From My Seminary Notes

Both Dr.’s Van Kleeck had the privilege of studying under Dr. Richard Gaffin Jr. at Westminster Theological Seminary [East]. We still have our notes from that/those classes. Gaffin taught Introduction to Systematic Theology which included his lectures on Bibliology. His lectures formed the way we talk about the Bible now at

Gaffin has since retired but his legacy lives on in his writing, lectures, and in our learning. Below is a small excerpt of notes taken in class by a colleague of mine, Tim Black. Tim gave his notes to anyone who asked so long as we promised to pass them on in like manner. Tim Black’s notes saved me more than once on an exam or quiz. And you’ll see why in a minute. Tim was a phenom when it came to the discipline of typing. But what can I say, phenomenal professors attract phenomenal students.

So without further ado I give you a couple of lines from Dr. Gaffin’s lecture which he delivered on day one of ST 101 – Introduction to Systematic Theology. Enjoy.

“We must recognize the function scripture has in revelation.  There are two facets that are the leading function of Biblical revelation: (1) Pointedly redemptive character- it is a redemptive revelation and of crucial significance in a world order corrupted by sin.  Biblical revelation has a unique, crucial significance.  (2) The Bible Alone is Uniquely Linguistic and verbal in character- This is revealed in genuine human language.  In the concrete situation we find ourselves in God’s revelation, Scripture performs its leading function and stands out as the purist exemplification of theology, the purist instance of the speaking of God: the divine speaking of God.  The Bible is theology.  The Bible is the speaking of God.  The speaking of God in the most direct and proper sense.  The Bible is God contemporaneously speaking to us TODAY.  The WCF, Chap. 1, sec. 10: ‘The Bible today is the Holy Spirit speaking in the Scripture.'” 

I offer this quote to make one point. While salvation is indeed a crucially significant function of Scripture, it is not its primary or leading function. The primary or leading function of Scripture is that it is God’s speech. Scripture is God speaking to us in “genuine human language.” This is its primary function. For if Scripture is not God speaking to us then salvation is impossible because faith comes by hearing and hearing by God’s words, by God speaking to us in genuine human language.

So all the theology boys out there who claim sufficient reliability is measured by whether the Gospel is clearly proclaimed in their particular version(s), have wholly missed the point of the primary function of Scripture.

The question is not, Do you believe you can be saved out of that text? No, the question is, Do you believe that text is in its totality, God’s speech or is it mixed with the words of men?

The real test is whether or not the Scriptures are God speaking to His people in ordinary human language or are the Scriptures some kind of alloy composed of God’s words and men’s words. And of course the CT/MVO crowd plainly and confidently tell us that there are many places where God is not speaking [i.e., the Long Ending in Mark or the story of the woman caught in adultery], or where they are unsure God is speaking. Or as Dan Wallace puts it,

” We do not have now in any of our critical Greek texts – or in any translation – exactly what the authors of the New Testament wrote. Even if we did, we couldn’t know it. There are many many places in which the text of the New Testament is uncertain.”

Daniel Wallace, “Foreword” in Elijah Hixson & Peter Gurry. Myths & Mistakes in New Testament Textual Criticism. xii.

The way Wallace was trained and the way he continues to train acolytes is far different from the way we were trained at Westminster. This should give you a small window into why we differ with the Wallace’s, White’s, and Ward’s of the world. We find their arguments to be bankrupt theologically.

Compare Gaffin’s words and Wallace’s words. Which do you think has the best chance of being positively defended from the teaching of Scripture? It seems obvious that Gaffin’s words are best suited to such a defense: “Hath God said,” “Thus saith the Lord,” “As the Lord spoke by the prophet,” and on and on. No where in Scripture will you find our Lord saying of His own divine words of the OT, “We do not now have in any of our scrolls exactly what the authors of the Old Testament wrote. Even if we did, we couldn’t know it. There are many places in which the text of the Old Testament is uncertain.”

Our position: The Bible is the speaking of God in the most direct and proper sense.
Their position: The Bible is the speaking of God in a sufficiently reliable sense.

See the difference? Can you see now why we disagree with Wallace and those like him? And this is just the third page of notes from one class at Westminster. There are plenty of other places where Wallace and his ilk show themselves to be wondering sheep. The question now is, which position is most consistent with the teaching of Scripture regarding itself?

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