Logic and Authority in the Church
We have expressions and sayings in our language that contain rare wisdom otherwise known as Common Sense. “Too many chiefs and not enough indians”, in explanation of why the project fell apart (assuming it ever got started) is one. “Too many cooks spoil the broth” is another – it expresses the failure of a project that, indeed, reached completion but was a waste of time and resources.
One is a case of too many people doing the thinking and planning. The other is a case of too many people doing the doing, as it were.
Our culture recognises that to bring a joint enterprise to successful completion requires different skills and abilities.
Teachers and leaders in particular, require skills that are above the average by quite a margin. They require character development and intellectual development. Intellectual development suitable for leadership requires an IQ in the top 20% of the population. Required is an ability to employ logic to situations as well as an ability to hold multiple variables in mind to arrive at creative solutions to problems.
Leaders and teachers below this intellectual level tend to compensate or hide these inadequacies by reducing complex problems to a single variable and indulging in character flaws such as bullying and deceit of various kinds. This essay will pursue these crucial issues.
We, as a species, were designed by God to live best as groups which were big enough to encompass a range of abilities and groups that were yet small enough whereby we knew everyone and their abilities. This allows everyone to know who is good or even best at what tasks. People worked together making the best of their individual abilities.
It is also why we automatically trust those around us. Exploiters do not survive well in these lifelong groups where everyone’s history is known to all. Everyone realises that their individual and group survival depends on everyone else. So, trust is a very efficient way to survive as a group and is part of the way Jesus designed us (to live in tribes).
In Hawaiian culture, for instance, the master canoe maker, the master masseur/healer and the master warrior-general are all known as Kahunas. Competence was the qualification and people chose whom they would go to for what. People voted with their feet, as it were. You don’t want a canoe that floats most of the time or steers only on a good day. Similarly, the canoe builder does not want to lose his relatives in something that he built. So, he is given authority and he accepts the responsibility. These two things – authority and responsibility – must always be equal.
If you watch a group of children organising themselves, such as boys organising for a game of cricket (OK, I’m a bloke AND I’m from Australia so I’m using my own experience!), you will see this ancient dynamic playing out. The boys will quickly nominate a captain and he will organise the players from there. The captain will invariably be the best player (usually) as well as the best strategist i.e. the smartest (usually) in their terms. This is natural. The captain will be the boys ‘Kahuna’ (while playing cricket).
The captain cannot operate successfully as the Kahuna unless he has the willing support of the team. He has to have the players enthusiastically follow his directions without coercion. So in effect, it is much more true to see the captain as the servant of the team. Now we have something like Jesus said in terms of leaders – leaders, be ye first servants.
Authority and Responsibility need to be freely given and taken because coercion kills enthusiasm and enthusiasm is needed to win, to succeed in the joint enterprise. This applies to ALL relationships.
Our civilisations where millions of people are dependent on each other forsake this natural ‘election’ and we get people whom we don’t know directing our nation – engaging in diplomacy with other nations, setting defence force budgets, etc. Then they start directing our daily lives which we are quite capable of directing for ourselves, thank you! This attitude of entitlement and coercion instead of service then seeps down into and through the behaviour of state governments, municipal governments and also into churches.
Instead of a position of authority (freely given) following a history of competence, we have a history of competence assumed from the appointment to authority (imposed). It is this sort of authority or power that corrupts (when a high level of competence is lacking – and it usually is) because it is not earned and not freely given by those under that authority. So our leaders these days see themselves as having power over those ‘below’ them. We are so used to this situation of dominance that Jesus’ words to the would-be leaders, telling them to be servants, sound quite strange.
Now how does this long introduction relate to logic and variables? Well, the boys will nominate the one amongst them that will (i) best serve them as a model to emulate for their individual performances and (ii) best do what they can’t – see the overall picture and shape a game strategy so that they all can win, i.e. he will best serve their purpose of winning the game. To achieve a winning strategy, the captain will need to be able to juggle a large number of variables. As just one instance, he has to match the best qualities of his bowlers and fielders to the weaknesses he perceives in his opposition team. He has to be the smartest, from amongst them, at the game overall. He has to be able to constantly react to new information.
He has to be a thinker and an astute observer. The higher the intelligence, the higher the number of variables that can be handled. He has to be able to think logically to arrange all the variables into something without contradictions and that will work and win. Thinking logically is all about eliminating all contradictions. If there are contradictions present, the plan, the game, the program, the bridge, the empire, the relationship, whatever it is, will crash.
The team give their ‘Kahuna’ all the authority to direct them during the game and he bears all the responsibility to serve them in terms of organising the game (and hopefully the win!)
Is your pastor a ‘Kahuna’? You doubtless did not appoint him but has he filled the shoes that the office requires? Has he served the congregation? Has he counselled and comforted the afflicted using not only his heart but his head? Can he think and act logically? Can he think and act without contradiction?
Logic is the art of identifying and removing contradictions. There are no contradictions in reality. If you are faced with a contradiction, know that there are only two reasons for this. Either you have false information or you have missing information (or both).
Logic is what we use to establish what is reality; what is the truth. In a Court of Law, logic and evidence is what (should be) used to establish what really happened – reality. The evidence is the facts, and the logic is how they are arranged in a non-contradictory manner. The jury then uses this to arrive at a conclusion which follows from the logic and should therefore reflect what the reality (truth) is and was.
Logic was essential for survival in tribal days in a hostile environment. Humans had to deal with reality otherwise reality would certainly deal with them. Instead of having lunch, you would become lunch!
Logic is just as essential to survive our present environment: this ‘World’ that has the Prince of Darkness presiding over it; this ‘World’ that constantly seeks to creep into our churches.
Church-going Christians look to their pastors and priests to be their captains but if a captain is not skilled in the use of logic, then error, bluff and wishful thinking will replace reality and a good number of his flock are in for a world of hurt and confusion.
If you do not have a good grasp of logic, you cannot identify or use first principles. An example of a first principle is the existence of free will in each of us. By “free will” I mean the sole responsibility for our actions and therefore sole the authority over ourselves to take those actions. From this flows all our ‘God-given rights’. We have the right to choose God or not. No one can choose for us.
Equally, we are responsible for our choices. If some law or policy (such as a teaching on marriage) seeks to take away our ability to choose for ourselves through coercion (physical or psychological) to hold to a contract that has been well and truly broken by the other party, it will be a teaching that goes against God’s will for us and it will eventually fail. We are equal in the sight of God. Each person has their own individual agency. And their own conscience.
If you think God teaches us to take away a gift (freedom and responsibility to choose) he designed into every being, you have a contradiction right there. Either you have wrong information (perhaps wrong interpretation) or there is missing information. Failing marriages caused by abuse are direct evidence of this.
Empires fail because of contradictions particularly surrounding free will which leads to freedom of action and movement. Sometimes they fail within a short span of decades (Soviet empire) or centuries (Chinese, Egyptian empires). Nations are collapsing today. Many churches lurch from one crisis to the next due to contradictions where the teachings are confused or the actions do not follow the words. The sexual abuse of children is the most glaring example.
An ability to think logically can be measured. This is largely what IQ testing measures. The tests look for what psychologists call ‘G’. The G stands for General Intelligence which is ‘generally’ present across the range of mental abilities. A person described as, “Oh, she can do anything”, will be a person with very high ‘G’ intelligence; high IQ, in other words. The level at which logic kicks in and is used across all abilities starts around 115 IQ points.
Below this point (bearing in mind these are averages and not particular individuals), logic can be taught and grasped in most fields of study or employment but often won’t translate across one area of life to another. For instance, some engineers can be very good at their jobs but cannot become business managers with its larger number of variables to deal with, while others can and may choose to do so. Some teachers are able to teach in their specialised field, but are not good at the administration skills required to lead a whole department or school. Some chefs are brilliant at running a commercial kitchen, but when they own their own restaurant and have to oversee not only the kitchen but the front of house, the wine list and the accounts for the whole business, they do not do so well.
So if a person seeks to lead others, particularly in spiritual matters such as a pastor or teacher through guiding people or writing books dealing with spiritual matters, it is best for themselves and others if they have an IQ at or higher than 115. They should be able to demonstrate a proficiency in using and applying logic. Their words and behaviour should not contain contradictions.
To lead a church or to presume to teach spirituality, you need a love for God and for people. That is what Jesus commanded us to do. But just as a love for people is not enough fix someone’s car, it is not enough to lead others successfully. You, first of all, need to be able to perceive the reality of a complex problem and that takes an ability to use logic.
How can you tell if a teacher or leader can or cannot think logically?
Contradictions – it is worth repeating! Look for contradictions in any teaching or explanation. Contradictions are solid evidence of bad or missing logic. You can’t have logic and a contradiction together at the same time – that is a contradiction!
Reality is all that God made. God is consistent. Therefore Reality is consistent. Teachings and explanations that are not consistent, are not reality. If you follow something that is not real, it will bring harm. It is no different to trying to cross a minefield with a faulty map.
A minefield is no place for wishful thinking, good intentions or saying you know something when you are actually guessing. This fallen world is a minefield…and anyone who has lived any time at all at the sharp end of it, knows that. Churches are part of the world.
Contradictions will bring confusion but not all confusion is the result of contradictions. Confusion can be the result of the ‘listener’ failing to understand the concept or story being related. BUT, a sufficiently intelligent leader or teacher should be able to discern the difficulty and find other ways to convey the understanding. Unfortunately, too many teachers and leaders are not sufficiently intelligent to do this and leave the enquirer in their mental fog. Or, worse, blame the listener/enquirer for their non-understanding.
Mind you, sometimes people do not want to understand because they fear the consequences that will flow from the new understanding. This can apply to teachers, as well!
Now if you approach a teacher for an explanation of something that you do not understand or to point out a contradiction, you might then be subjected to a personal attack. When this happens, you can be reasonably sure that the teacher you are talking to cannot or will not think logically.
If a pastor or teacher oversimplifies a problem that you bring to them by dismissing an aspect that you feel is crucial to a solution, you are probably dealing with a person who cannot handle multiple variables. As such, they have risen past their level of competence. All is not lost though if the pastor, for instance, recognises that the problem is beyond their knowledge or competence and says to you, “I don’t know but I will find out for you and come back to you”. But this response, though music to my ears, is rare in my experience.
If the teacher or leader chooses to attack you, it is out of punishment for raising what they can’t or don’t want to talk about. This indicates that they are well aware of the contradiction or their own limitations and are unable to deal with it. It may involve corruption but more likely it is simply that they cannot address it logically because they don’t have the skills.
A personal attack is known as an Ad Hominem (Latin for ‘against the man’) attack and is a logical fallacy. An effective way to deal with this sort of personal attack is to name it up. For instance, “I notice that you dodged my question and choose to attack me instead. Is that because you don’t have an answer?” – and then say nothing and watch. If the reply is a question to you in return, do not answer it and simply repeat your question. If still the answer is another question, walk away; you have your answer!
If a teacher doesn’t know his or her stuff and/or doesn’t know how to convey it to others, they have no business presuming to teach others. They inevitably cause harm because they are teaching for their own ego’s sake. These teachers are serving themselves and not serving others. THIS is why James (James 3:1) cautioned against others being teachers because they will be doubly judged by God. With increased authority comes an equally increased responsibility.
Jesus taught us that when we do something “for the least of mine, you did it for me”. Those with power that comes from position, are usually the first to forget that. This is a common example of how power corrupts.
Those with high IQ and the desire to teach had best take this responsibility to serve Jesus to heart and do the best they can with humility.
Those that do not have sufficiently high IQ had best find another way to serve – and there will be other ways.
Those that don’t have the ability to serve in this way, or do not take the responsibility to serve seriously, end up not following their own words and become hypocrites. Jesus was scathing of hypocrites. Not only do hypocrites cause harm directly but they stifle the teachers and leaders who could bring peace and harmony to the community. They play ‘dog-in-the-manger’ criticising, belittling and ostracising those who could serve far better than they.
Blessed are the peacemakers. Peacemakers are problem solvers. To solve problems, you need to be able to juggle a large number of variables to find a solution that suits all those of goodwill. You need high intelligence. Is your teacher or leader a creative problem solver?
In summary, if your teacher or leader is not able to talk and act without contradiction and is not able to bring about peaceful solutions to knotty problems, your teacher or leader is in the wrong position and would be better off seeking some other way to serve.
Of course, pastors and others need to have a heart for God but that is not enough to lead…and it is hard to know peoples’ hearts. We can discern much, though, from listening closely to their words and closely observing their behaviour. And seeing if their behaviour matches with their words.
Look, on the one hand, for respect, compassion; for peacemaking, creative problem solving, and for humility. And on the other hand, for simplistic answers; for contradictions, hypocritical behaviour and personal attacks.
By their fruits, ye shall know them.
This post is written by James, one of our readers. He began commenting on this blog recently and his comments have been insightful and helpful. If you want to review his comments go to these links:
one, two, three, four,
five — here James talks about Dr Hervey Cleckley’s book The Mask Of Sanity
seven — here James talks about the Dunning-Kruger Effect
eight — how people of high IQ can doubt themselves, and how this relates to the Dunning-Kruger Effect
nine — James explains a technique for looking steadfastly, without speaking a word, at a person who you don’t trust, when that person is trying to tangle you into saying something you will later regret saying.
Proverbs 8:1-21 talks about common sense and how we need to develop shrewdness. Click the link to read it in the CSB version.