Logic
Posted on February 27, 2017

There’s something to be said for being logical. Nowadays we hear a lot about “post-truth” and “alternate facts.” Those things do not exist apart from cartoons. Truth is truth. Facts are facts. And common logic is a mathematical reality. A+B=C demands via logic that C-B=A. You can’t reinterpret that.

But sometimes when it suits our purposes we choose not to be logical. For example, in my home state several years ago a man ran for office billing himself as “a bold conservative.” According to logic, you really can’t be that. You can be bold (which is to be visionary often to the point of being risky, challenging norms and stretching previously protected boundaries – like Captain Kirk “boldly going where no one has gone before”) or you can be conservative (valuing and protecting traditions that have served the community effectively in the past, honoring history as one carefully constructs the future). By those definitions, either “bold” or “conservative” are defensible and honorable positions. However, logic decrees that the two definitions are mutually exclusive. You can be one or the other, but you can’t be both. Apparently the voters recognized that and elected the man’s opponent.

“But,” someone replies, “what if a person is risky and visionary on some things but values and protects traditions on other things? Isn’t there a middle ground where one is sometimes bold and sometimes conservative, and all of it is situational and carefully considered?” Yes, there is such a middle ground. We call it “moderation.” People who operate from that worldview (which describes the majority of us) are called “moderates.”

Often times we abandon logic when it comes to social or political agendas. For example, think of just one hot button issue (there are so many others): the right to life. I’m not going to tell you what your opinion on that ought to be. I’m just pointing out that the majority of people are probably inconsistent (illogical) in their opinions. If a person champions right-to-life, that is a self-standing commitment. It can’t be “right to some life.” For example, often people who oppose abortion also support capital punishment. That is not an allegiance to “right-to-life,” but rather a commitment only to “prenatal right-to-life.” It is illogical that one’s concern and compassion for a living human being ceases once that human being is born. Or, flip the coin. A person who is “pro-choice,” by the principles of logic, would agree to an individual’s (i.e., a mother’s) right to choose as well as a group of individuals’ (the state’s) right to choose. Again, it is difficult to logically defend the choice to extend or terminate life only on one side of the experience of birth. So, what leads us to our positions of philosophical illogic (about this issue or any of a host of others)? Isn’t it usually our politics? If my party decrees that I am for one thing and against another, then so shall I be – even if it is intellectually illogical or sometimes even impossible to stand on both sides of a single river at the same moment.

So, what does any of this have to do with faith? Often we pick-and-choose faith statements with little or no regard to logic. Put another way, we say (and thus, intentionally or unintentionally, teach) things about God that are contradictory. And when people hear that and try to process it, why would they take our faith seriously? Think about “a God of unconditional love” vis-à-vis “the Lord helps those who help themselves.” Which is it? Most of us have at one time or another have quoted both those statements, but they are essentially contradictory. Think of “the Lord does not willingly afflict those whom He loves” vis-à-vis “the Lord never puts more on us than we can handle.” Which is it? Think of “God sent his Son into the world not to condemn the world, but that the world might be saved through him” (John 3:17) vis-à-vis the doctrine of unforgivable sin. Which is it? Think of “God’s chosen people” over against the biblical statement that “there is neither Jew nor Greek, slave nor free, male nor female, for we are all one in Christ Jesus.” (Galatians 3:28) Which is it? Think of the statement that God judges and rejects people who are outside some behavioral parameters that we decided to call the norm vis-à-vis “God is love.” (I John 4:8) Which is it?

Even in our personal lives we often practice illogic. “I love you, but” is a defensible statement. “I love you, but you hurt me,” or “but I am having trouble trusting you,” or “but I’m not going to buy you a Maserati as a gift for your sixteenth birthday.” However, “I love you, if” is not defensible. “I love you if you think my way,” or “if you vote my way,” or “if you let me have my way,” or “if you never challenge my ideas or express desires of your own.” Those statements make love conditional, something to be purchased over and over with the acknowledgement that at any moment it can be withdrawn. That is not love. It is instead a method of controlling and manipulating, which are very unloving things to do. “I attend church to worship God” is a defensible statement.” “I attend church to worship God if the music is good,” or “if no one sits in my seat,” or “if the sermons aren’t offensive,” or “if I don’t have anything better to do” are not defensible statements because they make worship dependent on human variables rather than on the God one professes to worship. You get the drift. Make up your own lists. They are almost limitless in scope. At some point life is about logic, about reason, about embracing truth and reality and confessing whether or not said truth or reality is valued.

Jesus said, “You shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free.” (John 8:32) God loves us. Christ shows us how to live. The Church at its best makes the world a better place. We are created to practice kindness, to extend charity, and to love one another. Honesty is the best policy. My life can make a difference. Statements like those express Truth … and as long as we embrace them as they are and refuse to compromise them via our human tendency toward being illogical (toward stepping away from truth when it is inconvenient), then statements like those can help us make sense of life. And that, my friends, is both logical and true.

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