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"...if anyone makes the assistance of grace depend on the humility or obedience of man and does not agree that it is a gift of grace itself that we are obedient and humble, he contradicts the Apostle who says, "What have you that you did not receive?" (1 Cor. 4:7), and, "But by the grace of God I am what I am" (1 Cor. 15:10). (Council of Orange: Canon 6)

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  • « Visitor Questions on the Fall & Evil | Main | The Sin Problem »

    Logic in the Pulpit by Pastor John Samson

    Preaching to a congregation is obviously a very different scenario from teaching a class on logic in a University or Seminary setting. Yet I believe that we as ministers can teach the Scriptures using logical arguments without having to resort to using technical language which the vast majority of folk would not be able to understand.

    I am sure that all of us as preachers have at times been guilty of speaking over the heads of our people. Yet one of the ways to remedy this is to simply be constantly aware of this tendency. Then we need to apply the discipline of working out how to say the exact same thing we would say to a group of intellectuals (using the same logic) to the people in the congregation, by using language and explanations which all can follow. This takes work - sometimes a great deal of work. Yet I do believe it is very much possible to bring logic into a sermon.

    For instance, when I was preaching on the most famous verse in the Bible, John 3:16 to our congregation, I spoke of the need to think through what the verse actually said, rather than assume its meaning, which is something we all tend to do. The text reads:

    "For God so loved the world, that He gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life."

    John 3:16 teaches that God's love for the world is seen by the giving of His Son so that
    all who A (believe in Him)
    will not B (perish)
    but will have C (eternal life).

    There is no possibility of someone believing in Christ and then perishing, but all who believe will have eternal life. That's what the text clearly teaches.

    I then asked the congregation, what does this verse teach us concerning who it is who has the ability to believe?

    There was silence for a few seconds while people thought about the answer; but I then answered my own question by saying, "actually the verse teaches us nothing at all about who WILL believe or who CAN believe. All the verse tells us is that those who DO believe will not perish, but will have eternal life.

    John 3:16 does not address the question of who has the ability to believe. We might as well ask what the verse teaches us about the correct carpet color for church sanctuaries - why? Because that too is not in any way addressed by the text! The question of who has the ability to believe is addressed by John elsewhere - earlier in the chapter, Jesus taught that unless a man is born again he cannot see or enter the kingdom of God (John 3:5, 7) and in John 10:26, Jesus said, "you do not believe because you are not My sheep.""

    Now in teaching this in the church service, I didn't use technical language at all or use pie charts and venn diagrams. If I did, I think the vast majority of the people may well have switched off and felt everything was way over their heads (even if it was not). The problem would have been that nothing would have been communicated to the vast majority of people, which would have been a pointless exercise.

    Another reason I share this is because I am sure that most in the congregation would not know that they had been presented with interpretation through applying the laws of logic. They simply heard the text interpreted in language they understood (hopefully). And that's exactly my point. We don't have to use technical language to communicate with people, and in fact, we should avoid it whenever possible. Perhaps this is what Paul was refering to in 1 Corinthians 1:17; 2:1, 4, 5 when he wrote, "For Christ did not send me to baptize, but to preach the gospel, not in cleverness of speech, so that the cross of Christ would not be made void... And I, when I came to you, brothers, did not come proclaiming to you the testimony of God with lofty speech or wisdom... my speech and my message were not in plausible words of wisdom, but in demonstration of the Spirit and of power, that your faith might not rest in the wisdom of men but in the power of God."

    I believe the truths of the Bible can be attested to by the principles of logical reasoning (the Bible is not an illogical book), yet to serve a congregation, the minister needs to present the truth in ways which can be understood by the people - people who may or may not have received a higher form of education.

    As one man said,"anyone can make the simple things complex, but it takes genius to make complex things simple." Yet even if we present the truth precisely and with great simplicity, we need to always remember that it takes the work of the Holy Spirit to write the truth upon the heart.

    As Dr. James White says, "many are blinded by their traditions, and those most blinded are those who don't think they have any." Our job as preachers is to present the truth as clearly as we can. It is, of course, the Holy Spirit, the Spirit of Truth, who will lead God's people into all truth. We rest in His ability to do this rather than our own.

    Posted by John Samson on January 30, 2006 02:42 PM

    Comments

    So true. The theologians of past days (Martin Luther, John Calvin, Jonathan Edwards, George Whitefield) sometimes used logic in their works and sermons. I think that, when you guide a mind along a path of deductive reasoning, rather than simply throwing evidences at the mind, your audience has a better opportunity to grasp, understand, and agree with your arguments.

    What is your opinion of the book "Logic" by Isaac Watts? I read it as one of my logic books during my earlier home education.

    Thanks again, Pastor Samson

    Aspiring Theologian

    http://aspiringtheologian.modblog.com/

    Just a note on what Pastor John just said.

    While John 3:16 does not teach who has ability, John 3:19-21 does.

    Putting these texts together might look like this: Whosoever believes has everlasting life ...(v16) but people loved the darkness (v 19) hate the light and will not come to the light (v 20). But he that doeth truth cometh to the light, that his deeds may be made manifest, as having been wrought in God.

    i.e. people come into the light when God does a work of grace in them - the new birth. John already mentioned the passage before John 3:16 which says essentially the same thing. This only validates it.

    Hello Aspiring Theologian,

    You asked John about his opinion of Watts' book Logic. I know you did not ask me, but I own Watts' book as well as many other logic texts. I do not recommend his book. If you are new to logic and are looking for good introductory texts, then I would recommend the following: (1) With Good Reason - An Introduction to Informal Fallacies by S. Morris Engel. (This text is my favorite, and this is where I would start. However, it will focus mainly on informal fallacies, and as such you will not learn much about catagorical syllogisms, and you will get no propositional logic, or predicate logic.) (2) Introduction to Logic by Irving M. Copi and Carl Cohen. (This text will give you a good introduction to informal fallacies, Aristotelian logic, propositional logic, and predicate logic.) As far as I am concerned, these are the only two texts one needs to become proficient in logic. I hope this is helpful.

    Sincerely,

    Brian Bosse

    Isn't Introduction to Logic the one published by Mars Hill? If so, I really did enjoy that one too. I thought it was better than Watts.

    Thanks for the recommendations. As a debater in the NCFCA (a nationwide homeschooler debate program) I have been exposed to large amounts of logic in policy debate. I always love learning more about this method of reasoning, that is why I was interested.

    Sola Deo Gloria,
    Aspiring Theologian

    http://aspiringtheologian.modblog.com/

    Just wanted to clarify my above post: I was incorrect; the Logic book Brian Bosse refers to is not the one by Mars Hill. I do own the one Mr. Bosse is speaking about, however. I also recommend the Mars Hill edition, as it is very good.

    Sola Deo Gloria,
    Aspiring Theologian
    http://aspiringtheologian.modblog.com/

    I appreciate Brian Bosse's comments and recommendations regarding works on logic.

    I would also like to recommend a six cassette tape series of messages by Dr. R. C. Sproul called Introductory Logic. I believe those new to the subject will find this series especially helpful.

    The www.ligonier.org site (where the series can be purchased) writes the following about the course: "Much of our thinking today is muddled and self-contradictory. The laws of logic are largely ignored. Because of this, believers often have difficulty refuting arguments that strike them as fallacious. Showing that God does not speak in contradictions, R.C. equips believers to think and express themselves logically. The outline includes Venn diagrams.

    Six 60-minute messages:
    Informal Fallacies (2 Parts)
    Major Ideas
    Formal Propositions and Venn Diagrams
    Using Venn Diagrams to Test Validity
    More on Testing Syllogisms."

    You can also order the series by calling 1-800-435-4343 (in the USA).

    I would highly recommend Gordon Clark's book "Logic".
    Jim Snyder
    Elder, Harvest Reformed Church (RCUS)

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