Logic Revealing God

“Is logic independent of God? Care is needed here. Logic is independent of any particular human being and of humanity as a whole. If all human beings were to die, and Felix the cat were to survive, it would still be the case that Felix is a carnivore. The logic leading to this conclusion would still be valid. An angel examining the argument could still acknowledge its validity. This hypothetical situation shows that logic is independent of humanity. But, if God exists, God is still there. So it does not necessarily follow that logic is independent of God. What is the relation of God to logic?

Is Logic Just “There”?

Through the ages, philosophers are the ones who have done most of the reflection on logic. And philosophers have mostly thought that logic is just “there.” According to their thinking, it is an impersonal something. Their thinking then says that, if a personal God exists, or if multiple gods exist, as the Greek and Roman polytheists believed, these personal beings are subject to the laws of logic, as is everything else in the world. Logic is a kind of cold, Spockian ideal.

For example, the law of noncontradiction says that something cannot both have a property and not have the same property at the same time and in the same way. If God is righteous, then he must not be unrighteous. More precisely, it is impossible for him to be righteous and not to be righteous at the same time and in the same way. According to this view, God is then subject to the law of noncontradiction.

This view has the effect of making logic an absolute above God, to which God himself is subjected. This view in fact is radically antagonistic to the biblical idea that God is absolute and that everything else is radically subject to him: “The Lord has established his throne in the heavens, and his kingdom rules over all” (Ps. 103:19). A Bible reader may try to escape the implications of this verse by interpreting the word all in a limited sense. He

might say that God rules over all things that have been created. But logic is not created. Philosophers have maintained that it just “is.”

But if logic is not created, and it just “is,” we have to return to the ques- tion of whether God is subject to the laws of logic. If he is, he is not truly absolute. Logic rules over him. Logic appears to be a kind of ruling “god” above God, making us question who or what is the final controller. But what is the alternative to the assumption that God is subject to the laws of logic? If God is not subject to the laws of logic, should we conclude that he is illogi- cal? Then we cannot depend on him.

We seem to be on the horns of a dilemma.

Biblical Resources

The Bible provides resources for moving beyond this apparent dilemma. It has three important teachings that are relevant. First, God is dependable and faithful in his character:

The Lord passed before him and proclaimed, “The Lord, the Lord, a God merciful and gracious, slow to anger, and abounding in steadfast love and faithfulness, . . . (Ex. 34:6)

The constancy of God’s character provides an absolute basis for us to trust in his faithfulness to us. And this faithfulness includes logical consistency rather than illogicality. God “cannot deny himself” (2 Tim. 2:13). He always acts in accordance with who he is.

Second, the Bible teaches the distinction between Creator and creature. God alone is Creator and Sovereign and Absolute.1 We are not. Everything God created is distinct from him. It is all subject to him. Therefore, logic is not a second absolute, over God or beside him. There is only one Absolute, God himself. Logic is in fact an aspect of his character, because it expresses the consistency of God and the faithfulness of God. Consistency and faith- fulness belong to the character of God. We can say that they are attributes of God. God is who he is (Ex. 3:14), and what he is includes his consistency and faithfulness. There is nothing more ultimate than God. So God is the source for logic. The character of God includes his logicality.

Third, we as human beings are made in the image of God (Gen. 1:26– 27). We are like God, though we are creatures and not divine. We are like God in many ways, and many verses of the Bible beyond Genesis 1:26–27 invite us to notice many of the ways in which we imitate God.

God has plans and purposes (Isa. 46:10–11). So do we, on our human level (James 4:13; Prov. 16:1). God has thoughts infinitely above ours (Isa. 55:8–9), but we may also have access to his thoughts when he reveals them: “How precious to me are your thoughts, O God!” (Ps. 139:17). We are privi- leged to think God’s thoughts after him.2 Our experience of thinking, rea- soning, and forming arguments imitates God and reflects the mind of God. Our logic reflects God’s logic. Logic, then, is an aspect of God’s mind. Logic is universal among all human beings in all cultures, because there is only one God, and we are all made in the image of God.

None of us escapes God. Whenever we reason, we are imitating God, whether we recognize it or not. The only alternative is insanity, which means the disintegration of the image of God in us.

Logic Revealing God’s Attributes

We may see the close relation of logic to God by reflecting on the ways in which logic reveals God. We can begin with the form of argument that we have already discussed:

All men are mortal.
Socrates is a man.
Therefore, Socrates is mortal.

The general scheme is like this:

All Bs are As.
C is a B.
Therefore C is an A.

Or we may generalize to include all Cs:

All Bs are As.

All Cs are Bs. Therefore all Cs are As.

Here is an example:

All dogs are animals.
All collies are dogs.
Therefore all collies are animals.

This form of argumentation, which is one of the syllogisms that Aristotle studied, is valid.

Attributes of God

We can now proceed to consider how this general validity in argument reflects the character of God. We proceed in a manner analogous to argu- ments already in print as to how scientific laws and all truths reveal attri- butes of God.3

If an argument is indeed valid, its validity holds for all times and all places. That is, its validity is omnipresent (in all places) and eternal (for all times). Logical validity has these two attributes that are classically attrib- uted to God. Technically, God’s eternity is usually conceived of as being “above” or “beyond” time. But words like “above” and “beyond” are meta- phorical and point to mysteries. There is, in fact, an analogous mystery with respect to laws of logic. We may call the validity of a syllogism a “law” of logic because it is universal. If the law is universal, is it not in some sense “beyond” the particularities of any one place or time? Moreover, within a biblical worldview, God is not only “above” time in the sense of not being subject to the limitations of finite creaturely experience of time, but he is “in” time in the sense of acting in time and interacting with his creatures.4 Similarly, the law is “above” time in its universality, but “in” time through its applicability to each particular piece of human reasoning.

Divine Attributes of Law

The attributes of omnipresence and eternality are only the beginning. On close examination, other divine attributes seem to belong to laws of logic.

Consider. If a law for the validity of a syllogism holds for all times, we pre- suppose that it is the same law through all times. Of course human analysis of logic has a history. Later logicians sometimes correct or improve what they consider to be flawed formulations from their predecessors. But we are not focusing on human formulations. We are rather focusing on logical laws themselves. Are there norms for good reasoning? If a syllogism really does display valid reasoning, does it continue to be valid over time? The law— the law governing reasoning—does not change with time. It is immutable. Validity is unchangeable. Immutability is an attribute of God.

Next, logic is at bottom ideational in character. We do not literally see logic, but only the effects of logic on particular cases of reasoning in lan- guage. Logic is essentially immaterial and invisible but is known through its effects. Likewise, God is essentially immaterial and invisible but he is known through his acts in the world.

If we are talking about the real laws, rather than possibly flawed human formulations, the laws of logic are also absolutely, infallibly true. Truthfulness is also an attribute of God.

The Power of Logic

Next consider the attribute of power. Human formulations of logic offer descriptions of valid reasoning. Valid reasoning has to be there in the world first, before the logicians make their formulations. The human formula- tion follows the facts, and is dependent on them. Standards for validity must exist even before the logician formulates a description. A law of logic must hold for a whole series of cases. A student of logic cannot force the issue by inventing a law and then forcing reasoning to conform to the law. Reasoning rather conforms to laws already there, laws that are discovered rather than invented.

The laws must already be there. They must actually hold. They must “have teeth.” If they are truly universal, they are not violated. Human beings may of course engage in fallacious reasoning, but even their failure is mea- sured by reference to standards for validity that always hold. No reasoning escapes the “hold” or dominion of these logical principles. The power of these real laws is absolute, in fact, infinite. In classical language, the law is omnipotent (“all powerful”).

But what about paradoxes or mysteries found in the Bible? The Bible indicates that God is sovereign over all of history, including human actions (Acts 2:23; 4:25–28). It also says that human beings are morally respon- sible for their actions (Acts 2:23; Matt. 12:36–37). How does human moral responsibility fit together with God’s sovereignty? It is a mystery.

The Bible also teaches that God is one God, in three persons. How do we understand how these things can be? Do these mysteries violate the laws of logic? Though there is mystery here for us as creatures, there is no mys- tery for God the Creator. If logic is ultimately an aspect of God’s mind; what for us is a mystery is in full harmony with the logic that is in God.

Logic is both transcendent and immanent. It transcends the creatures of the world by exercising power over them, conforming them to its dictates. It is immanent in that it touches and holds in its dominion even the smallest bits of this world.5 Logic transcends the galactic clusters and is immanently present in the way in which it governs the truths about a single proton. Transcendence and immanence are characteristics of God.”

(Poythress, Logic, 62-67)

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