When someone who has a very high regard for the interpretations of systematic logic encounters someone who is cautious about accepting this idea, often he will apply to the cautious person the term "Logophobia." This means that he is seen as having a "fear of logic." On the other hand when one who holds that Bible statements are the only authoritative source of information about spiritual things encounters one who advocates logic as an authority, he may well apply to him the term "Logomania," by which he means this person has an obsession with logic. The question in dispute is not whether logic can be useful in trying to understand the Bible. It can be. The question is not whether "valid reasoning" must be applied to the scriptures. It must be. The question in dispute is, "How much authority does logic have?" and "Are its conclusions absolutely reliable?"
Actually this question is specifically addressed in the New Testament and the divine answer stated clearly. But before we look at that passage let's consider some interesting background information that many may not be aware of.
It is incredible to suppose that today's religious thought and circumstance could be much affected by mental exercises which took place some 400 years before Christ. It is even more amazing when one realizes that they took place in a nation and empire which was completely alien to the God of the Bible. Yet these "principles of philosophy" created back then have continued to dominate human thought through the ages and have emerged in our time as an infallible system of interpretation in the minds of some leading brethren.
The average American today would not likely know who Aristotle was except that his is a name in history like Alexander, Caesar, and Charlemagne. But the chances are his minister does. It is likely that a good portion of his training for the ministry consisted of the studies in the principles advanced by Aristotle, generally know as "Philosophy."
Prior to the time of Christ four great world empires came on the scene, the Babylonian, the Medo-Persian, the Grecian, and the Roman. Each of these was a unique civilization in its own way and each left its own peculiar mark upon the world. The third of these, the Greek empire, is the one that is especially significant here. The specialty of the Greeks was wisdom, a strong desire to know, to discover all that could be known about nature, the world, and the God, or gods, associated with it. The science of systematic reasoning takes its name from two Greek terms, philos (love) and sophia (wisdom) which together form the word philosophy, meaning love of wisdom.
Socrates of Athens (469 B.C.-399 B.C.) was the first of the Greek "wise men" to achieve enduring fame that has lasted through the centuries. Around 400 B.C. Plato, also of Athens, achieved fame as a philosopher. He developed the "Two Worlds" theory and taught that man is an immortal soul imprisoned in a body from whose dominion he is liberated through his knowledge of the good. One can see in this a kinship to the Biblical concept. But Aristotle, some fifty years later, is the one who put together the most complete and systematic process of reasoning and deduction, and his formulas have remained to form the basis of virtually every philosophic concept since, including the one which prevails in many churches of Christ today.
By the time of Christ and the apostles the Greek empire had fallen and the Romans had become the ruling power. But the Greek culture remained deeply established in the empire and the Greek language continued to be the basic unit of communication among common people. The books of the New Testament were written in this language, Koine Greek, for the most part.
So at the time the Gospel came into the world men had been trying for many years to discover, by processes of reasoning, many of the very things God's word came to reveal. On some things their conclusions were correct and the apostles did not hesitate, in their writings, to employ words from Greek mythology when the concept denoted by them was correct. On other things the philosophical conclusions were only partially correct and on still others they were totally wrong.
The Gospel was not anti-logic. It certainly was not opposed to reason. Paul was sent primarily to the "Gentiles,'' and in this capacity he often encountered Greek philosophy as well as Jewish concepts. The scriptures frequently report that he "reasoned" with them. When he encountered a point on which they were correct he made use of that to build on further understanding of other divine truths.
But Paul recognized that just as basic Jewish concepts hindered many of them from receiving the Gospel, even so the Greeks were hindered by their obsession with philosophy. To the Corinthians he observed that "in the wisdom of God the world by wisdom knew not God" and that "it pleased God by the foolishness of preaching to save them that believe. For the Jews require a sign and the Greeks seek after wisdom (sophian). But we preach Christ crucified, unto the Jews a stumbling block and unto the Greeks foolishness" (1 Cor. 1:21-23).
In other words Aristotelian Logic was not able to discover anything about God beyond what God had made known in His word. There was not an inherent hostility between the Gospel and philosophy, or logic, as long as the relative positions of the two were kept in proper prospective. Human reasoning could even be useful in one's growth toward a better understanding of what is revealed. But it was helpful only so long as the conclusions reached were confirmed by the word of God as accurate. A reliance on logic itself as certain to be accurate is a concept that can lead men astray to the point of losing their souls.
As we said, the New Testament speaks directly to this point in one of the most emphatic warnings found anywhere. Although Paul frequently used each of the two Greek words sophos and philos, the only time he used them together in the full word philosophy was in Col. 2:8 where he cautions against serious danger therein: "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." It is remarkable that in spite of the clear warnings of scripture against this danger history records that between then and now every major apostasy was anchored in philosophy. Even before the last apostle died the first of these occurred. It is called "Gnosticism" from the Greek word "gnosis" meaning to know. It is generally believed that the apostle John wrote the book of 1 John in opposition to the Gnostics. These were the knowers, the earliest brotherhood philosophers.
Later the Roman Catholic Church developed and most of its dogmas were produced by philosophical procedures. Thomas Aquinas, in the 13th century, gathered up all of the traditions of medieval Catholicism and assembled them into syllogistic form. He is known historically as the man who "systematized" Catholic doctrine. His aim was to put these doctrines into a philosophical form and thus establish them as forever immutable.
In the 16th century the protestant reformation movement broke forth but after a couple of centuries it had fragmented into a hundred warring factions. Gross liberalism and theological modernism rose to the surface and was widely accepted as the balm to heal all hostility and end the fighting. But its tenets conflicted with too many statements of scripture and so once again the philosophers came forth to anchor it. Particularly the German philosophers of the late 19th and the early 20th centuries employed the principles of philosophy to establish a gospel which was void of anything specific.
The American Restoration movement was an attempt to restore proper respect for the Bible as the only infallible word and for several decades was very successful. But within this movement also there developed traditions and dogmas some of which were derived from the philosophical procedures, not from a "thus saith the Lord." In this century these have become increasingly hard to sustain and bind upon the people. So again the philosophers have come forth to do for these dogmas what Aquinas tried to do for Catholicism and what liberal theologians tried to do for modernism, to establish them as forever immutable, to prove by Aristotelian logic what cannot be proved by the Bible alone. Such publications as the "Guardian of Truth," the "Spiritual Sword," the "Firm Foundation" and others, pour forth a steady stream of dogmatic, divisive concepts, sustained by syllogisms, not by clear scripture statements.
The result has been division, strife, discord, hatred between brethren, and a very ugly spirit of self righteousness. Freedom of the individual to study the Bible for himself and to draw his own conclusions has been removed. These self appointed authorities have declared that we must answer to their interpretive system, to their ecclesiastical organizations. They say that they speak for God. But they do not even agree with each other.
The problem is not that logic or reasoning is used in study of the Bible. The problem is that it is enthroned or made an authority and that its conclusions are placed on a par with the word of God. The solution to the problem is available to every individual who will simply return to the concept of the apostles, that human reasoning is fine insofar as its conclusions are confirmed by the word of God, but that philosophy is capable of leading us astray to that point of losing our reward. A thus saith the Lord is the only infallible standard.