Tag Archives: biblical logic: in theory and practice

Writing and Whited Sepulchers

“And when I came to you, brethren, I did not come with superiority of speech or of wisdom, proclaiming to you the testimony of God. For I determined to know nothing among you except Jesus Christ, and Him crucified. I was with you in weakness and in fear and in much trembling, and my message and my preaching were not in persuasive words of wisdom, but in demonstration of the Spirit and of power, so that your faith would not rest on the wisdom of men, but on the power of God.” (1 Cor. 2:1-5)

In his book Biblical Logic: In Theory and Practice, Dr. Joel McDurmon makes an interesting observation regarding the above passage:

Paul reminded the Corinthians that he purposefully avoided cunning rhetoric in favor of the plain, powerful Gospel. Historically, however, people give in to the temptation to trick and dupe others by using persuasive words rather than godly wisdom. Aristotle provided the first systematic examination of logic, and he did so primarily because of the prevalence of trained rhetoricians who hired out their persuasive abilities for money. Many became very rich and famous. This group of “sophists” (from the Greek sophos, “wise”; of such people see Rom. 1:22) did not care about the truth of any particular issue; they merely cared about winning the argument for their paying clients. Sophists prided themselves on their ability to take either side of any argument and win. (p. 65)

This is something we writers should bear in mind. Clever rhetoric, in and of itself, is a good and useful thing. But it’s not the best thing. And sometimes, it just gets in the way.

I have a deep and heartfelt respect for the writings of men like J.C. Ryle, Charles Spurgeon, and Thomas Watson. Most impressive, for me, is their ability to write with artistic aplomb while keeping the Gospel ever at the forefront. Their talent with the pen is remarkable – their sense of priorities even more so.

I can learn a thing or two from these great men. No, strike that: I can learn a lot. We all can. When the time comes to set pen to paper (or fingers to keyboard, as the case may be), we would do well to consider where our inky scratchings point: back to ourselves or beyond ourselves? Do we remember that the ultimate goal of our writing should be to reflect the glory of Christ and the beauty of His Gospel? Or do we stifle these things in a lather of vain, self-important prose?

I’m all for clever writing, but we should have discernment in knowing when and where to use it. “To every thing there is a season,” says the Preacher in Ecclesiastes. There’s a time for witty repartee, dazzling wordplay, and literary shenanigans. And there’s a time when we need to set these things aside and forge ahead with unabashed, unadorned plainness.

At all times, however, let us remember that we write for God’s glory and not our own. If we place our trust in cunning rhetoric and artsy prose, relying (as McDurmon puts it) on persuasive words rather than godly wisdom, then our writing is no better than the whited sepulchers of Matthew 23:27, “which indeed appear beautiful outward, but are within full of dead men’s bones, and of all uncleanness.”

On the Bookshelf X

Steve Jobs by Walter Isaacson
I’ve read mixed reviews on this one – people loved it and people who found it disappointing. I’m not sure which side of the fence I’ll fall on, but I can say that it’s an interesting read so far. I’m no dyed-in-the-wool Apple fanboy, but Jobs was a fascinating individual. His impact on the tech world was tremendous… and that’s still probably an understatement.
Catch-22 by Joseph Heller
Described by one reviewer as “an utterly serious and sad, but damn funny book.” I’m looking forward to this one with mixed feelings: on the one hand, it’s an anti-war satire (and a pacifist I am not); on the other, it’s a classic novel which seems to demand a reading, regardless of one’s political views. So I’m giving it a go. I hope I don’t regret it.
Biblical Logic: In Theory and Practice by Joel McDurmon
“God created logic and reasoning as He created man, and He created it for man, and therefore we should find it reasonable that God’s Word has something to say – if not a lot to say – about logic, rationality, and good judgment.” I enjoy reading McDurmon’s articles on American Vision, so I’m excited to finally pick this one up.
The Evan Gabriel Trilogy by Steve Umstead
“Umstead has created what I can only describe as a Tom Clancy-esque world a few hundred years into the future.” After reading that, I knew there was no way this series was not getting added to my shelf. I’m relatively new to military sci-fi, but it strikes me as a rather terrific combination, don’t you think? Here’s hoping this series is as smashing as it looks.
Gilead by Marilynne Robinson
I first heard about this one from Tim Challies, who gave it a glowing recommendation; then my Mom bought a copy, read it, and loved it. Now I’m reading it. This Pulitzer Prize winner is narrated by 76-year-old John Ames, “a preacher who has lived almost all of his life in Gilead, Iowa. He is writing a letter to his almost seven-year-old son, the blessing of his second marriage. It is a summing-up, an apologia, a consideration of his life. Robinson takes the story away from being simply the reminiscences of one man and moves it into the realm of a meditation on fathers and children, particularly sons, on faith, and on the imperfectability of man.”
Just Do Something by Kevin DeYoung
Otherwise entitled How to Make a Decision Without Dreams, Visions, Fleeces, Impressions, Open Doors, Random Bible Verses, Casting Lots, Liver Shivers, Writing in the Sky, Etc. God appeared to me in a dream and told me this book was going to be awesome. Oh, wait…
1984 by George Orwell
Orwell’s classic needs no intro from me. I’ve been told that it’s incredibly dark and depressing – which strikes me as appropriate, considering the subject matter. Dark stories don’t usually bother me anyway, as evidenced by the fact that two of my favorite novels are The Road and Crime and Punishment.

What’s on your bookshelf right now?