Can We Escape the Law of Non-Contradiction?

Author Tim Barnett Published on 10/31/2015

A while back, I met with a local pastor to talk about apologetics—the defense of the Christian faith. During our friendly discussion, we got on to the subject of the nature of truth, at which time I made a case for the correspondence theory of truth.

This particular pastor subscribed to a postmodern view of truth—that there is no objective truth and that truth is a social construction based on linguistic practices.

While making my case, I referred to the laws of logic, and specifically, to the law of non-contradiction. The pastor immediately denied the law of non-contradiction. I was completely taken aback and could not believe what I was hearing. It was bad enough that I had to argue for truth, but now I found myself arguing for something as foundational as the laws of logic.

For those who don’t know, the law of non-contradiction states that A and not-A (where A is a proposition) cannot both be true at the same time and in the same sense. For example, my car cannot be parked in my driveway and not parked in my driveway at the same time and in the same sense. This just seems so obviously true, and yet this notion was being rejected.

This pastor was convinced that the law of non-contradiction is just a Western convention. Furthermore, he indicated to me that he believes that Western “Either-Or” logic is too arrogant, dogmatic, and exclusive. He prefers to use the Eastern “Both-And” system of logic.

During my conversation with this pastor, I asked a question I once heard a speaker use: “Are you saying that it’s either the Eastern ‘Both-And’ system or nothing else?” He didn’t catch it the first time, and simply responded, “Yes!” The question was worth repeating, but this time I put emphasis on two significant words.

I asked, “Are you saying that it’s either the Eastern ‘Both-And’ system or nothing else?” That’s when you could see the light bulb go on. A simple smile let me know that he got it!

The “Either-Or” logic is impossible to avoid. Ironically, this person needed the law of non-contradiction to try to prove the “Both-And” system. The very fact that he disagreed with me communicated that he really did believe in the law of non-contradiction. The law of non-contradiction isn’t just a Western convention. In fact, it’s not a convention at all. The laws of logic aren’t invented; they’re discovered. They are facts about reality—the way the world really is.