T. PIERCE BROWN
There are those who almost make a god out of their reasoning ability, assuming that by human wisdom they can discover all sorts of truths which God alone can reveal. In many cases, they even exalt their supposed human wisdom above God’s revelation. Paul clearly understood the importance of recognizing the inferiority of the wisdom of men. He indicated that in several places, perhaps the most significant of which is 1 COR. 1:18-29. Thehigh pointof this passage is probably in verses 20-21, “Where is the wise? where is the scribe? where is the disputer of this world? hath not God made foolish the wisdom of the world? For seeing that in the wisdom of God the world through its wisdom knew not God, it was God’s good pleasure through the foolishness of preaching to save them that believe.”
However, God also gave man a mind with which to reason, and requires us to use it properly, or be held accountable for that failure. This is why we encouraged to “Come and reason together” and why Paul said, “Prove all things. Hold fast that which is good” (1 Thess.5:21). There is no way one could prove all things without using reasoning.
My primary point now is that as important as reasoning is, one needs to be careful that his reasoning is right, and does not lead him to contradict himself or the Bible. For example, a person who does not understand the proper use of a syllogism may think: “I know that if the major premise is true, and the minor premise is true, the conclusion must be true.” There are some other rules that one must know before those rules can be properly applied. One may have a major premise: 1. No dog has 9 tails. There surely is no question that this is true. At least we have no record, historical or otherwise, of a dog with nine tails. The minor premise is: 2. My dog has one more tail than no dog. This is a self-evident truth, in case I have a dog with a tail. The conclusion which must follow is: 3. My dog has ten tails. For one more tail than 9 tails is 10 tails. The problem is that one not only needs to know the truth about the major and minor premises being true, he needs to know that the terms that are used in both major and minor premises must mean the same thing. There are many ways of saying it, but the “no dog” of the major premise is not a specific entity identifiable with the “no dog” of the minor premise. So, even if my dog had ten tails, that syllogism would not prove it.
What started this article was the fact that I have taught most of my life that if a person sins by getting into a situation, if he repents, he must get out of that sinful situation insofar as possible. Of course, I recognize that there are some situations one cannot change. The Jews who killed Christ could not “un-kill” him. However, they repented. Then this question arose: Suppose a girl becomes pregnant out of wedlock. This is a sinful situation. If she aborts the child, she gets out of her pregnancy. So, if a person is supposed to get out a sinful situation, and she repents of her sinfulness, why does logic not require that she have an abortion that gets her out of her sinful situation? One quick answer is: She does not have to get out of being pregnant by aborting the baby, which would simply add one sin to another. She can get over being pregnant by giving birth to the baby. A deeper understanding of the situation would help us to realize that it is neither a sin to be pregnant, nor is it a sin to give birth to a baby. The sin was in committing fornication, which, in this case was what led to the pregnancy.
Another question arose: Suppose two persons get married. A proper marriage involves the idea of a commitment, not merely living together until you decide to quit the arrangement. This couple has no plans for a long-term commitment, but decide before they are married that if it does not work out to their satisfaction, they will divorce. Is this a sinful situation? Surely it is. Now, if we have decided that the way to get out of a sinful situation is to repent of it and quit it, why is it not proper to terminate this sinful situation by a divorce? Certainly one could terminate it by killing the mate, but that would have some serious side effects, so since our basic premise is that repentance involves getting out of a sinful situation whenever possible, what way could one get out of it properly except to divorce?
We have little doubt that some who are searching desperately for some justification of what they have already made up their minds they want to do or teach will use that sort of “logic?” to prove their case. There are several problems with that solution, but one of them is that marriage itself is not the sinful situation. The sinful situation is the state of mind that led them to make the decision. The way to repent of the situation is to change that sinful state of mind to do what one wants in spite of what God wants, and love the partner. The love (agape) that God demands is not an emotion or a sex drive, but a choice of will to sacrifice of what you are and have for the benefit or happiness of the other. The wonderful thing about that is, if each partner would do that, they would discover that the other kinds of love (phileo and erao) would become almost automatic.
However, my main point in this article is to point out that anytime our so called logic leads us to a position that is clearly out of harmony with God’s word, we should examine our logic and see where we have misapplied it. It is never proper to throw away common sense, but it is also never proper to substitute what we think is common sense for what God says.
T. Pierce Brown
1068 Mitchell Ave.
Cookeville, TN. 38501
Phone: (615) 528-3600