Christ is a walking contradiction. He is both fully human and fully divine. Indeed, he is both mutable and immutable. According to classical logic, the existence of a true contradiction would imply that everything is the case, no matter how absurd. And so, theologians and Christian metaphysicians have worked for centuries to conceptually make sense of Christ’s dual nature in a way that avoids contradiction.
Philosopher and logician Jc Beall argues that these efforts have been motivated by a naive understanding of logic. There are “subclassical” logics – that is, logics weaker than classical logic – in which contradictions do not entail every arbitrary conclusion. And these aren’t ad-hoc constructions. Beall argues that one subclassical logic – called First Degree Entailment (FDE) – is, in fact, the correct account of logical consequence, for reasons independent of the Christian problem. Beall covers the basics of how FDE works and why it is the universal or “basement-level” consequence relation. This allows us to have our cake and eat it too: we may take Christ to be, quite literally, both mutable and not mutable, at the same time and in the same respect. This isn’t just appealing for its simplicity. Beall suspects that it is essential to Christ’s role that he be literally contradictory.
If you’re interested in Jc Beall’s work and non-classical logic, check out my interview with Greg Restall (part 1 and part 2) on the book Logical Pluralism, co-authored by Beall and Restall.…
We often think of religion as being centered around a series of beliefs. To be Christian, I must believe in the veracity of the Bible as a literal account of historical events. Doubt, then, is a problem to be dealt with. Understandable for a while, perhaps, but something which must be overcome in order to be in good standing with the faith.
T.K. Coleman offers an alternative approach to Christianity: a Sacramental approach, which focuses not on the belief requirement, but on the personal and transformative aspect of interacting with the Bible and with the faith. To be a Christian is not to have a set of beliefs, but to seek transformative experiences of intimacy with the divine. The literal truth of the Bible is, to an extent, secondary. Doubt becomes an inescapable part of interacting with the faith as a Sacrament. In the end, some stories may well be literally true, says Coleman; others best seen as metaphorical. For the second half of the interview, we discuss at length the metaphysical and epistemic issues surrounding belief in these stories, and in miracles broadly.