Sunday, January 19, 2014

FAITH vs. LOGIC: Compatible or Contrary? Part Two

In part one of this article, we looked at the different sources of wisdom (sophia) and how they differ from one another. We also looked evidential logic that is, showing the evidence of something to be true in its assertions and suppositions, can lend credibility as a source for further true things as evidence is provided.
Such is the case where the Bible is concerned; it has statements about geography, archeology, history, things pertaining to the natural sciences that are true. Since they provide evidence that the Bible is true in these areas of knowledge, it stands to reason that the Bible could likewise be true in other areas of knowledge such as morality, spirituality, the nature of reality and of higher reality and of course knowledge in regards to theology in general, including doctrines of salvation, prophecy and others.

We saw that the very word ‘logic’ in the Greek is logos and this is likewise the word used for “Word” as in John 1:1-3, 14, speaking of the Third Person of the Trinity. There is the valid idea of the “logic of God”.

Apologetics provides (logical) reason for believing the Bible as a book of truth, specifically the truth of God (as opposed to mundane truth as seen in mathematics, physics, chemistry, etc).

In part two we shall explore how logic is essential to valid thinking, and that such validity is inherent in the tenets, statements and doctrinal assertions recorded in the Bible. In this section we shall refer to Norman Geisler’s treatment on logic from the Baker Encyclopedia of Christian Apologetics. The following is transcripted from this very source, unedited; full credit is attributed to Dr. Geisler for this work. I have occasionally applied emphasis to a word or words, or commentary which is included within brackets like this: [ ].

“Logic deals with the methods of valid thinking, It reveals how to draw proper conclusions from premises and is a prerequisite of all thought, In fact, it builds from fundamental laws of reality and truth, the principles that make rational thought possible.”

These principles are known as First Principles and we shall look at these very briefly:

“The First Principles are the foundation of knowledge. Without them nothing could be known. Even coherentism uses the first principle of non-contradiction to test the coherence in a system.”

There is the Principles of Reality, “Without basic first principles of reality, nothing could be known, everything we know about reality is known by them, and Twelve basic first principles can be set forth:

1)      “Being is: The Principle of Existence.
2)      Being is Being: The Principle of Identity.
3)      Being is Not Nonbeing: The Principle of Non-contradiction.
4)      Either Being or Nonbeing: The Principle of the Excluded Middle.
5)      Nonbeing cannot cause Being: The Principle of Causality.
6)      Contingent* Being cannot cause Contingent Being: The Principle of Contingency (or Dependency).
7)      Only Necessary** Being Can Cause a Contingent Being: The Positive Principle of Modality.
8)      Necessary Being Cannot Cause a Necessary Being: The Negative Principle of Modality
9)      Every Contingent Being is Caused by a Necessary Being: The Principle of Existential Causality.
10)  Necessary Being exists: Principle of Existential Necessity.
11)  Contingent Being exists: Principle of Existential Contingency.
12)  Necessary Being is similar to similar Contingent Beings it causes: Principle of Analogy.”

[Notes from myself: * - A contingent being is one that had a cause that was real prior to the existence of the contingent being. A contingent being is finite in the space/time continuum.

** - A necessary being is one that is required in order to bring a contingent being into existence, but which itself has no such requirement and exists by nature of its own being. A necessary being is infinite in the space/time continuum.]

Descartes declared “I think, therefore, I am.” Thomas Aquinas furthered this posit by saying “I am, therefore, I think.”

“For one could not think unless he existed. Existence is fundamental to everything, Being is the basis for everything. Everything is (or has) being. Hence there is no disjunction between the rational and the real. Thought cannot be separated from things or knowing from being.”

The First Principles also includes the idea of Undeniability that may be reduced to the undeniable. They are either self-evident or reducible to the self-evident.
Such reasoning may be employed to demonstrate the existence of God in these Thirteen assertions based on the Twelve principles (numerically referenced in the list below) listed above:

1)      Something exists (I do) (#1).
2)      I am a contingent being (#11).
3)      Nothing cannot cause something (#5).
4)      Only a Necessary Being can cause a contingent being (#7).
5)      Therefore, I am caused to exist by a Necessary being (#1-4).
6)      But I am a personal, rational and moral kind of being (since I engage in these kinds of activities).
7)      Therefore, this Necessary Being must be a personal, rational and moral kind of being, since I am similar to him by the Principle of Analogy (#12).
8)      But a Necessary Being cannot be contingent (i.e., not necessary) in its being which would be a contradiction (#3).
9)      Therefore, this Necessary Being is personal, rational, moral in a necessary way, not in a contingent way.
10)   This Necessary Being is also eternal, uncaused, unchanging, unlimited, and one since a Necessary Being cannot come to be, be caused by another, undergo change, be limited by any possibility of what it could be (a Necessary Being has no possibility to be other than it is), or to be more than one Being (since there cannot be two infinite beings).
11)   Therefore, one necessary, eternal, uncaused, unlimited (infinite), rational, personal, and moral being exists.
12)   Such a Being is appropriately called “God” in the theistic sense, because He possesses all the essential characteristics of a theistic God.
13)   Therefore, the theistic God exists.


“Conclusion: First Principles are indispensable to all knowledge. And the first principles of being are a necessary prerequisite for all knowledge of being. These first principles are undeniable or reducible to the undeniable. For the very attempt to deny them, affirms them. By them not only is reality known, but the existence of God can be demonstrated.”

Back to the discussion on logic

Again, logic deals with the methods of valid thinking. “It reveals how to draw proper conclusions from premises and is a prerequisite of all thought. In fact, it builds from fundamental laws of reality and truth, the principles that make rational thought possible.”

“Logic is such an indispensable and inescapable tool for all thought that even those who eschew it still use logical forms to argue for their rejection of it.

“The three fundamental laws of all rational thought are:

1.      The law of non-contradiction (A is not non-A).
2.      The law of identity (A is A).
3.      The law of excluded middle (either A or non-A).

“Each serves an important function. Without the law of non-contradiction we could say that God is God and God is the Devil. Unless the law of identity is binding, there can be no unity or identity. Without it there is no difference in stating, “I am I” or “I am a chair”. If the law of excluded middle does not hold, then opposites could both be true.

“Beyond these basic principles, there are the principles of valid inference. These inferences traditionally were classed under deductive or inductive or under transcendental arguments. All of these however use some form of the three basic [fundamental] laws.

Logic and God – If logic is the basis of all thought, it is the basis of all thought about God (theology). Some object that this makes God subject to logic. But God is sovereign and not subject to anything beyond Himself. So, how can thought about God be subject to logic?

“In one sense God is not subject to logic; rather, our statements about God are subservient to logic. All rational statements must be logical. Since theology purports to make rational statements, theological statements are subject to rules of rational thought, as are any other statements.
“In another sense God is indeed subject to logic, but not because there is something more ultimate than He. Since logic represents the principles of rational thought and since God is a rational Being, God is subject to His own rational nature (emphasis mine). Insofar as logic manifests reason it flows from the very nature of God and God is subject to His own nature. Indeed, He cannot act contrary to it, ethically or logically. For example, ‘It is impossible for God to lie.’ (Heb. 6:18). Likewise, it is impossible for God to contradict Himself. Both violate His basic nature.

“God is not only subject to His own rational self-consistency; He also is subject to logic which is derived from it. For we could not even begin to think about or talk about God without the law of non-contradiction. In this sense, logic is prior to God in that we need to use logic before we can even think about Him rationally.
[Note from myself: thus the requirement for God to equip us with minds that are capable of logical thought]
“Logic is prior to God in the order of knowing, but God is prior to logic in the order of being (emphasis mine). Logic is prior to God epistemologically [how we know things], but God is always prior to logic ontologically [what is true and real].
“To object that this makes God subject to our logic sets up a faulty dichotomy; logic is logic; it is not ‘our’ logic as opposed to ‘His’. Ours is based on His; God’s rational nature is the basis of our rational nature. He made it that way so we could understand something about Him. The law of non-contradiction applies to God’s thoughts as well as to ours. People did not invent it, they discovered it.

Rationality vs. Rationalism – Others protest that making truths about God subject to human reason is a form of rationalism. However, this objection overlooks several important things. First, God is not being subjected to our reason; God is the author of reason and He created us to be like Himself. So the basic principles of reason are not arbitrarily imposed upon God; rather, they come from God.

“Second, the basic laws of reason are not opposed to God’s revelation; they are an essential part of God’s general revelation (emphasis mine). Human rationality, with its basic laws, is a manifestation of God’s rationality. God is rational, and humans are made in His image. So using logic is not opposed to revelation; it is a part of it.

“Third, even special revelation cannot be known or communicated apart from logic. We would not even be able to distinguish the revelation from God from that of the devil unless the law of non-contradiction is valid. Furthermore, when the Bible reveals that ‘God so loved the world’ we could not know that love is not hate unless the law of non-contradiction is valid. So logic is essential to special revelation as well as to general revelation.

“Finally, there is a difference between using reason and being a rationalist. A rationalist tries to determine all truth by human reason. A reasonable Christian merely uses reason to discover truth that God has revealed, either by general revelation or by special revelation in the Bible.

“Logic vs. Aristotle – Some critics of traditional logic object that Aristotle invented logic and there is no reason we must accept his Western form of logic over an “eastern” type that does not use the law of non-contradiction, However, Aristotle did not invent logic he discovered it. The laws of rational thought were in operation eternally in God and from the very beginning in rational creatures. Aristotle only articulated them.

“This criticism also implies that “Eastern” thoughts can avoid using logic, But as we have seen, the basic laws of thought are inescapable for all rational beings, whatever their culture and worldview. No “Eastern” philosopher can even think or speak without using the law of non-contradiction. The very denial of this law employs the law in its denial. It is literally undeniable.

“Many Kinds of Logic – Others object that there are many kinds of logic, Why choose just one kind and make it the norm for all kinds? In response, it need only be noted that while there are many kinds of logic (deductive, inductive, symbolic, etc.) nonetheless all forms of logic depend on the basic rational principles of thought stated above. For example, no valid form of logic can operate apart from the principle of non-contradiction. If contradictories can be true, then thought itself is impossible, but we cannot deny thought without thinking, Hence, denying the laws of thought is literally unthinkable.

Logic and Omnipotence – The Bible says that “nothing is impossible for God” (Matt. 19:26). He is all-powerful (omnipotent) and an omnipotent Being can do anything. Therefore it would seem that God could violate the law of non-contradiction if He wished. However, this is based on a misconception. When the Bible declares that God can do what is impossible it does not refer to what is actually impossible but to what is humanly impossible.
“Further, omnipotence does not imply that God can do what is contradictory. If it did, then God could cease being God. But it is impossible for the uncreated to decide that he wants to be created. It is impossible for a Necessary Being (which cannot cease to be) to decide it does not want to be. God cannot contradict His own nature; so omnipotence does not mean that God can do literally anything. The Bible says that “it is impossible for God to lie” (Heb. 6:18; 2 Tim. 2:13). And just as God cannot contradict His moral nature, so He cannot contradict rational nature. Indeed, omnipotence only means that God can do anything that is not actually contradictory or impossible. For example, God cannot make a square circle. Neither can He make a stone so heavy that He cannot lift it. For if He can make it then He can move it. He doesn’t even have to “move” it. All He would have to do is to destroy it and recreate it wherever He wanted it to be.

Logic and Miracles – God created the natural laws, yet He can transcend them by miracles. God engineered the law of gravity and the viscosity of liquids, but Jesus walked on water. Why can’t the laws of logic be broken like the laws of physics?
“First, this is an invalid analogy. Laws of nature are descriptive, whereas logical laws, like ethical laws are prescriptive. That is, laws of logic tell us how we ought to reason in order to conform our thought to how things really are. Like moral laws, they are universal prescriptions. Everyone should reason that if all triangles have three sides and this figure is a triangle, then it has three sides. There are no exceptions; everyone should come to this conclusion. Laws of physics are descriptive generalizations. They merely inform us about the way things are; they do not exhort us about how something ought to be. As descriptions of the way things usually occur, they admit the exceptions. A miracle is an exception. As such it does not contradict the general law. The comparison between the physical laws and laws of thought is invalid.
“Further, God did not create laws of logic. They manifest His uncreated nature. God is rational and there are certain basic principles of rationality that cannot change any more than God can change His own essential nature. The laws of physics are not so. Presumably, God could have created other kinds of worlds, with other kinds of laws. The law of gravity, for example, applies in a material universe. It does not apply to angels with no physical bodies.

Logic and the Mysteries of Faith – Some object that the great Christian mysteries, such as the Trinity, the Incarnation and predestination violate laws of human reason. There is a difference between propositions that go beyond reason, such as the mysteries of faith, and those that go against reason. Those that go beyond human ability to reason do not go against reason. Human understanding unaided by special revelation cannot reach them. They can only be known by special revelation. Once these truths are known, their premises do not contradict other revealed truth.

Logic and the Trinity – The doctrine of the Trinity affirms three persons in one Essence. It does not claim that there are three persons in one Person or three essences in one Essence. These would be logical contradictions.

Logic and the Incarnation – The Incarnation does not claim that God became [or was reduced to being merely] human. The infinite cannot become finite or the Necessary contingent. Rather, it affirms that the second person of the Godhead became a man. Jesus assumed a human nature without laying His deity aside. Thus the Incarnation was not the subtraction of Deity, but the addition of His humanity. Two natures in one person is not a contradiction. Two natures in one nature or two persons in one Person would be, but not two natures sharing one Person. It is a mystery; it is not a contradiction.

Logic and predestination – Neither is predestination and free choice a logical contradiction. It is not contradictory to assert that God has predetermined who will be saved, as long as He predetermined that it would be accomplished through their free choice. What would be contradictory is to claim that God forced people to freely accept Him, since forced freedom is logically incompatible. But to claim that God knowingly determined how He would affect salvation by His grace and through our free choice is not a logical contradiction. It is a mystery, but not a logical contradiction.”

In the final 3rd part of this series, we shall examine some of the differences between faith and logic and how faith goes beyond where logic leaves off. Logic is a starting point, but faith reaches the conclusive goal of believing God and His Word.

ALSO: Please accept my apologies for the lateness of this article and my general absence from this blog in recent months. Due to various reasons I was unable to attend to this site, but as a sort of ‘New Years Resolution’ I shall endeavor to frequent this site more often and with more posts which will be shorter in length so that you the reader, will find it more manageable regarding time requirements needed to read them.

Until next time, may the LORD JESUS CHRIST bless all of you saints, WAY TOO MUCH!