Not the Momma!

I used to watch a lot of TV. OK, I still watch a lot of TV. (Ever notice that allowing
someone to form a false assumption and then correcting it can be quite effective in
taking their attention away from the judgement they would have normally levied against
a character flaw?) Lately I’ve been thinking a fair bit about a rule of logic theory
and how it can be more easily explained and it occurred to me that we experience similar
issues all the time and have little trouble resolving them – so this is my attempt
at working out an example.

of the shows I used to watch and really enjoyed was called Dinosaurs,
a sitcom on ABC in the early 90’s. The show ended in July ’94, so I would have been
between my sophomore and junior year in high school (pointed out partly to explain
why I thought so fondly of such a silly show, but also to make you feel old.) If you
remember the show, then you most certainly remember the star character, Baby Sinclair. 
Baby was best know for two things: A) his predilection for beating his father (Earl)
over the head with blunt objects, and B) his total loyalty to and preference for his
mother (Fran), demonstrated by frequent use of the phrase “not the momma” directed
toward others trying to care for him. If you’re having trouble recalling the show,
watch this clip courtesy of YouTube:

But here’s a thought… What if Baby Sinclair took that phrase “not the momma” and
directed it toward Fran, his mother – would that be a contradiction? Odds are your
gut response would be “yes”, since the common understanding of contradiction is asserting
that something is not what it is (or is what it is not.) However, what that definition
fails to take into account is relationships. Not necessarily familial relation (though
that certainly applies here), but rather any form of relationship: how X relates to

Logicians have a rule that states, in essence, that a statement cannot be both true
and false in the same sense at the same time with reference to the same moment. The
key phrase I want to pick out is “in the same sense” – another way to say that is
“in the same relationship”. Using the example of Baby Sinclair, Fran is indeed Baby’s
“momma”, but what if Baby’s nest was swapped before birth and he actually was the
biological child of a different couple that was delivering nesting
at the same time? I’m not pulling this scenario out of my cloaca, either, as it happens
to be the basis for Season 2, Episode 11 titled “Switched at Birth” (the same episode
from which the previous clip was clipped.) In this episode, Fran has been Baby’s mother
since before birth, but it is discovered that she is not his biological mother. So
in fact the same thing (mother) is both true and false at the same time, but it is
being applied to two different relationships: child -> “not the momma” (biological)
vs child -> “momma” (adoptive). And because it is two different relationships,
the paradox is (according to the rules of logic) not a contradiction.

Why bother bringing this up (besides being a great excuse to talk about an old TV
show)? Because this is a similar paradox to the one we face when the Bible proclaims
that Jesus is both human and God at the same time with reference to the same moment.
Many people, myself included, have a hard time initially with the Christian belief
(as affirmed by the Nicene
) that the one true God is the Father and the Son and the Holy Ghost, three
distinct persons, but of one and the same divine essence (The
Lutheran Church

For many, the biggest stumbling block is our difficulty comprehending how something
can be both one and three at the same time. But as I’ve (hopefully) laid out, we accept
similar apparent contradictions all the time with little or no difficulty. In this
case, the exact “sense” or “relationship” involved in the two truths of God are not
explicitly and entirely described in the Bible so any attempts to explain them are
largely speculative. However, what is of most importance is that the relationships
are, in fact, distinct and therefore, no contradiction exists.

So my hope is that the next time you, or someone you know, struggles with the logical
validity of a triune God, you’ll think of Baby Sinclair and his mother, or not his
mother – now I’m confused…

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