The Berean Expositor
Volume 23 - Page 191 of 207
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"With all thy getting, get understanding" (Prov. 4: 7).
pp. 38 - 40
One of the most fruitful causes of fallacy and false reasoning is lack of definition, or
the use of faulty definition. "Gentlemen, define your terms", is a wise saying that bears
Much of the criticism of the teaching for which The Berean Expositor stands is so
much wasted effort because of this very thing. Our critic, either through a disregard of
our definitions, or the intrusion of their own into their criticism of our ministry, often beat
the air. With us the terms "mystery", "dispensation of the mystery", "The prison
ministry of Paul", "Acts 28:", "Pentecost", "hope and prize", "new covenant",
"kingdom truth", and "dispensational truth", have all received definition, and are used
in our writings with, we believe, precision. If this be ignored our critics must not be
displeased if their remarks appear to fall upon deaf ears.
A definition signifies the laying down of a boundary, and is used in logic to signify an
expression which explains any term in such a manner as to separate it from everything
else. It will, therefore, be fitting if the article on Classification is followed by one on
Definition. Definitions are nominal, when they establish the meaning of the word, or real
when they establish the nature of a thing. A good definition states what are regarded as
the "constituent parts of the essence", and must contain "the constituent characteristics of
the concept" (a concept being the general notion or idea representative of a whole class of
things, as man).
Such a definition must be clearly and grammatically expressed in unambiguous terms,
and must be universally true of the defined class. It must, moreover, be reciprocal, as, for
example, "A parallelogram is a four sided figure with parallel sides". So, in Eph. 1:
22, 23, following the Greek, we read: "and gave Him Head over all things to the church,
which is the body of Him." The definition "The church is the body" is in nowise
impaired if reversed--"The body is the church".
If the definition be a good one the subject and the predicate must be reversible without
prejudice to the sense. Several rules have been laid down for the framing of a definition:-
(1) The definition must be adequate; i.e., neither too extensive nor too narrow for the
thing defined; e.g., to define a `fish' as `an animal that lives in water', would be too
extensive, because many insects, etc., live in water. To define a fish as `an animal
that has an air-bladder', would be too narrow, because many fish are without any."
(2) The definition must be in itself plainer than the thing defined. This rule includes the
style in which the definition is framed as well as its truthfulness.  Figurative
expressions should be avoided, too great brevity may obscure, just as prolixity may
confuse. Tautology is a fault to be shunned. Thus to define a parallelogram as `A
four-sided figure whose opposite sides are parallel and equal', would be tautological