John Calvin (1509-1564) wrote his Institutes (1559) in the early orthodox period (1565-1640) of the Protestant Reformation. His work was taken up by the great apologist William Whitaker (1548-1595) in A Disputation of Holy Scripture Against the papists especially Bellarmine and Stapleton (1588). According to Wayne Spear, Whitaker was quoted more frequently than any other theologian by the Westminster Divines in the formulation of the 1647 Westminster Confession. The transmission and preservation of Calvin’s theology throughout the Reformation demonstrates the enduring truth of his early writings. Calvin’s genius in the theological grounding of the Protestant Reformation cannot be overstated, and intellectual honesty demands the recognition of this theological grounding in current applications. Calvin writes,
“[But] I reply, that the testimony of the Spirit is superior to all reason. For as God alone is sufficient witness to himself in his own word, so also the word will never gain credit in the hearts of men, till it be confirmed by the internal testimony of the Spirit. It is necessary, therefore, that the same Spirit, who spake by the mouths of the prophets, should penetrate into our hearts, to convince us that they faithfully delivered the oracles which were divinely entrusted to them…; because, till he illuminate their minds, they are perpetually fluctuating amidst a multitude of doubts.” Calvin, Institutes, 1.7.4.
Using this quote as a framework, it is suggested that the answers to the following issues Calvin raises would provide just the theological grounding that White is missing. The strength of White’s position is solely negative — disparaging the TR. Everything else is uncertain and fluid. This post is meant to help provide Dr. White with a positive theological apologetic centered on the merits of White’s own position. Based on the Calvin quote, then,
- How is the testimony of the Spirit superior to all reason according to White’s position?
- How is God a sufficient witness to himself in his own word according to White’s position?
- How is this witness confirmed by the internal testimony of the Spirit according to White’s position?
- Why is it necessary for the Spirit to convince us that the prophets faithfully delivered the words divinely entrusted to them according to White’s position?
- Why is the Spirit’s illumination the solution to minds that are perpetually fluctuating amidst a multitude of doubts according to White’s position?
- Based on these answers, then, in summary, “How is the Holy Spirit inseparable from the White’s position on Scripture?”
I’m sure, as you listen to the debate, you will find the answers to these questions enlightening. If you answer, Dr. White never refers to the role of the Holy Spirit in his apologetic and strongly disagrees with those who do, you would be right. For this reason and others, White’s presentation at the debate can fittingly be called secular.
2 thoughts on “What is the Role of the Holy Spirit in Dr. White’s Apologetic?”
I love the Calvin quote! And I find it interesting that Dr. White disparaged the role of the Holy Spirit in preserving His Word *in all ages* (not merely in manuscripts) and in testifying to our spirits the truthfulness of that same Word. Jesus’ sheep hear His voice; the Spirit testifies with our spirit that we are children of God. For White to brush this off (and misrepresent your position) as “just pray about it” – turning prayer into a punch line – is sad.
Thanks, Jimmy, for the note. You’re correct. As we know, it is the Holy Spirit guides us (that is, the Church since Pentecost) into all truth, and thus the conspicuous historic emphasis upon the role of the Spirit in the life of a believer. The prominence of the this topic in orthodox Christianity makes its impossible to miss. As Dr. Van Kleeck correctly concluded, when dealing with Scripture, Dr. White is a secularist. You could have heard the core of his side of the debate from any unregenerate scholar. The debate made it manifestly clear that White’s secular compartmentalization of Scripture is by design. Thanks again for the note. Blessings!
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