Gospel Gazette Online
Vol. 16 No. 7 July 2014
Page 2

Editorial

Is Implication and Inference
a Valid Hermeneutic?

Louis RushmoreFor decades now, some members of the churches of Christ have been arguing that Implication and Inference is not a valid hermeneutic or mechanism in correct biblical interpretation. Sometimes styled as the so-called New Hermeneutic, these brethren have adamantly affirmed that only Commands or Direct Statements constitute biblical authority. That declaration, of course, jettisons from consideration as biblically authoritative Approved Examples and Implication and Inference. There are numerous problems or horns of a dilemma with that approach to biblical interpretation, but the chief reason for seeking a New Hermeneutic in the first place seems to be the attempt to exempt mankind from divine instructions that are viewed as unpalatable.

Incidentally, brethren who are willing to ignore Approved Examples in hermeneutics are completely agreeable to ignoring, for instance, the weekly observance of the Lord’s Supper on the first day of the week (Acts 20:7). The elders and the preacher of one local congregation told me directly that they see no biblical authority necessitating the observance of the Lord’s Supper each week or that when it is observed that it needs to be observed on the first day of the week. The same church leaders, though, are as comfortable ignoring Commands or Direct Statements respecting singing (Ephesians 5:19; Colossians 3:16) versus use of instrumental music in Christian worship. Furthermore, they have downgraded the biblical qualifications for appointment of elders and deacons (1 Timothy 3:1-13; Titus 1:5-8) to mere “suggestions,” despite the Commands or Direct Statements by which the New Testament conveys those instructions.

It becomes quite clear, then, that the true object of the New Hermeneutic is the attempt to disarm biblical authority entirely, including Commands or Direct Statements. For such people, the Bible is essentially as much of a Dead Letter as it is for Catholics (and to a degree for all who diminish its teachings with human creeds). Reducing the Bible to Love Letters and Love Poems, as some brethren have done publicly, strips God’s Word naked of any significant impact on humanity. As such, for these Christians, there is no divine guidance to which they can turn regarding salvation, Christian worship, Christian living, Christian service and Christian doctrine. For them, there is no road map to heaven. They are unable to accomplish for themselves as well as remarkably unconcerned about the seriousness of the message of Amos (4:12) to “prepare to meet your God.”

For an overview of correct biblical interpretation, see my article “Understanding How God Communicates with Mankind, Today.” For a more extensive examination of the New Hermeneutic, see my book No Hermeneutical Gymnastics, Please. However, the balance of this article will address specifically whether Implication and Inference is a valid biblical hermeneutic.

The first horns of a dilemma that the fans of the so-called New Hermeneutic are obligated to explain is how Commands or Direct Statements are authoritative to anyone today without acknowledgement of Implication and Inference. Unfortunately, proponents of the New Hermeneutic gloss over that obligation, but faithful brethren must not allow them to get away with the arrogance that presumes it has no accountability for proving its affirmations. You see, the truthfulness or falsity of the New Hermeneutic stands or falls right here. There is no need to listen to any other jargon regarding a New Hermeneutic as long as this point cannot be successfully addressed – and it absolutely cannot be defended successfully at the very introduction of the theory.

No one living today can find his or her name in the Bible. Even if someone today bears the name Matthew or Mary, it is not a contemporary Matthew or Mary about which the Bible recorded something thousands of years ago. Therefore, before any Commands or Direct Statements can have any application to anyone today, a person must infer from implications in Scripture that at least some of what was penned centuries ago applies to him or to her today. Otherwise, the Bible is reduced to a storybook, dead letter or love poems and love letters – which have no binding impact on anyone in the 21st century. There is no reason to discuss any other aspects of the so-called New Hermeneutic since this clearly demonstrates the fallacious nature of the New Hermeneutic.

Another horns of a dilemma has to do with biblical authority for church buildings. It is generally conceded that the first church-owned meetinghouse did not appear until about 200 years after the establishment of the Lord’s church. Prior to that, local churches assembled in public buildings (Acts 2:46; 5:42), private homes (Acts 12:12; Romans 16:5; 1 Corinthians 16:19; Colossians 4:15; Philemon 2) or in open, outdoor spaces (Acts 16:13). Therefore, the New Testament neither portrays the early church owning its assembly halls nor provides instructions respecting the acquisition and use of church buildings. Therefore, the ownership of church buildings today either is unscriptural and unbiblical, or there is divine implication within Scripture that authorizes contemporary Christians to infer that these meetinghouses are authorized. There is one other alternative, namely, that church buildings are not authorized, and contemporary Christians are unconcerned with biblical authority for what they do religiously. Proponents of a so-called New Hermeneutic, in fact, seem to be little concerned for what is authorized in Scripture.

Actually, church buildings are authorized in spite of the absence of Commands or Direct Statements about them. When Hebrews 10:25 requires the local church to assemble, and at the same time does not specify where to assemble, it implies, from which Christians must infer, that a place of its own choosing is necessary in which the local church can assemble. After all, an assembly is the whole church coming together in one place at one time (1 Corinthians 11:18, 20; 14:23), but most certainly a place is necessary for the assembly to occur. I regret that so much of the Lord’s money and so much of the Christian’s focus is directed toward church facilities, but church-owned property is authorized through biblical implication and human inference of what has been implied. The leadership of a local congregation may choose to worship in a home, a public place, outdoors, in rented rooms or in a church-owned meetinghouse. Amazingly and amusingly, too, advocates of the New Hermeneutic decry the validity of Implication and Inference while at the same time speaking from their church houses, which if there is any authority for them at all, depends on Implication and Inference for their biblically justifiable existence. Of course, the alternative is that there is no authority for the existence of church-owned property, and Christians and congregations do not care whether church buildings are authorized in Scripture.

Backers of a New Hermeneutic must either acknowledge that church buildings are authorized through Implication and Inference, thereby forfeiting the theory of a New Hermeneutic, or they must acknowledge that they have church buildings completely without biblical authority, thereby renouncing their reliance on scriptural authority for what they practice in religion. In reality, Implication and Inference is a valid hermeneutic or mechanism of biblical interpretation.

In conclusion, verbal communication from God to mankind through the pages of the New Testament (for us today, Romans 7:6-7) is effected through Commands or Direct Statements, Approved Examples and Implication and Inference. These are the same means of verbal communication effected between humans from small child through adults. Yes, Implication and Inference is a valid hermeneutic. Unless the child of God concedes that, he faces insurmountable problems in knowing God’s Word for him, implementing it into his life and otherwise making preparation to meet God in Final Judgment.


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