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The Problem with Logic

Logic

by Dennis Pollock

The critics and enemies of Christ employed many logical arguments in attempting to prove that He could not possibly be the Messiah of Israel. Their arguments were logical, that is, in their own minds. In truth these men were operating from a base of ignorance and bias, a sure recipe for erroneous conclusions.

 Logic can be a useful tool. We use logic all the time. If a new recipe yields good results, logic tells us to do it the same way next time if we want similar results. If my feet were fine wearing my old shoes, but when I buy new shoes I immediately develop blisters on my feet, logic tells me the problem is with the shoes.

 But our logic is never perfect. Sometimes we draw inferences from available data that seem logical, but don't take into account the complexities of the situation. For example, heart attacks and diabetes have increased tremendously in the last century. Also in the last century riding on horses and in buggies drawn by horses has decreased to almost nothing. One could look at these two statistics and conclude that all of our heart disease and diabetes are a result of the automobile. We could prepare two graphs, one illustrating the dramatic rise of diabetes and heart attacks and the other showing the precipitous fall of horse-drawn transportation, and go about giving lectures on what we consider the only reasonable conclusion: all our nation's health issues are the result of giving up on horses.

 As we read the gospels of Jesus Christ, we can find all sorts of similar faulty reasoning used by those who were determined to prove Him a fraud. Let's consider a few of their arguments:

"I came from heaven"  In the sixth chapter of John Jesus declares that He is the Bread of life who has come down from heaven to give life to the world. This is too much for His critics, who protest, "Is not this Jesus, the son of Joseph, whose father and mother we know? How is it then that He says, 'I have come down from heaven'?" Some of these folks had watched Jesus grow up. They knew Him when He was a little boy tagging alongside Mary and Joseph as they went to the market in Nazareth. And now He was telling them that He had come from heaven? Ridiculous!

 But there was a huge factor in this equation of which they were totally ignorant. It is called the Incarnation, and it is the centerpiece of Christian theology. It does not deny that Jesus started out as a baby and grew up through boyhood into manhood. But it proclaims that unlike ordinary humanity, Jesus existed long before His birth; indeed there never was a time when He did not exist. God became a Man and entered into the world of His creation. He who made all things now visited His creation as one of them, for the purpose of redeeming man from the terrible bondage and penalty of sin through His death on the cross.

 The Jews who ridiculed and scorned the idea of Jesus coming down from heaven to give life to the world knew nothing of this, of course. In some ways they were very familiar with Jesus, almost too familiar, but in another way they knew nothing of Him at all. And it is impossible to come to right conclusions when all the facts, especially the most important ones, are unknown.

"Eat My Flesh"  Another example of the faulty logic of Jesus' foes is found in the same chapter when Jesus tells his audience: "Unless you eat the flesh of the Son of Man and drink His blood, you have no life in you. Whoever eats My flesh and drinks My blood has eternal life, and I will raise him up at the last day." If Jesus being the Bread from heaven gave them problems, this was worse still. They asked, "How can this man give us His flesh to eat?" Many who had been following Him returned to their homes and refused to follow Him any longer. Anyone saying such crazy things surely couldn't be the Messiah.

 Jesus was not speaking about literally eating His flesh, but He made no attempt to straighten out His critics. He quietly let them leave. We learn something about the nature of God in this incident: God does not feel obligated to make everything plain to us. The Bible tells us that we walk by faith and not by sight, and this implies that there will be times when we simply don't get it. We don't get what God is doing, we don't get what the Bible means in certain places, we don't get why our loved one had to die young while ungodly people sometimes live to a ripe old age. We just don't get it!

 Welcome to the club. Here's a little secret for you: you are not always supposed to get it! God reserves the right to try your faith by not running to you with a detailed explanation every time some part of your life doesn't go according to plan, and you start whining. As some were leaving, Jesus turned to the twelve apostles and asked, "Do you also want to go away?" Peter, as was often the case, spoke for the group. He did not understand Jesus' teaching any more than those who were leaving. He was as clueless as anyone. But he knew one thing: he had tasted the goodness and beauty and grace of Jesus, and he wasn't about to walk away. He answered, "Lord, to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life" (John 6:68). So it must be with every one of us when we face that dark hour where nothing makes sense and Satan whispers his evil lies in our ears, attempting to persuade us to forsake the Lord.

Wrong Credentials  In the seventh chapter of John some felt they had a dead-certain argument against Jesus being the Messiah. He was from the wrong place. These were the Bible scholars, the students of prophecy who felt they had the ultimate argument. They protested, "Will the Christ come out of Galilee? Has not the Scripture said that the Christ comes from the seed of David and from the town of Bethlehem, where David was?" It was well known that Jesus grew up in Nazareth, a sleepy little village in the Galilee region. But every knowledgeable Jew knew Micah's prophecy which announced that Bethlehem would be the city from which the "Ruler in Israel" would come forth. Surely this was unmistakable evidence that Jesus couldn't possibly be the Messiah.

 These critics were both right and wrong. True, Jesus was from Nazareth. This was His hometown; this was where He grew up. And it is also true that the Messiah must come from Bethlehem. But what they did not know was that Jesus had been born in Bethlehem. Their logic wasn't exactly wrong. But they were missing one important bit of information, which totally undermined their entire argument. It is interesting that Jesus didn't try to set the record straight. He didn't say, "Listen, guys. I am from Bethlehem. I happened to be born there!" Again He let them go their way, convinced of their correctness, while being dead-wrong. Being human, we are wrong about many things in life, sometimes when we are almost certain. Who among us has not said at times in a puzzling voice, "I was so sure…" Most of those things do not hurt us that much, but in spiritual matters, and especially when it comes to what we think about Jesus, you cannot afford to be wrong.

Jesus and critics

Testimony of the Experts When the Jewish rulers sent out some men to arrest Jesus, they returned without Him. When asked why they didn't bring Him in, they replied, "No man ever spoke like this man." The Jewish leaders felt they had the perfect argument which negated Jesus regardless of how well He spoke. They said indignantly, "Are you also deceived? Have any of the rulers or the Pharisees believed in Him? But this crowd that does not know the law is accursed" (John 7:49).

In their minds this settled the matter once and for all. "The ignorant, uneducated, simple-minded peasants are all falling for this smooth talker. But we intelligent, wise leaders know better. None of us are deceived. We are smarter than that." This sounds pretty reasonable on the surface. In every field there are experts and it should be expected that the experts are going to know more and be less easy to fool than those who don't give much thought or study to the matter. In fact this was the argument used against Martin Luther when he first began to criticize the church of his day for attempting to sell the grace of God. As he thundered the doctrines of grace alone through Christ alone, the major argument used against him was not the Bible. They didn't try to overcome their foe on theological grounds. Instead they stated that the church had been believing what it now taught for the last thousand years. Virtually all the priests, bishops, cardinals, and popes had taught and endorsed the present system of religion. Who was he, one lone monk, to come against the entire church of the present and the beliefs of the church held for the last thousand years? The fact that justification by faith in Christ was the clear position of the New Testament writers seemed not to matter to them, but within a short time it began to matter to millions of others.

Actually there were two problems with the logic of Jesus' critics. First, they didn't have their facts straight. The Bible tells us: "Even among the rulers many believed in Him, but because of the Pharisees they did not confess Him, lest they should be put out of the synagogue" (John 12:42). There were quite a number of synagogue leaders that were beginning to believe this young Jewish man from Nazareth just might be the One they were looking for. And secondly the critics failed to take into account that sometimes, especially in spiritual things, people in high places are the last to recognize a true movement of God. The pride that often attaches itself to those holding positions of honor sometimes means that the experts become spiritually unqualified to recognize the handiwork of the Holy Spirit even when it appears right before their faces. 

Logic's Prerequisites 

In order for logic to be completely reliable you must: 1) Know all the facts, 2) have perfect understanding and the ability to apply all the facts, and 3) be completely unbiased. In spiritual matters we certainly don't know all the facts, nor even a small percentage of them. In Romans we read, "Oh, the depth of the riches both of the wisdom and knowledge of God! How unsearchable are His judgments and His ways past finding out! For who has known the mind of the LORD? Or who has become His counselor?" (Romans 11:33,34). How pathetic are those foolish men who tell us there is no God. The only one who could possibly say such a thing is one who has been everywhere in the universe it is possible to be, knows all things that are possible to know, and has perfect intelligence and wisdom to apply all this ocean of knowledge. And if you fit that bill, you would be God! 

Nor are we without bias. Jesus tells us that light has come into the world, but men prefer darkness over light because their deeds are evil. Ungodly men find it much too inconvenient to accept the idea of a personal God who will hold us accountable at a Day of Judgment. Far better to go through life pretending there are 1,001 reasons why the Christianity of the Bible could not possibly be true.

 Sometimes logic is utterly insufficient and the only alternative is discovery. Imagine sitting in a friend's kitchen, who tells you that there is a gold brick in the cabinet, which is yours for the taking. It sounds too incredible to be true, and yet you know your friend is one of the most honest people you've ever known. You sit and stare at the cabinet wondering about it. Logic is useless here. There is one simple way to find out. Get up from your chair, walk over to the cabinet, and open the door.

 The Bible tells us, "O taste and see that the Lord is good." Open your Bible and read of God's goodness to us in Jesus Christ. Come to Christ by faith, open the door of your heart, and you will find all kind of spiritual riches that are freely given you in Christ Jesus.




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