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Gospel Gazette Online
Vol.  11  No. 2 February 2009  Page 2                    powered by FreeFind

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Biblical Hermeneutics:
The Validity of Deductions in
Understanding Divine Instruction

By Louis Rushmore, Editor

Louis Rushmore
Normal, everyday communication among humans, adults and children, includes implications from which participants in communication must deduce what is meant. (Communication includes direct statements or commands, approved examples and implication that demands warranted inference.) Definitive, reliable instruction can be ascertained (deduced) from implications. We humans do it every day in secular affairs, but sometimes we become spiritually incompetent if the communication turns to consideration of religious matters. Divine instruction is not cloaked in God-words and mechanisms of communication foreign to the ordinary ways people communicate and comprehend communication.

One of the simplest explanations of how implication requires inference of truth is to consider a square, the one side of which is known to be 5 inches long. Just knowing the length of one side of a square, one can accurately and confidently know that the circumference of the square is 20 inches and that the area within the square is 25 square inches. Deducing the circumference and area of a square when the length of one side is known does not diminish the truthfulness of warranted conclusions respecting the circumference and area of a square. In other words, through implication and inference, absolute, objective truth can be known! Another excellent illustration of the validity of induction and deduction or implication and inference appears at the pen of brother Warren.

To say that an action is authorized (by the Bible) explicitly, is to say that it is taught in just so many words… For example, the proposition, “John is taller than Charlie” teaches in these exact words that John is taller than Charlie. One does not have to use his powers of…logical deduction… to make clear the difference between what is taught explicitly and what is taught implicitly, let the following propositions be considered: (a) “John is taller than Bill,” (b) “Bill is taller than Tom,” and (c) “Tom is taller than Charlie.” These three propositions explicitly affirm (teach) three things… None of the three propositions explicitly affirms that John is taller than Charlie. It is also the case that the conjunction of the three propositions does not explicitly affirm that John is taller than Charlie. …if the three original propositions are true, then the proposition, “John is taller than Charlie” of necessity must also be true! (Warren, “Logic” 28)

Careful consideration of sufficient evidence can yield definitive knowledge. “It is clear that the basic rule of a sound Biblical hermeneutic involves both adequate induction (the gathering of the needed relevant data or evidence) and correct deduction (the drawing only of such conclusions as are warranted by the evidence)” (Warren, “When” 96). Of course, without sufficient information, one may be unable to come to know the truthfulness of some proposition, but especially in biblical matters, mankind is obligated to acknowledge the truthfulness of propositions that are sufficiently supported by divine revelation (evidence).

Furthermore, the fact that a person can reason incorrectly does not mean that reason cannot be trusted, including implications from which inferences must be drawn. Just because it is possible for a person to misconstrue biblical information (e.g., to suppose that King Herod went about on all fours and had a red, bushy tail, Luke 13:32) is no reason to disregard reasoning in biblical interpretation. For instance, “[t]here are absolute standards of right and wrong. Though one’s understanding of truth is incomplete, absolute truth is not relative. Mankind’s understanding of truth changes, but truth remains the same” (Flatt 68). In addition, contrast the certainty of truth (Jesus, John 8:32) versus skepticism of truth (Pilate, “What is truth,” John 18:38); truth is nevertheless truth irrespective of whether one so acknowledges it as truth.

Whether because one does not like the direction divine truth goes on a particular subject, or whether one’s skills for interpreting God’s Word may be deficient is no excuse for failure to know what God wants mankind to know, and for which divine instruction has been preserved for us. “Due to human ignorance and imperfections, there may always be problems where inferences are concerned. However, it is a tragic mistake and really impossible to throw out inference as a necessary part of communication and execution within any system of authority” (Kearley 62). You see, throwing away implications from which mankind is obligated to correctly infer dispenses with biblical authority—as though God failed to provide the divine revelation in the first place. We have the only Word of God that heaven will ever provide us (Galatians 1:6-9; Jude 3), and if we fail to properly esteem it, because God will not provide us any additional revelation, we have no Word of God—no divine revelation—no divine instruction, and no way to know how God wants to be worshipped, how to properly practice Christian living, how to demonstrate correctly Christian service or how to obtain the forgiveness of sins.

Without deductions or inferences from divine implication, we have no Bible at all! Since no one living today can read his or her name upon the pages of inspiration, one must deduce that even commands or direct statements appearing in the Bible apply to him or her today. Without divine implications from which we are obligated to deduce correctly meaning and application, we have no discernible communication from God—hence, no hope for salvation from past sins or the prospect of an eternity in heaven. We must be careful not to throw out the baby with the bath water!

Works Cited

Flatt, Bill. “The Function of Presuppositions and Attitudes in Biblical Interpretation.” Biblical Interpretation: Principles and Practice. F. Furman Kearley and others eds. Grand Rapids: Baker Book House, 1986.

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.

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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