts surrounding a piece of data; the culture, language, time, place, etc. in which words, thoughts, or perceptions exist.
For example, when and where your rubber duck is while you ponder it.

Prior Knowledge
– Those pieces of information already in the mind of an observer- not necessarily accurate.
Any previous experience you may have had with your rubber ducky, or any knowledge you already have about rubber, ducks, or the color yellow before you come to ponder your ducky.

– The five senses gathering information about reality through contact with it (eyes, ears, nose, skin, brain, etc.).
Looking at your ducky, smelling it, tasting it, feeling it, or, in select special cases, reaching out to it with the Force™.

Truth– Word, thought, or picture accurately reflecting reality (in as far as the word, thought or picture intends to reflect it).
What you say about the ducky describes the actual ducky with no inaccuracies. Rubber ducks don’t like being lied about. But who does?

– Word, thought, or picture NOT accurately reflecting reality. i.e.- a lie.
For instance, if you call your rubber ducky a plastic chicken. It’s close, but wrong, and it will not make them happy. Again, would you like to be called a plastic chicken?
I didn’t think so.

– Total perception over some period of time, and internal response to perceptions (Physical, Mental, and Emotional).
As Bob Dylan used to say, “You need to do more than just know about the ducky. You have to Experience the ducky, man!”

– The mental attempt to answer “Why?” Experiences are compared to find predictive patterns for causation of perceptions/experiences in the context of prior knowledge.
For instance- “Why is the ducky Yellow? Why is he not  Puce, Chartreuse, Cyan, Fuchsia, or any of the other colors that are only used by artsy weirdos that normal people couldn’t identify in a police line up with the three little pigs? ”

Logic– The mental exercise of using reason to discover truth by creating links of causation, meaning, or categories of definition for things, ideas, events, etc. Most often related to the art of argumentation. Goes beyond reason by going beyond perception, experience or prior knowledge.
For instance, “If the ducky was blue, could it be argued that it would be sold for more money to the same target demographic as a yellow ducky? What about if he doubled as an MP3 player?”

– The will, choice, or hope to embrace something as truth.
“If I put my ducky on the couch, I have faith that my cat will not eat him. I don’t have the same amount of faith in my dog.”

– An idea embraced as truth through faith
“I believe that, when I squeeze him, rubber ducky makes noise.”

Knowledge– Ideas believed to be truth because of faith, logic, reason, or education.
“Rubber Ducky, I know I am awfully fond of you.”

– A statement proposed as Truth either about a thing observed, or about the observer’s response to the thing observed.
“My rubber duck is the cutest rubber duck of all.”

Self Awareness– A sentient being’s ability to perceive and analyze his own perceptions, thoughts, feelings, experiences, beliefs and self awareness.
“I am aware of my feelings of fondness for my rubber ducky as they pertain to the time of bathing.”

Rubber Ducky
– A metaphysical point of philosophical discourse comprised of the sap of the rubber tree, formed in the likeness of a species in the Anatidae family of birds, which is known for making bath-time lots of fun. (See also “Joy of Joys.”)

OK, that’s all you need for now. Next time I’ll start breaking these babies down for you one at a time. You’ll be able to chat with the nerds almost like you’re one of them soon enough, except that you’ll look debonair.

You’re welcome.

The Metaphysical Map and the Mile High Duck

Life, the Universe, and Everything

Life, the Universe, and Everything

There it is, my friends. The Metaphysical Map of life, the universe, and everything. If you’d like to purchase a t-shirt with this on it, let me know. I don’t have any to sell you, but it would give me something to tell the folks back home.
“No, seriously! Some guy wants to buy a shirt with this on it! Can you believe that?”

My past two essays were about the nature of God, who you can see is the beginning of the Metaphysical map. You need to start somewhere before you can follow the map to somewhere else right? We’ve started with God, and now we can follow the map to TRUTH! But first I think I need to define TRUTH:

Truth is word, thought, or picture accurately reflecting reality (in as far as the word, thought or picture intends to reflect it).

In order to teach you the ins and outs of this Metaphysical Universe, I present to you- THE METAPHYSICAL DUCK!

Behold the ducky in all his glory! I took this photo of the duck with a digital camera. You can look at this picture and determine that the duck is yellow- but is that the TRUTH? If you stop and think about it, you can only REALLY determine that the duck in the photo is yellow. YOU don’t have the real duck. I do. The Photo tells you that the duck is yellow, but you don’t actually know if the photo accurately reflects the real duck unless you have the real duck to compare to the photo.

To determine the TRUTHFULNESS of the photo, there needs to be a REAL duck with which to compare it. If this picture is only something I made in Photoshop, and there is no actual duck, then it is pointless to discuss whether the picture shows the TRUE color of the duck, just as it would be pointless to inquire as to the home address of about half of the registered voters in a Chicago election. Because they aren’t real.  I wish I was kidding about that.

Thus, if the ducky is the same color as the photo, then you can say the photo tells the TRUTH as far as the color of the duck is concerned. If not, then the picture presents an Illusion and you perceive something which is not TRUE. But there are limitations to the picture. For instance, can you tell how big the duck is? Is he one of those tiny keychain ducks or one of those huge duckies that can be used as furniture? There is no way to tell from this photo. For all you know it may be a GIGANTIC duck that doubles as a submarine and has a crew of a hundred men.

It’s not, but I wish it was because THAT would be totally sweet.

Does this mean the picture is inaccurate? False? An ILLUSION? No, because the picture is accurate as far as the picture intends to describe the duck. It is accurate in as far as it describes the duck, but no further. What it says about the color of the duck is true, but is simply doesn’t say anything about the size. It’s not inaccurate, false, or an ILLUSION. It’s only incomplete. Need another example? Go look in the mirror. What does the image tell you about the back of your head? Nothing. Does that mean it is lying to you? No, it means your skull is not transparent. If you CAN see the back of your head in the mirror, you might want to seek immediate medial attention. Or pick a keen Super Hero name. It depends on why you can see the back of your head I suppose. But I digress.

I can give you a measurement of how tall the ducky is, but unless there is a real ducky, my description cannot be TRUTH. If I say the ducky is five inches tall, but there is no ducky, I have not told you something accurate about something that exists. I have invented the data arbitrarily. I have LIED. I could just as easily say it is a mile tall, and would be no more or less accurate. It would be equal (Metaphysically, not numerically) to my description of 5 inches because neither is true of a real duck. Clearly if something fails to be accurate, it must be false. Unreal/imaginary is the same as untrue, as TRUE requires a thought, word, or picture to accurately reflect a real something.

See how this works?

I have the real duck here, so I can measure it, and when I do I discover that he is in fact four inches tall. So, while neither the imaginary measurements of five inches or a mile tall were TRUE (i.e. accurate when compared to the REAL ducky), the five inches was a LOT closer to the real thing. We would say it is MORE TRUE than the presumption that it is a mile high because, while still inaccurate, five inches is closer to the real truth (four inches) than the alternative (A mile)-or, we can say it is LESS INACCURATE, because the distance between it and the TRUTH is less than the distance between the TRUTH and the presumption of a mile high duck.

Personally, I think Mile High Duck would make a good name for a band.

You see it, but do you believe it?

The important things to remember here are this: If there is no duck, I cannot describe it with accuracy. This is to say, I cannot tell the TRUTH about the duck. If there is a duck, I can describe it either accurately (And tell the truth) or inaccurately (and present an illusion, falsehood, or lie- we call this Journalism). And if there is a duck and I put its picture on a t-shirt, maybe I can get someone to buy THAT.

It’s worth a try at any rate.

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