The Misuse Of Logic In Biblical Discourse

The key passages

Before making my comments on the matter of the misuse of logic and human reasoning in biblical discussion, I think it best to look at some of the key passages at issue:

Colossians 2:8 Beware lest any man spoil you through philosophy and vain deceit, after the tradition of men, after the rudiments of the world, and not after Christ.

Romans 16:18 For they that are such serve not our Lord Jesus Christ, but their own belly; and by good words and fair speeches deceive the hearts of the simple.

I Corinthians 1:17 For Christ sent me not to baptize, but to preach the gospel: not with wisdom of words, lest the cross of Christ should be made of none effect. 18 For the preaching of the cross is to them that perish foolishness; but unto us which are saved it is the power of God. 19 For it is written, I will destroy the wisdom of the wise, and will bring to nothing the understanding of the prudent. 20 Where [is] the wise? where [is] the scribe? where [is] the disputer of this world? hath not God made foolish the wisdom of this world? 21 For after that in the wisdom of God the world by wisdom knew not God, it pleased God by the foolishness of preaching to save them that believe. 22 For the Jews require a sign, and the Greeks seek after wisdom: 23 But we preach Christ crucified, unto the Jews a stumblingblock, and unto the Greeks foolishness; 24 But unto them which are called, both Jews and Greeks, Christ the power of God, and the wisdom of God. 25 Because the foolishness of God is wiser than men; and the weakness of God is stronger than men. 26 For ye see your calling, brethren, how that not many wise men after the flesh, not many mighty, not many noble, [are called]: 27 But God hath chosen the foolish things of the world to confound the wise; and God hath chosen the weak things of the world to confound the things which are mighty; 28 And base things of the world, and things which are despised, hath God chosen, [yea], and things which are not, to bring to nought things that are: 29 That no flesh should glory in his presence. 30 But of him are ye in Christ Jesus, who of God is made unto us wisdom, and righteousness, and sanctification, and redemption: 31 That, according as it is written, He that glorieth, let him glory in the Lord.

I Corinthians 2:1 And I, brethren, when I came to you, came not with excellency of speech or of wisdom, declaring unto you the testimony of God. 2 For I determined not to know any thing among you, save Jesus Christ, and him crucified. 3 And I was with you in weakness, and in fear, and in much trembling. 4 And my speech and my preaching [was] not with enticing words of man’s wisdom, but in demonstration of the Spirit and of power: 5 That your faith should not stand in the wisdom of men, but in the power of God. 6 Howbeit we speak wisdom among them that are perfect: yet not the wisdom of this world, nor of the princes of this world, that come to nought:

7 But we speak the wisdom of God in a mystery, [even] the hidden [wisdom], which God ordained before the world unto our glory: 8 Which none of the princes of this world knew: for had they known [it], they would not have crucified the Lord of glory. 9 But as it is written, Eye hath not seen, nor ear heard, neither have entered into the heart of man, the things which God hath prepared for them that love him. 10 But God hath revealed [them] unto us by his Spirit: for the Spirit searcheth all things, yea, the deep things of God. 11 For what man knoweth the things of a man, save the spirit of man which is in him? even so the things of God knoweth no man, but the Spirit of God. 12 Now we have received, not the spirit of the world, but the spirit which is of God; that we might know the things that are freely given to us of God. 13 Which things also we speak, not in the words which man’s wisdom teacheth, but which the Holy Ghost teacheth; comparing spiritual things with spiritual. 14 But the natural man receiveth not the things of the Spirit of God: for they are foolishness unto him: neither can he know [them], because they are spiritually discerned. 15 But he that is spiritual judgeth all things, yet he himself is judged of no man. 16 For who hath known the mind of the Lord, that he may instruct him? But we have the mind of Christ.

A needful reminder

I also want to look again at the words of Mr. J.C. Philpot (with a brief note from me added); I believe his views on the matter speak for most all who are born of God:

The Gospel of God’s grace in Christ Jesus is not a thing to be proved, but truth to be believed. It is not submitted to our reasoning powers as a subject for critical examination. The gospel is a MESSAGE FROM GOD, addressed to the conscience, feelings, and affections. For this reason, men fond of argument and proving everything by strictly logical deduction generally make very poor preachers. [Note: I would add witnesses and teachers as well]. In the Scriptures, God does not argue, He proclaims!

My thoughts on human logic…

I think that the above verses are right on point, and that Mr. Philpot’s admonition is once again very timely and needful (for myself especially): the carnal logic of man is of no importance to the salvation of an elect sinner. It is the power of God wrought on the mind, heart, and soul (intellect, affections, and will), and not the mere intellect of men, that (a) saves, and (b) gives us knowledge, wisdom, and understanding once we are saved. It is the Holy Spirit of God that leads us into all truth, and that, only through His God-breathed word (which is the Testimony of Christ and the Godhead whom He represents). By His grace, God has chosen to primarily save and use base men with little formal education on, or knowledge of, formal and informal logic and human philosophy. Likewise, by His sovereignty, men of learning and great understanding in the logic, reasoning, and wisdom of men (i.e. the wisdom of this world, and not the spiritual) are often rejected.

The New Testament was primarily written in Greek; Paul’s epistles were often (if not always) written to those speaking/reading Greek. If my understanding is correct, the Greek language was a rather common language throughout the Middle East, Asia Minor, and parts of Europe. Due to the Roman Empire, the Greco-Roman culture was likewise very familiar and influential. As a result, the Greek “wise men” would have no doubt been well known in these regions. Names like Plato, Socrates, Aristotle, Xenophanes, Xenophones, Epicurus, Zeno, and later Plutarch and Epictetus, et. al. would likely have been commonly place in many households (especially the more educated ones). Nonetheless, Paul makes no mention of them. When he mentioned vain philosophy and the wisdom of men, he was no doubt referring to both the renown “wise men,” and the things upon which they relied (carnal logic and reasoning, sophistry, etc.).

It is very telling that Formalists run to Aristotlean/Aristotelian (and other forms of) logic, sophistry, and carnal philosophy in general to advance their points — given that the Biblical authors never mention it nor rely upon it as a ground for, or means of, believers coming to truth. Appeals to carnal logic can be found in many camps claiming orthodoxy, but it results only in a cold, dead and empty understanding. Godly men of old understood what Mr. Philpot knew… God (in stirring the mind, pricking the heart, and ordaining the “melting of the heart”) is the one who works right understanding, affection, a will to do, and the actual doing in the lives of His people. The appeal amongst God’s people ought never to be unto vain reasoning but unto God and His effectual working.

It is true that Christ is the Logos, and it is from the word logos that we get logic; but the notion that the Logos of God would have us rely on Aristotlean/Aristotelian logic (or any other such thing) and not the Spirit of God from His clear testimony (which is the word of God as He applies it to our hearts), is foolishness. The idea that we would appeal to the logic promoted by carnal, unsaved men, to come to the knowledge and understanding of truth that only God can given us, is equally absurd. Carnal logic and reasoning gives us vanity; it gives us novelty and every wind of doctrine, and does nothing but trouble the saints and lead silly ones astray… It is good to reason things out, and logic does have its place, but only when it is based upon, in harmony with, and subject to the word of God (and God-given knowledge, wisdom, and understanding). However, when the use of earthy logic amounts to nothing more than the fancies and whims of men who pride themselves on their grasp of human (fleshly, carnal, corrupt) reasoning, it is as the poison of asps and should be avoided.

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