In the study of the Bible we come face to face with mystery. But we must warn against an unbiblical conception of “mystery” in which some defenders of the faith think of it in terms of “secret things,” paradoxes or “seeming contradictions.” We quote from the Standard Bearer. ”… there are two wrong conceptions of the biblical idea of mystery which are prevalent in the church today. First, … the scriptural idea of mystery is something which is hidden, something which is concealed from us. It is especially those who are addicted to this view who are always ready to admonish those who would seek to penetrate into the mysteries of God, and of His Word, with the words of Moses . . . Duet. 29:29 . . .
The second wrong conception is that the scriptural idea of mystery refers to that which is contrary to human reason and logic and emphasizes that childlike faith in scripture demands that we accept propositions that are directly contradictory to each other and in conflict with our logical mind. Not to do this (they say, is to deny the biblical idea of mystery. They accuse those who seek to harmonize the seeming contradictions of scripture of being rationalists (and as those) who refuse to bow before the mysteries of the Word of God. Over against them we maintain that the scriptural idea of mystery always far transcends the limits of the finite mind and our boldest comprehension, but firmly deny that it is ever in conflict with the logic of the human mind . . . Faith in scripture never demands that yea is nay, that black is also white, that in respect to the same object and the same thing, God wills and . . . wills not.
“. . . Christianity has no secret doctrines which must be kept cautiously concealed, as some” view for example “the doctrine of predestination. . . Just the opposite is true, for the scripture idea of mystery is always, without exception, identified with revelation. The mysteries
of Christianity are its revealed doctrine. They refer not to the hidden but to the revealed things of God. Indeed, they were hidden in the eternal decrees of God, but now they are revealed . . .
“. . . But why then does scripture speak of that which is revealed … as a mystery? The answer is self-evident, viz., just because that which is revealed is not the product of intellectual research or human reasoning, but of divine revelation.
“And the reason this divine mystery is hid from the wise and prudent (Mt. 11:25) … is not due to the fact that this revelation of the mysteries is veiled in such enigmatical and esoteric language that they cannot understand it. . . but it is due to the fact that their carnal minds are blinded … II Cor. 4:3, 4 … I Cor. 2:14. On the other hand, the ability to . . . understand the mysteries of God is a gift of grace . . . (Mk 4:11).’’—The Biblical Idea of Mystery, TSB, XIX, 226.
* Logic, according to Funk and Wagnalls New Standard Dictionary (1913), is “the science and doctrine of correct thinking; the principles governing the reasoning faculties in the pursuit and Exposition of truth.’’ Both believers and unbelievers alike deal with formal logic. Christians and non-Christians work with the same rules and principles governing correct reasoning. Just as with regard to arithmetic and the multiplication table, Christians and non-Christians have to deal with the same science of numbers and the same art of computation, or, in other words, with the same facts and figures, and facts are facts and figures are figures. True, but there is a Christian and a non-Christian view (interpretation) and use (application) of these sciences (arithmetic and logic). That being so, would we regard the teaching of arithmetic just as well either, with or without any reference to the God of numbers? Would we accept it that 2 + 2 = 4 whether or not God
exists? or that the rules of logic are true whether or not there is a God of truth? Would we as Christians agree with Hegel that logic is “an exposition of the self-development of rational being”? Is that true of the intellectual development of men and of angels? We must rather maintain that logic, to be valid, must be in harmony with the biblical Creator-creature distinction. We must not view logic and its rules as though endowed inherently with the divine attributes of independence or autonomy.
Logic is not on a par with God, not superior to Him, nor is it in itself God. It is in God, in His omniscient mind and eternal counsel, where it has its origin and from where it is reflected in man’s mind. It is therefore impossible for man to discover or formulate rules of logic so superior to God that even He must conform. There is no sphere of truth above (the God of) Truth. Rather, logic, being the creature that it is, finite, must yield in submission of the infinite mind of God, the God of all knowledge. “Logic alone” can never be determinative of truth and error. The Spirit of knowledge has already done that. Therefore, to deduce a truth by logic, for the Christian, does not mean to do so “from (or by) logic alone.” Logic is but a tool to be used to aid us in apprehension, judgment, reasoning and scientifically systematizing. Therefore, for the Christian, logic must be made to rest within the framework of the divine revelation found in holy scripture. The rules of formal logic as they come to us from a non-Christian logician are deistic or atheistic; and therefore, to use them we must take them out of their pagan context and place then within a Reformed context suffused with Christian principles and presuppositions. The reason and necessity for this is that within what we call the glimmerings of natural light which remain in man since the fall there is also included Formal Logic whereby the natural man retains some natural knowledge of God, of natural things, of the difference between good and evil, and by which he discovers some regard for virtue and good order in society . , . But this light of nature, including that of formal logic, is not sufficient to bring the natural man to a saving knowledge of God, nor to true conversion. For he is incapable of using aright formal logic, arithmetic or any other of the things natural and civil. For what he does in his use of these sciences is to render them wholly polluted, holding them down in the unrighteousnesses of atheism, deism, dualism (etc.), and doing so he becomes inexcusable before God. (Canons of Dort, III-IV, 4). Therefore, the Christian can never hold a logic divorced from divine revelation. Nor is there knowledge based on “logic alone.’’ It is not possible to prove the existence of God without God. God cannot be proved to exist by a method that puts Him out of existence. That would be like attempting to prove the existence of a painting whether the artist exists or not, or whether the wall it hangs on exists or not. A. W. Pink is to the point here when he says, “The so-called argument from design by well-meaning ‘apologists’ has, we believe, done much more harm than good, for it has attempted to bring down the great God to the level of finite comprehension, and thereby has lost sight of His solitary excellence.’’ (A.W.P., The Attributes of God, “The Solitariness of God.”). From what we have said, then, the authority of logic is not our starting- point; the authority of God alone is! And while it is a deduction of formal logic to maintain that “man is the measure of all things,” we can as Christians by no means go along with that proposition, for the reasons already shown. Nor can we bring ourselves to the strange position that we must be prepared to believe paradoxes or contradictions. Such a contention is not only illogical but antilogical. As to that impossible contention, Rev. H. Hoeksema said, “I deny this. For. . . the Bible is the revelation of God to us, adapted to our understanding. God, who created our logical mind, also adapted His own revelation to that mind. Hence there surely cannot be contradiction in the Word of God (nor in the truth deduced from the Word of God, rch). There are no contradictions in God. How could there be contradictions in His revelation to us?” (The Standard Bearer, XIX, Feb. 15, 1943).
Rev. H. Hoeksema, in the Reformed Dogmatics, (pp. 43, 44, 47) pointedly remarks, “From all that has been said on the knowability and incomprehensibility of God, it must have become quite evident (1) that it is absurd to speak of proofs for the existence of God, and (2) that there is no need of them. No one is able to demonstrate with mathematical certainty that God exists; not can reason (logic, rch) reach out to Him by means of a syllogism . . . Nor is there need of proof to convince man that God is. For He reveals himself …” These arguments for the existence of God begin with the creature and try to reason on up to the Creator. So that, strictly, they are not evidences of revelation, but of man’s attempt to prove God’s existence without revelation, by logic alone. Rev. Hoeksema also discusses the cosmological argument for the existence of God, which briefly is: 1. All things have a cause. 2. Then the universe, too, must have a cause. 3. And the ultimate cause of the universe is God. On this Rev. Hoeksema remarks, “One could turn the entire argument in favor of Atheism, as follows: 1. All things have a cause. . . 2. If there be a God, He must be uncaused. 3. There is no God! . . . But faith does not reach out for God in the way of a logical argument (apart from revelation, rch), but hears and believes His speech … by the Word of God! . . . these so-called ‘proofs’ … as strictly logical proofs that must have convincing reason . . . must be said to lack all power (to do this, rch). The fool will continue to say . . . there is no God . . . Only faith, humbly listening to God’s own Word will be able to confess: Credo in Deum!” The trouble with this cosmological argument for the existence of God is that it is based on so called neutral, non-theistic grounds, which, step by step, from the natural and creatural, would end in theism. But since this argument points to a god, not the God of scripture, it points to an idol. Proof in Christian theism consists in showing that God’s existence is itself the first postulate of reason, and the ultimate basis on which all other knowledge rests.
Suggestions for Further Study: Read the editorials in the Standard Bearer, Vols. 19 and 20, against “Common Grace.”