The Province of Reason

by J. W. Williams

I--Its Validity And Necessity In Secular Affairs
indent.gif (829 bytes)A--The Value Of Inductive Science
indent.gif (829 bytes)B--The Necessity Of Deductive Logic
II--Its Futility In Spiritual Searching
indent.gif (829 bytes)A--To Discover God Or His Ways
indent.gif (829 bytes)B--To Find The Truth Revealed In Scripture

We are to discuss the relation of reason to faith. After a brief introduction we shall confine this paper to the last line in the above outline. It was condensed from a fifty-page treatise, originally prepared by editorial request, because it grew too large for the purpose.

In medieval Europe, theologians reasoned from one false proposition to another, till they had built up a great tower of pseudo-science, tempered with false religious mortar, until the great Roger Bacon, and, 300 years later, Francis Bacon, with his Novum Organum (New Instrument, observation and experiment) taught people to learn by inductive facts rather than by traditional deduction. Before that time everybody accepted the teaching of Aristotle, the founder of formal logic, that heavy bodies would fall to the earth faster than light ones, till Galileo disproved it by dropping objects of various weight from the top of the leaning tower of Pisa.

If it had not been for Bacon's Novum Organus, which led to sound methods of discovering facts by induction through observation, and deduction by experiment, instead of accepting blind and superstitious traditions and assumptions, bolstered by false religion, that tried to stifle such conscientious scientists as Galileo, we would probably still be bled for fevers, be fed powdered insects for insanity, and still be hunting for the philosopher's stone, the elixir of life, and the fountain of youth, and still be under the heel of that religious system that martyred God's saints.

Deductive reasoning is indispensable for modern life to complete the subduing of the earth and the dominion over the lower creatures commanded to the race in Adam, for without such sciences as mathematics, physics and chemistry there could not be the engineering construction, economic development and conquest of disease such as we enjoy today.

So what we are about to say is not in the least against the legitimate, or natural, use of the faculty of reason, with which we have been endowed by our Creator. We simply declare that reason should stay where it belongs, in the realm of fact, and not intrude its useless and hindering activity where faith is demanded, and we are given the privilege of accepting God's words as truth, without making Him a liar by disbelief, because He who cannot lie is infinitely worthy of our full confidence and trust.

Reason cannot discover God, else we would not need a revelation. Natural religion is only superstition, mythology and idolatry. God cannot be cornered by a deductive syllogism, so that we might lay unholy hands upon Him. Nor can He by inductive methods be exposed by a scalpel, analyzed in a test-tube, or brought into the field of human vision by either a telescope or a microscope.

Neither can reason discover the truth revealed in Scripture by casting the declarations of Scripture into syllogistic forms. This proposition is the subject of our study from here onward, now that we have developed the introductory part.

The stock form of the deductive syllogism is: All men are mortal. Socrates is a man. Therefore, Socrates is mortal.

The proposition "All men are mortal" is reached by inductive reasoning, as follows:

John Smith is examined and found mortal, so is Peter Jones, and so on, until such a number of men are examined and found mortal that they are considered as representative of all men as a class, and it is considered safe to assume that all men not examined would be found to be mortal also. Then the assumption is declared to be true, that "All men are mortal." Deduction is thus based on induction. Since induction is based on partial and incomplete evidence, the validity of all inductive logic is thus nullified.

The assumption that all men are mortal, because a large number were examined and found so, is false, for faith finds one Man (1 Tim.2:5) immortal (Rom.6:9). And it is impossible for logicians to examine Him to see if He is mortal, for even if they could get near Him it would kill them.

Thus when logic enters the field of revelation it brings with it fatal assumptions that invalidate all its operations. In the natural field it does not encounter so much difficulty nor involve such momentous issues. It should therefore neither presume to raise a destructive hand against Divinity and revelation, nor trust its eyes to discover God or understand the Scriptures.


Perhaps all will admit that reason is futile to discover God or His ways, as we have so far contended, but the idea is held, and perhaps persists in the minds of some of our readers, that logic should lay hold of revelation and follow logical methods to understand and interpret the Scriptures. We now consider that final phase of our investigation, which is the main purpose of this essay. We will show that one scriptural statement can be taken for a major premise, and another for a minor, so as to make a faultless syllogism according to the six rules of formal logic developed by Aristotle, and yet the valid conclusion contradicts other declarations of Scripture.

In the following samples a is the major premise, b the minor and c a citation that contradicts the conclusion logically following from the premises:

a "Everything which is not out of faith is sin" (Rom.14:23).
b "The law is not of faith" (Gal.3:12).
c "What, then, shall we declare? That the law is sin? May it not be coming to that" (Rom.7:7).

Logicians might plausibly argue that "everything" (the "middle term") in a is not "distributed" (taken universally), but limited to eating in the immediate context. But what logician can prove that? "Who has known the mind of the Lord?" in full inspiration, as would be necessary to reason correctly in this case? (Or any other)? Does not "everything" include observance, of days in the remote context, since the two ideas are companions in the inspired discussion? If so, everyone who keeps the seventh day with the least doubt that he should, sins while trying to avoid the sin of law-breaking.

a "When Jehovah approves the ways of a man, even his enemies make peace with him" (Prov.16:7).
b "What is pleasing to Him am I doing always" (John 8:29).
c "These, my enemies, who are not willing for me to reign over them--lead them here and slay them in front of me" (Luke 19:27).

The conclusion from a and b would be that our Lord's enemies would have been divinely pacified toward Him. Then there would have been no cross. But what flaw can logic find in the syllogism? It defies all the laws of logic.

Many saints distress themselves by taking propositions from under the law and combining them with promises under grace. Others try to apply individually what the old covenant promised collectively and nationally. The law-covenant was a contract between Jehovah and Israel, so that many individual Israelites suffered poverty and disease right at the time when prosperity and health were promised the nation on condition of national obedience. Such a proposition was the basis of the debate between Job and his three friends. Most Christians still reason falsely: "I am (or some other person is) so righteous, I (or such person) should not suffer thus."

a "All these things Jesus speaks in parables to the throngs" (Matt.13:34).
b " Then Jesus speaks to the throngs" (Matt.23:1).

The conclusion would be that the language following the last citation would be parabolic. But it is not. It is simple, literal language. Can logic prove that the statement in a is limited to that occasion? In Luke 14:25 to 17:10 the whole speech to the throngs is parabolic, including the section on the rich man and Lazarus. We are in the habit of "proving" that Luke 16:19 is a parable by using Matt.13:34 for a major premise and Luke 14:25 for a minor, but there is no need to reason, for Luke 15:3 states that the speech is parabolic.

a "He [God] will not afflict" (Job.37:23)
b "He [the Son] was afflicted" (Isa.53:7).

The conclusion would be that someone else than God afflicted His Son. This, however, is contradicted by Isa.53:4 (stricken, smitten of God and afflicted).

a "While the man is living, she will be styled an adulteress if she should be becoming another man's" (Rom.7:3).
b "The seven have had her as wife" (Luke 20:33) and in resurrection "all, to Him, are living" (v.38).
c But not in adultery (v.35).

This was the syllogism of the Sadducees. Their error was double. They underestimated God's ability to raise the dead and were ignorant of the Scripture teaching that marriage is only for the present life. The first declaration regarding wedlock recorded in Scripture is that man and wife become one "flesh." Since resurrection life confers deathlessness (Luke 20:36) it is beyond flesh and all laws pertaining to it. If the Sadducees had known these Scripture facts and had noticed the word "flesh" (Gen.2:24) they would not have tried to trap the elusive Teacher by a syllogism that back-fired on them, exposing their folly.

The case of the atheist is similar when he argues: "Suppose that when you die and return to the elements, the grass takes up what was once your body to form vegetation, and a cow eats the grass. In the resurrection, will you be a man or a cow?" That appears to be a confounding question. It is no more confounding than that of the Sadducees. Let us ask the atheist, "What did you eat for dinner?" He answers, "Corned beef and cabbage." We may reply, "Well, after you assimilated your dinner, are you a cow or a cabbage-head?" This all involves so-called "identity." What is identity? In what does it consist? If, as the atheist's question implies, identity consists in exact sameness of elements, then he is a different person in adult life than he was when an infant. Who is asking the question, anyway, an adult atheist, or a mere child? According, to this reasoning, he is even a different person every instant, through metabolism.

a "Do not judge, lest you may be judged" (Matt.7:1).
b "I...have...judged the one effecting this" (1 Cor.5:3).
c But Paul will not be similarly judged (John 5:24).

So he did not deliver himself to Satan, as he did the man whom he judged. How can logic explain this?

a "Son of David" (Matt.22:42).
b David's "Lord" (v.43).
c "Designated Son of God with power" (Rom.1:4).

The question the astute Teacher asked his adversaries on this occasion was especially forcible against them, when He turned the tables on them after they tried to snare Him, because they claimed that no mortal man could be God's Son (John 5:18).

a "What you perceived in me, these be putting into practice" (Phil.4:9).
b "They became so incensed as to recoil from one another" (Acts 15:39).
c "Stand aloof from strifes" (Titus 3:9). "Taking Mark, lead him back with you, for he is useful to me for service" (2 Tim.4: 11).

All we need to do on this syllogism is to ask why should not the first word (What) be "taken universally," as the third rule, in formal logic, stipulates.

a "From Bethlehem comes the Christ" (John 7:42). "Out of Galilee no prophet is roused" (v.52).
b "He came to Nazareth (in Galilee, v.14), where He was reared" (Luke 4:16).
c "Jesus the Nazarean, a Man who came to be a prophet" (Luke 24:19).

Their error in their reasoning here consisted in confusing His birthplace with His residence. The Scriptures on both localities were equally valid. But logic alone could never solve the difficulty.

a "In it [the sabbath] thou shalt not do any work" (Ex.20: 10).
b "I must be working" (on the sabbath, v.14), (John 9:4).
c But their declaration that He was therefore a sinner (v.24) was erroneous (1 Peter 2:24).

He purposely used their loyalty to the law to blind them so that they would be sure to crucify Him. He did not obey the sabbath law (John 5:18). He was always devotedly determined to fulfil His sacrificial death (Matt.16:21-23; Luke 9:51). So He made it sure by keeping them blind about it. But He secretly revealed His action to those who had eyes to see by performing the "sign" on this occasion of first making the blind man doubly blind by covering his already blind eyes with mud, thus showing that, before Israel's blindness is removed, they must be blinded further yet by this sabbath-day miracle. So He openly preceded the sign with the declaration that, though it was the sabbath, He must work. At the close of the chapter He declared that one purpose of His first advent was to make them thus blind, and they were so blind that they thought He meant literal blindness, such as the man had who was just healed. As Isaiah put it, "Who is as blind as My servant?" Modern sabbath keepers condemn us as wantonly as they did Him.

a "Those who are in the flesh are not able to please God" (Rom.8:8).
b To be staying in the flesh is more necessary because of you" (Phil.1:24).
c "Thus are we...pleasing,...God" (1 Thess.2:4).

In a "flesh" is used as the figure of association, naming the source of sin as being sin itself. b Flesh means body tissue. How can logic determine such facts?

a "The unjust shall not be enjoying the allotment of God's kingdom" (1 Cor.6:9).
b "I...formerly was a calumniator and a persecutor and an outrager" (1 Tim.1:13).
c "The Lord will be...saving me for His celestial kingdom" (2 Tim.4:18). "I was shown mercy" (1 Tim.1:13). "Justified" (1 Cor.6:11).

This syllogism shows that logic does not recognize justification by faith, and so considers wrong-doers as being all alike, both saints and sinners, when they err, taking them all as being what they appear to be before men, instead of what they are before God. A zealous "holiness" advocate in Kentucky said to a fellow- churchman, "If you sin, aren't you a sinner?" Yes, philologically, and so, logically, by the laws of language and the fact of conduct, considered under syllogistic rules, we are compelled to conclude that he who sins is a sinner.

But when a saint sins he is a sinning saint, not a "sinner" in contradistinction from a saint, as the word is used in such Scriptures as Matt.11:13; Luke 18:13; Rom.5:8 and 1 Tim.1:15. The fornicator of 1 Cor.5 was one of the "saints" (1:2), because they were all "justified" (6:9-11). Hence he was to be "saved in the day of the Lord Jesus" (5:5).

The conflict between the faultless logic of the above reasoning and the Scriptures comes through the major premise, "Anyone who sins is a sinner," in which the middle term (Anyone) is taken universally, according to the third rule of formal logic. Then when the minor premise, "This saint sins" is joined with the major premise, seemingly the valid conclusion must follow and un-sanctify a saint every time he sins. If he does not understand the blessed truth of justification, he accepts the above logical conclusion, whether he has reasoned on the matter or not, and thinks his sin puts him outside the salvation of the evangel and so unsanctifies him until he again becomes reinstated through reconversion. This has so distressed some people that they have repeatedly been re-baptized in an effort to recover their supposedly lost standing. This is all because logic does not know God in justification, for a sinning saint is already sinless because of his faith in God's revelation, but a real "sinner" (according to Scripture, though not according to logic) is a person who has never accepted God's verdict of justification by faith in Christ. So a saint's sins do not affect his ultimate salvation, which was assured at the cross. But salvation ultimately effects good works in saints. Our evil works only bring corrective judgment now, in the flesh, while salvation is by grace, apart from former works.

a "You (the twelve) shall sit on twelve thrones" (Matt.19:28).
b "Matthias is enumerated with the eleven apostles" (Acts 1:26).
c "He was seen by the twelve" (1 Cor.15:5) who were then only eleven.

This shows that the twelve should be considered as a group, in the first citation, since they were so spoken of in the last. This settles the controversy as to who will sit on the throne vacated by Judas. Some, who contend for a strict interpretation of the first citation as being addressed to all, including Judas, say that he will have the twelfth throne. Others contend for the unfounded assumption that Paul will have it. The second citation above shows that the choice of Matthias was divinely sanctioned, despite the assertion of some that Peter and the other ten acted without warrant in his selection. For he is among the "twelve" again in Acts 6:2.

a " Teaching them to be observing all, whatever I direct you" (Matt.28:20).
b " You also ought to be washing one another's feet (John 13:14).

From these premises it is argued that we should observe foot-washing. But why not substitute for b His commands to them about preparing for the passover? Or untying a colt for "Palm Sunday?" Or paying tax by angling for a fish? The following is the wag's declaration that he could prove that you should go and hang yourself:

a "Judas went and hanged himself."
b "Go thou and do likewise."

a "God loves the world" (John 3:16).
b "Be imitators of God" (Eph.5:15).
c "Be not loving the world" (1 John 2:15).

Here "world" does not mean the same in both places. The same is true of the wording in the next:

a "Out of Him is all" (Rom.11:36).
b "Everything that is in the world, the desire of the flesh, and the desire of the eyes, and the ostentation of living, is not of the Father" (1 John 2:16).
c "Creator of evil" (Isa.45:7).

This syllogism has been brought up to prove that evil is not out of God. The first is the ultimate conclusion of all of God's ways, which shows why God locks all up together in stubbornness, that He should be merciful to all. The latter deals with a passing phase, in an enigma, not face to face (1 Cor.13:12).

a "Are you supposing that I came along to give peace to the earth? No, I am saying to you, but rather division" (Luke 12:52).
b "The works of the flesh strife, factions, dissensions, sects" (Gal.5:20).
c "Who of you is exposing Me concerning sin?" (John 8:46).

Thus the correct scriptural terms relieve the Son from guilt.

a "No one has ascended into heaven" (John 3:13).
b " Elijah was a man" (James 5:17).
c "And Elijah went up by a whirlwind into heaven" (2 Kings 2:11).

When the author, as a young minister, quoted the first reference in a sermon, he was quite "stumped" when a man in private conversation after discussion cited the case of Elijah. But Elijah could not have gone higher than the air, since the wind carried him up.

To close the list we give the reasoning of those who think that the origin of evil must be separated from God and laid upon some intermediary, a fallen angel that became the devil, or free-willed man, or some other mediate source between God and evil, in order to exonerate Him for its existence. In a recent discussion of this matter by correspondence, a brother used this argument:

But God did take His Son's life (Isa.53:4,10; Acts 3:18), though in sacrifice (Eph.5:2). The two actors, God and man, joined in one act, which was murder by man, because of hate, and sacrifice by God, because of love. The opposite motives determined the opposite character of murder and sacrifice. But it was only one death, crucifixion. Thus one act was two. Because logic cannot recognize this, it stumbles over the perplexing existence of evil in a universe where omnipotence and perfect benevolence reign.

The whole so-called "problem of evil" is comprised in this lack of perception of God's hand in all evil for good. With Him, evil is not wrong, but is only adverse. Adverse to man's ease, but not to his good. So because in the crucifixion we have the illogical fact that one death is two and evil is good, reason has a "problem of evil" that to God does not exist, and need not exist to faith and understanding.

On God's side no evil has the sense of wrong, but only in the sense of adversity. Is it wrong for you to bring evil upon your child for correction? But it is wrong for your neighbor to do it. Why the difference? Is there not a similar case regarding God and man in evil?


We close our case against logic with the accusation that it is self-contradictory, and that it thus destroy itself. This we propose to do even logically, strange as it may seem that we should use logic to disprove logic, but that will become clear as we proceed.

We propose to use a faultless syllogism to establish our contention. In the syllogism we submit the conclusion contradicts its own premises. What we offer is not an imaginary situation, but is a case that came up in the author's own experience.

A friend said of his own denomination, "We do not boast." Ideal saints do not boast, because "boasting is excluded" from them. But suppose this friend and his associates were ideal believers, and therefore free from boasting. Then let us put his declaration into a syllogism as follows:

a To say "We do not boast" is to boast.
b We do not boast.
c Therefore, we do not say, "We do not boast."

This is a logical demonstration proving that we do not say what we say in the minor premise. Thus the conclusion is made to deny its own premises, on which it is based and so logic devours itself. Can any creature that God made devour and digest itself?

How can it be logically true that, in telling the truth that we do not boast, we tell the untruth of boastfully saying that we do not say what we say when we say so, and that, in telling an untruth, by saying "We boast," though we do not, we tell the truth of boasting that we boast? Let logicians unsnarl this if they can.

If language must be taken in the opposite sense from what it says, since true and false include all categories, must we think the opposite of all we hear and read? If so, let us think, when the reasoner says, "Logic is valid," that it is untrustworthy. Prof. Logician, have you spoofed us by taking us behind the looking-glass into Alice's wonderland of contradictions, where truth becomes false by being told, and untruth is transformed into truth in the telling?

Suppose that a logician who does not boast is subpoenaed as a witness and takes the oath to tell the truth in his testimony. When the opposing attorney asks, "Do you boast?" what can he say? If he tells the truth he has sworn to tell, he must say "No." In that case he would falsify the fact concerning which he is testifying by boasting. If he tells an untruth by saying "Yes," his testimony is false, and he violates his oath to tell the truth. If he refuses to say either "Yes" or "No" he violates his oath to testify to the truth to the best of his ability, and in that case is subject to contempt of court, for he cannot plead that in answering he would testify against himself, for the true testimony would be in his favor. What can he answer, Prof. Logician? (No answer, for there is none that logic can make, and he is forced by his own logic into what is not true, which is the height of absurdity).

But there is a way out of the dilemma, and only one way out, and that is for the logician to renounce his confidence in the reasonings of the flesh for faith in God's Word. Then he can boast, if he does it "in the Lord" (1 Cor.1:31), saying, "What I say in testimony, I say by grace." Paul does that (1 Cor.15:10) and calls his defense "boasting" (2 Cor.11 and 12), because it seemed that to his critics.

So the only possible proper answer to the attorney's question is "No," and if the witness keeps away from Prof. Logic he will not have any trouble. But if Logic is the judge in the case, he will inevitably jail the witness, either for perjury in answering either "Yes" or "No," or for contempt for refusing to answer at all.

So logician, your pet, logic, gores you with both horns of his dilemma at once, without option as to which horn of the dilemma you will choose. Better stay away from him for all future time, for he cannot be trusted.

It remains only to state what we have to offer in place of natural means, as a way to understand the Scriptures, so we submit two courses, both open to the believer: Prayer, Spirituality. The first has open before it all the infinite resources of divine plentitude. The other assures us that the same spirit that produced the Scriptures will, in us, understand its own language in our consciousness. Even the illiterate can learn the deep things of God when read or expounded.

In conclusion, Is salvation by reason, or by faith? Shall it be human effort, or divine grace? Aristotle, or Christ?

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