In an earlier article, I’ve touched upon necessary apologetics skills, both soft and hard. Soft skills are those interpersonal and character traits that foster relationships between Christians and non-Christians in genuine dialogue. These should be cultivated by all believers not only those who consider themselves apologists. Hard skills are those unique to the field of apologetics: such as a knowledge of theology, philosophy, science, world religions, history, and logic.
There remains a wariness of apologetics by many who are concerned that a focus on logical maturation will starve the development of loving relationships. On one hand, many non-Christians present their attacks on the faith as founded on intellectually superior ground. “Logic,” is their tool. On the other hand, there is the fear that logic will kill our love. The picture presented of love and logic is often one of opposition. Love is warm, embracing, and personal. Logical analysis is cold, distancing, and impersonal. Sadly, there are those whose approach and demeanor in Christian apologetics only strengthens this caricature. But biblically speaking, it is a caricature nonetheless. Developing one’s analytical abilities is simply the discipline of clear thinking, while being mindful to avoid mistakes in reasoning. It can, and must, be used in evangelism and apologetics.
Doesn’t the Bible Warn us about Hollow Philosophy?
A few biblical passages frequently are commonly cited to dismiss the importance of logical analysis. Logic, after all, is a branch of philosophy, and aren’t we warned to avoid “hollow and deceptive philosophy” (Colossians 2:8, NIV) and the “wisdom of the world” (1 Corinthians 1:20-25, NIV)? The short answer is yes, but this can be misleading. Looking closer at Colossians, Paul warns the church, “See to it that no one takes you captive by philosophy and empty deceit, according to human tradition, according to the elemental spirits of the world, and not according to Christ” (Colossians 2:8, ESV). This verse specifies that philosophy that is not according to Christ is what is forbidden. Allowance for a Christ-honoring pursuit of logical development is therefore implied. Turning to 1 Corinthians, Paul’s words can be summarized by two simple points. First, the truth and power of the gospel cannot be reduced by the effects of “worldly wisdom.” Second, non-Christians reveal their hostility to God by taking His gift to humanity (higher cognitive faculties) and trying to use it against Him. We must appreciate Paul’s point and avoid falling into that trap. The gospel is divinely revealed. It reflects the wisdom of God, not humanity. Nothing about this censors the development of our reasoning ability. As we’ll see below, Paul’s own writings and example are a testament to a heart on fire and a training mind for God.
A Biblical View of Logic
Biblical examples. Biblical examples of logical reasoning abound, and it’s difficult to offer a faithful biblical presentation without potentially overwhelming one’s audience due to the wealth of biblical data. For example, much has been written on the specific ways in which Jesus himself modeled sharp critical thinking. While our Christlikeness may mean more than developing our cognitive sharpness, it certainly does not mean less. The Gospels also often present logical reasons for their portraits of Jesus. Consider the numerous passages in Matthew that underscore Christ’s messianic identity with the phrase, “this was done in fulfillment of…” The logic of these passages is clear: “Jesus is the Jewish Messiah [conclusion], and this is why you should believe it [support].”
The apostle Paul is an excellent role model in the reasoned articulation of the faith. In Acts we learn that it was his regular practice to reason and persuade others from the Scriptures in commending the message of faith in Jesus (Acts 17:3,17; 18:4; cf. 26:28; 28:24). This is also clearly seen in his letter. Each epistle is an extended argument, with each chapter moving forth to establish his points. In Galatians, Paul argues we cannot add our good works to the atonement of Christ (2:21), with each illustration, OT citation, analogy, and argument aimed at bolstering and supporting that message.
The Bible presents us with several interconnected reasons to develop our minds. The first is what can be called the theocentric motive. This motive puts God front and center. Investing in the development of our minds is something that is done as worship to God. We are to love Him with all of our heart, soul, strength, and mind (Mark 12:30). The fear of the Lord is not a reason to reject the study of logic and persuade. It is His very motivation (2 Corinthians 5:11). God has graciously equipped humanity with higher cognitive capabilities than all other sentient life. We reason because God reasons. “Our experience of thinking, reasoning, and forming arguments imitates God and reflects the mind of God. Our logic reflects God’s logic. Logic, then, is an aspect of God’s mind. Logic is universal among all human beings in all cultures, because there is only one God, and we are all made in the image of God.”With thanksgiving, we should turn this gift back to the Giver, using it to learn more about His word, His nature, and His creation.
A second motive the Bible provides to us is the evangelistic/apologetic motive. The Scripture teaches us that Christians have been transferred from the dominion of darkness to the kingdom of Christ (Colossians 1:13). As such we are given the mind of Christ (1 Corinthians 2:16). In obedience to King Jesus we take captive all thoughts which oppose our Lord (2 Corinthians 10:3-6). Paul specifically teaches that the Christian manner of combating enemies doesn’t follow the tactics presented by the world. We target thoughts. We oppose false claims. And in doing so, we follow our Lord, who set the pattern for us (1 John 2:6; 1 Peter 2:21).
The third biblical motive we’ll discuss here is the philanthropic motive. We develop our reasoning ability to speak the truth in love persuasively to others who have not tasted the goodness of God. Is trying to persuade people that Christianity is true a bad thing? Not if we take our cue from the Bible. Jude tells us to “contend for the faith that was delivered to the saints once for all” (Jude 3, CSB), Paul instructs Timothy to “correct his opponents” (2 Timothy 2:25, ESV), that Scripture is profitable for “for reproof, for correction” (2 Timothy 3:16, ESV), as well as to “reprove, rebuke, and exhort, with complete patience and teaching” (2 Timothy 4:2, ESV). Like to Titus, Paul teaches that Elders must “hold firm to the trustworthy word as taught, so that he may be able to give instruction in sound doctrine and also to rebuke those who contradict it (Titus 1:9, ESV),” and that false teachers “must be silenced” (Titus 1:11, ESV). The motive for correction is love, a love stemming from an active faith (Galatians 5:6). Apologists should pray to be divinely-used instruments in God’s purpose to draw people to himself (Matthew 9:38).
In conclusion, we need more apologists with sharp critical thinking skills to hear and evaluate the truth claims of the world around us. The same Paul that commanded that we “speak the truth in love” (Ephesians 4:15) also said, “We destroy arguments and every lofty opinion raised against the knowledge of God, and take every thought captive to obey Christ” (2 Corinthians 10:5, ESV). Both are needed: A loving heart devoted to God and neighbor, and a mind passionate for truth. Let us never divide what God has brought together.
 Articles on how Jesus modeled critical thinking include the works of Dallas Willard, J. P. Moreland, and Dave Miller. Books addressing the subject would include On Jesus by Douglas Groothius, (Cengage Learning, 2002), Logic and the Way of Jesus by Travis Dickinson (Nashville, TN: B&H Academic, 2022), and Jesus Christ and the Life of the Mind by Mark Noll (Eerdmans, 2013). General works on a Christian view of intellectual development include Love God with All Your Mind: The Role of Reason in the Life of the Soul by J. P. Moreland, (Colorado Springs, CO: NavPress, 1997), and Think: The Life of the Mind and the Love of God by John Piper, (Wheaton IL: Crossway, 2011).
 Vern S. Poythress, Logic: A God-Centered Approach to the Foundation of Western Thought Wheaton, IL: Crossway, 2013), 64.
Published August 15, 2022