Saturday, November 30, 2013

The Dangers of Depending on Logic

Christians have been accused, (unfortunately [often]) rightly, as being anti-intellectual. That is to say it is common to hear people mock Christian beliefs as nonsensical. David Hume takes it so far as to say that the only ‘miracle’ in the world is that people can believe Christian doctrine. Of course, our own brothers and sisters don’t help matters when they say, “Doctrine divides; just love people” and “Science is wrong because the Bible is true” or “It doesn’t have to make sense; that’s why it’s called faith.” Such well-intentioned statements are exceedingly common but drastically flawed. Doctrine simply means ‘teaching,’ and everybody believes doctrine of a kind—we had better hope ours is sourced from Scripture, taught by the Church! Science and the Bible are not incompatible. And actually, it has to make some kind of sense, otherwise we would apparently be serving a God of whim and fancy, emotion and random. Yet we don’t. We love the God who created physics, biology, etymology, mathematics, music and everything  that is ordered… including the seemingly disordered: from the food chain to topography.

It is unfortunate that there such a de-emphasize on educating church leaders, of reading the authors of previous centuries, and of knowing the original languages; it is unfortunate that there is such commonness of deciding not to study theology, of rejecting the sciences a priori, and of finding comfort in illogical silliness and calling it faith instead of folly. These bring with them dangers: falling sway to heresy and false teaching, becoming a chronological snob, being unable to evaluate arguments in the language which they were made, failing to recognize the beauty and supremacy of Christ—pantocrator and Cosmic King, foolishness and sin. And yet there is another set of dangers that come from depending on logic.

When you depend on logic, you are declaring that your ability to reason is supreme—if God does not conform to your definition of logic, then you run the heavy risk of denying him as he is. We see this frequently all over the map: “I could never believe in a God who…” Oftentimes it’s an ethical issue like genocide in the Old Testament, tsunamis today, hell for eternity. But other times, you just redefine God: “I know what the Bible says, but God wouldn’t do that.” And sometimes you even redefine the language of Scripture confusing everyone who hears you—making them think you are a Christian when you have actually denied its essence: “Jesus is the Son of God which means that Jesus is divine [read not-the-same-as-the-Father-but-still-better-than-us].”

Hear some examples of logic taken awry:

  • If God commands us to do something, it must be possible to do, otherwise God would be unjust. Since God commands us to be perfect, it must be possible to be perfect without Christ. (the logic of Pelagius [“Pelagianism”], deemed heretical and anathematized by the Church)
  • That which is ‘begotten’ was at one time naught. Since the Father begets the Son, there was a time when he was naught—a time without the Son. Therefore the Son of God at one time did not exist, but came into existence, that is to say “he was begotten of the Father.” (the logic of Arius [“Arianism”], deemed heretical and anathematized by the Church)
  • God is spirit, not matter. Therefore, it is more holy to be spirit than to be matter. God, who is perfectly holy, cannot become less holy, and thus he cannot become matter. Therefore, although it seemed that Christ was human (that is to say ‘matter’), he only appeared thus, but never actually become united to matter. It was not he that died on the cross, but another who was mistaken for him—Christ was never upon the cross, but only ascended to the Father. (the logic of the Gnostics [“Gnosticism”], deemed heretical and anathematized by the Church)

These are only three of the many ways logic has misled well-intentioned humans into false belief resulting in their condemnation. Not because they were mistaken on a simple issue, but because they were mistaken of the essential person: God revealed through Jesus Christ. They trusted in something other than God and what he had revealed to them. They made their reason the determiner of truth, and came to worship something other than Yahweh, our Triune God. I don’t wish to write with a ‘matter-of-fact’ tone, if that’s what comes across. I want to write with sobriety recognizing that we all straddle the threshold of truth and error—worship and idolatry. We are constantly in danger, and we are all too frequently idolaters. And we are in constant need… constant dependence upon Yahweh who acts in grace toward us.

Logic and rationality are a gift of God unto mankind to help us understand him and the world he created. But we are still finite, and not just finite but fallen and created—there may indeed be times that things seem illogical or random, but they only seem so in the scope of dynamic, time-bound, existence as a finite human considers things of eternity, infinity, and divinity. Without his grace we would be destitute and destined for damnation, but with it we sit as sons and daughters upon his throne, heirs of the eschatological rational world. To that we look forward, when we will eternally be able to plumb the depths of him and his creation: always satisfied, never satiated; constantly deepening in love, holiness, righteousness, and joy. When we will study the physics of this world and others, the chemistry of things our minds haven’t begun to comprehend, they languages of nations throughout history—present there. And we will do so without idolatry. Recognizing the limits of our mind, and depending on its Creator to expand them further.

Does God’s choice of grace toward you make sense? Apparently not. But his mind is not yours, nor his thoughts. And there are reasons for which you have been recreated of which you have not the slightest clue—which may not come to fruition until two thousand years hence.

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