What good is logic to religious faith?

Thinking about knowing God’s love that surpasses knowledge, as recorded in my last post, reminded me of this part in Peter Kreeft’s Socratic Logic, a 399-page killer tome, which I’ve unfortunately not flipped beyond the Introduction. Having a religious faith does not mean that we abandon critical thinking and sensible logic; conversely, we need to sharpen our reasoning even more to help us to know our faith better. I will leave Kreeft to explain this in the extract below:

All religions require faith. Is logic the ally or enemy of faith?

Even religion, though it goes beyond logic, cannot go against it; if it did, it would literally be unbelievable. Some wit defined “faith” as “believing what you know isn’t true.” But we simply cannot believe an idea to be true that we know has been proved to be false by a valid logical proof.

It is true that faith goes beyond what can be proved by logical reasoning alone.That is why believing in any religion is a free personal choice, and some make that choice while others do not, while logical reasoning is equally compelling for all. However, logic can aid faith in at least three ways…

First, logic can often clarify what is believed, and defines it.

Second, logic can often deduce the necessary consequence of the belief, and apply it to difficult situations. For instance, it can show that if it is true, as the Bible says, that “God works all things together for the good for those who love Him” (Romans 8:28), then it must also be true that even seemingly terrible things like pain, death and martyrdom will work together for good; and this can put these terrible things in a new light and give us a motive for enduring them with hope.

Third, even if logical arguments cannot prove all that faith believes, they can give firmer reasons for faith than feeling, desire, mood, fashion, family or social pressure, conformity, or inertia. For instance, if you believe the idea mentioned above, that “all things work together for good for those who love God,” simply because you feel good today, you will probably stop believing it tomorrow when you feel miserable, or if you believe it only because your friends or family do, you will probably stop believing it when you are away from your friends or family. But if you have logical grounds for believing this, even though those grounds are not a compelling proof, they can keep your faith more firmly anchored during storms of changing feelings, fashions, friends, etc.

How could there be logical grounds for such a belief as this that seems to contradict common sense and experience? SOme logical grounds might be the following: this conclusion can be logically deduced from four premises which are much easier to believe: (1) that God exists, (2) that God is the Creator of the universe and thus all-powerful, (3) that God is the source of all goodness and thus, all-good, and (4) that God is the source of all design and order in the universe and thus all-wise. A God who is all-powerful is in control of everything He created; a God who is all-good wills only good to everything He created; and a God who is all-wise knows what is ultimately for the best for everyone and everything He created. So to deny that all things are foreseen and allowed by God for the ultimate good of those He loves, i.e. wills goodness to, is to deny either God’s existence, power, goodness, or wisdom. In a logical argument, you cannot deny the conclusion without denying a premise, and you cannot admit the premises without admitting the conclusion. The logical chains of argument can thus bind our minds, and through them also even our feelings (to a certain degree), to God and to hope and to happiness.

And if these four more basic premises of God’s existence, power, goodness, and wisdom are questioned, logic may also help to establish them by further reasonable arguments (e.g. the traditional arguments for the existence of God); and perhaps logic can give good grounds for the premises of those arguments too.

The point is not that logic can prove religious beliefs – that would dispense with the need for faith – but that it can strengthen them (and thus also the happiness that goes with them). And if it does not – if clear, honest, logical thinking leads you to disbelieve something you used to believe, like Santa Claus – then that is progress too, for truth should trump even happiness. If we are honest and sane, we want not just any happiness, but true happiness.

Introduction: What good is logic?, Socratic Logic (edition 3.1),
Peter Kreeft, pp 3-5

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