Monday, October 02, 2006

Captain, That is Illogical?

The topic of logic in relation to understanding scripture has recently come up and I thought I would add two cents worth to this discussion.

It seems that the argument breaks down into two sides; the first being that God gave us a mind to rationally and logically understand His word, the second being that only divine revelation can explain what the Bible really means.

Let me first address the skepticism of the second point. People who balk at the notion of divine revelation or God speaking directly to us raise the concern of extra-Biblical revelation. They often equate this type of speak as charismatic in nature and therefore highly suspect. Of course we have many examples of preachers and others who have received a "word from God" which determined which course they would take. It is funny how many times these "words" are in direct relationship to their desires, such as the Lord told me I should divorce my wife, or the Lord told me to marry that unbeliever, etc. You have probably heard just about every different angle there is.

A favourite one is this; "Well I prayed about it and had peace in my heart so I figured that God was saying yes."

Here is a couple of ways in which we can know something is not from God.

  • If an idea or thought contradicts what is already commanded in the Bible, it is just plain wrong.
  • If it requires a small "compromise" to achieve our goals, we have either not heard from God, or perhaps the timing is not right.
  • When it requires us to manipulate a situation in order for the results to be favourable, we are probably going ahead of the Lord.

These are just three and I'm sure there would be many more sound and wise warnings from scripture. (DO YOU HAVE ANY TO ADD?)

Now how about the first argument of using our logical and rational mind? I know what you are thinking; our new regenerated mind is now able to function "logically" so therefore it is safe to trust its judgement.

The verse used to defend this is "Now the natural man cannot understand the things of God, because they are spiritually discerned." It is true that an unbeliever cannot truly understand the mysteries of the Bible. His heart and mind are still blinded to the truth through spiritual death.

However, we must be careful to assume that our minds are now free from the old nature and its affects. The Bible is very clear that a process called transformation is taking place whereby we not only are able to comprehend the things of God, but begin to think and behave in harmony with the new life of Christ indwelling us.

For many centuries, man has esteemed the grasping of knowledge as a noble and worthwhile goal. While it is true that our western civilization has made tremendous leaps in the advancement of technology, arts, and science, these in and of themselves do not equate with a regenerate mind.

Any unbeliever can have a sharp and intelligent mind, knowing great mysteries of science, mathematics, etc., yet be completely void of comprehending the depth of God's love.

We must realize that growing in grace is not an intellectual exercise, it is the result of a relationship with the giver of grace, Christ Himself. It is an abandonement of our self-dependance to utter need for Him as everything to us.

Therefore, truth and the search for it is not found in the objective analysis of logic or rationale, as if we can simply deduce by reason and study the great mysteries hidden from the ages. Rather, truth is a person, Christ Jesus Himself, and in Him is hidden all wisdom, mysteries, knowledge, and truth.

What is my point?

Exactly! You can study scriptures all you want and never understand its greater mysteries. You can use your best logic and rational thinking and yet miss all the deepest meanings of Christ's words.

Only by asking Christ to fill us with His Holy Spirit as we read, by all means of supplication, meditation, and prayer, can we begin to grasp the riches He has hidden in the wonderful pages of scripture. If we try to separate truth from Christ, or logic from knowing Him, we will become intellectually minded christians as opposed to spiritually minded christians.
The Bible is not simply a book to "understand" with our minds, but rather this book reveals to us a person. Only has we begin to see Christ throughout the pages of the Bible will we truly begin to understand. He is the Alpha and the Omega, the beginning and the end. His Word points us to Him, and in turn He speaks to us through His word.


jazzycat said...

Good points on a very interesting subject.

Jim said...

Jazzycat, nice to hear from you again.

Daniel said...

It behooves us to remember the danger in pursuing Christ without knowledge. Why are there so many Mormons and Jehovah's Witnesses? Because somewhere, someone made a good case for pursuing Jesus - but they did so at the expense of knowledge.

If I pursue knowledge about Christ, at the expense of having a genuine relationship with Chirst, my "logic" may well lead me astray from Christ.

If I pursue Christ without knowledge, I may well receive as Christ something counterfeit which will also lead me astray from Christ.

Really, we ought not to pursue Christ one way or the other - but we should pursue Christ genuinely, and rationally.

It matters very little if I can make a "good argument" for my position if my position doesn't bring me closer to God in practice; likewise, pursuing a misinterpreted Christ with vigor will bring me no closer to the real Christ.

I wouldn't use "logic" to insist upon a particular interpretation, but I would regard any interpretation that was "illogical" as suspect (at best). Logic does show us when something is wrong or compromised, but it cannot show us when something is right.

I am reminded of how a lie-detector test works. The test results are either "inconclusive" or "positive." Inconclusive means that they cannot tell if you are lying, and positive means they are sure you lied. It isn't a truth-detector test, after all.

So it is with logic - it can show you that a doctrine is flawed, but it cannot be used to pronounce a doctrine as "right" simply because it doesn't offend our logic.

To that end, I believe that logic is important, and while I would use it to refute false doctrine, I wouldn't use it to "prove" correct doctrine.

Notwithstanding - there are some schools of theological thought that -do- use logic to prove the "rightness" of their theology - and I think that is as much a mistake as using "personal experience" and "sincerity" to validate the claims of LDSs, JWs, and Christians who are too lazy or prejudiced to study to show themselves approved.

Sorry for the length. ;)

Jim said...

Thanks Daniel, I think pursuing Christ is definitely something the religions and cults do not do. At least not in the personal sense of knowing Him. After all, their religions are based much upon fear and punishment.

I think probably the people who are prone to make the ignorant decisions, or lack proper knowledge of Biblical issues are those who pursue Christ and yet focus primarily on the emotional aspect.

It seems to me that this divide exists where the more fundamental groups focus on knowledge and doctrine, while the more charimatic groups focus on experiential worship and outward manifestations of God's moving.

I believe a balance of both is essential to a healthy christian life. When we are rooted in the word of God and have a personal and vital relationship with the Lord Jesus, we will be kept from many foolish and unwise choices.

Bhedr said...

Good stuff Jim. I really liked that. Good post.

Bhedr said...

An old Pentecostal preacher once said, "All spirit and you'll blow up and all doctrine and youll dry up."

Ah Jesus said it best, "Spirit and Truth!" baby "Spirit and Truth!"

Again...good post.

Bobby Grow said...

Hey Jim,

I think when an interpretive tradition like Calvinism is shaped by rationalism at a methodological level, then yes, rationalism as a system is wrong. But I don't think the usage of logic is inherently fleshly or evil--w/o it communication would be impossible--the Holy Spirit through the human authors uses it consistently as we see Paul using logical syllogisms (see I Cor 15)to communcate a reality about the gospel for example.

In Christ