A Condition That Cannot Be Denied
Today we are going to learn a little bit of logic. Some of us might have learned the subject Logic in college. I am almost sure we have forgotten most of what we learned in that subject Logic.
What most of us do not know is that logic is very dear to Jesus. This is because one of his titles in the Bible is the source of the word "logic". St. John the Apostle calls Jesus the logos, the word from which the word "logic" comes from. Logos basically means word or idea. And logic means the correct way of using words or ideas.
The Gospel according to John begins, In the beginning was the Word (logos in Greek), and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. John continues that this Word became a human being and was named Jesus. Jesus is the Word of God, the logos of God and he is very much concerned with our correct way of using words because he is the source of all words. In the book of Revelation Jesus declares, I am the Alpha and the Omega, the beginning and end of the Greek alphabet.
In our Gospel reading for today we heard Jesus, the Word of God, the logos say, "By this all men will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another". In making this statement Jesus used logic.
According to our subject Logic what Jesus used was a conditional syllogism or argument called in Latin Modus Ponens or in English "Way of Affirmation".
A very simple example of Modus Ponens or Way of Affirmation is: If it is raining, the streets are wet. It is true that it is raining. Therefore it is also true that the streets are wet.
In a conditional syllogism or argument there are four parts: the condition, the consequent, the affirmation and the conclusion. In our example the condition is: If it is raining.The consequent is: the streets are wet. The affirmation is: It is true that it is raining. The conclusion is: It is true that the streets are wet.
The first rule for this kind of reasoning or argument is that if the condition is true or affirmed, the consequent is also true or affirmed. And the affirmed consequent is the conclusion. Thus if we affirm that it is raining, then by correct reasoning we have to affirm that the consequent is also true, which now becomes the conclusion. We affirm that the streets are wet.
The second rule for this kind of reasoning is that you cannot deny the condition. You can only affirm it. If you deny the condition, there can be no valid or correct conclusion. For example you cannot say, It is not raining, therefore the streets are not wet. This kind of reasoning is not correct because common sense tells us that the streets can be wet without raining. Fire trucks may have sprayed the streets with water or the water connections may have leaked flooding the streets.
Are you still with me?
In the conditional argument called Modus Ponens or Way of Affirmation which we have just considered you can only affirm the condition. You cannot deny it and produce a correct conclusion.
Going now to Jesus' statement in our Gospel reading, for the sake of getting the same form we used in our example, we place the condition of Jesus ahead of the consequent. If you have love for one another, then all men will know you are my disciples. Remember that in order to have a correct conclusion you can only affirm the condition. The condition here is: If you have love for one another. The rule of logic we just learned says that you can only affirm this to produce a correct conclusion.
Thus you cannot twist the words of Jesus this way: If you do not have love for one another, not all men will know that you are my disciples or all men will not know that you are my disciples.
To deny the condition in this case is to do injustice to the words of Jesus, the logos, the source of logic or correct reasoning. And yet we have heard some preachers and even some priests say and it seems for us correct to hear this statement: The reason why men do not recognize us as disciples of Jesus is that we Christians do not love one another, which is just a restatement of this false reasoning: If you do not love one another all men will not know that you are my disciples. This statement is nice to hear but it is not what Jesus intended by his statement in our Gospel reading. So, let us not make this statement: If we Christians do not love one another, people will not recognize us as Jesus' disciples.This is not correct reasoning according to the rule of logic established by Jesus and discovered by the philosophers.
What is the value for Jesus and for us of our discussion so far? First, for Jesus, let us not put words into his mouth which he never intended to say, such as the false statement which we have just shown. Jesus did not say that if we do not love one another people will not recognize us as his followers.
For us, the value of this discussion is that if the only way to make Jesus' conditional statement true is to affirm the condition then let us affirm it, let us make it true. Let the day come when we can truly say, It is true that we love one another. Then the consequent will also be true and the conclusion will be: Now all men know that we are Jesus' disciples.
To affirm the condition is not difficult or impossible for us because Paul the Apostle says that the love of Jesus for us which makes us love one another is shed abroad in our hearts by the Holy Spirit (Romans 5:5). We received the Holy Spirit in baptism and were strengthened by him in confirmation and we only need to make this love actual in our life.
Right now Jesus' Spirit is actualizing or making actual this love of Jesus for us. He makes us even feel this love as we learn more of Jesus, the author of logic or correct thinking. By ourselves we cannot have this love because it is the way Jesus loved. He said, Love one another as I have loved you. We love one another with the love of Jesus.
Let us now pray to the author of correct thinking as we bow down our heads.
Lord Jesus, you are the Word, the Logos, the author of logic or correct thinking. Teach us to think the way you think which is always correct. Thank you for pouring the love of the Holy Spirit into our hearts, the love which enables us to love one another so that all men will know that we are your disciples or followers. Amen.