The Ethics Of “Believe” In The Fourth Gospel -- By: J. Oliver Buswell, Jr.

Journal: Bibliotheca Sacra
Volume: BSAC 080:317 (Jan 1923)
Article: The Ethics Of “Believe” In The Fourth Gospel
Author: J. Oliver Buswell, Jr.


The Ethics Of “Believe” In The Fourth Gospel

J. Oliver Buswell, Jr.

I. Introduction

Point of view and method of this paper. Without doubt, the best scientific method of reaching any conclusion has been set forth by Prof. E. D. Burton in his “Principles of Literary Criticism.” The method of “multiple hypotheses” is ideal, and if perfectly applied, will bring perfect results. It implies a complete suspension of judgment until all possible hypotheses, except the one which proves to be correct, have been eliminated. It is extremely doubtful, however, whether many instances could be found in which a conclusion has been reached in this way. We seldom, in actual fact, come to the investigation of any subject without some preconceived hypothesis which we believe to be more or less probable; and the usual course of investigation is the testing out, modification, abandoning, or verification of our hypothesis. Though the method of “multiple hypotheses” may be logically ideal, yet I believe that, instead of this method, or in addition to it, as the case may be, the method by which we frankly recognize our preconceived hypotheses, however slight they may be, and set them down as factors to be reckoned with, is more psychologically practical. I acknowledge, therefore, that before coming to any detailed study of the ethical content of “pisteuo” in the fourth gospel I had a rather firm conviction on the subject which was not based on an exhaustive study of it. The preparation of this short paper has been a process of verification of an hypothesis which I felt very sure would prove true. I believe it neither scientific nor unscientific to have a conviction based upon evidence which is not exhaustive; it is merely human. But a scientific method does require that whatever conviction of this nature is held must be frankly acknowledged. I have endeavored to test out my conviction at every point, and I believe that it has proved to be correct.

I shall endeavor, then, to prove that the word “believe” as used in the fourth gospel has a very definite and strong ethical content; that the author categorically states that it has, and puts forth his book (among other purposes) with the definite purpose of confuting his contemporaries who considered “believing” to be non-ethical. “Believing” to the Jews was based upon “signs and wonders,” and ethics was a matter of legalistically doing the will of God. To the Greeks “believing” was based upon logic, and. ethics was variously set forth in .their, philosophy^ To the men of his day, then, the writer of the fourth gospel comes forth with the proposition that “believing” in Christ is not only a moral question, but it is the moral question which decides all...

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