Sunday, October 01, 2006

HERMENEUTICS: NECESSARY INFERENCE

"I have figuratively applied to myself and Apollos for your sakes, so that in us you may learn not to exceed what is written, so that no one of you will become arrogant in behalf of one against the other." (1 Corinthians 4:6)
The church being addressed was in turmoil. Among their many sins was division and strife. In chapters one and three, Paul "figuratively applied" himself, Apollos, and Cephas into the discussion, but he expected that the Corinthians would infer the specific form of the sin in the church. From the discussion in chapter 1:10ff, Paul was not simply anticipating a problem; the problem existed already and applied to the unnamed individuals at Corinth (figuratively represented by Paul and Apollos). Paul implied that specific individuals at Corinth were "exceeding the things which are written" and it was creating problems. Here is what we learn from Paul's discussion on dividing the church. When the inspired writer implies anything, it is necessary for the reader to infer the correct message. It is God's will that we use our brains to infer when He implies.

By reading the Bible, how does one ascertain the Will of God? "Do the commandments of God", you say. But which commandments? And is a direct command the only thing in Scripture that details God's will for mankind? This subject has challenged many Bible students. An implication is not a direct command, but the Corinthian church would not have been out of line to call for repentance from those unnamed individuals who were splitting the church. God's will is found in more than in His commands.

Hermeneutics is "the science of interpretation" and is used in everyday speech. Using hermeneutics we learn God's will in Scripture through the following: Direct commands, Approved Examples, Necessary Inferences, and Expedients (Wayne Jackson in the Christian Courier has some fine material on this subject HERE to learn more on the validity of a "necessary inference"). It is accurate to say that everything we do today falls under following the pattern or example of the New Testament. In the New Testament, we see the Christians sometimes receiving direct commands and sometimes see them involved in activities with no no direct command. Sometimes their activities are inferred. Because we are twenty centuries removed from the commands were issue, we more accuraely follow the pattern and example of the New Testament (thanks to Bro. Stone for commenting on this). Bible teachers who insist on a "new hermeneutic" where only Commands are binding are wrong. Their "command only" approach makes it impossible to know when the word is being added to.

Is "necessary inference" a valid way of determining God's will? Most definitely.
How does the church today know that it is to be spreading the Gospel? This is inferred from certain facts. Jesus died for all men. God desires all men to be saved. People will be saved until Christ returns. Christ has not returned and gone are the Apostles who were commanded to preach the Gospel to all of the world. If anyone is going to be carrying the Gospel "to all creation", it has to be the church of Christ today. That is "necessary inference" and it is certain truth.
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Sin of commission and omission

4 comments:

  1. Very positive. Sound like Wayne Jackson may be, in addition to understanding the importance of context and meaning (hermeneutics), expressing in embryonic form the role of Sacred Tradition or the oral component of God’s Word.

    “It was for this He called you through our gospel, that you may gain the glory of our Lord Jesus Christ. So then, brethren, stand firm and hold to the traditions which you were taught, whether by word of mouth or by letter from us.” (2 Thessalonians 2:14-15 (NASB))

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  2. Greetings,
    If I may speak for Mr. Jackson, I think he would see "necessary inference" as being something quite different from what you call "Sacred Tradition or the oral component of God's Word." Having been raised Catholic, my experience was that things like the Sacraments and assumptions about Mary have little to do with what is necessarily implied in Scripture, and thus must NOT be necessarily inferred. The "traditions" which you mention, and to which Paul was referring, were rooted in Scripture and are the antithesis of "the traditions of men." God's traditions are practiced by following God's Word, neither adding to nor taking away from it.

    The "word of mouth" reference is, again, an instance of reading too much into what is said. Paul was an apostle and he spoke as the Holy Spirit gave him utterance. Whatever the Apostle Paul said in verbal communication to the Thessalonians would be no different in substance to what he would write by the inspiration of the Holy Spirit.

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  3. Technically speaking, the ONLY way the Bible speaks to us today is by approved example: There are no commands addressed directly to 21st-century Americans, after all. We read the direct commands made to Christians 20 centuries ago (along with examples and inferences) and reason that if we want the same rewards they received, we must do the same things--follow the same commands. But we're really following examples, even then. So those who say "Only direct commands are valid" find themselves completely empty-handed--they don't find their name, nor themselves specifically referenced, at all in the Bible. Right?

    --Ray

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  4. Ray,
    That's a good point I had not thought of. Is there something like a "general command", one that begins with something like, whosoever, or whoever wishes, or anyone, etc?

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