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Matthew 28:18-20 The bible is a special revelation from God. Faith is acquired by the study of the word itself (Rom. 10:17), and it is proven by the practice of the things that are learned (Rom. 12:2). Since “every scripture inspired of God (is) also profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, for instruction which is in righteousness that the man of God may be complete, furnished completely unto every good work” (2 Tim. 3:16-17), it is our goal to proclaim only what the scriptures teach.
Hasty generalization is the logical fallacy that occurs when a person draws a general conclusion based on insufficient evidence. It is one of the most common errors in reasoning within our society, often creating a false sense of reality. Worse yet, when we bring this habit of thinking into our interpretation of scripture, it leads to the acceptance of many false doctrines. It is usually the result of basing a conclusion on just one or a few passages, and ignoring the balance of what the scriptures teach.
Let us consider some well-accepted doctrines that have come from this logical flaw. Most of the doctrines of Calvinism were obtained through the process of hasty generalization. Let us review them, recalling the TULIP acronym:
· Total Depravity. The bible teaches that “all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God” (Rom. 3:23). Nowhere does the bible teach the generalization of this fact into the doctrine that individuals are totally incapable of choosing to obey God under any circumstances.
· Unconditional Election (universal predestination). The bible clearly teaches that certain things have been predestined from before the worlds were made (Rom. 8:29-30; Eph 1:5, 11), e.g., that there would be a group of individuals that would be saved. But to extrapolate this to mean that all things (or even all the saved) are predestined is not taught in scriptures. Further, it defies the assignment of personal responsibility to individuals for their own sins, which is something that we see from the time of Adam (Gen. 3:17) through every book in the bible, to the book of Revelation (Rev. 22:10-15).
· Limited Atonement. The bible clearly teaches that those who do not avail themselves of the blood of Christ will be lost (Jn. 14:6); but nothing in the bible supports the generalization of this to infer that salvation cannot apply to all men everywhere who subject themselves to the will of God (Heb. 5:9; Rom. 5:18; 1 Tim. 2:4; 1 Tim. 4:10; Titus 2:11). The limit is with us, not God.
· Irresistible Grace. The bible clearly teaches that, in some sense, God has given the Holy Spirit to those who are saved (Acts 5:32; 1 Jn. 3:24). In no passage is it indicated that the influence of the Holy Spirit cannot be resisted. On the contrary, “Quench not the Spirit” (1 Thes. 5:19) necessarily implies that the Christian can resist the influence of the Spirit.
· Preservation of the Saved. The bible clearly teaches that no outside force can take salvation from us (Rom. 8:37-39). It does not say that those saved cannot fall away through their own neglect (e.g., 2 Thes. 2:3; Gal. 5:4), and the continued warnings throughout the New Testament to Christians to this effect totally refutes the doctrine of “once saved, always saved.”
It is dangerous to base any doctrine on just a few verses, and even worse to generalize the clear teachings of certain verses well beyond anything stated in the bible and to the contradiction of other clear passages. Instead we must seek the whole counsel of God (Acts 20:27) on any given subject and draw conclusions that are supported by all of them.
In the first part of this article we showed how the tenets of Calvinism were largely created and maintained by the logical fallacy of hasty generalization. This flaw of reasoning is caused by laziness and jumping to conclusions based on partial evidence. This appeals to religious people who are looking for quick support for what they want to believe. To everyone we plead – if you want to know the truth, give diligence and study it (2 Tim. 2:15), and seek after God (Heb. 11:6).
Investigate the following doctrines that have been based on his logical flaw:
· Faith only. Clearly, we are saved by faith (John 3:16), and we cannot be saved by the works of our own making (2 Tim. 1:9), or those of the Old Testament law (Rom. 3:20; Gal. 2:16). But it is very clear that the bible teaches that faith cannot exist without producing works, and if we have the type of faith that God requires, good works have to follow (Heb. 11). See Rom. 2:6; 2 Cor. 11:15; Eph. 2:10; 1 Tim. 2:10; 1 Tim. 6:18; Tit. 1:16, 2:7, 14, 3:8; Heb. 10:24; James 2:14-26, 3:13; Rev. 2:2, 5-6, 2:19-23, 3:1-15; 14:13; 20:12-13. “Faith only” is an oxymoron – we dare not make it a pillar of our religion. If we take the necessity for faith only to its logical conclusion, any good work becomes sinful.
· Modern day revelation. The bible in general and the New Testament in particular were written in a time of miracles that produced and confirmed the revelation. Some have hastily concluded that such still continues. The totality of biblical teaching on the subject, including 1 Cor. 13 and the decrease in dependence on miraculous revelation in the book of Acts, shows that this is not so. If miracles as exemplified in the New Testament occurred today they would cause such a stir that everyone would quickly know it from news sources. Miracles were never intended to be hidden – they revealed and proved the truth.
· Bible complexity. There are certainly some difficult books and some passages in many books of the bible that are difficult, and Peter even talked about some of Paul’s writings being difficult to understand (2 Pet. 3:16). It is a hasty generalization, however, to conclude that the entire bible is this difficult. Paul and the Hebrews writer talked about the simple milk of the word and the more difficult meat (1 Cor. 3:2; 9:7; Heb.5:12-13). We are encouraged to read and understand it (Eph. 3:4), starting with the milk and building our understanding from that (1 Pet. 2:2).
· Judging others. The often quoted Matthew 7:1 (“Judge not, that ye be not judged”) is often used to prove that we should not judge at all. However, a reading of the next four verses shows that this command is given to those who have no right to judge others since they are in worse sin themselves. Jesus said in John 7:24: “Judge not according to appearance, but judge righteous judgment.” “According to appearance” refers to hasty conclusions without full investigation, i.e., hasty generalization. Christians are commanded to exercise discipline (e.g., 1 Cor. 5), and this requires us to judge, but we must do it motivated by love and according to biblical principles (e.g., see Mt. 18:15-17).
· Racism. Very closely associated with judging others – when we judge an entire race, nationality or other group based on the actions of just a few of them, this too is the result of the logical error of hasty generalization.
These are just a few examples of false and misleading principles that have been derived by the logical flaw of hasty generalization. It is imperative if we are to understand God’s word that we not jump to conclusions based on a single passage or verse, but that we see the entirety of the biblical teaching on the subject, and thereby teach and practice “the whole counsel of God” (Acts 20:27).
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