26 February, 2017

Argument: “… obsession with the Aristotelian laws of logic …”


“… obsession with the Aristotelian laws of logic …”


“In your opposition to all notion of apparent contradictions and paradoxes in Scripture, it simply shows an obsession with Aristotelian laws of logic, rather than preferring the mystery of God’s incomprehensible nature and inscrutable wisdom …”




H. L. Williams

[Source: British Reformed Journal, issue 18 (April-June 1997), pp. 43-44]

We in the British Reformed Fellowship have never endorsed, or denied, any value or worth that may or may not be in the “Aristotelian laws of logic.” Truth is, Aristotle’s work on logic is a profound analytical description of the “building science” of human language and thought. As such his work is not necessarily wrong, wrong, wrong. On the contrary, we take great risks if we ignore such analysis, just as one would if in Engineering Science one ignored the analysis of Structures … our buildings would all be unsafe.

We note that in our Journal we have only consciously used two “Aristotelian” logic structures … (1) the “law of the excluded middle,” and (2) the “syllogism.” (**see footnote). Now it so happens we are in good company right here. The Bible itself teems with examples of the same, viz.:

Firstly, the law of the excluded middle, which is summarised as:

“A thing cannot simultaneously be X and not X.”

A brief run through a reference Bible yields too many examples to list, but here is a small selection:

Genesis 24:21: “And the man wondering at her held his peace, to wit whether the LORD had made his journey prosperous or not.” (That is, either the Lord made his journey prosperous, or the Lord did not make his journey prosperous.)

Genesis 37:32: “… know now whether it be thy son’s coat or no.” (That is, either it is thy son’s coat, or it is not thy son’s coat.)

Exodus 16:4: “… that I may prove them, whether they will walk in my law, or no.” (That is, either they will walk in my law, or they will not walk in my law.)

II Corinthians 5:9: “Wherefore we labour, that, whether present or absent, we may be accepted of him.” (That is, either we are present, or we are not present [i.e., absent].)

The list can be multiplied: Exod. 17:7; Job 34:33; II Cor. 12:2, 3; Gal. 3:2, 5; Eph. 6:8; Phil. 1:18; … and so on …

Second, the syllogism. Biblical examples abound. A few are:

Genesis 4:7; 18:26; 28:20-21; 32:8; 33:13; 34:17; 42:38; 44:26, 32; Exod. 1:16; 4:8; 4:23; 8:2 … hey! Wait a minute! All this was written by Moses, who lived 1000 years before Aristotle! So they’re really “Moses’ laws of logic,” not Aristotle’s! Also syllogisms are found in the New Testament, in, for instance, Rom. 8:17, 25; 10:9; … etc., etc., … They abound.

While we deny being “obsessed” with Aristotle, we are nevertheless warranted, and rightly so, to take as much pains as possible to understand the “building science” of the human reasoning powers and speech which God originally gave Adam in Eden, when He created Adam in His own image and likeness. And we are bidden, by the apostle in Scripture, to be “renewed in the spirit of [our] mind” (Eph. 4:23), and that we must “put on the new man, which is renewed in knowledge after the image of Him that created him” (Col. 3:10). One might expect, therefore, Christian thinkers to be as deeply concerned to learn of the “building science” of human logic and speech, as they might be to learn medicine, and how to cure diseases. For such studies to proceed on a sanctified, prayerful, Biblical basis should be, I would think, part of a Christian thinker’s calling. And in pursing such studies in logic, let it be said that he will find that Aristotle, and a lot of others, have made as giant contributions to this subject as Newton or Einstein have made to physics. And it can be as dangerous to dismiss Aristotle in logic as to dismiss Newton in physics. That is not to say that Aristotle is right, right, right. But then, neither is he always wrong! Judicious analysis is called for in these matters.

Let the reader judge, is the British Reformed Journal being “polluted” by Greek philosophy in using this kind of language structure, or are we merely using the necessary connections which our Creator built in to the “architecture” and “science” of human thought and communications? Fact is, all Aristotle did was to observe, and to catalogue his observations concerning all this. And his catalogue in this is as profound as say, the Admiralty Tables (for navigation purposes at sea), and probably pretty near as reliable.


** Syllogism: Explanatory note:

This is a philosophic term concerned with the analysis of sentence structure and meaningfulness in language. An example of a “syllogism” is shown in the following logical structure:

If God is all-authoritative, then His Word is all-authoritative, and God is all-authoritative, therefore His Word is all-authoritative.

The reader should note the words in bold type, as they highlight the syllogistic structure of the language here, which is called the language of inference.

This second syllogism builds from the deduction made from the first, thus:

If the Bible is the Word of God, then it is all-authoritative, and the Bible is the Word of God, therefore it is all-authoritative.

In each of these syllogisms the antecedent (the clause following the initial “if”) is affirmed, and therefore by the rules of formal logic the inferences are valid. In formal logic the simple syllogism can yield four possible conclusions, only two of which are valid, viz.: Affirming the antecedent, and denying the consequent.



More to come! (DV)

No comments:

Post a comment