From what source does the divine authority of the Scriptures become known to us? (Part 2)

Beginning again with Turretin,

“But although we do not deny that the testimony of the church has its own weight (as will afterwards be seen), yet we maintain that primarily and principally the Bible is believed by us to be divine on account of itself.”

Francis Turretin, Institutes of Elenctic Theology, vol. 1 Second Topic, Q. VI, Sec 4.

Here Turretin plainly states that it the Scriptures itself which is the source of our knowing that the Scriptures are authoritative. But before you charge this eminent Reformation scholar of circular reasoning or begging the question, remember that the Scriptures are a first principle. Indeed, the first principle of theological knowledge and as such are not demonstrated or proven by some prior more basic authority. Put simply, God’s words cannot be demonstrated, substantiated, or proven by some greater authority than God’s words. In this case it is all too natural that the Scriptures authoritatively testify of themselves. That said, Turretin divides our believing the authority of Scripture on account of the testimony of Scripture into three parts. He writes,

“As a threefold cause can be granted for the manifestation of anything (an objective, efficient and instrumental or organic), so a threefold question can arise about the divinity of the Bible.”

Turretin, Institutes, Second Topic, Q. VI, Sec 6.

The three questions regarding belief in the authority and divinity of Scripture are these:

“the first, concerning the argument on account of which I believe; the second, concerning the principle or efficient cause from which I am lead to believe; the third, concerning the means and instrument through which I believe.”

Turretin, Institutes, Second Topic, Q. VI, Sec 6.

For the first – the argument on account of which I believe – Turretin writes,

“For the Bible with its own marks is the argument on account of which I believe.”

Turretin, Institutes, Second Topic, Q. VI, Sec 6.

For the second – concerning the principle or efficient cause from which I am lead to believe – he writes,

“The Holy Spirit is the efficient cause and principle from which I am induced to believe.”

Turretin, Institutes, Second Topic, Q. VI, Sec 6.

For the third – concerning the means and instrument through which I believe – he writes,

“But the church is the instrument and means through which I believe.”

Turretin, Institutes, Second Topic, Q. VI, Sec 6.

Finally, Turretin summarizes these three answers in the following way,

“Hence if the question is why, or on account of what, do I believe the Bible to be divine, I will answer that I do so on account of the Scripture itself which by its marks proves itself to be such. If it is asked whence or from what I believe, I will answer from the Holy Spirit who produces that belief in me. Finally, if I am asked by what means or instrument I believe it, I will answer through the church which God uses in delivering the Scriptures to me.”

Turretin, Institutes, Second Topic, Q. VI, Sec 6.

We here at StandardSacredText.com hold these answer as the paradigmatic answers for how we know the Scripture is authoritative and divine. The interrelation of the word of God, the Spirit of God, and the people God is the primary means whereby the people of God come to know Scripture, to know what is Scripture, and to know its authority and divinity. It is very much the invisible work of the Holy Spirit through His words to His people through faith. And why should this be surprising? This is the same work the Holy Spirit through the word of God does in the life of the believer in sanctification. It is the same invisible work performed by the Spirit through the word in a soul unto salvation.

“The wind bloweth where it listeth, and thou hearest the sound thereof, but canst not tell whence it cometh, and whither it goeth: so is every one that is born of the Spirit.”

John 3:8

One final observation, Turretin does not place scholarship or textual criticism within the paradigm when answering the question, How does the saint primarily come to know the authority and divinity of Scripture? Does this mean that the academy has no place in the Christian theological and apologetic enterprise? Certainly not. But what it does mean is that the academy and it fruits are not the primary means whereby the Christian comes to know the authority and divinity of this or that passage of Scripture. The Christian comes to know the authority and divinity of this or that passage by the Spirit of God speaking in the word of God to the people of God received by faith. Such a paradigm include the long ending in Mark and I John 5:7 among others.

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