by Jason Dulle
Many Christians have a negative connotation of the words reason, logic, and philosophy. Their negativity is not altogether unfounded. After all, there’s been more than a few individuals who have rejected Christianity on the grounds that it is irrational and illogical. And we’ve all known or heard of someone who studied philosophy only to lose their Christian faith. The problem in all of these cases, however, is not reason, logic, or philosophy, but rather the improper use of reason, logic, and philosophy. Indeed, all of us use reason and logic, and all of us subscribe to a particular philosophy even if we are unaware of it.
It is inescapable. Reason and logic are God-given tools that allow us to think and obtain knowledge. Logic and reason help us to order our thoughts, and enhance our ability to discern truth from error. We can’t think without them, although we can misuse or abuse them in the process of thinking. And that, I think, is where the real problem lies: the abuse of reason and logic.
While God intended for man to use logic and reason to discover truth and discern error, our ability to do so has been colored by sin. Man does not utilize reason and logic in a spiritual vacuum. The heart/will is connected to the mind. In our fallen state, what we believe if often influenced by what we want to believe. We often use reason—albeit improperly—to justify beliefs and behaviors that we know to be false/evil. But just like a knife is not evil in itself although it can be used in an evil manner by a man with a murderous heart, so too logic and reason are not evil in themselves even though they can be used in an improper manner by those whose hearts are opposed to God.
This is not a reason to avoid reason and logic, but to embrace it. Only if we are using our God-given mental faculties properly will we be able to see how the unbeliever is misusing logic and reason, and be able to point out his error. As C.S. Lewis noted, “Good philosophy must exist, if for no other reason, because bad philosophy needs to be answered.” And once the unbeliever’s error has been pointed out and recognized, he has the opportunity to align his will with what he knows to be true, or persist in denial and self-deception. The choice is his, but the Christian’s proper use of reason can help bring him to that valley of decision.
As Christians, we should embrace logic and reason—alongside revelation—as handmaidens of the truth. Reason and logic, when used properly, will always buttress the truth, not destroy it.