Thursday, December 29, 2011



Although brother Ferrell Jenkins shows that it is possible for shepherds to be in the field in December (See   ), he does not argue that Jesus WAS born in the winter months, inclusive of December, but that the argument that shepherds would not be out in the fields in December is not a strong and reliable argument against a December birth for Jesus.  Our brother Jenkins says:

I am not saying that Jesus was born in December. Only that the common misunderstanding about Bethlehem winters is based on our lack of knowledge about the local terrain.

Some take that to mean that Jesus could have been born in December, and that the only argument against a December birth has been disproven. Actually,  shepherds in the field is not the only argument that shows December to be the unlikely time for Jesus’ birth.  From Luke’s account of the birth of John the Baptist and of Jesus we learn the following facts:

» Zacharias, a priest, performed his duties during the course of Abijah.

» After he returned home from Jerusalem, Elizabeth conceived.

» Mary conceived in the sixth month of Elizabeth's pregnancy.

» John was born approximately six months before Jesus.

The Course of Abijah

To date Jesus' birth, we need a starting point. Fortunately, Luke supplies one in mentioning "the course of Abijah" (Luke 1:5). Is it possible to know if this course existed then, when it fell during the year, and how long it lasted?

Indeed it is!

I Chronicles 24 lists the courses, divisions or shifts of the priesthood that served in the Temple throughout the year. Verse 1 states, "These are the divisions of the sons of Aaron." Among the sons of Eleazar were sixteen heads of their father's house, while among the sons of Ithamar were eight additional heads of house, making twenty-four courses (verse 4).

These courses of priests were divided by lot to be officials of the sanctuary and of the house of God (verse 5). Beginning on Nisan 1, these courses rotated throughout the year, serving in the Temple for one week apiece. The course of Abijah, the course during which Zacharias was responsible to work, was the eighth shift (verse 10).

Josephus, the first-century Jewish historian—who was, by the way, of the priestly lineage of the course of Jehoiarib, the first course—supplies further information about the priestly courses.

"He [David] divided them also into courses: and when he had separated the priests from them, he found of these priests twenty-four courses, sixteen of the house of Eleazar and eight of that of Ithamar; and he ordained that one course should minister to God [during] eight days, from [noon] Sabbath to [noon on the following] Sabbath. And thus were the courses distributed by lot, in the presence of David, and Zadok and Abiathar the high priest, and of all the rulers: and that course which came up first was written down as the first, and accordingly the second, and so on to the twenty-fourth; and this partition hath remained to this day" (Antiquities of the Jews, 7:14.7).

These courses were strictly followed until the Temple was destroyed in AD 70.

The Talmud describes the details of the rotation of courses, beginning on Nisan 1. With only twenty-four courses, obviously each course was required to work twice a year, leaving three extra weeks. (The Hebrew year normally has fifty-one weeks. Intercalary, or leap, years have an additional four weeks.) The three holy day seasons, Passover, Pentecost and Tabernacles, during which all the courses were required to serve, made up these three extra weeks. Thus, each of the courses worked five weeks out of the year: two in their specific courses and three during the holy day seasons.

This fact forces us to choose the first shift of the course of Abijah as the time when Gabriel visited Zacharias in the Temple. Frederick R. Coulter, in his A Harmony of the Gospels (p. 9), computes it this way:

In the year 5 bc, the first day of the first month, the month of Nisan, according to the Hebrew Calendar, was a Sabbath. According to computer calculation synchronizing the Hebrew Calendar and the stylized Julian Calendar, it was April 8. Projecting forward, the assignments course by course, and week by week, were: Course 1, the first week; Course 2, the second week; all Courses for the Passover and Feast of Unleavened Bread, the third week; Course 3, the fourth week; Course 4, the fifth week; Course 5, the sixth week; Course 6, the seventh week; Course 7, the eighth week; Course 8, the ninth week; and all courses [sic] the tenth week, which was the week of Pentecost.

Zacharias of the course of Abijah worked the ninth week in his assigned course and the tenth week in the Pentecost course, and this period ran from Iyar 27 through Sivan 12 (Hebrew calendar) or June 3 through 17 (Julian calendar). He probably returned home immediately after his shifts were completed, and Elizabeth most likely conceived in the following two-week period, June 18 through July 1, 5 BC.

With this information we can calculate Elizabeth's sixth month as December, during which Mary also conceived (Luke 1:26-38). It is probable, because of the circumstances shown in Luke 1, that Mary conceived during the last two weeks of Elizabeth's sixth month. Thus, John was born in the spring of 4 BC, probably between March 18 and 31. By projecting forward another six months to Jesus' birth, the most probable time for His birth occurred between September 16 and 29. It is an interesting sidelight that Tishri 1, the Feast of Trumpets, is one of the two middle days of this time period.

Flocks in the Fields

There is additional proof that Jesus was born in the fall of the year. The census of Quirinius that required Joseph to travel from Galilee to Bethlehem would most probably have taken place after the fall harvest when people were more able to return to their ancestral homes (Luke 2:1-5). Besides, it was customary in Judea to do their tax collecting during this period, as the bulk of a farmer's income came at this time.

Another point is that Joseph and Mary had to find shelter in a barn or some other kind of animal shelter like a cave or grotto because the inns were full (verse 7). This indicates that the pilgrims from around the world had begun to arrive in Jerusalem and surrounding towns. Thus, the fall festival season had already commenced. There would have been no similar influx of pilgrims in December.

The Month and Day:

While the New Testament fails to give us a direct statement regarding when Jesus was born, we do have enough information to establish, within a close proximity, the birthday of John the Baptist. In his Gospel, Luke writes:

In the days of King Herod of Judea, there was a priest named Zechariah, who belonged to the priestly order of Abijah. His wife was a descendant of Aaron, and her name was Elizabeth. (Luke 1:5)

The priestly order of Abijah was, according 1 Chronicles 24:7-19, the eighth of twenty-four orders which served in the temple throughout the year. The Hebrew calendar is not like the Western calendar: it begins in March/April with the month of Nisan and is calculated upon the lunar-duration method. The third week of that first month is Passover and the Feast of Unleavened Bread, when all the priests regardless of their order would serve; this was also true for Pentecost and the Feast of Tabernacles. Apart from these three high holy weeks, the 24 courses would serve in the temple in order from first to the last, each order serving a week at a time. Zechariah was of the eighth order, and this means that, with Passover and Pentecost factored in, Abijah’s first course of service in the Temple would have fallen the week immediately after Pentecost. And, it was most likely during this first tour of duty in 3 B.C. that Zechariah had the following encounter:

Once when he was serving as priest before God and his section [“order”] was on duty, he was chosen by lot, according to the custom of the priesthood, to enter the sanctuary of the Lord and offer incense. Now at the time of the incense offering, the whole assembly of the people was praying outside. Then there appeared to him an angel of the Lord, standing at the right side of the altar of incense. When Zechariah saw him, he was terrified; and fear overwhelmed him. But the angel said to him, “Do not be afraid, Zechariah, for your prayer has been heard. Your wife Elizabeth will bear you a son, and you will name him John. You will have joy and gladness, and many will rejoice at his birth, for he will be great in the sight of the Lord. He must never drink wine or strong drink; even before his birth he will be filled with the Holy Spirit. He will turn many of the people of Israel to the Lord their God. With the spirit and power of Elijah he will go before him, to turn the hearts of parents to their children, and the disobedient to the wisdom of the righteous, to make ready a people prepared for the Lord.” Zechariah said to the angel, “How will I know that this is so? For I am an old man, and my wife is getting on in years.” The angel replied, “I am Gabriel. I stand in the presence of God, and I have been sent to speak to you and to bring you this good news. But now, because you did not believe my words, which will be fulfilled in their time, you will become mute, unable to speak, until the day these things occur.” (Luke 1:8-20)

Based upon what we are told above, this amazing event occurred while Zechariah was serving in the temple during the regular duties of the eighth course of Abijah. While it is just barely possible that this might have occurred during Zechariah’s second annual tour of temple-duty in the eighth course of Abijah, other circumstances make this quite unlikely. In other words, this occurred during Zechariah’s first Abijah tour of duty, which in 3 BC would have occurred the first week of June. After his service, Zechariah would have gone straight home:

When his time of service was ended, he went to his home. After those days his wife Elizabeth conceived, and for five months she remained in seclusion. (Luke 1:23-24)

The wording is quite abrupt but not at all surprising: given the punishment he had suffered for not believing Gabriel’s announcement, Zechariah clearly didn’t waste any time but went immediately home. Given both his age and the fact that his home was in a “Judean town in the hill country,” we can surmise that it must have taken Zechariah at least a day or two to make the journey, but that within the week he would have been home. How much longer after that should we estimate that it took for Elizabeth to conceive? The passage doesn’t say, other than to apply an aramaic idiom which indicates both a short but not abrupt temporal frame; in other words, it was “after those days” in the sense that the conception wasn’t immediate, but neither did months pass. We can assume that a week or two transpired before the conception of John the Baptist and still be well within the intent and wording of the passage. Hence, we’re looking at the last week of June or the first week of July before Elizabeth would have conceived. Assuming a July 1st conception for John the Baptist, we can project the date of Jesus’ conception and birth from what Luke tells us next:

In the sixth month the angel Gabriel was sent by God to a town in Galilee called Nazareth, to a virgin engaged to a man whose name was Joseph, of the house of David. The virgin’s name was Mary. (Luke 1:26-27)

The phrase “In the sixth month” means during the sixth month of Elizabeth’s pregnancy. Unfortunately, Luke is not more specific as to when in that month Gabriel appeared to Mary, only that it happened during that month. If Elizabeth’s first month had begun by July 1st, then Mary was visited by the Angel Gabriel at some point during the month of December ... probably somewhere between the middle of the month and its end. This would allow time for Mary to proceed directly to Elizabeth’s immediately following her conception, spend “about three months” there, and then depart before John the Baptist was born.

To complete our speculation, if we assume that John the Baptist wasn’t premature, he would have been born at the beginning of April, 2 B.C. -- right around Passover. This is an amazing, but not altogether surprising conjunction, since the Jewish expectation had long been that Elijah would return at Passover! In a typological sense, he did: John the Baptist -- the new Elijah -- would prepare the way for the messiah. Since John the Baptist was conceived 6 months prior to Jesus’ conception, it obviously follows that 6 months after the birth of John the Baptist Jesus was born. It is a simple exercise to count the months:







If we project Jesus’ conception on or about December 24, and if we assume a normal pregnancy of 280 days, Jesus would have been born on or about September 29, 2 B.C.. Of course, this is only an approximate estimation. It is conceivable that John the Baptist could have been conceived and born a week or so earlier than our conjecture, or a week later. Likewise, it is entirely possible that Mary could have received Gabriels annunciation and conceived the Christ child as early as the very first week of Elizabeth’s 6th month, and not half to two-thirds of the way through the month. In this case, Jesus would have been born as early as the first week of September, rather than at the end of the month. Any combination of these factors might be possible, which could push Jesus’ birth as much as a month earlier, or a half-month later, depending upon the variables, but this doesn’t seem likely to me. I believe that the evidence points to a mid-to-late December conception and a late September birth for the Son of God.


What does it matter if Jesus was born on or about September 29th? In terms of our salvation and matters of eternal life: nothing. Salvation comes by grace through faith in Jesus Christ, not through the keeping of high holy days. However, it is important that we speak the truth, and this includes being truthful regarding what we are doing on December 25th.

We celebrate the birth of Jesus at a time other than its actual anniversary because doing so is convenient to the needs, history, and traditions of the Church. In the 4th century it was convenient because several pagan winter-solstice celebrations greatly appealed to many Christians, and since the Church couldn't stop the party they simply adopted and Christianized it. In our current day it's the religious, cultural, and historic inertia of 1700 years which makes it convenient and appealing to continue celebrating the birth of Jesus on December 25th. Granted, some don't consider historical inertia sufficient cause to continue the tradition, but in terms of practical reality that is precisely the reason the celebration continues even despite the political and cultural challenges which have risen to combat it in recent years. To put this another way, we continue with the tradition because we enjoy doing it.

TB: The above writer admits that December is not the time of Jesus’ birth, but he winds up saying that the only reason is it celebrated in December is because “we enjoy doing it” and it is too hard to go against 1700 years of traditional inertia.

TB:  We can certainly concede the argument that shepherds COULD be in the field at night in any month of the year including December, but there is better evidence available to point us more likely to a September date for Jesus’ birth and NO EVIDENCE that Jesus was born in December .
Evidence shows that though the early church could have selected a date to celebrate the day of Jesus' birth, they did not select such a date and God did not tell them to.  We are happy Jesus was born, but God instructed a memorial of His death, but did not give instructions for a yearly memorial of His birth.  That is where we should leave it.

Terry W. Benton

Thursday, December 22, 2011

Let's Keep The Mass in Christmas?

Let's Keep The Mass in Christmas?

I may seem to be a fuddy-dud or a scrooge in saying this, but Christmas is a national holiday that started out under the misguided influences of people who blindly accepted it as a proper time to celebrate the birth of Christ.  Christmas, as a concept,  has evolved and has meant different things to different people. God's people have always tried to tell the truth that this is not the time Jesus was born, and that we should not go along with the lies that others are telling and singing when they say such things as "Christ was born on Christmas morning".  We have tried to honor the Lord's birth at all times of the year, but frankly too much is made of Jesus' birth in an incorrect time of year, and too little is made of His death which provides the salvation of mankind through consistent and persistent faith in Him.  The Lord told us to do something to memorialize His death (1 Cor.11:17f) and even tells us that is it to be done each first day of the week (Acts 20:7; 1 Cor.16:1-2), yet the clear instructions are ignored while inconsistently insisting on a yearly human tradition be observed (and that on the wrong day).  God did not tell us a day to observe a birthday party for Jesus, yet people insist on picking out a poorly chosen date, and acting like God is pleased with what they are doing to erroneously celebrate Jesus' birth.

All the fuss about "keeping Christ in Christmas" is a lot about nothing.  Christmas is not a divinely given command. It is a misguided human tradition.  It makes no sense for Christians to tell people to "keep Christ in Christmas" when we would not equally demand that people "keep the Mass in Christmas".  The religious origins of the term for Christmas goes back to Roman Catholicism. The Roman Catholics adapted a Mass to coincide with an earlier pagan festival.  Thus, the term "Christ-Mass".  Protestants did not want to keep the mass in Christmas (a Catholic usage), so they retained the term "Christmas" while removing the mass as a practice. They wanted to keep the concept of celebrating Jesus' birth, but they dropped the Catholic concept of MASS.  Through the years, the Catholics have wanted to keep the mass in Christmas.  Protestants did not mind the term "Christ-mas" as long as one did not actually observe the "Mass" that Catholics had associated with the day.  Thus, Christmas evolved to mean different things to Catholics and to Protestants. 

The term has evolved further.  As different people found the holiday a fun time of family and color and personal traditions, it has been the tradition of many families who did not associate the time of year called "Christmas" to anything religious, to use the time to celebrate the blessings of family and children.  Trees, and lights, and decorations, and gifts have just been a nice, enjoyable, time of year for the family.  Some associate it to the birth of Christ (without good Biblical reason to do so) and others, realizing it has no Biblical support, do not associate it to the birth of Christ.  Some of these are Christians who see no biblical basis for supporting the error that Jesus was born in December, particularly, December 25.  Others do not mind the term "Christmas", because it has come to mean nothing religious anymore.  Just as the terms "Monday" and "Thursday" have lost their religious association to pagan gods, Christmas is not viewed by many as an inherently religious term.  It has religious origins, just as "Monday" and "Thursday" have religious origins, but the terms have lost religious associations, and the use of the terms themselves do not prove anything about what is believed about those terms.  The term has come to mean different things to different people, some with religious significance and some without it.

Some Protestants are speaking out about how upset they are about the reference to "Christ" in Christmas, being dropped, but they do not want to confess that a MASS is built into the term too.  They simply ignore it, and then adjust to it, and then adopt it with a different connotation to what they choose to think about the day of Dec.25.  If they can keep the term and make it mean to them what they prefer it to mean, then why cannot others adopt the term and say it means fun and family?  The truth is, this is exactly what has happened.  Christ Himself was never associated with Dec.25 as a holy day.  If we should join the cry to keep Christ in Christmas religiously, then consistency demands that we also make an equal plea to get the MASS back in Christmas religiously.

While I do not like the ever increasing efforts to remove references to God, Jesus, or Christ from public displays, and have every American right to confess and profess the name of Jesus where I please, and while I defend the American right to profess God in any way an American feels compelled to profess Him, I am not at all convinced that GOD was ever honored by men adapting His name to a pagan holy day. I'm certain that when people say "Lord haven't we done this in your name" (Matt.7:21f), that the Lord will say it was all "lawlessness" and iniquity, done without His authority at all.  A lot of what men say they are doing in His name, is not done by His authorization at all.  The American way and the Bible way are often polls apart.  Traditional religion and the Bible are often very different.  I don't have an American gripe about people wanting to put Christ in Christmas.  I have a biblical gripe that people don't seem to want Christ much at all in many other days of the year, but they pretend that it is important to God that we tell people Jesus was born on Dec.25.  That is just plain wrong.  Let's put Jesus in our hearts every day of the year.  And if we are going to say anything about a day that matters to God, let's be sure to mention every first day of the WEEK (Act2. 20:7; 1 Cor.16:1,2).  Do you want to put the MASS back in Christmas?  Christ never was in Christmas.  Men invented it according to their own will.  Christ never was in the Mass.  Men invented that too.  Christ belongs in every heart every day of every year.  Let us put Christ where He belongs and deserves to be, right there in your heart and mine.  Only then will He be honored.   Terry W. Benton

Terry W. Benton

Thursday, December 15, 2011

The Common Thread of God's Amazing Revelation: The Bible

The Common Thread of God's Amazing Revelation: The Bible

There is an amazing common thread running from Genesis to Malachi. These 39 books were written over a span of about 1500 years by men of different occupations and cultural circumstance. They all discourage belief in the mythical gods made by human hands, but spend much time rebuking the Israelite people for getting caught up in those visually stimulating religions of paganism and superstition. While they lay out a sorry history of the Jews' time and again departing from the invisible Creator God who chose them for a Messianic purpose, yet the Israelites acknowledge these writers as telling the truth and being inspired by God to write what they wrote.

From Paradise to Sin

Each book reflects back to the beginning when sin caused the corruption of sin and death to enter the world. Man's paradise was beautiful and the greatest beauty was that Adam and Eve could "walk with God" in harmony in the Garden until sin ruined that ability.  Sin is the poison of the heart, mind, and soul that fouls the connection to perfect holiness, which characterizes the Creator, God. When sin enters the world, God cannot walk with the contaminated creature. Sin is as foul to God as physical disease is to us, but more so. So, the numerous comparisons to leprosy throughout the scriptures were designed to help us understand that fact.

A wall of separation between the Holy God and unholy man was created by this contaminant, sin. The tempter, already separated from God, had successfully pulled man over to the dark side by appealing to the lust of the eye, lust of the flesh, and the pride of life. God's will was compromised and broken, and a wall of separation between God and man would have to be repaired before God and man can ever return to that beautiful paradise walk of harmony again.

God will repair this broken relationship, because God loves his people. He will begin a repair program that envisions a time ahead where the woman, instead of being used by the tempter to destroy man and injure God, will be used by God to bring a "seed of the woman"(Gen.3:15) to deliver a serious blow to the tempter and his power over the tempted. It will be a blow to Satan's head while the seed of the woman suffers slight injury in the process. Satan works hard to corrupt all of mankind so that this promised "seed" will not be able to come, and God's plan will fail, just as man failed God in the beginning.

God gets more specific about the "seed" when he chooses Abraham to be the specific family that will develop into a nation and "in your Seed all families of the earth will be blessed". (Gen.12:1-4). This promise has now become lineage-specific. Records of genealogy are kept with a view to identifying this "seed of the woman" that will injure Satan and bless all families of the earth. 

The Care of Factuality

As Moses writes the story of Israel's development from the beginning; it is obvious that he is careful to write of real people, not mythical people. It is also noteworthy that Moses does not try to make super-men or gods out of the fathers of their nation.  He writes of real people that were flawed with the poison of sin conflicting with their faith in a Holy God who is invisible (rather than doing like all other nations and having family idols). Their heroes of faith are human, and they are flawed. They are not made out to be more than human.

Genealogies are carefully written because Moses was dealing with boring FACT, not fantasy.  Facts are always much more boring than fantasy because facts are generally not designed to entertain but inform. Keeping accurate genealogies was important to keep accuracy unchallenged and uncontested.  If Moses had presented anything but fact, his credibility could have and would have been destroyed. The record is building with time to present the "seed" with uncontestable credentials. This "seed" is going to be further defined as specific to the sons of Judah (Gen.49:10). Even while Moses wrote he could not see that the characters held amazing shadowy comparisons to the one who would later be called "Jesus".

 The care to be factual is also seen in the care of Moses to be time and place conscious. He does not describe fictional people or fictional places or even ambiguous times. Consider the care he uses to describe where people were found scattered, their family names and places (Gen.10:10-32; 11:28; 12:6,8.10; 14:3,10; Ex.1:11). This is not a record born out of fiction or controlled by myth. The writer is clearly writing to be deliberate, factual, and with enough specificity of place, names, geography, and family detail so as to be most credible to the original readers, and so that the hope of the coming seed will not be lost in a mixture of fact and fiction with no way to tell the difference.

Historical narrative is sometimes boring because it presents such boring things as genealogies. The genealogies are fact-based on factual people. Take time to read through the boring details in each of the 39 books and see that each writer is writing to be factual even when it was facts that Israel did not want to hear, such as their moral decline and their hypocrisy of coming to the temple to "worship" God and then return to their law-violating idolatry they learned from their pagan neighbors. All of that terrible history would not have been written and preserved by people who naturally would want to look good instead of bad. Egyptian kings were known to erase records of their humiliation and defeat. But Israel records even the failings of their greatest kings (for example, David's adultery with Bathsheba and his murder of Uriah, and then his cover-up).

If the records were simply products of human wisdom, why should David's family have to keep living with such a record that makes Israel's greatest king look so bad?  Why not just do the usual thing that other nations and kings have done, and that is to remove any uncomplimentary details that taint the greatness of a hero?  The reason that the Old Testament makes the Israelites look so bad, is because they were a sinful people and all people need to know how ugly sin is, and the reason the records are preserved with all this corruption staining the image of Israel is because these were Gods' words, not mans'(the Jews knew this was so) and God's words are to be held in reverence even if it tells the ugly truth about ourselves.

The Pre-Illustrated Plan

When sin entered the world, the sentence of death had to enter as well.  To prepare man for eventual return to perfect paradise, there must be an effective way to deal with sin that separates man from God.  Sacrifice of animals was a temporary training device. Sin deserves death. The bringing of a perfect lamb was a symbolic training device to keep man conscious that sin deserves sacrifice. Perfection has been sacrificed to sin and the person deserves death. The innocent lamb represents perfection and innocence, killing it is what sin looks like in its consequence. As man's soul is originally beautiful and useful to God, sin is like taking it and killing it. It also keeps in front of Israel the idea that sin calls for death (Rom.6:23). It pre-illustrates God's plan to provide a "Lamb" for Himself, a Lamb that is innocent gets what we deserve.

God illustrated the plan in his command to Abraham to offer his only son, Isaac, as a burnt-offering, testing the heart and love of Abraham, and at the same time foreshadowing His own plan to "provide Himself a Lamb" as a substitute that tests even God to His very heart. The "seed" of Abraham that would bless all nations would be God's "Lamb" that pays for the sins of the whole world. This will deliver a blow to Satan and his power to accuse all of us to the judge. The judge will say in behalf of many to the accuser, "Payment has been made in full for him. You have no case here!"

God illustrated the plan in types and shadows (dark images that show an outline form but not the clear image) with such things as the law of uncleanness and how to deal with leprosy (a physical thing to the body, as the sin-disease is to the soul).

God illustrated the plan in the tabernacle design, arrangement, material, and furnishings, and the priestly duties performed therein.  Coming to God requires first the sacrifice for sin, the laver of cleansing, the door into holy relation, the light of perfection, the bread of life, and the fragrance of acceptance, and the veil of separation that will one day be removed, the mercy-seat of God, and the High Priest bringing the atoning blood for mercy and justice to have symbolic satisfaction. None of this would have been done by human wisdom alone, but in the wisdom of God it illustrated darkly the wonderful plan by which God would bring about justice, mercy, and reconciliation between sinful man and the Holy God. All these things prepare the stage for the "seed of the woman" to deliver the blow to that Serpent, the devil as God promised from the beginning.

The Prophet was a revealer of God's thoughts and will. The Priest was a mediator of reconciliation between God and man, and the King was a ruler of the people. All of these offices and works were also types of the offices and work of the "seed of the woman" that was coming.

The Prophesied Plan

God not only illustrated the divine plan of reconciliation, but he prophesied the plan. As Moses was a great prophet-law-giver, he told of someone who would be like him that everyone would have to listen to (Deut. 18:15f).

Even though the priesthood of the law was specified as from Levi, and specifically Aaron's sons, and all priests under that law had to be able to prove their lineage to Aaron, yet David spoke of another "priest forever after the order of Melchizedek"(Psalm 110). This indicated a better priesthood was coming, and he was of David's lineage, rather than Levi's.

He would be a greater king (Psalm 2), because God would set him on his throne even when kings and rulers set themselves against him becoming a king. The House of God would be exalted and people of all nations would come to it voluntarily because they want to learn God's ways (Isa.2), and it would be such a house that would not need physical swords to protect it. The temple would be more glorious than Solomon's temple because the gold and silver were God's people of precious character (Hag.2). The kingdom would be everlasting and no nation could take it over or destroy and replace it as earthly kingdoms do (Dan.2:44f) other earthly kingdoms. 

A greater covenant that provides the very basis of forgiveness would come and be unlike the Sinai covenant (Jer.31:31f). Many, many details about the place of the Messiah's birth, and the time of the birth, and what the "Child" shall be called (Isa.9:6f) are prophesied in amazing detail. Even the fact that we (Jews) would not believe the report or "esteem" him (Isa.53) is recorded. The Old Testament is dark enough not to give away the plan too easily for the enemy, and yet specific enough to not be deniable when it all unfolds at the time of the Messiah.

Various Authors over Time

The 39 books were held sacred even though written over a long period of time, and even though it did not compliment the people who held it to be sacred. All of the writers add a link to the common hope of that "seed of the woman" who was coming to bless us all richly in a way that repairs the sin problem and reconciles man and God in a way that will allow man to come back to a paradise with God. One common theme that weaves its way connectively through each book is the theme of God's holiness and man's sinfulness and believers will be given a remedy in the coming Messiah, the seed of David, the seed of Judah, the seed of Abraham, the seed of the woman.

Human Wisdom

I would urge you to carefully consider that we hold in our hand an amazing product of the wisdom of God. I would hope that you can clearly see that human wisdom COULD NOT write these things by human wisdom alone. So many detailed prophesies could not be written hundreds of years in advance and find fulfillment in one single man, Jesus, and that by human wisdom alone. Even the rising and falling of nations and cities were prophesied in advance and it happened accordingly. Not one thing failed. Human wisdom is full of failure, but the writings of scripture were fulfilled in great detail in one amazing man of history, Jesus Christ of Nazareth.

The chances of just eight specific prophecies about one man happening is too great to even consider as practically possible. Yet, lots more than eight prophesies described Jesus Christ and no other man. Human wisdom COULD NOT have written the Old Testament scriptures.

But, we can also add to that the fact that even if man could have written prophesies that happened to seem to be fulfilled in one man, I think I am well within reason to say that no man WOULD HAVE written such a book like this. Who would have written about how sinful their nation was, even their great king, David, and about how God brought foreign nations to punish his own people, and get away with that by human wisdom alone?  Who would grant to such writers a position of sacredness, while the writings held sacred do not compliment the nation, but speaks of its hardness of heart and sinfulness before an invisible God, while the nation was mostly rebuked for going after other gods made by human hands? 

Even prophecies of the rejection of the stone by the builders, which stone would become the chief-cornerstone to others, and of the Jews not believing the report and not esteeming the one who was paying for their sins (Isa.53), is a prophecy that human wisdom says for us not to write. If I write a book by my human wisdom I want to at least look good in the end.  These 39 books are factual, and truthful, claiming inspiration, and then proving that the inspiration was real, not imaginary. These books were not the product of human wisdom. Human wisdom could not and would not write this way.

The Plan Unfolded

The mystery of the prophetic word (the Law and the Prophets of Israel) will be clarified and made clear when the Messiah comes. It is amazing that God said so much, yet without fully disclosing the plan. If the Old Testament had been written too plain, then kings and Satan would know to try to prevent Jesus from going to the cross. "If they had known....they would not have crucified the Lord of glory"(1 Cor.2:9).  It was dark enough to conceal the plan and yet reveal that God's plan was indeed darkly outlined as a shadow form. Too much information gives the enemy too much power to counter-act the plan. Human wisdom said that killing Jesus would end his claim to be a king and have a kingdom, so let's "crucify Him".  God's wisdom said, "I will provide Myself a Lamb".

Too little information gives the enemy too much power of deniability. For example, the sayings of Nostradamus can fit any number of people because they are too vague. His writings leave open the power of deniability. The Old Testament was not nearly that vague, and yet it was designed not to be too clear either, while also making it clear enough that when we finally see the Messiah step into the outlined form, we cannot deny that he and he alone perfectly fits the prophetic picture.  So, the Old Testament held the perfect amount of revelation of His form or shadow while still not giving the enemy too much clarity. The Old Testament outline has been filled in with the substance it was outlining, Jesus Christ.

It Was All About Christ

Jesus said "search the scriptures...they testify of Me"(John 5). It was all about Jesus. In shadowy form so as not to be too clear and give the plan away to the enemy so that he might stop Jesus' death, yet clear enough to see the obvious connection it all has to Jesus. Some people still read the Old Testament with a veil over their heart (2 Cor.3), but when you turn to the Lord Jesus, you see that he had been standing there from the very beginning and all the way through the Old Testament. They testify as a great witness to the credentials of Jesus Christ as Son of the Living God. All who see Jesus in the Old Testament know that the Bible and only the Bible has the marks of divine wisdom.

The Amazing Revelation

We hold the most amazing book ever written. No book is its equal. We have the prophetic word, but not just an empty book of fiction and human wisdom like the Book of Mormon or the Koran. We have the book that even Muhammad and Joseph Smith knew to be God's word, even though they vainly tried to mimic such an amazing book. There are obvious differences between books that merely claim divine authorship and the book that claims it AND proves it. We have the prophetic word made more sure (2 Pet.1:19).

“Oh, the depth of the riches both of the wisdom and knowledge of God!...Rom.11:32-36

We would do well to heed this word as a light that shines in a dark place. Then keep heeding it until the light dawns and the Morning Star rises in your heart, and you stand strong with "full assurance of faith", and not be one who walks by blind faith that keeps one unstable and uncertain.

There is a very good reason for the hope within us. Let us be ready to give a reason of our hope to every man who asks us our reasons for such a confident expectation. We know whom we believe, and we are persuaded that our faith stands on a solid Rock (Matt.16:13-18).

Terry W. Benton

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

How Do We Receive The Holy Spirit Today?

How Do We Receive The Holy Spirit Today?

1). Listen to His revealed and confirmed word in the gospel. Rom.10:17; Acts 2:37

2). Let the truth of His word convict you of truth about Jesus, truth about your sin, and the truth of your desperate need for mercy and grace. - Acts 2:37; John 16:13f

3). Repent of your sins and of your resistance of the Holy Spirit - Acts 2:38; 7:51

4). Be baptized in water (Acts 2:38; 10:47-48) in the name of Jesus Christ for the remission of sins.

5). You will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit (salvation from sin and condemnation) Acts 2:38,39,21; Rom.8:1

6) Failure to submit to His message is “resisting the Holy Spirit”. Acts 7:51

7) Those who resist remain lost and condemned. Heb.10:29; Rom.3:23; 6:23

What Happens at the point of Spirit guided baptism in the name of Jesus Christ?

1) You are added to the church (Acts 2:47) or baptized into One Body - 1 Cor.12:13

2) You are showing faith and God operates to remove the sins of the flesh - Col.2:12

3) You have buried the old man in baptism with Christ, are forgiven, and rise to walk in newness of life - Rom.6:3-5

4) You have "put on Christ" and have been adopted as sons and daughters. Gal.3:26,27

5) You have been spiritually translated out of darkness and into the kingdom of God's dear Son. Col.1:13

6) Your sins are washed away - Acts 22:16; 2:38 - "you are washed" -1 Cor.6:11

7) You body becomes the temple of the Holy Spirit - 1 Cor.6:19,20

8) You are justified in the name of the Lord Jesus - Acts 2:38; 1 Cor.6:11

9) You are sanctified by the Spirit of our God - 1 Cor.6:11

10) You are saved from sin and condemnation. Mk.16:16; 1 Pet.3:21

11) Your conscience is cleaned in the blood of Christ. 1 Pet.3:21; Heb.9:14; 10:22

12) Your old manner of life is washed away and you are a new creature in Christ. 2 Cor.5:17

13) Your name is written in the Lamb's book of life - Phil.3:20; 4:3

14) You begin growing to spiritual maturity. 2 Pet.1:5-10; 1 Pet.2:1-3

Terry W. Benton

Tuesday, December 13, 2011


    - by Greg Gwin

 Millions of infant children are baptized every year.  What
about this practice?  Is it Biblical?  Should we be doing this?  What
do the Scriptures teach on this subject?

 In the famous "Great Commission", Jesus instructed that
those who would be baptized should first be taught (Matt. 28:19).
He also said that they should believe prior to their immersion (Mark
16:15,16).  Infants can neither be taught nor can they believe, thus
they are not candidates for Bible baptism.

 Furthermore, we have no apostolic example of infants being
baptized.  The book of Acts records the conversion of literally
thousands of individuals.  These included people who "gladly
received the word" (2:41); believed the preaching "concerning the
kingdom of God and the name of Jesus Christ" (8:12); confessed
their faith (8:36,37); and acted obediently in response to what they
had learned (18:8).  Infants cannot do these things, and therefore we
know they were not included in these conversions.

 Some argue that whole "households" were sometimes
converted, and that this may have included infants.  A careful study
of the texts which mention "household conversions" shows that all
persons in the specific households did things that infants can't do:

 - Cornelius' household all "feared God" (Acts 10:2).
 - Lydia's household all received "comfort" (Acts 16:14- 
 - The Philippian Jailer's household all "believed in God" and
  "rejoiced" (Acts 16:33,34).
 - The household of Stephanas was "addicted to the ministry
  of the saints" (1 Cor. 1:16; 16:15,16).

 The practice of infant baptism is based upon the mistaken
notion that children inherit sin.  This is not true (Ezek. 18:20; Matt.

 There is absolutely no authority in the New Testament for
baptizing babies. If we "do all in the name of the Lord," we will not
do this (Col. 3:17).
-- Greg Gwin 

Monday, December 12, 2011

A Debate On Necessary Inferences

A Debate On

Necessary       Inferences

Resolved:  "Necessary inferences are essential to doing the will of God on any subject."

Affirmed: Terry W. Benton

Denied: Lynn Trapp


Agreed Rules For This Debate

Hi Terry,

I'm looking forward to the opportunity to discuss the place of necessary inferences in an understanding of scripture. I would propose that we follow the format below.

1.  Each of us will write 4 articles on proposition 1 -- you in the affirmative and me in the negative. We will then reverse the order for proposition 2.

2.  Each article will be a maximum of 4 pages double spaced (using 12 pt type).

3.  Each of us will have a maximum of 4 weeks to complete the next article in the series.

I'm open to modifying any of these suggestions in a manner that is agreeable to both of us. Just let me know what you think.

I don't have any particular ideas on publishing. Let me know what you have in mind for that.

Lynn Trapp

Hello Lynn,

I would modify the pace of point 3, and shoot for 4 weeks but be flexible enough to allow up to 8.  I have lots of projects, meetings, studies, family health issues, and have only brief stretches of time to devote to this project.  We will be flexible with each other's needs, I hope.  After we complete the exchange, we will proof it for typos, finalize it, and publish it in full on any web-site without alteration, addition, or subtraction or further review.  Each is free to print it, sell it, and distribute it, if they so deem it a worthwhile debate, but we will agree to post it free on any web-site we choose without comment or review.  Who knows but what we will find it to be immediately to be too shallow or unworthy of distribution, or we may find that it will open minds more to the will of God and be worthy of wide distribution.  I'll start in the next few weeks and hopefully have my first affirmative to you in 4 to 8 weeks.  I'll shoot for 4, but this is a busy, busy year for me. The less pressure, the clearer and better our presentations as far as I am concerned.

Shooting for May 17, but flexible enough to allow up to June 17:

Resolved: "Necessary inferences are essential to doing the will of God on any subject."

Affirmed: Terry Benton

Denied: Lynn Trapp

Resolved: "Necessary inferences are NOT essential to doing the will of God on any subject."

Affirmed: Lynn Trapp

Denied: Terry Benton

Hope this is agreeable to you.



Hi Terry,

That kind of flexibility is fine with me. Keep in mind that, at a total count of 16 articles, the whole project will take anywhere from 64 to 128 weeks -- unless we are both able to push it along some. I was primarily concerned that it not take much more than a year to complete. I would suggest that we might be flexible with the length of articles and set it at any length from 4 to 8 pages -- still maintaining the double spaced, 12 pt type requirement.

I don't know if there has ever been a formal debate on this specific topic or not and, therefore, believe it could be a very profitable tool for many brethren. I'm definitely ok with the publishing suggestions you have made. I would think that, if either of us chooses to print the book for sale, we share any royalty payments equally, since we will essentially be co-authors. Or, we could agree that we only make it available for free on some website, unless both of us decide to print it and we each get whatever payments come from our own sources. We can talk about it later, but if we choose to print it for sale, we might want to not do the website thing, as that would effectively kill any possible sales of a book. Let me know what you think.

I'll look forward to receiving your first article in 4 to 8 weeks.


Hello Lynn,

8 pages is the maximum.  Now, can you tell me if there is a way to set MS Word to a double-space setting or mode?  I've never used that format before, so have have not seen any commands or examples from which I can necessarily infer what to do. :)  I've got both Word 2003 and Word 2007, but prefer using 2003. Do you have any expertise in this matter?


PS:  There may be times when it goes much faster than even 4-8 weeks.  There may be times when I can do it in 1 week, but setting it at 8 weeks allows us the breathing room we may find we need at times. 

First Affirmative of First Proposition

Resolved:  "Necessary inferences are essential to doing the will of God on any subject."

Affirmed: Terry Benton

Denied: Lynn Trapp

I’m glad to start this discussion with Lynn Trapp about the place of necessary inferences in our efforts to determine what the will of the Lord is and how to do that will.  In essence it is about the place and essentiality of reason and judgment in determining and doing the will of God.  My position is that we do have to use reasoning and there is information that we must reason from, and we are to draw conclusions that are necessary to doing the will of God.  That makes this study very important.

Definition of the Proposition and its Terms

I will begin by defining the proposition.  By “necessary inference” I am referring to conclusions or judgments that are forced by the total evidence of God’s word.  A NECESSARY inference is a CONCLUSION that is logically inevitable or unavoidable if the assumptions or premises on which it is based are true.  For example, if the facts are stated that a man “came up out of the water”, then based upon the premise that we can assume the truth of that statement, then we MUST of necessity infer or conclude that at some point in time that man “went down into the water”.  It is a necessary inference. It is logically inevitable or unavoidable.  So, now we move to the next part of my proposition which says “Necessary inferences ARE ESSENTIAL”. By these two words I simply mean that you cannot avoid the use and necessity of drawing the unavoidable conclusions that are forced upon us by the statements of the Bible. By “to doing the will of God” I mean whatever God wants us to believe or do to please Him and avoid displeasing Him. By “on any subject” I mean that God’s will is diverse and involves many issues. For example, if I am looking at the subject of God’s will about baptism, there are statements in His word I must examine on that subject, and when I do, it will be necessary for me to make certain unavoidable (necessary) inferences (conclusions) from that available information.  One necessary inference will be on whether God wants ME to be baptized at all. There is no direct statement that says “Terry Benton must be baptized”. So, I have to reason from the evidence and draw from that evidence a judgment about whether I should be baptized.  It is inescapable, and Lynn will not be able to show otherwise. In fact, he has to USE what thinks are necessary inferences to reason to his conclusion that you don’t have to use necessary inferences.  I don’t envy his role in this debate.  Another necessary inference will be on whether any specific mode or action can be correctly called “baptism.”   I also will have to unavoidably conclude from the total evidence what God’s will is as to the motive and reason to be baptized.  So, here is one subject, and regarding that subject and all other subjects, it is essential that I draw the necessary inferences from the available information, because that is essential to doing the will of God on that subject.  I think I have defined my proposition clearly enough for a relatively careful reader to grasp or understand. But, let me state further in regard to necessary inferences that I understand that many inferences are possible inferences, but only some can be necessary or unavoidable.  When the evidence says a man “came up out of the water”, a POSSIBLE inference is that someone had thrown him into the water. That is possible, but not NECESSARY.  Another POSSIBLE inference is that he “jumped in the water”. That is possible, but not necessary.  The ONLY necessary inference is that he did indeed “go down into the water” (no matter how he arrived there), because a man cannot come up out of the water without first going down into it. The Law Dictionary says,

Inference or deduced fact that "is inescapable, or unavoidable from the standpoint of reason; an inference is not inescapable or unavoidable if another and a different inference may be reasonably drawn from the facts as stated."

So, we are talking about doing the will of God, and there is first the exploration (the study and examination of the record), then the determination of what the will of God involves (what applies to me and what does not apply to me). The exploration of God’s word presents to us the available information, and that information is processed. When the information is processed, it is tested through proper reasoning, and necessary conclusions or inferences are drawn from the information.  A necessary conclusion is a tested conclusion and is essential to determining WHAT the will of God is, and also how to carry it into practice or operation in thought and/or behavior.  Lynn denies that we have to do this. I will show that it is unavoidable.  By signing this proposition Lynn has already reached what he considers a necessary inference. In this case, he thinks it is a necessary inference that the Bible shows or forces one to the conclusion that necessary inferences are not essential to doing the will of God on ANY topic.  Amazing!

Proof of the Proposition

Hebrew Writer Appeals to Psalm 110

While the Levitical priesthood was still in place, David was inspired to write Psalm 110 in which he prophesied the Messiah would be a “priest forever after the order of Melchizedek”.  The Hebrews writer (I’ll say “Paul”) draws a necessary inference from this statement. He concludes that it proves an insufficiency about certain aspects of the Levitical priesthood (Heb.7:11). He is saying that there is a necessary implication that there was a NEED for another  priesthood to do something that was not being done by the order of priests under Aaron.  He is trying to get the readers to see that something is “of necessity” (lodge that word in your memory) to be concluded from the Old Testament information.  The necessary inference is that there was to be a change of the priesthood.  That is an inescapable conclusion from the statement made in Psalm 110.  But, there is also another necessary inference that follows from that conclusion.  He says, “For the priesthood being changed, of necessity there is also the change of the law”. (Heb.7:12). Please notice how that Paul uses the references to statements in the Psalms to bring his readers to the “necessary inference” or conclusion that the Messiah had intended to change the priesthood to a different order (the Melchizedek order), and that to do this, there is the necessary conclusion that the law would have to be changed too.  He goes on further to draw some more necessary inferences from what is “evident” (our Lord sprang out of Judah) and what is even “more evident” (another priest arises in the likeness of Melchizedek).  From his sources, he is reasoning to the necessary conclusions that those biblical facts force him to.  But, let me point out that this necessary conclusion is “essential to doing the will of God” (see the proposition).  Paul’s readers must consider the available facts from what tribe Jesus was from, from the statement in Psalm 110, and draw the necessary inference that they must give up the Law of Moses with its Levitical priesthood, and conclude that they have a better Priesthood in Jesus.  When they draw the necessary conclusion, they can do the will of God in believing in Jesus.  Thus, I have shown beyond doubt that my proposition is true: "Necessary inferences are essential to doing the will of God on any subject."  A reader, who had not looked at this evidence and had not reached this conclusion, would not be doing the will of God.  But, reasoning has to be used (of necessity) on the evidence in order to reach proper conclusions (necessary inferences).  The Jews had overlooked this evidence. Paul is bringing it to their attention so they can draw the necessary inference that will help them give up their blind allegiance to the Law of Moses and start doing Gods’ will through believing in Jesus Christ.

 This is only one example, but it is a legitimate example that shows that reasoning upon the available evidence necessitates the necessary conclusions or inferences that God did not directly state in the Old Testament, but surely implied in the scriptures.

The Judgment Concluded In Acts 15

The argument presented at Antioch by certain men was that one could not be saved unless circumcised according to the custom of Moses (Acts 15:1).  The discussion was moved to Jerusalem and the evidence was considered.  Examples of salvation without circumcision were presented. Statements of the prophetic word were considered.  They also considered the fact that the apostles had not taught this.  After considering the available information, James drew a judgment (a necessary inference).  He said, “I judge that….”  But, the judgment was based on the available evidence. The evidence forced a necessary inference (Acts 15:19).  But, this is what would decide “the will of God” on this issue.  In other words, "Necessary inferences are essential to doing the will of God on any subject."  But, necessary inferences are always used when trying to determine what the will of God is.  There is no way to dismiss logic and reasoning when it comes to understanding the will of God.  Even if there is a direct command written to someone else in the scriptures, one still has to draw a necessary inference that what was stated to others ALSO applies to us.  There is no escaping the fact that "necessary inferences are essential to doing the will of God on any subject."    

 If it is essential to dismiss logic because God’s will is not discerned and judged as to its application to us,  but is always explicitly stated, then it was wrong to do anything at Antioch and Jerusalem but appeal only to explicit statements and declare that no judgment need be made.  But, they did the very thing that my proposition says is necessary to doing the will of God. They considered the total evidence and drew the necessary inference that is forced by the total evidence.  Thus, I have now shown in two cases that my proposition is true. There are so many more examples that I could appeal to, but space limitations will not allow for it at this time. One more example will have to suffice for now, but the reader is encouraged to watch carefully to see if Lynn will deal with these examples in a way that shows the opposite of the proposition is true.

Reasoning to a Necessary Conclusion

In Acts 17: 1-4 Paul “reasoned” from the scriptures (statements) to the necessary inference that the “Christ had to suffer and rise again from the dead”, and from that inference to the conclusion that “This Jesus whom I preach to you is the Christ”.  There was no direct statement that said: “Christ had to suffer” or “Christ had to rise from the dead”.  There was reasoning upon the evidence and the evidence forced the necessary inference.  But, unless they reasoned upon that evidence and drew that necessary conclusion, they would not be doing the will of God. Therefore, "Necessary inferences are essential to doing the will of God on any subject."  My proposition is proven to be true. 

In order for Lynn to disprove my proposition, he will have to prove that Paul did not draw necessary conclusions from Psalm 110 about the necessity of a changed priesthood and law, and he will have to prove that no one else could draw from the evidence he presented any necessary conclusions at all.  Further, Lynn will have to show that the judgment James stated in Acts 15 was not a necessary inference from the available evidence.  Further, he will have to say that after the evidence was examined the men who taught circumcision was essential could not now draw a necessary inference that they were wrong.  Furthermore, in order for Lynn to disprove my proposition, he will have to show that Pauls’ reasoning to the conclusions that “Christ had to suffer and rise” is not a necessary inference from the scriptures.  I don’t know why Lynn inferred that my proposition was wrong and that he could prove it was wrong, and judged that he should write this proposition and deny it, because that very premise is at least a “necessary inference” to him.  If it is not a necessary inference to him, then why did he sign the proposition as if he could reason us to his conclusions?  It will be very interesting to see if a man can prove that necessary inferences are not essential without using reasoning that brings us to that necessary conclusion or inference.  See if Lynn can do that.

In closing, let me remind the reader to watch carefully.  Lynn is obligated to stay with the PROPOSITION.  We are not discussing anything but the validity of this proposition.  I do not have to defend anything that others may have said in some other work.  I aim to keep focused on proving this proposition is true.  Lynn is obligated to answer MY arguments.  He will have his turn later to make his affirmative arguments on HIS proposition. Right now, he is in the negative of THIS proposition, and the obligation now is for him to show how my arguments were not sound and why he drew that conclusion.  He must deny that “necessary inferences are essential to doing the will of God on any subject.”  To do that, he must follow each of my arguments to show them invalid.  Can he do that without reasoning to a necessary inference?  It will be most interesting to watch and see.  I appreciate him being bold enough to sign this proposition, and I hope good things come out of this study for us both and all who read it for years to come.

Terry W. Benton

First Negative

Let me begin by saying that I am very happy to be engaged with Terry on the subject of the place and purpose of necessary inferences. Terry and I have never met in person, but are acquaintances through an internet email list. I find him to be a very congenial gentleman and his method of argument always focuses on the issue at hand. My position in this part of our debate is to deny that “necessary” inferences are “essential” to doing the will of God on “any” subject. While Terry says that his position “…is that we do have to use reasoning and there is information that we must reason from, and we are to draw conclusions that are necessary to doing the will of God,” I will be showing that he actually has a much bigger job than that.  I will show that, as the proposition is worded, Terry must prove that “necessary inferences” are the only way that we can know and do the will of God on any subject.

Terry begins with a set of definitions and they are quite acceptable. However, in making them I believe that he betrays the difficulty he will have in proving his proposition. For example, in defining the term “are essential” he says, “By these two words I simply mean that you cannot avoid the use and necessity of drawing the unavoidable conclusions that are forced upon us by the statements of the Bible.” Yet, there are many ways, other than “necessary inferences,” that can lead us to doing the will of God. Terry seems to be under the mistaken impression that I am denying the use of logic in biblical studies. Quite to the contrary, I am a very strong advocate for the use of logic, but I recognize (as I believe Terry does also and will have to admit) that there is much more to logic than “necessary inferences,” and there is more to doing the will of God than logic.

Human beings actually engage in 2 primary kinds of logical thought – deductive and inductive. Terry’s proposition could actually have been worded, “Deductive arguments are essential to doing the will of God on any subject.” My argument, in both the negative here and in my affirmative later, is that we actually use inductive logic to determine the will of God much more than we use deductive logic. Most of the things we learn from reading the Bible are the result of arguments from analogy (some of which Terry used in his first article), inductive generalizations, arguments from authority (also something that Terry used), and causal inferences (again Terry used this too). These are all types of inductive arguments and they do not lead to “necessary” inferences, but to “probable” inferences. We learn much about doing the will of God in a probably manner – not always in a necessary one.

I should also make an observation about one of those types of argument – “argument from authority.” Patrick J. Hurly defines it this way, “An argument from authority is an argument in which the conclusion rests upon a statement made by some presumed authority or witness” (A Concise Introduction To Logic, P. 35). The fact that we use the Bible as our “authority” for what we do suggests that virtually all of our reasoning, when it comes to knowing and doing the will of God, is actually inductive reasoning. Even if we write deductive arguments about what the Bible says, we are still working from a “presumed authority or witness.” Any “necessary inferences” that we make are based on premises that are drawn from a type of inductive argument.

Terry sets out, in the course of his article, to present a series of examples that are intended to show that “necessary inferences” are, in fact, used by biblical writers. I won’t deny that, although I will look at the details of his examples to see if they are what he really thinks they are. I believe in and use deductive logic to reach “necessary inferences” quite often. One of the strongest types of “necessary inference” is drawn from an “argument from definition.” The argument that we make regarding the “mode” of baptism is based on that. The Greek word “baptizo” means, by definition, “to immerse.” Therefore, we may necessarily infer, from our authority – the Bible, that baptism must be administered by immersion, but it is still, ultimately, and argument from authority.

Another very strong type of deductive argument is a “categorical syllogism.” Terry argued that we can necessarily infer that someone who comes out of water must, necessarily, have gone down into the water. What he didn’t show you is how that “necessary inference” is reached – it is by means of a categorical syllogism.

·         All people who come out of water are people who go into water.

·         Jack came up out of water.

·         Therefore, Jack went down into water

Thus, as you can see, I’m not at all opposed to the use of “necessary inferences” to understand how we must do the will of God. What Terry has to prove is that the use of “necessary inferences” is ESSENTIAL regarding “any subject.”

Terry’s Proof

            Let me now take a look at the arguments that Terry presented as “proof” for his proposition. Keep in mind that showing that biblical writers sometimes used deductive arguments to draw “necessary inferences” really isn’t sufficient proof of Terry’s proposition. He has to prove that we cannot do God’s will on “any subject” without the use of a “necessary inference.” However, even the “proof” that he offers is not nearly as strong as he wants our readers to believe.

Hebrews 7

            Terry presents 2 cases of “necessary inference” from this passage. The first is (from verse 11), in fact, a deductive “hypothetical syllogism.” This is a formal argument that is presented in the following form:

·         If P, then Q

·         P

·         Therefore Q

Thus, the argument in Hebrews 7 can be worded like this.

·         If the Levitical priesthood is imperfect, then we need a new priest after the order of Melchizedek.

·         The Levitical priesthood is imperfect.

·         Therefore, we need a new priest after the order of Melchizedek.

I have no quarrel with this part of Terry’s argument, although this still doesn’t prove his case – which is that we are required to draw “necessary inferences” for “any subject” in order to be able to do the will of God. However, in his second example from verse 12, Terry gets tripped up on the presence the indicator words “of necessity.” Things can be “necessary” for reasons other than being the valid conclusion of a deductive argument. In this case, I believe we have an example of a “causal inference.” A causal inference is an argument that “…proceeds from knowledge of a cause to knowledge of the effect…” or vice versa “…from knowledge of an effect to knowledge of a cause” (Hurley, P. 35). In the case in Hebrews, the effect of changing the law is certainly one possible conclusion that could be drawn, but the writer could have also argued for some other approach, such as an antinomian approach that said we don’t have to follow any law any more. Thus, there are at least 2 possible conclusions and maybe more. In spite of the presence of the indicator words, this is not an example of a “necessary inference.”

            Terry then goes a step further and wants our readers to believe that  we must “…draw the necessary inference that they must give up the Law of Moses with its Levitical priesthood….” However, it is far from certain that the writer of Hebrews is arguing for giving up the entire “Law of Moses.” What he said in verse 12 is, “of necessity there is a CHANGE of the law.” So it could be argued that the writer is only arguing for a modification in the Law of Moses that would allow for a priestly order different from the Levitical order. Clearly, this is not an example of a “necessary inference.” Terry suffers from the same problem that many church of Christ people do in assuming things are “necessary inferences” when they are nothing more than “probable inferences.”

Acts 15

            Terry next argues that he has found a “necessary inference” in Acts 15 where James made a “…judgment…based on the available evidence.” He then says, “The evidence forced a necessary inference (Acts 15:19).” However, this is actually a case of “argument from authority.” James quotes Amos 9:11-12 as his authority that the Gentiles would call on the name of the Lord. James concludes that the Jewish Christians should not “trouble” then Gentiles because of what Amos said. However, there are other possible conclusions that could be drawn – such as having 2 separate groups of Christians, one Jewish and one Gentile. There might be other possibilities too. Still, even if this were a case of a “necessary inference,” it doesn’t prove Terry’s proposition.

            Terry then makes this statement, “If it is essential to dismiss logic because God’s will is not discerned and judged as to its application to us, but is always explicitly stated, then it was wrong to do anything at Antioch and Jerusalem but appeal only to explicit statements and declare that no judgment need be made.” I’m not quite sure who Terry may have in mind as believing it is “essential to dismiss logic” and depend solely on “explicit statements,” but it certainly is not Lynn Trapp. Toward the end of his article Terry says, “I do not have to defend anything that others may have said in some other work.” I agree and believe that should apply to me also. I do not believe in dismissing logic. I clearly believe in reasoning and drawing conclusions, both “necessary” and “probable.” It should be clear to the readers by now that I believe there are many means, only a small portion of which is “necessary inference,” required for discerning and doing the will of God.

Acts 17:1-4

            Terry finally turns to Acts 17 for “proof” of his proposition. He says, “Paul ‘reasoned’ from the scriptures (statements) to the necessary inference that the ‘Christ had to suffer and rise again from the dead’, and from that inference to the conclusion….” Unfortunately for Terry’s case, this passage is the farthest thing from a “necessary inference” that he has offered to our readers. The fact that Paul is said to have “reasoned” does not inherently lead to the conclusion that Terry wants. The process of reasoning involves much more than logical arguments. We all make many statements which lack any inferential claim at all. Paul’s reasoning process in Acts 17 is said to involve “explaining and demonstrating that the Christ had to suffer and rise again from the dead…” Explanations and demonstrations don’t necessary make inferential claims. I believe Paul was offering proof of a much different kind than logical proof. In my affirmative articles one of the things I will be talking about are the many different kinds of appeals that preachers, like Paul, make to convince people to do the will of God are, in fact, extra-logical – ethical appeals, pathological appeals, emotional appeals, etc. Thus, it will become obvious that there are many cases in which we may rely on other things besides “necessary inferences” to do the will of God.


            In his closing arguments, Terry makes an interesting, satiric claim about what I have to do to prove his proposition wrong. He says, “I don’t know why Lynn inferred that my proposition was wrong and that he could prove it was wrong, and judged that he should write this proposition and deny it, because that very premise is at least a ‘necessary inference’ to him.” I love satire, and I suspect that Terry does too, but his attempt at it in this case misses the point altogether. Terry is dealing with the wrong person if he thinks he has engaged someone in debate who does not believe in “necessary inferences.”

            Let’s look at Terry’s proposition again. It says, “Necessary inferences are ESSENTIAL to doing the will of God ON ANY SUBJECT.” If it read that “Necessary inferences are ESSENTIAL to doing the will of God on SOME subjects,” then I never would have signed to negate that. If it read that “Necessary inferences are HELPFUL to doing the will of God,” then I would not have signed to negate that either. But is says that they are ESSENTIAL to doing the will of God ON ANY SUBJECT. As I read Terry’s proposition, what he must prove is that we cannot do the will of God ON ANY SUBJECT without drawing a necessary inference about that subject.

            I know that Terry recognizes what I’m saying because he said, “…I understand that many inferences are possible inferences, but only some can be necessary or unavoidable.” So, even Terry admits that there will be some instances – I say MOST instances – in which we will not need, or even be able, to draw a “necessary inference.” We are all involved in the process of reasoning when we read the Bible, or any other piece of literature. However, that reasoning may or may not involve processes that lead us to truly “necessary” logical deductions. There are many processes that can lead us to knowing and doing the will of God other than “necessary inferences.”


            I have a few of questions for Terry.

1.      Do you ever do the will of God as the result of being ethically or emotionally moved to follow God?

2.      Are there any subjects in the Bible about which you are uncertain regarding what you need to do to do the will of God?

3.      If your proposition is correct, then do we have to have complete and perfect understanding of the correct “necessary inferences” in order to do the Will of God?

Lynn Trapp

Second Affirmative of First Proposition

Resolved:  "Necessary inferences are essential to doing the will of God on any subject."  - Affirmed: Terry W. Benton; Denied: Lynn Trapp

Let me begin by saying that this debate looks like it will be almost totally useless from here on out.  It seems now that we are in agreement to this much of the proposition: "Necessary inferences are essential to doing the will of God.”  The only part left is: “on any subject”.  This is the part that Lynn spent his first negative challenging.  When Lynn and I were first introduced to each other on an email exchange list called Focus on Truth, I was in discussion with others about the necessity of gathering the total information available on a topic and drawing the necessary conclusions from that total information.  It appeared then that Lynn was in disagreement with me and that he did not agree to the use of “Necessary Inference”.  He made this statement in message #22572 of that email list:

Quote: Logically, inferences are never "necessary", merely logical or likely or

Then he signed a proposition saying:  Necessary inferences are NOT essential to doing the will of God on ANY subject”.  So, naturally I thought I was debating someone who did not believe in necessary inferences at all.  Now, we enter the debate and learn that he does believe in necessary inferences.  But, why would he agree to affirm his proposition if he believed that necessary inferences are necessary even sometimes?  His proposition says”

Resolved:  "Necessary inferences are NOT essential to doing the will of God on any subject."

But, now in his very first negative, he contradicts both the quote above AND the proposition he will be affirming. He says such things as:

 “We learn much about doing the will of God in a probably manner – not always in a necessary one”.

 But, this statement denies the two previous quotes above, because the previous two quotes say that necessary inferences are NEVER necessary “on ANY topic”, but now in his first negative he is switching from “NEVER” on ANY topic to “NOT ALWAYS”. Thus, we can see that Lynn could not hold his position right out of the starting gate, and that my affirmative arguments dealt him a fatal blow right from the start.  But, he comes out and confesses that:

 I believe in and use deductive logic to reach “necessary inferences” quite often.

Now we can see that Lynn has already moved from the position before the debate began (Inferences are NEVER necessary on ANY subject) to “not always” and then here to “QUITE OFTEN”.  He then argues that:

 One of the strongest types of” necessary inference” is drawn from an “argument from definition”.

And later he will say:

I clearly believe in reasoning and drawing conclusions, both “necessary” and “probable”.

 How can he start talking about TYPES of something he says are NEVER necessary on ANY subject? Now, we have Lynn moving from inferences are NEVER necessary on any subject to giving us some of the strongest TYPES of necessary inferences.  So, this debate will be a useless discussion from here on out because now he has admitted to the validity and correctness of my proposition.  All that I will have to do is say that any subject has words that must be defined, and the argument from definition IS “one of the strongest types of necessary inference” (Lynn has conceded the debate right here). We saw the debate slipping away immediately from his statements made before the debate to now conceding that there are many very strong types of necessary inferences that he uses “quite often” and that he “clearly believes” in doing so.  Additionally, all subjects have word definitions, and therefore all subjects that have to do with doing the will of God are subjects from which we draw one of the strongest types of necessary inference. Here are some questions that Lynn must not ignore in his next negative: 

1.      On what subject do we NOT have to draw a necessary inference? (Give a specific example):

2.      On what subject do we not have to draw conclusions from definitions?

3.      On what subject do we not have to draw necessary inferences as to what God wants us to do?

4.      Is it a necessary inference that necessary inferences are not used on that particular topic?

It is a necessary inference that ANYTHING in the Bible applies to you.  To do the will of God requires “walking by faith”(2 Cor.5:7).  “Whatever you do in word or deed, do ALL in the name of the Lord (Col.3:17)”.  It is a necessary inference that on any subject we must walk by faith and do all in His name. The beginning necessary inference that I must believe in Jesus, leads to the necessary conclusion that all else that I do in His name is to be done on the basis of faith in Him.  My proposition is thus easily sustained.  Is it a necessary conclusion from the Bible that I must walk by faith and do all in His name?  That conclusion is both necessary and essential.  Where does the Bible say that Lynn has to believe in Jesus?  Give me one passage. When he does, I will show him that he drew a necessary inference.  Thus, with all the admissions that Lynn has conceded right here in his first negative, we have drawn the conclusion that he will not be able to disprove my proposition and he has already disproven the validity of the proposition he has agreed to affirm.  The rest of the debate will be a lot of nothing but smoke to try to cover his careless tracks.  He will talk about words like “inductive” reasoning, but he necessarily infers that he must do so.  So, that won’t help him. He will talk about “probable inferences” but when it comes to doing the will of God he necessarily infers that he has to do what is even probably inferred because faith in Jesus demands that we do all in His name.  That still gets him nowhere, because he infers that even those probable inferences necessarily apply to him.  Thus, he will not be able to escape using necessary inferences on even some of the unclear matters or probable inferences.  He thinks he has really made a strong case for himself when he talks about “causal inference”, but that does not help him at all. The change of the law (Heb.7:11-12) was certainly caused by the prediction to change the priesthood, but still there is necessary inference that is drawn from the facts whether there is also causal inferences or not.  They still had to necessarily infer or conclude from Paul’s arguments made on Psalm 110 what God’s will was for them regarding which priesthood to follow. There is no escaping the fact that all arguments made by Paul will lead to the necessary conclusion of what God’s will is for the readers of the book of Hebrews.  He may use some “causal inferences”, but there will still be a necessary inference of what God wanted the readers to believe and do.

Lynn tried to cloud the issue of the discussion of Acts 15 by saying that it was a case of “argument from authority”.  Well, even if we allowed him that argument, he “necessarily inferred” that it was an argument from authority.  But, arguments from authority also necessarily infer applications.  What application did they infer from the “argument from authority”?  Well, they drew a necessary inference that circumcision was not essential to being saved or serving Christ.  You see, there is just no way to escape using necessary inference on any subject.

Regarding Acts 17:1-4 Lynn said:

Explanations and demonstrations don’t necessary make inferential claims.

Well, then we ask: Is it a necessary inference that explanations and demonstrations don’t necessarily make inferential claims?  If he says “yes”, then he thinks the evidence forced him to that conclusion, and that becomes a necessary inference to him.  If he says “no” then he has called into question whether he has used a valid argument here.  The necessary inference Paul wanted the Jews to reach from the total evidence he presented to them was that “This Jesus is the Christ”.  That is a necessary inference from the total evidence presented.  Lynn admits that he “quite often” uses necessary inferences and that word meanings are one of the strongest types of necessary inference, but he acts like that was not necessary in this case.  He argues that there are other kinds of appeal that preachers make to convince people to do the will of God. He says there are also ethical appeals, pathological appeals, and emotional appeals.  Well, that does not help Lynn at all, because the emotions come out of the necessary inferences that the evidence forces. The ethical appeals are based upon the necessary inference that all evidence was defined sufficiently to warrant the appeal to the ethics of the people.  Then there is the necessary inference that the necessarily conclusion that “Jesus is the Christ” means that I must surrender to Him and serve Him.  There is no avoiding the use of necessary inference on any subject.

Lynn thinks that my admission that there are times when an inference is only probable, is an admission that denies my proposition.  Well, no it does not.  I can admit that some statements are vague in nature like how a person may have gone down into the water (jumped in, thrown in, stumbled in, etc), without also agreeing that I can do the will of God without using a necessary inference as to what that will is and that it applies to me.  In every case, I will always draw the conclusions that seem necessary (even probable)  to accomplishing what I necessarily conclude that God wants me to do.  I can conclude “necessarily” that He “probably” wants me to do this and not that, but even then it is a necessary conclusion that He wants me to use my judgment based upon principles I know to help me discern good and evil. “Necessary inferences are essential to doing the will of God on any subject” even when it is a subject on which “probable inferences” are discerned.  Since none of the books of the Bible were written to me, there will, of necessity, be a judgment (a necessary inference) that I must apply any of it’s principles to me, because I have already necessarily inferred that I must walk by faith in Jesus and do all in His name.  So, my proposition still stands as a necessarily correct proposition.

 When Lynn tells us an example of where necessary inference is not used, he will have given us the evidence that forces us to the necessary inference that necessary inference is not used in this case.  But, that will then be a “necessary inference”.  So, there is no way for him to win this debate.  He will be doing something that is self-defeating.  He wants us to draw what he thinks is a necessary inference that “necessary inferences are NOT essential to doing the will of God on ANY subject”.  Thus, he will be affirming the very things he denies in his first negative.  He says he affirms that necessary inferences are essential to doing the will of God on SOME subjects.  But, his affirmative proposition is “Necessary inferences are NOT essential to doing the will of God on ANY subject”.  The two positions he is occupying already in this debate are self-defeating.  He cannot sustain both positions.  The reader should not ignore this huge blunder in his first negative and the affirmative proposition he has signed.

Lynn’s Questions

  1. Do you ever do the will of God as the result of being ethically or emotionally moved to follow God? - Answer:  Necessary inferences will always move me ethically and emotionally to follow God.  I cannot be moved ethically without first drawing the necessary inference that I SHOULD be moved ethically, and I will not be moved emotionally without first necessarily inferring that the truths learned demands this emotion and that I am following God and not just my imagination of God.
  2. Are there any subjects in the Bible about which you are uncertain regarding what you need to do to do the will of God?-   Answer: I may not understand what the will of God is on a subject, and so I cannot act on what I have not been able to necessarily conclude IS the will of God.  In those areas where the will of God cannot yet be discerned, we are a hung jury on that topic until more evidence can move us to decision or necessary conclusion. But, we are not discussing things of that nature. We are discussing “any” subject that involves doing the will of God (and that has to first be concluded or necessarily inferred from the total information on that subject).  We cannot act on what we cannot know or do not know.  We have to necessarily infer what the will of God is before we can do that will.  If there are areas where a necessary inference cannot be drawn as to what the will of God is, then we cannot know what God would be pleased for us to do in that particular matter. 
  3. If your proposition is correct, then do we have to have complete and perfect understanding of the correct “necessary inferences” in order to do the Will of God? – Answer:  You cannot do the will of God without first understanding what the will of God is, but that demands that you only do those things that you can safely conclude are His will. So, as we grow we learn more of His will, and become responsible for more. But, we have to keep checking our steps to make sure that they are steps of faith and not just human desire and imagination.

Terry W. Benton

Note:  At this point Lynn dropped out of the debate, being unable to answer the unanswerable evidence that we all MUST use necessary inference in determining the will of God.  God bless all who read with an open mind. – Terry W. Benton