We saw previously that the Bible can make sense of laws of logic and their properties, and that the three laws of thought are rooted in the nature of God. However, non-biblical worldviews cannot make sense of laws of logic or their properties. As one example, consider materialism: the belief that all things that exist are physical and extended in space. It is quite obvious that materialism cannot make sense of abstract laws because abstract things are non-material, and the materialist does not allow for the existence of the non-material. But really, any worldview that denies the Bible cannot make sense of the existence and properties of laws of logic. Why should there be abstract laws that govern all correct reasoning? Who decides what these laws are? Why would such laws be universal, and invariant? Even if a person were to presume that laws of logic existed and had all these properties, how could that person possibly know that laws of logic are such? What are some possible ways in which the non-Christian might attempt to account for laws of logic?
Some people might say that they really can’t explain why laws of logic exist or have the properties that they have, but they don’t need to because they know from experience that laws of logic are as they are. “Who cares why laws of logic exist? We use them because they work.” There are many problems with this answer. If laws of logic were merely based on human experience, then it would be irrational to arbitrarily assume that they will apply to as-yet-unexperienced situations. For example, when people landed on the moon, they expected that laws of logic would work there, and yet no one had ever experienced being on the moon before. Astronomers assume that laws of logic work the same in deep space, even though no one has ever been there to experience it. So, experience cannot justify our expectation that laws of logic will work in as-yet-unexperienced situations or places. And yet we somehow know that logic will work in such situations.
Furthermore, all our experiences are in the past, and yet we somehow expect laws of logic to work in the future – a future that no one has experienced. Why? It is irrational to automatically assume that all things will be in the future like they have been in the past; otherwise you would have to conclude that you are immortal. After all, you have never died in the past. Can you therefore conclude that you will never die in the future? That would be silly, and yet people assume that laws of logic will work in the future just like in the past.
Only the Christian worldview can justify our expectation that laws of logic will work in the future as in the past, and in all locations, because God’s mind controls all of reality. God is sovereign, omni-present, and does not change with time. We know these things because God has revealed them to us in His Word. Therefore, we can be assured that logic, which reflects His thinking, will be the same at all times and locations. But mere human experience just doesn’t cut it.
Creations of People?
Some might claim that laws of logic were created by people. In this view, laws of logic are conventions that people have found useful and therefore chose to obey. Why should we not contradict ourselves? They would answer, “because we have found that when we do, it doesn’t go well for us. The result is always false.” Why follow the law of the excluded middle? They would say, “because we have never found a third alternative – a situation where neither the proposition nor its negation are true.” Some would add that we should follow laws of logic because they are intuitively obvious.
Unfortunately, there are many problems with this view. If laws of logic were created by people, then these laws could not have existed before people. And yet, it is absurd to think that the law of noncontradiction didn’t exist at one point. Was there ever a time – before human beings – when both a proposition and its negation were both true? If so, what was that proposition? Laws of logic were discovered by people, but they existed before people and were therefore not created by people.
Furthermore, if laws of logic were merely conventions that people find useful (like the metric system), then other people and cultures would have developed different laws of logic, just as some cultures use the British system rather than the metric. When you drive from the United States to Canada, you must stop thinking in terms miles and start thinking in terms of kilometers. But laws of logic are not like that. They don’t change from one nation to the next. They are universal. Laws of logic apply even in places that no human being has ever visited – such as the Andromeda Galaxy.
Nor would we expect laws of logic to be invariant if they were invented by people. After all, laws created by people change from time to time. There was a time when the national speed limit in the United States was 55 miles per hour. But that law was repealed. On the other hand, the law of noncontradiction will never be repealed. It was not created by humanity and cannot therefore be repealed by humanity. Thus, laws of logic cannot merely be humanly stipulated conventions.
Reflections of the Universe?
Some people have suggested that laws of logic are simply a reflection of the way the physical universe is. In this view, we discover laws of logic much the way we discover laws of nature, such as the law of gravity. We learn from experience that this is simply the way the universe is. Such people ask, “Why invoked God?”
This view also has its problems. First, it merely pushes the problem back. Namely, why should a chance universe obey any sort of laws at all? How can you have laws without a law-giver? Why is the universe constrained to obey the law of noncontradiction, and the law of the excluded middle? Nor does this view account for the properties of laws of logic. Why should they by universal, invariant, and abstract?
After all, the universe is very different in different places. Some places, like the core of the sun, are 15 million degrees Celsius! Other places are less than three degrees above absolute zero. Much of the universe is nearly empty of matter. Other places, such as neutron stars, are so dense that a tablespoon of material would have more mass than a battleship. If laws of logic merely reflected the universe, then we would expect them to be very different in different places, just as the universe is. Yet, we expect the law of noncontradiction works just as well at the core of the sun as the surface of a neutron star.
The universe also changes from time to time. Stars explode. Comets disintegrate. The Earth’s northern hemisphere has a particularly hot summer one year, and a relatively cool one the next year. If laws of logic merely reflected a changing universe, then we would expect them to change as well. And we would have no reason to think that laws of logic will work tomorrow as they work today. After all, no one has experienced the universe tomorrow – not yet anyway!
In this view, there would be no reason to expect that laws of logic would exist at all, apart from a law-giver. There would be no reason to expect that such laws do not change with time. It will not do to say, “Well, they haven’t changed in my lifetime,” because your lifetime is only a tiny subsection of time. It would be like newborn baby assuming that the sky is always black because he was born at night and has not yet lived to see his first sunrise. Nor could we assume that laws of logic work everywhere in the universe. After all, all our experiences are limited to Earth, which is a very tiny part of the universe. On what basis could we reasonably extrapolate our limited experience to all of reality?
And perhaps the most devastating problem with this view is that laws of logic are not really about the physical universe at all. They are laws of thought. They describe the correct chain of reasoning; they do not describe the conditions of the universe. So, it would not make sense that they merely reflect the physical universe. They describe and govern correct thinking, not matter and energy.
Reflections of Another God?
Some unbelievers might point to another god as the justification for laws of logic. After all, there are many religions in the world, with many different gods. Perhaps the gods of the ancient Greeks or Romans are responsible for laws of logic. Or perhaps Allah of Islam is responsible. But recall what the Bible says about the source of knowledge: The fear of the Lord is the beginning of knowledge (Proverbs 1:7). The Lord – not “a god or gods.” Furthermore, all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge are deposited in Christ (Colossians 2:3), not Allah, Apollo, or Zeus.
It is very easy to show that no polytheistic religion can make sense of laws of logic. After all, which god’s thinking should we follow? Should we pattern our thoughts after Zeus, Apollo, Hermes, or Hera? If they are truly different gods, then they will have different thoughts. If laws of logic reflect the thinking of one or more of these gods, then which one is right? Followers of Zeus would have different laws of logic than followers of Hera. Yet, laws of logic are universal and unchanging.
We should also note that the pagan gods were rather fickle according to the stories. They would change over time. And in many religions, different gods governed different regions. So, if laws of logic reflected their thinking, then these laws would not be universal nor invariant. Clearly, polytheistic religions cannot make sense of the laws of logic and their properties.
The main monotheistic religions in the world are Christianity, Judaism, and Islam. Christianity is the culmination of Judaism; the Old Testament points to Christ as the one true God and Savior. But can Islam account for laws of logic and their properties? Can they reflect the thinking of Allah? No. The reason is pretty clear. The thinking of Allah, according to the Quran, is not according to the principles of laws of logic.
For example, consider the law of noncontradiction. This is rooted in the nature of the biblical God who cannot deny Himself (2 Timothy 2:13). Hence, truth never contradicts truth. But this cannot be rooted in the nature of Allah because Allah does contradict himself. As one example, Allah endorses the Gospel of Jesus (Surah 3:3, 5:68), while simultaneously contradicting the Gospel of Jesus (Surah 4:157).
Reflections of an Invented God?
After seeing how the biblical God can account for laws of logic, and the secular view cannot, some people will in desperation appeal to a god of their own imagination. “Well, you don’t need the biblical God. I can explain the laws of logic as being a reflection of a god that I have invented.” The problems with this view are legion.
First, any “god” invented by the critic exists only in his mind. It is, by design, a work of fiction. And a fictional god cannot justify the existence or properties of anything. It takes something real to justify something real. For example, suppose someone asks, “Why do tables have legs?” A reasonable answer would be “to prevent the table from falling under the force of gravity.” That’s a good answer because gravity is real. But if gravity were merely fiction, and things didn’t really fall, then that answer would not justify the existence of legs on a table. It would not really explain why they are there. So, a fictional god cannot justify laws of logic or anything else for that matter.
The critic may claim that the God of the Bible is merely a work of fiction. But that is not the Christian claim. The Bible asserts that God is real, that He really is the cause of the universe. And God’s very real nature is why laws of logic are the way they are. If the critic continues to insist that the biblical God is fictional, then ask, “Then how can you make sense of the existence and properties of laws of logic?” And we are right back where we started. The Christian worldview presents a real God that can make sense of laws of logic. The invented god of the critic cannot justify anything.
On the other hand, the critic might suggest that his god is in fact real, and that the properties of this god can account for the existence and properties of laws of logic. But then we must ask, how do we know anything about that god? We know about the biblical God because He has revealed Himself to us and has done so objectively and propositionally in the Bible. The Bible is open to inspection by all. So if anyone has any question about the nature of God, he or she can look to the Bible. But how do we know the nature of the critic’s god?
The critic might say that his god revealed himself to him privately. But then we would have to ask, “How do you know? Are you sure you were hearing from your god? Or was it merely your own imagination?” Since the critic does not have objective propositional revelation available to inspection by all (e.g. the Bible), he will have difficulty defending his belief.
Furthermore, the critic’s invented god would have to have all the same characteristics as the biblical God in order to account for the laws of logic. Namely, this god would have to be unchanging, omni-present, sovereign over all creation, and would have to have revealed himself in the Bible in order for us to know any of these things. But if the critic’s god is identical to the biblical God in every way, then he would have to be the biblical God. So the critic has unwittingly admitted that he knows that God is the basis for laws of logic; yet the critic refuses to acknowledge this or be thankful (Romans 1:21).
Critics of the Bible often take an ABC approach: “Anything But Christ.” They are willing to believe in any god, even a fictional invented god of their own imagination, rather than submit to the real one. This is part of our sin nature. The great efforts that unbelievers go to in order to suppress the truth in unrighteousness is a confirmation of Romans 1:18-20. By denying the Bible as God’s Word they unwittingly confirm it.