Essay: Logic and One View of Christianity
Andy Schlafly has described the Bible as "the most logical book ever written". What follows in this essay is my analysis of that statement.
The meaning of the word logic can vary. According to a strict definition, logic refers to principles of reasoning, a series of rules which describe valid (and invalid) inferences and deductions. In a less formal, more conversational usage, logical can be a near-synonym for "plausible", "persuasive" or "reasonable". These are probably the senses that Andy had in mind when he summarised the central message of Christianity:
"God created the world, and then man. Man incurred the ultimate offense against God, and that required the ultimate sacrifice to redeem it. God intervenes with miracles from time to time as He likes. This is completely logical."
The first two sentences fulfill the requirements of internal coherence and consistency, but they require a large number of a priori assumptions about the nature of the world. The above statement is logical, IF:
- A God exists, who created the world and mankind, and if
- This God desires for mankind to dwell with Him in Heaven, and if
- This God dislikes some actions taken by man, and cannot allow men who have offended Him to enter Heaven, and if
- This God requires that retribution be made for these offenses, and if
- The only acceptable form of retribution is death, and if
- God refuses to forgive sins unless a blood sacrifice has been made.
If all of the above assumptions are true, then it is indeed logical that God should pay man's debt by having Himself become incarnate as a man and put to death. However, the foundational assumptions themselves may be questioned. Why is a blood sacrifice necessary before God will forgive a sin? No amount of contrition or good deeds will suffice; God will not be satisfied until blood has been spilled. This is not logical, in the sense that there is no reason why this must be the case. Apologists can point to God's Will, saying that God's ways are higher than man's, or that He moves in mysterious ways, or that we mere earthen vessels can never comprehend the mind of the potter that made us. This may be so, but the apologist should concede at this point that they are abandoning logic, because the inscrutable will of God can be made compatible with any outcome, and could thus be invoked to explain anything at all.
"Without the shedding of blood, there is no remission of sin". Curiously, however, it does not seem to matter whose blood is spilled. This is a very odd concept of justice. Consider the analogy of a courtroom, where the defendant has pleaded guilty to a crime and is expected to be sent to prison. The judge pities the defendant and would prefer not to impose the maximum sentence, but the law will not permit the defendant's crime to go unpunished. However, the law does not specify that the defendant must serve his own sentence. Therefore, the judge decides that he will sentence himself to prison instead. He rises from the bench and instructs the bailiff to escort him to jail.
Seen in analogy, the situation is plainly illogical. But even there the analogy is not complete. The above situation, despite being completely absurd, would nonetheless be plausible in a country with a rigid and nonsensical legal system. But the analogy does not end there. God, after all, is not merely the judge of man's crimes; He is also the lawmaker. For the analogy to be complete, the judge is also the author of the inflexible law, and is capable of revising it but prefers not to.
Therein lies the illogic of Christian teaching. God sets a standard of behaviour which is so high that He knows no man can attain it. He demands that proper retribution be made for what He has defined as man's sins. The only unit of currency He recognizes is blood sacrifice, and He sets the price above what any man can afford to pay. However, He nonetheless wishes for man to be saved. He cannot simply cancel man's debt, or adjust his expectations of man's behavior, so instead He has Himself tortured and executed. This demonstration is sufficient to cancel all human sin, past, present and future. But there is one final catch: the forgiveness of sins is no longer dependent on sacrifice, but neither does it depend on repentance or good works. Forgiveness is only granted to those who believe that the sacrifice took place. Anybody who does not hear the Good News, or who hears it but remains unconvinced, is ineligible for salvation.
I believe that this is illogical.