"THE GOSPEL OF MARK" Who Was Afraid Of Jesus? (5:1-20) by Mark Copeland

                          "THE GOSPEL OF MARK"

                   Who Was Afraid Of Jesus? (5:1-20)


1. After calming the storm, Jesus and His disciples arrived in the
   country of the Gadarenes... - Mk 5:1
   a. A region on the east side of the Sea of Galilee
   b. Variously called Gadarenes, Gersasenes, and Gergesenes (after
      nearby cities)
   c. Also known as the Decapolis (a district of ten cities) - Mk 5:20

2. After taming a wild sea, Jesus now tames a wild man (Hendriksen)...
   a. A man possessed with unclean spirit - Mk 5:2
   b. Unable to be bound by chains, night and day crying and cutting
      himself - Mk 5:3-5
   c. Moved to worship Jesus by the legion of demons that possessed him
      - Mk 5:6-9
   d. The demons begged not to be tormented or sent out of the country
      - Mk 5:7,10
   e. Asking to be able to fill a herd of swine, they are allowed, only
      to drown them - Mk 5:11-13
   f. The swine feeders fled to tell others, who when seeing the
      demoniac in his right mind, begged for Jesus to leave their region
      - Mk 5:14-17
   g. As Jesus returns to his boat, the healed man pleads to join Him,
      but is sent home to tell others what the Lord has done - Mk 5:18-20

[In studying Mark's account of the healing of the demoniac and the
events which followed, I was struck by the fear of Jesus manifested in
this story.  So I ask, "Who Was Afraid Of Jesus?"  Was it...]


      1. They begged Jesus not to torment them - Mk 5:7
      2. Note the similarity to the unclean spirit(s) in the synagogue
         - Mk 1:23-24
      3. Jesus came to destroy the works of the devil - 1Jn 3:8
      4. The demons (unclean spirits) knew the time was coming - Mt 8:29
      5. Indeed, everlasting fire is prepared for the devil and his
         angels - Mt 25:41
      6. Even now there are sinful angels bound by "chains of darkness"
         - 2Pe 2:4; Jude 9
      7. One day the devil himself will be cast into the lake of fire
         - Re 20:10
      -- Yes, the demons who were legion were terrified of Jesus!

      1. If we are not ready for the coming of the Lord - 2Th 1:7-9
      2. We too will experience everlasting fire prepared for the devil
         and his angels - Mt 25:41,46
      3. Those not in the Book of life will not escape the lake of fire
         - Re 20:15; 21:8
      -- Yes, we should be terrified of Jesus if we are not ready!

[As we return to our text (Mk 5:1-20) with our question ("Who Was Afraid
Of Jesus?"), was it...]


      1. When they came to Jesus and saw the healed demoniac, they were
         afraid - Mk 5:14-15
      2. They pleaded with Jesus to depart from their region - Mk 5:17
      3. Their fear was the fear of the unknown, and they were unwilling
         to know
      4. Their fear deprived them of great blessings!
      -- Yes, the denizens of the region were foolishly afraid of
         learning more about Jesus!

      1. Of learning about Jesus, for He offers rest for our souls 
         - Mt 11:28-30
      2. Of coming to Jesus, for He is the source of every spiritual
         blessing - Ep 1:3
      3. Of obeying Jesus, for His words will free us from the bondage
         of sin - Jn 8:31-32,34-36
      4. Of following Jesus, for His words will provide safety in life's
         storms - Mt 7:24-27
      -- No, we should not be afraid to learn whatever we can about

[Finally, as we consider "Who Was Afraid Of Jesus?", we ask if it


      1. He begged to be with Jesus, but Jesus had other plans for him
         - Mk 5:18-19
      2. He was not afraid of Jesus, nor afraid to tell others about
         Jesus - Mk 5:20
      3. Jesus had done great things for Him, and telling others led
         them to marvel - Mk 5:20
      -- No, he who was healed by Jesus was not afraid of Jesus!

      1. Of Jesus, for He loved us and washed us from our sins!- Re 1:5
      2. Of telling others about Jesus, who has given us great hope
         - 1Pe 3:15
      -- No, we who have been saved by Jesus should never be afraid of


1. Who was afraid of Jesus...?
   a. Those unwilling to repent of their sins
   b. Those unwilling to learn about Jesus

2. Who was not afraid of Jesus...?
   a. The one who appreciated what Jesus had done for him
   b. The one who was willing to tell others what Jesus had done

3. Who are we more like in this story...?
   a. The demons who were legion?
   b. The denizens of the region?
   c. The demoniac who was healed?

The nature of our relationship with Jesus reveals the answer.  Do we
want to be with Jesus?  Are we willing to tell others about Jesus?  Or
are we afraid of Jesus...?
Executable Outlines, Copyright © Mark A. Copeland, 2016

"THE GOSPEL OF MARK" Jesus Calms The Storm (4:35-41) by Mark Copeland

                          "THE GOSPEL OF MARK"

                    Jesus Calms The Storm (4:35-41)


1. Following a day full of teaching activity...
   a. Jesus and His disciples got in a boat to sail across the Sea of
      Galilee - Mk 4:35-36
   b. A windstorm arose, beating waves into the boat - Mk 4:37
   c. Jesus was sleeping, but was wakened by His disciples fearing their
      lives - Mk 4:38
   d. Jesus rebuked the wind and calmed the seas - Mk 4:39
   e. He then reproached His disciples for their fear and lack of faith
      - Mk 4:40
   f. Filled with great fear, His disciples expressed their awe of Jesus
      to one another - Mk 4:41

2. The account of Jesus calming the storm is well-known...
   a. Popular in many children's Bible classes
   b. The setting for the song "Master, The Tempest Is Raging"

[Many sermons and lessons have been based on this amazing miracle of
Jesus.  In this sermon, we shall touch on just a few lessons that can be
gleaned from this event, beginning with the fact that...]


      1. Being Jesus' disciples did not protect them from storms
      2. We live in a world where there are many storms, both literal
         and figurative
      3. Christians experience literal tornados, hurricanes, just like
         everyone else
      4. Christians likewise face storms such as sickness, accidents,
         disappointments, death
      5. Paul certainly experience the perils of storms and shipwrecks
         - 2Co 11:25-26
      -- Jesus does not promise exemption from the normal storms of life

      1. Jesus warned that we will experience tribulation as His
         disciples - Jn 16:33
      2. Paul did, and warned his fellow disciples 
         - 2Co 11:24-25; Ac 14:22; 2Ti 3:12
      3. Peter wrote that we should not be surprised - 1Pe 4:12
      -- Jesus does not promise exemption from the storms of religious

[So if we find ourselves in the midst of storms, whether literal or
figurative, whether its because we are simply humans or because we are
Christians, do not think it strange.  Instead take heart knowing


      1. During storms, we are often afraid ("we are perishing!") 
         - Mk 4:38
      2. Jesus teaches that fear is indicative of a lack of faith 
         - Mk 4:40
      3. To overcome fear in storms, we need to grow in faith!
         a. Faith that God will protect us if it be His will 
            - cf. Ps 46:1-3
         b. Faith that God will deliver us to His heavenly city even if
            we die - Ps 46:4-5,10-11
      -- Jesus reveals the role of faith in the midst of storms

      1. Jesus' words prepare us to withstand the storms of life 
         - Mt 7:24-27
      2. How to pray in order to be heard by God - Mt 6:5-8
      3. To lay up treasure in heaven instead of on earth - Mt 6:19-21
      4. To seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness 
         - Mt 6:31-34
      -- Jesus shares the secrets to standing strong against the storms
         of life

      1. Jesus is key to receiving mercy and grace to help in time of
         need - He 4:14-16; 7:25
      2. In anxious times, God offers peace to guard our hearts and
         minds in Christ Jesus through prayer - Php 4:6-7
      -- Jesus stands ready to calm our hearts and minds when facing

      1. The greatest "storm" all of us will face will be the Day of
         Judgment - 2Pe 3:7,10-12
      2. A day in which we will all stand before the judgment seat of
         Christ - 2Co 5:10
      3. But Christ shed His blood to spare us on that Day - Ro 5:6-10
      4. By obeying the gospel, we can have our names added to the
         Lamb's book of life and escape condemnation for our sins - cf.
         Mk 16:15-16; Ac 2:38; Re 20:11-15
      -- Jesus stands ready to save us and protect us from the "perfect
         storm" to come


1. Everyone will face one or more storms in his or her life...
   a. Whether literally or metaphorically
   b. Whether atheist or believer

2. How shall we react when the time(s) come...?
   a. Shall we cry out like the disciples who were weak in faith ("we
      are perishing!")?
   b. Or shall we weather the storms with confident faith and calm

3. And how shall we stand on when the final storm comes...?
   a. The "perfect storm", that is, the Day of Judgment?
   b. Shall we hear Jesus say, "Come, you blessed of My Father, inherit
      the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world"?
      - cf. Mt 25:34
   c. Or will we hear Him say, "Depart from Me, you cursed, into the
      everlasting fire prepared for the devil and his angels"? - cf. Mt 25:41

When Jesus rebuked the wind and spoke to the sea, "Peace, be still", the
wind ceased and there was a great calm.  The disciples, with fear and
amazement, said:

      "Who can this be, that even the wind and the sea obey Him?"

The wind and the sea obeyed Jesus.  Shall we not obey Him who now has
all authority in heaven and on earth...? - cf. Mt 28:18-20
Executable Outlines, Copyright © Mark A. Copeland, 2016

Prophecies--True and False by Wayne Jackson, M.A.


Prophecies--True and False

by  Wayne Jackson, M.A.

There is some controversy among Bible scholars relative to the etymology of the term “prophet,” as that word is employed in the Scriptures. Perhaps the best way to determine the meaning of this expression is to observe the contextual usage that is reflected in the biblical record. A good example is found in the case of Aaron, the brother of Moses. Aaron was appointed by God to be a “prophet” for Moses (Exodus 7:1). Elsewhere, Aaron’s role is described as that of a “spokesman” (Exodus 4:16). A prophet is thus one who speaks for another.
One aspect of prophecy is that of “prediction,” i.e., the ability to speak precisely beforehand of events that later are to be realized factually. Predictive prophecy, therefore, has great evidential value in establishing the divine authenticity of the biblical documents (see Jackson, 1988). Consider the following factors.
First, only God knows the future. He is able to “call the things that are not, as though they were” (Romans 4:17). He declares “the end from the beginning, and from ancient times things that are not yet done” (Isaiah 46:10; cf. Acts 15:18). In fact, the prophets of biblical history challenged their pagan contemporaries to demonstrate their predictive prowess so as to establish their spiritual credibility. Isaiah charged the heathen seers of his day: “Declare the things that are to come hereafter, that we may know that ye are gods” (41:23).
Second, if one can demonstrate the ability to declare future things that find exact fulfillment, it would follow logically that such a person, in possession of this gift, would be speaking on behalf of God. His message, therefore, would be valid. On the other hand, if one attempts to foretell the future, and his prophecy fails, the error provides clear evidence that the “prophet” is false. “[W]hen a prophet speaks in the name of Jehovah, if the thing follows not, nor comes to pass, that is the thing which Jehovah has not spoken: the prophet has spoken it presumptuously, you shall not be afraid of him” (Deuteronomy 18:22).


As suggested above, prophecy affords a powerful base of evidence that corroborates the Scriptures’ claim of divine origin. Scholars suggest that there are about 1,000 prophecies altogether in the Bible—some 800 in the Old Testament, and about 200 in the New Testament. Consider the following broad categories of prophetic data.
  1. National Prophecies. There are prophecies that detail, centuries in advance, the fortunes and fates of nations. When the Babylonian empire was at its zenith, with utterly no military/political weakness apparent, Daniel foretold its demise, along with the subsequent rise of the Medo-Persians, Greeks, and Romans (see Daniel 2, 7). No one could have dreamed that these international events would occur. And yet they did, as every student of history knows. The prophecies are so astounding that radical critics have felt compelled to re-date the book of Daniel (placing it in the second century B.C.), so as to suggest “history” instead of “prophecy.”
  2. Personal Prophecies. Some Old Testament prophecies deal specifically with individual persons. The role of Josiah (cf. 1 Kings 13, 2 Kings 23) was prophesied three centuries before the king’s birth. The mission of Cyrus, King of Persia (to deliver Judah from Babylonian Captivity), also was described 150 years before the illustrious ruler came to the throne (Isaiah 44:28; 45:1-7).
  3. Messianic Prophecies. The Old Testament contains more than 300 prophecies that focus upon the life and ministry of Jesus of Nazareth (Collett, n.d., p. 84). He was to be the woman’s seed (Genesis 3:15), from the lineage of Abraham (Genesis 22:17-18), born in Bethlehem (Micah 5:2), to the virgin (Isaiah 7:14), etc. Mathematician Peter Stoner estimated that the odds of one person accidentally fulfilling just eight of the many Old Testament prophecies regarding the Messiah is on the order of 1 in 1017—a figure far beyond circumstantial possibility (1963, p. 107).
Prophecy, therefore, is a powerful packet of evidence that supports the case for Bible inspiration. However, it must be noted carefully that the gift of prophecy—clearly operative during those bygone ages when the biblical documents were being prepared—was terminated near the end of the first century A.D. The inspired Paul made it quite clear that supernatural “gifts,” including that of prophecy, were to cease “when that which is perfect is come” (see 1 Corinthians 13:8-10). The term “perfect” translates the Greek expression to teleion—literally, “the complete thing.” It stands in contrast to “the in-part things,” i.e., the prophetic gifts (as vehicles of revelation), mentioned within the context. W.E. Vine noted: “With the completion of Apostolic testimony and the completion of the Scriptures of truth (‘the faith once for all delivered to the saints,’ Jude 3, R.V.), ‘that which is perfect’ had come, and the temporary gifts were done away” (1951, p. 184).


Since predictive prophecy is such a compelling line of argumentation, it comes as no great surprise that unscrupulous religionists, both ancient and modern, have sought to capitalize upon this phenomenon. In the history of Israel, both Zedekiah (1 Kings 22) and Hananiah (Jeremiah 28) were false prophets. Jesus Christ personally warned: “Beware of false prophets, who come to you in sheep’s clothing, but inwardly are ravening wolves” (Matthew 7:15).
In the balance of this discussion, I will call attention to some of the people, in relatively modern times who have attracted attention to themselves by their claim of being able to predict the future either by exercising the gift of prophecy, or by purporting to have special insight into the Bible so as to foretell such matters as “the end of time,” etc. The glaring relief between these pretenders, and the great prophets of the Bible, will be shocking.


“Nostradamus” was the pseudonym of Michel de Notredame, a French physician/astrologer of the sixteenth century A.D. In 1555, he published a book of rhymed prophecies, which secured for him a considerable reputation in an age of gross superstition. Though his utterances were woefully obscure, and the interpretations hotly debated by his most devoted followers, some have alleged that his prophetic declarations were as impressive as those of the biblical prophets. Dan Barker, a Pentecostal-turned-atheist, states that if Ezekiel was a prophet, so was Nostradamus (1992, p. 192).
The claim is ludicrous. But see for yourself. Here is one of the prophecies of Nostradamus:
To maintain the great troubled cloak
The reds march to clear it.
A family almost ruined by death,
The red reds strike down the red one.
To what does this cryptic riddle allude? Barker suggests that it foretells “the fate of the Kennedys” (1992, p. 185). With such a fertile imagination, it hardly is a mystery that Barker defected to unbelief.
The most famous oracle of Nostradamus—supposedly the best evidence for his “gift”—reads as follows:
The young lion will overcome the old one,
On the field of war in single combat:
He will burst his eyes in a cage of gold,
Two fleets one, then to die, a cruel death.
Allegedly, this passage has reference to the death of France’s king, Henry II, who was wounded in a jousting contest in 1557, and died ten days later. But here are the actual facts of history: (a) Only six years separated the ages of Henry and his opponent in the tournament; it hardly was a contest between the young and the old (Henry was only forty). (b) The accident occurred during a friendly sporting event, not on a battlefield. (c) There is no evidence that Henry was wearing a gilded visor (cage) of gold. Moreover, the king’s eyes were not damaged; a splinter from the lance pierced his skull and entered the brain. (d) The reference to “two fleets” is meaningless. (e) In addition to these significant factors, only two years before this tragic accident, Nostradamus wrote a letter to King Henry in which he described the monarch as “most invincible” (Randi, 1990, p. 173). He hardly was invincible!

Edgar Cayce

Edgar Cayce (1877-1945) has been applauded as one of the most impressive prophets of modern times. At the age of six or seven he was seeing “visions.” Cayce claimed that by sleeping with his head on his school books, he could absorb knowledge, which enabled him to advance rapidly in his education. He claimed psychic healing powers (three almonds a day is a cure for cancer!), taught the doctrine of reincarnation, and advocated a number of bizarre theological doctrines (e.g., Jesus and Adam were the same person), and said that he (Cayce) wrote the Gospel of Luke in a previous life. As a prophet, Cayce was a catastrophic failure. For instance, he prophesied that during the early portion of a forty-year span (1958-98) a tilting of the Earth’s axis would produce drastic physical alterations of our planet. “The earth will be broken up in the western portion of America. The greater portion of Japan must go into the sea,” etc. (Stern, 1967, p. 37). Cayce’s apologists claim that he predicted World War II. And yet, Jess Stern, who did more to popularize Cayce than any other writer, wrote: “Edgar Cayce was as stunned as anybody else when the bombs dropped on Pearl Harbor” (1967, p. 16).

Jeane Dixon

Jeane Dixon, a Roman Catholic matron who claims to be inspired with the gift of prophecy, says that she began peering into the future when she was about five years of age. She has thousands of followers throughout the country who believe her claims. But what do the following Dixon prophecies have in common? Russia would be the first nation to land a man on the Moon. World War III was to break out in October 1958. Walter Reuther would be a Democratic candidate for President in 1964. There would be no significant legislation passed by Congress in 1965 (the year of the Medicare and Civil Rights Bills). The common thread in all these prophecies is that they all proved false! These are but a fraction of the failed oracles that Dixon viewed in her $8,000 crystal ball (Davidson, 1965, p. 139). On one occasion she predicted that John F. Kennedy would be elected President in 1960. She apparently forgot about that prophecy though, because in 1960 she declared that Nixon would be the election victor. Moreover, Ms. Dixon once prophesied that Nixon had “excellent vibrations for the good of America” and would “serve [his] country well” (Time, 1965, p. 59). How curious that her crystal ball never previewed the disgrace that would befall the 37th President (the only one ever to resign). But “the most significant and soul-stirring” vision she ever received asserts that: “A child, born somewhere in the Middle East shortly after 7 a.m (EST) on February 5, 1962, will revolutionize the world. Before the end of 1999 he will bring together all mankind in one all-embracing faith. This will be the foundation of a new Christianity, with every sect and creed united through this man who will walk among the people to spread the wisdom of the Almighty Power” (Montgomery, 1965, p. 171). This new “Messiah” better get busy, for the century is almost gone!

Joseph Smith

The Mormon Church was founded by Joseph Smith Jr., who claimed to be a prophet of God. Mormons are thus required to “give heed unto all his words and commandments” (Doctrine & Covenants, 21:4-5). It is, of course, a matter of historical record that many of Smith’s prophecies proved false. For example, the “seer” prophesied that the American Civil War of the mid-1800s would become so intense that “war shall be poured out upon all nations” (D&C, 87:1-3), resulting ultimately in the “full end of all nations” (87:6). In 1835 he declared that the “coming of the Lord” would “wind up the scene” within fifty-six years (Roberts, 1950, 2:182). Smith foretold that the Mormon temple would be erected in Independence, Missouri (D&C, 57:1-3). None of these prophecies was fulfilled, and they have been a source of humiliation to Mormon leaders.
Occasionally, a Mormon writer will attempt to justify Smith’s prophetic blunders. One such effort is reflected in a book titled, A Ready Reply, by Michael T. Griffith. Griffith contends that after “studying prophecy for several years” he “deduced” that there are certain rules that must be considered in evaluating this topic. One of these rules is: “A prophet can be mistaken about certain details of a prophecy but correct with regard to its central message” (1994, p. 23). Mr. Griffith’s “deducer” is in need of repair. There is a logical axiom which affirms that the total of a thing is equal to the sum of its parts. In other words, if the details of a prophecy are incorrect, the prophecy per se cannot be correct.

William Miller and Ellen G. White

William Miller (1782-1849) was the driving force behind the movement that eventually became the Seventh-Day Adventist Church. Miller was a Baptist minister initially. He developed an interest in prophecy and, after a two-year study, claimed that he had determined the precise time of the Lord’s return to Earth. It would occur on March 21, 1843. When this date came, and Miller’s prophecy was not fulfilled, he revised his calculations, and reset the date at October 22, 1844. When that prediction likewise proved false, thousands abandoned the Millerite movement.
Later, however, Ellen G. White would breathe new life into the disillusioned remnant. She, too, would accept the designation “prophetess.” “Almost every aspect of belief and activity of the Seventh-day Adventists was encouraged or inspired by a vision or word from Mrs. White” (Hoekema, 1963, p. 97). Adventists claim that between 1844 and 1915, Ellen White had more than 2,000 visions. An Adventist writer says that: “Some [of these] are in the process of being fulfilled, while others still await fulfillment” (Damsteegt, 1988, p. 225).

Hal Lindsey

In the early 1970s, Hal Lindsey’s book, The Late Great Planet Earth, became a runaway best seller in religious circles. Like many others, Lindsey also tried his hand as a prognosticator—especially with reference to the return of Christ. He suggested that the “generation” witnessing the rebirth of Israel as an independent nation (which occurred May 14, 1948) would be that generation alive at the Second Coming of Christ. Hear him comment on Matthew 24:34: “What generation? Obviously, in context, the generation that would see the signs—chief among them the rebirth of Israel. A generation in the Bible is something like forty years. If this is a correct deduction, then within forty years or so of 1948, all these things could take place” (1970, p. 43). What was “obvious” in 1970, was not so obvious later. In an article published in Eternity magazine, January 1977, Lindsey waffled, and stretched his forty-year span to perhaps a century!

Harold Camping

Harold Camping has a nationally syndicated television program out of Oakland, California. His greatest claim to fame is a book that he produced in 1992. It was titled 1994? Perhaps the most telling portion of the title is that question mark. The massive volume of more than 550 pages concludes in this unimpressive fashion: “The results of this study indicate that the month of September of the year 1994 is to be the time for the end of history” (1992, p. 531). September of 1994 should have been the end of Mr. Camping’s career as a teacher, but it wasn’t because in their own blindness, people continue to follow the blind.


There is not a more significant truth to be emphasized at this concluding point than this: the Bible is God’s final prophetic word to humanity. Do not listen to those who claim special predictive abilities, or to those who twist the Scriptures in an effort to fulfill a personal prophetic agenda.


Barker, Dan (1992), Losing Faith in Faith (Madison, WI: Freedom from Religion Foundation).
Camping, Harold (1992), 1994? (New York: Vantage).
Collett, Sidney (n.d.), All About the Bible (London: Revell).
Damsteegt, P.G., editor (1988), Seventh-Day Adventists Believe... (Washington, D.C.: Ministerial Association General Conference of Seventh-day Adventists).
Davidson, Bill (1965), “Jeane Dixon Predicts the Future,” Ladies Home Journal, 82:74.
Doctrine & Covenants (1952), (Salt Lake City, UT: Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints).
Griffith, Michael (1994), A Ready Reply (Bountiful, UT: Horizon).
Hoekema, Anthony A. (1963), The Four Major Cults (Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans).
Jackson, Wayne (1988), “Principles of Bible Prophecy,” Reason & Revelation, 8:27-30, July.
Lindsey, Hal (1970), The Late Great Planet Earth (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan).
Montgomery, Ruth (1965), A Gift of Prophecy—The Phenomenal Jeane Dixon (New York: William Morrow).
Randi, James (1990), The Mask of Nostradamus (New York: Charles Scribners Sons).
Roberts, B.H. (1950), History of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints (Salt Lake City, UT: Deseret).
Stern, Jess (1967), Edgar Cayce—The Sleeping Prophet (New York: Bantam).
Stoner, Peter W., and R.C. Newman (1963), Science Speaks (Chicago, IL: Moody).
Time (1965), “Seer in Washington,” 86:59-60, August 13.
Vine, W.E. (1951), I Corinthians—Local Church Problems (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan).
[See related articles on Charles Taze Russell and Fred W. Franz]

Is Christianity Logical? [Part II] by Dave Miller, Ph.D.


Is Christianity Logical? [Part II]

by  Dave Miller, Ph.D.

[Editor’s Note: This article is the second installment in a two-part series exploring the allegation of atheism that the Christian Faith cannot be reconciled with science and reason, and that it constitutes a belief system in which “rational discourse proves impossible.” Part I appeared in the June issue and focused on Jesus’ own use of logic. Part II follows below, and continues, without introductory comments, where the first article ended.]

The Argument Over the Identity of the Messiah (Matthew 22:41-46)

Still another magnificent manifestation of Jesus’ logical competence is seen in the argument He posed to the Pharisees over the identity of the Messiah:
While the Pharisees were gathered together, Jesus asked them, saying, “What do you think about the Christ? Whose Son is He?” They said to Him, “The Son of David.” He said to them, “How then does David in the Spirit call Him ‘Lord,’ saying: ‘The LORD said to my Lord, “Sit at My right hand, till I make Your enemies Your footstool”’? If David then calls Him ‘Lord,’ how is He his Son?”
In this interchange, Jesus directed the Pharisees’ attention to the Old Testament personage, the “Messiah” (mah-SHEE-ach), a term occurring 39 times, always translated in the Septuagint as christos. Both terms mean “anointed one.” Jesus was, in fact, the long-awaited Messiah/Christ. His question was intended to spotlight this fact. The answer to His question given by the Pharisees, i.e., “the Son of David,” was correct, but incomplete. The Messiah was, indeed, expected to descend through the bloodline of King David (2 Samuel 7:12-13; see Luke’s genealogical verification of this point in Luke 3:23-38), and also inherit the throne of David based on His legal lineage (see Matthew’s genealogical verification in 1:1-17 of his gospel account; cf. Miller, 2003b). What the Pharisees were having trouble accepting was the deity of the Christ.
Hence, Jesus followed their answer with two additional questions that lead the honest listener to that realization. First, how is it that David, under the influence of the Holy Spirit, penned the words of Psalm 110:1 in which he stated: “The LORD said to my Lord, ‘Sit at My right hand, till I make Your enemies Your footstool.’” Observe carefully the precise wording Jesus employed. His first allusion to “lord” in the Hebrew text is the divine name, variously transliterated “Jehovah” (ASV), Yahweh, etc. English translations alert the reader to this fact by placing the term in all capitals—LORD. The second occurrence of the term “lord” in Jesus’ statement is the usual Hebrew word for a lord (adonai), whether human or divine. Notice the logic: According to King David in the inspired Psalm 110 which he penned, God the Father spoke to his (David’s) Lord, i.e., the Christ/Messiah. David referred to the Messiah as his Lord.
So Jesus asked His final question to bring His logical presentation to a climax: “If David then calls Him ‘Lord,’ how is He his Son?” How can the Messiah/Christ be the son, (i.e., descendant) of David, and yet already be in existence as David’s Lord? The only way such could be the case is if the Messiah’s physical body came genetically from David (cf. Hebrews 10:5; Psalm 40:6), but the Messiah Himself, that is, His person, His spirit, pre-existed David by inhabiting eternity alongside God the Father. Jesus was pressing His enemies to face the fact that He was, in fact, the Messiah—God in the flesh, on Earth, in their very presence. They were so dumbfounded by this revelation, that “no one was able to answer Him a word, nor from that day on did anyone dare question Him anymore” (vs. 46).

The Legal Treatment of the Adulterous Woman (John 8:1-11)

Jesus’ logical acumen is again self-evident in the narrative of the woman caught in adultery. [NOTE: For a discussion of the technical aspects of this passage as a textual variant, see Metzger, 1968, pp. 223-224; 1971, pp. 219-222; McGarvey, 1974, p. 16; Woods, 1989, p. 162.] This passage has been used by situation ethicists (e.g., Fletcher, 1967, pp. 83,133), libertines, and liberals to insist that God is not “technical” or concerned with being logically consistent when it comes to requiring close adherence to His laws. The bulk of Christendom has abetted this notion by decontextualizing and applying indiscriminately the remark of Jesus: “He who is without sin among you, let him throw a stone at her first” (vs. 7). The average individual, therefore, has come to think that Jesus was tolerant and forgiving to the extent that He released the woman from the strictures of God’s Law that called for her execution. They believe that Jesus simply “waved aside” her sin, and thereby granted her unconditional freedom and forgiveness—though the Law called for her death (Leviticus 20:10). The untenable result is to pit the Law of God against the grace of God, placing people in the  so-called “grip of grace” (Lucado, 1996).
Did Jesus act inconsistent with a rational and logical approach to the woman’s predicament? No, He did not. A careful study of the passage yields three insights that clarify the confusion and misconception inherent in the popular imagination, while demonstrating Jesus’ logical skill. First, Mosaic regulations stated that a person could be executed only if there were two or more witnesses to the crime (Deuteronomy 19:15). One witness was insufficient to invoke the death penalty (Deuteronomy 17:6). The woman in question was reportedly caught in the “very act” (vs. 4), but nothing is mentioned about the identity of the witness or witnesses. There may have been only one, thereby making execution illegal.
Second, even if there were two or more witnesses present to verify the woman’s sin, the Old Testament was equally explicit concerning the fact that both the womanand the man were to be executed (Deuteronomy 22:22). Where was the man? The accusing mob completely sidestepped this critical feature of God’s Law, demonstrating that this trumped-up situation obviously did not fit the Mosaic preconditions for invoking capital punishment. Obedience to the Law of Moses in this instance actually meant letting the woman go.
A third consideration that often is overlooked concerning this passage is the precise meaning of the phrase “He who is without sin among you…” (vs. 7). If this statement were to be taken as a blanket prohibition against accusing, disciplining, or punishing the erring, impenitent Christian, then this passage flatly contradicts a host of other passages (e.g., Romans 16:17; 1 Corinthians 5; Galatians 6:1; 2 Thessalonians 3:6,14; Titus 3:10; 2 John 9-11). But the Bible never contradicts itself. Jesus not only frequently passed judgment on a variety of individuals during His tenure on Earth (e.g., Matthew 15:14; 23; John 8:44,55; 9:41; et al.), but also enjoined upon His followers the necessity of doing the same thing (e.g., John 7:24). Peter could be very direct in assessing people’s spiritual status (e.g., Acts 8:23). Paul rebuked the Corinthians’ inaction concerning their fornicating brother: “Do you not judge those who are inside? …Therefore put away from yourselves that wicked person” (1 Corinthians 5:12-13, emp. added). Obviously, Paul demanded that Christians must judge (i.e., make an accurate evaluation of) a fellow Christian’s moral condition. Even the familiar proof text so often marshaled to promote laxity (i.e., “Judge not, that you be not judged”—Matthew 7:1) records Jesus admonishing disciples: “then you will see clearly to remove the speck out of your brother’s eye” (vs. 5). The current culture-wide celebration of being nonjudgmental (cf. I’m OK— You’re OK) is clearly out of harmony with Bible teaching, and the Bible must not be charged with the inconsistency.
So Jesus could not have been offering a blanket prohibition against taking appropriate action with regard to the sins of our fellows. Then what did His words mean? What else could possibly be going on in this setting so as to completely deflate, undermine, and terminate the boisterous determination of the woman’s accusers to attack Him, by using the woman as a pretext? What was it in Christ’s words that had such logical force to stop them in their tracks—so much so that their clamor faded to silence and they departed “one by one, beginning with the oldest” (vs. 9)?
Most commentators suggest that He shamed them by forcing them to realize that “nobody is perfect and we all sin.” But this motley crew—with their notorious and repeatedly documented hard-heartedness—would not have been deterred if Jesus simply had conveyed the idea that, “Hey, give the poor woman a break, none of us is perfect,” or “We’ve all done things were not proud of.” These heartless scribes and Pharisees were brazen enough to divert her case from the proper judicial proceedings and to humiliate her by forcibly hauling her into the presence of Jesus, thereby making a public spectacle of her. Apparently accompanied by a group of complicit supporters, they cruelly subjected her to the wider audience of “all the people” (vs. 2) who had come to hear Jesus’ teaching. They hardly would have been discouraged from their objective by such a simple utterance from Jesus that “nobody’s perfect.”
So what is the answer to this puzzling circumstance? Consider the possible explanation that Jesus was striking at precisely the same point for which Paul rebuked hard-hearted, hypocritical Jews in Rome: “Therefore you are inexcusable, O man, whoever you are who judge, for in whatever you judge another you condemn yourself; for you who judge practice the same things” (Romans 2:1, emp. added). Paul was especially specific on the very point with which Jesus dealt: “You who say, ‘Do not commit adultery,’ do you commit adultery?” (vs. 22, emp. added). In other words, no person is qualified to call attention to another’s sin when that individual is in the ongoing practice of the same sin. Again, as Jesus previously declared, “Hypocrite! First remove the plank from your own eye, and then you will see clearly to remove the speck out of your brother’s eye” (Matthew 7:5, emp. added). After all, it is the “spiritual” brother or sister who is in the proper position to restore the wayward (Galatians 6:1).
Consequently, in the context under consideration, being omniscient, Jesus knew that the woman’s accusers were guilty of the very thing for which they were willing to condemn her. (It is not beyond the realm of possibility that the fellow with whom the woman had committed adultery was in league with the accusers and present in the crowd). Jesus was able to prick them with their guilt by causing them to realize that He knew that they, too, were guilty. The Law of Moses made clear that the witnesses to the crime were to cast the first stones (Deuteronomy 17:7). The death penalty could not be invoked legally if the eyewitnesses were unavailable—or unqualified.   Jesus was striking directly at the fact that these witnesses were legally disqualified from fulfilling this role since they were guilty of the same sin, and thus deserved to be brought up on similar charges. As McGarvey notes: “The one who executed the law must be free from the same crime” (n.d., p. 452). They were intimidated into silence and retreat by their realization that Jesus was privy to their own sexual indiscretions—and possibly on the verge of divulging them publicly.
Observe carefully that at the withdrawal of the accusers, Jesus put forth a technical legal question when he asked: “Woman, where are they? Did no man condemn thee?” (vs. 10, ASV), or “Woman, where are those thine accusers? Hath no man condemned thee?” (KJV). The reason for Jesus to verify the absence of the accusers who had brought the charges against the woman was that the Law of Moses mandated the presence of eyewitnesses to the crime before guilt could be established and sentence passed. The woman confirmed, “No man, Lord” (vs. 11). Jesus then affirmed: “Neither do I condemn you….” The meaning of this pronouncement was that if two or more witnesses to her sin were not able or willing to document the crime, then she could not be held legally liable. Even Jesus, Himself, could not serve as an eyewitness to her action. The usual interpretation of “neither do I condemn you” is that Jesus was flexible, tolerant, and unwilling to be judgmental toward others or to condemn their sinful actions. This view is illogical, irrational, and beneath the Bible. The Bible repudiates such thinking on nearly every page. Jesus was declaring the fact that the woman managed to slip out from under judicial condemnation on the basis of one or more legal technicalities. But, He said (to use modern-day vernacular), “You had better stop it! You were fortunate this time, but you must cease your sinful behavior!”
These scribes and Pharisees were trying to catch Jesus in a trap. Yet Jesus, using logic in conjunction with evidence, “turned the tables” on His accusers and caught them in a trap instead. At the same time, He demonstrated a deep and abiding respect for the governing beauty and power of law—the law that He and His Father had authored. Jesus was the only person Who ever complied with Mosaic legislation perfectly (2 Corinthians 5:21; Hebrews 4:15). He never sought to excuse human violation of law, nor to minimize the binding and authoritative application of law to people. Any interpretation of any passage that depicts Jesus as violating God’s Law in order to forgive or accommodate man is a false interpretation, as is any interpretation that relegates law to a status of secondary importance (cf. Deuteronomy 6:24; 10:13; Psalms 19:7-11; Romans 7:12). Clearly, Jesus’ facility with sound reasoning, argumentation, and logical proficiency are abundantly evident. His application of legal principles in this circumstance further underscores His consistent commitment to the Law of Rationality.
Many additional instances of Jesus’ logical genius are provided in the gospel accounts of His life on Earth, including
  • His interaction with the Pharisees over taxes (Matthew 22:15-22)
  • His logical justification for healing on the Sabbath (Matthew 12:10-13; Mark 3:1-6; Luke 13:10-17; 14:1-6; John 7:22-24)
  • His response to the lawyers concerning the source of His miraculous power (Luke 11:14-26)
  • His reading and application of the Law in His home town synagogue (Luke 4:16-30)
  • His answer concerning fasting (Luke 5:33-39)
  • His handling of Simon’s disgruntled view of the sinful woman (Luke 7:36-50)
  • His exchange with the Pharisees concerning His triumphal entry (Luke 19:39-40)
  • His comments upon the occasion of His arrest (Luke 22:47-53)
The reader would do well to study these and other accounts carefully to become more acquainted with the Savior of the world, Who was the only fully consistent, rational Being to walk the Earth. Jesus was so sensible and rational in His discourse that when hard-hearted Jews irrationally declared Him to be mad or demon-possessed, clearer thinking individuals rightly countered: “These are not the words of one who has a demon” (John 10:21). Indeed, Jesus consistently provided evidence, even empirical evidence, to substantiate His claims (John 10:24-26,36-38). But when men do not want to accept the truth, when they wish to believe and practice things that they desire to pursue, they will reject and castigate the use of logic. They turn against logic when logic turns against them.
Jesus’ emphasis on logic and evidence stands in stark contrast to the false religious view that prevails within Christendom. Most people who claim to be Christian think that God expects people to “just believe,” i.e., accept Christ without any proof, evidence, or rational justification, without questioning or being convinced of His validity. Most, in fact, see faith and proof as opposites. They think one must have faith in those areas where proof is unavailable. To them, faith is accepting what you cannot prove, and deciding to believe what you cannot know. When confronted by a skeptic who demands proof and evidence to verify the Christian religion, it is not uncommon to hear a person who professes to be a Christian respond: “I can’t prove it to you; I just accept it by faith.” Or, “I do not know that God exists, but I have decided to believe that He does.” This notion of “blind faith” (cf. Miller, 2003a), i.e., believing without evidence, or in spite of the evidence, is more properly identified as fideism—a system of thinking that is contrary to the faith enjoined by Deity in the Bible (see Edwards, 1972, 1:201).
Jesus in the New Testament presents a completely different picture. God never expects nor requires anyone to accept His Word without adequate proof. God empowered His spokesmen on Earth to verify and authenticate their verbal pronouncements by performing accompanying supernatural acts (Mark 16:20; Hebrews 2:3-4). The book of John spotlights this feature repeatedly. When Nicodemus, a Pharisee and ruler of the Jews, approached Jesus one night, he stated: “Rabbi, we know that You are a teacher come from God; for no one can do these signs that You do unless God is with him” (John 3:2, emp. added). Nicodemus was a rational man. He saw evidence that pointed to the obvious conclusion that Jesus was of divine origin, and was honest enough to admit it. Observe that he made a knowledge claim, i.e., he claimed to possess such certainty of Jesus’ identity, based on the evidence, that he could not possibly be wrong.
If it is the case that God does not expect a person to believe in Him unless adequate evidence has been made available to warrant that conclusion, then we might reasonably expect to see Jesus urging people not to believe Him unless He provided proof for His claims. Do we find Jesus doing so while He was on Earth? Unquestionably. This fact is particularly poignant in Jesus’ response to the tirade launched against Him by those who refused to accept the proof of His divinity. He reiterated: “The works that I do in My Father’s name, they bear witness of Me” (John 10:25). In other words, evidence (“works”) point to ascertainable truth. When His subsequent explicit declaration of His deity incited angry preparations to stone Him, He boldly challenged them: “If I do not do the works of My Father, do not believe Me; but if I do, though you do not believe Me, believe the works, that you may know and believe that the Father is in Me, and I in Him” (John 10:37-38, emp. added).
This passage conveys three key considerations. First, Jesus did not expect anyone to believe or accept Him unless He provided proof. Second, one must not allow personal prejudice and personalities to prevent acceptance of the conclusion to which the evidence points. Third, once the proof was made available, one could know the truth and thereby believe, i.e., knowledge precedes faith. One cannot biblically believe what one does not first know. That is why Paul declared: “I know whom I have believed and am persuaded that He is able to keep what I have committed to Him until that Day” (2 Timothy 1:12).
Since Jesus came to the planet to urge people to render obedient submission to Him (John 3:16; 8:24), it is difficult to envision Him telling people not to believe Him. But that is precisely what He did (cf. Miller, 2003c). He has provided the world with adequate evidence so that people may distinguish truth from error. How could anyone possibly question the fact of Jesus’ consistent use of logic and correct reasoning? He was, and is, the quintessential Logician Who created the human mind to function rationally. As we shall now see, His divinely guided disciples followed His example.

The Apostle Paul: First Rate Polemicist

Like his Lord, the apostle Paul was a master of logical argumentation in both oral and written proclamation. Shortly after his conversion, he entered upon a life-long career of debate and rational discourse. Examine carefully the terms that the Holy Spirit selected in the book of Acts to describe Saul’s inspired verbal activities:
  • “But Saul increased all the more in strength, and confounded [sugcheo—bewildered, confounded in dispute] the Jews who dwelt in Damascus, proving [sumbibadzon—to prove, demonstrate] that this Jesus is the Christ” (9:22, emp. added).
  • “Then Paul, as his custom was, went in to them, and for three Sabbaths reasoned [dielexato—discoursed, argued] with them from the Scriptures, explaining [dianoigon—to open the sense of a thing, expound] anddemonstrating [paratithemenos—propound, inculcate] that the Christ had to suffer and rise again from the dead, and saying, ‘This Jesus whom I preach to you is the Christ.’ And some of them were persuaded [epeithen—convinced]…. Therefore he reasoned [dielegeto—argued] in the synagogue with the Jews and with the Gentile worshipers, and in the marketplace daily with those who happened to be there” (17:2-4,17, emp. added; cf. 24:14).
  • “And he reasoned [dielegeto—argued] in the synagogue every Sabbath, and persuaded [epeisthaisan—convinced] both Jews and Greeks…. And he came to Ephesus and…he himself entered the synagogue and reasoned [dielexato—argued] with the Jews” (18:4,19, emp. added).
  • “And he went into the synagogue and spoke boldly for three months, reasoning [dialegomenos—arguing] and persuading [peithon—convincing] concerning the things of the kingdom of God. But when some were hardened and did not believe, but spoke evil of the Way before the multitude, he departed from them and withdrew the disciples, reasoning daily in the school of Tyrannus” (19:8-9, emp. added).
  • “So when they had appointed him a day, many came to him at his lodging, to whom he explained [exetitheto—set forth, expounded, exposed] and solemnly testified [diamarturomenos—earnestly affirm, bear witness, declare] of the kingdom of God, persuading [epeisthaisan—convincing] them concerning Jesus from both the Law of Moses and the Prophets, from morning till evening. And some were persuaded by the things which were spoken, and some disbelieved” (28:23-24, emp. added).
The bolded terms in these verses connote rational, logical activity. They imply tacit endorsement of the Law of Rationality: “We ought to justify our conclusions by adequate evidence”(Ruby, 1960, p. 131). No wonder, in writing to the Thessalonians, Paul admonished them by paraphrasing the Law of Rationality: “Test all things; hold fast what is good” (1 Thessalonians 5:21). The NASB renders the first phrase: “But examine everything carefully.” In other words, God expects all people to engage in a rational, logical pursuit of truth, with proper analysis of every viewpoint before accepting it as true. Neither Christianity nor atheism should be embraced until and unless the evidence warrants it.

Defending the Resurrection

Paul’s magnificent defense of the resurrection was couched, by divine inspiration, in logical thought forms (1 Corinthians 15:12-20). Identified in formal logic as a series of hypothetical syllogisms (“If...then....”), Paul employed the inference rule identified by logicians as Modus Tollens: if P, then Q; not Q; therefore, not P (see Baum, 1975, p. 216; cf. Warren, p. 57):
I. If no general resurrection, then Jesus not raised.
II. If Jesus not raised, then—
     A. Our preaching is vain
     B. Your faith is vain
     C. We are false witnesses
     D. You are still in your sins
     E. Those who have died have perished
     F. We are of all men most pitiable
III. But you know and agree that our preaching is not vain, your faith is not vain, we are not false witnesses, etc.
IV. Therefore, Jesus was raised.
V. Therefore, there will be a general resurrection.
Observe how Paul carefully brought the Corinthian Christians to the irresistible conclusion that “Christ is risen from the dead” (vs. 20). After examining such sophisticated logic, it is easy to see why Paul claimed concerning his divinely appointed role: “I am put here for the defense (apologian) of the gospel” (Philippians 1:16, RSV).
This logically exact methodology is typical of Paul and the other Spirit-inspired writers. When Paul charged Titus with orchestrating the appointment of qualified bishops on the island of Crete, he noted that elders must “be able, by sound doctrine, both to exhort and to convict those who contradict” (Titus 1:9, emp. added). In other words, as shepherds of the flock, elders must be debaters who can refute false teachers, enabling people to distinguish between truth and error. No wonder that, when Festus accused Paul of being crazy, Paul coolly countered: “I am not mad, most noble Festus; but speak the words of truth and reason” (Acts 26:25, emp. added). Paul answered the charge of insanity by arguing that his words were not only true, they were sensible, logical, and reasonable. The word translated “reason” is the same word in its verb form (sophroneo) used to refer to the demoniac after the expulsion of the demons, rendered “in his right mind” (Mark 5:15). Paul instructed young Timothy: “Be diligent to present yourself approved to God as a workman who does not need to be ashamed, accurately handling the word of truth” and “with gentleness correcting those who are in opposition” (2 Timothy 2:15,25, NASU, emp. added). Truth must be handled properly, and those who misapprehend the truth must be logically and rationally corrected, i.e., brought to an accurate understanding of truth.
Additional instances of Paul’s use of logic in defending truth are seen in his evangelistic travels in the book of Acts. For example, in the city of Lystra he offered a brief but pungent defense of the existence of the one true Creator God (versus the many pagan Greek and Roman gods). As proof of his assertion, he appealed to the evidence of natural revelation in the created order (i.e., “rain from heaven and fruitful seasons, filling our hearts with food and gladness” [Acts 14:17]). Another example was his address to the court of the Areopagus in Athens (Acts 17:22ff.). Incorporating supporting evidence from two Greek poets, Epimenides of Crete and Aratus of Cilicia, Paul again asserted the self-evident nature of God based on His Creation of the Universe, His immateriality, His creation of humanity, His eventual judgment of the world via Christ Who was raised from the dead. Paul’s oral defenses before the Jerusalem mob (Acts 22) and Sanhedrin (Acts 23), before the Roman procurator Felix in Caesarea (Acts 24), and before Felix’s successor, Porcius Festus and King Herod Agrippa II (Acts 25) provide additional instances of Paul’s logical skill. Truly, Paul, like Jesus, was a skillful logician who presented evidence that verified his verbal assertions. He admonished all others to so conduct themselves (e.g., 1 Thessalonians 5:21).

The Apostle Peter: Another Skilled Logician

Peter followed the same logical approach to his religious work. On the momentous occasion of the establishment of the church of Christ in Acts 2, Peter employed a Modus Ponens argument form with a compound antecedent (see Warren, p. 83). After refuting the false charge of intoxication, using proof from Joel 2 (vss. 15-21), Peter advanced four lines of argumentation, meticulously supported by evidence:
I. Jesus was:
    A. Approved/validated by God (vs. 22)—Supporting evidence:
        1. Jesus performed miracles
        2. The audience knew it
    B. Crucified by men (vs. 23)—the very ones present were responsible
    C. Resurrected by God (vs. 24)—Supporting evidence:
        1. Psalm 16 (vss. 25-28)
            (1) Not referring to David, since David’s tomb still in existence (vs. 29)
            (2) David was a prophet to whom God revealed the coming Christ (vss. 30-31)
        2. The apostles (and others) witnessed the resurrection (vs. 32)—which was checkable
    D. Ascended to heaven (vss. 33-34)—Supporting evidence:
        1. The undeniable tongue speaking manifested by the apostles came from Christ (vs. 33)
        2. Psalm 110—The ascension described did not refer to David (cf. vs. 29), but to Christ
 II. Therefore: Jesus (of Nazareth—vs. 22) is the Lord and Christ (vs. 36)
Having pressed four arguments, carefully supported by scriptural and verifiable evidence, like any good logician, Peter proceeded to deduce the only reasonable conclusion that could be drawn from the evidence: “Therefore let all the house of Israel know assuredly that God has made this Jesus, whom you crucified, both Lord and Christ” (Acts 2:36).
In harmony with his logical defense of the Faith on the day of Pentecost, Peter enjoined the same behavior on all Christians when he told them to “always be ready to give a defense to everyone who asks you a reason for the hope that is in you, with meekness and fear” (1 Peter 3:15, emp. added). The phrase translated “give a defense” (NKJV; “give an answer,” KJV/NIV) is from the very Greek word from which the transliterated term “apologetics” is derived. A technical, legal term that was used in the Greek law courts (Wuest, 1942, 2:89), it connotes rational activity—mustering arguments that prove the case. Wuest explains that the term entails “presenting a verbal defense for it, refuting the statements of the destructive critic” (2:89). By inspiration, Peter insisted that every Christian is to develop skill in apologetics—the ability to defend the Christian Faith. As Greek scholar A.T. Robertson explained: “Ready with a spoken defence [sic] of the inward hope. This attitude calls for an intelligent grasp of the hope and skill in presenting it” (1933, 6:114). Notice in the same verse Peter’s use of the word “reason” (logon—answer, explanation, accounting [Thayer, 1901, p. 381; Arndt and Gingrich, 1957, p. 479]). The term indicates that Christians have a reasonable faith, one that can be defended and established as true. Peter, too, was a divinely guided, first-rate logician.

Others Also Committed to Being Rational

Luke engaged in the same sort of rational enterprise in the writing of his inspired contributions to the Christian Scriptures. He wrote his gospel account so that Theophilus and subsequent readers might “know the certainty” (Luke 1:4) of the Christian message. In writing Acts, he noted how Jesus’ resurrection was verified by “many convincing proofs” (Acts 1:3, NASB). These declarations connote rational activity. Apollos, likewise, employed logic and reasonable discourse. Observe the terms that are used to describe his verbal proclivities: “for he vigorously [eutonos—powerfully, strenuously, intensely] refuted [diakatelegcheto—argue down to a finish, confute with rivalry, refute completely] the Jews publicly, showing [epideiknus—proving, demonstrating, setting forth so that all see] from the Scriptures that Jesus is the Christ” (Acts 18:28, emp. added).
Stephen was hauled into court before the Sanhedrin to give account of his alleged criticism of Judaism (Acts 6:11-15). He was literally on trial for his life. Yet his “defense” was hardly calculated to achieve his release. As F.F. Bruce noted: “Anything less likely to win a verdict of ‘not guilty’ from the judges can scarcely be imagined. It is rather an apology in the sense that it is a reasoned defence [sic] of the position which he had maintained” (1959, p. 24, emp. added). Indeed, Stephen used skillful reasoning and logic to place his accusers on trial before the judgment bar of God. His conclusion consisted of an indictment of the Jews for their murderous resistance of the Holy Spirit, evidenced by their history (Acts 7:2-50), culminating in their execution of the Christ (vss. 51-53). His logic was so powerfully penetrating that his enraged hearers stoned him to death.
The apostle John demonstrated the same attribute. With so many false representations of religion then (and now), he warned his readers: “Beloved, do not believe every spirit, but test the spirits, whether they are of God; because many false prophets have gone out into the world” (1 John 4:1, emp. added). Observe carefully that the “spirits” to which John referred were “false prophets,” i.e., mere human beings who went about attempting to deceive other people with their false religious ideas. Times have not changed one iota. The 21st century world of humanity—just like the 1st century—is literally inundated with false religion. Billions of people are deceived thereby. Yet, such is no proof that atheism is true. Nor is this state of affairs justification for failure to so consider the available evidence that one comes to the warranted conclusion that the God of the Bible exists. John insisted that every individual is under obligation to “test” (dokimadzete—put to the test, prove, scrutinize) by examining any doctrine, belief, or practice with which he or she is confronted in order to ascertain whether it is the truth. That means that every accountable person on Earth is under divine obligation to recognize that the extant evidence clearly demonstrates that the God of the Bible exists, the Bible is His inspired instructions to mankind, Christianity is the one true religion, and to be saved a person must love and obey the teachings of Jesus Christ as found in the New Testament.
Jude, the fleshly brother of Jesus, wrote a very short treatise for the New Testament canon. It, too, follows the same protocol regarding the need for rationality. In warning Christians about those who would subvert the Christian message, Jude declared: “Beloved, while I was very diligent to write to you concerning our common salvation, I found it necessary to write to you exhorting you to contend earnestly for the faith which was once for all delivered to the saints” (vs. 3, emp. added). The two words “contend earnestly” are a translation of the single Greek word epagonidzomai which means “to fight, contend” (Arndt and Gingrich, p. 281), referring to the strenuous, even agonizing, verbal defense in behalf of the truth of the Christian Faith. Greek scholar Kenneth Wuest notes that inherent in the term is the “vigorous, intense, determined struggle to defeat the opposition…presenting evidences of the divine source of Christianity and the falsity of the modernistic position” (2:235).
Even the angels—those celestial, spiritual beings who submit their wills to their Creator—naturally manifest the same propensity for rational analysis and promotion of Bible religion. The only angel in the Bible designated an “archangel” (archanggelos—“chief angel”; see Blass, et al., 1961, p. 64; Thayer, p. 76; Wuest, 2:246; cf. 1 Thessalonians 4:16), Michael, likewise projected logical propensities: “Yet Michael the archangel, in contending with the devil, when he disputed about the body of Moses, dared not bring against him a reviling accusation, but said, ‘The Lord rebuke you!’” (Jude 9, emp. added). Like Jesus, Michael engaged in a verbal disputation with Satan. The word translated “contending” (diakrinomonos) means to dispute. Michael engaged in an intellectual attempt to convict Satan with the correct view on the matter. The word translated “disputed” (dielegeto), already discussed with regard to Paul’s activity, means to argue and reason with a person. Michael obviously gave the devil specific reasons, propositions, and arguments that were designed to refute Satan’s erroneous viewpoint, while affirming the correct one.


All of these individuals were simply emulating the nature of God—who is spirit (John 4:24). Since one of His eminent attributes is correct thinking, He created humans to function the same way (though they can refuse to do so because of impure, ulterior motives). Passage after passage in the Bible demonstrates this premiere, conscientious concern for rational thinking. Solomon warned: “The naive believes everything, but the sensible man considers his steps” (Proverbs 14:15, NASU, emp. added). Quoting God, the magnanimous prophet Isaiah pleaded with his contemporaries: “Come now, and let us reason together” (1:18, emp. added). Luke commended the Bereans, labeling them “more noble-minded than those in Thessalonica” because “they received the word with great eagerness, examining the Scriptures daily, to see whether these things were so” (Acts 17:11, NASB). The Bereans listened to the oral claims, and then compared that information with scriptural evidence, before drawing any conclusions.


Jesus, the apostles, the prophets, and all the inspired writers of the Bible were meticulous in their observance of the Law of Rationality. In their religious pronouncements, they methodically set forth evidence, explained that evidence, and then proved the conclusion of their arguments. Jesus unquestionably taught that all human beings should recognize and honor the Law of Rationality. No one is exempt from this premiere necessity. Only by knowing truth, loving truth, handling truth correctly, and obeying the truth can a person be acceptable to God (John 8:32; 2 Thessalonians 2:10; 2 Timothy 2:15; 1 Peter 1:22).
Those who wish to be pleasing to God and live eternally with Him in heaven must not succumb to the humanistic hurricane that is assaulting society. With the decline of American civilization, and its concomitant deterioration and dissolution of the Christian values on which it was constructed (see Miller, 2008; Miller, 2009), fewer citizens see the need for a rational approach to life and religion. With this destructive storm have come the hurricane force winds and waves of existentialism and Pentecostalism. These violent and damaging forces have seeped into the church of our Lord. Meanwhile, the atheist, skeptic, and agnostic ridicule the corruptions of Christianity that dominate the spiritual landscape, all the while making the false and unwarranted assumption that true, New Testament Christianity is to be judged based on these corruptions. They, too, are conducting themselves as irrationally as those they demean. We must awaken out of our slumber and do all we can to salvage and save all who will manifest receptivity to the reasonable truths of our God. Now, more than ever before in recent history, we must remain unwavering in our proclamation of “words of truth and reason” (Acts 26:25). We must understand that living the Christian life means living a rational life.


Arndt, William and F.W. Gingrich (1957), A Greek-English Lexicon of the New Testament and Other Early Christian Literature (Chicago, IL: University of Chicago Press, 1977 reprint).
Baum, Robert (1975), Logic (New York: Holt, Rinehart, and Winston).
Blass, F., A. Debrunner, and Robert Funk (1961), A Greek Grammar of the New Testament and Other Early Christian Literature (Chicago, IL: University of Chicago Press).
Bruce, F.F. (1959), The Defense of the Gospel in the New Testament (Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans), revised edition.
Edwards, Paul, ed. (1972 reprint), The Encyclopedia of Philosophy (New York: Macmillan).
Fletcher, Joseph (1967), Moral Responsibility (Philadelphia, PA: Westminster).
Lucado, Max (1996), In the Grip of Grace (Dallas, TX: Word).
McGarvey, J.W. (no date), The Fourfold Gospel (Cincinnati, OH: Standard).
McGarvey, J.W. (1974 reprint), Evidences of Christianity (Nashville, TN: Gospel Advocate).
Metzger, Bruce M. (1968),The Text of the New Testament (New York: Oxford University Press), second edition.
Metzger, Bruce (1971), A Textual Commentary on the Greek New Testament (New York: United Bible Society).
Miller, Dave (2003a), “Blind Faith,” Apologetics Press, http://www.apologeticspress.org/APContent.aspx?category =11&article=444.
Miller, Dave (2003b), “The Genealogies of Matthew and Luke,” Apologetics Press, http://www.apologeticspress.org/apcontent.aspx?category=6&article=932.
Miller, Dave (2003c), “Jesus Said ‘Do Not Believe Me,’” Apologetics Press, http://www.apologeticspress.org/APContent.aspx?category=11&article=917&topic=92.
Miller, Dave (2008), The Silencing of God: The Dismantling of America’s Christian Heritage (Montgomery, AL: Apologetics Press).
Miller, Dave (2009), Christ and the Continental Congress (Montgomery, AL: Apologetics Press).
Robertson, A.T. (1933), Word Pictures in the New Testament (Nashville, TN: Broadman).
Ruby, Lionel (1960), Logic: An Introduction (Chicago, IL: J.B. Lippincott).
Thayer, J.H. (1901), A Greek-English Lexicon of the New Testament (1977 reprint), (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan).
Warren, Thomas B. (1982), Logic and the Bible (Jonesboro, AR: National Christian Press).
Woods, Guy N. (1989), A Commentary on the Gospel According to John (Nashville, TN: Gospel Advocate).
Wuest, Kenneth (1942), Word Studies in the Greek New Testament: First Peter (Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans, 2002 reprint).

Is Christianity Logical? [Part I] by Dave Miller, Ph.D.


Is Christianity Logical? [Part I]

by  Dave Miller, Ph.D.

[EDITOR’S NOTE: This article is the first installment in a two-part series exploring the claim of atheism that Christianity is an irrational belief system that evades reason and abandons rationality and evidence in exchange for intellectual dishonesty and ignorance of the truth. What does the evidence actually show?]
The so-called “new atheists” (Wolf, 2006) are exceedingly rabid in their bitter denunciations of Christianity. Indeed, the severity and ferocity with which they press their case cause the objective person to ponder, with Queen Gertrude, “The lady doth protest too much, methinks” (Shakespeare, III.2). As is usually the case, many of their castigations are only properly directed toward poor practiti­oners of Christianity—those who profess to be Christians, but whose beliefs and/or practices do not fairly and accurately represent New Testament Christianity. The fact is that no atheist can validate his unbelief by pitting it against the true doctrines of Christianity. The truths of pure, New Testament Christianity are logically consistent. Indeed, they came from the thoroughly rational mind of the eternal God.
Atheists are big on insisting that truth may be known, arrived at logically, and sustained by evidence. They constantly allege that Christianity and the Bible are at odds with a logical approach to reality. They insist that Christianity is unreasonable and conflicts with the laws of logic. One of these contemporary critics of religion, Sam Harris, states in his book The End of Faith, “Religious faith represents so uncompromising a misuse of the power of our minds that it forms a kind of perverse, cultural singularity—a vanishing point beyond which rational discourse proves impossible” (2004, p. 25, emp. added). Harris has also insisted: “The problem with faith, is that it really is a conversation stopper. Faith is a declaration of immunity to the powers of conversation. It is a reason, why you do not have to give reasons, for what you believe” (as quoted in “Godless Quotes,” 2009, italics in orig., emp. added). He freely ridicules Bible teaching as unreasonable and illogical:
We either have good reasons or bad reasons for what we believe; we can be open to evidence and argument, or we can be closed; we can tolerate (and even seek) criticism of our most cherished views, or we can hide behind authority, sanctity, and dogma. The main reason why children are still raised to think that the universe is 6,000 years old is not because religion as a “social institution” hasn’t been appropriately coddled and cajoled, but because polite people (and scientists terrified of losing their funding) haven’t laughed this belief off the face of the earth (in Harris and Ball, 2009, emp. added).
Harris is certainly not alone. Richard Dawkins agrees: “[R]eligious faith is an especially potent silencer of rational calculation, which usually seems to trump all others” (2006, p. 346, emp. added). Christopher Hitchens summarizes the atheistic mentality of our day: “All attempts to reconcile faith with science and reason are consigned to failure and ridicule” (2007, p. 64).
Such invectives are not new. Skeptics, atheists, and unbelievers have railed against Christianity and the Bible for millennia, insisting that belief in the Christian religion and the divine origin of the Bible is irrational, illogical, and fraught with error and contradiction. As noted above, however, their indictments aptly apply only to those within Christendom who have embraced false depictions of Christianity (e.g., Catholicism, Protestantism, Mormonism, Calvinism, et al.). What the skeptic must realize is that fairness demands that the authenticity of Christianity be assessed—not on the basis of the thicket of confusion, diversity, and doctrinal disagreement that characterizes Christendom—but upon what the New Testament actually teaches.


Even as pluralism has seized Western civilization by the throat, branding the pursuit of truth an irrelevant and impossible enterprise (cf. Bloom, 1987), so many well-meaning, but incompetent, practitioners of Christianity have thrown their hands up in exasperation, concluding that arriving at certainty is a hopeless endeavor. They have relegated the pursuit of doctrinal correctness to the dust bin of antiquity. In its place, they have substituted entertainment (e.g., praise bands, hand waving, and “tongue-speaking”)—mindless, emotional stimulation (which they call “Christian worship”). Many churches have assumed the posture that truth is elusive, and no one should be “judgmental” of anyone else; no one should be so arrogant or dogmatic as to insist that a certain viewpoint is the only right one. Atheists sit back and, rightly, laugh at this unfortunate distortion of Christianity—this sellout to secular culture.
Without even examining the Bible and the claims of New Testament Christianity, a person ought to be able to see that pluralism in religion is self-contradictory and discredited. Those who espouse it inconsistently insist that they are correct. They are dogmatic in their insistence that no one should be dogmatic. They hold as absolute truth the absurd notion that there are no absolute truths. They have to deny their viewpoint in order to hold their viewpoint. In the meantime, the atheist claims to transcend this malady by dismissing all religion as false, feeling confident that he has firmly legitimized his infidelity via logic and rationality.
Many well-meaning, religious people take the foolish position that truth is elusive and unattainable, and that doctrinal correctness is unimportant and unnecessary. Only in the task of interpreting the Bible do such people take the position that truth is relative, always changing, and something of which they can never be sure. Ironically, many religionists “reason” in religion in a way that differs from the way they reason in other facets of their lives—like driving their car or picking up their mail.
For example, when they go to the doctor because they are not feeling well, they communicate to the doctor their symptoms, fully expecting to be understood. They expect the doctor to gather all the relevant evidence (the verbal information the patient gives, as well as the symptoms displayed by the body and test results). That evidence must then be properly interpreted to draw the right conclusions concerning the ailment and its proper treatment. The doctor then writes out a prescription that the patient takes to the pharmacist and, once again, the religious person expects the pharmacist to interpret properly the doctor’s instructions. The religious person then takes the prescription home and reads the label, fully expecting to understand the directions. The fact that doctors and pharmacists can make mistakes by drawing unwarranted conclusions about one’s physical condition does not change the fact that if they gather sufficient evidence and reason properly about the information, they can know the truth about a person’s physical condition. When it comes to their religion, however, many religious people abandon rationality.
Every single day that we live, we interpret thousands of messages accurately. We read the newspaper or watch television news, fully expecting to understand what we read, hear, and see. We read bills, books, and text messages with the same expectation. We go to the mailbox, get our mail, and browse through it, fully expecting to interpret properly the messages being conveyed. The fact that misunderstanding sometimes occurs does not negate the fact that more information can be examined in order to draw the right conclusions and arrive at correct interpretations.
We go through this process constantly—every waking hour of the day, day in and day out, year after year. You are reading this article with a reasonable expectation of being able to understand it. We give ourselves credit for having the ability to operate sensibly and communicate with one another intelligibly. Yet, a host of religious people turn right around and imply that the God of heaven, the One Who created our minds and our thinking capacity, the One Who is infinitely wiser and more capable than humans, is incapable of making His will known to humanity in a clear and understandable fashion. When some people who profess to be Christians come to the Bible, they suddenly do an about-face and insist that we cannot be sure what God’s will is, we cannot be dogmatic on doctrine, and we must allow differing opinions on what is spiritually right or wrong.
Many people who claim to embrace Christianity ridicule and denounce logic, debate, argumentation, and emphasis upon being rational and reasonable. The practical effect of such propaganda is the upsurge of subjectivity, emotions, and personal taste (often attributed to the Spirit) as authoritative standards in religious practice. The Bible as the comprehensive, comprehendible, unchanging source of religious authority is thereby supplanted, and the satanic severance of human culture from the God of heaven is complete. Such behavior fuels unbelief. Atheists can see the hypocrisy and inconsistency. They are rightly repulsed by such religion. Nevertheless, they are obligated to distinguish between the manifold manifestations of false religion and the one true religion of the New Testament.


The term “logic” refers to nothing more than correct reasoning. A person is logical when he or she reasons correctly. Being “illogical” amounts to engaging in incorrect reasoning. Does the Bible reflect affinity with the laws of thought and logic? Did Jesus, Paul, and other inspired speakers and writers argue their cases, prove their propositions, and engage in rational, reasonable discourse? The truth is that those who were selected by God (prophets, apostles, and Bible writers) to communicate His will to the world always presented their divinely inspired communication with logical precision. They never once committed a logical error. They always argued the case for Christianity accurately and rationally—precisely what one would expect if they were guided by the perfect rational Mind.

Jesus Christ: The Master Logician

While on Earth, Jesus demonstrated incredible proclivity for rationality in His sharp, potent, penetrating use of logic and sound argumentation. His first recorded responsible activity consisted of a logical dialogue between Himself (at the age of twelve) and the Jewish theologians. “All who heard Him were astonished at His understanding and answers” (Luke 2:47, emp. added). The next recorded instance of Jesus’ public cognitive activity was on the occasion of His baptism. He reasoned with John in order to convince John to immerse Him (Matthew 3:13-15), advancing a logical reason to justify the action.

Debate with Satan (Matthew 4:1-11)

Immediately after this incident, Jesus faced Satan in the desert. Satan posed three arguments, urging Christ to act on the basis of his erroneous reasoning. Notice carefully the sequence of the disputation between the two, with special attention to Christ’s superior (i.e., accurate) use of logic to defeat His opponent:
Argument #1:
Satan: “If You are the Son of God, command that these stones become bread.”
Jesus: “It is written, ‘Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that proceeds from the mouth of God.’”
Christ offered authoritative Scripture (Deuteronomy 8:3) as evidence to contradict Satan’s conclusion. In other words, satisfying the legitimate need of hunger must never take precedence over the need to obey God and tend to spiritual needs first. Further, miracles did not have as their divine purpose to satisfy physical needs (Mark 16:20; Hebrews 2:3-4). Jesus’ logical reply was sufficiently decisive that Satan attempted no rebuttal, but moved to a second argument in an effort to convince Jesus to succumb to his faulty reasoning from atop the temple.
Argument #2:
Satan: “If You are the Son of God, throw Yourself down. For it is written: ‘He shall give His angels charge over you,’ and, ‘In their hands they shall bear you up, lest you dash your foot against a stone.’”
Jesus: “It is written again, ‘You shall not tempt the Lord your God.’”
Observe that this time, Satan offered Scripture (Psalm 91:11-12) as supporting evidence to justify his proposal. Yet, this clever ploy, intended to create the illusion of legitimacy, was in fact a mishandling of the evidence—a twisting of Scripture (2 Peter 3:16). Jesus countered with additional Scripture (Deuteronomy 6:16) that demonstrated Satan’s misapplication of Psalm 91 to the situation at hand. In other words, Psalm 91, though intended to convey the care and protection that God extends to the faithful, was not intended to provide sanction for what Satan proposed: deliberately placing oneself in peril in order to force God to come to one’s rescue. God’s offer of assistance does not extend to purposely walking in front of an oncoming car just to see if He will miraculously prevent an individual from being struck. The context of Deuteronomy 6:16, the verse that Jesus quoted, refers to the kind of testing and tempting displayed by the Israelites when they murmured, grumbled, and challenged Moses to produce water—as if God was unable or unwilling to aid them. For Jesus to have complied with Satan’s challenge would have placed Him in the same posture as the spiritually weak, unbelieving Israelites who “tempted” God (“tempted” is from nah-sah—to prove/test Him due to doubting His aid/power [Gesenius, 1847, p. 552]; cf. Exodus 17:2, re-ev—to chide, strive, contend). The only logical response to such a challenge was the very one that Jesus, in fact, mustered: “Do not tempt God! Do not put Him to the test since such indicates your own lack of faith!” This rebuttal, too, was sufficiently potent to discourage Satan from pressing his ploy any further. Instead, he shifted his verbal barrage to a third challenge, by dangling before Jesus the glory of the kingdoms of the Earth.
Argument #3
Satan: “All these things I will give You if You will fall down and worship me.”
Jesus: “Away with you, Satan! For it is written, ‘You shall worship the Lord Your God, and Him only You shall serve.’”
Jesus, for the third time, marshaled scriptural proof to show the error of Satan’s position, while reaffirming the truth. Based on Deuteronomy 6:13, it would be sinful to worship Satan or anyone but Deity. God alone is worthy of worship. With this third display of devastating logic, Satan ceased his verbal assaults and fled the scene.
This marvelous demonstration of Christ’s mastery of debate and logical disputation is not an isolated instance. Jesus wielded logic and reason throughout His earthly sojourn. He consistently responded to His contemporaries with piercing, devastating logic. He continually was besieged with questions and verbal tests (Luke 11:53-54)—to which He consistently displayed rational, reasoned response. Consider these additional examples:

Exchange with the Pharisees Over Eating Grain (Matthew 12:1-9)

In responding to the Pharisees’ erroneous charge leveled against His disciples for eating grain from a standing grain field on the Sabbath, Jesus commenced to counter their accusation with penetrating logic, advancing successive rebuttals. Before He presented specific scriptural refutation of their false charge, He first employed a rational device designated by logicians as argumentum ad hominem (literally “argument to the man”). He used the “circumstantial” form of this argument, which enabled Him to “point out a contrast between the opponent’s lifestyle and his expressed opinions, thereby suggesting that the opponent and his statements can be dismissed as hypocritical” (Baum, 1975, p. 470, emp. added). This variety of argumentation spotlights the opponent’s inconsistency, and “charges the adversary with being so prejudiced that his alleged reasons are mere rationalizations of conclusions dictated by self-interest” (Copi, 1972, p. 76).
Observe carefully the technical sophistication inherent in Jesus’ strategy. He called attention to the case of David (vss. 3-4). When David was in exile, literally running for his life to escape the jealous, irrational rage of Saul, he and his companions arrived in Nob, tired and hungry (1 Samuel 21:1ff.). He lied to the priest and conned him into giving them the showbread, or “bread of the Presence” (i.e., 12 flat cakes arranged in two rows on the table within the Tabernacle [Exodus 25:23-30; Leviticus 24:5-6]), to his traveling companions—bread that legally was reserved only for the priests (Leviticus 24:8-9; cf. Exodus 29:31-34; Leviticus 8:31; 22:10ff.). In doing so, David clearly violated the law. Did the Pharisees condemn him? Absolutely not! They revered David. They held him in high regard. In fact, nearly a thousand years after his passing, his tomb was still being tended (Acts 2:29; cf. 1 Kings 2:10; Nehemiah 3:16; Josephus, 1974a, 13.8.4; 16.7.1; Josephus, 1974b, 1.2.5). On the one hand, they condemned the disciples of Jesus, who were innocent, but on the other hand, they upheld and revered David, who was guilty. Their inconsistency betrayed both their insincerity as well as their ineligibility to bring a legal charge against the disciples.
After exposing their hypocrisy and inconsistency, Jesus next turned to answer the charge pertaining to violating the Sabbath. He called their attention to the priests who worked in the temple on the Sabbath (12:5; e.g., Numbers 28:9-10). The priests were “blameless”—not guilty—of violating the Sabbath law because their work was authorized to be performed on that day. After all, the Sabbath law did not imply total inactivity—as if everyone was to sit down for 24 hours and do nothing. The Law gave the right, even the obligation, to engage in several activities that did not constitute violation of the Sabbath regulation. Examples of such authorization included eating (cf. Exodus 12:16)—even from a neighbor’s grainfield (Deuteronomy 23:25)—temple service, circumcision (John 7:22), tending to the care of animals (Exodus 23:4-5; Deuteronomy 22:1-4; Matthew 12:11; Luke 13:15), and extending kindness or assistance to the needy (Matthew 12:12; Luke 13:16; 14:1-6; John 5:5-9; 7:23). The divinely authorized Sabbath activity of the priests proved that the accusation the Pharisees brought against Jesus’ disciples was false. [The term “profane” (vs. 5) is an example of the figure of speech known as metonymy of the adjunct in which “things are spoken of according to appearance, opinions formed respecting them, or the claims made for them” (Dungan, 1888, p. 295, emp. added). By this figure, Leah was said to be the “mother” of Joseph (Genesis 37:10), angels were said to be “men” (e.g., Genesis 18:16; 19:10), Joseph was said to be the “father” of Jesus (Luke 2:48; John 6:42), and God’s preached message was said to be “foolishness” (1 Corinthians 1:21). Priestly activity on the Sabbath gave the appearance of violation when, in fact, it was not. Coincidentally, Bullinger classified the allusion to “profane” in this verse as an instance of catachresis, or incongruity, stating that “it expresses what was true according to the mistaken notion of the Pharisees as to manual works performed on the Sabbath” (1898, p. 676, emp. added)].
After pointing out the obvious legality of priestly effort expended on the Sabbath, Jesus stated: “But I say to you that in this place there is One greater than the temple” (12:6). The underlying Greek text actually has “something” instead of “One.” If priests could carry on tabernacle/temple service on the Sabbath, surely Jesus’ own disciples were authorized to engage in service in the presence of the Son of God. After all, service directed to the person of Jesus certainly is greater than the pre-Christian temple service conducted by Old Testament priests—“who serve the copy and shadow of the heavenly things” (Hebrews 8:5).
For all practical purposes, the discussion was over. Jesus had disproved the claim of the Pharisees. But He did not stop there. He took His methodical confrontation to yet another level. He penetrated beneath the surface argument that the Pharisees had posited and focused on their hearts: “But if you had known what this means, ‘I desire mercy and not sacrifice,’ you would not have condemned the guiltless” (12:7). In this verse, Jesus quoted from an Old Testament context (Hosea 6:6) in which the prophet of old struck a blow against the mere external, superficial, ritualistic observance of some laws, to the neglect of heartfelt, sincere, humble attention to other laws while treating people properly. The comparison is evident. The Pharisees who confronted Jesus’ disciples were not truly interested in obeying God’s law. They were masquerading under that pretense (cf. Matthew 15:1-9; 23:3). But their problem did not lie in an attitude of honestly desiring careful compliance with God’s law—which would have been commendable. Rather, their zest for law keeping was hypocritical and unaccompanied by their own obedience and concern for others. They possessed critical hearts and were more concerned with scrutinizing, accusing, and condemning people than with honest, genuine application of God’s directives for the good of their fellow human beings.
In their hypocrisy, the Pharisees had neutralized the true intent of divine regulations, making void the Word of God (Matthew 15:6). They had ignored and skipped over the significant laws that enjoined justice, mercy, and faith (Matthew 23:23). Consequently, though their attention to legal detail was laudable, their misapplication of it, as well as their neglect and rejection of some aspects of it, made them inappropriate and unqualified promulgators of God’s laws. Indeed, they simply did not fathom the teaching of Hosea 6:6 (cf. Micah 6:6-8). “I desire mercy, and not sacrifice” is a Hebraism (cf. Matthew 9:13) [McGarvey, 1875, pp. 82-83]. God was not saying that He did not want sacrifices offered under the Old Testament economy (notice the use of “more” in Hosea 6:6). After all, He was the author of such sacrifices (e.g., Deuteronomy 12:6,11). Rather, He was saying that He did not want sacrifice alone. He wanted mercy with sacrifice. Internal motive and attitude are just as important to God as the external compliance with specifics (cf. John 4:24; Joshua 24:14).
Samuel addressed this same attitude shown by Saul: “Has the Lord as great delight in burnt offerings and sacrifices, as in obeying the voice of the Lord? Behold, to obey is better than sacrifice, and to heed than the fat of rams” (1 Samuel 15:22). Samuel was not minimizing the essentiality of sacrifice as required by God. Rather, he was convicting Saul of the pretense of using one aspect of God’s requirements, i.e., alleged “sacrifice” of the best animals (1 Samuel 15:15), as a smoke screen for violating God’s instructions, i.e., failing to destroy all the animals (1 Samuel 15:3). If the Pharisees had understood these things, they would not have accused the disciples of breaking the law when the disciples, in fact, had not done so. They “would not have condemned the guiltless” (Matthew 12:7, emp. added).
While the disciples were guilty of violating an injunction that the Pharisees had concocted (alleging the injunction to be a genuine implication of the Sabbath regulation), the disciples were not guilty of a violation of Sabbath law. The Pharisees’ propensity for enjoining their uninspired and erroneous interpretations of Sabbath law upon others was the direct result of cold, unmerciful hearts that found a kind of sadistic glee in binding burdens upon people for burdens’ sake, rather than in encouraging people to obey God genuinely. Their haughty spirits sought ego boosts from presumptuously binding restrictions above and beyond God’s explicitly stated injunctions in an attempt to appear more religiously sincere.
Jesus placed closure on His exchange with the Pharisees on this occasion by asserting the accuracy of His handling of this entire affair: “For the Son of Man is Lord even of the Sabbath” (vs. 8). In other words, Jesus affirmed His deity and, therefore, His credentials and authoritative credibility for making accurate application of the Law of Moses to the issue at hand. This entire exchange demonstrates the meticulous regard for logic and reason that Jesus possessed.

Dialogue with the Chief Priests and Elders Over Authority (Matthew 21:23-27)

Another typical incident in the life of Christ further spotlights His propensity for rationality. On one occasion when He was teaching in the temple, the chief priests and elders confronted Him by asking two questions: “By what authority are You doing these things? And who gave You this authority?” (vs. 23). Commenting on the use of the term “authority” in this passage, Betz noted that the Pharisees used the term exousia to refer to “the power to act which given as of right to anyone by virtue of the position he holds” (1976, 2:601). They were asking, in essence, “Who was it that conferred upon you this authority which you presume to exercise? Was it some earthly ruler, or was it God himself?” (Spence and Exell, 1961, 15:321). As Williams noted: “No one could presume to teach without a proper commission: where was his authorization?” (as quoted in Spence and Exell, 15:320).
With remarkable logical prowess, Jesus proceeded to “impale” His accusers on the horns of what logicians call a “constructive dilemma” (Baum, p. 210; Copi, p. 274; Warren, 1982, pp. 82ff.). He countered their question by proposing to provide the answer if they would first answer His question to them. His question: “The baptism of John, where was it from? From heaven or from men?” Logically, Jesus was merely putting their question back on them. They wanted to know what source authorized His teaching. So, Jesus merely pressed them to identify John the Baptizer’s source of authority. After all, both derived their authority from the same source. Yet these hard-hearted religious leaders rejected John and, by implication, his source of authority. So neither would they accept Jesus Who received His authority from the same source (i.e., Heaven). Hence, to spotlight their unjustified resistance to the truth, He pricked them with their own unbelief by placing them in a logical bind that would both silence them and expose their insincerity.
Placed into precise, valid argument form (see Warren, p. 82), Jesus’ use of a constructive dilemma entailed the first premise composed of the conjunction of two implicative statements, the second premise composed of a disjunctive proposition comprised of the antecedents of the two elements in premise one, and the third premise (the conclusion) consisting of a disjunctive statement containing the consequents of the two elements of premise one. [See chart below]
The Jews could easily discern the logical import of Jesus’ argument—and the predicament into which they were thrust. They could see that their attempt to discredit Jesus was logically and decisively defeated. They were effectively silenced. They had no choice but to bow out of the interchange by feigning ignorance: “We do not know” (vs. 27). The fact is, they did know; they were simply unwilling to answer Jesus’ question and thereby damage their own public credibility. So Jesus concluded: “Neither will I tell you by what authority I do these things” (vs. 27). That is, there’s no point in answering your question if you are unwilling to admit the correct answer to My question, since the answer to both is the same.

Dispute with the Sadducees Concerning Marriage and the Resurrection (Matthew 22:23-33)

Another impressive interchange between Jesus and His opponents, in which He demonstrated superb logical skill, is seen in the attempt by the Sadducees to entangle Him on the subject of the resurrection. The distinguishing doctrine of the Sadducee sect—the very doctrine that gave them their reason for existing as a distinct faction—was the rejection of afterlife. The inspired historian Luke explains: “For Sadducees say that there is no resurrection—and no angel or spirit” (Acts 23:8). After seeing the Pharisees fail in their efforts to ensnare Jesus (cf. Luke 20:26), they submitted what they must have considered to be an unanswerable argument by which they hoped to discredit Him. Feigning genuine interest in Bible interpretation, they approached Jesus, addressing Him as “teacher,” and posed a technical question pertaining to the Law of Moses. This argument was intended to demonstrate logically the validity of their position, while simultaneously showing the falsity of the doctrine of the resurrection. They offered the following highly improbable scenario (which they claimed was an actual case):
Teacher, Moses said that if a man dies, having no children, his brother shall marry his wife and raise up offspring for his brother. Now there were with us seven brothers. The first died after he had married, and having no offspring, left his wife to his brother. Likewise the second also, and the third, even to the seventh. Last of all the woman died also. Therefore, in the resurrection, whose wife of the seven will she be? For they all had her (vss. 24-28).
Here is their argument laid out in syllogistic form:
  1. If the Law of Moses enjoins the Levirate marriage law in which a man must be dead before his brother may marry his surviving spouse (Deuteronomy 25:5-6), and
  2. If there is a resurrection in which seven brothers and their one wife will rise from the dead,
  3. Then the seven men will all be married to the same woman at the same time in the afterlife.
No doubt a favorite argument of the Sadducees, the purpose was to make the idea of resurrection appear ridiculous (cf. McGarvey, n.d., p. 601). One can easily imagine that the purveyors of this scenario delivered the phrase “in the resurrection” with a “tongue-in-cheek” tone of voice (since they did not believe in such), and perhaps elbowed each other with smirks on their faces, fully confident that they had delivered a decisive deathblow to the notion of resurrection, thereby establishing the validity of Sadduceeism.
But their clever argument was no match for Deity. They were dealing with the Author of truth and the premiere controversialist whose knowledge and skill in the use of correct thinking and accurate argumentation was unsurpassed. Jesus meticulously commenced to dismantle their seemingly formidable challenge. First, He delivered two decisive rebuttals to their postulated scenario that are preceded by the stinging reprimand that they are “mistaken” (“err/in error,” KJV/NIV/ASV; “wrong,” RSV): (1) they do not know the Scriptures, and (2) they are ignorant of the power of God. These two assertions are followed by a forthright declaration of the circumstances that prevail in the afterlife (circumstances that only Deity could know): “For in the resurrection they neither marry nor are given in marriage, but are like angels of God in heaven” (vs. 30). In other words, once humans transcend this earthly existence and enter into the spirit realm, the fleshly relationships that characterized the physical realm will not continue.
Specifically, marriage is a function of earthly relationships, intended by God to serve a variety of purposes that are integrally related to earthly existence (foremost of which is propagation of the species—irrelevant in eternity). As a piece of concrete proof of this transition, Jesus directed the Sadducees’ attention to the angels—a direct “gig” at their views since they also denied the existence of angels. Here are spirit beings, also created by God, who inhabit the celestial realm (although they travel to the Earth to do God’s bidding and, while here, appear in male, human form [e.g., Genesis 18:2,16,22; 19:1ff.]). It is apparent, from the treatment of the subject of angels in the Bible, that they are beings who refrain from the fleshly relationships that humans engage in on Earth. Angels, therefore, constitute a suitable example of Jesus’ contention that the marriage relationship as we know it on Earth will not carry over into the heavenly realm.
With these points, Jesus won the “debate” by undercutting the assumption inherent in the Sadducee’s argument that earthly marriage will transpire in heaven as it does on Earth. However, the test case that this Jewish faction advanced was merely a ruse intended to authenticate their central doctrine: disbelief in the doctrine of the resurrection of the dead. Hence, Jesus proceeded to dismantle that preeminent contention: “But concerning the resurrection of the dead, have you not read what was spoken to you by God, saying, ‘I am the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob’? God is not the God of the dead, but of the living” (vss. 31-32). With succinct, breathtaking brevity, Jesus demolished the core doctrine of Sadduceeism by showing its logical fallacy. He pointed their attention to Exodus 3:6, when Moses stood before the burning bush. On that occasion, God identified Himself as the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. But at the time God made that statement to Moses (cir. 1500 B.C.), the bodies of those three patriarchs had been in the grave for hundreds of years (Genesis 25:8; 35:29; 49:33). God made clear to Moses that, though those patriarchs were deceased, He continued to be their God. As Jesus concluded: “God is not the God of the dead, but of the living.” Exodus 3:6 constitutes scriptural proof that Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob—though separated from their physical bodies—were still in existence. They were not extinct. They would one day be reunited with their bodies in the resurrection. With this decisive demonstration, Jesus essentially devastated Sadduceeism. To remain a Sadducee, after Jesus so effectively disproved the core doctrine of Sadduceeism, would be to live a life of irrationality and to conduct oneself in direct contradiction to the evidence.
This dazzling display of rationality and skilled, logical proficiency provides ample proof that the skeptic’s charge—that Christianity is irrational—is incorrect. Unlike the philosophers, pretenders, and conmen of history, who sought to gather followers around themselves to support their imposture, Jesus was consistently logical in His living of life, constantly insisting on the exclusivity of truth (John 8:32) and its power to transform individuals (John 17:17). He remained committed to truth and rationality, even when it meant the loss of followers (John 6:60-71). He, indeed, is the Master Logician—the supreme and quintessential example of right.


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