A Hermeneutical Ambiguity Of Eschatology: The Analogy Of Faith -- By: Robert L. Thomas

Journal: Journal of the Evangelical Theological Society
Volume: JETS 23:1 (Mar 1980)
Article: A Hermeneutical Ambiguity Of Eschatology: The Analogy Of Faith
Author: Robert L. Thomas


A Hermeneutical Ambiguity Of Eschatology:
The Analogy Of Faith

Robert L. Thomas*

Hermeneutically, “analogy of faith” is defined as the “general harmony of fundamental doctrine that pervades the entire Scriptures.”1 Two degrees of analogy are acknowledged: (1) the positive, something so plainly stated and based on so many passages that there can be no question as to the meaning (e.g., sin, redemption, omnipotence, etc.), and (2) the general, something not based on explicit declarations but on the obvious scope and import of Scriptural teachings as a whole.2 Two more degrees of analogy are worth mention but are usually judged unworthy of being genuine principles of interpretation. These are deduced analogy, which is based purely on logic, and imposed analogy, which is based on a creedal position.3 Deduced and imposed analogy are in practice not easily distinguished from general analogy.

Authorities on the science of interpretation will usually allow limitations in the use of the analogy of faith. In discussing “comparison of parallel passages,” a principle closely akin to the positive analogy of faith, Terry cautions against the danger of trying to make passages parallel that are not parallel and the pitfall of mistaking likeness of sentiment for real parallelism.4 He also warns that general analogy of faith cannot govern in places that have no real parallel and that stand unopposed by other parts.5 Single revelations of divine truth without elaborations must be allowed. General analogy is of little help in such cases.

Ramm defines analogy of faith in terms of one system of doctrine taught by the Bible and only one.6 This, he says, forbids pitting one author against another or finding doctrinal contradictions within the Bible.7 Yet he sees misuse of this principle by the Roman Catholic Church when scholars of that persuasion find compulsion to interpret all Scripture in harmony with the Romanist system of doctrine.8

*Robert Thomas is professor of New Testament at Talbot Theological Seminary in La Mirada, California.

Traina calls the analogy of faith the principle of organic unity. If comparable materials are used, the practice of using Scripture to expound Scripture is valid.9 Yet he foresees two dangers in this ...

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