Is God Immoral for Killing Innocent Children? by Kyle Butt, M.Div.



Is God Immoral for Killing Innocent Children?

by  Kyle Butt, M.Div.

Dan Barker and many of his atheistic colleagues claim that atheism offers the world a superior system of morality when compared to the moral system presented in the Bible. In fact, near the end of Dan’s ten-minute rebuttal speech during our debate, he stated: “We can know that the atheistic way is actually a superior intellectual and moral way of thinking” (Butt and Barker, 2009). One primary reason Dan gave for his belief that the Bible’s morality is flawed is that the Bible states that God has directly killed people, and that God has authorized others to kill as well. In Dan’s discussion about Abraham’s sacrifice of Isaac, Dan said that Abraham should not have been willing to obey God’s command. Dan stated: “By the way, Abraham should have said, ‘No, way. I’m better than you [God—KB], I’m not going to kill my son’” (Butt and Barker, 2009).

In his book godless, Barker said: “There is not enough space to mention all of the places in the bible where God committed, commanded or condoned murder” (2008, p. 177). The idea that God is immoral because He has killed humans is standard atheistic fare. In his Letter to a Christian Nation, Sam Harris cited several Bible verses in which God directly or indirectly caused people to die. He then stated: “Anyone who believes that the Bible offers the best guidance we have on questions of morality has some very strange ideas about either guidance or morality” (2006, p. 14). In his landmark atheistic bestseller, The God Delusion, Richard Dawkins wrote the following as the opening paragraph of chapter two:

The God of the Old Testament is arguably the most unpleasant character in all fiction: jealous and proud of it; a petty, unjust, unforgiving control-freak; a vindictive, bloodthirsty ethnic cleanser; a misogynistic, homophobic, racist, infanticidal, genocidal, filicidal, pestilential, megalomaniacal, sadomasochistic, capriciously malevolent bully (2006, p. 31, emp. added).

After listing several Old Testament verses pertaining to the conquest of Canaan, Dawkins referred to God as an “evil monster” (p. 248). Christopher Hitchens wrote that God’s actions and instructions in the Old Testament had caused “the ground” to be “forever soaked with the blood of the innocent” (2007, p. 107).

Is it true that atheism offers a superior morality to that found in the Bible? And is the God of the Bible immoral for advocating or directly causing the deaths of millions of people? The answer to both questions is an emphatic “No.” A close look at the atheistic claims and accusations will manifest the truth of this answer.


The extreme irony of the atheistic argument against God’s morality is that atheism is completely impotent to define the term “moral,” much less use the concept against any other system. On February 12, 1998, William Provine delivered a speech on the campus of the University of Tennessee. In an abstract of that speech, his introductory comments are recorded in the following words: “Naturalistic evolution has clear consequences that Charles Darwin understood perfectly. 1) No gods worth having exist; 2) no life after death exists; 3) no ultimate foundation for ethics exists; 4) no ultimate meaning in life exists; and 5) human free will is nonexistent” (Provine, 1998, emp. added). Provine’s ensuing message centered on his fifth statement regarding human free will. Prior to delving into the “meat” of his message, however, he noted: “The first 4 implications are so obvious to modern naturalistic evolutionists that I will spend little time defending them” (1998).

It is clear then, from Provine’s comments, that he believes naturalistic evolution has no way to produce an “ultimate foundation for ethics.” And it is equally clear that this sentiment was so apparent to “modern naturalistic evolutionists” that Dr. Provine did not feel it even needed to be defended. Oxford professor Richard Dawkins concurred with Provine by saying: “Absolutist moral discrimination is devastatingly undermined by the fact of evolution” (Dawkins, 2006, p. 301).

If atheism is true and humans evolved from non-living, primordial slime, then any sense of moral obligation must simply be a subjective outworking of the physical neurons firing in the brain. Theoretically, atheistic scientists and philosophers admit this truth. Charles Darwin understood this truth perfectly. He wrote: “A man who has no assured and ever present belief in the existence of a personal God or of a future existence with retribution and reward, can have for his rule of life, as far as I can see, only to follow those impulses and instincts which are the strongest or which seem to him the best ones” (1958, p. 94, emp. added). Dan Barker admitted this truth in his debate with Peter Payne, when he stated: “There are no actions in and of themselves that are always absolutely right or wrong. It depends on the context. You cannot name an action that is always absolutely right or wrong. I can think of an exception in any case” (2005).

If there is no moral standard other than human “impulses and instincts,” then any attempt to accuse another person of immoral behavior boils down to nothing more than one person not liking the way another person does things. While the atheist may claim not to like God’s actions, if he admits that there is a legitimate standard of morality that is not based on subjective human whims, then he has forfeited his atheistic position. If actions can accurately be labeled as objectively moral or immoral, then atheism cannot be true. As C.S. Lewis eloquently stated:

My argument against God was that the universe seemed so cruel and unjust. But how had I got this idea of just and unjust? A man does not call a line crooked unless he has some idea of a straight line. What was I comparing this universe with when I called it unjust...? Of course, I could have given up my idea of justice by saying it was nothing but a private idea of my own. But if I did that, then my argument against God collapsed too—for the argument depended on saying that the world was really unjust, not simply that it did not happen to please my private fancies. Thus in the very act of trying to prove that God did not exist—in other words, that the whole of reality was senseless—I found I was forced to assume that one part of reality—namely my idea of justice—was full of sense. Consequently, atheism turns out to be too simple (Lewis, 1952, pp. 45-46, italics in orig.).

If there truly are cases of justice and injustice, then God must exist. Furthermore, we will show that the God of the Bible never is unjust in His dealings with humanity. On the contrary, the atheistic position finds itself mired in injustice at every turn.


Generally, the atheistic argument against God’s morality begins with blanket statements about all of God’s actions or commands that caused anyone to die. When the case is pressed, however, the atheistic argument must be immediately qualified by the concepts of justice and deserved punishment. Could it be that some of God’s actions were against people who had committed crimes worthy of death? Sam Harris noted that he believes that the mere adherence to certain beliefs could be a legitimate cause for putting some people to death (2004, pp. 52-53). Almost the entirety of the atheistic community admits that certain actions, such as serial killing, theft, or child abuse, deserve to be punished in some way. They do not all agree with Harris that the death penalty may be appropriate, but they would argue that some type of punishment or preventive incarceration should be applied to the offender.

Once the atheistic community admits that people who break certain laws should be punished, then the only question left to decide is how they should be punished and to what extent. Atheists may quibble with God’s idea of divine punishment, but it has been sufficiently demonstrated that their arguments cannot be reasonably defended (see Lyons and Butt, 2005, 25[2]:9-15; see also Miller, 2002). Knowing that the idea of justice and the concept of legitimate punishment can be used effectively to show that their blanket accusations against God are ill founded, the atheists must include an additional concept: innocence.

The argument is thus transformed from, “God is immoral because He has killed people,” to “God is immoral because He has killed innocent people.” Since human infants are rightly viewed by atheists as the epitome of sinless innocence, the argument is then restated as “God is immoral because He has killed innocent human infants.” Dan Barker summarized this argument well in his debate with Peter Payne. In his remarks concerning God’s commandment in Numbers 31 for Moses to destroy the Midianites, he stated: “Maybe some of those men were guilty of committing war crimes. And maybe some of them were justifiably guilty, Peter, of committing some kind of crimes. But the children? The fetuses?” (2005, emp. added).

It is important to note, then, that a large number of the instances in which God caused or ordered someone’s death in the Bible were examples of divine punishment of adults who were “justifiably guilty” of punishable crimes. For instance, after Moses listed a host of perverse practices that the Israelites were told to avoid, he stated: “Do not defile yourselves with any of these things; for by all these the nations are defiled, which I am casting out before you. For the land is defiled; therefore I visit the punishment of its iniquity upon it, and the land vomits out its inhabitants” (Leviticus 18:24-25, emp. added).

Having said that, it must also be recognized that not all the people God has been responsible for killing have been guilty of such crimes. It is true that the Bible documents several instances in which God caused or personally ordered the death of innocent children: the Flood (Genesis 7), death of the first born in Egypt (Exodus 12:29-30), annihilation of the Midianites (Numbers 31), death of the Amalekites (1 Samuel 15), etc. Using these instances, atheists claim that God cannot be moral because He kills innocent children. Atheists then insist that modern-day atheism would never approve of such, and thus atheism is morally superior to the morality of the biblical God.


A closer look at atheistic morality, however, quickly reveals that atheists do not believe that it is morally wrong to kill all innocent children. According to the atheistic community, abortion is viewed as moral. In his debate with John Rankin, Dan Barker said that abortion is a “blessing” (Barker and Rankin, 2006; see also Barker, 1992, pp. 135, 213). One line of reasoning used by atheists to justify the practice is the idea that humans should not be treated differently than animals, since humans are nothing more than animals themselves. The fact that an embryo is “human” is no reason to give it special status. Dawkins wrote: “An early embryo has the sentience, as well as the semblance, of a tadpole” (Dawkins, 2006, p. 297)

Atheistic writer Sam Harris noted: “If you are concerned about suffering in this universe, killing a fly should present you with greater moral difficulties than killing a human blastocyst [three-day-old human embryo—KB]” (2006, p. 30). He further stated: “If you are worried about human suffering, abortion should rank very low on your list of concerns” (p. 37). Many in the atheistic community argue that unborn humans are not real “persons,” and killing them is not equivalent to killing a person. Sam Harris wrote: “Many of us consider human fetuses in the first trimester to be more or less like rabbits; having imputed to them a range of happiness and suffering that does not grant them full status in our moral community” (2004, p. 177, emp. added). James Rachels stated:

Some unfortunate humans—perhaps because they have suffered brain damage—are not rational agents. What are we to say about them? The natural conclusion, according to the doctrine we are considering, would be that their status is that of mere animals. And perhaps we should go on to conclude that they may be used as non-human animals are used—perhaps as laboratory subjects, or as food (1990, p. 186, emp. added).

Isn’t it ironic that Dan Barker protested to Peter Payne that God could not cause the death of an unborn human “fetus” and still be considered moral, and yet the bulk of the atheistic community adamantly maintains that those fetuses are the moral equivalent of rabbits? How can the atheist accuse God of immorality, while claiming to have a superior morality, when the atheist has no moral problem killing babies?

In response, God’s accusers attempt to draw a distinction between a “fetus” in its mother’s womb, and a child already born. That distinction, however, has been effectively demolished by one of their own. Peter Singer, the man Dan Barker lauds as one of the world’s leading ethicists, admits that an unborn child and one already born are morally equivalent. Does this admission force him to the conclusion that abortion should be stopped? No. On the contrary, he believes we should be able to kill children that are already born. In his chapter titled “Justifying Infanticide,” Singer concluded that human infants are “replaceable.” What does Singer mean by “replaceable”? He points out that if a mother has decided that she will have two children, and the second child is born with hemophilia, then that infant can be disposed of and replaced by another child without violating any moral code of ethics. He explained: “Therefore, if killing the hemophiliac infant has no adverse effect on others, it would, according to the total view, be right to kill him. The total view treats infants as replaceable” (2000, p. 190, emp. added; see also Singer, 1983).

He went on to argue that many in society would be aghast at killing an infant with a disability like hemophilia—but without good reason according to his view. He argued that such is done regularly before birth, when a mother aborts a child in utero after prenatal diagnosis reveals a disorder. He stated:

When death occurs before birth, replaceability does not conflict with generally accepted moral convictions. That a fetus is known to be disabled is widely accepted as a ground for abortion. Yet in discussing abortion, we say that birth does not mark a morally significant dividing line. I cannot see how one could defend the view that fetuses may be “replaced” before birth, but newborn infants may not (2000, p. 191, emp. added).

Singer further proposed that parents should be given a certain amount of time after a child is born to decide whether or not they would like to kill the child. He wrote: “If disabled newborn infants were not regarded as having a right to life until, say, a week or a month after birth it would allow parents, in consultation with their doctors, to choose on the basis of far greater knowledge of the infant’s condition than is possible before birth” (2000, p. 193). One has to wonder why Singer would stop at one week or one month. Why not simply say that it is morally right for parents to kill their infants at one year or five years? Singer concluded his chapter on infanticide with these words: “Nevertheless the main point is clear: killing a disabled infant is not morally equivalent to killing a person. Very often it is not wrong at all” (p. 193, emp. added).

It is clear, then, that atheism does not have moral constraints against killing all innocent babies, but rather only those innocent babies that the atheistic community considers “worthy” to live. How in the world would a person make a moral judgment about which children were “worthy to live?” Singer, Harris, and others contest that a child’s age in utero, mental capability, physical disability, or other criteria should be used to formulate the answer. Dan Barker has given his assessment about how to make such moral decisions. He claimed that “morality is simply acting with the intention to minimize harm.” He further insisted that the way to avoid making mistakes in ethical judgments is to “be as informed as possible about the likely consequences of the actions being considered” (2008, p. 214).

Using Barker’s line of reasoning, if God knows everything, then only He would be in the best possible situation to know all the consequences of killing infants. Could it be that all the infants born to the Amalekites had degenerative genetic diseases, or were infected with an STD that was passed to them from their sexually promiscuous mothers? Could it be that the firstborn children in Egypt, or Abraham’s son Isaac, had some type of brain damage, terminal cancer, hemophilia, etc.? The atheistic community cannot accuse God of immorally killing infants and children, when the atheistic position itself offers criteria upon which it purports to justify morally such killing.

Once again, the atheistic argument must be further qualified. The argument has moved from: “God is immoral because He killed people,” to “God is immoral because He killed innocent babies,” to “God is immoral because He killed innocent babies that we feel would not have met our atheistically based criteria for death.” Ultimately, then, the atheistic position argues that atheists, not God, should be the ones who decide when the death of an innocent child is acceptable.


As with most logically flawed belief systems, atheism’s arguments often double back on themselves and discredit the position. So it is with atheism’s attack on God’s morality. Supposedly, God is immoral for killing innocent children. Yet atheists believe the death of certain innocent children is permissible. Have we then simply arrived at the point where both atheistic and theistic morality are equally moral or immoral? Certainly not.

One primary difference between the atheistic position and the biblical position is what is at stake with the loss of physical life. According to atheism, this physical life is all that any living organism has. Dan Barker stated: “Since this is the only life we atheists have, each decision is crucial and we are accountable for our actions right now” (2008, p. 215, emp. added). He further commented that life “is dear. It is fleeting. It is vibrant and vulnerable. It is heart breaking. It can be lost. It will be lost. But we exist now. We are caring, intelligent animals and can treasure our brief lives” (p. 220). Since Dan and his fellow atheists do not believe in the soul or any type of afterlife, then this brief, physical existence is the sum total of an organism’s existence. If that is the case, when Barker, Harris, Singer, and company advocate killing innocent babies, in their minds, they are taking from those babies all that they have—the entirety of their existence. They have set themselves up as the Sovereign tribunal that has the right to take life from their fellow humans, which they believe to be everything a human has. If any position is immoral, the atheistic position is. The biblical view, however, can be shown to possess no such immorality.


Atheism has trapped itself in the position of stating that the death of innocent children is morally permissible, even if that death results in the loss of everything that child has. Yet the biblical position does not fall into the same moral trap as atheism, because it recognizes the truth that physical life is not the sum total of human existence. Although the Bible repeatedly recognizes life as a privilege that can be revoked by God, the Giver of life, it also manifests the fact that death is not complete loss, and can actually be beneficial to the one who dies. The Bible explains that every person has a soul that will live forever; long after physical life on this Earth is over (Matthew 25:46). The Bible consistently stresses the fact that the immortal soul of each individual is of much more value than that individual’s physical life on this Earth. Jesus Christ said: “For what profit is it to a man if he gains the whole world, and loses his own soul? Or what will a man give in exchange for his soul?” (Matthew 16:26).

Although the skeptic might object, and claim that an answer from the Bible is not acceptable, such an objection falls flat for one primary reason: the skeptic used the Bible to formulate his own argument. Where is it written that God is love? In the Bible, in such passages as 1 John 4:8. Where do we learn that the Lord did, indeed, kill or order the death of babies? Once again, that information comes directly from the Bible. Where, then, should we look for an answer to this alleged moral dilemma? The answer should be: the Bible. If the alleged problem is formulated from biblical testimony, then the Bible should be given the opportunity to explain itself. As long as the skeptic uses the Bible to formulate the problem, we certainly can use the Bible to solve the problem. One primary facet of the biblical solution is that every human has an immortal soul that is of inestimable value.

With the value of the soul in mind, let us examine several verses that prove that physical death is not necessarily evil. In a letter to the Philippians, the apostle Paul wrote from prison to encourage the Christians in the city of Philippi. His letter was filled with hope and encouragement, but it was also tinted with some very pertinent comments about the way Paul and God view death. In Philippians 1:21-23, Paul wrote: “For to me, to live is Christ, and to die is gain. But if I live on in the flesh, this will mean fruit from my labor; yet what I shall choose I cannot tell. For I am hard pressed between the two, having a desire to depart and be with Christ, which is far better” (emp. added).

Paul, a faithful Christian, said that death was a welcome visitor. In fact, Paul said that the end of his physical life on this Earth would be “far better” than its continuation. For Paul, as well as for any faithful Christian, the cessation of physical life is not loss, but gain. Such would apply to innocent children as well, since they are in a safe condition and go to paradise when they die (see Butt, 2003).

Other verses in the Bible show that the loss of physical life is not inherently evil. The prophet Isaiah concisely summarized the situation when he was inspired to write: “The righteous perishes, and no man takes it to heart; merciful men are taken away, while no one considers that the righteous is taken away from evil. He shall enter into peace; they shall rest in their beds, each one walking in his uprightness” (57:1-2, emp. added). Isaiah recognized that people would view the death of the righteous incorrectly. He plainly stated that this incorrect view of death was due to the fact that most people do not think about the fact that when a righteous or innocent person dies, that person is “taken away from evil,” and enters “into peace.”

The psalmist wrote, “Precious in the sight of the Lord is the death of His saints” (Psalm 116:15). Death is not inherently evil. In fact, the Bible indicates that death can be great gain in which a righteous person is taken away from evil and allowed to enter peace and rest. God looks upon the death of His faithful followers as precious. Skeptics who charge God with wickedness because He has ended the physical lives of innocent babies are in error. They refuse to recognize the reality of the immortal soul. Instead of the death of innocent children being an evil thing, it is often a blessing for that child to be taken away from a life of hardship and evil influence at the hands of a sinful society, and ushered into a paradise of peace and rest. In order for a skeptic legitimately to charge God with cruelty, the skeptic must prove that there is no immortal soul, and that physical life is the only reality—neither of which the skeptic can do. Failure to acknowledge the reality of the soul and the spiritual realm will always result in a distorted view of the nature of God. “The righteous perishes...while no one considers that the righteous is taken away from evil.”

We then could ask who is moral: the atheist who has no problem approving of the death of innocent children, while believing that he is taking from them the only life they have? Or an all-knowing God Who takes back the physical life He gave the child, exchanging it for an eternal life of happiness?


Once the atheistic position is forced to concede that it advocates the killing of babies, and that if there is an afterlife, then the biblical description of God’s activities could be moral, then the atheist often shifts his argument in a last ditch effort to save face. If death can be, and sometimes is, better for the innocent child or for the Christian, why not kill all children and execute all Christians as soon as they come up out of the waters of baptism (see Lyons and Butt, n.d.)? The atheist contends that if we say that death can be a better situation for some, then this position implies the morally absurd idea that we should kill every person that death would benefit.

Before dealing with this new argument, it should be noted that we have laid the other to rest. We have shown that it is impossible for atheism to accuse God of immorality in His dealings with innocent children. Since atheism’s attack against God’s character has failed on that front, the maneuver is changed to accuse the follower of God of not carrying his belief about death to its alleged logical conclusion by killing all those who would benefit. One reason that atheists argue thus is because many of them believe that humans have the right to kill those who they deem as “expendable.” Of course, atheism does not base this judgment on the idea that certain babies or other innocent people would benefit, but that society at large would benefit at the expense of those who are killed. Here again, notice that God is allegedly immoral because He “sinned” against innocent children by taking their lives; yet atheism cares nothing for innocent children, but for the society of which they are a part. In truth, atheism implies that once a certain category of people, whether unborn babies, hemophiliacs, or brain-damaged adults, is honestly assessed to be “expendable,” then humans have the moral right, and sometimes obligation, to exterminate them. The atheist berates the Christian for not taking his beliefs far enough, in the atheist’s opinion. If certain people would benefit from death, or in atheism’s case, society would benefit from certain people’s death, then the atheist contends we should be willing to kill everyone who would fall into that category. If we are not so willing, then the atheist demands that our belief involves a moral absurdity. Yet, the fact that death is beneficial to some cannot be used to say we have the right to kill all those that we think it would benefit.

What Humans Do Not Know

One extremely significant reason humans cannot kill all those people that we think might benefit from death is because we do not know all the consequences of such actions. Remember that Dan Barker stated that the way to make moral decisions was to “try to be as informed as possible about the likely consequences of the actions being considered” (2008, p. 214). Could it be that human judgments about who has the right to live or die would be flawed based on limited knowledge of the consequences? Certainly. Suppose the hemophiliac child that Singer said could be killed to make room for another more “fit” child possessed the mind that would have discovered the cure for cancer. Or what if the brain-damaged patient that the atheistic community determined could be terminated was going to make a remarkable recovery if he had been allowed to live? Once again, the biblical theist could simply argue that God is the only one in the position to authorize death based on the fact that only God knows all the consequences of such actions. The atheistic community might attempt to protest that God does not know everything. But atheism is completely helpless to argue against the idea that if God knows everything, then only He is in the position to make the truly moral decision. Using Barker’s reasoning, when God’s actions do not agree with those advocated by the atheistic community, God can simply answer them by saying, “What you don’t know is....”

It is ironic that, in a discussion of morality, Barker offered several rhetorical questions about who is in the best position to make moral decisions. He stated: “Why should the mind of a deity—an outsider—be better able to judge human actions than the minds of humans themselves...? Which mind is in a better position to make judgments about human actions and feelings? Which mind has more credibility? Which has more experience in the real world? Which mind has more of a right?” (1992, p. 211). Barker intended his rhetorical questions to elicit the answer that humans are in a better position to make their own moral decisions; but his rhetoric fails completely. If God is all-knowing, and if God has been alive to see the entirety of human history play out, and if only God can know all of the future consequences of an action, then the obvious answer to all of Barker’s questions is: God’s mind.

Additionally, there is no possible way that humans can know all the good things that might be done by the Christians and children that live, even though death would be better for them personally. The apostle Paul alluded to this fact when he said that it was better for him to die and be with the Lord, but it was more needful to the other Christians for him to remain alive and help them (Philippians 1:22-25). Books could not contain the countless benevolent efforts, hospitals, orphanages, soup kitchens, humanitarian efforts, and educational ventures that have been undertaken by Christians. It is important to understand that a Christian example is one of the most valuable tools that God uses to bring others to Him. Jesus noted that when Christians are following His teachings, others see their good works and glorify God (Matthew 5:13-16). Furthermore, the lives of children offer the world examples of purity and innocence worthy of emulation (Matthew 18:1-5). While it is true that death can be an advantageous situation for Christians and children, it is also true that their lives provide a leavening effect on all of human society.

Ownership and Authorization

The mere fact that only God knows all consequences is sufficient to establish that He is the sole authority in matters of human life and death. Yet, His omniscience is not the only attribute that puts Him in the final position of authority. The fact that all physical life originates with God gives Him the prerogative to decide when and how that physical life should be maintained. In speaking of human death, the writer of Ecclesiastes stated: “Then the dust will return to the earth as it was, and the spirit will return to God who gave it” (12:7, emp. added). The apostle Paul boldly declared to the pagan Athenians that in God “we live and move and have our being” (Acts 17:28). If God gives life to all humans, then only He has the right to say when that life has accomplished its purpose, or under what circumstances life may be legitimately terminated.

In addition to the fact that God gives life and, thus, has the authority to take it, He also has the power to give it back if He chooses. Throughout the Bible we read of instances in which God chose to give life back to those who were dead, the most thoroughly documented example of that being the resurrection of Jesus Christ (Butt, 2002, 22[2]:9-15). In fact, Abraham alluded to this fact during his preparations to sacrifice Isaac. After traveling close to the place appointed for the sacrifice, Abraham left his servants some distance from the mountain, and said to them: “Stay here with the donkey; the lad and I will go yonder and worship, and we will come back to you” (Genesis 22:5). Notice that Abraham used the plural pronoun “we,” indicating that both he and Isaac would return. The New Testament gives additional insight into Abraham’s thinking. Hebrews 11:17-19 states: “By faith Abraham, when he was tested, offered up Isaac, and he who had received the promises offered up his only begotten...accounting that God was able to raise him up, even from the dead...” (emp. added). Since God gives physical life to all, and since He can raise people from the dead, then any accusation of injustice that fails to take these facts into account cannot be legitimate.


It is evident that atheism has no grounds upon which to attack God’s character. Atheists contend that a loving God should not kill innocent babies. But those same atheists say that killing innocent babies could be a blessing under “the right” circumstances. Atheists contend that God is immoral for taking the lives of innocent children. Yet the atheist believes that it is permissible to take the lives of innocent children, when doing so, according to their belief, means that those children are being robbed of the sum total of their existence. Yet, according to the biblical perspective, those children are being spared a life of pain and misery, and ushered into a life of eternal happiness. Atheism contends that its adherents are in a position to determine which children should live and die, and yet the knowledge of the consequences of such decisions goes far beyond their human capability. Only an omniscient God could know all the consequences involved. The atheist contends that human life can be taken by other humans based solely on reasoning about benefits to society and other relativistic ideas. The biblical position shows that God is the Giver of life, and only He has the authority to decide when that life has accomplished its purpose. In reality, the atheistic view proves to be the truly immoral position.


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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.

[to be continued]


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