Devoted to the Propagation and Defense of New Testament Christianity
August 25, 1955
NUMBER 16, PAGE 6,10b

Three Ways To Teach A Thing!

Luther W. Martin, St. James, Missouri

Considerable attention has been given the study of logic and hermeneutics since the Lufkin Tant-Harper Debate, at which time, Brother E. R. Harper stated:

"There are four ways to teach a thing: one is by command; the other is by an example; the other is by necessary inference; and, the other is by a principle eternal."

It is this writer's contention that the FOURTH way to teach a thing, 'principle eternal,' is something new under the sun. However, inasmuch as the expression `necessary inference' seems to be a bit confusing to some Bible readers, we thought we would give it some consideration.

Webster's Definitions Re: 'Necessary Inference.'

INFERENCE: "A truth or proposition drawn from another which is admitted or supposed to be true; a conclusion."

NECESSARY: "Inevitable; such as cannot be avoided; following as an unavoidable consequence or result."


The Bible is replete with such teaching as does not fall within the category of a DIRECT COMMAND, or an APPROVED EXAMPLE, but it does come under the classification of logic, usually termed 'necessary inference.'

Examples Of Necessary Inference

We copy as follows from page 55, of Hardeman's Tabernacle Sermons, Vol. IV:

"Now, I can illustrate what I mean by a necessary inference. In the twelfth chapter of Genesis we have an account of a famine in the land of Palestine, so much so that Abraham and Sarah, his wife, went down into the land of Egypt, and because of her beauty, there was trouble with the Pharaohs. After all that is over, the first verse of the thirteenth chapter of Genesis says this, `And Abraham went up out of Egypt, he, and his wife, and all that he had, and Lot went with him up out of Egypt?' Now question, did Lot go down into Egypt? The Bible is as silent as the twinkling stars. There is not a word ever said about it. Some one said, what do you think about it? Because of the statement the Bible says, `Lot came up out of Egypt,' I am forced to the conclusion, therefore, that he must have gone down into the land else the statement of the Bible that he came up out of it could not be true. I infer, therefore, with all the right of Bible authority, Lot went down into Egypt."

From the editorial page of the Gospel Guardian, April 14, 1955, Brother Yater Tant wrote as follows:

"But what do we mean by saying that we learn God's will 'by necessary inference'? What is an inference, and what is a necessary inference? An easy example will clarify the point: 'And it came to pass in those days that Jesus came from Nazareth of Galilee, and was baptized of John in the Jordan. And straightway coming up out of the water, he saw the heavens rent asunder, and the Spirit as a dove descending upon him.' (Mark 1:9, 10.) Now, if there were not a single intimation anywhere else in all the Bible as to the 'mode' or 'action' of Jesus' baptism, and if we had no idea at all as to the meaning of the word 'baptism,' we would of necessity infer that Jesus had gone into the water before it was possible for him to 'come up out of it.' No other conclusion is possible. It is a necessary inference."

Of course, one cannot locate the words 'necessary inference' in the Bible, anymore than one can find the words 'phrase,' 'clause; or 'paragraph' in the Bible. Yet, no one questions the fact that the Bible contains phrases, clauses, paragraphs ....and for that matter, necessary inferences.

Methods Of Proof

In his book of sermons, Brother John S. Sweeney was dealing with the subject of infant baptism, and had this to say, concerning establishing biblical proofs:

"To establish such a practice as the baptism of infants, it has been held and it seems to me properly and correctly, that there are but three possible methods of proof — that is, of course, from the Protestant standpoint. With such persons as believe in high churchism, the authority of the church is all-sufficient. But with these I shall not reason in this discourse. If I were going to argue with them about infant baptism, or about sprinkling and pouring for baptism, or about any one of several other questions, I should begin with the fundamental question of church authority.

"The three methods of proof among Protestants, then, are (1) Precept of scripture, (2) Example of scripture, and (3) Inference from scripture. By precept of scripture is meant an express commandment, recorded in scripture, either by our Lord himself or by some one unquestionably authorized by him ... By example of scripture is meant a recorded instance of the baptism of an infant with the approval either of our Lord himself or by any one of the inspired men of the New Testament ... By inference from scripture is meant a logical deduction from scripture either that infants were baptized by our Lord or some one or more of his authorized teachers in New Testament times, or that he or they said that they should be." (Sweeney's Sermons, Page 267-268.

Guy N. Woods - A. U. Nunnery Debate

On page three of the published Woods-Nunnery Debate, Brother Guy N. Woods was defining his affirmative proposition when he stated: "By 'teach,' to say so, in so many words, or else to indicate it either by direct command, apostolic example, or necessary inference."

Roy H. Lanier - D. J. Whitten Debate

On page 74 of the Whitten-Lanier Debate, Brother Roy H. Lanier was defining his affirmative proposition and said: "By 'authorized' I mean sanctioned either by a command, example or inference; or associated with a command as one of a number of ways of obeying the command."

James D. Bales - P. W. Stonestreet Debate

On page one of the Bales-Stonestreet Debate, Brother P. W. Stonestreet was defining his affirmative proposition and announced: ". . . by 'teach' is meant what is set forth by express command, necessary inference, or approved example"

Hoyt H. Houchen - Ray Tatum Debate

On page seven of the Houchen-Tatum Debate, Brother Hoyt H. Houchen was defining his affirmative proposition and declared: "By 'teach' I mean to impart information, instruct. Note (and I want us to observe this), this teaching may be done by direct statement or command, approved apostolic example, and necessary inference."

Thomas B. Warren - L. S. Ballard Debate

On page 119 of the Warren-Ballard Debate, Brother Thomas B. Warren was defining his affirmative proposition and said: "By 'teach,' I mean to say so, by either a command, approved example, or necessary inference to teach a thing."

F. J. Crosswell - Robert R. Price Debate

On page 55, of the Crosswell-Price Debate, Brother Robert R. Price was defining his proposition when he stated: "The scriptures teach, we mean by that the Old and New Testament scriptures, as we ordinarily accept them; they teach, they instruct, they express by word or implications, they teach by necessary inference and so on, by expressed example or precedent ...."


Without exception, every debater that has gone to the effort of clearly defining his proposition, and enumerating the number of WAYS TO TEACH A THING, has always presented THREE WAYS until the Lufkin Tant-Harper Debate, when Brother Harper from some source, evolved a FOURTH way to teach a thing, and labeled it `principle eternal.'

Of course, as Brother Sweeney indicated in his quotation above, the high churchmen accept more than three ways to teach a thing. Romanism, for example, will add the Church's authority, the Pope's authority, and Tradition of the Fathers. But it is assumed by this writer, that we are interested only in Christ's authority, as made known through the New Testament. If this be the case, then we'd better be satisfied with (1) Direct command, (2) Approved example, and (3) Necessary inference.