Devoted to the Propagation and Defense of New Testament Christianity
March 15, 1956

From Whence Come Principles?

R. L. (Bob) Craig, Lometa, Texas

For many years, in colleges, Bible classes, preacher's discussions, debates, preaching, etc., we have been taught that we learn God's will for man by direct command, necessary inference, or approved example. And, of course, we learn of history by just simple statements of fact. But now, in arguments made to justify some particular church becoming a central agency through which many churches operate, come certain prominent brethren attempting to set aside that old-fashioned idea and another way to learn God's will has been introduced. That is, by principles, or principle eternal!

I agree that the law of Christ involves us in principles, generally speaking, rather than step by step law. But the question is: where do these principles come from? How do we know of these principles? What happens to cause a principle to exist? Did God speak a principle?

A principle cannot be unless something brings that principle into existence. For instance, we speak of a thing as being against our principles. What do we mean? Why, we mean that in some way we have learned of a certain thing and that learning applied in our lives becomes a principle; a rule of conduct. But how was the principle established? Why, through learning, of course. But, did we learn the principle itself or did we learn a rule that brought the principle into existence? I am suggesting that the learning of a rule brought about the principle. Never did we learn a principle first that became a law. And every principle we know of came into existence by learning in one of the three ways mentioned: by direct command, by necessary inference, or by approved example.

Veracity is a principle of Christianity. How did we learn that? "Let him that stole steal no more." "Provide for honest things, not only in the sight of God, but also in the sight of man," etc., etc. Benevolence, righteousness, love, long-suffering, etc., are principles of Christianity. But how were these principles established? Why, by direct command, necessary inference, or approved example. Principles of right and wrong; how established?; by one of the three mentioned ways. On and on we could go but let's see where the fallacy is. It all finally boils down to an old digressive dodge.

Under the heading of the three aforementioned things we have general and specific or essentials and incidentals. All commands of God carry with them the authority for the incidentals or expedients in carrying them out, if no specific is mentioned. If there is a specific, everything else is excluded. God commanded Noah to make an ark of gopher wood. Now gopher wood was a specific and excludes any other kind of wood. But giving him the command to build it of gopher wood authorized him to use whatever honorable means he desired for the obtaining of the wood. He could cut it himself, hire men to work under his supervision, or buy it from others. But he had to get it somewhere. That was a part of fulfilling of God's command. It wasn't a principle that taught him that; it was the general command to build an ark that gave him such authority. We are commanded to make music unto the Lord. (Eph. 5:19.) To sing is the specific command. That excludes making music in any other way. But, whatshall we sing? The Bible answers; psalms, hymns and spiritual songs. Where shall we get them? God has given no specific therefore we are free to use our own judgment. Songbooks are authorized, not by principle, but by the necessity of carrying out God's command when no specific is suggested. Expediency, if you please.

We could go on with classes, cups, located preacher, etc., but I think you can see the point and can carry the lesson on yourself into whatever religious field you may desire. Brethren, we can still learn God's will for man in the three suggested ways; let no one try to tell you differently, and thus confuse your thinking and deceive your heart.