Logic and Christianity

Hello everybody. I've finally got round to posting again - only two months since the last one. What can I say, I'm a busy man.

Just a few thoughts here about logic. Somebody asked me the other day why Christianity needed to be logically consistent - why do I think that we can use human logic to talk about spiritual things? What if God's logic is different to our logic? Can't God do the impossible?

There are probably many people who hold the belief that God's logic is higher than our logic, so we shouldn't use logic when talking about God. However, this simply demonstrates that they don't understand what logic is.

Now, off the top of my head, these are my ideas on what logic is; please let me know if they hold together. Logic is a way of using language to talk about the way things are. Logicians put forward definitions of terms, make statements about them, and then use rules to manipulate these statements. The key is that these statements are made in a rigorous language which eliminates ambiguity. The rules are themselves definitions which are self-evident. For instance, the rule of 'And' goes something like this: For a statement of the form 'X is true AND Y is true' to be true, both X and Y have to be true. The 'And' rule is an axiom of logic. God's 'And' cannot be different to our 'And', because then it would not be 'And', it would be something else.

So within the realm of things that can be expressed in the language of logic, logic reigns supreme. The grey area is in formulating our definitions. Once we hit on definitions in the language of logic of terms that everyone agrees on, we can proceed to use the rules to manipulate statements using these definitions. The beautiful thing about logic, and the key to it's power, is that the rules are so simple and so self-evident; so much so, that if I can manipulate a (minimal) set of statements using the rules, and come to two contradictory conclusions, then the original (minimal) set of statements is not only wrong, but meaningless. For an example, see the next post.

In conclusion, the question about whether logic can be used to talk about spiritual things can be reduced to the question:

Can we formulate definitions that everyone agrees on?

This is the hard part, and where all the fun lies; theologians have been quibbling about definitions for thousands of years. Once we have done this, logic can be used to powerfully weed out any contradictions.

One last point about logic: The only way logic can decide the truth of a statement is if it is logically inconsistent. Upon statements which are not inconsistent, logic has no opinion. For example, logic can say things like 'If Pegasus exists, then it can fly'. The truth or falsity of the statement 'Pegasus exists' has to come from outside logic. Only if it is logically inconsistent for Pegasus to fly can logic prove Pegasus not to exist. And this is where this blog comes in. Christianity (or a subset of it's tenets) may or may not be true. But if it's logically inconsistent, then it can't be true.

Comments

  1. Stu,<br><br>You wrote, "Somebody asked me the othe...

    by ANONYMOUS on SUNDAY, FEBRUARY 12, 2006 at 11:15PM
    Stu,

    You wrote, "Somebody asked me the other day why Christianity needed to be logically consistent - why do I think that we can use human logic to talk about spiritual things? What if God's logic is different to our logic? Can't God do the impossible?

    There are probably many people who hold the belief that God's logic is higher than our logic, so we shouldn't use logic when talking about God. However, this simply demonstrates that they don't understand what logic is."

    I'm a born again evangelical Christian philosopher and I agree with you on this point.

    It actually demonstrates more than a misunderstanding about the nature of logic, it betrays an anti-intellecutalism, that led Mark Noll in his book, 'The Scandal of the Evangelical Mind' to say, 'The scandal of the evangelical mind is that there is no evangelical mind.'

    The way that the Holy Spirit works is not manipulative. He does not subvert the will from behind the scenes, he works with truth and solicits/attracts the will of a person through the mind and through the feelings. Feelings are not necessarily irrational, sometimes they are very rational EG. That feeling of being liberated when you finish an exam.

    Tom
  2. Hi Stu,<br><br>Can't really agree with this one.<b...

    by BLACKNAD on MONDAY, DECEMBER 19, 2005 at 12:21AM
    Hi Stu,

    Can't really agree with this one.

    The correct application of logic disproves Christianity.

    We would say the following:

    In a universe consisting purely of physical processes, it is logically inconsistent to say that a man can turn water into wine, walk on water, calm a storm with a command, rub mud and spit into a man's eyes and restore his sight etc.

    Full stop.

    But if Christianity is true, these things must be possible. We have to accept that God is the enabling factor.

    Now already God has necessarily transcended our logic, and we have accepted that in order to incorporate Christianity's claims we have had to re-evaluate our application of logic.

    So here, our logic had told us that Christianity cannot be true because its claims cannot accord with reality. So what do we do? We allow something else to inform our humanistic reasoning, and include factor x (a God who can make a mockery of the laws of physics) that our logic has not led us to or even allowed, except by suspending the conclusions that logical investigation has led us to.

    Therefore logic disproves Christianity unless we allow for something that sits outside of our natural reasoning.

    Regards,

    Blacknad.
  3. Yes - Christianity cannot be proved by logic, it c...

    by STU SHERWIN on WEDNESDAY, SEPTEMBER 07, 2005 at 10:45AM
    Yes - Christianity cannot be proved by logic, it can only be disproved if it is logically inconsistent.
  4. Yup. I pretty much agree!<br><br>Your last point ...

    by MATT JERMYN on SUNDAY, SEPTEMBER 04, 2005 at 3:42PM
    Yup. I pretty much agree!

    Your last point is well made - you don't prove something is true by proving it's logically consistent. So - how could you prove or disprove whether or not Christianity is true?
  5. people and logic

    by PAUL on MONDAY, JUNE 17, 2013 at 1:47PM
    I have to agree with the assertion that much of Christianity appears illogical. Some of the main propositions of christianity are illogical : Christ was Fully God and Fully man? The God-Head trinity are independent yet one? Unmerited favour based on faith? But so are emotions, at least they appear to be. And there plenty of other examples of things that seem illogical. You only need to be in a relationship a short time to see how illogical both sexes can be. Logic works within the limitations of your definitions and the complexity of the argument. Whenever you have people, characters you have a lack of logic. As a human I have a hard enough time trying to work myself out. If I apply logic, i tend to get some initial traction, before I quickly become unstuck and confused by my own seeming lack of logic. Christianity in its many guises is not a set of logical arguments as much as a search for a relationship with a creator God. As such, logic cannot be the only means by which we try and understand. So, where does that leave us? Is christianity wholly illogical? Certainly not. Paul tries to bring logical arguments, as thats how we humans understand things. But logic falls down when we cannot quantify and describe accurately enough, or when the arguments are too complex for us to process. That is not to say they are illogical, but rather we lack the necessary information to correctly process them.

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