Logic biblical?

From: Carl W. Conrad (cwconrad@artsci.wustl.edu)
Date: Fri Jun 06 1997 - 08:29:45 EDT

At 4:17 AM -0400 6/6/97, Paul Dixon - Ladd Hill Bible Church wrote:
>The question then becomes, how do we know logic is trustworthy? Simply
>because it is biblical. It is used in scripture consistently and
>throughout. It is assumed there and used there. Thus, we can and should
>utilize it.

If Edgar fears the slings and arrows of outraged linguists, I may have
reason to fear those of outraged philosophers and theologians. Yet I was
struck by this assertion that logic "is biblical," and wondered whether I
have rightly understood what is being said thereby. Of course, the
follow-up sentence says clearly enough, "It is used in scripture
consistently and throughout." Whiile I think there's a good deal of logical
argumentation in the New Testament, I think this derives from Hellenistic
Greek influence, although I suppose there are some who might want to argue
that rabbinical analysis developed altogether independently; I don't doubt
there were special developments of argumentation within rabbinical Judaism,
but I think the Hellenistic influence is there in the background. And of
course there is inference, reasoning and argumentation of a sort in the OT,
especially in the prophets (I would think that the wisdom literature
probably also reflects some Hellenistic influence--by which I do not at all
mean that it was consciously adopted, but rather that it entered into the
common intellectual property of every people affected by the spread of
Hellenism in the wake of Alexander's conquests. Then there is Abraham's
argument with God over the fate of Sodom and Gomorrah, which I suppose is
less a matter of logical argumentation than it is of ageless bargaining
practices, but the question raised, "Shall not the judge of all the world
do right?" does assume the imperative of consistency.

I'm interested in this question partly as a historical matter, but partly
also, I confess, for theological reasons. Somehow I have long had the sense
that Jewish theologiansmay well be right to argue that God can be defined
only negatively, that the implications of "EHYEH ASHER EHYEH" in Exodus
3:14 are that God refuses to be definitively and for all time pinned down
to a particular essence--this is the way Buber reads the passage. Then
there's that curious passage in Isaiah 45:7 where Yahweh in the oracle to
Cyrus rejects implicitly Zoroastrian dualism and insists, "I form light and
create darkness, I make weal and create woe ..." And Yahweh's reply to Job
from the whirlwind seems to imply the incommensurability of God's creation
with human powers of understanding.

What I'm coming to is this: paradox has generally been held to play a
central role in Christian theology, and I am one who thinks that there are
at least some paradoxes both sides of which we must espouse. One of my
favorite passages is Phil 2:12-13: ... META FOBOU KAI TROMOU THN hEAUTWN
TO ENERGEIN hUPER THS EUDOKIAS. Now there are probably several ways in
which people make sense of this sequence, and some may prefer a strictly
predestinarian accounting whereby there is no contradiction between the
imperative KATERGAZESQE, which seems to imply the capacity and the
imperative for the believer to effect his/her own salvation, and the
to be indicating clearly that the initiative in this process is from God.
While it's easy to say that the imperative KATERGAZESQE would be
meaningless were it not for the ENERGEIN of God, but the FOBOS KAI TROMOS
point to a perilous endeavor by the agents addressed in the KATERGAZESQE.
At any rate, I prefer to read this sequence as a genuine paradox rather
than as a pure logical proposition.

Paul (Dixon, that is) says of logic:

> . . . it is biblical. It is used in scripture consistently and
>throughout. It is assumed there and used there. Thus, we can and should
>utilize it.

I certainly would not want to reject this assertion wholly, nor would I
want to go the way of Kierkegaard (personally I wouldn't) or endorse the
stance of Tertulian (was it his?): CREDO QUIA ABSURDUM. But I think there
are points in our understanding of world-order and God's action that lie
beyond our powers of rational analysis.

Carl W. Conrad
Department of Classics/Washington University
One Brookings Drive/St. Louis, MO, USA 63130/(314) 935-4018
Summer: 1647 Grindstaff Road/Burnsville, NC 28714/(704) 675-4243
WWW: http://www.artsci.wustl.edu/~cwconrad/

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