July 21, 2023

The Logic of Faith

Clifford Goldstein

“The just shall live by faith” (Rom. 1:27). Of course. How else shall the just live? From mathematics (including simple arithmetic), to the existence of the charm quark, to belief that whales with feet had strolled on land (before they sauntered back into the ocean), to the Second Coming (the first, too) of Jesus, we all need faith—intellectual assent to what we cannot prove—for what we believe, know, or believe that we know. 

Because we are temporary and subjective beings whose sole knowledge and experience of God's creation are electro-chemically piped through our temporary and subjective senses and then translated into images, emotions, and thoughts by our temporary and subjective brains—yes, some nuance, contingency, and error are going to taint whatever we believe, even whatever happens to be true. 

Nevertheless, the notion, the canonized notion—concocted, fomented, and nurtured by them who know—and carried through the three and four previous centuries like litter on ocean waves, is that logic and reason are the bitter enemies of, even the archetypical rivals to, the Christian faith. And worse (the notion goes) they are in a Homeric battle for Lebensraum in the human mind over whether logic, reason, and science, or ignorance, superstition, or bigoty will prevail.

It's such a farce, another intellectual myth of the modern era that through dogmatic and constant repetition hardens, like petrified wood, into something deemed firm and solid. Having been kindled by the fresh oxygen pumped into a Europe divided by the Reformation, sure, the Enlightenment and Scientific Revolution helped purge away centuries of Roman and Medieval superstition and ignorance (though in Italy, at the Basilica of Saint Anthony, the faithful can still venerate the “incorrupt tongue” [yes, the tongue] of Saint Anthony of Padua, the patron saint of lost things). But this change wasn't instantaneous, as if the world had to wait for Francis Bacon (1561-1626), Rene Descartes (1596-1650), John Locke (1632-1704), and Isaac Newton (1612-1727) before it learned logic and reason. And, besides, who is going to accuse Abelard of Bath (1080-1142), William of Ockham (1287-1347), Duns Scotus (1265-1308), and Thomas Aquinas (1225-1274) of not knowing logic or reason?

In fact, despite beatified rumors to the contrary, Christianity from the start has been baked through and through with logic and reason, in contrast to atheistic materialism, which is neither logical nor reasonable.

The Logic of Creation

Take creation. Something that once did not exist, and then did, like our universe, could not have created itself, right? Whatever created the universe, it wasn't the universe itself, obviously. Logic and reason demand that something else—separate from the universe, prior to the universe, transcendent to and greater than it (think of the relationship between a sculptor and a sculpture)—had to have created it to begin with.

Something separate from, prior to, transcendent to, and greater than the universe. Hmmm . . . like God, perhaps?

However, ruling out God from the start, the atheist has another option: nothing. That is, in opposition to God creating the universe, nothing, as in not-a-thing, did instead. In Conjuring the Universe, Peter Atkins claims that the universe arose from nothing, and by nothing, he means “absolutely nothing. I shall mean less than empty space . . . This Nothing has no space and no time. This Nothing is absolutely nothing. A void devoid of space and time. Utter emptiness. Emptiness beyond emptiness. All that it has, is a name.”1 Putting aside the obvious ideology driving the claim, let's judge it, and its rival, God as Creator, from logic and reason alone. 

Either this “Nothing” created the universe and all that's in it, or, instead, an eternally existing God, such as Yahweh, created the universe and all that’s in it. One option is logical and reasonable; the other is not so much illogical and unreasonable as anti-logic and anti-reason.

Next, we have been assured, over and over, decade after decade, by peer-reviewed article after peer-reviewed article in very prestigious science journals, that though everything from the structure and function of the human frontal lobe, to the pomegranate seed, to the incredibly complex enzyme cascade central in blood clotting, to dolphin echolocation, though they all sure look as if designed and, yes, sure function as if designed with specific purposes in mind (such as blood clotting to heal torn flesh)—nope. It’s all an illusion, the belief of people who don’t understand the power of atomic and subatomic particles to mindlessly create life, often with beauty, and always with astonishingly precise functions.

Though common fare in the academy is that philosopher David Hume (1711-1776) had decimated the argument from design—he did no such thing; not even close (and that probably wasn’t his intention, either). All he showed is that just because a watch is, obviously, designed—this doesn’t prove that God, Yahweh, created the universe. Who said it did? What a watch points to is something designed, just as every living thing, from a single cell to the human brain, points to something obviously designed as well—even more obviously designed than a watch because any living thing is much more complicated than a watch. 

Hume no more did what they proclaim he did than did Darwin (do what they proclaim he did), which was to demonstrate that random forces—with no forethought or intention but only with blind mechanisms, working on the principle of survival —created everything from butterflies, to rhinoceroses, to oranges. (Though one might humbly ask, How did the wonderful taste of oranges aid in their survival?). 

Indeed, where did this universal drive for survival that supposedly suffuses all life originate from? It's one thing for a human to try and survive—but a petunia, or an amoeba? Why should what Richard Dawkins calls “nonrandom survival”2 exist, anyway? Does not seeking survival, “nonrandom survival,” mean an end, a goal, a purpose—precisely what evolutionary theory rejects? Why “natural selection”; that is, why does nature select (sounds like a goal) for survival as opposed to non-survival?  “Survival of the fittest” implies two purposes: fitness and survival. In short, the process of evolution sure seems to contradict the premise that it's built on. 

If you look at the natural world, from a blue whale to a blueberry, from the human nervous system to the wings of an eagle—the most logical and reasonable conclusion is that they have all been purposely designed, and with an artistry and craftsmanship that defies our knowledge and imagination, especially as we learn more about them. It’s kind of ironic that the more science reveals about the complexity of nature, the more farfetched science’s theory of nature’s origins becomes. The dogmatic denial of purposeful design anywhere in nature, especially when purposeful design is found everywhere in nature, shows how ideology can trump the most basic logic and reason.

The Logic of Daniel 2

Next, Daniel 2. By dating Daniel in the second century BC (even though Daniel dates itself hundreds of years earlier), scholars have long tried to denude the chapter of its prophetic reach. Yet the chapter’s prophetic reach extends way past the second century BC into not only the rise of the Roman empire but to its breakup into the nations of modern Europe, describing them perfectly, even as they are today. 

Some of the nations “shall be partly strong and partly fragile” and “they will mingle with the seed of men; but they will not adhere to one another, just as iron does not mix with clay” (Daniel 2:42, 43). Partly strong, partly fragile? Germany remains a behemoth while Luxembourg—well, God bless ‘em. Mingle themselves with the seed of men? Europeans, from peasants to princesses, have been intermarrying for centuries, and though not killing each other en mass (at least for now)—the continent remains composed of distinctly separate entities, no more adhering one to another now than in the past—just as the prophecy predicted.

Not bad for a book written, supposedly, in the second century BC. Western intelligence agencies didn’t foresee, even one year before, the collapse of the Soviet Union; in contrast, Daniel foresaw the state of Europe thousands of years in advance. And if Daniel could so accurately depict Europe two millennia into the future from himself, then certainly we can trust him to have dated his own book correctly, too–right? 

Daniel 2, grounded in something as broad, as wide, and as verifiable as world history itself, gives us logical and rational reasons to trust in the Bible and the God who inspired it. 

The Logic of Jesus’ Resurrection

Despite attempts for millennia to debunk it, the resurrection of Jesus is the most logical and reasonable explanation for events that even atheist historians believe.

First, they believe that Jesus of Nazareth was crucified by the Romans; next, that many people, particularly His early followers, claiming to have seen Him resurrected, started what became Christianity; and, finally, that a few years after Christ’s death, a Pharisee named Saul of Tarsus, claiming to have seen the risen Christ, became the apostle Paul. Though believing these things, how do the atheists explain them?

Mass hallucinations, for instance. Hundreds of people, the argument goes, from different backgrounds, all had the same hallucination: that of Jesus Christ risen from the grave, even though no one expected the Messiah to die and rise from the grave to begin with. Masses of people hallucinating the same event that nobody anticipated or saw coming? Hardly the most reasonable of explanations, is it?

Others assert that they just flat-out lied about having seen Jesus risen. Lied—even though they knew that their lie would lead them, and others, including loved ones, to ostracism, persecution, even death. You might willingly suffer and die for what you believe true. But for what you know is a lie? As illogical and irrational as lying about seeing Jesus risen would be, that’s as illogical and irrational as the argument that they had lied about seeing Him risen.

Or, as the “Swoon Theory” claims, He never died on the cross but only fainted and, then, after escaping the tomb and slipping past the Roman guards, Jesus—His body battered, torn, and bleeding—appeared before His disciples as their resurrection hope.

Some have said that Jesus had a twin brother who duped everyone into thinking that he was the resurrected Messiah, and that was how Christianity got started: a case of mistaken identity.  

What about Saul of Tarsus? As he was heading to Damascus, a meteorite crashed into the ground before him, and the trauma of that event gave him an epileptic seizure in which he envisioned the risen Christ speaking to him.

In contrast to these moves, all one has to do is believe in God, a Creator God who at times temporarily works outside the natural laws that He made and sustains. A miracle is analogous to a musician who, though usually playing music based on a written score, temporarily departs from that score and plays something else. Logic and reason don’t demand that miracles happen, only that, in a universe created by God, they could.  

The Unreasonableness of Atheism

Or, instead, you could believe that the universe, and all that’s in it, arose from itself or from “absolutely nothing.” Or that all the obvious design in the natural world merely looks obviously designed but isn’t. Or that Daniel’s accurately depicting the future thousands of years in advance was luck. Or that Jesus didn’t rise from the dead, but, wounded, escaped the tomb and appeared to His followers, who mistook His bloodied appearance as the resurrected and glorified Lord, and whom Paul, amid an epileptic seizure brought on by a meteorite, imagined he saw on the road to Damascus. 

Or, instead, using logic and reason, you can “believe on the Lord Jesus Christ and . . . be saved” (Acts 16:31). 

Clifford Goldstein is the editor of the Adult Bible Study Guide.

1 Peter Atkins, Conjuring the Universe: The Origins of the Laws of Nature (p. 28). OUP Oxford. Kindle Edition.

2 Richard Dawkins, The Blind Watchmaker (W. W. Norton; New York, 1996), p. 61.