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Logic involves principles that govern how humans should think and speak. Studying logic means investigating correct reasoning. Traditionally, logic is said to begin with three basic laws: identity, noncontradiction, and the excluded middle. According to the law of identity, if a statement is true, then it’s true. Noncontradiction says that if a statement is true, then it can’t be false. The excluded middle asserts that a statement is either true or false. Logic includes such laws, but there is more to it as well.
People observe various kinds of laws—moral, natural, mathematical, legal, and logical laws. Some laws declare what ought to be. Moral and legal laws say what a person should do, although it is possible to violate them. (For instance, people should tell the truth but often don’t.) Other laws describe what actually is. Natural laws assert what does happen under certain natural conditions. Theoretically, natural laws are consistent and reliable (although it’s possible for a stronger opposite force to overcome a weaker force as in a tug-of-war.)
Logic has an ought component. This makes logic somewhat like math. If a shopkeeper wants to make a profit and regularly gives $50 in change to customers who pay with $20 bills, she violates logic. But this isn’t a moral transgression; it’s a logical blunder. She’s not acting immorally but irrationally. It’s wise to think logically.
What is the ground or foundation of logic? Human logic is patterned after reality. The Creator built logic into the structures of the physical and spiritual worlds. The principles of logic reflect a deep reasonableness that characterizes both God and God’s creation. Because the logic of human thought and speech is grounded in God and God’s work, logic is not arbitrary.
People suggest in several ways that logic is arbitrary. Some say logic isn’t a discovery of the human mind detected in reality but an invention of the human mind imposed on reality. They claim that logic is arbitrary because it’s grounded in how humans choose to think.
This position yields a problematic consequence: it disconnects human thought from reality. It implies that human interaction with the real world fundamentally distorts that world. The human mind recalibrates the input of the real world to fit its own inward configuration. So there’s no telling whether human thinking has any connection with reality. That is troubling, for life and action require knowledge of the real world. (In addition, someone stating this position is likely refuting himself. He is probably saying that the truth about the real world is that human thinking is imposed on reality.)
Others say that logic is grounded in culture, not in objective reality. Different cultures have different logics. For example, people commonly say logic is a Western invention that Asians successfully ignore. Logic is arbitrary because it’s rooted in random cultural habits.
This is a misunderstanding. While people of various cultures may think about different content and begin at varied starting points, the deep reasonableness that governs human thinking is the same. Consider an analogy. An African tribesman counts lions. An Eskimo with no knowledge of lions counts seals. Both count according to mathematical principles. Similarly, the content of thought obviously differs from place to place, but the underlying reasonableness built into the creation will govern human thought regardless of culture.
8:22 Throughout history critics have denied the deity of Christ, arguing from this verse that Jesus (identified as “God’s wisdom” in 1 Co 1:24, and as the Creator of all things in Jn 1:3 and Col 1:15–17) is a created being Himself. This is based on a possible translation of the verse, “The Lord created me at the beginning of His creation,” found in some ancient and modern translations. However, the basic meaning of the Hebrew word for “made,” qanah, means “to possess” or “acquire” rather than “to create.” Of even greater significance is the fact that the context suggests that the passage about wisdom is not a description of Jesus, but rather a personification of the wisdom by which the Lord created the universe. (This is common in the early chaps. of Pr and is something that will again occur in chap. 9, where both Wisdom and Folly are personified.)
Wisdom is the application of knowledge in order to accomplish one’s goals or purposes, and God brings forth His wisdom as He applies His omnipotence to the task of creating the world. The point of the passage is that if God used wisdom to create the world, then success in all our endeavors is greatly enhanced if we also choose wisdom and live according to God’s order. The NT authors see Jesus as the embodiment of God’s wisdom both in terms of who He is, and in terms of His ministry in successfully accomplishing God’s redemptive purpose.
Proverbs 8:32–34 Again the author, King Solomon, affirms that the person who keeps God’s ways and lives according to God’s order will be blessed in ways that will cause others to declare, “How fortunate (or happy) is that person.” See note on 3:13–18.
Proverbs 9:7–9 According to Pr, the basic difference between the fool and the wise person has far more to do with attitude than with intelligence. The wise person is open to advice and correction and welcomes it, while the foolish person rejects counsel, even to the point of directing anger and hostility toward anyone who offers advice.
Proverbs 9:11 Proverbs makes the point that, in general, wise people will live longer than foolish ones. This is in part because they are careful and refuse to take inappropriate risks, while the foolish person rushes into danger with little thought about consequences. Books such as Job and Ecclesiastes, along with careful observation of how things work in the world, make it clear, however, that the length of a person’s life involves more variables than just wisdom or fear of the Lord (see 11:27).
Proverbs 9:13–18 These verses are not demeaning to women in general, but apply to a certain type of woman, the foolish and immoral woman.
Proverbs 10:3 This is a typical proverbial statement affirming the doctrine of retribution. The point of the proverb seems to go beyond food and provision for one’s physical needs, to also include satisfaction and fulfillment in life. The books of Job and Ecclesiastes present the other side of this proverb (that sometimes the wicked flourish and the righteous suffer), revealing that life is more complex than this single proverb might suggest. God’s purposes are sometimes best fulfilled through means other than physical abundance. Even in the presence of such difficulties God’s people regularly testify to peace, fulfillment, and satisfaction that God gives them even in trying experiences.
Proverbs 10:6, 11 Because of the concise and cryptic nature of proverbs, it is not unusual to have difficulties in understanding and translating a proverb. That is the case here and accounts for differences among English translations of these verses. Verses 6 and 11 are similar, and both proverbs contrast the “mouth” (words) of both righteous and wicked people. The righteous and their words bring blessing and refreshment to themselves and others; they can be trusted. They are a fountain of life. The wicked and their words cover or conceal violence; they cannot be trusted. The violence intended by the wicked is often concealed by deceptive words and is not always apparent on the surface.
Proverbs 10:18 Proverbs often refers to people as “fools.” The basis for this has to do with how these people think and live. They behave foolishly rather than wisely, and their behavior shows disregard for Yahweh’s order. Proverbs identifies a person as a fool without reflecting contempt for that individual. The context of Jesus’ warning in Mt 5:22 about calling another person a fool makes it clear that He is warning us about viewing others with contempt. All people, even those who behave foolishly and badly, are people made in the image of God, and they have value and worth. The way we view others and treat them should reflect their innate worth.
Proverbs 10:27 See note on 9:11.
Proverbs 10:30 This proverb probably reflects the teaching of Lv and Dt that says the righteous will flourish in the promised land while the wicked will be taken away into exile.
Proverbs 11:19 This proverb is somewhat ambiguous in that the meaning of “life” and “death” are not spelled out. On one level, these terms have to do with quality of life here and now. On another level they have to do with length of life (see note on 9:11). While the afterlife as seen more clearly in the teachings of the NT is normally not in view in Pr, the NT (Lk 16:19–31) makes it clear that the principle expressed in this proverb is also true in terms of what happens beyond the grave.
Proverbs 11:22 This proverb is not an insult to women, but is rather a statement about priorities and what is to be valued in a woman. Proverbs values “good sense” (literally, “taste” or “discretion”) above beauty, and according to this proverb a beautiful woman who lacks good sense is as bizarre and ludicrous as a pig wearing a piece of valuable jewelry in its nose.
Proverbs 12:21 This typical proverbial statement emphatically affirms that, in general, things go better for the righteous than for the wicked. The balance to this truth is found in Ecclesiastes, where the author (perhaps also Solomon) observed that in a fallen world righteous people sometimes suffer difficulty because of injustice. Job also suffered because of his righteousness. Job’s friends failed to understand the intention and limits of proverbial statements like this and inflicted great pain on their friend.
Proverbs 13:24 Critics often point to verses like this as examples of cruelty and abuse of children. Such verses must be understood in the broader context of wisdom’s teaching about discipline. The Hebrew word for “discipline” (musar) is also used for “instruction,” “rebuke,” and “physical punishment.” The goal of musar is always to change attitudes or behavior, and the methods for accomplishing this goal range from giving gifts and providing for needs to offering instruction, rebuke, and even corporal punishment. When God’s discipline of His people is taken as the model, it becomes clear that discipline should begin with the least painful and severe methods and escalate to harsher ones, only when the more gentle methods fail to bring about the desired changes. Wisdom also recognizes that children do not, by nature, gravitate toward wisdom and God’s order, and that left to themselves children will move toward folly and self-destruction. Discipline is seen as a good and necessary thing in order to move children toward God’s truth. Thus appropriate, not abusive, discipline is seen as an act of kindness and love. Only a parent who does not love his child will allow him to destroy himself through folly.
Proverbs 13:25 In a way typical of proverbial literature, this verse states in an unequivocal way the general truth that the righteous prosper while the wicked do not. That the wisdom tradition recognized that there were other cross sections of truth besides this one is clear from v. 22, where people’s produce is lost through injustice. All the cross sections of teaching must be brought together to construct a balanced picture of truth and reality.
Proverbs 14:15 The inexperienced person in Pr is gullible and naïve. He believes whatever anyone tells him. Unlike the sensible or prudent person, this person rashly commits himself to things without sufficient knowledge of what is involved or the limits to his own abilities and resources. The sensible person is deliberate and careful to acquire sufficient information, and then make wise decisions that take into account the reality of the situation.
Proverbs 15:29 The worship and prayers of the wicked are unacceptable to God while those of the righteous are His delight. The one exception is when a wicked person turns to God in genuine repentance.
Proverbs 16:4 This proverb does not contradict the idea that those who turn to God in repentance will be welcomed by him. Rather, the proverb makes two points: God is sovereign and His purposes are not thwarted by the wicked. The verse also affirms that deeds have consequences, and the sovereign God sees to it that there is just retribution. Every act of the wicked has its appropriate consequences.
Proverbs 16:7 This is a proverb and thus it does not constitute a comprehensive statement about human relationships. The NT teaching and life-experience make it clear that people who follow God are sometimes persecuted precisely because their ways are pleasing to the Lord. This proverb recognizes that a life lived according to Yahweh’s order will commend itself to others. It will be characterized by compassion, forgiveness, kindness, and civility. Such virtues have the power to restore broken relationships.
Proverbs 16:9 While the book of Pr clearly shows the importance of human responsibility and choice, this proverb recognizes that outcomes are determined by God’s sovereign providence. Proverbs makes no attempt to resolve the tension between the two ideas. Both human responsibility and God’s sovereignty are affirmed, and the mystery of their interaction is allowed to remain.
Proverbs 16:32 Self control, especially control of one’s temper, is an important characteristic of wisdom in Pr. Here it is commended above physical power.
Proverbs 16:33 For discussion on God’s sovereignty, see note on 16:9.
Proverbs 18:22 While the proverb does not say, “He who finds a good wife,” that is clearly presupposed, since Pr contains many proverbs that illustrate the benefits of having a good wife and the consequences of having a foolish or bad one. The good wife is wise and she fears the Lord. Thus she is able to function as the appropriate or complementary helper that Gen 2:18 says man needs. A wise husband and a wise wife can function together in the way this “one flesh” relationship was designed to work.
Proverbs 19:5, 9 These are general statements not universal ones, unless we take into account God’s final judgment.
Proverbs 19:21 For more on God’s sovereignty, see note on 16:9.
Proverbs 19:23 This proverb makes the same point as 3:23–26 or 14:26–27. Those who live in the “fear of the Lord” can live securely because they are confident of God’s protection and guidance. The NT offers the further assurance that nothing that happens can separate a righteous person from God’s love or thwart God’s purposes for them.
Proverbs 20:1 This proverb warns against the dangers of drunkenness, which Pr views as folly. Under the influence of alcohol, a person loses the ability to make wise and carefully considered decisions. While wine was seen as one of God’s benefits to man (Ps 104:15), warnings about the dangers of intoxication were an important part of Israel’s wisdom tradition (Pr 23:20–21, 29–35). In certain instances it appears that the better course of wisdom was to refrain from alcohol entirely (31:4–7).
by David K. Clark
The Apologetics Study Bible: Real Questions, Straight Answers, Stronger Faith, ed. Ted Cabal et al. (Nashville, TN: Holman Bible Publishers, 2007)