Proposition 6: Inferences and Deductions

November 13, 2005

Thomas Cambell’s sixth proposition states:

That although inferences and deductions from scripture premises, when fairly inferred, may be truly called the doctrine of God’s holy word: yet are they not formally binding upon the consciences of christians farther than they perceive the connection, and evidently see that they are so; for their faith must not stand in the wisdom of men; but in the power and veracity of God–therefore no such deductions can be made terms of communion, but do properly belong to the after and progressive edification of the church. Hence it is evident that no such deductions or inferential truths ought to have any place in the churchs’s confession.

What a profound point! If all believers could understand this principle, in all its depth, could we not be united? Could we accept someone as a believer, who has not yet understood everything we have understood? Could we wait patiently while God works in them?

Paul demonstrated this kind of patience with others, and exhorted the believers to do likewise. The entire books of 1 Corinthians and 2 Corinthians are excellent examples of Paul demonstrating this attitude. Note that Paul addresses a church with serious errors as believers in 1 Corinthians 10:1, 11:33, 12:1, 15:1, 16:15. Those he called accursed were those who do not “love the Lord” (1 Cor 16:22).

Also, consider what Paul says in Phil 3:15-16:

All of us who are mature should take such a view of things. And if on some point you think differently, that too God will make clear to you. Only let us live up to what we have already attained.

Even the inspired apostle Paul allowed for people to disagree with him. (How arrogant of us, as uninspired believers, to demand that everyone agree with us!) Paul was willing to wait for a person to be taught by God over time, to become persuaded of the correct view. He didn’t consider them to be in sin, or excluded, or “in the doghouse”. And he didn’t constantly badger them about the question. It was OK, even though he knew they were wrong! It seems that Paul really believed that God would handle the situation, so Paul did not have to make it happen himself.

In 2 Timothy 2:24-25 Paul writes:

And the Lord’s servant must not quarrel; instead, he must be kind to everyone, able to teach, not resentful. Those who oppose him he must gently instruct, in the hope that God will grant them repentance leading them to a knowledge of the truth,

Even someone who “opposes” the man of God should receive gentle instruction, and should be given time to let God teach him. The opponent may need to repent, and may need to learn the truth, but he is not to be treated as an outsider or as an enemy. Rather, the opponent was like a prisoner of war, taken captive by the devil.

In Romans 14:3-4 Paul writes:

The man who eats everything must not look down on him who does not, and the man who does not eat everything must not condemn the man who does, for God has accepted him. Who are you to judge someone else’s servant? To his own master he stands or falls. And he will stand, for the Lord is able to make him stand.

And in verse 13:

Therefore let us stop passing judgment on one another. Instead, make up your mind not to put any stumbling block or obstacle in your brother’s way.

Again, Paul exhorts us to accept the one who disagrees with us. He even makes the point that the Lord will make him stand (Rom 14:4). We should leave room for God to teach a person, or to accept him as he is.

Thank God for his mercy and patience, that he has not yet destroyed us for harshly judging our brothers and sisters.

The entire series: Comments on the Thirteen Propositions of Thomas Campbell


  1. […] Adding expedients to the discussion just rephrases the same arguments. The same difficulties exist with or without expedients. CENI + silence + expedients = divisions + more divisions. The root of the problem IMO is in what we bind on others. It is one thing to bind CENI and the silence of the scriptures on yourself. It is quite another to bind them on others who haven’t reached the same depth of biblical understanding (Thomas Campbell’s sixth proposition). […]

  2. […] determination of which inferences are truly necessary. Further, we noted that Thomas Campbell had argued against the binding of inferences on those who have not come to the same conclusion. Inferences are inherently based on human […]

  3. […] danger of binding necessary inferences is twofold. First, as Thomas Campbell reasoned in his sixth proposition, if we bind inferences on those who have not understood the inference, we are calling on them to […]

  4. […] Comments Necessary Inference … on Proposition 6: Inferences and…The Big Squeeze: Sil… on Proposition 6: Inferences and…The Big Squeeze: Sil… on […]

  5. […] Campbell argued against including inferences and deductions in the confessions of the church in his sixth proposition of the Declaration and Address, and against binding inferences in his seventh proposition. His son […]

  6. […] Campbell addressed this issue in his sixth, seventh, and eighth […]

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