Devoted to the Propagation and Defense of New Testament Christianity
December 20, 1956

"A Categorical Deductive Syllogism"

E. Lewis Case

(Editor's Note: Some months ago Brother Roy Deaver and Brother Thomas B. Warren began to advocate a "new" argument to support centralized control evangelistic cooperatives and human institutions through which to do the work of the church. This argument, familiarly known as the "total situation, component parts, constituent elements" argument was joyously embraced by the brethren defending institutionalism. Brother Harper discarded the "principal eternal" argument of the Lufkin debate in order to advance the "total situation" argument in Abilene; Brother Guy N. Woods at Indianapolis declared it to be "irresistible" and "unanswerable."

The following analysis of this type of reasoning shows that the only legitimate way by which this argument can prove conclusive is one that would require INFALLIBILITY on the part of the reasoner! This is a "total situation" which only a few are yet ready to concede to the brethren advancing the argument.)

Major Premise: All total situations the constituent elements of which are scriptural are total situations which are scriptural.

Minor Premise: The total situation described in the proposition (Warren's) is a total situation the constituent elements of which are scriptural.

Conclusion: The total situation described in the proposition (Warren's) is a total situation which is scriptural.

This is a categorical, deductive syllogism. In orderto prove the major premise by a process of reasoning, it is necessary to use an inductive process; that is, reasoning from the particular to the general. In inductive reasoning there are two types — perfect induction and imperfect induction. Perfect induction consists of examining all (without exception) of the constituent elements and drawing the conclusion from the perfect sample. Imperfect induction examines some, a few, or even most of the constituent elements and reaches only a probable conclusion.

Most, if not all, perfect induction (all constituent elements examined) requires infallibility to use. In fact, Henry Lee Ewbank and S. Jeffery Auer, in their book DISCUSSION AND DEBATE, state as follows: "That is, deduction attempts proof in the sense that if premises are accepted as valid and if their relationship is sound they prove the conclusion. In the case of induction, however, the assembled evidence impels the formulation of an hypothesis which asserts only a probability." (Page 163) This would certainly be true concerning the evidence of the Bible being equal to the sum of all of its parts. The only possible way to prove the Bible perfect by reason would be to examine every constituent element of the will of God, and who is infallible enough to do that! We determine that by faith and not by reason. We accept the statement of the Bible that it is perfect. We resort to authority instead of reason to prove it.

The minor premise in Brother Warren's syllogism is even more difficult to prove for it is a generalization in itself. The first thing that must be proven is that all of the constituent elements have been considered; for if one has been omitted, the conclusion is only probable. In such cases. one must be infallible to be sure, or else he must have an infallible authority to quote as saying these are all of the constituent elements. Secondly, each constituent element must he proved either by induction or infallible authority which would be the same problems all over again. Add to this the problem of a fallible man trying to infallibly apply the perfect law of liberty to a complex situation and a person really has a problem in trying to prove this minor premise.

According to the Bible, we walk by faith and not by sight: and logic is a matter of walking by sight and not by faith. Surely we use reason to apply the authority we have from the word of God to specific situations. For example, we have authority that baptism is necessary to salvation. We can affirm that the person who has not been baptized is lost, but we cannot prove anything about a particular baptized person. We can affirm that if a person is the proper subject of baptism, that he is baptized in the proper manner, by the proper authority and for the proper purpose that he is saved; but we cannot say that John Doe is saved (infallibly) even though we have seen him go through the form, for we cannot know his heart.