logic, god

Stuff Christians Say . . .

One thing I hear frequently is, “Well, God is beyond logic.” This move helps struggling Christians who don’t like where the logic is headed in a conversation. But it is a bad move to make.

logic

One reason Christians say this is because of a misinterpretation of statements in the Bible like, “With God all things are possible.” Really? All? If we take this literally to the fullest extent then we would have to agree that God can: sin, lie, change God’s nature, cease to exist, etc. And no Christian wants to affirm these things because that would commit them to contradicting other passages in Scripture.

Context Is Crucial

If it isn’t literally true to the fullest extent, then we should understand it within a certain context. This happens all the time in ordinary conversation. Whenever people make “all” or “any” statements, the statement has an implied scope that is determined by the context. When I ask my son Clark what he’d like to eat, he might say, “I’ll eat anything.” It would be really annoying and pedantic of me to say, “Oh yeah, what about a bowling ball?” (Or it might just be bad dad humor.) So it isn’t a stretch to assume the biblical writers had a limited scope in mind. Thus, these statements don’t necessarily imply that God can do what is logically impossible.

bowling ball

Logic Limits God?

Another reason Christians say things like this is because they don’t like the idea that an omnipotent, creator God could be restrained by something like logic. They imagine that the laws of logic are something invented by man and thus not binding on God. Trying to understand God with “reason” and “logic” leads to error.

But the laws of logic should be thought of in the same category as the laws of morality. Christians don’t think of morality as a human construct, but rather something changelessly rooted in the nature of God. Just as God is a moral God, God is a logical God. Saying God is bound to the laws of logic is no more limiting than saying God is bound to his own moral character.

impossible

Here is the real kicker, though. If we do not think logic is binding in all discussions of Christian theology and apologetics, then we give up our ability to make any argument. For example, if God is not bound by the law of non-contradiction (i.e., a statement and its contradiction cannot both be true), then we can’t say that any of Jesus’ statements are really true. If Jesus says, “no one comes to the Father except through me,” then the statement, “it is false that no one comes to the Father except through me,” could also be true. Confusing, right?

Benefits of Logic

If we embrace logic as a part of God’s nature, then it also helps us solve certain conundrums. Ever been asked, “Can God make a rock so big that he can’t move it?” Hmmm. This feels sticky because we want to affirm God’s omnipotence. So, God can make a rock of any size, right? And he can move a rock of any size, right?

So do we say, “no,” and put limits on his creative power, or say, “yes,” and put limits on his physical power to move objects? Well, the best reply is to say, “no,” because what the question is asking is, “can God do something logically impossible?” Only a person who rejects logic would expect a being to be able to do such a thing.

Rocks and Rolls

logic, square circle

To explain why this is logically impossible, let me start with a clearer example. A square circle is logically impossible. Why? Because of the definitions of these two concepts. A square is a shape with four corners. A circle is a shape with no corners. Can a shape have corners AND no corners? No. This is not a failure of imagination or power. It is simply two contradictory scenarios, i.e., nonsense.

So now take the rock case. What the rock question asks, essentially, is this: can a being with unlimited power to move physical objects do something to put limits on that power? Well, no. Unlimited power, by definition, lacks limits. Asking whether God can be both limited and unlimited (with regard to his power to roll a rock) is like asking whether a shape can have corners and not have corners at the same time. Of course not!

Bottom Line

Bottom line is, embrace logic. The limits of logic and morality have nothing to do with God’s power. We should understand omnipotence as God’s ability to do anything that is logically possible. God cannot make a square circle, or a married bachelor any more than God can sin or cease to exist. And it’s a good thing, too.

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