Faith and Reason: There Is Really No Conflict When Reason and
Rationalism Are Defined Properly with Logic
At least since Thomas Aquinas (1225-1274),
there has been no greater apparent conflict among philosophical
ideas than that between faith and reason.
But the most interesting fact of this conflict is that
there is no conflict.
The “reason” that there is no conflict is basic to both
common conversation and more importantly to philosophical and
The whole is simply a matter of extensive investigation
I have written extensively about faith,
so my focus here will be on a somewhat thorough definition of
reason. I will show
that reason is rational thought which is logic (to be designated
as R/R/L) and that logic is far broader than commonly perceived,
even by academicians and philosophers.
But by an extensive definition of logic, what it is, and
how it functions in both everyday and philosophical use will
become more apparent.
What Is Reason?
Below, I am going to argue that logic, reason,
and rationalism are synonyms—equal in meaning.
However, I realize that I
am using “reason” and “rationalism” somewhat differently than
common usage in philosophy and history.
Faith and reason
(rationalism) have been considered opposites—antipathies, if you
will. But rationalism,
reason, and logic are intertwined etymologically (below) which
gives a clue that they are synonyms and equivalent in meaning.
The application of logic is easily seen as a process, not an
possibly with Thomas Aquinas, “reason” and “rationalism” (that
is, rational thinking) came to be seen epistemologically, and
thus separated from logic. But,
I will argue below that this divergence forced the antipathy
between faith and reason when reason has always followed faith
because one’s first philosophy (starting point, presupposition,
axiom, etc.) is always a position of faith, presupposed because
it is first. (See
“Related Issues” below.)
The etymology of “reason” virtually unifies
reason, rationalism (rational thinking), and logic.
At etymonline.com origins of “reason” include
(French) from rationem
“reckoning, understanding, motive, cause”;
ratus (past participle
of reri “to reckon,
think… reason, count… to advise, read.”
“Sanity” is recorded from (about) 1380.
The verb (about 1300) is from Old French,
Originally “to question” (someone), sense of "employ
reasoning (with someone)" is from 1847, and that of "to
think in a logical manner" is from 1593. Phrase
it stands to reason is from
1632. Age of Reason "the
Enlightenment" is first recorded 1794, as the title of Tom
Note the close ties with “understanding,”
“count” (mathematics), “read” (how “reason” is passed from one
person to another), “discourse” (speaking or writing), “reason
with someone” (trying to persuade), “logic” (more follows here),
and “The Age of Reason” (The Enlightenment).
Right here in its etymology, the breadth of reason and
rationalism are apparent.
Beyond the etymology, where does on go for a
where does one go for any definition in philosophy?
The problem of
standard definitions (a canon, if you wil) is a major problem in
philosophy that seems to be rarely addressed.
It is presupposed that definitions are quite consistent
among philosophers when I do not find that they are.
Scott Oliphint is more forthright than most about his
situation in his Preface to
Reason for Faith.
There is no significant body of knowledge that is taken to
be universally true with respect to the subject matter of
Surely, (it is a) fact that (this) discipline has had a few
millennia to define itself, and has thus far not been
Ronald Nash expresses the same idea:
Some people are surprised (and disappointed) to discover the
frequency with which philosophers have difficulty coming up
with a totally satisfactory analysis of fundamental
concepts…. One can read a great many contemporary (or
past—Ed) philosophic attempts to elucidate the notion of
rationality and conclude that all of them fall short in one
way or another….
Some philosophers simply appeal to the idea of rationality
as what they call a “primitive notion.”
What they mean by this move is that most people
operate with a primitive understanding of rationality…. even
if they (or their philosophy instructor) may be unable to
produce a totally satisfactory definition of the term.
The application of Oliphint and Nash’s
statements would be a whole paper in itself, but the exploration
of “reason” here will illustrate the differences among
philosophers. What is not said is that without an understanding
of rationality, nothing can be known!
Another major problem among philosophers is
the lack of a glossary.
Most philosophy books (or websites) have neither a
Glossary nor a citation in their Index of their primary
wonder there is so much confusion in both secular and Christian
the following exploration of “reason” will illustrate this
problem. I defy any
one person or group to take any two comprehensive dictionaries
of philosophy and find significant coherence between the two!
Some Definitions of Reason
Flew might be a good place to start.
He has written A
Dictionary of Philosophy that is worthwhile to consider in
the investigation of words.
He devotes one column of one page (two columns to a page)
to “reason.” The
following is a summary of that discussion.
A word used in many, various, often vague senses and
sometimes obscure connections one with another…. Contrasted
with imagination, experience, passion, or faith… Practical
reason has since Aristotle been distinguished from
theoretical or discursive reason.
Flew notes that Hume contrasted reason with
Passion (for Hume is) … every conceivable motive for action;
while reason in a complementary sense, covered only inert
and neutral appreciation of what in fact is the case and
what follows from what.
Three categories of reason are to be distinguished: (1)
evidencing; (2) motivating; and (3) causally necessitating.
A reason (1) for believing
p is an item of
evidence showing or tending to show that
p is true.
A reason (2) for doing something is a possible motive
for that action … The reason (3) why the volcano erupted
will be all the causes necessitating that eruption.
There are two things that are notable here.
One is the description of “various,” “vague,” and
“obscure.” Our goal
here, however, is to be more precise or comprehensive, even as
“reason” has a broad range of usage.
The second follows from the first.
Flew describes a least six different applications of
“reason.” Thus, we
begin to see the breadth of the concept.
Plantinga in Warranted
Christian Belief states that
Taken narrowly, reason is the faculty or power whereby we form
a priori beliefs,
beliefs that are prior
to experience or, better, independent, in some way, of
These beliefs include … first of all, simple truths of
arithmetic and logic, such as 1 + 2 = 3 and
if all men are mortal
and Socrates is a man, the Socrates is mortal … that
nothing can be red all over and also green all over … that
to be a person you must at least be potentially capable of
forming beliefs and having ends or aims
… that there are properties, states of affairs,
propositions, and other abstract objects … that no object
has a property in a possible world in which it does not
exist … that obviously follow from deliverances of reason …
and the power or capacity whereby we see or detect logical
relationships among propositions.
Plantinga then goes on to cite “other
faculties or rational powers,” such as, “induction,”
“introspection,” “sympathy,” “testimony,” “credulity,” and
What should be noted from Plantinga, as with
Few, is the breadth of “reason.”
Also, he not only uses the word “logic,” he identifies
the syllogism, the law of excluded middle (red, not green), and
He is making the link between reason, rationalism, and
H. Clark provides a short definition of “reason” among these
more extensive ones.
He will provide a break and also a direction for a later course.
“Reason may well be defined as logic.”
This brief statement may be startling to the reader.
Thus, he may want to ponder it for a while or just skip
to the latter portion of this paper where it will be explained
in considerable detail.
Helm in Faith and
Reason begins with
The narrowest sense of reason equates it with the rules of
logical inference, both inductive and deductive.… purely
formal in character …. Reasoning in this sense starts from a
premises or premisses, and derives, either deductively, or
inductively, one or more conclusions.
If the deduction is valid, if it is in accord with
the rules of logic, then the conclusion is true if the
premises are true;
if the induction is valid, the conclusions render the
The key to the use and power of such procedures … lies in
the premisses…. So the crucial question … becomes: what
sorts of premisses are admissible as far as logical
arguments … are concerned?
Secondly, reason may be used in a more substantive sense,
referring to the accumulated wisdom of a tradition,
particularly … the accumulated wisdom of the classical
is a more substantive sense of reason than that which
confines it to inductive and deductive logical procedures
because, unlike the appeal to deductive or inductive logic,
the wisdom of the tradition expressed itself in certain
core beliefs or
attitudes, and certain ethical and intellectual virtues.
Whereas the first sense of ‘reason’ is primarily
logical and formal in character, this sense is primarily
That is, the received wisdom embodies claims to know
certain things about the world…. Since a claim is made to
know certain truths, the truths of reason, of the true
philosophy, questions are inevitably raised about who such
truths are known.
Now, we could continue with numerous
philosophers and their concepts of reason, but we need to be
more specific than just surveying the philosophical landscape.
The astute reader will also note that the definitions
above are quite broad and extensive.
Reason Is Rationalism Is Logic or R/R/L
Reason, rationalism, and logic are synonyms
which I will designate as R/R/L.
At first glance, this proposition may seem quite narrow.
The word, “logic,” brings to mind the structured
syllogism and perhaps informal fallacies, but logic is much
more. Re-read the
above authors and
etymology of “reason.”
The only action necessary to overcome this limited scope
is to open any basic textbook on logic to its Table of Contents.
There one finds definition, informal fallacies, premises
and conclusions, uses of language, arguments in ordinary
language, analogy, probability, induction, and other sections,
depending upon the textbook.
An expansion of these will develop our thesis that reason
is logic, and logic is reason.
We will work backwards in a sense, from what is
apparently (but only apparently) more concrete to the less
Logic is the formal syllogism of deduction.
All men are mortal; Socrates is a man; Socrates is
mortal. Here is not
the place to discuss all the intricacies of this process, so
only a few comments will be made.
(A) The formal syllogism is the only process by which
truth can be derived from other truth with absolute certainty.
Everyone acquainted with basic logic knows that this
derivation is called
True premises and valid inference become true conclusions—an
apparently simply process!
An invalid inference is also called a
But, not so fast.
The process may be simple, but the premises and the words
that comprise them are anything but simple.
For example, here is a syllogism deriving The Trinity.
All persons with the attributes of God are God.
The Father, Son, and Holy Spirit have the attributes of God.
The Father, Son, and Holy Spirit are God.
The definitions of these terms:
person, attributes, God, Father, Son, and Holy Spirit have been
the subject of fierce debates, church splits, personal combat,
church trials, The Inquisition, and wars between groups and
nations—the shedding of blood and torture by the thousands.
So, before one can even begin to construct a syllogism,
one must define his terms.
But, again, I ask where in classical or modern
philosophical (and theological) discussion does one finds
Granted, there are often definitions given in the text, but
glossaries of articles and books are uncommon.
Thus, we must include definitions in our definition of
Definitions are crucial to logic.
Without definitions, a logical syllogism cannot even
be constructed. I
will tentatively state that
attention to, and
explicit discussion of, definitions is the greatest sin of
philosophy and theology.
This failure is a major factor to Oliphint’s statement
above that “(this) discipline has had a few millennia to
define itself, and
has thus far not been successful.”
I would propose that to
authors in philosophy will have to work much harder to
define their terms. (It
is even possible that they could find some incoherence in their
must be used univocally throughout an argument, short paper, or
book unless clearly noted otherwise.
Definitions would provide the reader with the tool by
which to better understand the author and check for incoherence
(one of the tests for truth).
Words (definitions) are placed together to form propositions
which must be grammatically correct.
The more advanced philosophical student will notice at
this point that we are getting into the philosophy of language.
While some might see language as one branch of
philosophy, I contend that it is central to any reasoning
process at all.
Without words and grammatically correct propositions, there is
nothing for philosophy to discuss.
Now, I am not advocating analysis that does not allow the
whole to be different from the sum of its parts.
That dictionaries have more than one definition for a
word allows words to have different meanings in different
within a reasoning process definitions must remain univocal to
retain any meaning.
Without univocality anything said is meaningless.
Logic (reason) involves the avoidance and detection of informal
the one hand, there seems to be no end to their numbers.
Only thirteen types of fallacies were listed by the first
Fifty-one fallacies are “named, explained, and
illustrated by W. Ward Fearnside and William B. Holther (Fallacy:
The Counterfeit of Argument, 1959).
To the best of my knowledge, the most
comprehensive—or at least the most voluminous—list of
fallacies is given by David Hackett Fischer in his book
index of fallacies in Fischer’s book contains 112 fallacies,
but in the body of his book the discusses and names more
than in his index.
On the other hand, there seem to be a rather
short list of fallacies that are common to both common speech
and to formal discourse.
Again, the purpose here is not to review those, but to
place these items in our more comprehensive definition of logic.
Those common fallacies can be found in any basic book on
logic, such as the one cited, and in many places on the
Logic involves inductive inference.
Induction is empiricism.
Empiricism is the process of making consistent
observations about one thing or process and drawing general
process results in conclusions of varying probability, according
to the number, accuracy, and other techniques that are involved.
Possibly the most important point here is that
valid deduction of true propositions results in true conclusions; the
best empirical method can only arrive at probabilities.
Thus, induction cannot arrive at truth, unless one wants
to define truth as “what is probable.”
The scientific method is a form of empiricism with
perhaps more detail to structure and formal design.
laws of noncontradiction, excluded middle, and identity are
central to logic and to language.
The law of noncontradiction states that a proposition
cannot be both true and false at the same time.
The law of excluded middle means that a proposition is
either true or false and not some meaning in between.
The law of identity states that something cannot be other
than what it is.
These laws apply to both physical objects and immaterial
propositions like “The Holy Spirit is God.”
With physical objects, these laws are more complicated
because every object has a large number of universal properties
that make up its identity.
However, these laws are easy to apply to simple
I would like tentatively to propose that
all three of these laws
be subsumed under the law of noncontradiction because a
thing or proposition cannot be or mean more than one thing at
once. This law can
then be understood as oneness or unity.
A proposition or
thing is one with itself and not with anything else.
This discussion takes us
back to the importance of definition.
Definitions identify what is included, and what must be
excluded, that is, true or contradicted.
If something is not clearly defined, it cannot clearly be
known what its identity is or what would be a false
representation of itself.
This conclusion would seem to be in accord with Gordon
The point should be clear: One cannot write a book or speak
a sentence that means anything without using the law of
Logic is an innate necessity, not an arbitrary
convention that may be discarded at will… (All theories that
depreciate or try to eliminate logic) … are self-refuting
because they cannot be stated except by virtue of the law
Logic includes argument without a syllogism.
Perhaps, this process is the most common both formally
and informally. It
involves a premiss, premisses, and a conclusion.
The news is what the press says it is.
Therefore, journalists have a disproportionate influence in
the process of selecting the issues around which public
There is an unsaid premiss here.
That is, the news determines the issues of a public
debate. But this
argument might be formal in speech or writing, or it could be
just everyday discussion between two citizens.
Likely, all these arguments could be broken
down into syllogisms, and our communication might be better off
for it. However,
this process would be cumbersome in everyday speech, and to a
lesser extent, formal speech.
But it is important to understand that the syllogism is
the only method by which truth can be derived from truth.
On important issues, I suggest that the formal syllogism
be used more often.
The more advanced and highly specialized logics are not
important to reasoning and argument.
There are numerous kinds of logic discussed at the
Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy (www. plato.stanford.edu).
John Robbins comments in the Preface to Gordon Clark’s
Logic concerns all thought; it is fundamental to all disciplines, from
agriculture to astronautics.
There are not several kinds of logic, one for
philosophy and one for religion; but the same rules of
thought that apply in politics, for example, apply also in
people have tried to deny that logic applies to all
subjects, for they wish to reserve some special
field—theology and economics, to name two historical
examples—as a sanctuary for illogical arguments.
What results is called
logics—which is really a denial of logic.
But (even) in order to say that there are many different sorts of logic,
one must use the rules of logic….
Let those who say there is another kind of logic
express their views using that other logic.
It is as though one were to claim that there are two
(or more) sorts of arithmetic—the arithmetic in which two
plus two equals four, and a second arithmetic in which two
plus two equals twenty-two.
Anyone who disparages or belittles logic must use
logic in his attack, thus undercutting his own argument.”
Logic can have a mathematical certainty.
At times logic makes use of the words “all,” and “none.”
In the classical syllogism of Socrates and mortality
(above), “all” is used.
“All” is all—one-hundred percent—all.
This term includes all in the universe without exception.
That is mathematical certainty.
None has the same force in the opposite direction—none in
the universe—not one, anywhere.
That is mathematical certainty by total exclusion.
This certainty is lost when “some” or any other term
denoting less than all or more than none (zero).
But where “all” or “none” can be used, there is absolute
certainty—assuming that the terms are accurate, the propositions
are true, and that the inference is valid.
Tests of truth should be included here—at least coherence
should. Over the
centuries, three tests of truth have come to be recognized.
concerns the identity of a proposition to reality, that is,
things as they really are.
Of course, “what is real” is a determined by first
principles (a position of faith).
Since “knowing” what is “real” is an epistemological and
metaphysical problem, it does not seem that correspondence will
work as a test of truth because “truth” and “reality” are the
same pursuit. That is,
can one seek “truth” when one already has “reality” (truth) for
is applied to the internal consistency of one’s system.
This process is the great application of R/R/L.
Pragmatism is similar
to correspondence; it has a great deal to do with one’s
Pragmatism is “what works.”
By definition, God’s system of philosophy (systematic
theology) and His ethics are going to be the most practical
system. However, man
is always trying to escape His system and may consider something
anti-Biblical to “work,” like aborting an unborn child for some
“convenient” reason. Again,
the reasoning is similar to that of correspondence such that
pragmatism does not seem to be an appropriate test of truth.
“Logic” is often used colloquially.
Someone may say, “It is only logical that I get up early
to get the day off to a more productive start.”
While this process does indeed involve steps that might
be set up formally, it is only a general conclusion from
observed facts or others’ opinion or a “reason” of some other
sort. In formal
writing and argumentation, authors and speakers need to be much
more aware of the formal use of logic in the breadth that I have
These colloquial reasons are perhaps where “reason” ought to be
used instead of “logic.”
All communication is teaching.
This conclusion was formulated by Augustine in
De Magistro (The
communication except commands, questions, and exclamations is
ponder this statement.
It is true!
Simple. When I meet you,
and you ask, “How are you?”
If I respond to the literal question, then I am teaching
you about “how” I am.
If two of us are discussing politics, we are trying to
teach each other what our positions are and convince the other
that we are right (make an argument).
When communication is understood as a teaching process,
the importance of accuracy is brought to the fore.
Related Issues: Truth, Innate Ability
There are related issues that must be
discussed to place reason and logic in its proper context.
is a process and evaluation, not a determinant of truth.
Reader, pause and reflect on what that simple proposition
means. The debate of
the centuries has been wrongly framed.
Reason involves determining if good, delimiting
definitions have made, that grammatically correct proposition
have been constructed, that definitions are consistently
univocal, that valid syllogisms have been constructed, that
solid evidence has been accumulated for induction, and that the
many other processes briefly described above have been applied.
Reason is an applied science; reason is applied to validity of argument,
not the formulation of first principles—which is the means by
which truth is accepted.
Reason and logic have no—zip, zero, nada,
zilch—input as to the particulars of what is defined or what
argument is made. It
does not determine which propositions are to be constructed or
the terms chosen in the propositions.
These decisions are made outside the purpose and
structure of sound reasoning.
Reason only gives guidance and instructions on the
Let us look briefly at the first principles of
some philosophers. René Descartes was the first rationalist of the
modern era. In his
“I think; therefore I am,” he left out the major premise of his
syllogism, “If I think, then I exist.”
Even so, this choice of first principles was clarity to
his own mind, a personal choice, not a force of reason.
Augustine of Hippo chose “I believe in order to
of Canterbury chose his ontological argument.
Thomas Aquinas chose the cosmological argument.
The “light of
nature” caused four different, great philosophers to choose four
different first principles.
(Augustine may have been an exception, as he understood
revelation vs. “the light of nature.”)
Reason and logic
cannot explain this difference, but faith can.
These four philosophers started with different
first principles (faith).
Synonyms of first principles include presuppositions,
axioms, premises, starting points, and basic beliefs.
Ah! The last
term points in the right direction—beliefs, that is faith.
first principles do not have to be proved.
R/R/L is a method of proof.
first principles (faith)
are prior to proof, so R/R/L are not involved in these personal
R/R/L are involved in the evaluation of one’s first principles.
For first principles are only that—first and
A system must be constructed on those first principles
that will cover all the issues of life (and death).
A system that does not address all the issues of life is
inconsistent, and ultimately irrational or non-sensical.
So, positing faith vs. reason is ill-conceived
and false. The
debate should be over how first principles are chosen and their
First principles are chosen; thus systems are chosen.
Choices are issues of faith.
R/R/L do not apply until those faith-choices are made.
Or, to look at this same process in another
way, every person has to have a
Again, by definition, everyone has to start somewhere.
That is what a starting point is.
But R/R/L have no part in that starting point.
Starting points may include a life crisis, a search for
“meaning,” a comparison of religions, or making philosophy one’s
life study. Of
course, as one begins to evaluate more fully his choice, the
criteria of coherence, correspondence, and pragmatic values
begin to invade the thinking process.
The original starting point eventually becomes a first
is a feed-back loop or interdependency here.
Starting points are evaluated on the basis of reason and
logic; that process challenges or affirms the starting point and
leads to first principles.
As the system is constructed, the feedback continues as a
coherent system is built.
What can we conclude then?
(1) R/R/L are not involved in the choice of starting
points or first principles except to provide additional reasons
for choices. This
act is one of faith, based upon personal choices.
All systems are properly basic as fideism.
(2) R/R/L is involved in
developing a structure or system upon one’s first principles for
coherence, correspondence, pragmatic value, and ethics.
Other examples that illustrate this personal
choice are competing religions.
Among the theistic religions of the world, each has their
fully trained and educated advocates.
The imam of Islam spends his entire life studying the
Koran and worshipping
Allah. The rabbi
does the same with the
Torah and Yahweh. The pastor
has his Scriptures and the Trinity.
Who would challenge that each of these is thoroughly
knowledgeable of his faith and of his god?
Who would deny that a detailed, rational system has been
worked out consistent with their first principles?
And those within their faiths would certainly not say
that a coherent and ethical system has not been worked out over
centuries, at least as far as traditional orthodox has
But they all differ!
They study different “bibles.”
(The Torah is
different because it is incomplete when compared to the Bible.)
They are all using R/R/L to the best of their ability.
Yet they differ!
differ simply on the basis of first principles, but they all
virtually the same processes of R/R/L.
Theoretical vs. practical reason.
This distinction is common to philosophy.
Theoretical reason applies to the “higher” questions of
truth, reality, epistemology, metaphysics, etc.
Practical reason concerns “what is one to do” (ethics).
There are two comments relative to this distinction.
(1) There is an interdependence of the two issues.
For example, if one chooses Islam “theoretically,” then
his “oughts” have already been chosen for him.
(2) The rules and laws of reason are the same for both
spheres. The law of
noncontradiction applies to both theoretical and practical
reasons. While their
spheres of application differ (though interdependent), there is
no one set of laws for theoretical reason and one for practical
reason. There is
only one set for both, applied to the distinguished areas.
Scientism vs. Faith.
The modern context often sets (natural) science against
traditional opposition has been empiricism vs. rationalism.
As we are seeing, however, both empiricism and
rationalism are adopted as first principles, and therefore are
themselves positions of faith.
So there is no conflict between science and faith, when
each is properly understood.
Interestingly, there is a shift of debate here.
Scientism is empiricism—both as first philosophies or
traditionally there has been the debate between faith and
reason, there is now the debate between faith and empiricism
(science or scientism).
So, faith—based upon Special Revelation—has had to take
on all epistemologies.
As we are seeing here, that is not a problem for Biblical
faith, properly understood in the vagaries, inconsistencies, and
irrationalism of philosophers.
is innate, intuitive.
The ability to reason and to communicate is the primary,
and perhaps exclusive, image of God in man.
All the elements discussed above are necessary for reason
Because man is finite and because he is fallen, he makes
mistakes—serious mistakes—in these two areas.
The wonder is that communication takes place as well as
it does. Likely,
this effectiveness is due to every person having an innate
understanding and ability for reason and communication.
But one must take the apparent efficacy of everyday
reason to a more formal application when it comes to theoretical
reason. The laws of
logic, definition, and proposition and syllogism construction
must be learned and applied more rigorously, for these are
indeed matters of life, death, and pleasing God.
process of reason is no different for the regenerate and the
There are no special laws or understanding of reason for the
believer and the unbeliever in the Christian sense.
Regeneration is a change of value and ethics—from
trusting in one’s own reason to trusting in the reason and
values of God’s Special Revelation.
What About Truth?
The four philosophers named above cannot all
be true according to the law of noncontradiction—R/R/L.
It is interesting that philosophers generally have the
same definition of truth: “what is.”
The great problem is identifying what is the “what is.”
It is quite obvious that neither philosopher nor
religious believers have ever been able to arrive at common
agreement on the “true” philosophy or religions after centuries
of detailed and vigorous debate (to the point of bloodshed and
warfare) over what is true.
So, for all the intricacies of R/R/L, these issues have
never been resolved in spite of the fact that the principles of
logic (more or less as I have outlined them) are more
universally agreed upon.
problem is that “what is” truth is a personal choice—a personal
That is, what I am willing to accept as truth is determined by
my faith, not by any of the means of logic.
So, again, reason does not determine first principles (faith).
So, the conflict is not between faith and reason but
That is the reason that the competing issues have never
been resolved. Faith
issues cannot be resolved because they are personal choices.
The necessary question that follows is
“Why do personal choices
differ so widely?”
The answer is not the focus of this paper except that
those explanations would be personal choices—a position of
faith—as well because they would involve anthropology—the
philosophical or religious concept of man.
Our focus here is to outline what is R/R/L and related
Belief does not determine
truth, reality or “what is” does.
But what a person
is willing to accept as truth is determined by faith.
Faith is no more than one’s unproven presuppositions,
first principles, or first philosophy.
All philosophical and
religious systems are faith positions.
“Mere Human Logic”
This phrase seems to be increasing in its use
among evangelical speakers and writers.
Unfortunately, if followed with consistency, Christianity
becomes impossible either to understand or to be coherent.
Review all that has been presented here.
(1) R/R/L is the very fabric of language communication,
and there is no other form of communication!
structured human language—God Himself!
“Mere human logic”
is God’s design for human language and communication.
To call it “mere” is to deprecate God.
He does not create “mere”; He creates great and glorious.
R/R/L are great and glorious!
At least one origin of this claim seems to be
several systematic theology texts.
These theologians seem to have the right intent to take a
solid stand for the omniscience of God and the infinite extent
to which His mind and understanding exceeds that of man.
I have no quarrel to give God his highest glory in
wisdom. However, He
has created us in His own image.
God chose language
and its necessary structure for communication.
He pushes His people to understand as much as they are
able with His Special Revelation as the basis and limiting
factor for knowledge and truth (Romans 12:2; Colossians 1:9,
2:2). “The secret
things belong to the LORD our God, but those things which
are revealed belong to us and to our children
forever, that we may do all the words of this law”
By this statement, an incredible amount of knowledge is needed
to be able to obey Him!
By this statement, also, an entire system of ethics is
named (“this law”).
would be no hermeneutics, and thus no interpretation of
Scripture, without logic!
In R. C. Sproul’s book,
Knowing Scripture, Chapter Four, he presents ten rules of
hermeneutics—none of which are clearly stated from Scripture.
On my worldview website, I have added 13 more rules, none
of which are clearly stated in Scripture.
In fact, what may be the most important
hermeneutic, the analogy of
Scripture—that Scripture must interpret itself where possible is
not stated in Scripture.
All these are logically derived from Scripture, as the
Westminster fathers designed in Chapter 1, Section 6, of their
Confession of Faith:
“The whole counsel of God concerning all things necessary for
his own glory, man's salvation, faith and life, is either
expressly set down in Scripture, or by good and necessary
consequence may be deduced from Scripture.”
So, “mere human logic” should be changed to
“the great logic of God is His image in man.
For more on this subject, see
Oh, by the way, there would be no one word, “Trinity,”
for the three Persons of the Godhead without logic.
The Logos of God
The great prologue of Chapter One of the Book
of John in the New Testament centers on the Second Person of the
Trinity as the Logos.
Liddell and Scott in their
use five pages of fine print in double columns to define and
This breadth and depth is consistent with Who and What
the Second Person of the Trinity is.
John Calvin translates the word as “Speech” in his
commentary on John.
What is speech?
Speech is the intended communication of the Second Person of the
Trinity to all people—the regenerate and unregenerate (John
1:9). As we have
seen, communication is impossible without R/R/L.
Some Christians and theologians (including Calvin) have
fretted and taken offense at “In the beginning was the Logic…”
However, (1) this one word is perhaps the best one to
substitute for logos. (2) Any Christian
may work at choosing their own word, or more likely words, for
logos in the lexicon of Liddell and Scott.
What about using more than one word, “In the beginning
was truth, knowledge, wisdom and reason?
(For more on this
The Relevance of Truth and Knowledge to Logic
Logic does have a quirk—one can reason
consistently with all logical principles and still arrive at
fact is most obvious in the classical syllogism.
“All men are immortal.
Socrates is a man.
Socrates is mortal.”
This syllogism is
valid! But it is
false. We can see
this sequence in human embryology.
“Ontogeny recapitulates philology.
Philology is the evolution of animals to humans.
Human beings evolved and are animals.”
This syllogism is a little “rough,” but is valid and
untrue. The point
here is the issue of what
is and is not truth has origins outside of logic.
Do not miss the import of this statement.
It confirms what we have already said above,
the longstanding debate
between reason (and logic) is falsely contrived.
R/R/L are principles to apply to knowledge, not the
source of knowledge.
A recent evangelical book from one of the most
conservative Christian organizations in America misses this very
point. Joel McDurmon
in Biblical Logic: In Theory and Practice states,
“Logic is the systematic
study and practice of discerning and telling the truth.”
(Italics are his.)
Wrong! As I have
stated, logic involves tools that work with knowledge that is
Logic does not even “discern” itself.
Try proving the law of noncontradiction.
How many different ways can you say that something cannot
be true and false at the same time?
The law of noncontradiction is true because it is true.
It is the most fundamental rule of logic (perhaps the sum
of all other rules) which is not true by universal agreement,
but true because it is true.
If a reader is crying, “Circular argument, circular
argument,” then he needs to go back to a class on philosophy
which teaches that first principles do not require proof.
Statements of first principles and their derived systems
can only be circular because they are not and cannot be proven.
They only compete with
other first principles and their systems.
This truth is perhaps the most important one
relative to understanding how truth is derived and what logic
does. Here is not
the place to discuss epistemology—what is knowledge and how do
we know it? For
those who may be having a difficult time digesting these briefly
presented issues, just re-read the prior paragraph, and perhaps
some others that preceded it or study some basics of
Logic works on knowledge
(truth) already present; it does not derive it except as formal
deduction. Logic is involved in the testing of internal
coherence of a system of knowledge (truth), its correspondence
to the reality presented by that system, and its practical
derivation, it may make new statements using the knowledge
already present that sheds additional light on what is
understood (as deduction does to the truths of Scripture).
But logic does not determine first principles and therefore does not
Faith, belief, presuppositions, axioms, and all the other
synonyms for first principles determine what a person is willing
to accept as true.
The Law of Noncontradiction and the Unity of God
I would like to propose that the law of
noncontradiction comes from the essence of God.
“Hear, O Israel, the Lord our God is one.”
The Trinity is three Persons in One.
God is and there is no other.
Philosophers over the ages and at present seem fairly
consistent on the aseity of God—that He is simple essence and
unity. God is, and
there is no other.
God is omniscient, omnipotent, and omnipresent.
He is all in all.
Now, I do not want to encroach on the
distinction between God and His creation—that encroachment would
be heresy. However,
God’s creation flows from Himself.
It was spoken into being—note the Speech of Calvin and
the logos, the word(s)
of God. God “spoke”
everything into being.
Creation came out of the mind of God.
We could say that God’s aseity is presented in His
creation, as well as His own being.
Do not philosophers speak of the unity of all things as
substance, essence, etc.?
I have even written an article that demonstrates how all
the principles of theology and philosophy have a oneness about
them that reflects their origin in God’s unity.
God cannot be other than what He is.
Created things, including persons, cannot be other than
what they are. That
is, none of these things can be
contradicted by any
other things. They
cannot exist as an
They cannot be identified as other than what they are.
They cannot be defined other than by what is known of them.
If what is stated about them is true, then they are no
involved in a fallacy.
made about them still represent what they are.
induction were possible, then true conclusions could be
drawn about them.
And so on.
What is logic?
Logic is denoted in the Table of Contents of a standard
textbook on logic (at least one printed before 1980).
Logic is reason and
rationalism, and reason and rationalism are logic—R/R/L.
R/R/L are applied to knowledge and belief that already
exists based upon first principles—a foundation that is personal
choice, not determined by R/R/L.
There is no
conflict between faith and reason—that never has been, and there
never will be—except where the two are misunderstood as to their
Reason, rationalism (as a process, not a philosophy), and logic
are synonymous which I have designated R/R/L.
R/R/L includes formal deduction, the laws of logic,
informal fallacies, definitions, grammar, informal arguments,
induction, the tests of truth, and all the other ways that
words, propositions, and arguments can be constructed.
Belief is prior to reason; reason only derives conclusions from
known beliefs, or knowledge already present in one’s mind.
Augustine had this order right:
“I believe in order to understand.”
Also, Anselm stated that he had
applied after beliefs are chosen.
Truth is “what is.”
Truth determines itself.
What a person is willing to accept as true depends upon
their beliefs, not their reason.
Reason may test the coherence of their belief and
contrast it with other beliefs.
Thus, there is no conflict between faith and R/R/L.
This debate over the centuries has been wrongly
An area of R/R/L in which philosophers could do much better is
their use of definitions.
That there is no “canon” of philosophy demonstrates
powerfully that philosophy has no answers, only questions (for
which they will not seek Biblical solutions).
Most, if not all “modern” logics, are neither necessary nor
useful to communication and argumentation.
All communication except commands, exclamations, and questions
is teaching or instruction.
There is an interrelationship between faith and R/R/L.
While faith or first principles are
a priori, R/R/L can be
used to evaluate the relationship of those beliefs to other
personal beliefs or the beliefs of others.
Then, other “properly basic beliefs” may be chosen.
But, again, those first principles are
R/R/L is innate or intuitive in varying degrees in every person,
as the primary dimension of the image of God in man.
The term, “mere human logic,” depreciates God as the
logos and the image of
God in man.
The rules of hermeneutics would not exist without R/R/L.
Thus, one would not be able to understand or reason its
truth without R/R/L.
The meaning of
logos needs to be more widely investigated and become
central in theology. Logos
is central to communication of God to man in Revelation and man
to God in prayer. R/R/L
may not be the entire meaning of
logos, but certainly
The law of noncontradiction summarizes the law of
excluded middle and the law of identity.
It is perhaps the aseity of God Himself.
Christian education is incomplete without a developed
course in R/R/L in all the breadth outlined herein.
See the section on faith in my
Table of Contents.
and Revelation, 110.
Is faulty reasoning a sin?
“The fool has said in his heart, there is no
is a moral declaration, as well as a factual one.
Gordon Clark has said that faulty reasoning is
the theologians greatest sin.
Perhaps, if more theologians thought of faulty
reasoning as a sin, there would be fewer errors.
I am aware of my own limitations, even as I make
the application to others.
is never perfect, but knowing that imperfect
reasoning is a sin might drive us harder to be more
There is no one scientific method.
the Nature of Science.
Christian Philosophy, 208.
John Robbins, “Why Study Logic,”
in Gordon H. Clark,
I have since come to realize that Descartes’ sound
reason was actually his understanding of God, not the
This position is one that has been greatly misunderstood
of Gordon Clark.
He has been widely slandered as a “rationalist,”
when his rationalism only applies to his first
principle—the truth of the Scriptures—and his evaluation
of other thinkers.
Powder Springs, GA: American Vision Press, 2009.
This book has some hints of being hastily edited
It is narrowly focused on “fallacies” which constitute
only one area of logic.