When Our Logic Doesn’t Make Sense
God made us to be creatures of logic. We can’t help but connect the dots in front of us to make sense of our world. But what happens when our logical conclusions conflict with God’s revealed truth?
I’ve been pastoring for twelve years and teaching the doctrines of grace pretty much the whole time. As you can imagine, I, like many pastors, have received a lot of pushback when it comes to questions of God’s sovereignty in man’s salvation.
One Sunday, I preached on unconditional election, a doctrine, grounded in Scripture, that God has chosen His sheep and works in them to draw them to Himself. This doctrine has been debated over the centuries by many theologians. After the service, a man came up to me and said, “Next time you plan to teach on these things, you need to let us know beforehand.” I am not sure how I would go about doing that. “PSA everyone, next week we will be discussing topics some of you may not like. Decide now if you want to stay home from church.” Providing a “trigger warning” doesn’t seem like good pastoring.
Most people, however, aren’t aggressive dissenters. They usually have genuine questions. Such as, “If God has already decreed the future, why pray?” Or, “How can man be held accountable for his actions if God is ultimately in control of all things?” These aren’t bad questions. They stimulate good theological conversation and should be encouraged, not stigmatized, in our churches.
These questions, among others, are seemingly logical deductions from the doctrines of grace. They aren’t unreasonable questions. For instance, if God has guaranteed the salvation of the elect, why should I concern myself with evangelism? If He’s already chosen who will go to heaven and none of His plans can be thwarted, not even by our lack of evangelism, why evangelize? And why pray if everything is already predetermined? My prayers can’t change God’s mind.
The typical answer given to these questions is: because we’re commanded to. We’re commanded to evangelize and do missions. We’re commanded to pray. This is the right answer. God’s commands are reason enough for us to obey His Word. He has ordained every moment in history, and also ordained how His sheep would participate in those moments. His sovereignty is over the “ends,” but also the “means.”
But something else must be said about these questions. There is a false assumption in the questions themselves. The questions assume 1) evangelism and prayer and the sovereignty of God are incompatible. 2) man has all the information needed to make such a conclusion.
Let me explain.
The reason people ask, “Why evangelize if God is sovereign?” is because they’re making a logical deduction from the doctrine of God’s sovereignty. Logic is the science of reasoning and deduction. For example, logic would say, “It’s 27 degrees outside. I will wear a coat.” You deduced that you need a coat to stay warm from the fact that it’s cold outside. Logic draws conclusions based on data. But for our conclusions to be sound, we need sufficient and accurate data. Wrong conclusions will be drawn if our information is incomplete or in error.
Back to our example, it may be 27 degrees outside. But what you didn’t know is that you’re going to a meeting with your friend who works at an office with an enclosed and heated parking garage. You won’t be outside at all today. Therefore, a coat will not only be unnecessary but a hindrance and uncomfortable. So, you see, when you have insufficient information, it is possible to make illogical conclusions even though, on their face, they seem correct.
As another example, imagine that two people are completing a “connect the dots” exercise. While both are working on the same picture, one person receives only one-tenth of the “dots” that the other has on their paper. Both people would complete a picture based on the accurate data before them, but their pictures would likely look very different. The person with fewer “dots” would make logical conclusions about the picture that are ultimately incorrect.
How does this apply to evangelism and the sovereignty of God? We don’t have all the information. Therefore, to draw the conclusion that evangelism is unnecessary because God is sovereign is foolish, not only because God said so, but because we’re making a logical conclusion based on insufficient data. God is not being illogical when He says that He is sovereign and man is responsible. He’s being perfectly logical because God has all the data points to make His conclusions. Therefore, the one who says that evangelism is unnecessary in light of God’s sovereignty is actually just as illogical as the man who says he needs a coat on a day when he’ll never step outside.
As we look at Job in the Old Testament, we’re given a window into the chasm that is the knowledge gap between ourselves and God. Given Job’s circumstances and poor counsel, he might have made many incorrect conclusions about God. We can see the difference in our knowledge relative to God’s as He answered Job:
“Who is this that darkens counsel by words without knowledge? (38:2) Where were you when I laid the foundation of the earth? Tell me, if you have understanding (38:4). Who has put wisdom in the inward parts or given understanding to the mind? (38:36) Who can number the clouds by wisdom? (38:37) Shall a faultfinder contend with the Almighty? He who argues with God, let him answer it.” (40:2)
Job rightly responded to God in Job 40:4: “Behold, I am of small account; what shall I answer you? I lay my hand on my mouth.” He then goes on in Job 42:3, “I have uttered what I did not understand, things too wonderful for me, which I did not know.”
When we come across something that doesn’t make sense to us but that we know to be true from God’s Word, we are called to trust God. Like Job, we must humbly admit that we cannot fully understand all of God’s ways. But faith is not blind belief. Faith is taking God at His word because He is the all-knowing sovereign Creator. He is worthy of our faith. He is reasonable, logical, and true. When we don’t understand, we must trust in the One who understands all.
Brandon is the Associate Pastor of The Journey Church in Lebanon, TN and leads the TJC RE:GENERATION ministry for the church. Brandon is married to Sherrie and has a daugher, Emma.
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