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Soccer, basketball, and why faith isn’t logical.

For centuries philosophers, atheists, and naysayers have insisted you can’t know anything if you can’t prove it logically. Every day, faithful Christians prove them wrong. Likewise, soccer players have long insisted that you can’t score a point if you touch the ball with your hands. Every season, Lebron James proves them wrong.

Soccer and basketball are a lot alike. They are both sports. They both have goals at opposite ends of a court or field. They both have teams, uniforms, referees, fans and spectators. And they both have rules. They’re basically the same thing, right? Not if you ask a soccer or basketball player.

To a pure soccer player, basketball rules are ridiculous and irrelevant. To a basketball player, the opinion is very much the same in return.

The rules of soccer are simple. Kick the ball into the other team’s goal. And don’t touch the ball with your hands. The rules of basketball are also simple. Throw the ball into the other team’s basket. And don’t touch the ball with your feet. So they’re exact opposites then, right? So how can people possibly play both? It’s simple: they know that even though they are different sports, they aren’t mutually exclusive.

Faith and logic are much the same.

So why would we think it necessary that faith follow the rules of logic? Or vice versa? They are both paths to insight, knowledge, and understanding. They are both processes that involve seeking answers or solutions. They are both inherent to the human experience. But beyond that, they are not the same thing.

Logic demands a very strict and limited adherence to a set of sequential pathways of deliberation. In logic, one must follow the rules or it is deemed illogical (reason, rationale, and logic though nuanced are largely synonymous for the sake of this level of discussion).

The atheist or secularist insists faith is illogical and thus invalid. This is absolutely no different than the soccer player insisting basketball is un-soccer-like and thus isn’t a sport. Without making allowance that the two use different rules to arrive at a similar type of outcome, but also have limitations in arriving at the same outcome, a soccer player would never come to appreciate or enjoy the delight in hitting an open jump shot or better yet hammering down a monster dunk. Similarly, the exclusive logician or rationalist though appreciating the fruits of his own pathway misses out on the fruits awaiting through the pathway of faith.

The truth is that logic and faith aren’t competing for market share in a zero sum game. Mathematics is a system of logic, not faith — does it injure faith to say that you need logic to understand mathematics? Not at all. Knowing and understanding God is a system of faith — does it injure logic to say that you need faith to understand God? Not at all. It just takes understanding that they both have their place and their purpose…and that they complement each other perfectly well.

If you want to engineer a bridge, solve an algebraic problem, or craft a persuasive closing argument in court, do you need faith in Christ to do it? No. It definitely wouldn’t hurt, but at their essence these types of activities are logically defined. “If A then B then C” isn’t a question of faith, it’s a process of logic. So does that mean that if you can’t find God through logic, that God isn’t there? Of course not. Just because you can’t score in basketball using your feet doesn’t mean that you can’t score in soccer with them.

If on the other hand you want to know if God actually exists, whether your trials are actually blessings, or whether you can get forgiveness for your sins, can you do it with logic? It definitely wouldn’t hurt as an aid, but it won’t get you there. It requires faith to get you to the destination. “I know that God lives and loves me” isn’t a statement of logic, it’s a declaration from faith.

And yet in a beautiful twist, typical of God’s gloriously simple yet complex plan, logic can’t exist without at least a portion of faith, and faith can’t exist without some logic.

The irony of logic is that it ultimately falls short of the rigorous extreme requirements of logic…and in fact requires a portion of faith. Logic is a system of rules that humans developed with many unprovable assumptions in place that it necessarily rests and depends upon for validity. It makes the assumption that we actually exist, something reason can’t actually prove beyond a doubt. It makes the assumption that what we are experiencing isn’t some grand simulated illusion, something it can’t prove. It makes the assumption that this is not simply someone else’s bizarre dream destined to end at any moment at the sound of an alarm clock, again something that rationale alone cannot prove. And it assumes that none of it needs anything more than logic to know, again, something logic itself cannot establish. None of these can be proven through logic because the premises are always going to have unsubstantiated starting points; starting points that require a point of faith as a starting point.

Likewise, faith does not exist without some application of logic. Even a simple application of reasoning is required to believe. “God is all-loving, therefore God loves me” is a logical conclusion, albeit one founded in faith, but logical nonetheless for it follows the rules of logic. The premise is founded in faith, but the steps of deliberations are logical in structure. To believe that Christ died for us requires us to accept that the source from which we learn this truth (be it a person, a prompting, or a passage of scripture) is founded in some source of unfaltering validity; a logical conclusion. Even to believe that faith is necessary at all takes a conclusion based on a even a sliver of reasoning. In fact, logic is so vital the Lord Himself invites us to exercise reason in the very process of following Him as He says, “Come now, and let us reason together” (Isaiah 1:18) and “…now come, saith the Lord, by the Spirit…let us reason together, that ye may understand” (D&C 50:10) And so it is, faith without works is dead, but faith without logic is never even born.

As basketball and soccer depend on mutual commonalities, despite their inherent differences, logic and faith actually depend on each other rather than cancel each other out. In the struggle for exclusion, logic and faith are ends of the same rope tugging against each other while denying their shared bond. Like two sides of the same coin, they are not exclusive, but are a necessary and inseparable part of each other.

To insist on one or the other is to insist a front has no back, that top has no bottom, and the shadow exists without the light. The key is not to reject one or the other, it’s to embrace both. When faith and logic are properly used together, the imminence of truth is unavoidable. And within that truth awaits the treasure of discovering a loving God and all He has to offer.

God lives and He loves us. He really does. And I really do know it. Can I prove that to you through logic? Nope. Can I prove it with faith? Nope still. But can you prove it to yourself? You sure can. And using both faith and logic, coupled with a healthy serving of humility and patience, you will.

So the the next time someone insists that your faith in Jesus Christ is illogical, respond cheerfully with a simple question: “Have you ever played soccer?” Trust me, it’s a slam dunk.

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Just your average Latter-day Saint.

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