The Place of Logic In a Post-Logic Culture
For a couple of years, I’ve been struggling to find a concise and compelling justification for our offering of Logic at Evangel Classical School. Like, an elevator-trip rationale.
Though I’ve never considered ceasing to offer Logic as a class for our middle-level students, I believe firmly in doing everything we do with intentionality. We want to teach and make our curricular decisions on purpose, and I want to understand myself why it’s so valuable in order to communicate that well to others.
So what is the point of teaching our students Logic when they are tasked with shaping a culture that has abandoned any regard for sound reason?
Our culture tells itself that a key to our flourishing is not only to permit same-sex unions, but to celebrate them. If enough couples did that, we’d quite literally cease to exist, since procreation requires the union of a biological male and a biological female (Romans 1:26-27).
Also, we have lost the cultural capacity to explain that last sentence in any definitive way. No longer are Truth, Goodness, and Beauty considered to be transcendent. They are now regarded as fluid, along with things like definitions, gender, and reality:
- Genders can be changed like socks, but men are oppressors, so don’t choose to be one of those.
- Women are largely victims, but men can become them if they want to.
- People are responsible for the sins of anyone from history with the same skin color and gender…whatever that is.
- Humans who are not yet born are not entitled to any freedoms…unless they’re wanted, in which case killing them is a prosecutable offense.
- Like men, women are entitled to the privilege to have sex without the consequence of pregnancy; but the same is not true for men being afforded the privilege of pregnancy.
- In a move applauded by ostriches everywhere (who have as much economical sensibility as they do ability to clap with those teeny wings), our president has authorized the canceling of billions of dollars of student loans with the charm of a hot-poker-to the eyeball to those of us who sacrificed to honor similar vows.
- “Women’s health” is not about women’s health. The same is true of “reproductive rights” and “marriage equality” and more modern jargon.
Where is the True? The Good? The Beautiful? The transcendent?
It’s no rhetorical spin to say that I could go on all day itemizing the madness, but I’m sure you could come up with examples without my help. I don’t list them in this way to be flippant, titillating, or crass; I do so to make the case that this battle is real, now. This is not preparation for hypothetical warfare which may one day be necessary; it’s training for fighting outside the base this minute. We are trying to train our students to deal with ideologies that are not on the horizon, they’re all around us.
We live in a Genesis 3 world with plenty of sin and blame to go around. We don’t need to do moral redefining to prove that it’s bad. In a three-dimensional exhibition of Romans 1, we invent new ways to be evil (1:30), and we are happy about it…and we think this is sophisticated (1:22). If we’re not currently under the abandoning wrath of God (1:24, 26), then I cannot imagine what it is supposed to look like.
So is Logic obsolete? Antiquated? A waste of time? By no means.
We tell our students that studying Logic is more about correcting themselves than it is about correcting others. Sometimes that message only hits home in the sense that they practice on their parents and siblings (usually the younger ones, who don’t have the same tools). This is a clunky bug in the system as they are introduced to a new tool, but its misuse is not a problem with Logic itself.
In a recent discussion with Sean Higgins, he quipped that we train students in Logic in order for them “to appropriately live according to reality.”
I plucked this from a context that included more goodness around it, and if he’d known I was going to examine his offhand remark, he may have been more careful in his word smithing, as he is prone to do. So it’s not inspired or airtight, but I thought it was pretty good! For sake of this exercise, I’ll dismiss the adverb (appropriately) as superfluous (and unfortunately located in the midst of an infinitive, for the three people who actually care) and briefly consider the rest:
“To…live according to reality.”
This points the students’ logical focus inward. Our students’ biggest problem will never be their adversaries, it will be the sin in their own hearts. Like the man who must deal first with the log in his own eye before he’s ready to go after the speck in his neighbor’s eye (Matt. 7:3-5), our students must rightly order their own thinking before undertaking to correct their neighbors.
Further, identifying the flaws in their opponents’ arguments (or panicked pleas) can help our students to not be seduced by lies…let alone to live according to those lies.
Our students cannot be shapers of culture for good or purveyors of the truth if they cannot live well, and living well requires living “according to reality.”
“ACCORDING TO REALITY”
Logic as a discipline is loaded with assumptions, the dependence on which has brought us to where we are today as Westerners. The most influential minds in Western History have assumed that reality as well as transcendent virtues. Those were actually something worth knowing and pursuing. And the men who best represented those virtues were the men they looked to for leadership (and they were not necessarily the caesars or kings).
Today, we elect the leaders whose “virtues” we hold dear, but we have a problem with our virtues. They are not transcendent; they are fluid and squishy…and in many cases, freshly-redefined (e.g., Love, Tolerance, etc.). And when you have virtuous Jell-O for your foundation, your structures can only have the strength of styrofoam.
Logic reinforces the notion that absolutes exist. Logic has rules, like the rest of our existence, and they’re not ours to create or change. They are transcendent, outside of us. Washing our students’ minds with what is True, Good, and Beautiful is loving, and it is necessary as we equip (arm?) them to shape culture. That also provides a virtuous bedrock for culture building or improvements…which is to be preferred over virtuous Jell-O.
Our living under the abandoning wrath of God is a reality. So is the gospel. Jesus has conquered sin and death and made a way for us to be reconciled to the Father. This is absolute, not fluid. And praise God that we get to spend time among lovers of the True, the Good, and the Beautiful. May we equip our children to do the same as they undertake to lead the next generation.
Risus est bellum!