by Hiram R. Diaz III
The sum of your word is truth,
and every one of your righteous rules endures forever.
§ 1. Introduction
The Scriptures Are Never A-Logical
As Psalm 119:160 indicates, the propositions of Scripture are individually and collectively true. If one validly infers a conclusion from two or more Scriptural premises, therefore, it follows that his conclusion is true. Conversely, any false belief concluded from an argument supposedly reliant upon Scriptural premises is necessarily invalid. We may know the logical tree by the doctrinal fruit it produces, and this is to our benefit. We may also know the doctrinal fruit by the tree it produces. Whereas the first analysis of the false doctrine demonstrates the fallacious reasoning from which it developed, this second analysis of the false doctrine is demonstrated by the fruit it produces.
Less metaphorically, if a proposed doctrine p explicitly contradicts the Scriptures, but its proponent is using Scriptural premises, then the proponent of it has necessarily committed a logical fallacy. If, on the other hand, a proposed doctrine p in a valid argument using Scriptural premises leads to false conclusions, then p is false. Additionally, if a proposed doctrine p is incoherent, then p is false. This tridirectional logical analysis of proposed doctrines is helpful in the practice of apologetics, as our Lord Jesus and his disciples demonstrate in the New Testament.
Sadly, there are many today who frown upon logical analysis of doctrines and claim that it is insufficient to disprove the truth of a proposed doctrine. Their reasons for claiming this are not the Scriptures, but have their roots in the following phenomena:
- Disbelief in the systematicity of the doctrines of Scripture.
- Disbelief in the closed canon of Scripture.
- Belief in the open-ended nature of divine revelation.
- Belief in the on-going inspiration of prophets and, in some cases, interpreters of the Scriptures.
As mentioned above, the New Testament contains several examples of the Lord Jesus Christ and his apostles logically analyzing the claims of theological opponents, revealing that such criticisms are not unhelpful, improper, or lacking in authority. Scripture is, of course, the highest authority in matters of faith and practice, but it is never a-logical. Rather, as Gordon H. Clark notes:
…on the basis that Scripture is the mind of God-the relation to logic can easily be made clear. As might be expected, if God has spoken, he has spoken logically. The Scripture therefore should and does exhibit logical organization.
…God, Scripture, and logic are tied together. The Pietists should not complain that emphasis on logic is a deification of an abstraction, or of human reason divorced from God. Emphasis on logic is strictly in accord with John’s Prologue [spec. John 1:1] and is nothing other than a recognition of the nature of God.
The Rhetoric of False Teachers
Understandably, false teachers despise having their claims logically analyzed, for this often results in the absurdity of their beliefs being exposed. To draw attention away from the logical implications of their beliefs, therefore, they resort to claiming that their beliefs are derived from the Scriptures. This not only draws attention away from the absurdity of their teaching, it also implies that teaching not in agreement with theirs is derived from some uninspired source. Typically, the false teachers will allege that their opponents are using philosophical arguments. However, as philosophical is never defined by these enemies of the faith, the charge is vacuous. It sounds damning, but it means nothing.
Not only this, but it is to be noted that while philosophers study logic, they also study philosophy. Philosophers do not identify the philosophical study of philosophy with the philosophical study of logic. These are simply not the same pursuit. Rather, logic is temporally, ontologically, and logically prior to all human intellectual endeavors, for it is the very way that God thinks. The charge that a logical analysis of an opponent’s beliefs amounts to a philosophical argument against their beliefs and, therefore, bears no authority is entirely false. The Scriptures give concrete demonstrations of the Lord Jesus Christ and his apostles logically analyzing the claims of God’s enemies, proving the falsity of those beliefs thereby.
Consequently, in what follows it will be demonstrated the Lord Jesus and his disciples used logical analysis in critiquing the doctrinal claims of their opponents. This will be followed by several contemporary examples of logical analysis in the field of apologetics. Finally, some practical concluding remarks will be made about the use of logical analysis in apologetics.
§ 2. Jesus’ Use of Logical Analysis
I. All God-Testing is Sin
Matthew 4 is the first record of a hostile theological discussion in which the Lord Jesus engaged. In it, the devil states:
“If you are the Son of God, throw yourself down, for it is written,
‘He will command his angels concerning you,’
‘On their hands they will bear you up,
lest you strike your foot against a stone.’”
The Lord Jesus responds:
“Again it is written, ‘You shall not put the Lord your God to the test.’”
With this response, Christ reveals that if God has commanded that men not put him to the test, then the Scripture which the devil quotes (Ps 91:11-12) cannot be an exception to that commandment. Whatever the text means, it cannot mean that God allows men to test him, for this would be a contradiction of the proposition implied by the commandment of God, viz. “All God-testing is sin.”
In refuting the devil, the Lord only needed to two pieces of relevant information. First, he needed to know the devil’s use of Ps 91:11-12. Satan uses the text in defense of the implied proposition: “Some God-testing is not sin.” Second, our Lord needed to know what the Scriptures teach about testing God. Being the author of the Law himself, Christ knows this and states that: “All God-testing is sin.” Knowing the latter universal proposition as true, therefore, the Lord refutes the devil’s interpretation and use of Ps 91:11-12. Note the method of refutation and its simplicity. The Logic of God states very clearly what is at issue here, namely a logical contradiction that cannot obtain if the Scriptures are the infallible Word of God. They are the infallible Word of God; therefore, the devil’s interpretation and use of Ps 91:11-12 is wrong.
II. All Internally Divided Kingdoms Will Self-Destruct
A similar situation obtains in Matt 12:24-26, wherein the enemies of Christ, recognizing that he is indeed casting out demons, state:
“It is only by Beelzebul, the prince of demons, that this man casts out demons.”
The assertion is countered by the Lord as follows:
“Every kingdom divided against itself is laid waste, and no city or house divided against itself will stand. And if Satan casts out Satan, he is divided against himself. How then will his kingdom stand?”
This response is more complex than that which we observed in Matt 4, but this is because the Lord further draws out the logical analysis in order to demonstrate the absurdity of his opponents’ claim.
His immediate response can be summarized as follows:
Every kingdom divided against itself is laid waste, and no city or house divided against itself will stand.
Christ asserts the same idea in two forms. Firstly, he state the positive “Every kingdom divided against itself is laid waste.” Then he states the negative: “No city or house divided against itself will stand.” The proposition is the same: All internally divided kingdoms will self-destruct. This universal refutes the idea that Christ can literally be an agent of the devil casting out actual demons. He makes this even clearer in the next response, saying:
If Satan casts out Satan, he is divided against himself. How then will his kingdom stand?
We may state the argument so far as follows:
- All internally divided kingdoms will self-destruct.
- Satan’s kingdom, according to Christ’s accusers, is internally divided.
- Therefore, Satan’s kingdom will self-destruct.
The absurdity of their accusation is made clear by the Lord’s exposure of its logical incoherence. If the kingdom of Satan is going to self-destruct, then it is not a threat to them. Thus, Christ would not pose a problem to his enemies but would, instead, be helping them by destroying the kingdom of Satan. Ironically, if Christ is or is not casting out demons by the power of the devil the effect is the same: He is not a threat to the Pharisees, for he is helping destroy their enemy’s kingdom (i.e. the kingdom of Satan). Christ reduces his opponents’ claim to absurdity, thus implying that the opposite of what they are claiming is actually the case. In a word, Satan is not internally divided; therefore, his kingdom will not self-destruct.
He then goes on to explain how the kingdom of Satan will necessarily be destroyed, seeing as Satan’s kingdom will not self-destruct. In v. 28, the Lord Christ declares:
…if it is by the Spirit of God that I cast out demons, then the kingdom of God has come upon you.
This is a logical deduction from the argument he has just given, resulting in the full argument our Lord gives which may be restated as follows.
- All internally divided kingdoms will self-destruct.
- The kingdom of Satan is not internally divided.
- Therefore, the kingdom of Satan will not self-destruct.
- If the kingdom of Satan will not self-destruct, then Satan does not cast out Satan.
- The kingdom of Satan will not self-destruct.
- Therefore, Satan does not cast out Satan.
- If Satan does not cast out Satan, then the Spirit of God through Christ casts out Satan.
- Satan does not cast out Satan.
- Therefore, the Spirit of God through Christ casts out Satan.
- If the Spirit of God through Christ casts out Satan, the kingdom of God has arrived in Christ.
- The Spirit of God through Christ casts out Satan.
- Therefore, the kingdom of God has arrived in Christ.
Note that the argument of our Lord depends upon the claim of the Pharisees that he casts out demons by the power of Satan. This claim may be divided into two assertions: (i.)Christ casts out demons, and (ii.)Christ is empowered by Satan to cast out demons. From these two assertions, the Lord Jesus refutes the Pharisees by demonstrating that since he is actually casting out demons he cannot be an agent of the devil casting out demons by the power of Satan, and also demonstrating that since he is actually casting out demons and cannot, therefore, be an agent of the devil casting out demons by the power of Satan, it necessarily follows that he is an agent of God casting out demons by the power of God (i.e. the Holy Spirit).
III. All Parent-Dishonoring is Sin
Christ Jesus continues the same method of refutation in Matt 15:1-6.
Then Pharisees and scribes came to Jesus from Jerusalem and said, “Why do your disciples break the tradition of the elders? For they do not wash their hands when they eat.” He answered them, “And why do you break the commandment of God for the sake of your tradition? For God commanded, ‘Honor your father and your mother,’ and, ‘Whoever reviles father or mother must surely die.’ But you say, ‘If anyone tells his father or his mother, “What you would have gained from me is given to God,” he need not honor his father.’ So for the sake of your tradition you have made void the word of God.”
Here the Lord Jesus demonstrates a contradiction that obtains if his enemies’ claim (i.e. “Some parent-dishonoring is not sin”) is correct, for the Scriptures, which are always true, proclaim a clear universal proposition which admits of no exceptions: “All parent-dishonoring is sin.”
The text begins with the enemies of Christ asking the question: “Why do your disciples break the tradition of the elders?” From this we can glean the proposition: The disciples of Christ break the tradition of the elders. This is meant to be statement critical of the morality of the disciples and, by implication, the Lord of Glory. To this, the Lord responds with another question: “Why do you break the commandment of God for the sake of your tradition?” From this we can glean the proposition: The Pharisees break the commandment of God. Whereas the Pharisees criticize the Lord and his disciples for breaking tradition, the Lord condemns the Pharisees for breaking the Law of God. Christ and his apostles have not sinned by breaking the tradition of the Pharisees; the Pharisees, by their revered traditions, transgress the law of God. The Pharisees are, therefore, hypocrites who in their claim to show reverence for God’s law actually nullify the Law of God and, therefore, have no basis for their self-righteous condemnation of the Lord and his apostles.
Christ first states the universal imperative:
You [i.e. all humans] shall honor your father and mother.
He then states the universal consequence of transgressing that imperative:
Whoever [i.e. all humans] reviles father or mother must surely die.
These two statements may be reduced to the proposition noted above, namely:
All parent-dishonoring is sin.
From this we can restate the argument as follows.
- All parent-dishonoring is sin.
- The Pharisees’ tradition is a form of parent-dishonoring.
- Therefore, the Pharisees’ tradition is sin.
This is a powerful rebuke of the Lord’s enemies, and it is quite simple. Given that the law is universal in its scope, it follows that no man can justify his transgression of the law by an appeal to any particular perceived exception. There is none.
Not only this, but the Lord asserts that in trying to uphold the universal law of God and their tradition, i.e. their allowance and encouragement of parent-dishonoring, the Pharisees have “made void the Word of God.” Since they tenaciously cling to their tradition as true, they thereby imply that the Word of God is false. For if the Word of God states that parent-dishonoring is universally sinful, and the Pharisees state that there is at least one exception to this universal, then the Pharisees are implying that their tradition, and not God’s Word, is true.
IV. The Christ is David’s Divine Lord
In Matt 22:41-46, the Lord Jesus asks the Pharisees:
“What do you think about the Christ? Whose son is he?”
The Pharisees’ response is:
“The son of David.”
Finally, Christ asks the following questions:
“How is it then that David, in the Spirit, calls him Lord, saying,
‘The Lord said to my Lord,
“Sit at my right hand,
until I put your enemies under your feet”’?
If then David calls him Lord, how is he his son?”
The assertion which Christ is reducing to absurdity is the claim that the Christ is the son of David only. To state that the Messiah is only the son of David is to imply that he is not the divine Son of God. Yet David calls the Messiah his Lord, implying that the Messiah is more than just David’s son - he is the divine Son of God.
Christ has set the claim of the Pharisees against the truth of the Scriptures. If the Pharisees’ assertion that the Christ is only the son of David is true, then David’s own prophetic, inspired declaration that the Messiah is his divine Lord is false. But David’s words, being infallible Scripture, are not false. Therefore, the Pharisees are wrong. There is no need for a protracted debate about the matter, for the matter has been very simply established. The Scriptures teach “The Messiah is more than the son of David,” therefore, any assertion which contradicts this is to be rejected as false.
V. All Oaths are Binding
Matthew 23 presents another example of the Lord Jesus testing the claims of his opponents via logical analysis. The arguments are interlocked, as will be demonstrated shortly. Matt 23:16-22:
“Woe to you, blind guides, who say, ‘If anyone swears by the temple, it is nothing, but if anyone swears by the gold of the temple, he is bound by his oath.’ You blind fools! For which is greater, the gold or the temple that has made the gold sacred? And you say, ‘If anyone swears by the altar, it is nothing, but if anyone swears by the gift that is on the altar, he is bound by his oath.’ You blind men! For which is greater, the gift or the altar that makes the gift sacred? So whoever swears by the altar swears by it and by everything on it. And whoever swears by the temple swears by it and by him who dwells in it. And whoever swears by heaven swears by the throne of God and by him who sits upon it.”
The Pharisees are asserting four propositions:
(i.)Whoever swears by the temple is not bound by his oath.
(ii.)Whoever swears by the gold of the temple is bound by his oath.
(iii.)Whoever swears by the altar is not bound by his oath.
(iv.)Whoever swears by the gift on the altar is bound by his oath.
Our Lord underscores the illogic of the Pharisees by reminding them that if one swears by “the altar” this implies he swears by what is on the altar. One cannot swear by the altar and not swear by the gift on the altar. Thus, by admitting that one is obligated to perform his oath if he has sworn by the gift on the altar, the Pharisees imply that one is obligated to perform his oath if he has sworn by the altar. This is to say: The Pharisees contradict themselves by explicitly denying that one who swears by the altar is obligated to perform his oaths, while implicitly affirming that one who swears by the altar is obligated to perform his oaths. Likewise, the Lord highlights the fact that if one swears by the gold of the temple he is implicitly swearing by the temple itself. Thus, the Pharisees are speaking hypocritically/irrationally/foolishly when they explicitly deny that one who swears by the temple is obligated to perform his oaths, while implicitly affirming that one who swears by the temple is obligated to perform his oaths. Spurious theological claims, such as the ones made by the Pharisees above, reveal that these men are not concerned with God, his glory, his truth, and the well-being of God’s people but their pockets. In their blind clawing after wealth, they have destroyed themselves.
The assertions of the Pharisees are mutually exclusive. Assertions (i.) and (iii.), if true, reduce to the assertion “Not all oaths are binding.” Together, they are contradicted by (ii.) and (iv.) which may be reduced to the assertion “All oaths are binding.” The Pharisees cannot uphold (i.)/(iii.) and (ii.)/(iv.) simultaneously, for they contradict one another. Therefore, either the temple, and everything in it, does not obligate a man to perform his oaths, or it does. If it does not so obligate a man to perform his oaths, as the Pharisees claim, then neither do the gold of the temple, nor the altar, nor the gift on the altar so obligate him. The Pharisees are blind, spiritually and, therefore, intellectually, being unable to see the logical problems their false beliefs necessarily entail. This alone refutes the Pharisees’ doctrine.
However, our Lord goes one step further and argues that since all of these things are under the Lord God himself, to swear by any one of them is to implicitly swear by that which is above them, viz. God. More briefly: Whoever swears by anything in the temple is obligated to perform his oaths, for in doing so he is implicitly swearing by God to whom he is absolutely so obligated. Whereas the Pharisees were attempting to justify their belief that there are some oaths that are not binding, Christ, however, shows them that their own belief in the binding nature of oaths - made by swearing upon the gold of the temple and the gift upon the altar - proves that all oaths are binding. The Pharisees reveal that they are not simply mistaken but covetous idolaters who are fabricating distinctions between binding and non-binding oaths in order to line their pockets. The implied doctrine of the Pharisees is “There are some oaths that are not binding” or “Not all oaths are binding.” The truth is this: “All oaths are binding.”
VI. Concluding Remarks
The foregoing examples demonstrate that when in debate with unbelievers, the Lord Jesus employed logical analysis. By so doing, he reveal his opponents’ irrationality. And do revealing their irrationality, he proved their doctrinal claims to be false. It is important to note that the irrationality of Christ’s opponents is not divorced from their ethical character but the fruit of it. In other words, it is the wickedness of the individuals proposing false doctrines that blinds them, causes them to condemn themselves even as they attempt to justify themselves.
§ 3. The Apostles’ Use of Logical Analysis
The Way of the Master
The apostles, following in the steps of our Lord Christ, also used logical analysis when dealing with the errors of professing Christians, as well as when dealing with various heretics. The procedure are the same:
- The opposition’s claim is stated.
- Its internal consistency (i.e. logical coherence) is examined.
- The claim is reduced to absurdity.
- The opposition’s claim is stated.
- Its external consistency (i.e. theological coherence) is examined.
- The claim is reduced to absurdity.
The tactics of these men make it clear that it is not wrong for Christians to use logical analysis when dealing enemies of the faith.
i. The Dead Are Raised
In 1st Cor 15, the apostle Paul addresses the assertion that “The dead are not raised.” Apparently, some Corinthian church members were of this opinion. Paul begins the chapter by declaring the Gospel, in verses 1-4.
Now I would remind you, brothers,of the gospel I preached to you, which you received, in which you stand, and by which you are being saved, if you hold fast to the word I preached to you—unless you believed in vain.
For I delivered to you as of first importance what I also received: that Christ died for our sins in accordance with the Scriptures, that he was buried, that he was raised on the third day in accordance with the Scriptures,
Part of the good news, Paul reminds them is that Christ was raised from the dead three days later, in accordance with the Scriptures. If the Corinthians were Christians, then they were believers in the Gospel and, therefore, could not in any way affirm the proposition “The dead are not raised.” Paul explains why this is the case some verses later, writing:
Now if Christ is proclaimed as raised from the dead, how can some of you say that there is no resurrection of the dead?
But if there is no resurrection of the dead, then not even Christ has been raised.
For if the dead are not raised, not even Christ has been raised.
The apostle is highlighting the contradiction that entails saying, on the one hand, that one believes the Gospel of Christ and yet, on the other hand, asserting that the dead are not raised. This latter proposition, viz. “The dead are not raised,” is a universal assertion, so Paul reasons as follows.
All who die remain dead.
Therefore, Christ remains dead.
To affirm that “the dead are not raised,” in other words, is to deny that Christ was raised from the dead. At best, one who affirms belief in the resurrected Son of God and, simultaneously, denies that the dead, in general, are raised, is confused. At worst, he is an unregenerate hypocrite. In either case, however, the person cannot rationally affirm these two contradictory beliefs:
All who die remain dead.
Not all who die remain dead.
If one person has been raised from the dead, and he has, then the assertion “The dead are not raised” is false and must, therefore, be abandoned.
Now, note that Paul does not delve into the arguments offered in favor of the doctrinal assertion he is refuting. This is because he does not need to do so, given that the assertion contradicts the clear teaching of Scripture. What is necessary for the apostle to test the veracity of the doctrinal assertion is simply a knowledge of the assertion, a knowledge of the Scriptures’ clear teaching regarding the resurrection of the dead, and logical analysis. He tested the assertion and found that it is false.
Yet Paul goes farther than this, inferring from the assertion “The dead are not raised” several other conclusions. He writes:
…if Christ has not been raised, then our preaching is in vain and your faith is in vain. We are even found to be misrepresenting God, because we testified about God that he raised Christ, whom he did not raise if it is true that the dead are not raised.
And if Christ has not been raised, your faith is futile and you are still in your sins. Then those also who have fallen asleep in Christ have perished. If in Christ we have hope in this life only, we are of all people most to be pitied.
We may restate the argument as follows.
- If the dead are not raised, then Christ has not been raised.
- If Christ has not been raised, then the declaration that he has been raised (i.e. the Gospel message preached by the apostles) is false.
- If the Gospel is false, the apostles’ statements about God’s relationship to sinners through the Gospel (i.e. that sinner are reconciled to God through the death of Christ for them) is false.
- If the apostles’ statements about God’s relationship to sinners through the Gospel are false, then the Corinthians are still in their sins.
- If the Corinthians are still in their sins, then those who have died have perished (i.e. died without atonement).
Note that Paul is drawing these conclusions from the proposition “The dead are not raised.” He does not enter into a protracted debate about the merits of the opinion offered by the Corinthian heretics. He takes the assertion and deduces what he can from it, and this is the overall conclusion:
If the dead are not raised, Christianity is false, and we are hopeless.
Paul patiently demonstrates the absurdity, and blasphemy, resulting from the belief that “the dead are not raised.” He then, however, goes on to assert:
But in fact Christ has been raised from the dead.
Christ’s resurrection from the dead refutes the entire trail of conclusions he has just deduced from the claim of the Corinthian heretics.
We note, once more, that what is need to refute the Corinthian heretics’ assertion that the dead are not raised is a single example of the dead being raised. Logically, this is all that is required for a universal to be refuted.
All Things Do Not Continue as They Were
from the Beginning of the Creation
In his second epistle, the apostle Peter briefly refutes a claim made by scoffers in his time. There were some, the apostle says, who would argue the return of Christ as follows:
“Where is the promise of his coming? For ever since the fathers fell asleep, all things are continuing as they were from the beginning of creation.”
Note the universals used by the scoffers: “the fathers,” “all things,” “from the beginning.” “The fathers” means all of the patriarchs, including Adam. We know this because Peter goes on to quote the scoffer as saying “from the beginning of creation.” The sameness of activity extends to the entire natural order, moreover, seeing as Peter quotes the scoffers as saying “all things.”
The scoffers have presented more than one universal assertion, then, and Peter presents one exception to the universals presented by these scoffers: the great deluge. Peter notes that:
…the heavens existed long ago, and the earth was formed out of water and through water by the word of God, and that by means of these the world that then existed was deluged with water and perished.
Given that the Scriptures themselves reveal that after God had created all things, including the father Adam, he destroyed all things by means of a flood. If the scoffers believe in “the fathers” and “the creation,” as they implicitly demonstrate they do, then they are willfully ignoring the historical reality the Scriptures - from which they obtain their knowledge of “the creation” and “the fathers” - declare quite explicitly: All things do not continue as they were from the beginning of the creation.
The scoffers are destroyed with one counter example, for that is all that is needed.