Wednesday, August 20, 2008

Human Logic vs the Clear Teaching of Scripture

I've likely blogged about this before, and have simply forgotten, but recently I had reason to write about it to a friend, and I thought I might post what I wrote to him here (with slight modifications).


In more recent years the Lord has put teachers in my path that have helped me learn to distinguish a difference between human-logic-derived doctrines and clearly-Biblical-doctrines; since then, I find certain of our doctrines to be, um, "questionable".

Logic vs Clear Teaching of Scripture

As you know, when Adam and Eve ate the forbidden fruit, the cosmos fell into corruption (and is even now eagerly awaiting its redemption as well as ours - Rom 8:18ff). When that happened, our very bodies and minds also became corrupt, and although we still have an amazing body and amazing mental capabilities, they're simply no longer "perfect". Accordingly, although our logic might seem unassailable, quite frankly, our logic is not to be totally trusted. The scriptures speak to this when they say "There is a way that seems right to a man, but in the end it leads to death" (Prov 16:25) and "Every man's way is right in his own eyes, But YHWH weighs the hearts" (Prov 21:2) and similar passages.

When we come to issues in the Bible, there are sometimes clear teachings ("Thou shall not murder"), and there are sometimes teachings that have to be pieced together like a jigsaw puzzle (a multiplicity of elders in every church, which are also known as pastors, overseers, and bishops).

The second type of issue must be determined by the application of human logic. Note that there's nothing wrong with using human logic to piece together the teachings of the scriptures. But there is a problem when we consider our pieced-together doctrine, based on fallible human logic, to be as binding as the clear teaching.

This was much of the problem that Jesus had with the Pharisees. Over the centuries prior to the first century, the Pharisees had applied their very good human logic to the unclear teachings of scripture, and arrived at logical doctrines. (They referred to these teachings as the "Oral Torah", or “Traditions of the Elders”, as in Matt 15:2, which later were written down and codified as the Talmud.) The problem is that those logical doctrines, as good as they were, often conflicted with clear teachings of scripture. For example, the Pharisaic logic led them to conclude that "giving to the church" was the most important thing to be done with your money; Jesus said that their logic nullified the clear teaching of scripture that taking care of your parents comes before making contributions to the church (Mark 7:9-13).

I'm afraid that we in the 21st century church also fall victim to this Pharisaic habit of using our logic to determine binding doctrines. Having come to the realization that we are prone to this habit, I've become skittish of doctrines that are based on logic rather than clearly-stated teachings. This is not to say that I no longer accept such doctrines; it is to say that I hold them much more loosely than I used to, and am much more lenient toward other viewpoints on such matters.

This became even more true when I realized that different people truly truly truly have different logical/perceptual capabilities, and one person's perceptions (and thus logical conclusions) might be 180 degrees different from another person's perceptions (and logical conclusions). For example, which way is the ballerina spinning? Clockwise, or counter-clockwise?

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