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Faith as an Inside Job

A post by Dallas Willard has kicked off a most interesting project and if you are so inclined, you can contribute. The project? Jesus the Logician. Writes Willard:

One is not logical by chance, any more than one just happens to be moral. And, indeed, logical consistency is a significant factor in moral character. That is part of the reason why in an age that attacks morality, as ours does, the logical will also be demoted or set aside–as it now is.

Not only does Jesus not concentrate on logical theory, but he also does not spell out all the details of the logical structures he employs on particular occasions. His use of logic is always enthymemic, as is common to ordinary life and conversation. His points are, with respect to logical explicitness, understated and underdeveloped. The significance of the enthymeme is that it enlists the mind of the hearer or hearers from the inside, in a way that full and explicit statement of argument cannot do. Its rhetorical force is, accordingly, quite different from that of fully explicated argumentation, which tends to distance the hearer from the force of logic by locating it outside of his own mind.

Jesus’ aim in utilizing logic is not to win battles, but to achieve understanding or insight in his hearers. This understanding only comes from the inside, from the understandings one already has. It seems to “well up from within” one. Thus he does not follow the logical method one often sees in Plato’s dialogues, or the method that characterizes most teaching and writing today. That is, he does not try to make everything so explicit that the conclusion is forced down the throat of the hearer. Rather, he presents matters in such a way that those who wish to know can find their way to, can come to, the appropriate conclusion as something they have discovered–whether or not it is something they particularly care for.

This is very good insight. We seem to have lost a good many people because they associate all religion with the illogical and the emotional. Williard is critical of this approach, from those outside of faith, as well as those inside it:

we commonly depend upon the emotional pull of stories and images to ‘move’ people. We fail to understand that, in the very nature of the human mind, emotion does not reliably generate belief or faith, if it generates it at all. Not even ‘seeing’ does, unless you know what you are seeing. It is understanding, insight, that generates belief.

The Evangelical Outpost proposes harnessing the blogosphere in an effort to quickly generate work on the subject. A list of work so far is available here. The project is still new and there appears to be plenty of room for contributions.


Written by Curt

January 16, 2005 at 9:45 am

Posted in Uncategorized

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