You Have a Right to Your Opinion, So There!

We live in an age where all opinions are thought to have equal value. You have a right to your opinion, and I have a right to my opinion. End of discussion (and end of thinking!). If all opinions have equal value, why do we have conflicts between differing opinions? How can all opinions be equally true if there are differences of opinion?

An opinion is a judgment made with no fact or knowledge to substantiate it. There is no certainty or proof for the judgment. Facts differ from opinion in that facts can be verified, i.e. can be verified or agreed upon by a consensus of experts. To say: “The United States has troops in Afghanistan” is a statement of fact versus “The United States should not be involved in Afghanistan.”

An opinion may be supported by facts and principles and can be called a studied opinion or an argument. These will be facts and principles that have not garnered verification by experts. Most formal debates are based upon studied opinions and can be valuable in clarifying the issues.

In the Afghanistan example, there are facts and principles that support the argument that United States involvement in Afghanistan is a good thing while there are also facts and principles that argue the reverse. Both arguments have a degree of validity but not sufficient to reach an expert consensus.

However, we must also be assured that the experts are qualified to be experts. I have a doctorate in music. Let’s suppose I am interviewed by a national poll about global warming and a friend with a doctorate in theology is also interviewed. Later, the poll reports that 100% of the doctors interviewed believe global warming is a fact and that certain steps need to be taken to offset a potential world-wide calamity.

The poll should be questioned: who were the doctors? Are they qualified to be experts? My friend and I may have strong views about global warming but neither of us is qualified to be an expert; therefore, the poll findings are flawed and invalidated.

We see the same type of claims being made in advertisements. Here is an old one about a margarine: “4 out of 5 doctors recommend (blank) margarine.” How many doctors were surveyed? What kind of doctors were they? The answer could be that only five doctors were interviewed, one was a physician, one a historian, two were dentists, and one a theologian. Four of them could have based their recommendation for the product upon uninformed opinions. How valid is the products claim? It is easy to make claims for our opinions that are more valid than the data will support.

Before we claim too much for our opinions, we would do well to heed the words of St. Paul in 1 Corinthians 13.12: “What I know now is only partial; then it will be complete—as complete as God’s knowledge of me.”

You Can Find Hope

Has something happened in your life that has caused you to feel hopeless? The loss of a loved one? The loss of a job? A habit or an addiction that is controlling your life? Broken relationships that can’t be healed?

When you are depressed, you feel hopeless. When you feel rejected by those you love, you feel hopeless. When you have a medical problem that resists all efforts of cure, you feel hopeless. When you are struggling with an addiction or struggling with a habit you cannot break, when you don’t expect anything good is going to come your way; you feel hopeless.

How can we negotiate life when the road is filled with one pothole after another, blind curves, and dead ends? The answer is not a new life, a new career, or a new spouse. The answer is a new attitude of hope.

In spite of all the uncertainties of life, hope is possible. What is this hope we need and how is it possible? The word “hope” is like the word “love.” It is widely used but rarely understood. The hope of many people are empty wishes waiting to be fulfilled by the gods of Black Friday. We are expressing a desire and wishing it would come true, but we have no guarantee that what we want is what we will get.
Biblical hope is the expectation that something good is going to happen because God keeps his promises. Biblical hope is a confident expectation based on solid certainty – it rests on God’s sure promises. The writer of Hebrews wrote: Let us hold on firmly to the hope we profess, because we can trust God to keep his promise. . . .To have faith is to be sure of the things we hope for, to be certain of the things we cannot see. [Hebrews 10:23, 11:1]

When Jesus was born the Jewish people were looking for a Messiah who would live out the dream of the prophets. There had been many who claimed to be Messiah but had been put to death and nothing changed. The people had almost given up hope when Jesus was born.

People in our day find it difficult to hope. Can we hope for justice? Can we hope for the elimination of crime? Is there any hope that we can have a world that is free from disease and warfare? Can we hope that someday we will be free from all the sins and temptations that drag us down?

As we approach Christmas, think about this: Jesus came into the world to bring hope. You can find hope when you find Jesus and no longer be afraid to live in this world. You can find hope when you find Jesus and no longer be afraid to die and go to the next world. The old hymn says, “My hope is built on nothing less, than Jesus’ blood and righteousness?” On what is your hope built?