Monday, 25 May 2015

Key notions defined series: 9. Logic

Having completed my main review of the New Testament (and some Old Testament) texts, cataloguing almost 500 passages, I am "celebrating" that milestone by publishing a part of the paper that helps me in the processing and weighing of these texts, which is currently entitled Chapter 2: Key Notions Defined. It is also is an opportunity for me to tidy up these definitions. Here is the next one:


Logic can be perceived negatively, but it should not be! In fact it shares some very common ground with the word logos, the Word, which we find famously in John 1. It is what helps us grasp concepts and meaning, and enables us to communicate them as best we can to others. So it is not just the domain of philosophy, for we are constantly applying logical principles to see if people, arguments, and practices are consistent. As soon as something appears contradictory, we say “hang on a minute! Something is not right here!” When we see the biblical authors also trying to make their point, they will at times (depending on their own personal style of writing and the genre of the biblical text) make very logical appeals to strengthen the arguments they are making, or to protect themselves against future accusations of inconsistency.

Paul is a great example of this:

For ‘God has put all things in subjection under his feet.’ But when it says, ‘All things are put in subjection’, it is plain that this does not include the one who put all things in subjection under him [1].

We love logic – I think God might do too, provided it is a source of life to us and in us. God’s logic keeps us sane and prevents us from spiralling off into thinking absurdities like “God is so great that he can exist and not exist at once”, or “there might be such a thing as a square circle” or “I know a married bachelor”. Now if – let us imagine for a moment – there were mention, say in Psalms, of a married bachelor, what would our response be? Would it be a mystery? No. We would identify the genre of the text – poetic – and remind ourselves that not all of the texts are to be taken literally, that we must understand its context. We might possibly conclude with something like: while the man was officially married, in actual fact, his life really was that of a bachelor (he did not love his wife or his children, he did not communicate with them, he came and went as he pleased, and so on). So there is no contradiction. In one sense, the man is married, the legal, civil and administrative sense, but in another sense he is a bachelor.

I hope that is clear! We do not tolerate true contradiction, only relative or superficial contradiction, and this is logic that is at work at the heart of our reasoning. Most, if not all “Trinitarians” fully comply with this, despite the apparent 3 and 1 tension. No-one is implying that God is three of one thing and one of that same thing.

[1] 1 Corinthians 15:27

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