A Minilesson in Logic

Christian apologetics excites me tremendously.  I pay close attention every time I get a chance to hear a Christian apologetics speaker because I really do believe that logic and reasoning lead to truth.  Truth is objective, but people usually aren’t!  We live in a post-fall world, not a perfect one, and people exercise their reason in multiple forms of irrationality.  An argument that is in itself perfectly rational, will often be completely twisted, misunderstood, or ignored by people with prejudice, ignorance, or passion.

I have decided to dedicate the next several posts to the topic of Christian apologetics, and specifically, how to answer an atheist.  Before I can do that however, I want to lay out some background on logic and human reason.

Human reason manifests itself in three acts of the mind: (1) understanding, (2) judging and (3) reasoning.  These three acts of the mind are expressed in (1) terms, (2) propositions and (3) arguments.  Terms are either clear or unclear.  Propositions are either true or untrue.  Arguments are either logically valid or invalid.  A term is clear if it is intelligible and unambiguous.  A proposition is true if it corresponds to reality, if it says what is.  An argument is valid if the conclusion follows necessarily from the premises.

If all the terms in an argument are clear, and if all the premises are true, and if the argument is free from logical fallacy, then the conclusion must be true.

To disagree with the conclusion of any argument, it must be shown that either an ambiguous term or false premise or a logical fallacy exists in that argument.  Otherwise, to say “I still disagree” is to say “You have proved your conclusion true, but I am so stubborn and foolish that I will not accept this truth.  I insist on living in a false world, not the true one.”

Having said this, I also recognize that there are limitations to the power of apologetics.  Some people just insist upon living in a false world.  Apologetics defends orthodox Christianity.  Dissenters don’t believe in apologetics for orthodox Christianity because they do not believe in orthodox Christianity.  They believe in apologizing for it, not apologetics for it.

Feel free to refer back to this post if it would help to understand future posts.  I mainly wanted to give some background and lay some groundwork.  During the next few posts, (perhaps interspersed with other things) I will attempt to deal with How to Answer an Atheist: 5 Arguments for the Existence of God.

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2 Responses to A Minilesson in Logic

  1. Awesomeness! I look forward to reading your updates!

    Interesting propositions on logic. Not that I’m interesting in logic or anything, but I have a few questions about your above assertions.

    “Human reason manifests itself in three acts of the mind.”

    Can you come up with a Scriptural basis for this statement? I’m just curious, since Scripture clearly talks about a distinction between the mental faculties of “knowledge,” “understanding,” “wisdom,” and even uses further terms such as “judgment” and “discretion.”

    Also, I understand the nature of propositions and arguments, but what exactly is a “term” in the context of logic?

    • Jonathan says:

      Hi Jacob!

      Thank you for commenting! Perhaps I should have said “The inherent structure of human reason manifests itself in three acts of the mind”, because really what I’m referring to here is the structure of logic. God gave humans the ability to be logical, just as he gave them the ability to speak different languages. These are simply rules of reality which humans have labeled for the convenience of the study of logic. I do not pretend that I can correlate universally accepted rules of logic with the Bible, but I’m not sure that’s needful. Language also has a structure (In Greek, the same word, logos, means “objective intelligible structure,” “reason as revealing that structure” and “word or speech as expressing reason.”) It’s like asking me for a Scriptural basis for the taxonomical rules of the Spanish language.

      But to answer your question about terms, we write in terms propositions and arguments because we think in concepts, judgements and reasoning. “Terms” are the building blocks of “concepts”. I can really only define a “term” by explaining concepts and hoping from this explanation “terms” are put into context. A “concept” is basically a general idea. It’s what’s left after drawing away or removing the uncommon characteristics from several particular ideas. The remaining common characteristic is that which is similar to several different individuals. For example, the general idea or concept which is designated by the word “red” is that characteristic which is common to apples, cherries, and blood. The general idea or concept which is designated by the word “dog” is the collection of those characteristics which are common to Beagles, Collies, and Chihuahuas. Terms are the building blocks of concepts. Terms express concepts.

      That’s the best I can do 🙂 I hope this helps a little. I will attempt to develop these thoughts in the next few posts. I look forward to getting many more comments from you! Thanks! Study hard for the Baby Bar!

      Jonathan

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