Quotes from Barry Perryman’s book, “A Call to Unity”

Some excerpts from Perryman’s book, which is a critique on the interpretive method of Command, Example, Necessary Inference, the “law of silence” and patternism (regarding an alleged “pattern” of ritualistic worship and church activities). I would recommend reading the whole book… it’s a short read.

“The pattern is something allegedly handed down by God… It places our salvation as dependent upon our being shrewd lawyers and clever detectives, picking and choosing from the faint scriptural clues, with the blanks filled in with our own logic. This takes the focus off of Christ, His grace, and our personal relationship with Him.” (p.7-8)

“We cannot infer that God commanded Christians to participate in the Lord’s supper exclusively on Sunday when the only purported evidence is one verse (Acts 20:7) of narrative identifying when a discussion took place between Paul, Luke, and their respective traveling companions. They could not assemble on the second day of the week to break bread because Paul was intending to depart at that time. The reason for meeting on Sunday could just as easily have been because of Paul’s departure plans instead of a directive from God. We cannot infer precisely. Inductive inference with respect to commands always leaves us with the possibility of getting it wrong.” (p. 21-22)

Regarding Acts 2:44 (on p. 19-20)… “Inductivism insists that since these early saints were engaged in learning what the apostles were teaching, fellowship, breaking of bread, and prayer, these activities must have originated with God. Since this verse and its contextual passages do not mention the command ethic, it has to be inferred. But is the inference true? In the absence of scriptural evidence, it cannot be determined with certainty whether or not (A) God commanded these activities or (B) if they were voluntary expressions arising from a genuine commitment to honor God. Additional data is required to support the inference that these things were commanded by God. We can assume they were commanded to do these things, but that is all that it can be: an assumption….

Acts 2:42 in no way indicates that these activities were to be performed in communal or corporate worship worship on a specific day (Sunday) either in Jerusalem or in any other locality.”

Regarding “Examples”… “If God wants us to proceed in a certain way or behavior, why would He not command it? Why would He leave it for man to rely totally and solely on a cryptic, reasoned out, potentially erroneous example of what early Christians did in a given situation? It also leaves us to wonder if a particular example of some behavior or activity is an example or the exclusive example. How can we ascertain which? And should the principle behind the activity serve as the example, or is it the specific sequence of the action?”

Quotes from Barry Perryman’s book, “A Call to Unity”

5 thoughts on “Quotes from Barry Perryman’s book, “A Call to Unity”

  1. brent says:

    Interesting, thanks Colby. I’d like to get my hands on this book too. The command, example, necessary inference model of studying the Bible has left me scratching my head on some subjects.


  2. Anonymous says:

    I can agree with Perryman’s observations and conclusions in the context of “ritualistic worship”. His context is in the institutional church and what he calls “corporate worship.” It seems to me that what Barry has cautioned us on before is timely, “Don’t throw the baby out with the bath water.” No doubt, there are entire systems of law built around a few passages that are perverted to propagate ungodly agendas. As we react to them, we may easily allow the pendulum to stop in the other direction. For example, to suggest that Acts 2:42 was just voluntary expressions of commitment, removes any work of the Spirit in further guidance.

    I wrote a lengthy article in rebuttal to Mr. Perryman, but may have lost it when clicking “post it.” I will not attempt to re-write it. Perhaps, it was for the best.


    1. i will admit that i haven’t read the book yet and received the whole context, but from the comments by perryman above regarding acts 2:42 i’m not sure that he is removing anything, including the work of the Spirit, from the equation. he seems to just be saying that one is going to have to assume something either way they interpret it, because nothing regarding a command being issued or a Spirit-led response is explicitly indicated. we could just as easily assume both in conjunction, i suppose, but it seems his point is that any assumption might be dangerous when we use that assumption to establish and bind rules for corporate worship.

      the baby/bathwater analogy has come up quite a bit, and there is always a possibility of that, for sure. but i also think there is danger in being so afraid of throwing the baby out that we are not willing to splash around a little. and, even if we aren’t willing to do that ourselves, we probably shouldn’t assume those that are simply making some waves are inevitably going to be tossing out the baby? and by the way, i’ll freely admit that on some issues i have let my pendulum swing too far in the past (and probably will at times in the future), but i hope that i’ve been honest enough with myself to allow the pendulum to adjust back towards equilibrium.

      i’d be interested in reading your article on this as well.


  3. marcipenn says:

    these excerpts are great. specifically the first one “The pattern is something allegedly handed down by God… It places our salvation as dependent upon our being shrewd lawyers and clever detectives, picking and choosing from the faint scriptural clues, with the blanks filled in with our own logic. This takes the focus off of Christ, His grace, and our personal relationship with Him.” (p.7-8)

    this hits the nail on the head for me. i whole heartedly agree that playing detective is missing the point.
    it’s also really interesting to hear all these words “commands, inferences, etc” because i grew up in a Christian home and never once heard these phrases. my mom reads through the entire bible each year, my dad has a Master’s of Divinity and studied Greek and Hebrew…and yet, i’ve never been exposed to this. i’m not saying that because my parents didn’t teach it it must be wrong – i’m just saying that if God fearing Christians who genuinely study the Word and seek truth have never been turned on to these ideas…i have to wonder where they come from.

    those categories appear to me to be ENTIRELY invented by man/woman. which personally, i think is odd in and of itself. but to then try to make the entire Bible fit into those invented categories just seems very dangerous. if God wanted us to have categories, I think he would have told us. God didn’t ask the people of the old testament to be detectives or shrewd lawyers, he laid out the law to the letter.

    The things my parents did teach: Christ is Lord, he died for our sins, we need to repent and believe (which means asking forgiveness, having faith, being baptized, etc). all of these things we seem to agree on, and a lot of Christians I have met (regardless of denomination) have these core beliefs in place. These are the things we should focus on, in my opinion. If someone believes in these core things, I’ll consider them a brother or sister.

    Anyway – just some thoughts. Tim, (I assume Tim is “annonymous” ??) I would be curious to hear your more extensive thoughts on this. I’m also very curious to know which you consider the “baby” and which you consider the “bath water” 🙂



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