Don’t confuse truth with logic
Recently I debated some theological issues online. I ought to know better. As if anyone else would be persuaded by my logic. And as if anyone could persuade a bigot like me with theirs. I reflected on the process somewhat though. I came to the earth shaking conclusion that very few people would ever be persuaded to abandon long held beliefs via the written word.
I recall a lesson I learnt when I was at University. The Biblical Creationist movement had just started. We Christians were eager to hear from our new found heroes who could argue for a non-Darwinian world. Well, one of these characters turned up. (from the good old U.S. of A of course.) A lecture was arranged. Following his speech, he graciously fielded questions. Hardbitten biology and zoology professors were sprinkled through the audience waiting for this moment. Forty minutes of high level academic debate followed between them and the Christian professor at the front. He handled all the questions skillfully. So well in fact that I was undecided as to who won. In fact the only conclusion I could come to was that I would never know as much about this topic as either side. Therefore I could never claim I knew enough to prove either Scientific creationism (Yes, I believe that is its name), or Darwinian evolution on the basis of knowledge. I would have to decide this issue, like many others, by some other framework.
I would have to decide via a belief. Or an agenda.
Hang on… maybe a belief is an agenda.
I began to wonder how many of my views and beliefs were just like that. They were decided on the basis of something other than objective knowledge. And if they weren’t formed by knowledge, they must have been formed from some emotive or belief aspect. Now I try and figure things out by logic, don’t get me wrong. But if I dig deep enough, I realise there is more than logic behind my worldviews. It is like my heart decides things, not my mind. But after my heart has decided, then wow, my brain invents all sorts of explanations and reasons. I then tell myself that I believe such and such a thing because it is logical.
This has had an alarming impact on me. First of all, when someone else tells me they believe in something because it is logical, I challenge them. I don’t believe them. Let me give you an example. I have an old friend who is an atheist. So I climb into him now and then along the lines of his belief in the non-existence of God. (This is a mathematical argument demonstrating the difficulty of atheism) But my old buddy won’t go there. He deflects, laughs, asks for another drink, all sorts of ploys. Rather than face the question. He is like me. He has decided his belief, he claims it is logical, and he is not about to waste time thinking on something that might unravel himself.
Now, before you think I am telling you how foolish atheists are (which might be true), I am not going down that alley. In fact I suggest Christians are just the same. They have chosen their beliefs, and they have constructed logical arguments to prop them up. Hundreds of years of ‘proofs’ have emerged as people ‘defend the faith.’
Which brings me to my second point. Us defenders of the faith can point out all sorts of illogic, or non-logic, in atheistic or Hindu or Buddhist arguments. We even have something called apologetics taught at Bible colleges, which is the means of debating your Christian belief using logic. However, I have also come to the conclusion that once you have decided on a belief, your powers of logic are committed to upholding that belief.
Take this one for example. Here are two statements. Christians are divided on these. Many believe these statements are logically consistent. In other words, there is no contradiction in holding both to be true. Other Christians believe they are very contradictory and cannot both be true;
- The Christian God is a God of love.
- The Christian God will pitch most humans into an eternity of hell.
Bible college professors write forty two page articles explaining in a philosophic sense why these two statements are not contradictory. In order to reconcile these two beliefs, they have developed a series of logical arguments.
Other professors write smaller documents explaining how they are illogical. (It is somewhat easier to argue that) My particular opinion here is irrelevant. (but here it is, if you must know) All I am trying to say is that logic is not universal, even within the confines of the Christian camp. Different people can believe direct opposites, and each claim logic. Moreover both sides can point to the Bible to back up their proof statements. Well, I reckon it is nothing to do with logic. They have made certain heart based decisions, and the rest flows from that.
Let us move onto point number three. My recent internet debates got me into more hot water because I had not read something one of my correspondents pointed me to. I had to admit that to him. So I went and read his piece right through. After doing so, I asked whether he had read the item I pointed him at. He ignored that question, meaning he hadn’t. He was not in the frame of mind to consider my viewpoint, that was pretty clear. I was the one with the problem, and he felt I could clear up my mistaken theology by reading this thing and that thing. He was not going to waste time reading up on something he had already decided against.
So I broke off. I knew we were getting nowhere. I turned into the nice guy again, asking about his family, where he lived, the Dale Carnegie stuff.
If you go into a Christian bookstore you can find all sorts of arguments proving this and that. I even found a book that was a story about a group of philosophers who had gotten together in a house debate various far reaching issues. Naturally the Christian guy was the most gracious, and eventually everyone listened to him and started asking him questions. Good, relevant questions by the way. And he answered them using all his powers of logic and reasoning. And of course many of those present were persuaded by him.
Well, I tell you, the author was darned lucky. Gee, I never get to present my full logical grounding of why the world needs to believe in Jesus Christ. I generally spend my time questioning the other guy, if I get so far as to have a genuine conversation. And by the time he is done, and I have learnt a bit more about Buddhism or Neo Marxism or Zen surfing or Aromatherapy 101 or yet another inner way somewhere… then time is up. And he’s gone. Missed my chance to clock him over the ear with the gospel again.
Anyway this book is sold in Christian bookshops. To Christians. Non-believers won’t buy that book. Christians buy it to learn the arguments so they can go out and defend their beliefs. (probably against people who aren’t interested.) Hey now, that’s not unusual. Logical books on atheism are sold in atheistic type bookstores. Christians don’t buy them. Oh no. Sometimes atheists buy them. But mostly they are purchased by students doing a course somewhere. Since atheists don’t score points from converting others to their thinking, they are not as evangelistic as us. But that’s not the point. People will not spend money on a book informing them why another belief is logical. All such books, whether ‘proving’ Christian, Marxist, Hindu, Bahai, Islamic or animist thought is logical are produced for their own followers. As for those books ‘proving’ another faith is illogical – guess what? They are produced for the authors home faith group. This is not rocket science.
But despite this well accepted truth, Christian logic, (and illogic much of the time), is poured out everywhere. In bookstores, in libraries, on the Internet, in tracts, out of Discipleship training courses, from lecture circuit jokers, magazines, Television, you name it. It is done for us believers. Not to convert anyone. Just like the Bible. Thought I would throw that one in. The Bible was not written to non-Christians. Just check up a few introductions in Paul’s letters. They were written to believers. Okay, now lets draw it all together. Here is the summation. Our heart makes the choices, and our mind falls into line justifying them.
Sometimes what we think is logical is really illogical to someone else.
People do not invest in hearing the logic of other beliefs, just their own.
What would happen if Christians actually did listen to the beliefs of others? If they were as fair to them as they themselves demand? What if they tried to understand the others point of logic, or viewpoint on how the universe hangs together?
I reckon they might see their own claims to logic, or consistency, are just as full of holes as anyone else’s. Now does this worry me personally? Not a bit. I don’t need to believe in logical constructs anymore. I believe in Jesus. You see I don’t think God sent a manifesto. He didn’t send a theory, or a manual. He didn’t even necessarily send a logically consistent answer. Gods definition of truth is not a series of straightforward mathematically correct debates. It is not a set of four spiritual laws. God’s definition of truth is Jesus Christ. He sent a man. Gods solution, if you want to use that marketing term, was a person. Flesh, blood, soul, spirit, love, charity, hope and more. Much more than your or my definition of logical thought.
So don’t confuse truth with logic. Your heart decides things. Your brain is a supporting act. Truth and lies are found in your heart. Why do you think the Bible mentions it all the time?