Are Logic and Scripture Compatible?

By Jason Jackson

Some religionists are opposed to “using logic” or “reason” concerning spiritual things. We are informed, by these guardians of rational thought, that the use of logic is the reason for much of the division in the church today.

This position is perplexing, for those who reject the use of “reason,” reason that binding “our conclusions” produces much of the religious division today. We are supposed to be bound, therefore, to the position that logical conclusions cannot be bound.

Listen to the words of Paul, the inspired logician:

“For his invisible attributes, namely, his eternal power and divine nature, have been clearly perceived, ever since the creation of the world, in the things that have been made. So they are without excuse” (Rom. 1:20 ESV).

First, notice the paradox in Paul’s inspired statement. We can perceive the invisible. The order of the universe, the design of the created order, and the sense of moral obligation of mankind — these components of the created world — all testify to the Cause that is eternal, intelligent, powerful, and divine. And although we cannot see God himself, we can know that he exists with absolute certainty.

Dr. E. A. Maness stated the matter correctly:

“If the word ‘God’ were written upon every blowing leaf, embossed on every passing cloud, engraved on every granite rock, the inductive evidence of God in the world would be no stronger than it is” (The Evidence of God in an Expanding Universe, 12).

We cannot see the divine nature. No man ever has (Jn. 1:18). But seeing the effect of divine power necessarily implies the Divine Cause.

Second, consider the principle. Paul affirms that we can see the unseen by reasoning from the facts of creation. This, the apostle calls, a “clear perception.” The word translated “perceived” means “to perceive with the mind” (W.E. Vine, Expository Dictionary of Old and New Testament Words, 855). It is related to the word nous — mind.

Paul says we must use our minds. We must consider the evidence of creation, and we must draw the only logical conclusion warranted by the evidence. Those who think otherwise are in an indefensible position (i.e., are without excuse). Jack Cottrell observes, "On a common-sense level, when we view the wonders of nature we just intrinsically infer a powerful Creator as their source (Commentary on Romans, 1.142).

Reasoning Applied

Observe how the principle of biblical reasoning is illustrated throughout the Scriptures. Paul argued that since we are the offspring of God, we “ought not to think” that the Godhead is like gold, silver, or stone, artfully carved from man’s imagination (Acts 17:28-29). Living human beings do not owe their origin to inert matter.

And what was the crowd in Capernaum expected to perceive about Christ when he healed a man whose sins he had just forgiven (Mark 2:1-12)? What should we reasonably conclude from the record of the Lord’s miracles (John 20:30-31)?

What about baptizing infants? You may believe one thing, and I another. But how can we discern the biblical truth? Either infants need baptism, or they do not. Brethren have soundly argued that since candidates for baptism must believe and repent (cf. Mark 16:16; Acts 2:38), this necessarily excludes infants. They can neither believe nor repent. Likewise, baptism is for sinners (Acts 22:16), and babies have no guilt of sin because they have not committed any sin (cf. Matthew 19:14; James 1:13-15).

The scriptural conclusion demanded by these biblical truths is this: infants are not proper subjects for New Testament baptism. That biblical conclusion is just as binding as a direct prohibition against infant baptism.

A basic historical example demonstrates the principle. Lot returned to Canaan with Abraham and Sarah (Genesis 13:1). But the Bible nowhere says that Lot went down into Egypt. The biblical information that we have, however, (i.e., Lot came from Ur with Abraham. Lot came out of Egypt with Abraham.) necessarily implies that Lot went into Egypt.

Here is the principle. Sufficient evidence warrants a reasonable conclusion. Often it is the case that such conclusions are necessary in biblical studies — our salvation being dependent on them (cf. Romans 1:20; Hebrews 6:11). So powerful is the evidence, so mandatory is the conclusion, that to ignore it is inexcusable.

Just as God holds us accountable for drawing the proper conclusion from the world of creation, so he binds upon us the obligation to “handle aright the word of truth” (2 Timothy 2:15).