How We Learn From The Bible
Part Three

Another way we learn from the Bible is called necessary inference. It is a common method used by the Lord himself. First, allow me to define what is meant by necessary inference.

Inference and opinion are the proper and instant effect of human reasoning. Jesus recognized the normal reasoning power of accountable humans. On one occasion he warned his disciples to beware of the leaven of the Pharisees and Sadducees. They wondered why he spoke of leaven. They were "reasoning in their hearts" -- "Which when Jesus perceived, he said unto them, O ye of little faith, why reason ye among yourselves, because ye have brought no bread?" - Matt. 16:8. Other references: Mark 2:8; 1 Cor. 1:10 (note "same judgment" -- conclusions reached.)

Inferences and opinions we form as we learn from the Bible ought never be bound as equal with divine law. Thomas Campbell, in the "Declaration and Address," stated it this way. "That although inferences and deductions from Scripture premises, when fairly inferred, may be truly called the doctrine of God's holy word, yet are they not formally binding upon the consciences of Christians farther than they perceive the connection . . ."

There is a difference in an inference "fairly" deduced and one that is
necessarily deduced from Scripture premises. Some logic books refer to this as inescapable conclusions based on premises accepted as true. The book of Hebrews is replete with necessary inferences that teach the superiority of the New Covenant over the Old.

Jesus used a necessary inference to prove the Sadducees were wrong on the resurrection of the dead. The Sadducees asked Jesus a trick question about a woman who had successively married seven brothers, all of whom died. They asked the Lord, "in the resurrection whose wife shall she be of the seven?" - Matt. 22:28. His answered in the logical format of necessary inference.

Jesus cited Exodus 3:6 where God spoke to Moses and said, "I am the God of thy father, the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob." Abraham, Isaac and Jacob had been physically dead for centuries but Jesus used the present tense "I am." He affirmed the necessary conclusion that God is still the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob.

Based on the premise set forth in Exodus 3, Jesus necessarily inferred that, "God is not a God of the dead (those who do not exist) but of the living." The necessary inference is that Abraham, Isaac and Jacob still exist because God is not a God of the dead. The passage Jesus used from Exodus 3 does not say God is a God of the living and not of the dead -- but Jesus did. It is the inescapable conclusion drawn from true premises.

The inescapable conclusion drawn from the premises Jesus used is a prime and proper example of necessary inference. This is but one of many instances of the use of necessary inferences by which we learn from the Bible. This legitimizes our use of the same format as we seek to learn God's will for us.

Go to part four

By Dudley Ross Spears

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