Thinus Malan

Should Christians Study Logic?

Thinus Malan | 1 April 2020 | 8 min read

The art of thinking logically is something that has largely fallen into disuse among Christians. Dallas Willard for example says that “Few today will have seen the words ‘Jesus’ and ‘logician’ put together to form a phrase or sentence, unless it would be to deny any connection between them at all.”[1] One has to wonder why even Christians have generally become so apathetic towards logical thinking.  Historically, the Church has always held logic and philosophy in high regard as a type of handmaiden to good and proper theology. And we know that without sound theology, our faith would become empty and void. For how can we have faith in a God whom we do not know? And how can we begin to know God without reading His Word? And how can we understand His Word without a rigorous hermeneutic that is tethered to the laws of logic?[2]

The Bible clearly teaches that every Christian, according to his ability, ought to practice logical thinking as a spiritual discipline. In this article, two reasons will be given for this. Firstly, we need logic to grow in our sanctification. We are called to continually grow in our obedience to Christ by persistently studying and applying Scripture to our daily lives. Secondly, we are also called to become ever more Christ-like in our daily lives. We see that Christ Himself employed clear logical thinking to interpret and make sense of the Scriptures. He also made logical arguments to defend and proclaim the truth. From this, it only follows logically that we, as Christians, ought to also practice logical thinking. Studying logic, formally or informally, can be a good start on our journey to loving God with our minds.

Sanctification is Nested in Studying the Scriptures

Sanctification is the life-long process of dying to the self and living for Christ.[3] After a person is justified through faith in Christ, the Bible teaches us that he is a new creation.[4] Note that the Bible states this as a matter of fact. All people in Christ are made new. From this premise Paul argues further that we also ought to live as people who are made new.[5] The life of a Christian is one of constant transformation to become what God intended him to be. We are not saved by good works, but saved for good works.[6] This process is by no means one of mere self-betterment. C.S. Lewis astutely observed that “Your real, new self (which is Christ’s and also yours, and yours just because it is His) will not come as long as you are looking for it.” He adds, “It will come when you are looking for Him.”[7] To live for Christ is, in one sense, to long for Him. It is to live in a relationship with Him. It is to love Him. This is our highest calling on earth, to love God with all our heart, mind, and soul; and to love our neighbour as ourselves.[8]

Nowadays, the meaning of the word love has been robbed of almost all spiritual significance. In our modern LGBTQIA+ culture, we Christians have become greatly influenced by modern-day culture which defines love as merely some emotional or physical attraction. When Jesus summarises all the Law and the Prophets with these two commandments, He actually provides the perfect definition of love. Love is the fulfilment of the law.[9] We love God if we obey His Word and we love our neighbour if we treat them according to God’s law (as being made in the image of God).

If the essence of sanctification is loving God and our neighbour, and love is obeying God’s Word, then one must conclude that obeying God’s Word is absolutely essential for our sanctification. But in order to obey God’s Word, one must first come to know it. And for this knowledge to blossom into obedience, we must properly understand how to apply it to our daily lives, as the apostle Paul reminds us in 2 Timothy 3:16-17:

“All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness, so that the servant of God may be thoroughly equipped for every good work.”

We are called to actively engage in this process of sanctification which involves being “equipped for every good work.”[10] From this verse it is clear that God has given us everything we need for our sanctification in the Bible. This means that we really ought to study the Scriptures, for it is our only guide to be transformed and molded into the image of Christ.

Logic is Essential to Studying the Scriptures

At times, studying the Bible is not an easy task.[11] But, we are called to do it nonetheless.[12] The Bible is God’s infallible Word.[13] However, it was written down by humans in human languages.[14] This suggests, firstly, that there are no contradictions in the Bible given its divine origin, and secondly, that there are different contexts we have to keep in mind when reading the text.[15] Since the Bible was inspired by one Author, it would be fitting to treat the Bible as a unity from beginning to end. Text-with-text comparisons is, therefore, a valid way of determining meaning in certain passages.

But what will guide us in this whole process? We cannot use the Bible, because this is precisely the thing we are trying to understand. The discipline that deals with these fundamental principles of interpretation is called hermeneutics.[16] All hermeneutics must be based on clear and logical reasoning. For if one grants that contradictions (illogical thought) are valid, how can one consistently apply the same principles in one’s hermeneutic? One cannot be consistent and contradictory at once! The laws of logic are the basis of any discipline, including hermeneutics and theology.

So, we have seen that God calls us to grow in sanctification. In order to grow in sanctification, we need to study the Scriptures and apply it to our daily lives. But in order to understand the text, which we are called to study in order to be able to apply it, we must employ a valid hermeneutic.[17] And in order to consistently use this hermeneutic we need to think logically. From this it follows that logical thinking is indeed necessary for our sanctification. Of course, not all people who think logically will grow in sanctification. But, without logical thinking, we will inevitably fail to grasp the truth of Scripture, which we so desperately need in order to be transformed into the image of Christ.[18]

We Must be Disciples of our Great Logician

We have seen in the first section that understanding the Bible comes prior to applying it. Secondly, the proper application of it ought to follow if we really understand the Bible. For this is actually what sanctification is all about. It is being transformed to the likeness of Christ. It is to train ourselves to be holy like He is holy.[19] We study the Bible because it is in its pages that we see the Image we are called to imitate.[20] And if we take a closer look at Christ, we will see that one of the many things which we are called to imitate is loving God with our minds.

At the very beginning of Jesus’ ministry He is guided by the Spirit to enter the wilderness to be tempted by Satan, the devil.[21] In this confrontation we see how Jesus not only knew the Scriptures, but used it perfectly to resist the devil. Three times the devil tried to twist the Scripture to tempt Jesus. Listen to what Jesus said in Matthew 4:5-7 when He answered the second temptation:

“Then the devil took him to the holy city and had him stand on the highest point of the temple. ‘If you are the Son of God,’ he said, ‘throw yourself down. For it is written: “He will command his angels concerning you, and they will lift you up in their hands, so that you will not strike your foot against a stone.”‘ Jesus answered him, ‘It is also written: “Do not put the Lord your God to the test.”‘”

Note that Jesus recognizes the devil’s distortion of the Scriptures. Satan quotes a text where the context clearly states that God is trustworthy and loving towards His children.[22] He uses this text to tempt Jesus and by implication to test God. The main purpose of this type of testing is to sow doubt and disregard. Satan is therefore using a text to tempt Jesus to distrust precisely what the text is actually affirming, namely, God’s trustworthiness. This is why Jesus quotes from Deuteronomy 6:16, which forbids testing God in this manner.[23]

Now, we know that Jesus, being human and divine, never sinned.[24] That means that even in this confrontation, He perfectly loved God with all His heart, mind and soul.[25] Jesus uses perfect logical reasoning as an act of loving God with His mind. As Willard reminds us “Jesus is a thinker,” and “his other attributes do not preclude thought… He constantly uses the power of logical insight to enable people to come to the truth about themselves and about God…”[26] Therefore, Jesus recalls the context of the text Satan is quoting. He comprehends how it applies to His situation. He recognizes Satan’s perverted use of the text. Jesus sees the underlying suggestion of the devil, that He must doubt God’s trustworthiness. He recalls another text where this behaviour (doubting) is condemned. He understands that God cannot contradict Himself[27] by forbidding and commanding the same behaviour at the same time, and that God is truly trustworthy.[28] He quotes the truth of what God reveals about the matter in order to expose the lie of Satan, which suggested that God is untrustworthy.

Jesus also made numerous other arguments; from proving His divinity to exposing the sinful hearts of man. In Mark 2, Jesus heals the paralytic as proof of His authority to forgive sins.[29] He refers to Himself as “the Son of Man,” a clear reference to Daniel 7 where this figure called “the Son of Man” receives worship.[30] It signifies that Jesus is God, because only God may receive worship.[31] Jesus uses logic to refute the Pharisees’ argument that Jesus drives out demons with the power of the devil.[32] He proves the opposite to be true, namely that the power and authority of God flow through Him. In Matthew 22, Jesus exposes the ignorance of the Pharisees by means of a logical argument and this teaching astonishes the crowd.[33] In Mark 11, Jesus leads the Pharisees, who doubted His authority, into a logical dilemma to expose their hypocrisy.[34] It is clear that Jesus was a master of logic and argumentation. Norman Geisler and Paul Zukeran observe that “Jesus employed the basic forms of reasoning in His discourses. As the Logos (Reason) of God, it is not surprising that He exemplifies principles of reasoning in His presentation and defense of truth.”[35] Jesus consistently used His mind to further the Gospel. By loving God with His mind, Jesus advanced His Kingdom on earth.

In conclusion, the Bible calls us to actively grow in our sanctification by studying and applying the Bible to our daily lives. The Bible is our only guide in doing so, but the Bible must first be interpreted to be understood. The means by which we interpret the Bible is a rigorous hermeneutic tethered to the laws of logic. Logical thinking is therefore essential to our sanctification. But, should Christians study logic? In some sense I think the Bible clearly teaches that we should. Maybe not formally, but we ought to at least train ourselves in thinking logically. We should, however, use this skill to ultimately follow in the footsteps of our great Logician. He knew the Scriptures like no other, loved God with His mind like no other, and managed to logically defend the truth like no other. Jesus held logical thinking in high regard. We ought to pay “careful attention to how Jesus made use of logical thinking… and… accept him as master in all of the areas of intellectual life in which we may participate.”[36]

Suggested Readings

Geisler, Norman L. and Brooks, Ronald M. Come Let Us Reason: An Introduction to Logic. Grand Rapids: Baker Book House, 1990.

Kreeft, Peter. Socratic Logic: A Logic Text Using Socratic Method, Platonic Questions, and Aristotelian Principles. South Bend: St. Augustine’s Press, 2014.

Moreland, J.P. and Craig, William Lane. Philosophical Foundations for a Christian Worldview. Downers Grover: InterVarsity Press, 2017.

Poythress, Vern Sheridan. Logic: A God-centered Approach to the Foundation of Western Thought. Wheaton: Crossway, 2013.

The opinions and views expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views and opinions of the employees and members of Ratio Christi South Africa.


[1] “Jesus the Logician” by Dallas Willard, available at http://www.dwillard.org/articles/individual/jesus-the-logician accessed March 30, 2020.

[2] Hermeneutics is the term that is used to refer to the study of the principles of interpretation.

[3] Romans 6:6-18; Galatians 2:20.

[4] 2 Corinthians 5:17: “Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. The old has passed away; behold, the new has come.”

[5] Ephesians 4:20-24.

[6] Ephesians 2:10: “For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them.”

[7] C.S. Lewis, Mere Christianity (San Francisco: HarperSanFrancisco), 162.

[8] Matthew 22:37-39.

[9] Romans 13:8-10.

[10] John 15:2, 8, 16; Romans 8:12-13; 12:9, 16-17; 1 Corinthians 6:9-10; 2 Corinthians 7:1; Galatians 5:16-23; 6:7-8, 15; Colossians 3:5-14; 1 Peter 1:22.

[11] 2 Peter 3:15-16.

[12] Acts 17:11; 2 Timothy 2:15; Ephesians 6:17.

[13] 2 Peter 1:20-21; John 17:17; 2 Timothy 3:16; Titus 1:2; Matthew 5:18; Proverbs 30:5; Psalm 119:160; Isaiah 40:8.

[14] 2 Peter 3:16; 1 Thessalonians 2:13; Hebrews 3:7, 4:7; Matthew 22:31.

[15] Literary context, historical and cultural context, covenantal context, linguistic context etc.

[16] WC Kaiser Jr. & M Silva, Introduction to Biblical Hermeneutics (Michigan: Zondervan, 2007), 17.

[17] To employ a valid hermeneutic, one doesn’t need to be a scholar. Even a simple intuitive hermeneutic would suffice. But even this simple hermeneutic is dependent on sound logical reasoning.

[18] Romans 12:1-2; Philippians 1:9; 2 Peter 3:18.

[19] 1 Peter 1:16.

[20] John 5:39; 1 Corinthians 11:1; 2 Corinthians 3:18; John 13:12-15.

[21] Matthew 4:1.

[22] Psalm 91:11-12.

[23] Exodus 17:7; Deuteronomy 6:16.

[24] 1 Peter 2:22; 2 Corinthians 5:21; Hebrews 4:15; 1 John 3:5; John 8:29; Isaiah 53:9; 1 Peter 1:18-19.

[25] For He kept the Great Commandment perfectly.

[26] Willard, Jesus the Logician.

[27] Numbers 23:19; Hebrews. 6:17-18; Tit. 2:13.

[28] Psalm 33:4; Psalm 18:30; 2 Corinthians 1:18; Isaiah 25:1; Deuteronomy 32:4; Psalm 91:4.

[29] Mark 2:1-12.

[30] Daniel 7:9-14.

[31] Exodus 20:3; 34:14.

[32] Matthew 12:22-32.

[33] Matthew 22:29-33.

[34] Mark 11:27-33.

[35] Norman L. Geisler & Patrick Zukeran, The Apologetics of Jesus: A Caring Approach to Dealing with Doubters (Grand Rapids: Baker Books), 68.

[36] Willard, Jesus the Logician.

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