Today, class, we’re going to have a lesson in logic. (Oops! I taught school for 18 years, and old habits die hard.)
My twin brother Danny over the years has trained himself to think in syllogisms, which is an astounding feat, given the innate messiness and non-linear nature of the human brain. What is a syllogism? I’m glad you asked!
Syllogism: A form of deductive reasoning consisting of a major premise, a minor premise, and a conclusion; for example:
All humans are mortal (the major premise)
Socrates is a human (the minor premise)
Therefore, Socrates is mortal (the conclusion)
Now why in the world would Fr. Charles begin my day with logic and syllogisms? I thought he was my friend!
Here’s why: I find that Paul, and most of us humans, seem to think in enthymemes. Eh? What’s an enthymeme you say? I’m glad you asked.
Enthymeme: A clipped or truncated syllogism in which either the major or minor premise is missing and implied.
[Those who perjure themselves cannot be trusted. (Major premise – omitted)]
This man has perjured himself in the past. (Minor premise – stated)
This man is not to be trusted. (Conclusion – stated)
If you really want to have some fun, you may even want to think in terms of sorites (several enthymemes linked together), which St. Paul has been known to do.
So why the logic lesson? Because in 2 Thessalonians 1 I find two of the most beautiful syllogisms or enthymemes in all of human logic, and perhaps the most terrifying one of all.
Here is one of the most comforting bits of logic in the cosmos, and St. Paul says it of the Thessalonians:
Major Premise: God is glorified when men love God and neighbor, have faith in Him, and patiently suffer for righteousness’ sake. (verses 10 and 12)
Minor Premise: The Thessalonians have loved God and neighbor, had faith in Him, and patiently suffered for righteousness’ sake. (verses 3-6)
Conclusion: Therefore, God is glorified in the Thessalonians. (verses 2, 5, 10, and 12)
Now, for some real fun, I want you to try something else. Read this same syllogism, only substitute your name for “Thessalonians.”
And you thought you didn’t like logic!
What if you could honestly say that your name belonged in the minor premise and conclusion state above? What if God truly were glorified in you because you had loved Him with all your heart, soul, and mind; you obeyed His commandments; you loved as the Thessalonians loved each other; your faith was as strong as theirs and you patiently endured the suffering and even persecution God assigned to you?
This is St. Paul’s logic here, and it is the logic of the gospel of Jesus Christ, a logic that moves me to tears.
St. Paul implies a second, closely related syllogism. It goes like this:
Major Premise: Men are worthy of the kingdom of God if they please God by obeying Him.
Minor Premise: The Thessalonians have pleased God by (obeying Him) their love, faith, patience, and tribulation for His sake (verses 3-6).
Conclusion: Therefore, Paul is certain that the Thessalonians are worthy of the kingdom of God. (verses 5, 10-12)
Again, what does this feel like if you are able to substitute your name for that of the Thessalonians? What humble joy it brings to my heart to know and believe that because of the love and grace of God in my life I have been able to please God by loving Him, and that I have loved Him by loving my brothers and sisters in Christ here in Hot Springs, by having faith in Him, and by accepting the daily life He has assigned to me. To think that I, Charles David Erlandson, would be counted by God as worthy of His kingdom, and to have it confirmed by the logic of the gospel – this is beyond logic and beyond words. This is ecstasy! No wonder Paul is always so enthusiastic towards the churches of which God has made him shepherd: it is because of this logic of being worthy of God and His kingdom.
There is, however, a darker logic that accompanies the logic of the gospel. It is still the logic of the gospel, but it is the promise God makes to those who do not respond to Him as the Thessalonians do. Though Paul never spends as much time on this logic, he also doesn’t shy away from it. Here it is:
Major Premise: Men who do not know God and do not obey the gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ are punished with eternal destruction.
Minor Premise: Those who trouble the Thessalonians do not know God and do not obey the gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ. (verse 8)
Conclusion: Therefore, those who trouble the Thessalonians will be punished with eternal destruction. (verse 9)
I will not ask you to put your name in the place of “those who trouble the Thessalonians.” Surely, you understand the terrible consequences. There are many in 21st century America who tragically fit this description, and what is even more tragic and painful is that many of them claim to know God and love Him – and yet they stubbornly refuse to obey His commandments. The logic of Hell is just as airtight as the logic of Heaven.
But it is the happy logic of faithfulness, obedience, and the glory of God which is St. Paul’s main concern, and ours.
Our prayer for every Christian we know should be that he or she would glorify God and inherit His kingdom.
Prayer: Father, I pray that you would count me and my brothers and sisters in Christ worthy of Your calling and that You would fulfill all the good pleasure of Your goodness and the work of faith with power. May the name of Jesus Christ our Lord be glorified in me, my brothers, and sisters, and us in Him, according to the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ.
Points for Meditation:
1. Re-read this passage and meditate on the way the Thessalonians lived. In what ways is God challenging you to be more like them?
2. Memorize one of the blessed syllogisms above and carry it with you throughout the day. Practice rejoicing in the conclusion of the logic of the gospel.
Resolution: I resolve to pray today for some of the Christians I know, that they would be glorified in God and inherit His kingdom.
© 2013 Fr. Charles Erlandson
CC Image courtesy of Librarian by Mickey Glitter on Flickr.jpg
Category: Give Us This Day