Paul and Logic, Part Two: Doctrine and Apologetics

In Part One, I discussed Paul’s view of logic and its relation to the Word and doctrine. Paul viewed logical conclusions as fallible and submissive to the Word. Even so, Paul greatly respected logical thought. In Parts Two and Three, I want to look at a few ways Paul actually used logic.

Paul made great use of logic in his epistles. His logical thought is seen in his constant use of connecting words like “for,” “because,” “therefore,” etc.

Paul used “gar” 433 times. Gar is usually translated “for.” It is usually a conclusive term which introduces the reason for the statement that precedes it. He ate the bread for (because) he was hungry.

Paul used “oun” 116 times. Oun is usually translated “therefore.”

The second Scripture source in Part One involved Paul’s view of logizomai/logismos. Paul used logizomai 42 times (out of a total 49 in the NT), logismos (reasonable) twice (no one else uses this word).


In class[ical] literature, logizomai means to “deliberate, to conclude.” Esp. in Plato it is the typical term for the non-emotional thinking of the philosopher seeking suprapersonal knowledge, in this case, the receptive apprehension of something objectively present. (Theological Dictionary of the New Testament, Kittel.)

Hence, logizomai means: (a) reckon, credit, rank with, calculate; (b) consider, deliberate, grasp, draw a logical conclusion, decide. (J. Eichler, The New International Dictionary of New Testament Theology.)

This word was used in both accounting and philosophy. That mix of ideas suggests reasoning viewed as a logical-mathematical endeavor.

In Part One, I discussed Paul’s prescribed method of evaluating the teachings of Paul and Apollos. Paul wanted them to evaluate the teachings: Are they Scripture-based, or do they go beyond what is written? He uses this word, logizomai, to introduce the section about solving the controversy between himself and Apollos: “This is how one should regard us…” (1 Cor 4:1). Paul is saying, “This is how you should logically figure out which of us is right. So think. Figure it out. Who is Bible-based, and who is speaking for themselves?”

In examining logic in Paul’s hands, I see three categories. When we emulate Paul’s logic, we should know which category we are emulating with any given application of logic. The distinction will effect how we treat those conclusions.

Category 1: Reasoning from General Principle to General Principle

By “general” I mean that the principle depicts a truth that is true regardless of the person doing the reasoning. It is not subject to his own life experiences. Put another way, this is reasoning from explicit doctrine to implicit doctrine. However, since Paul was inspired, his implicit doctrines are also now to be viewed as explicit.

Romans 3:9-28

What then? are we better than they [the Jews]? No, in no wise: for we have before proved both Jews and Gentiles, that they are all under sin;

As it is written, There is none righteous, no, not one:

There is none that understandeth, there is none that seeketh after God.

They are all gone out of the way, they are together become unprofitable; there is none that doeth good, no, not one.

Their throat is an open sepulchre; with their tongues they have used deceit; the poison of asps is under their lips:

Whose mouth is full of cursing and bitterness:

Their feet are swift to shed blood:

Destruction and misery are in their ways:

And the way of peace have they not known:

There is no fear of God before their eyes.

Now we know that what things soever the law saith, it saith to them who are under the law: that every mouth may be stopped, and all the world may become guilty before God. Therefore by the deeds of the law there shall no flesh be justified in his sight: for by the law is the knowledge of sin.

But now the righteousness of God without the law is manifested, being witnessed by the law and the prophets; Even the righteousness of God which is by faith of Jesus Christ unto all and upon all them that believe: for there is no difference: For all have sinned, and come short of the glory of God; Being justified freely by his grace through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus: Whom God hath set forth to be a propitiation through faith in his blood, to declare his righteousness for the remission of sins that are past, through the forbearance of God; To declare, I say, at this time his righteousness: that he might be just, and the justifier of him which believeth in Jesus.

Where is boasting then? It is excluded. By what law? of works? Nay: but by the law of faith.

Therefore we conclude [logizomai] that a man is justified by faith without the deeds of the law.

Paul’s conclusion here is a doctrinal matter. As is his custom, he argues from Scripture. We know that his conclusion is correct for two reasons: 1) because his writing has been accepted as Scripture, and 2) we can evaluate his logic and see that it is valid and Bible-based. Modern theologians are not inspired; therefore, we accept their doctrines only when we see that they have a valid, biblical basis. This does not negate the importance of logic; it only reminds us of the fallibility of modern theologians.

Category 1 logic deals with the logical pursuit of truth by means of reasoning from the Word. Paul boldly goes beyond the Scriptures, carefully leading his reader as he goes. This last aspect is important. Paul rarely asserted logic without showing logic. The reader is expected to believe the conclusion because the reader agrees that it is logical.

Two conditions distinguish it from categories 2 and 3.

First, Category 1 logic does not seek to prove the faith. Instead, it assumes the truth of the Scriptures, the Words of Christ, and occasionally direct revelation to the apostles.

Second, Category 1 logic does not deal with application of the Word (or principles derived from the Word) to our time-limited individual lives. As such, it is not affected by our own viewpoint or experiences. In other words, it does not use any natural revelation as premises.

God calls us to ascertain this narrow line of truth from the Word. It is what Paul called “orthotomounta” (right dividing) in 2 Timothy 2:15. We should strive to mine topical veins of truth through the ore of the Word. But, even doing so, there is the possibility of being ashamed for what we reason from the Word. Paul’s way to prevent this is to study the Word thoroughly.

Category 1 may be the most important use of logic. Certainly, it is the most common with Paul. His writings are filled with this type of reasoning. This is especially true in the first section of his epistles, where he tends to deal heavily with doctrine. Paul makes propositions and defends them with reason. Only rarely does he appeal to his own apostolic authority or claim to have a concept that is directly revealed from the Lord.

Category 2: Reasoning in Regard to Apologetics for the Faith

1 Corinthians 15:12-19

Now if Christ be preached that he rose from the dead, how say some among you that there is no resurrection of the dead?

But if there be no resurrection of the dead, then is Christ not risen:

And if Christ be not risen, then is our preaching vain, and your faith is also vain.

Yea, and we are found false witnesses of God; because we have testified of God that he raised up Christ: whom he raised not up, if so be that the dead rise not.

For if the dead rise not, then is not Christ raised:

And if Christ be not raised, your faith is vain; ye are yet in your sins.

Then they also which are fallen asleep in Christ are perished.

If in this life only we have hope in Christ, we are of all men most miserable.

Paul’s argument in this passage deals with the logical consequences of a false teaching: “there is no resurrection of the dead.” The end result is that you must logically accept certain things if you accept the proposition that Christ is not risen. Included in this is that you must accept that we are still in our sins and that we are the most miserable of men.

Although Paul doesn’t finish the argument, it seems that he is using a modus tollens. The next step in that type of argument is in this case obvious. The argument is completed by the assumed assertion that Paul and those in the faith are not miserable. They have great joy in the Lord. Thus, the beginning of the argument must be rejected.

This last portion of the argument (which I’ve assumed), “I’m not miserable,” prevents this from being a apologetic for the faith. The whole thing rests on faith. After all, Paul is saying that IF those things are so, then he must be chasing a falsehood—and his whole faith is in vain. Augustine writes on this passage:

But all these false inferences followed legitimately from the opinion of those who said that there is no resurrection of the dead. These inferences, then, being repudiated as false, it follows that since they would be true if the dead rise not, there will be a resurrection of the dead. As then valid conclusions may be drawn not only from true but from false propositions, the laws of valid reasoning may easily be learnt in the schools ….But the truth of propositions must be inquired into in the sacred books…. (On Christian Doctrine II, 49)

I do not know of a true apologetic for the faith from Paul. Paul’s faith is that he believed Shema and understood Jewish religion. He knew the Jewish faith enough to know that those who claimed that Jesus was God were either right or blasphemous. Then Jesus came and knocked him off his feet.

Category 2 is possibly the least “important.” Paul seems to spend the least time with it. He does not seem to believe that it is of great importance. Note that the condition of timelessness also applies to Category 2. Apologetics for the faith do not include application to our time-limited lives. They deal with the overall truth of the legitimacy faith—for everyone.

In fact, both Category 1 and 2 logic produce conclusions that, when correct, should be shared by everyone. This universal aspect teaches us how to deal with the controversy when two people disagree about some general principle of doctrine. For instance, what do we say when one person holds to the Trinity and another believes in Modalism? Can both be right? No—for we are dealing here with timeless truth about God. Not the time-bound applications of men.

To what authority do we appeal when the time comes for correction, reproof, and instruction? Our authority is the Word and, as it was for Paul, those logical conclusions which we can demonstrate to our hearer.

The logic of Category 3 is also vitally important—and often misunderstood. That is the subject of Part Three.
Dan & Jenny Miller–––—
Dan Miller is an ophthalmologist living in Cedar Falls, Iowa. He received a B.S. in Premed from Bob Jones University in 1991 and an M.D. from The University of South Carolina School of Medicine in 1995. He serves as youth leader and board member at Cedar Heights Baptist Church, also in Cedar Falls. He has been happily married to Jenny since 1992. His opinions are not necessarily those of his church or board.

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