A God of…Logic?

I think people say things sometimes without really thinking about what they’re saying. Someone said to me recently that God was not a God of logic; God does not use logic like we do. This was in the context of whether or not we should use logic and human reason in theological debate. I think that the answer to the second, the use of logic in theological debate, is predicated upon the first, whether or not God is a God of logic. This post represents my preliminary thoughts on the matter.

That struck me as absolutely absurd even before I had a chance to think through it.

Consider first that the three most fundamental laws of logic (or reason, or thought, or any other synonym), the law of identity, the law of non-contradiction, and the law of the excluded middle, are so axiomatic that there is no hope of meaningful discourse without them. They are so basic and fundamental that without them no one would be able to communicate with another or to understand another. More about that in a moment.

Consider also that there are no degrees of logic or illogic. An argument cannot be “mostly logical” or “a little illogical.” If any illogic (even a small amount) creeps into an argument, the whole argument is now illogical. Even in inductive reasoning, which relies largely upon probabilities, illogic can destroy the strength of an argument so that it must be rejected. This is not a false dilemma; it must be one or the other (I realize I’m oversimplifying things just a bit but this post is not for working out this thought in terms of its application to deductive vs. inductive reasoning).

This means that if God is not a God of Logic then he must be a God of illogic. God must adhere to the laws of logic in his dealings with his creation and especially with humanity, with whom he has communicated and communicates; otherwise, nothing God has said would make sense.

What is troubling to many people about what I have just said is that it seems to bind God to human laws, but this is not so. We have some idea that the laws of logic are a product of human thought and so are of human origin. In reality, however, they are merely human expressions of fundamental truths. Humans discovered these truths long ago and Aristotle was the first to put them in writing in his Analytics and, to some degree, in his Metaphysics. But this doesn’t mean that Aristotle or other humans created these laws, not at all. Humans simply discovered them and expressed them in terms meaningful for our communication and discourse.

These “laws” or “rules” of logic are an inherent part of creation. They are a part of creation and therefore come from God, not from man. Humans are responsible for them only insofar as they have used common grace to discover and explain them: how they work, why they work, and, consequently, how important they are.

It does not take much to figure out that creation has design and thus order (since design implies some degree of order). It also does not take much to conclude that these fundamental rules of thought are necessary to meaningful communication. Consider, for example, that a child who does not understand anything about the law of non-contradiction can still spot a contradiction in a parent’s command and is confused by it.

Order the opposite of confusion. God has revealed through his apostle that he is not a God of confusion (1 Cor. 14:33) and while that verse is given in the context of the local church’s public worship, it still speaks volumes about how important order is to God. In all of God’s dealings with humanity, God is orderly and consistent. This has serious ramifications for those who worship him. God does not give contradictory commands; indeed there are no true contradictions in his revealed Word. God does not hold forth his Son as the only means of salvation and then also accept those who trust in another way. God does not hold forth one promise and then contradict it with another promise.

Order is important because it reflects the nature of God who brought the universe into existence out of the chaos of Genesis 1:2. Any apparent contradiction is and must be on the part of fallen humanity, whose intellect has also been tainted by the Fall such that, while absolute truth exists, we are not always able to discern it. Hence, we do not always recognize the order apparent in creation nor do we always appreciate it. But it is present and some do recognize it.

This order, despite the chaos brought on by the Fall, is preserved today in many areas, one of which is humanity’s ability to think clearly. Sadly, even that ability has been tainted by sin so that we do not always think as clearly as we should, but the fact that we can distinguish between clear reasoning and faulty reasoning is testimony to how God wove into his creation order in such a way that it cannot be completely removed even by sin.

So what we need is not to stop using logic, but to use good logic, clear logic, and remember that we have not bound God with our logic, God has bound us. Those of us who are Christians have been called to be disciples not just with our bodies or our checkbook, or our time, but also with our minds. We have to learn to think Christianly (yes, I made that word up) which must begin with thinking clearly about our world and our place in it in light of Scripture.

So. Is God a God of logic? Yes, in that God is a God of order rather than confusion and has so reflected that good nature in his creation that even pagans can discover the order behind it. To say that God is not a God of logic is to say that God is not a God of order but is a God of confusion. That is something no Christian could or should possibly think about the Creator and Redeemer.

As always, I welcome your comments and thoughts on this post.

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About Michael R. Jones

Pastor and PhD candidate writing on Paul's theology of suffering.
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