In this series of posts I have demonstrated that the translation of John 1:1 as “In the beginning was the Logic and the Logic was with God and the Logic was God” is a valid translation but offered a variation that, I believe, is much more digestible, which is “In the beginning was the Wisdom (of God) and the Wisdom (of God) was with God and the Wisdom (of God) was God.” I’ve shown that John’s prologue is not borrowing from the competing worldviews of the day but rather confronting them and demonstrating Christianity as not only unique but logically valid. What’s more, John’s logos doctrine is found entirely in the Old Testament Scriptures and had already largely been fleshed out as the Memra doctrine in 1st century Jewish Theology. Because of this it would make more sense to accuse any competing worldview of borrowing from Christianity and not the other way around.
Logos is the idea of reasoning or the expression of thought. How we get from Jesus being the Logos, or the Wisdom of God, in the Prologue of John’s Gospel to Jesus being the intellectual content of truth, or the embodiment of truth itself comes to us in John 1:14 which may be read as:
And the Wisdom (of God) became flesh and dwelt among us and we have seen his glory, glory as of the only Son from the Father, the fullness of grace and truth.
So we can say that this truth, wisdom, doctrine, logic, or logos is the very mind of Christ and that logic is the way that God thinks and subsequently the governing principle that the universe operates on. But what does this mean for the Christian? What does it mean for the non-believer? The answer to those questions is actually pretty simple. The truth is that we wouldn’t even be able to ask the question were it not for the Christian worldview. In other words, the Christian worldview is a precondition of experience, knowledge and interaction with the world around us. This final post will look at the relationship between logic and epistemology as it stems from the logos doctrine of the Gospel of John and precisely what it means for both the Christian and non-Christian.
Laws of Logic
It is largely understood that there are three fundamental laws of logic1 and they are:
- The Law of Identity: P is P.
- The Law of Non-contradiction: P is not non-P.
- The Law of the Excluded Middle: Either P or non-P.
The Law of Identity states that something is itself and not something else. If the statement “It is raining” is true then the statement is true. The law which follows from the first is The Law of Non-Contradiction which states that something cannot not be that something at the same time and sense. So the statement “It is raining” cannot be both true and false at the same time and place. The third law is the Law of the Excluded Middle. The Law of the Excluded Middle states that the statement “It is raining” is either true or false and that there is no other alternative.
These three principles, or laws, literally govern reality and thought and are not mere convention. We know this because they are self-evident and if one tries to deny them they must use the very laws they are denying which is self-defeating. For example, if you were to deny the law of identity then you are denying that the law of identity is the law of identity. This is absurd because the law of identity is the law of identity by definition. So the law of identity is axiomatic.
Logic and Epistemology
How does this apply to John’s use of logos? Simply, in the beginning was the Logic, or Wisdom of God (a rational mind). Through the Wisdom of God everything was created. The Wisdom of God gave light to every man, that is to say, man can make sense of and relate to the world around him because he has been given the capability of doing so by the Creator. This, of course, can only be done in a world that operates in an orderly fashion or based on guiding principles. The Creator is the ultimate source and standard of truth. Without this, there is no reason to believe that your senses can ever bring about truth since there is no authority, other than yourself, to determine that your senses have led you to truth.
Dr. Greg Bahnsen in his famous debate with Dr. Gordon Stein on the existence of God concluded his opening statement with:
When we go to look at the different world views that atheists and theists have, I suggest we can prove the existence of God from the impossibility of the contrary. The transcendental proof for God’s existence is that without Him it is impossible to prove anything. The atheist world view is irrational and cannot consistently provide the preconditions of intelligible experience, science, logic, or morality. The atheist world view cannot allow for laws of logic, the uniformity of nature, the ability for the mind to understand the world, and moral absolutes. In that sense the atheist world view cannot account for our debate tonight.2
Things like the laws of logic and moral absolutes must be grounded in something of authority in order for them to be binding on anyone. Further, if they are to be utilized then they must be understood on some level but for that to be the case then the authority must have granted the capability to discern and communicate. So when we say that the Wisdom of God gave light to every man we are saying that man was created in the image of God. This doctrine is what gives us predication and language. When my four month old daughter smiles at me in response to my smiling at her we have actually communicated and interpreted something and no matter how trivial a smile may seem the communication and subsequent interpretation of the smile would be absolutely impossible were it not for the Wisdom of God having imparted light to every man.
Continuing along these lines, the fact that order exists in the universe is meaningless if there is no one to understand said order. But how can anyone understand order unless he has the faculties to do so? If we grant that you even have the faculties to understand order, how do you know that those faculties can be trusted? Often someone will claim that they’ve been reliable over time but this is ridiculous because without God you don’t even have the preconditions to understand what reliability is. But if we grant that you can understand what reliability is and you are relying on the reliability of your faculties over time this still doesn’t justify how you can know that your faculties will not become unreliable tomorrow or that the reliability of your faculties over time was nothing more than an illusion.
So laws of logic and moral absolutes do exist and they are universal in nature. This means they cannot simply be a matter of convention or agreed upon by society in order to properly operate. Once we say they are needed to properly operate then they become universal in nature. If we insist that they are simply a matter of convention then I can disregard your convention and there is no reason to even continue the conversation because you have your convention and I have mine. But no one really lives this way. As noted above, the laws of logic are axiomatic. Without them we cannot even begin to be able to interact with the world in which we live.
Further into the Bahnsen / Stein debate, Bahnsen cross-examined Stein:
Bahnsen: I heard you use “logical binds” and “logical self-contradiction” in your speech . You did say that?
Stein: I used that phrase, yes.
Bahnsen: Do you believe there are laws of logic then?
Bahnsen: Are they universal?
Stein: They are agreed upon by human beings not realizing it is just out in nature.
Bahnsen: Are they simply conventions then?
Stein: They are conventions that are self-verifying.
Bahnsen: Are they sociological laws or laws of thought?
Stein: They are laws of thought which are interpreted by man.
Bahnsen: Are they material in nature?
Stein: How could a law be material?
Bahnsen: That’s the question I’m going to ask you.
Stein: I would say no.3
This is how the non-Christian must respond. There is a conundrum to be in when on the one hand you accept that laws of logic are axiomatic and self-verifying but at the same time say they are simply a matter of convention. If they are axiomatic then they must have a transcendent source by which they are governed. The atheist cannot account for them and works very hard to wiggle out of the predicament that he’s in. If they are mere convention he has to somehow explain why his convention is correct. He does so by saying they are self-evident but if they are self-evident then they aren’t simply a convention, they are universal. As a result the atheist is using the laws of logic to deny the laws of logic and ends up with nothing more than nonsense. Continuing with Steins cross-examination of Bahnsen:
Stein: Dr. Bahnsen, would you call God material or immaterial?
Stein: What is something that’s immaterial?
Bahnsen: Something not extended in space.
Stein: Can you give me any other example, other than God, that’s immaterial?
Bahnsen: The laws of logic.
Stein: Are we putting God as an equivalent thing to the laws of logic?
Bahnsen: No, only if you think all factual questions are answered in the very same way would you even assume that by thinking that [if] there are two immaterial things that they must be identical….
Stein: I’m not assuming that. I’m just assuming that because the laws of logic are conventions among men. Are you saying that God is a convention among men?
Bahnsen: I don’t accept the claim that the laws of logic – that Christ’s laws of logic – are conventional.4
Stein insists that the laws of logic are conventions among men, but look clearly at Bahnsen’s response. The Christian doesn’t accept the claim that the laws of logic are conventional – that is even if they are conventions my convention rejects your convention. The atheist has no reason for the discussion and it might as well end there.
As should become evident, the non-Christian cannot justify how he knows anything at all. This is not the same as saying the non-Christian doesn’t know anything but rather, that he has no reason to believe anything that he knows and that is the issue that should always be pressed. Ultimately the unbeliever cannot live consistently in his worldview and so the worldview is to be found irrational. In Bahnsen’s closing statement he said:
The transcendental argument for the existence of God has not been answered by Dr. Stein. It’s been evaded and made fun of, but it hasn’t been answered. That’s what we’re here for: rational interchange. The transcendental argument says the proof of the Christian God is that without God one cannot prove anything. Notice the argument doesn’t say that atheists don’t prove things, or that they don’t use logic, science or laws of morality. In fact they do. The argument is that their world view cannot account for what they are doing. Their world view is not consistent with what they are doing; in their world view there are no laws; there are no abstract entities, universals, or prescriptions. There’s just a material universe, naturalistically explained (as) the way things happen to be. That’s not law-like or universal; and therefore, their world view doesn’t account for logic, science or morality.5
The Johannine Logos is a theologically rich and masterfully crafted apologetic. It is a logical presentation and defense of Christianity. It is an authoritative declaration of our source for the faculties we take for granted every day. For the Christian, it means that we have justification and grounding for the laws of logic, the uniformity of nature, objective moral values and the ability to do science. For the non-Christian, it means that they have no justification or grounding for any of these things but use them anyway. They are borrowing from the Christian worldview and as a result relying upon the very things which they deny. If anyone disagrees with this then they should provide an argument that demonstrates what their foundation is if not the Christian God.
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