One of the great joys I have in academic life is teaching an undergraduate course in traditional logic. It is also called formal, predicate, term, or syllogistic logic, but because Aristotle’s method for making valid arguments was the earliest treatment of the subject (Prior Analytics and De Interpretatione in Aristotle’s larger work Organon), his method developed into the traditional version taught for centuries also known as Aristotelian logic. All refer to the same discipline, however, and it has generally been taught to young people (middle school age) as the way to develop clarity in the reasoning process.
Nothing could be more relevant in the twenty-first century, especially for Christians seeking to engage a world increasingly hostile to the worldview found in Scripture. But logic does not teach a Christian worldview directly. Aristotle was by no means a believer in the God of the Bible. Yet academic disciplines, say, geometry or cartography for example, are not directly “Christian” subjects even if they can train a Christian in useful ways. In other words, to be more educated provides something in your life that the Lord can use to make his name magnified in the earth. Training in traditional logic provides a way to form sound arguments and recognize fallacies of thought in our own, as well as others’ arguments. Consider offering that for the Lord’s use!
What concerns me most is that without logical thinking many Christians are pressured into our culture’s favorite method of argumentation—statements of preference, often just asserting what one likes or dislikes. Consider the effect this can have on the Christian whose witnessing encounter devolves into, “I follow Jesus, you follow Buddha, so let’s just agree to disagree.” The pressure to make this kind of “argument” is reinforced by the idea that the highest virtue to attain is tolerance, where no view is wrong, no argument is invalid, no conclusion is unsound—you don’t want to be a “hater” do you! Yet, how does the Christian who succumbs to such pressure understand John 14:6, where Jesus made it quite clear that it is only in him that we come to the Father, for all other ways are wrong? The Christian who thinks she must be “tolerant” and avoid making any “argument” has succumbed to the culture’s desire to get guidance from a spinning compass—pointing in every direction, never just one (but thereby useless).
Consider God’s own invitation: “Come now, and let us reason together, says the Lord” (Isa 1:8). No spinning compass from him. So, consider learning logic. And here’s why:
- Reasoning is uniquely human (separates humans from animals).
- Thinking things through is good/positive (consider the alternative).
- Sound arguments can guide us to make good choices (emotions are reactive).
- It is a rational step to see “long-term benefits” or “the greater good.”
- Cognition is how we learn about the world, by being instructed, seeing demonstrations, and organizing the data we observe.
- Any argument missing a logical appeal is typically defeated by one that does include it.
Logical thinking helps us reason past the myriad preferences and emotions that flood our minds and may lead us astray. It is the power of logos, reason, sound argumentation that I pray more believers will desire to learn.