By Femi Aribisala
Pull Quote: When faith is phony, it seeks refuge in illogicality.
Peter says to Christians: “Always be ready to give a logical defence to anyone who asks you to account for the hope that is in you.” (1 Peter 3:15). However, most Christians cannot do this because our understanding of the faith does not make logical sense. We believe things that are contradictory and pre-eminently illogical. This makes our faith rationally indefensible. Seat most Christians in a discussion-panel with atheists or agnostics and we would easily become a laughing-stock.
For example, some Christians maintain Jesus has taken away our sins. If so, why are we still so sinful? We say Jesus paid for our sins and at the same time insist our sins are forgiven. But if our sins are paid for, that means they are not forgiven. If our sins are forgiven, no one needs to pay for them. We say Jesus paid the penalty for our sins and maintain the penalty is eternal damnation. However, Jesus did not die eternally: he only died for three days.
When we point out such anomalies to fellow-Christians, they insist the problem is that we are devoid of the inspiration of the Holy Spirit. But how does the Holy Spirit become the exclusive preserve of the illogical? Indeed, who can be more logical than God? What can be more logical than the universe he created? Everything about the kingdom of God makes logical sense. Therefore Jesus says: “If anyone chooses to do God’s will, he will find out whether my teaching comes from God or whether I speak on my own.” (John 7:17).
Some insist that, in matters of faith, the application of reason is ill-advised. Paul says: “It is written: ‘I will destroy the wisdom of the wise, and bring to nothing the understanding of the prudent.’” (1 Corinthians 1:19). But, as usual, Paul’s quote is a distortion of Isaiah. Isaiah’s statement is addressed specifically to the prophets and seers of biblical Israel. He says: “The wisdom of THEIR WISE MEN shall perish, and the understanding of THEIR PRUDENT MEN shall be hidden.” (Isaiah 29:14). This is a far cry from God destroying the wisdom of the wise in general.
Paul says: “NOT MANY WISE according to the flesh, not many mighty, not many noble, are called.” (1 Corinthians 1:26). But Jesus says different. He says: “Indeed, I send you prophets, WISE MEN, and scribes.” (Matthew 23:34). God is reasonable; he gave us brains and expects us to use them. He is not opposed to wisdom. Indeed, Solomon says in matters of faith wisdom is essential: “Wisdom is the principal thing; therefore get wisdom. And in all your getting, get understanding.” (Proverbs 4:7).
Luke observes that, as a child: “Jesus increased in wisdom.” (Luke 2:52). James counsels: “If any of you lacks wisdom, let him ask of God, who gives to all liberally and without reproach, and it will be given to him.” (James 1:5). Jesus also says we should love the Lord “with all our mind.” (Mark 12:30). That means we should love God with our mental faculties.
As a matter of fact, God openly invites us to reason with him. He says: “Present your case; bring forth your strong reasons.” (Isaiah 41:21). “Let us contend together; state your case, that you may be acquitted.” (Isaiah 43:26). “Come now, and let us reason together, though your sins are like scarlet, they shall be as white as snow.” (Isaiah 1:18-19).
When God determined to destroy the Israelites, Moses reasoned with him. He queried him: “Why should the Egyptians speak, and say, ‘He brought them out to harm them, to kill them in the mountains, and to consume them from the face of the earth’? Turn from Your fierce wrath, and relent from this harm to Your people.” (Exodus 32:12). Indeed, Moses succeeded in dissuading God: “So the LORD relented from the harm which He said He would do to His people.” (Exodus 32:14).
It is bankrupt Christian faith that is illogical. When faith is phony, it seeks refuge in illogicality. When Christian doctrine is built on sand as opposed to the rock, it becomes internally inconsistent and falls apart. Jesus is always logical. He is a meticulous, punctilious and systematic teacher. Everything about his teachings on the kingdom of God is logically consistent. Isaiah foretells this: “Precept must be upon precept, precept upon precept, line upon line, line upon line, here a little, there a little.” (Isaiah 28:10).
Jesus is contemptuous of hypocrites essentially because their actions are contradictory and illogical. He warns us not to emulate them: “Do not do according to their works; for they say, and do not do.” (Matthew 23:3). Liars and cheats are incoherent. Sooner than later, their deceptions reveal inconsistencies between their words and their conduct.
Luke testifies about “all that Jesus began to do and to teach.” (Acts 1:1). This shows there is no dissonance in Jesus. He does what he teaches: he does not teach what he does not do. Accordingly, Jesus declares he is the bread of life and then multiplies five loaves and two fishes to feed five thousand people. He declares he is the light of the world and then opens the eyes of the blind. He declares he is the resurrection and the life, and then raises Lazarus from the dead.
Jesus the logician
Jesus is a masterful logician. He demolished the position of the Sadducees that there is no resurrection by pointing out that: “God said to Moses, ‘I am the God of Abraham, and I am the God of Isaac, and I am the God of Jacob.’ God was telling Moses that these men, though dead for hundreds of years, were still very much alive, for he would not have said, ‘I am the God’ of those who don’t exist!” (Mark 12:26-27).
When his authority was challenged, Jesus replied: “‘I also will ask you one thing, and answer Me: The baptism of John- was it from heaven or from men?’ And they reasoned among themselves, saying, ‘If we say, “from heaven,” He will say, ‘Why then did you not believe him?’ But if we say, “From men,” all the people will stone us, for they are persuaded that John was a prophet.’ So they answered that they did not know where it was from.” (Luke 20:3-7).
Thus, Jesus’ logic confounds unbelief. He asks the Pharisees who insist the Messiah is the son of David: “If David then calls Him ‘Lord,’ how is He his Son?” (Matthew 22:45). Matthew reports that: “No one was able to answer Him a word, nor from that day on did anyone dare question Him anymore.” (Matthew 22:46).
I was holding lunch-hour fellowships in Victoria Island, Lagos but soon ran out of space. All my extensions could not go beyond seating 120 people. Suddenly, the Lord said to me: “Femi, do you know you can increase the capacity of this hall by fifty percent?” “How is that possible?” I asked. He replied: “Build pews.” When I did, the hall was able to accommodate 180.
Beware of Christians who insist you must not use your brains in order to walk by faith. They are all preachers of a false gospel.