From what source does the divine authority of the Scriptures become known to us? (Part 5)

Hopefully you have been following our treatment of the above question to this point. After laying a significant amount of groundwork Turretin now turns to a treatment of the canon of Scripture. If you have not already detected a polemic against the Roman Catholic assertion of ecclesiastical authority you certainly begin to see it here. For today’s post we are going to focus on Section XX. Turretin writes,

“It us one thing to discern and to declare the canon of Scripture; quite another to establish the canon itself and to make it authentic. The church cannot do the latter, but it does only the former.”

Francis Turretin, Institutes of Elenctic Theology vol. 1, Second Topic, Q. 6, Sec XX.

For Turretin and for us here at it is not the bare institution of the church or the “will of the people” which canonize this book of Scripture and not that book of the Apocrypha. It is the Holy Spirit, the Author of Scripture, who canonizes His words. The church merely recognizes those words and promulgates them throughout the nations. Just as Columbus did not standardize North America, he simply discovered it and just as mathematics is not standardized by the human mind it is only discovered so also the Christian Scriptures are none canonized/standardized by church authorities or the bare will of the people or a handful of Church Fathers or the Easter Letter. It is the Holy Spirit who canonized/standardized His words. And only by faith does the believing community recognize them to be God’s words in whatever language they appear.

Turretin goes on to give an example,

“As the goldsmith who separates the dross from the gold…distinguishes indeed the pure from the adulterated, but does not make it pure, so the church by its test distinguishes indeed canonical books from those which are not and from apocryphal, but does not make them such.”

Francis Turretin, Institutes of Elenctic Theology vol. 1, Second Topic, Q. 6, Sec XX.

Again the same goes for modern biblical textual criticism. In fact, textual criticism is not even in view here. Did textual criticism happen during the Reformation? Yes. Was Turretin aware of the textual criticism happening at his time? Yes. Yet here said discipline is not even mentioned let alone in the door for consideration. All that is in view is the church and the Holy Spirit. The former recognizes and the latter canonizes. There is no third party and certainly no parachurch party. Neither the church nor textual criticism can make God’s word pure. It is already pure. All that the church needs to do is to recognize what is God’s words and what is not and they do this primarily by the leading of the Spirit through faith. Only after that is evidence employed to support the already strongly held belief of the Christian community.

Finally, Turretin concludes this section with the following words,

“Nor can the judgment of the church give authority to the books which they do not possess of themselves; rather she declares the already existing authority by arguments drawn from the books themselves.”

Francis Turretin, Institutes of Elenctic Theology vol. 1, Second Topic, Q. 6, Sec XX.

|Indeed, the Scriptures are authentic and have authority long before some scholar declares this or that reading is authentic. What is more, the arguments for a books authenticity and divinity are drawn from the books themselves. The Bible teaches us what is the Bible and what is not. Just as tasting a strawberry tells us that we are tasting a strawberry so also when a Spirit filled believing Christian by faith reads God’s words the very reading of God’s words tells that saint that he/she is reading God’s words. And when they are not reading God’s words then they know that they are not, just like when you are not eating a strawberry but something else [e.g., an orange] you know that you are not eating a strawberry simply by eating something else.

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