Let’s start this series with a scenario that you may, or may not, ever encounter. You are walking through an antique store when you accidentally bump into a fragile item on a shelf. The next two seconds seem like slow motion as you watch the item fall to the floor and shatter. You attempt to apologize to the store owner, but your apology isn’t enough.
“You break it, you buy it,” he says. “If you don’t pay for it we’re going to have a problem.” So you pay for the broken item and, since you paid for it, take it home. It now sits in a corner of your garage as a testament to your clumsiness.
Great. So now you have something that you don’t need and don’t necessarily want. But you felt compelled to act in a particular way because of what the store owner said. The store owner, in fact, offered you a logical argument. And you acted accordingly.
Even if this never actually happens to you, there’s at least one (and probably loads more) little sayings you’ve heard like “You break it, you buy it” that easily lead to logical arguments. But what is logic, anyway?
Why I Hate Losing in Chess
There’s something about being defeated in chess that I hate more than losing at any other activity. It’s a game of the mind, and playing it requires a lot of serious thinking. There are so many decisions to make, and you have to weigh out all of the possibilities at any given time. If you don’t think things through, you won’t make the right decisions and you will lose.
At bottom, chess is a game of logical reasoning. To learn how to play chess well, you have to learn how to order your thinking, in the setting of that game, so that you make the right decisions. So too with logic.
Here’s a (broad) definition of logic I would like to give: Logic is the study of how to order our thinking so that we reach conclusions that are well-supported. Really, it’s the art of thinking things through.
Why Study Logic?
But as the opening antique store example shows, logical reasoning doesn’t occur in a vacuum. By that I mean that it always occurs in a particular context that has consequences. The word “consequences” here may or may not be something serious—I just mean that logical arguments, in one way or the other, intend to have some effect or another.
So there we have one major reason to study logic: By doing so we will learn to recognize the many ways that we are affected by logical reasoning in our daily lives. Think about it. Humans, by and large, act in ways are quite logical (or ways they think are logical). From the news we hear, to the conversations we have, to the languages we use (believe it or not) logic is at work. Whether we realize it or not, logic is driving our lives in many important ways.
By studying logic, you will be more capable of thinking through anything more consistently and become better at many skills. It doesn’t take a lot of imagination to come up with some these skills: reading, writing, speaking, and so on. And it isn’t hard to see practical application, such as in mathematics and science.
My biggest reason, though, for studying logic (and hopefully one you will resonate with as a reader of a theological website) is that thinking logically glorifies God. This should be fairly obvious. Is God glorified when his people give faulty, shoddy, irresponsible, or downright deceptive defenses of his character and his inspired Scriptures? I don’t think so, and I don’t think that Jesus did either.
One of the goals that I have is to promote loving, learning, and living for Christ. I think that learning logic, loving its many uses, and putting it into practice is one way to do this. I hope to promote that in this series of posts.
I have many opinions of my own, but I hope it becomes abundantly clear over time that I’m not out to deceive anybody. And one of the best ways I can think of to prove that is to walk my readers through a lot of the underlying principles that I use when I think through and make my own arguments. Honestly, I can’t think of a more loving way to argue than to teach others how to evaluate my arguments and to make those arguments as clear as I possibly can.
I’ll start things off by discussing exactly what a logical argument is, and a general method for analyzing arguments that I will refer to as the “R.E.A.D.” method throughout this series.
There are a number of resources that I’ve found particularly helpful and that I find myself referring to again and again when it comes to logic. Just about everything I’m going to talk about is going to be adapted from these resources:
- Socratic Logic by Peter Kreeft.
- The Many Worlds of Logic by Paul Herrick.
- Attacking Faulty Reasoning by T. Edward Damer.
- Philosophical Foundations for a Christian Worldview by Moreland and Craig. (Chapter 2)
I also highly recommend the free “Understanding Arguments” series on Coursera.
You can refer to the table of contents for all of the posts in this series. If there’s a topic that you would like to see addressed that hasn’t been, please also feel free to let me know.