“But sanctify the Lord God in your hearts, and always be ready to give a defense to everyone who asks you a reason for the hope that is in you, with meekness and fear…” 1 Peter 3:15
“I am not insane, most excellent Festus,” Paul replied.“What I am saying is true and reasonable.” Acts 26:25
“You Christians are so illogical! All religion is just a leap of faith. Human reason and logic are how we find truth.”
Remember, when defending the Christian faith we will always do an internal critique of the other person’s presuppositions. Because your opponent is not starting with God as the ultimate authority, there will and must be inconsistencies in what he says versus how he lives. These need to be brought to light.
Of all the articles in this series, this one is probably the most conceptual in nature, yet it is extremely important. How does the Christian respond to challenges for being rational
First of all, we need to understand what the laws of logic are, and then see which specific worldview can account for them.
Without getting too deep into this, laws of logic are the rules that govern coherent thinking. To break these rules means to be thinking illogically.
One of the three basic laws of logic is the Law of Non-Contradiction which states that “A is not not-A”. That is to say, no statement can be both true and false at the same time and in the same way. For example, a square cannot be both a square and a circle at the same time and in the same way. Allowing such contradictions would be irrational.
But what is the nature of these laws of logic? Since these laws are not made of material things, we can’t point some place and say, “Look, that’s logic over there.” We would say that laws of logic are immaterial in nature, for they are not extended into space.
It can also be said that the laws of logic are universal. This means that they apply to all people and in all places. No matter how much a person may hate being logical and how much he may fight against it, these laws still apply. They are unchanging and govern human thinking.
The question becomes, “Which worldview can make sense out of the immaterial, universal, and unchangeable laws of logic?”
In the Christian worldview, God is an immaterial and unchangeable Being whose influence is felt everywhere. God’s creation and man’s mind reflect God’s orderliness, so the laws of logic are seen as expressions of God’s thinking. God’s nature is unchangeable, so these laws which reflect His way of thinking are unchangeable as well.
If God does not exist, what becomes of the laws of logic? In connection with a materialist worldview (“all that we are is matter in motion”), what does one do with an immaterial law?
Some say that the laws of logic are just the way the brain works, but that doesn’t tell us anything at all. If the human brain is the source of logic, how would it make sense to call someone illogical? Wouldn’t they just be following their brain? Why would people take courses in logic when all they would have to do is listen to their brain?
How, then, would an
unbeliever account for these laws being universal? He does not have universal experience about anything (God does, but He’s
ruled out from the beginning!), so would these laws just be what humans have made up?
If they have just been made them up, could we change the rules and turn the irrational into rational just by a majority vote? One philosopher has said that people who deny the law of non-contradiction should be beaten and burned until they realize that to be beaten and burned is not the same as to not be beaten and not
Faith and Reason
Much has been written about faith and reason, and it bears some repeating here. Because of man’s fallen condition (and while in that unconverted condition), he is completely under the influence of sin and the devil. While his reasoning powers have remained intact, they too have been tainted by sin.
Luther battled against the Roman Catholic scholastic theologians of his day who believed that man’s nature is corrupt but man’s reason has remained undamaged. While the existence of God is known and obvious to all, man’s natural inclination is to suppress this knowledge of God. This is why, as Luther puts it in the Third Article of his Small Catechism, we admit that we cannot by our “own reason or strength believe in Jesus Christ, my Lord, or come to Him.”
Instead, Luther says, “The Holy Ghost has called me by the Gospel and enlightened me with His gifts.” One of those gifts is a renewing of the mind (Romans 12:2), a mind that will strive to think God’s thoughts after Him and emulate His rationality. So, calling for the Christian to be rational is a good thing that we are to embrace.
Now, can non-Christians be rational? Of course. Sometimes they may reason better than Christians. But how do they account for laws of logic?
A random and irrational universe cannot create lawful orderliness. In fact, attempts to order what is disorderly would be like trying to put beads on a string with no holes in the beads!
If a non-Christian was true to his worldview, all logic and coherence would be destroyed. That he can be reasonable or logical at all is because he is borrowing from the
(The apologetic method and organization for these articles is taken from the book Pushing the Antithesis: The Apologetic Methodology of Greg L. Bahnsen, American Vision, Powder Springs, Georgia, 2007.)