SOURCE: Gospel Advocate, October 1989, p. 34.

DRL Note: The article below is extremely important. It is LONG, but if you will challenge yourself to read it carefully and thoughtfully, it will bless you with a better understanding of some vital information about Bible study.

The Role of Logic in Biblical Hermeneutics

by Thomas B. Warren

Logic is the science of valid reasoning. It is not mere wishing. It is not mere thinking. It is not mere wrangling. Logic has to do with inference — that is, the inferring of what is implied by explicit statements. It raises the question, Do the premises of this argument imply the conclusion of this argument? First Thessalonians 5:21 affirms, “Prove all things; hold fast that which is good” (KJV).

Some people think very seldom, if at all, specifically about logic; that is, they do not say such things as, “Let me show you the sound argument that proves that Proposition X is true.” However, everyone who is intelligent enough to be accountable for what he does is a logician. And most people are pretty good logicians, although they never have studied logic formally in any college or university.

Because valid reasoning is absolutely essential to correctly interpreting the Bible, knowledge of the principles of logic is vital to everyone who tries to interpret the Bible correctly.

No one can be saved without being obedient to God’s Word. But no one can be obedient to God’s Word unless he knows what that Word teaches. No one can know what to do to be saved without knowing what the Bible teaches one to do to be saved. In order to know what the Bible teaches, one must gather the evidence that is relevant to that problem and correctly handle that evidence after he has gathered it. But no one can handle the evidence he has gathered correctly, even if he has gathered the relevant evidence, in any way other than by drawing only such conclusions as are warranted or implied by that evidence.

After having learned the truth, no one can be saved without obeying from the heart the very things the Bible teaches him to do to be saved. This same general procedure applies to every subject in the Bible.

Hermeneutics is the science of interpretation. Thus, biblical hermeneutics is the science of correctly interpreting the explicit statements of the Bible. Every person should be deeply concerned about biblical hermeneutics. Everyone who studies the Bible and who draws conclusions as to what is taught by the Bible must — or at least should — be deeply concerned about the correct use of logical principles.

Some men have claimed foolishly that only what is explicitly stated can be bound — by either doing or not doing a given thing. Fortunately, this claim is false. If it were true, it would mean that the Bible has nothing to say to any person now living on earth. This is the case because the Bible does not explicitly address anything to — by explicitly stating the name of — any person now living on earth.

For any of us who now live on earth to know that the Bible authorizes us to do a given thing or forbids us to do a given thing, one would have to find his own name explicitly stated in connection with that specific activity — that is, if the “no-logic” view is true. To say that a given proposition is taught implicitly in the Bible is to say that it is impossible for the explicit statements that are involved to be true and yet the proposition that is implied to be false. Theologians with a bent toward misology, the hatred or rejection of logic, or logophobia, the fear of logic, would do well to take note of this truth.

The Bible demands that we prove all things (1 Thessalonians 5:21). Jesus and His apostles all proved their cases. I have dealt with this fact in some detail in my books Logic and the Bible and When Is an Example Binding? One can, of course, prove that the Bible explicitly teaches a certain proposition if he can find it to be stated word for word in the Bible. But to prove that the Bible implicitly teaches a certain proposition, one must prove that the Bible contains explicit statements that imply that particular proposition. To say that one or more statements imply another proposition is to say that it is impossible for the first statement(s) to be true and the latter to be false. But, may it carefully be noted, this requires argument — not in the sense of mere quarreling, but argument in the sense that such a relationship exists between th evidence and the conclusion that the truth of the evidence demands the truth of the conclusion.

Thus, being a good student of the Bible requires one first to gather the relevant evidence from the Bible and second to draw only such conclusions as are warranted by that evidence, the explicit statements that are involved.

The foregoing requires that one formulate an argument that is valid and prove that all the premises, which comprise the evidence, are true. When such is the case, the argument is sound. Only sound arguments prove anything. When one produces a sound argument, he has proved that the conclusion of that argument is true. Ridiculing the use of logic in the study of the Bible or accusing someone of claiming to “know everything” — just because he claims to prove that a given proposition has been proved to be true — is a tactic that is not worthy of a Christian.

I have noted, on many occasions, that some men, after ridiculing the necessity of sound argumentation, go right ahead, no doubt without realizing just what they are doing, and try to offer logical proof for their own position. It might be difficult to persuade them to admit that such is the case. It is grossly inconsistent to write articles that criticize men because they criticize some things. They also oppose those whom they call “opposers.” And they infer that nothing that has been inferred can be bound on anyone. They claim that only that which is explicitly stated can be binding on anyone — even though the Bible nowhere explicitly states or implies that only that which is explicitly stated can be binding. But men who understand the crucial nature of sound argumentation in regard to the explicit statements of the Bible do not fall into such obvious self-contradiction in regard to such matters.

I have noted that often when men are trying to defend a false doctrine, they suddenly — if, indeed, they have not already done so — turn “anti-logic.” I plead with brethren not to do that. I plead with all who listen to “anti-logic” men not to be misled by their leaps into the dark — the conclusions they have drawn for which no adequate evidence exists.

I submit that no man can find even one instance in all of the Bible where the Holy Spirit, in setting out God’s case, ever used an unsound argument. God expects men to do the same; that is, to set out sound arguments and to demand sound arguments from other men. Let it be noted that faith comes from the evidence of God’s Word (Romans 10:17), not from some leap into the dark to some conclusion that is not implied by the explicit statements of the Bible.

For those who think they can interpret the Bible correctly without gathering the evidence that is relevant to a given proposition and correctly handling that evidence — I offer the challenge to explain this passage without correctly using the principles of logic: Luke 6:12-16, in connection with the question, Did Jesus establish His church when He called the disciples as per this passage? If not, when did He establish it? Was it on the first day of Pentecost after His resurrection from the dead? If so, where is the explicit statement that explicitly says Jesus established the church on the first day of Pentecost after His resurrection?

What about the large number of explicit statements in regard to miraculous gifts in 1 Corinthians 12 and 14? Are men living on earth today explicitly instructed to “desire earnestly spiritual gifts” (14:1)? Are men living on earth explicitly instructed to “prophesy” (14:1)? Has God explicitly instructed Christians living today to “speak in tongues” (!4:5)? And so on and so on in chapters 12-14. No man can either learn or teach the truth about this matter without inferring what is implied by the explicit statements of those and other passages. And, may it carefully be noted, when one has inferred what the explicit statements have implied, the inferences or conclusions are bound, not because he — the man — has inferred them but because God had implied them.

Because no man can understand — correctly interpret — the Bible without inferring what is implied by the explicit statements of the Bible, it behooves every responsible person to study the Bible with an honest, open, and eager mind that is focused on this great truth.

The New Testament is simply filled with sound argumentation by Jesus and His apostles and prophets. Just a few of these are: Matthew 4:1-11; 22:15-22; 22:23-33; 22:34-46; Acts 3:1–4:4; and 1 Corinthians 15:12-19.

Jesus taught that men can and must know the truth if they are to be saved (John 6:45; 8:32). No man can know the truth that applies to him, that is, what is required, what is forbidden, what is allowed or optional, without reasoning correctly about the explicit statements of the Bible.

When one is studying the Bible, he should be careful to note such words as “therefore,” “if,” “then,” “why,” and “because,” because these words usually constitute keys to the sound arguments God is giving to men. At times, of course, they may be used in setting out the unsound arguments the servants of Satan are making.

The truths that have been set forth here constitute at least some of the good reasons I plead with all students of the Bible to infer — by the correct use of the principles of valid reasoning — only what the explicit statements of the Bible imply. Thus, I repeat: God always presents His case in the form of a sound argument — one in which both the argument is valid and all the premises are true. Because this is the case, why have so many brethren allowed themselves to be lured into the acceptance of logic-rejecting philosophies, such as Existentialism, in spite of the fact that God demands that men “prove all things” and “hold fast to that which is good“?

I challenge any man who holds that nothing that is implied by the explicit statements of the Bible can be bound on anyone, to refute denominationalists who use the account of the thief on the cross to conclude that men living today are saved at the point of their faith in Christ, before and without being baptized in the name of Jesus.

Further, I challenge them to find the statement in the New Testament that explicitly forbids the use of instrumental music in the worship of God today. It is forbidden implicitly, but it is not forbidden explicitly. Men must infer this because the explicit statements of God in the Bible do imply it. And it is bound on men today not because they have inferred it, but because God has implied it.

May God help us to love, learn, obey, and teach the truth (Mark 16:15-16; Galatians 1:6-9). May we lovingly strive to be faithful to the Lord that we may be with Him eternally.

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