Monthly Archives: November 2010

The law of non-contradiction

P v ¬P

By Spencer D Gear

“Aristotle was one of the first recorded ancient thinkers to discover the law of non-contradiction. It is important to note that Aristotle did not create this law, no more than Isaac Newton created the law of gravity; he merely discovered it as an unchanging principle of the universe” (Josh 2008).

In his writing, Metaphysics, famous Greek philosopher, Aristotle, wrote: “Such a principle is the most certain of all; which principle this is, let us proceed to say. It is, that the same attribute cannot at the same time belong and not belong to the same subject and in the same respect” (Aristotle n.d.).

This is known as the law of non-contradiction, which is one of the first principles of knowledge. “The law of non-contradiction can be expressed simply as such: A cannot be both B and non-B at the same time and in the same sense (Josh 2008).

Ravi Zacharias told of an instance when he was debating a professor who embraced the dialectical logic of the Hindu religion.

As the professor waxed eloquent and expounded on the law of non-contradiction, he eventually drew his conclusion:  “This [either/or logic] is a Western way of looking at reality.  The real problem is that you are seeing contradictions as a Westerner when you should be approaching it as an Easterner.  The both/and is the Eastern way of viewing reality.”

After he belabored these two ideas on either/or and both/and for some time, I finally asked if I could interrupt his unpunctuated train of thought and raise one question.

I said, “Sir, are you telling me that when I am studying Hinduism I either use the both/and system of logic or nothing else?”

There was pin-drop silence for what seemed an eternity.  I repeated my question:  “Are you telling me that when I am studying Hinduism I either use the both/and logic or nothing else?  Have I got that right?”

He threw his head back and said, “The either/or does seem to emerge, doesn’t it?”

“Indeed, it does emerge,” I said.  “And as a matter of fact, even in India we look both ways before we cross the street – it is either the bus or me, not both of us” (Zacharias 1994:129).


Aristotle n.d., Metaphysics (online), 4.3, transl. W. D. Ross, Available from: (Accessed 10 August 2008).

Josh 2008., “The nature of truth (Part 2): The principle of non-contradiction,” Quadrivium (online), 6 April, available from: (Accessed 10 August 2008).

Zacharias, R. 1994. Can Man Live Without God?, Dallas: Word Publishing.


Copyright © 2010 Spencer D. Gear. This document last updated at Date: 29 January 2018.

Biblical data for making ethical decisions: There are higher moral laws

The Hiding Place

As a committed evangelical Christian, there are ethical dilemmas that I face.

  • One of these is, “Is it ever correct to save the life of the mother if aborting her unborn child will prevent the mother’s death?”
  • Was Corrie ten Boom being a faithful follower of Jesus Christ when she hid the Jews who were threatened with death by the Nazis? (You can read her story in The Hiding Place).
  • What about the Hebrew midwives in Exodus 1:15f who refused to kill sons who were born? Were they following a godly law that all Christians need to implement?
  • How do we defend what Rahab did in Joshua 2 by hiding the spies?

The following is biblical teaching on ethical decisions that I have gleaned over the years and have used my Christian mind to assess the details.

1. There are higher & lower moral laws.

Not all moral laws are of equal weight.

  •  Jesus spoke of the “weightier” matters of the law (Matt. 23:23) – and of the “least” (Matt. 5:19),
  • and the “greatest” commandment (Matt. 22:36).
  • He told Pilate that Judas had committed the “greater sin” (John 19:11).
  • The Bible also speaks of the “greatest” virtue (I Cor. 13:13), -and even the “greater” acts of a given virtue–love (John 15:13).
  • Jesus said there are at least three levels of sins with corresponding judgments (Matt. 5:22).
  • The whole concept of degrees of punishment in hell (Matt. 5:22; Rom. 2:6; Rev. 20:12) and graded levels of regard in heaven (I Cor. 3:11-12) indicates that sins come in degrees.
  • The fact that some sins call for excommunication (I Cor. 5) and others for death (I Cor. 11:30) also supports the general biblical pattern that all sins are not equal in weight.
  • In fact, there is one sin so great as to be unforgivable (Mark. 3:29).
  • Perhaps the clearest indication of higher and lower moral laws comes in Jesus’ answer to the lawyer’s question about the “greatest commandment” (Matt. 22:34-35). Jesus clearly stated that the “first” and “greatest” is over the “second”–that loving God is of supreme importance, and then beneath it comes loving one’s neighbour. This same point is affirmed in Matt. 10:37.
  • See also Prov. 6:16; I Tim. 1:15; I John 5:16.

2. There are unavoidable moral conflicts in the Bible.

(a) The story of Abraham & Isaac (Gen. 22) contains a real moral conflict. “You shall not murder (kill)” is a divine moral command (Ex. 20:13), and yet God commanded Abraham to kill his son, Isaac. That Abraham intended to kill Isaac is clear from the context (and from Heb. 11:19).

(b) The story of Samson contains a conflict of two divine commands. Samson committed a divinely approved suicide (Judg. 16:30) despite the moral prohibition against killing a human being, including oneself. Both commands were divine and moral–“Do not kill” and “Take your life”–yet when there was a real conflict between them, God apparently approved of Samson disregarding one in order to obey the other.

(c) The passage detailing Jephthah’s sacrifice of his daughter (Judges 11) shows a real moral conflict between a vow to God and the command not to kill an innocent life. Here the Scripture appears to approve of Jephthah keeping the oath to kill.

(d) Other biblical illustrations in which individuals had to choose between lying and not helping to save a life. e.g. Hebrew midwives (Ex. 1) and Rahab (Josh. 2).

(e) There is a possible real moral conflict in the cross, one so great that many liberal theologians have considered the doctrine of the substitutionary atonement to be essentially immoral. The two moral principles are that the innocent should not be punished for sins he never committed, but that Christ was punished for our sins (Isa. 53; I Peter 2:24; 3:15; 2 Cor. 5:21).

(f) There are numerous cases in Scripture in which there is a real conflict between obeying God’s command to submit to civil government and keeping one’s duty to some other higher moral law. e.g. Hebrew midwives (Ex. 1); Jewish captives disregarded Nebuchadnezzar’s command to worship the golden image of himself (Dan. 3). Daniel disregarded Darius’s command (Dan. 6).

3. The most common “higher” moral laws.

(a) Love for God over love for human beings (Matt. 22:36-38; Luke 14:26).

(b) Obey God over obeying government (Rom. 13:1-2; Titus 3:1; Dan. 3 & 6; Acts 4-5).

(c) Mercy over truthfulness (Ex. 20:16; Eph. 4:25 compared with Hebrew midwives & Rahab). Corrie Ten Boom followed this ethical standard.

Sometimes when I leave my house I leave the lights on to save my property. This is intentional deception to save material things. Why not do the same to save a life? Is not life worth more than my material goods? Aren’t people more valuable than property? The above Scriptures confirm this view of higher and lower moral laws in ethical decision making.

4. Highly recommended

Even though his book has come under considerable criticism by some heavies in the evangelical community, I still consider Norman Geisler’s description of “graded absolutism,” to be the most satisfactory biblical response to very pertinent ethical questions. See his book, Christian ethics: Contemporary issues & options (2nd edn) (Baker Academic 2009).

Christian Ethics: Contemporary Issues & Options, Second Edition


Copyright (c)  2010 Spencer D. Gear.  This document is free content.  You can redistribute it and/or modify it under the terms of the OpenContent License (OPL) version 1.0, or (at your option) any later version.  This document last updated at Date: 19 December 2013.

State school chaplaincy program challenged
Courtesy SU Qld

There was an article in the The Chronicle (Toowoomba), “Dad fights chaplaincy program” (Jim Campbell, 28 October 2010). Part of this article stated that a Toowoomba father of 6 has hired a Sydney barrister and his team to challenge the legality of the federal government funding the state school chaplaincy program.

Why is this man challenging the program? He was quoted as saying that it was “because he had expected his children to enjoy a public education in a secular state school”. This man claims, “It concerns all Australians, of all faiths and none, who support the secular wall of separation concept concerning church and state.”

In the “recent comments” section following this article, I posted this response:

Posted by Spencer from Hervey Bay, Queensland

09 November 2010 6:14 p.m.

We don’t seem to have too much of a problem with pastoral care and chaplaincy departments in public hospitals. The Queensland Govt’s statement is: “Most hospitals have a pastoral care team of representatives from various religious groups. They offer advice, guidance and support and will help anyone regardless of their beliefs. If you or your family would like to see a pastoral care worker please see a staff member and they will provide you with contact details”. And these are in state public hospitals.

But dare to place chaplains who implement pastoral care strategies, with federal funding, in state public schools and we get the kind of antagonism that I see in this thread.

Mr. Williams needs to be reminded that nobody is forced to accept the chaplaincy role of pastoral care and religious involvement on any school site. It is voluntary. Could you imagine any secular school teacher in, say, a science topic give other than the secularist perspective when there are other theories or options? But my children and I were forced to take a one-eyed, biased, secular perspective in the classroom in some of these classes.

I can read the anti-religionists in this thread opposing pastoral care and chaplaincy in public schools. But where are the secularists opposing biased secularism in some classrooms?

That would be asking too much.

There was this response to my letter:

Posted by lukerevolution from Gympie, Queensland

10 November 2010 11:01 p.m.

Spencer. What is “biased secularism”? What in school the curriculum is biased towards secularism. Would you prefer that school systems were less secular, say, if Catholic kids got extra marks in exams because an education department head is a Catholic so prefers to see Catholic kids do well?

I am not anti-religion, I am anti state enforced religion. The state is using public money to promote fundamentalist christianity to children. I do not want my tax money spent on that. The government should reduce taxation and, if people want that, they can spend their own money on that.

Just because that is my opinion theists say I am oppressing them. What about my religious freedom. I have an opinion on religion, I see it as childish nonsense, but the government prohibits me from saying this as a chaplain at a school because only new earth creationist theists are allowed to join the ranks of SU chaplains.

Your hospital analogy is flawed because hospital chaplains don’t attend and pray at compulsory assemblies at hospitals. Doctors don’t prescribe visits to the chaplains. Children are accompanied at hospitals by their parents. You say yourself that it is a pastoral care team, ie: not only fundamentalist chirstians (sic) who will explain that gay people are going to hell at the drop of a hat.

Our secular, liberal democracy requires the separation of church and state to function. This scheme dilutes our democracy.

When I attempted to respond to lukerevolution on 12th November 2010, The Chronicle had closed further comments on this article. The following is my response:

Lukerevolution, “biased secularism” is the kind of worldview that you espoused in your letter. It defines the one-eyed biased view of origins of life that I received when I studied biopsychology in a university doctoral class. I had the same experience when I studied physics at high school and uni.

You don’t want public money spent on “fundamentalist Christianity” and you say that you are anti state-enforced religion. Let’s get something straight. We have no enforced state religion in Australia. There is no enforced religion in the high school chaplaincy program. Permission is sought from parents.

In freedom of religion that is the government’s position in Australia, you have been allowed in your letter to create a straw man logical fallacy with your writing off Christianity as “childish nonsense”. We can’t have a reasoned discussion when you use this kind of fallacy.

You want the separation of church and state in Australia. If that happened here in Queensland, the community services sector would collapse if government funds were removed for counselling, medical support, aged care and other community care activities. Where would we be as a nation if the following church-based organisations withdrew from our community service sector and received no government funding? Uniting Care, Lifeline, Centacare, St. Vincent de Paul, Anglicare, Churches of Christ Care, Baptist Care, the Mater Hospitals, etc?

The hospital analogy is legitimate because, in this secular society, which you want to promote, pastoral care duties by Christian clergy and other church people are permitted and encouraged in secular, State hospitals.

Where is the evidence that only “new earth creationist theists” are allowed to be Scripture Union (SU) chaplains? I have read the “SU Statement of Beliefs & Christian Creeds” online and there is not one word about having to be a young earth creationist. Again, you create a straw man logical fallacy. There may be chaplains who are young earth creationists, but that is not a core belief of Scripture Union according to its statement of beliefs.

To apply to become a school chaplain, see HERE.


Copyright (c)  2010 Spencer D. Gear.  This document is free content.  You can redistribute it and/or modify it under the terms of the OpenContent License (OPL) version 1.0, or (at your option) any later version.  This document last updated at Date: 19 December 2013.

“All it takes for evil to triumph is for good men to do nothing”

Edmund Burke