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Gospel Gazette Online
Vol.  10  No. 11 November 2008  Page 1                    powered by FreeFind

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Editorial

Prerequisite to Biblical Interpretation: 
Recognizing the Biblical Hermeneutic

By Louis Rushmore, Editor

Louis RushmoreHermeneutics pertains to interpretation, and no matter of interpretation could be more important than a correct interpretation of the divinely revealed and preserved revelation from God, namely—the Bible. The correct or valid mechanics or principles of biblical interpretation, then, are a necessary tool for comprehending the Word of God. Without proper hermeneutics and subsequent valid interpretation, how could one know (1) what blessings God reserves for his creation—man, (2) what prohibitions God expects mankind to respect, (3) how God desires to be worshipped, (4) how one can become a child of God, (5) how God expects mankind to manifest Christian living or (6) Christian service, etc.? Hence, faulty hermeneutics will result in faulty interpretation, and faulty interpretation of God’s Word will result in failing to comply with the will of God for us, thus missing the blessings that God intends for us.

Fortunately, understanding biblical hermeneutics for the most part is not a terribly difficult task; essentially, there is little to no difference between biblical hermeneutics and the common, everyday hermeneutics that people, from small children to adults, exercise through the ordinary communication between humans. Hermeneutics and interpretation represent the core of all communication. The difficult part of especially biblical hermeneutics is hearkening to the Word of God when we humans do not prefer God’s instructions! Therefore, some Christians attempt to pare hermeneutics—cutting away approved examples and implication—leaving only direct statements as authoritative.

However, the assertion that only commands or direct statements in the Bible constitute authority in religion today is erroneous because it contradicts itself. “Every logical contradiction is false” (Warren, “Logic” 23). (1) “One can prove that a proposition is false by showing that it contradicts an explicit statement in the Bible… (2) One can prove that a proposition is false by showing that it implies a false doctrine…(3) One can prove that a proposition is false by showing that it implies or involves a logical contradiction ” (Warren, “Logic” 75-77). The contradiction occurs when those who cry against inferences “…bind their deduction, that deductions are not binding when it to comes interpreting the Bible. …They ‘reason’ that one does not need reason in interpreting the Bible” (Pugh 120). “It is amusing to see men try to bind their deductions on other men in an effort to rule out all deductions as binding. Such an effort is obviously self-contradictory” (Warren, “When” 67), hence, false.

The obvious contradiction of opponents to biblical implication from which humans must correctly infer is plain, and would be laughable were it not for the eternally serious nature of the dilemma. First, a proponent of such must attempt to infer from the Bible that only commands or direct statements are authoritative, because nowhere does the Bible command or make a direct statement that only commands or direct statements are authoritative. “There are no explicit statements in the Bible which explicitly say that only explicit statements have binding force on men living today” (Warren, “Logic” 7). “There are no explicit statements which say that men should regard all matters which are taught implicitly as being non-obligatory” (Warren, “Logic” 62). “If it is the case that ‘only direct statements tell us for certain what God thinks’ then the position itself (viz. that only direct statements tell us for certain what God thinks) must be rejected, because there is no direct statement in the Bible which so instructs men. The position is self-contradictory, and is thus false” (Pugh 121).

Second, since no part of the Bible is directly addressed to any person living today, one must infer even that commands or direct statements are authoritative. Question: Does any portion of the Bible apply to you today? If you say, “Yes,” then you have to acknowledge two things: (1) The Bible implies that some of its content applies to you today, and (2) You have to infer that at least some of the Bible applies to you today. “Since the name of no man now living appears in the Bible, inference (as to what the explicit statements of the Bible imply) is the only way one can come to know that men now living are amenable to the gospel of Christ” (Warren, “When” 31). “To determine that men living today are under obligation to do certain things which are taught in the Bible, one must infer such from explicit statements in the Bible” (Warren, “Logic” 19). “Since the Bible has no such ‘direct commands’ specifically directed to anyone now living, in effect, the positions noted above reject the Bible as meaningful revelation from God to man today” (Warren, “Logic” 62).

“Whatever is bound by the explicit statements of God (in the Bible) is bound on men living today not because men inferred the proposition (conclusion) involved but because God implied it!” (Warren, “When” 29). “…what is bound on men living today by implicit teaching is thus bound not because men have inferred the particular points of doctrine but because God (in the Scriptures) has implied it” (Warren, “When” 96). “The reason I am bound by God’s word is not that I read it but that He wrote it. The reason I am bound by those things implicit in His word is NOT that I inferred it BUT that HE implied it” (Warren, “Logic” 64). The entire New Testament (Gospel) is irrelevant and non-applicable (i.e., a dead letter) unless correct biblical interpretation includes divine implication, from which mankind is obligated and capable of drawing only warranted (necessary) inferences, because the name of no one living today appears anywhere in the New Testament. Personally, I gave up “dead letter religion” when I converted from Catholicism to New Testament Christianity, and I’m not going back!

Third, if inferences from biblical implications are required even to acknowledge commands or direct statements as authoritative today (and they most certainly are), and if inferences are disallowed, then none of the Bible is authoritative to anyone living today. “No one can understand the Bible without inferring what the Bible implies” (Warren, “Logic” 13). “a. If the doctrine under review is true, it would follow that the Bible binds absolutely nothing on men living today. This is the case because even though the Bible does teach that all men now living are under (amenable to) the Gospel of Christ specifically (and the principles of the Old Testament) there are no explicit, direct commands to this effect. To arrive at this truth. One must recognize (a) that the Bible binds by implication (b) that that which is bound by implication is just as binding as that which is bound by explicit, direct command (on people living in Bible times), and (c) that one must correctly use the principles of logic in reasoning about the evidence set forth in the Bible. b. If the doctrine under review is true, it follows that no one could rightly say to another person, ‘You must be baptized in order to be saved from your sins’” (Warren, “Logic” 67). “So far as men living today are concerned, is there even one statement which involves obligation for men now living which does not involve implication? The answer is no!” (Warren, “When” 94).

Therefore, the assertion that only commands or direct statements in the Bible constitute authority in religion today is erroneous, misdirected at best and a sinful agenda at worst. There are two reasons on the very face of the proposition as to why the assertion that “only commands or direct statements in the Bible constitute biblical authority” is obviously false doctrine: (1) Since no one living today is named or otherwise specifically addressed in the Bible, for commands or direct statements from the Bible to be applicable today, one must first correctly infer from divine implications that some of what the Bible says applies in our time. (2) Further, one must correctly infer from divine implications even from among commands or direct statements in the New Testament as to which commands or direct statements apply today (e.g., “Thy kingdom come, Matt. 6:10; “desire spiritual gifts” 1 Cor. 14:1; etc.). Therefore, the claim that divine implication and warranted, human inference have no part of Bible authority disallows even commands and direct statements from Bible authority—leaving no Bible authority at all! This is clearly throwing out the baby with the bathwater! Anything that proves too much doesn’t prove anything at all!

“In short, it seems that ‘union’—not true Biblical unity—is the all-consuming goal of many in the church today. In espousing this ecumenical goal they ‘join hands’ not only with the liberal members of the church but also with the modernistic ‘Disciples of Christ’ (Christian Church). If repentance does not come, there will surely be souls in hell over this matter” (Warren, “Logic” 34). “Indifference to the distinction which obtains between truth and falsehood is perhaps the most basic sin of all” (Warren, “Logic” 121).

The assertion that only commands or direct statements in the Bible constitute authority in religion today is erroneous because without inference one cannot even prove that the Lord’s church was established on the Pentecost after the Ascension of Jesus Christ, or that the kingdom of prophecy and the church are the same institution. “The Bible teaches implicitly—but not explicitly—the proposition: ‘the church was established on the first Pentecost after the resurrection of Christ from the dead… ‘the church of Christ and the kingdom of God are one and the same body of people” (Warren, “Logic” 31). “The particular brand (type) of irrationalist which is abroad in the Lord’s church today is one who holds that only that which is taught explicitly in the Bible can be binding on men living today. They deny that anything which is taught implicitly is—or can be—binding on any man living today. Second, It Should Be Clear To The Thoughtful Observer That These Men (irrationalists In The Church) Do Not Really Believe The Irrationalism Which They Claim To Espouse. (No one can deny the law of rationality and sensibly address himself to the task of proving such plain Bible teaching as, say, that the church of Christ was established on the first day of Pentecost after the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead)” (Warren, “Logic” 93).

This is just a sampling of the massive amount of Scripture that cannot be known or applied without duly recognizing biblical implications from which humans are obligated to correctly infer or deduce. Without recognition of biblical implication and inference, essentially most of the Bible is reduced to no more than “stories” that have no direct impact on anyone (e.g., what some brethren call love poems or love letters from God, thereby lacking any authoritative quality).

Only inference from biblical implications can account for the refusal of Christians in the New Testament record and in early church history to obey civil government whenever government interfered with the practice of Christianity. “Romans 13:1-7; Titus 3:1; I Peter 2:13-17 command and demand that Christians obey civil authorities even though civil authorities were pagan and personally wicked. …there is never included in any of these instructions a phrase or an exception clause saying ‘except for conscience sake.’ …we do have clear illustrations of Christians engaging in civil disobedience for conscience sake. In Acts 4:17-21…Another example…Acts 5:29…We conclude that it is essential for Christians to practice civil disobedience in order to live in all good conscience and obey God. This conclusion is the result of the necessary inference we must draw from the combined implications of combined general commands and specific examples. …we logically infer that we as Christians in every age and in every country must practice civil disobedience when civil authorities try to stop us from preaching or teaching Christ or practicing Christianity” (Kearley 70-71).

If this is not the case, then Christianity would have vanished from planet earth centuries ago, almost at its inception. If this is not the case, then Christianity in the life of opponents to biblical implications and human inference will do either one of three things: (1) Cease practicing Christianity upon anyone’s first objection to it (e.g., homosexuality laws, the very existence of Christianity in most nations around the world), (2) Refuse to surrender his or her practice of Christianity, effectively denying the proposition against biblical implication and human inference, or (3) Refuse to surrender his or her practice of Christianity, however, concluding that he or she is sinning by violating civil law. Imagine the view that it is sinful in some circumstances to practice Christianity! Go figure!

Biblical hermeneutics is not all that complicated. Yet, we humans can muddle up almost anything, especially if the plain and obvious understanding of something goes against what we want to do. Successful verbal communication between persons (divine or human) derives from commands or direct statements, approved examples and implications. If not, then verbal communication is basically useless and ineffective, and we might as well restrict our verbal communication to “Ugh,” purring or growling.

Works Cited

Kearley, F. Furman. “Establishing Biblical Authority: The Function of Command, Example, and Inference.” Biblical Interpretation: An Ancient Book Speaks to a Modern World. Duane Warden, ed. Parkersburg: Ohio Valley College, 1992: 56-72.

Pugh, Charles C., III. “Logic and Reason in Interpretation.” Biblical Interpretation: An Ancient Book Speaks to a Modern World. Duane Warden, ed. Parkersburg: Ohio Valley College, 1992: 112-123.

Warren, Thomas B. Logic and the Bible. Jonesboro: National Christian P., 1984.

- - -. When Is an “Example” Binding? Jonesboro: National Christian P., 1975.

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