MY DOG HAS TEN TAILS

T. PIERCE BROWN

It would be humorous, if it were not so pathetic, to hear the reasoning and examine the logic of those who teach that reasoning and logic have no place in our spiritual life, or in scriptural exegesis. They try to use logic to prove that logic is of no value. It is very similar to those who claim that one cannot know the truth about anything, yet assert that assumption with dogmatic assurance as if they know it to be true.

However, those of us who recognize the value of logic and reasoning, syllogistic or otherwise, need to be aware that not all syllogisms are valid, and that even though one may sound reasonable, his reasoning may be flawed. For example, a syllogism such as the following has great value for arriving at a definite conclusion:

1. All men are mortal. (Major premise)

2. John is a man. (Minor premise)

3. Therefore John is mortal. (Conclusion)

However, one needs to be sure of the truthfulness of the major and minor premises, and be sure the primary terms in both premises mean the same thing. Also, there are those who think they know how to make syllogisms who do not know when or why one is invalid. For example:

1. No dog has 9 tails. (The major premise is reasonably certain).

2. My dog has one more tail than no dog. (If my dog has a tail at all, the minor premise is true.)

3. Therefore, my dog has ten tails. (Anyone who can add knows that 9 tails plus one tail is ten tails.)

Although one may not be able to tell in logical terms exactly what makes this syllogism invalid, almost anyone can tell something is wrong, for my dog does not have ten tails. However, there are those who might erroneously conclude: You can prove anything or nothing by the use of syllogisms.

Even astute and thoughtful brethren have used some invalid syllogisms and other types of wrong reasoning. For example, there are those who do not recognize what is wrong a series of statements such as this:

1. James had only one brother, John.

2. John died.

3. Therefore James has no living brothers.

One of the things wrong with such reasoning is that the tense of the verbs in the first and third statement is not the same. James may have had only one brother who died, but whether James had another brother born later is not included in the facts, so whether James has now a living brother is not discovered by the information given.

A very popular syllogism is something like the following:

1. Blasphemy against the Holy Spirit is the ONLY unpardonable sin. (The major premise is as certain as a statement of Jesus in Mt. 12:31 can make it.)

2. Any sin of which one does not repent is unpardonable. (Luke 13:5 and various other passages prove the minor premise to be true.)

3. Therefore, (since blasphemy against the Holy Spirit is the ONLY unpardonable sin, and a sin of which one does not repent is unpardonable, the conclusion is inescapable) blasphemy against the Holy Spirit is any sin of which one does not repent.

One problem with that syllogism is that it is invalid because the term “unpardonable” in the major premise and the term “unpardonable” in the minor premise do not refer to the same thing. In the major premise it refers to kinds or varieties (as the KJV suggests). In the minor premise it refers to the duration of the sin — as long as one does not repent of it. Technically and grammatically, one should say in that case, it is “unpardoned” in order to differentiate between what is unpardonable because of its nature and what is called unpardonable because God cannot justly pardon a sin of which one does not repent.

Perhaps this syllogism would show the fallacy of the argument:

1. Blasphemy against the Holy Spirit is the ONLY unpardonable sin.

2. Committing adultery until you die is unpardonable.

3. Therefore, committing adultery is blasphemy against the Holy Spirit.

If you substitute any sin, such as lying, stealing or any other instead of adultery, you should see that every sin would be blasphemy against the Holy Spirit. But it would only be blasphemy against the Holy Spirit if you did it until you died. The simple truth is that blasphemy is a specific thing, and every Lexicon I have examined defines it the same way. Even ordinary men under the law of Moses knew that to blaspheme God brought the penalty of death. No group of erudite theologians ran aimlessly hither and yon guessing that it was rejecting the law until one died, or some sin of which one did not repent. They knew it was cursing or reviling or speaking evil directly against God. When those who railed at Jesus on the cross (Mark15:29-Gk. blasphemed him), they did not simply reject the gospel until they died, or have some kind of sin of which they did not repent.

It is remarkable that a simple mind can understand what blaspheming God was, what blaspheming Christ was, what it meant to “blaspheme the worthy name by which we are called,” how Paul could say they blasphemed him (slanderously reported) in Romans 3:8 and yet cannot understand that when one does the same thing to the Holy Spirit he has blasphemed the Holy Spirit.

My point in this article is not to define the blasphemy against the Holy Spirit, but to point out that brethren need to be careful that their syllogisms and reasonings are valid when they use syllogistic reasoning. The fact that one can misuse logic does in no sense suggest that the use of logic is improper. One could not even come to the conclusion that the use of logic is improper without trying to use logic!

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