How Reliable is Logic?

Part Two

Olan Hicks

God requires us to reason upon his word, to think, to use our heads in such a way as to understand. We are told not to fail to do this (Eph. 5:19). The apostles made a practice of reasoning with then hearers (Acts 17:2). It is a disgrace to mankind and a reflection upon Christianity when people who wear the Lord's name refuse to be reasonable and insist on turning off their God-given ability to think. Jesus said, "If the blind lead the blind both shall fall into the ditch" (Matt. 15:14).

Reasoning therefore, is necessary. But one may reason upon the scriptures without knowing the principles of Aristotelian "logic." Philosophy, as it is generally called, is one system of inquiry, or reasoning. Like science, true logic is not an enemy of the Bible. But misused, either science or "logic" can be made to produce anti-Biblical conclusions. No doubt this is why the Bible singles out "philosophy" and warns of it as a threat to the faith (Col. 2:8). Reason and wisdom are approved in scripture but the only time the Greek word for syllogism occurs is in Luke 20:5 where it refers to the reasoning of the Pharisees in opposition against the authority of Christ. They had a syllogism but they were wrong. It is also true that although Paul used the word "sophia" many times, the only time he used it together with "philos" to form the word philosophy, (love of wisdom) is in Col. 2:8 where he warns about grave dangers in regard to it.

One of the greatest dangers in Aristotelian logic is that it is capable of creating ideas and concepts far beyond what the scriptures warrant. Most people have no idea how much philosophy had to do with creating and sustaining the imperial idea of the church, known generally as "Romanism." Many features of it have been received into churches of Christ and supported there also by syllogisms rather than a Thus saith the Lord. There is a vast difference between reasoning upon the word and reasoning instead of consulting the word. There is a huge difference between the idea of logic subjected to the final authority of the word and the idea of the word subjected to the final authority of logic. The great error so often repeated in religious history is not that men reason upon the scriptures but rather that they come to think of the products of their reasoning as certain, absolute, and even as part of the word of God itself. The cause of Christ throughout history has probably been hurt as much by presumptions of infallibility as by any other kind of error.

A former priest, L.H. Lehmann, points to this kind of syllogistic reasoning as the basic platform upon which Catholicism is built. In his book "Out of the Labyrinth" he says:

"The dogmatic beliefs and ritualistic ceremonials of the Roman Catholic Church are sustained by a thinly intellectual veneer called the Scholastic system of reasoning. Everything taught to and practiced by Catholics is supposed to be proved by the syllogisms of this specialized system of philosophy. It was borrowed from the Greek philosopher Aristotle, but has been so corrupted that it now has only a bare resemblance to what Aristotle taught" (pg. 203).

Mr. Lehmann credits Thomas Aquinas with arranging the tenets of Catholicism into the systematic form of philosophy in order to fix them as forever immutable. He says:

"The chief engineer of Roman Catholic philosophy was St. Thomas Aquinas, who lived in the thirteenth century, it was he who fixed the teachings of the Roman Catholic Church in their syllogistic moulds as they are known and used to this day. He gathered together all the beliefs and practices that had developed in the Roman Catholic Church throughout the preceding centuries and tried to prove them all by his special system of medieval reasoning. He called his finished work Summa Theologica. His aim was not to find out the truth about the teachings of Christ as contained in the Bible and New Testament. His task was to find reasons (or excuses) for the beliefs and practices already existing in the Catholic Church and fix them forever as immutable" (pg. 205).

Many churches of Christ have gradually moved into the path of this very same philosophical system and the resulting concepts produced have been very similar, namely the imperial concept of the church and a loss of identity for the individual. Mr. Lehmann recognized this in Catholicism and he quoted Professor Work's article, "Christian Thought to the Reformation" as follows:

"In its conception, the individual, as an individual, has no place. His salvation is conditioned from first to last by his belonging to a corporation, in whose principles and functions he shares (according to certain conditions laid down) and by whose sacramental life (also according to certain conditions) his soul is nourished· Through this corporation alone is he brought into touch with this saviour. Outside this corporation his soul is lost" (Ency. of Religion, Vol. XI, pg. 706).

Current Presumptions of Infallibility

In the book, "When Is An Example Binding?," Thomas B. Warren wrote:

"God not only says all that he says explicitly (the actual express statements comprising the Bible) but he also says all that is implied by those explicit statements" (pg. 95).

This is the basic ground of the claims for The Spiritual Sword element to infallibility for their conclusions; and they do indeed make such a claim· Warren said further:

"To hold that the conclusions which are drawn (from the implicit statements of the Bible) by the correct use of reason (the principles of logic) is mere human doctrine and thus cannot be binding on anyone, is to advance an ABSURDLY FALSE DOCTRINE" (pg. 89. Emphasis his).

The entire ninth chapter is devoted to the defense of this position.

This concept, that deductions produced by the application of their "logic" are a part of the word of God and equally binding upon all with the express statements of scripture, was advanced in The Spiritual Sword of July, 1970, The Gospel Advocate of March 1. 1979 (pg. 133); and in other articles and books. Roy Deaver, a staunch disciple of philosophy, wrote this:

"Faith comes by hearing God's word, and so long as I am determined to listen carefully to God's word and to be governed by it I cannot go wrong or be wrong!" (Biblical Notes, Feb., 1983 - Page 148. Emphasis his).

In The Firm Foundation, Buster Dobbs said:

"To be candid I think I teach what the Bible teaches. Therefore, I think that what I teach is true and cannot be wrong, and everyone who teaches something different is wrong and teaching falsehood." Dobbs further suggested that any person who teaches anything different should be "branded as a perverter of the Gospel and asanathema" (Quoted in Sp. Sword-April, 1985, pg. 18).

Each of the various segments within the church of Christ today has attempted to establish its deductions as the only genuine article. In the process they have all turned more and more to syllogistic reasoning in an effort to prove by that means what they have not been able to prove by a thus saith the Lord. The result is that in each case the acceptance of their deductions has become essential for fellowship with that group. In the course of things the priesthood of the individual has been lost again. His right to study the Bible for himself and follow his own deductions is denied if he does not reach the same conclusions as the corporation. Again we are being told that to be severed from this particular corporation is to lose one's standing with God. Most of the reasoning that issues forth from brotherhood publications begins and ends with the assumption that their doctrinal positions are infallible. It flows out of a prevailing atmosphere of certainty in each case that "We are the people of God" and "Our views are the views of God." At the bottom of the whole problem is too much confidence in "our system of interpretation'' and too little reliance upon the final authority of clear Bible statements.

Paul's warning to the Colossians was timely back when Aristotelian logic dominated the Roman empire and it is just as needed today when the same reasoning system is dominating far too many leaders in the church. "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." The only infallible word is still a thus saith the Lord.