Sunday, April 12, 2015

The Logic of the Conditional Promises of God

It rained when I was in Bangkok.
Therefore, the ground got wet.

Jesus used logic. He used disjunctive syllogisms, which are, formally:

1. Either p or q.

2. Not-p.
3. Therefore, q.

Jesus used modus ponens and modus tollens. Here is an an example of modus ponens.

1. If it rains, then the ground gets wet.
2. It is now raining.
3. Therefore, the ground is now getting wet.

Premise 1 (P1) is true. If P2 obtains, then the conclusion necessarily follows.

This argument has the form:

1a. If A, then B.

2a. A.
3a. Therefore, B.

In logic this is the classic argument form modus ponens, which means: to affirm the antecedent. The antecedent is the first phrase of a conditional statement, in this case "It rains," or, symbolically, "A." In this argument form if the antecedent is affirmed, as it is in P2 and P2a, then the consequent (the second phrase of a conditional statement) must be true.

Now consider a second argument form, referred to in logic as modus tollens (to negate the consequent).

1b. If it rains, then the ground gets wet.

2b. The ground is not getting wet. (the consequent of P1 is negated).
3b. Therefore, it is not raining.

Or, symbolically:

1c. If A, then B.

2c. Not B.
3c. Therefore, Not A.

Here is an example of a conditional promise of God: Jesus said, "If you love me, then you will keep my commands." Using this conditional promise, let's make an argument using it as P1d.

1d. If you love me, then you will obey my commands.

2d. You love Jesus.
3d. Therefore, you will keep Jesus' commands.

P1d is true. Assume that P2d obtains. P3d then necessarily follows, with as much certainty as P3 follows from P1 and P2. This explains why the commands of Jesus are no harder to follow than for the ground to get wet if it is raining.

Here's an analogy to explain this. I have taught many guitar students over the years. I have found this to be true:

1e. If a student loves to play the guitar, then they will practice.

If a student does not practice, it tells me they do not love to play the guitar (the consequent is negated, using modus tollens). So if someone does not obey the commands of Jesus, it shows that they do not love Jesus. As Thomas Merton once wrote, desire without discipline is an illusion; desire always leads to discipline.

For example, years ago I used to love eating large quantities of Breyer's butter pecan ice cream. While this created a growing burden around my midsection, eating massive quantities of ice cream was not burdensome for me to do. The reason was: I desired it. I loved it.

Here are a few other examples of conditional God-promises.

1f. If you trust in the Lord with all your heart and in all your ways acknowledge him, then he will make straight your paths.

2f. You do trust in the Lord and acknowledge him in all your ways.
3f. Therefore, you find that he has made straight your paths.

If P2f is true, then God will guide and direct you in life.

1g. If you allow God to be your shepherd, then you will not be in a state of want.

2g. You do make God your shepherd.
3g. You find yourself not being in a state of want.

If P2g is true, then you will not find yourself in a heart-condition of lack.

1h. If you abide in Christ, then he will give you his peace.

2h. You do abide in Christ.
3h. You discover that your heart is not agitated, but at peace.

If P2h is true, then your heart will be at peace.

I have found all of these conditional promises to be true as I have lived out the second premise of each argument.

Love Jesus.

Trust in the Lord.
Acknowledge God in all your ways.
Let God shepherd you.
Abide in Christ.

And you will discover:

His commands give life.

He guides you.
He delivers your heart from a spirit of lack.
He gives you his peace, and a full measure of his joy.