Sunday, September 16, 2007

Assumption and Presumption

I've blogged before about some of the dangers of scriptural interpretation ... the false dilemma, concatenation of unrelated scriptures, cherry-picking the scriptures we like at the expense of those we don't, and others.

I don't think I've mentioned the one logical fallacy that is perhaps the most lethal to accurate interpretation: making an unwarranted assumption.

As an example, I excerpt a comment I made on JP Manzi's Return of the Prodigal Blogger:

Why would anyone assume that when 1 Corinthians 15:22 says, ""For as in Adam all die, even so in Christ shall all be made alive" that it means God will save everyone, whether they accept or reject His Son, no matter what? Even in the face of dozens or hundreds of scripture passages to the contrary? How can you separate that scripture from its context? Above it is a mention of those who have fallen asleep in Christ. Below it is a mention of those who are Christ's enemies, to be put under His feet.

Paul even negates this logical fallacy in those verses:
The last enemy to be destroyed is death. For he "has put everything under his feet." Now when it says that "everything" has been put under him, it is clear that this does not include God himself, who put everything under Christ. When he has done this, then the Son himself will be made subject to him who put everything under him, so that God may be all in all.

There are times when "everything" doesn't literally mean "everything." There are times when "all" doesn't literally mean "all."

Here, "all" must be interpreted to mean "all believers" (to whom Paul was writing; not to unbelievers) in order to be consistent with other scripture.

Paul's words address a heresy that no resurrection occurs; not a belief that God saves everyone, so one must be cautious about making them say something more - or different - than they were intended to say.


In the end, I think the answer to the question "Why?" above is that people will make unwarranted assumptions - and other grave errors in scriptural interpretation - because they desperately want to reach and believe the conclusion to which they feel it leads. Even if it means leaving out the phrase "by faith in His blood" in Romans 3:25-26 and all those other scriptures which weigh in heavily against it.

In the end, the answer is intellectual dishonesty and arrogant presumption.

5 comments:

JP said...

Its an easy trap to fall in no doubt about it. Many, if not all, have preconceived notions when entering biblical interpretation whether it be from our denominational heritage, our childhood or possibly our experiences. Who knows. As for the verse talked about, there is not doubt that there is a universal implication too it. How far that goes, I am not sure. If want to be a universalist, there is not doubt I can make the bible back me up, as well as the other side.

Keith, in the original greek, what does ALL meam?

Keith Brenton said...

JP, I haven't studied Greek, but I'm sure that "all" means "all" in Greek as surely as it does in English.

Did you understand what I was trying to say about consistency even just within the context of this passage? (I may not have been real clear; it happens more often than I want!)

It wasn't intended to literally mean "all" in this context; it can't mean "all" and be consisted with the vast bulk of scripture.

If I say "Jesus died to save all," does that inherently mean that "Jesus died and will save all"?

The way I look at the question is this: there aren't even a handful of verses that can be construed to imply that God will save everyone. However, there is an entire Bible full of passages where people sin and God punishes, where prophets before and after and including Jesus preach repentance and consequence, where people believe and receive, let God change them and encourage others to do the same.

All of that has no meaning, no purpose, no justice if God saves everyone, no matter how hateful, rebellious and destructive they might be. He does love each one of His created beings. But love is not a guarantee of salvation.

He commands all men everywhere to repent. Does that mean that in the end He will shrug and say, "Well, it really wasn't that important that you repent."?

You just can't square up the concept of universal salvation with passages that are as clear as Romans 3:5-8 or Jude 1:4 or Romans 8:13 or John 3:36, just to cite a handful.

mmlace said...

Keith, you bring up an excellent point about Paul himself negating that fallacy in verses 26-28. I submit to you that you don't even have to read that far ahead...what about verse 23???

"But each in his own turn: Christ, the firstfruits; then, when He comes, those who belong to Him." Jesus, Himself, said there would be some that He would not know.

I was searching your blog for something that you said regarding this subject a while back, because if I recall correctly, I've got a question for you...but I didn't find it yet...so I'll be back later with that.

But in the midst of my search, I found that you have, indeed, blogged about the unwarranted assumption (while looking at this same passage of scripture, coincidentally):

"I can tell you that when Paul is talking about 'all' of us being changed in the twinkling of an eye into incorruptible flesh in I Corinthians 15:51-52, he is writing to Christians. To conclude that 'we ... all' includes anyone other than those who put their hope in Christ is making an unwarranted and unsupported assumption. In fact, he distinguishes between the perishable and the imperishable - only one of which can inherit the kingdom of God. (Guess which one.)"

I just found that interesting

salguod said...

This is along the lines of me leaving my wife a note as I leave the house, knowing that she'll be home before I will:
"Honey, I was working on the computer before I left and the good news is that I got it fixed. Unfortunately, I ran short of time and had to leave all my tool out on the table. I'll clean it all up when I get home."
The context means I'll clean up my tools when I return, not 'all' of our possessions.

Keith Brenton said...

Lacey, I had completely forgotten that one.

Douglas - good illustration! We exaggerate when we say "all" - all the time!

Okay, not "all" the time ....