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  • « Chapter Eight: The Greatness of the Love of Christ is Displayed in His Subjection of All Else to His Purpose of Redeeming Us. | Main | What Do We Mean When We Declare that Human Beings Have No Free Will? »

    All Preachers Should Get A Short Course in Logic

    It is an amazingly high calling to be a teacher of God's word. It carries with it both great privilege and great responsibility. It is a holy and awesome task.

    I believe it would help every teacher of the Bible to have even a short course in logic. I need it. We all need it. It definitely would stop some ridiculous stuff being taught.

    In the realm of logic, I am very much a layman. However, I do know this - in logic we learn the difference between a necessary implication (because something is explicitly stated) and a statement that is a possible implication (but not necessary).

    An example of a necessary implication of a statement:

    Statement 1. If it snows - the school will close.

    Implication - It is snowing, therefore the school is closed.

    There is no wiggle room here - if the first sentence is true, then the second sentence (the implication) necessarily follows.

    On the other hand, here's an example of a possible implication (that may or may not be true):

    Statement 2. Timothy will work at his father's farm this summer.

    Implication: Timothy will work at both his father's farm and at the grocery store.

    Here if the first sentence is true, then the second sentence in the statement MAY be true, but it does not follow from the first. He may work in two different places - this is true, but that is not something that can be verified from the first sentence. It is a possible but not a necessary implication.

    Here's where I go with all this. We as God's ministers should only preach and teach necessary implications as doctrine - that which is explicitly stated. Doctrine should never be built on POSSIBLE implications of a text, but NECESSARY implications - this is the essence of exegesis, drawing out from the text what is actually there. The opposite is eisegesis, reading into the text things that are never actually stated.

    Just exercising this principle of logic would serve us all so well, especially over passages such as Hebrews 6:4-9:

    4 For it is impossible to restore again to repentance those who have once been enlightened, who have tasted the heavenly gift, and have shared in the Holy Spirit, 5 and have tasted the goodness of the word of God and the powers of the age to come, 6 if they then fall away, since they are crucifying once again the Son of God to their own harm and holding him up to contempt. 7 For land that has drunk the rain that often falls on it, and produces a crop useful to those for whose sake it is cultivated, receives a blessing from God. 8 But if it bears thorns and thistles, it is worthless and near to being cursed, and its end is to be burned. 9 Though we speak in this way, yet in your case, beloved, we feel sure of better things- things that belong to salvation.

    Invalid interpretations of this passage in Hebrews chapter 6 has resulted in much confusion on the issue of the perserverance (or preservation) of the saints. Here are some words on this from Vincent Cheung who was responding to someone who said that they still tended to read passages like this as an Arminian:

    Question/Comment: "I have been thinking about Hebrews 6:4-6, and I am still struggling to be more impartial with it…. I recall that you have talked about these verses, but I am still struggling…

    Response: Besides my own remarks, there are a number of commentaries that adequately address Hebrews 6. It is good to read and review them. After that, the struggle is not in attaining exegetical precision with the passage, but it is in the part of you that still tends to read it as an Arminian — as a self-centered rebel — when there is no warrant for it.

    Consider the example of John 3:16. It says that whoever believes will not perish but have eternal life, which both Calvinism and Arminianism affirm, but it does not say who will believe or why they will believe. Thus the verse affirms only salvation by faith, and has no relevance to the disagreement between Calvinism and Arminianism until you bring other biblical passages into the discussion. However, many people want to read it as Arminians, and so they think that Arminianism is what it proves. They take the words "whoever believes" to mean something so different as, "Every man has free will, and anyone can by his free will believe in Christ apart from God's foreordination and direct control." I might as well deduce the entire Alice in Wonderland when someone says "Good morning" or "Have a nice day."

    Likewise, Hebrews 6 says that whoever satisfies the listed conditions and then withdraws from the faith cannot repent again. Since this is what it says, then this is what it means. Now, we can argue about whether these conditions completely define a believer. We could argue from the example of Judas, who exercised the very powers of the world to come, but Jesus knew from the beginning that he was "a devil." He was never truly converted. However, even this discussion is unnecessary, since it is irrelevant to the main point of the passage. Even if it describes a believer, does a believer actually withdraw? Does it ever happen? The passage does not say. The only mention of this topic points toward the other direction: "Even though we speak like this, dear friends, we are confident of better things in your case — things that accompany salvation" (v. 9). The writer was convinced that at least the original readers would not suffer the fate that he describes. What is it then? The passage cannot be used to support Arminianism, since even the relevance is absent.

    I could say, "If God dies, then the earth will also disappear," or something to that effect. The statement is certainly true. But will it ever happen? Is it even possible? It would be pure lunacy to infer from the statement, "Therefore, it is possible for God to die." The statement does not address the topic at all. Now, we could argue that the words "if God dies" contain a categorical error, rendering the phrase meaningless, but other than that, the statement makes an important point, that God is the sustainer of all things, and that all things continuously depend on him. This is what it implies, and one cannot read more into it unless he does so by force.

    Part of the difficulty in confronting Arminianism, then, is to overcome your own Arminianism — whatever of it that remains in your heart."

    Some time back I wrote an article on the preacher's need to teach God's word called "Excuse me waiter, did you mess with the food?" found here. - JS

    Posted by John Samson on March 1, 2010 10:26 AM


    Hi John, long time no see. This is a terrific reminder for the preacher. This primer on logic also has a tie in to laziness in that it takes a bit of effort to discern possible implications from necessary implications. I had never heard it put that way before and that is excellent. In fact this Sunday I was preaching on the the intermediate heaven and I actually delved into some possible implications. In my case it wasn't laziness so much as it was my falling in love with my own view of a few matters. I still want to hold on to the notion that what I was saying was not pure eisegesis as it had some resonance with other texts. Furthermore, I think I could argue that these were "good" consequences of a series of texts, but maybe not necessary consequences. So, I can quite agree and I am glad that you have said that. This week I go to the eternal state - the New Heaven and New Earth and that is ripe with possibilities for eisegesis, possible implication, etc..

    I wanted to throw something out at you on the whole John 3:16 issue. I would argue that it has direct relevance to the Calvinism vs. Arminian issue, even without bringing other Scriptures into it. I would ask John 3:16 to carry the whole weight but I think a prima facie reading of it lends credence to limited atonement. So I am not saying that it resolves the whole system, it just helps in the discussion of limited atonement. In this we begin with a large group - the world of people and these people are objects of God's love. Granted some of our Calvinistic friends try to limit the word "world"here to the world of believers but I don't think that is helpful or necessary. We can acknowledge that God loves the world in the sense of all those he has created and there is nothing in the word "love" which necessitates a specific, salvific love. This love is a general, benevolent, love given to all those who bear His image. It is quite reasonable to assume that God holds all who bear His image in some level of affection.

    But then the rest of the verse limits the number of the saved. God said that loves the whole world, but a much smaller subset of those from the "world" are saved - they, the saved ones, are that smaller number who believe on Jesus.

    So, even on this level we can see discrimination on the part of God between those He loves and those He saves. He does not say that He saves all that He loves. The number of those saved is "limited" to those who believe.

    Further, they are the ones for whom God gave His only begotten son. The giving of God's only begotten son is with reference to those who believe and are thereby saved.

    And what is this "giving of His only begotten Son" if not His giving Christ to bear the sins of His people on the cross.

    Ergo, this is atonement and it is limited to those who believe. Those who don't believe have no claim on the atoning work of Christ.

    Granted, you are spot on that this says nothing about who believes or how they believe and thus it doesn't address some of the other petals of our beautiful and beloved Tulip.

    But the debate over limited atonement is a debate over "for whom did Christ die?" John 3:16 seems to answer that clearly - Christ did not come to die for the world, He only came to die for that limited number of people who believed in Him, and we Calvinists can then address who comes to believe and why with other Scriptures.

    So how did I do on that? Do you think I read my system back into the passage, thus practicing eisegesis. I actually think this way of thinking can claim "exegesis" as it's mode of interaction with the text. And did all of that rambling make a possible or a necessary implication?

    Anyway, it's late, I'm an insomniac and your post piqued my interest so I just had a bit of fun commenting. Please forgive me for such a long comment, but thanks for this helpful and healthy reminder.

    Oh, it's John Samson. We've never met but I have read some of your stuff. I was saying hi to John Hendryx, so he's the one I have a truly "long time no see" relationship with. Please pass my greetings along to him, but please also accept my apologies for confusing the two of you and my thanks for this stimulating post.

    I absolutely agree. We all need to study logic more closely. An excellent place to start is the logic lectures found here

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