The ‘Jesus the Logician’ Project (2 of 4)Logic & Rhetoric — By Joe Carter on February 12, 2007 at 2:17 am
[Note: This is an open invitation to a challenging but worthy project. Although the post is rather lengthy, it provides necessary background material and information on how to proceed. I hope you’ll read through it carefully and decide to join us in this exciting task.]
“Few today will have seen the words ‘Jesus’ and ‘logician’ put together to form a phrase or sentence,” says philosopher Dallas Willard, “unless it would be to deny any connection between them at all. The phrase “Jesus the logician’ is not ungrammatical, any more than is ‘Jesus the carpenter.’ But it ‘feels’ upon first encounter to be something like a category mistake or error in logical type, such as ‘Purple is asleep’, or ‘More people live in the winter than in cities,’ or ‘Do you walk to work or carry your lunch?'”
As Willard goes on to point out in his intriguing article Jesus the Logician, there is in our culture an uneasy relation between Jesus and intelligence. We consider it almost absurd to imagine him as a “thinker.” Yet while he did not produce theories of logic, like Aristotle or Frege, he was a master of logical forms. “When I speak of ‘Jesus the logician’,” says Willard, “I refer to his use of logical insights: to his mastery and employment of logical principles in his work as a teacher and public figure.”
After providing several examples to support this point, Willard explains why an appreciation of Jesus as a thinker is necessary:
Here I have only been suggestive of a dimension of Jesus that is commonly overlooked. This is no thorough study of that dimension, but it deserves such study. It is one of major importance for a healthy faith in him. Especially today, when the authoritative institutions of our culture, the universities and the professions, omit him as a matter of course. Once one knows what to look for in the Gospels, however, one will easily see the thorough, careful and creative employment of logic throughout his teaching activity. Indeed, this employment must be identified and appreciated if what he is saying is to be understood. Only then can his intellectual brilliance be appreciated and he be respected as he deserves.
An excellent way of teaching in Christian schools would therefore be to require all students to do extensive logical analyses of Jesus’ discourses. This should go hand in with the other ways of studying his words, including devotional practices such as memorization or lectio divina, and the like. It would make a substantial contribution to the integration of faith and learning.
While such a concentration on logic may sound strange today, that is only a reflection on our current situation. It is quite at home in many of the liveliest ages of the church.
In the apparent absence of such a study I offer the following as a project to be tackled by my fellow faithbloggers: the creation of comprehensive database outlining the ways in which Jesus used logic in his discourses.
I propose that the project proceed by implementing the following steps:
1. Read Willard’s article “Jesus the Logician”
2. Spreading this meme throughout the blogosphere — If every faithblogger who reads this post and found this project worthy would mention it on their own blog, and every faithblogger who read that post and found it worthy would mention it on their blog, etc., we could make a significant section of the blogosphere aware of this project within a matter of days.
3. Break the task into its constituent parts — It would take months, if not years, for a single person to perform the necessary analysis of the Gospels in order to complete such a task on their own. But with the collective effort of dozens of faithbloggers each tackling one or two verses for study, the entire project could be finished in a matter of weeks. In order to ensure continuity, though, we need a uniformity in our approach. I recommend that each post contain the following information:
A uniform post heading similar to this form: The “Jesus the Logician” Project: Matthew 12:1-8 Chapter and verse of the scripture being analyzed. The type of logical argument or form that Jesus uses in the passage (i.e., enthymeme). An brief explanation for how the passage fits the logical form.
4. Collation of data — Each blogger can post their analyses on their blog and send me the link. I’ll add it to a main index post which will be indexed by Scripture (i.e., Matthew 12:1-8) and by logical form (i.e., reductio ad absurdum). Under each heading I’ll include the name of each blog (along with its corresponding hyperlink) that has analyzed that particular passage. As the index begins to be filled out, bloggers will be able to see what areas still need to be analyzed.
5. Dissemination of the database — Once the Index post has been finalized, I’ll paste the HTML code (i.e., text and hyperlinks) into a word document and upload it to my host server. Any blogger who chooses to can then download the text, cut and paste it into a post, and have a “mirror” of the database on their own blog. By having the database spread across hundreds of blogs, we can ensure that it will never be lost.
I believe that taking on such a challenging task would do four things:
- Bring glory to our Creator.
- Develop a deeper appreciation in both Christians and non-believers in Jesus’ wisdom.
- Allow all faithbloggers (whether Catholic, evangelical, mainline Protestant, Orthodox, etc.) to be able to work together on a project that does not require them to set aside their doctrinal differences in order to participate.
- Provide faithbloggers an opportunity to show that the blogosphere is not only able to destroy, but can marshal its collective talents in order to create.
Bloggers often spend a considerable amount of time analyzing text, evaluating arguments, and deconstructing logical thought. Why not use our well-honed talents for something other than the latest product of the ephemeral news-cycle?
“Paying careful attention to how Jesus made use of logical thinking can strengthen our confidence in Jesus as master of the centers of intellect and creativity,” notes Willard, “and can encourage us to accept him as master in all of the areas of intellectual life in which we may participate� We can learn from him to use logical reasoning at its best, as he works with us. When we teach what he taught in the manner he taught it, we will see his kind of result in the lives of those to whom we minister.”
Tentative deadline for completion: March 15, 2007
Related: Jesus: Philosopher and Apologist by Douglas Groothuis (HT: Justin Taylor)