Saturday, September 15, 2018

The Relationship of Wisdom to the Law

Wisdom contains the Law.  Wisdom is informed by the Law.  The Law provides structure for wisdom. Wisdom extrapolates from the Law.  But wisdom is more than the Law.

The Law is primarily concerned with what is right and wrong concerning the topics it addresses.  However, it does not address all topics.  There are gaps in the Law, places where law-followers are left to wonder exactly what is right and what is wrong. Wisdom fills in those gaps, but it does not always do so through judgments of right and wrong.  As often as not, wisdom is more concerned with what is better or worse.

By analogy, formal logic addresses argumentation that can be evaluated in terms of truthfulness and validity.  It evaluates arguments according to very specific rules. Thus formal logic can say that an argument is valid or invalid, sound or unsound, and right or wrong.  Informal logic, on the other hand, is concerned with the relative strength or weakness of an argument. It does not apply strict rules that determine whether a conclusion is right or wrong but seeks to determine whether a given conclusion is better than another.  Like formal logic, the Law is concerned with what is right and wrong.  Like informal logic, wisdom is concerned with what is strong and weak.

This distinction between law and wisdom is crucial in the Christian life.  If Christianity were a religion of laws alone, then one of two things would be true:  1) Christian living would require a handbook of laws that addressed any and every given moral issue, or 2) Christians would be left without any ability to know what is right and wrong in any and every circumstance where no rule was provided.   The former would require a constantly growing handbook of unrealistically massive proportions. The latter would result in confusion and division.  Both could produce a severe legalism that stands opposed to all that we know is true for us through the Gospel.

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