The Fundamentals of New Covenant Theology – Part 14: NCT Described (VIII)

The Fundamentals of New Covenant Theology

 Part 14: NCT Described (VIII)

  

“NCT emphasizes the inductive study of the Bible.” (Long, New Covenant Theology, NCT Described)

Explanation:

To understand why New Covenant Theology “emphasizes the inductive study of the Bible” a brief discussion of inductive versus deductive reasoning is in order. Merriam-Webster’s Collegiate Dictionary defines deduction in the following manner: “the deriving of a conclusion by reasoning; specif: inference in which the conclusion about particulars follows necessarily from general or universal premises.”[1] In contrast, induction is characterized by “inference of a generalized conclusion from particular instances.”[2] Thus, to say that New Covenant Theology stresses the inductive study of Scripture is to say that New Covenant Theology strives to let the Bible speak for itself. Simply put, NCT adherents endeavor to restrict their theological terminology and conclusions to that of the Scriptures themselves. Now, although New Covenant Theology “emphasizes the inductive study of the Bible,” deductive study of Scripture is also required to accurately understand God’s Word. S. Lewis Johnson is helpful here:

One needs not only inductive study of the Bible but deductive study as well. The idea that by induction we can arrive at truth is something that has led astray many students of the Bible. It’s not true…..let me show you some other things that are wrong with induction, which means simply a gathering of all the information and then, of course, from this making certain reasoned hypotheses, and then the expressing of them as the result of your particular research….Everything comes interpreted to start with. Now, this method can never give us certainty because how do we know that we’ve not found incomplete data? How do we know that we’ve found all the data that bear on the particular point that we’re trying to study?[3]

In summary, proponents of New Covenant Theology struggle to wholly base their theological teaching, understanding, and conclusions on the overt teaching of the biblical text; New Covenant Theology seeks to completely conform its theological paradigm to Scripture – not the other way around.

 

[1]Merriam-Webster’s Collegiate Dictionary, 11th ed. (Springfield: Merriam Webster, 2012), 324.

[2]Ibid., 637.

[3]S. Lewis Johnson, “How Do We Know Spiritual Truth?” Transcript for this message available at http://sljinstitute.net/.

2 Comments

  1. brandonadams

    Generally speaking Johnson’s warning about induction and incomplete data is correct. However, in a closed system where you can insure you have collected all relevant data, the criticism does not apply. Hence, in Scripture, a closed system, you can look at all relevant data and then conclude something from it without worrying that your data is incomplete.

    However, you and Johnson (at least in the short quote) are confusing methods of reasoning with methods of studying:

    A method is a regular way or manner of proceeding with or of accomplishing something. We must make a distinction between a method of reasoning to conclusions, and a method for studying a book or a subject.

    http://www.triviumpursuit.com/articles/inductive_and_deductive_bible_studies.php

    1. zmaxcey (Post author)

      Brandon, thanks for the clarification and insight. I appreciate the link you provided; it is a good treatment of the subject. The distinction between methods of reasoning and methods of studying is helpful; thanks again for the link. I still respectfully disagree with your view that the warning about induction and incomplete data cannot apply with relation to the Bible. Yes, the Bible is a closed system – no disagreement there. However, for said warning to not apply, one must ensure that he or she has collected absolutely all the relevant data. Certainly, one can collect all (or most) of the relevant data pertaining to a particular doctrine, topic, or area of focus. Frequently, this is not the case. That being said, conclusions drawn from incomplete data can still be and often are true, but there is still the potential of drawing false conclusions, however insignificant, due to lack of data. In Christ, Zach.

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