From what source does the divine authority of the Scriptures become known to us? (Part 4)

As you can tell by now Turretin’s treatment of the question, “By what means do we come to know the authority and divinity of Scripture” is quite an extensive treatment, but the show must go on. So, continuing this argument we now turn to section XVIII of Turretin’s treatment of the above question. Addressing again the topic of Scriptural self-attestation and self-authentication, Turretin writes,

“It is not always necessary that a thing should be proved by something else. For there are some things which are self-evident according to the philosophers (as the highest category of things, and ultimate differences and first principles) which are not susceptible to demonstration, but are evident by their own light and are taken for granted as certain and indubitable.”

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

Note here that Turretin makes his argument from the perspective of natural revelation. He points out that even the philosophers hold to first principles, explanatory ultimates, or axiomatic ultimates. That is, it is not a distinctly Christian belief to hold to such principles any more than it is distinctly Christian to believe in God but apart from Christ and the Trinity.

Note further that such principles are not susceptible to demonstration for if they were then that things which brought about the demonstration would itself be the first principle. Such demonstration includes empirical and evidential demonstration. Our senses and evidence can support our belief in Scripture but they cannot demonstrate that the Scripture is Scripture. If our senses and evidence were capable of such demonstration then the Scripture would be founded on man’s senses and historical artifacts and not on God and His testimony. It seems many Christians do not have an issue with this founding. We here at StandardSacredText.com do along with the standard pre-critical orthodox.

Turretin goes on with particularly strong words for those who question the nature of first principles and that of Scripture as a first principle. He writes,

“If perchance anyone denies them [first principles], he is not to be met with arguments, but should be committed to the custody of his kinsmen (as a madman); or to be visited with punishment.”

Turretin, Elenctic, Second Topic, Q. VI, Sec. XVIII

In another place, Turretin writes of those who besmirch the inspiration of the Church’s Bible,

“If any deny the inspiration of the Scriptures, it is not because the object in itself is not known or understandable, but because they are destitute of a well-disposed faculty. To them the gospel is hid because Satan has blinded their eyes (2 Cor. 4:4); as some deny God (who is most capable of being known) because they are fools, or do not see the sun because they are blind.”

Turretin, Elenctic, Second Topic, Q. VI, Sec. XIX

After addressing the fool, the blind, and the madman for questioning in his mind so obvious a truth, Turretin rhetorically asserts,

“Therefore since the Bible is the first principle and the primary and infallible truth, is it strange to say that it can be proved by itself?”

Turretin, Elenctic, Second Topic, Q. VI, Sec. XVIII

Afterwhich he concludes,

“The Bible can prove itself either one part or another when all parts are not equally called into doubt…or the whole proving the whole, not by direct argument or testimony…but made artfully (artificiali) and ratiocinative (because in it are discovered divine marks which are not found in the writings of men).”

Turretin, Elenctic, Second Topic, Q. VI, Sec. XVIII

In sum, Scripture can prove Scripture if a part is in question but not another part. This would be the case when the Jews accept the OT but not the NT. Because the OT and the NT are the word of God the OT can be used to prove the authority and divinity of the NT. But what if the whole is questioned? Turretin argues and we here at StandardSacredText.com concur, that it is the divine marks found in Scripture [i.e., inspiration and the testimony of the Holy Spirit] and not direct argument of testimony that wins the day. So when the whole of Scripture is under the text critical scalpel depending on the prevailing text critical winds of the day, the answer to knowing what is Scripture and what is not rests in the testimony of God’s Spirit through God’s word to God’s people by faith because the Scripture proves itself to be divine and authoritative being the first principle of theological knowledge.

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