What’s the place of logic in Christian apologetics?


(image courtesy Baker Books)

I began a thread on Christian Forums, ‘Logic in Christian apologetics’. The response was mostly favourable, but many in favour seemed to drop out of the discussion when there were negative comments like these:

  • You wouldn’t see me as an advocate of logic, it relies on the mind, and that is secondary to the Spirit.
  • Logic will never restore a maimed leg.
  • Logic would fall under the tree of knowledge of good and evil rather than the tree of life, hence why I don’t have a good opinion of it. It is there at times, but it is not part of conforming to the image of His Son.
  • The Bible is filled with ‘illogic’. Peter walking on the water, God dying on the Cross, etc.
  • The use of the Bible doesn’t necessitate logic. It requires faith and proper hermeneutical exegesis. Communicating your findings doesn’t depend on logic, and neither do the other areas you mentioned. It just requires systematic use of the information available, no logic. Logic states, “I think therefore I am”, God states, “I AM”.

What is the role of logic in the use of the Christian mind?

I need to say that I’ve been particularly helped in growing in my faith and use of Christian apologetics by Norman Geisler & Ronald Brooks (1990),   Come, Let Us Reason.

Their definitions of logic are:

(1) “Logic really means putting your thoughts in order” (p. 11), or as a more formal definition,
(2) “Logic is the study of right reason or valid inferences and the attending fallacies, formal and informal” (Geisler & Brooks 1990:12).

If logic is the study of correct reason, what do you think is the place of logic in the Christian faith, and especially in apologetics? What’s the point of even raising logic as a necessary part of Christian apologetics?

I am reminded that the term, ‘theology’ is made up of two NT Greek words: theos = God and logos = word or logic. So we might say that theology is the logic of God, or theology is a rational discourse about God (Geisler & Brooks 1990:15).

Is it possible to have a reasonable discussion on an Internet forum, in a church Bible study, or in proclaiming the Gospel and defending the faith, without the use of correct logic?

How do you see logic, reason, the supernatural God and the use of the Christian mind?

Logical fallacies

One of the areas of logic that I’ve had to give more attention to in pursuing research studies and on Christian forums has been the use of logical fallacies. Some that I have seen in various readings have included:

  • Begging the question, where the conclusion is sneaked into the premises. I note this in my analysis of Jesus Seminar fellow, John Dominic Crossan’s writings. Crossan also uses
  • Special pleading – the evidence supporting only one view is cited and the other is excluded. Crossan does this with his statements like, in quoting ‘secondary literature, I spend no time citing other scholars to show how wrong they are’. Instead, he only quotes those who ‘represent my intellectual debts’ (Crossan 1991:xxxiv).
  • Straw man – drawing a false picture of the other person’s argument;
  • Red herring – evading a question by changing the subject.
  • Ad hominem – argument by character assassination or personal attack. I see this sometimes in the flaming on this forum, but fortunately the moderators are onto this very quickly.
  • Genetic fallacy – something should be rejected because it comes from a bad source. I often see this in evolution vs creationist debates where evolutionist states evidence from the Book of Genesis should be rejected because of those fighting fundies (or conservative evangelicals) who want to interpret it literally and they know nothing about science. Genesis is mythology, anyway!

Liberal theology as a hindrance

What I think causes some Christians to balk at the idea of using logic in communication is what is seen in liberal theology using the historical-critical method where people promote autonomous human reason to arrive at conclusions that are contrary with Scripture.

This shows how humanistic reasoning can be abused, but it does not negate the use of logic in our communication. Those who are opposing the use of logic, are engaging in a self-defeating exercise. This is because they are using logic in the sentences they write to oppose the use of logic.

Many things in Christian exegesis, theology, apologetics, Bible study, etc., can be abused. The abuse of something does not negate its legitimacy when used for the correct purposes. One or 10 faulty Fords (motor vehicles) doesn’t make every Ford junk – I drive a Toyota Camry.

Abuse does not exclude legitimate use.

A responder to one of my posts on Christian Forums gave an excellent perspective on this problem of abuse of logic:

See I have a bit of a different thought on the matter. Imagine a pretty girl who is always told she is ugly. Eventually she comes to believe that even though she is beautiful. Similarly, atheists claim the mantle of logic and reason, telling Christians their beliefs are unfounded and go against logic. So Christians come to hate logic and reason not realizing that they can fight fire with fire and that logic goes both ways. We are that girl and we are not ugly.

To all the Christians out there who are reading this, do not fear logic and reason. Logic and reason is not something to be afraid of, embrace it! Pray for a stronger faith and know that God is on our side.

If getting into the negations of our faith makes you weary, don’t! But for those of us who can and do, do not judge us for it. We are part of the Body Of Christ! Do not forget that.[1]

While the use of reason, including logic, can be abused, it does not denigrate the proper use of logic as defined above.

Does the NT endorse apologetics as a legitimate ministry?

Is there a legitimate Christian ministry of apologetics when the ministry gift of an apologist is not mentioned using the word, apologist, in the New Testament?

I observe that these words do not appear as exact words in the NT: Trinity, substitutionary atonement of Christ and inerrancy of the Bible.[2] However, all three of these doctrines are taught in the Bible. So while we use different English words to describe a doctrine, this does not mean that that doctrine does not appear in the Bible.

The same applies with the ministry of an apologist. In discussion on a Christian Forum, a fellow wrote to me,

And by the way, just so you are aware of it, there is no ministry from The Holy Spirit in the bible called “apologetics.” A lot of people make one up, but it is not a GOD given ministry unto the body of Christ for its edification. This is very apparent in the bible, and I’m quite surprised that you would even make mention of it to me, as if you were doing something for GOD this way.[3]

My reply to him included some of the following brief information.[4] We know that there are five ministry gifts of Christ to the church according to Ephesians 4:11-13,

So Christ himself gave the apostles, the prophets, the evangelists, the pastors and teachers, to equip his people for works of service, so that the body of Christ may be built up until we all reach unity in the faith and in the knowledge of the Son of God and become mature, attaining to the whole measure of the fullness of Christ (NIV).

Therefore, the gifts of ministry Christ gave to the church are apostles, prophets, evangelists, pastors and teachers. There is no mention of apologists here, so does that mean the ministry of Christian apologetics is not valid?

A check of Arndt & Gingrich’s Greek lexicon (1957:95) reveals the meanings of apologia, the Greek word for a defence or apologetic. This is what we find:

  • There is a ministry of apologia (apologetics) involved in giving testimony as Paul demonstrated in Acts 22:1. So presenting one’s testimony can involve an apologetic component.
  • Phil. 1:7, 16 demonstrate that the ministry of apologia is involved in defendng the Gospel. So apologetics is a sub-set of the gift of proclaiming the Gospel – evangelism.
  • This is also confirmed in 1 Peter 3:15, the verse that is commonly given as an example of apologetics. If a person is giving an apologia for the hope that he/she has in Christ, then a person is engaging in the ministry of evangelism.

Therefore, the ministry of apologetics is a sub-set of evangelism and could well be an aspect of the continuing gift of apostles. See my article, ‘Are there apostles in the 21st century?

Many of the church fathers in the early days of establishing the Christian church were described as engaging in the ministry as apologists in church planting and teaching. Earle Cairns in his book on church history (Cairns 1996),

During the second and third centuries the church expressed its emerging self-consciousness in a new literary output—the writings of the apologists and the polemicists. Justin Martyr was the greatest of the former group; Irenaeus was the outstanding man of the later group (Cairns 1996:105). [5]

Cairns lists these apologists of the early church:

1. Eastern apologists were Justin Martyr (ca. AD 100-165); Tatian (ca. AD 110-172); Athenagoras (one of his publications was about AD 177); Theophilus of Antioch (converted to Christ about AD 180) (Cairns 1996:106-107).

2. Western apologists included Tertullian (born ca. AD 160); and Minucius Felix (wrote about AD 200) [Cairns 1996:107-109].

Therefore, from a biblical and historical perspective, the ministry of apologetics can be agreed as part of the ministry of apostle or evangelist. In my own ministry as a teacher-preacher, I often use apologetics in explaining aspects of my expositions. Here you will read examples of my expository preaching on 1 Peter.

Recommended books

I highly recommend Harry Blamires, The Christian Mind: How Should a Christian Think? (Servant Books). Also Harry Blamires, The Post Christian Mind (Servant Books). Os Guinness’s little book has lots of meat, Fit Bodies Fat Minds: Why Evangelicals Don’t Think & What to Do About It (I have the British edition by Hodder & Stoughton).

Back in 1972, the late John Stott published a wonderful booklet of 64 pages, Your Mind Matters: The Place of the Mind in the Christian Life (IVP). One of his statements was:

I am not pleading for a dry, humorless, academic Christianity, but for a warm devotion, set on fire by truth. I long for this biblical balance and the avoidance of fanatical extremes. I shall urge that the remedy for an exaggerated view of the intellect is neither to disparage it, nor to neglect it, but to keep it in its God-appointed place, fulfilling its God-appointed role (Stott 1972:11).


We cannot read any document without use of logic. So God, the creator of logic, uses logic is providing us with the God-breathed Scriptures to read. All of God’s good things can be abused and this applies to logic.

It is not illogical to believe in the supernatural God of miracles who provides a book by putting His thoughts in order in Scripture.

The ministry of apologetics is a legitimate Christian ministry that may be subsumed under the gifts of apostle, evangelist and teacher.

Works consulted

Arndt, W F & Gingrich, F W 1957. A Greek-English lexicon of the New Testament and other early Christian literature. [6] Chicago: The University of Chicago Press (limited edition licensed to Zondervan Publishing House).

Cairns, E E 1996. Christianity through the centuries. Grand Rapids, Michigan: Zondervan Publishing House.

Crossan, J D 1991. The historical Jesus. New York, NY: HarperSanFrancisco.

Geisler, N L & Brooks, R M 1990. Come, let us reason. Grand Rapids, Michigan: Baker Book House.


[1] Christian Forums, Christian Apologetics, ‘Logic in Christian apologetics’, Secondtimearound #37, available at: http://www.christianforums.com/t7651514-4/ (Accessed 25 April 2012).

[2] See also my article, ‘What is the nature of the Bible’s inspiration?’.

[3] Christian Forums, Christian Apologetics, ‘Logic in Christian apologetics’, ARBITER01 #30. available at: http://www.christianforums.com/t7651514-3/ (Accessed 25 April 2012). In this thread I’m OzSpen.

[4] Ibid., #33.

[5] This and the following references are to the 1981 edition of Earle Cairns.

[6] This is ‘a translation and adaptation of Walter Bauer’s Griechisch-Deutsches Wörtbuch zu den Schriften des Neuen Testaments und der übrigen urchristlichen Literatur’, 4th rev and aug ed, 1952 (Arndt & Gingrich 1957:iii).


Copyright © 2012 Spencer D. Gear. This document last updated at Date: 31 May 2016.