A concept that I have come to understand is called the Negative Inferance Fallacy. The basic idea is that making a positive statement a negative statement does not always create a true statement. I doubt this is high on anyones ‘ to understand’ list, but let me take a wack at this. (note: this may be a difficult post to follow)
First I will take two sentences:
“Whoever breathes and has a pulse is alive.”
This is a statement that is true. Now we are going to look at a negative form of this statement.
“Whoever breathes and does not have a pulse is not alive.”
This sentence may seem true at first but, take a look again. It is actually false. Because someone who is not alive can not breathe, yet this statement is about someone who is breathing and is not alive. So we know this is a false statement. Evidence that simply making a positive statement a negative does not necessarily mean that the negative statement will be equally true.
I am finding that this logic is helpful in seeing the harmony in scripture when statements at first appear to contradict. I am currently studying Baptism and Salvation and will be writing more about this study on the site in the coming weeks, but what I have been finding are verses that at first appear to contradict. I was struggling to see the harmony of agreement in these scriptures. But that was because I was assuming that all negative statements of a verse are also true, I was by default not just looking at the actual statement found in scripture. The verse I will be looking at is Mark 16:16a. “Whoever believes and is baptized will be saved…” now I could assume that all of the opposite derivatives of this verse are as true as the verse itself.
Here are two possible derivatives of this verse:
Whoever does not believe and is not baptized will not be saved
Whoever believes and is not baptized will not be saved
I could view this verse in a way that these two negative derivatives of the verse above are as equally true as the original that is found in scripture.
Now I want to take a look at a verse in John, John 3:36.
John 3:36 – Whoever believes in the Son has eternal life, but whoever rejects the Son will not see life, for God’s wrath remains on him.
This verse does not mention baptism for eternal life. So how can John 3:36 and Mark 16:16 both be true? Where is the harmony here? How can these verses be in agreement? Have we found a contradiction in scripture?
If we look at the actual statements found in scripture we will see that they are both true, but only if we do not recognize that all negative derivatives of the verses are also true. Let me try to explain.
John 3:36 says that belief = eternal life (salvation). Mark 16:16 says belief + baptism = salvation. If first look at John 3:36 we can see that Mark 16:16 is also true because of the following. If belief = salvation then certainly belief + baptism also equals salvation. The verses are in harmony.
The only thing that brings these verses out of harmony is if we take the following negative derivative of Mark 16:16 and consider it to be true.
Whoever believes and is not baptized will not be saved – this is the negative derivative of Mark 16:16 that is not in harmony with John 3:36. Because it is not possible for John 3:36 to be in agreement with Mark 16:16 if this negative derivative is true. If belief + no baptism = no salvation then belief =salvation is missing a core component to make the statement true, so it is not possible to consider John 3:36 true if our negative derivative of Mark 16:16 above is also true. But if we do not validate the negative derivative that is not found in scripture we find that John 3:36 and Mark 16:16 are in agreement. So we see that it is not the scriptures that are in disagreement, but the problem is in our tendency to recognize the negative derivatives of a statement to be equally true, not just the statement found in scripture. It is my hope that understanding this principle will help me as I dig into more scripture and continue to take a wholistic approach to God’s word. I am convinced that God wants us to see the union and harmony in His word, and not get stuck on apparent contradictions, so I am dedicated to seeing harmony and union in His word.