Was a Verbal Revelation Necessary? We Affirm.

Continuing our Bibliology Primer we turn to Francis Turretin’s first question, “Was a verbal revelation necessary?” At this point the discussion is only about words whether spoken or written and their necessity. Why must revelation be a revelation of words? Turretin affirms this necessity under two heads: 1.) the goodness of God and 2.) the appetites of man. The first head contains three causal lines: 1.) the perfect goodness of God, 2.) the blindness and wretchedness of man, and 3.) right reason. Concerning the first he writes,

“For when he made man for himself…he was without doubt unwilling that he should be ignorant on the subject [i.e., theology] and has declared to him by the word, happiness itself and the way to reach it.”

Francis Turretin, Institutes of Elenctic Theology, Second Topic, Q. 1, III. 55.

Of the second he writes of mankind that

“he is so blind and depraved, that he can neither become acquainted with any truth, nor perform any good thing unless God leads the way (1 Cor. 2:14; Eph. 5:8)”

Francis Turretin, Institutes of Elenctic Theology, Second Topic, Q. 1, III. 55.

Regarding the third, right reason, it

“teaches that God can be savingly known and worshipped only by his light, just as the sun makes itself known to us only by its own light (Ps. 36:9)”

Francis Turretin, Institutes of Elenctic Theology, Second Topic, Q. 1, III. 55.

Turning then to the second head, not only is the necessity of verbal revelation proven through the goodness of God, plight of men, and good reason it is also proven by the twofold appetite of man himself. All men desire in some way, often in a twisted and malformed way, two things: truth and immortality. Interestingly, Immanuel Kant touches on this very same idea as he argues for morality and particularly the need for God and immortality to lead a truly complete moral life. He concludes,

“God and a future life are two hypothesis which, according to the principles of pure reason, are inseparable from the obligation which this reason imposes upon us.”

Immanuel Kant, The Critique of Pure Reason, Transcendental Doctrine of Method, Chap. 2, Sec. 2. GBWW, 238.

Turning back to Turretin, he writes of truth and immortality, that former is

“for knowing the truth, the other for enjoying the highest good that the intellect may be completed by the contemplation of truth and the will by the fruition of good in which a happy life consists.”

Francis Turretin, Institutes of Elenctic Theology, Second Topic, Q. 1, IV. 56

Thus he concludes,

“Therefore the higher school of grace was necessary in which God might teach us by word the true religion, by instructing us in his knowledge and worship and by raising us in communion with himself to the enjoyment of eternal salvation – where neither philosophy, nor reason, could ever rise.”

Francis Turretin, Institutes of Elenctic Theology, Second Topic, Q. 1, IV. 56.

In sum, for Turretin, the acquisition of truth, theology, and a method of right worship is necessarily dependent upon divinely revealed words, spoken or written. Furthermore, man has an innate appetite for truth and eternal life, the latter of which is also necessarily dependent upon divine verbal revelation. Put another way, in order for the human subject to acquire truth and eternal life that same subject must necessarily encounter divine verbal revelation. Let us know your thoughts in the comments below.

Our next instalment in this series takes Turretin’s question a step further and asks, “Was it necessary for the word of God to be committed to writing?” See you then.

The Reformed Principia Theologiae

Welcome to the Brickyard. This is a place to find quotes for use in your own research. The bricks are free but the building is up to you. The following quotes are from Richard Muller’s Post Reformation Reformed Dogmatics: Prolegomena to Theology. We turn specifically to the doctrinal formulation of the “Reformed Principia Theologiae.”

Muller describes the Principia Theologiae as

“the sine qua non, the necessary and irreducible ground of theology, apart from which not even the fundamental articles of the faith could be set forth and no articles of theology, fundamental or derivative, could be correctly stated.”

Muller, Prolegomena to Theology, 9.3, A, 1. 430-431.

The “necessary and irreducible ground” of theology, the faith, and Christian fundamentals is known as the principia or first principles. Muller explains,

“From Aristotle and more recent commentators, Iaullus and Zabarella, Lubbertus draws the argument that principia are necessary and immutably true and must be known per se as both immediate and indemonstrable.”

Muller, Prolegomena to Theology, 9.3, A, 1. 431.

Muller goes on,

“Furthermore, the principia of any given discipline must be identified as a principium essendi, literally a “principle of being” or essential foundation – and a principium cognoscendi, a “principle of knowing” or cognitive foundation. The former is necessary for the existence of the discipline, the latter for knowledge of it.”

Muller, Prolegomena to Theology, 9.3, A, 1. 431.

So what are the principia of the discipline we call theology? Muller insists that

“By defining both Scripture and God as principal in the strictest sense – namely as true, immediate, necessary, and knowable or, alternatively, as both self-evident and indemonstrable – the early orthodox asserted the priority of Scripture over tradition and reason and gave conceptual status to the notion of its self=authenticating character in response to both Roman polemicists and philosophical skeptics of the era.”

Muller, Prolegomena to Theology, 9.3, A, 1. 432.

Conclusion? The historically Reformed position is that both Scripture and God are principium. As such, each is true, immediate, necessary, knowable, self-evident, and indemonstrable in Christian apologetic and polemic endeavors. If true, then the Bible cannot be mostly true. If immediate, then knowledge of the Bible is not mediated by some more basic authority. If necessary, then true Christian theology cannot be had apart from the Bible. If knowable, then Scripture cannot be the ward of Christian academia. If self-evident, then textual criticism cannot be the primary means of knowing what is Scripture and what is not. If indemonstrable, an “embarrassment of riches” cannot be the means whereby Christians “prove” the Scripture to be what it says it is.

A Bibliology Primer and the Institutes of Elenctic Theology

This is the first of a new series entitled, A Bibliology Primer drawn Principally form Francis Turretin’s Institutes of Elenctic Theology, or a Primer on Bibliology for short. Richard Muller writes of the term “elenctic,”

“elenchticus, -a, -um (adj.): elenctic(al), for the purpose of confutation or logical refutation;

a descriptive adjective frequently used by Protestant scholastics with reference to the polemical section of their dogmatic systems. Whereas polemical indicates simply attack, elenctic(al) implies refutation leading toward positive statement.”

Richard Muller, Dictionary of Latin and Greek Theological Terms: Drawn Principally From Protestant Scholastics, Term: elenchticus.

As we make our way through this primer it is important to know that material under examination happens in a dogmatic context with the aim to confute [i.e., prove to be wrong] or refute [i.e., disprove] certain assertions under the give topic. The Protestants at this time were in a kind of intellectual combat over the soul of the believing community. This of course gives rise to tacitly militant language in terms like apologetic, polemic, and elenctic.

Regarding Bibliology, Turretin’s offering was written at a time when the Protestant orthodox were under political and theological assault, thus the observations he makes took place in an adversarial context. Rome had her Bible and the Protestants had theirs. Note, there was a time when both sides held to a standard sacred text – one Latin, and the other Greek and Hebrew. We here at StandardSacredText.com would like to see similar circumstance come about in the 21st century church.

On final note regarding Turretin’s Institutes. He begins his first topic with the existence and necessity of theology as a discipline and system of study. His second topic is not God, or sin , or the church. His second topic is Scripture. We see this in the Westminster Confession and its cousin, the London Baptist Confession. Again, for Turretin he saw fit first to start with Scripture, our epistemological foundation for Christian belief, rather than with God, our ontological foundation for Christian belief. Certainly this ordering is not the same with all Protestant scholastics, but in this case as in many others, it is.

Weekly Question – God’s Command

God spoke commands, thou shalt not kill. Thou shalt not steal. But isn’t it the case that the very speaking of God is also a kind of implicit command? Is there any sense in which when God speaks the human creature may ignore that speech? Is there any speech of God which does not carry this implicit command to “Give ear to what God has said”? If so, are we not commanded to hear every word? If we are commanded to hear every word but we do not have every word then God holds us to a command that we cannot fulfill even in the Spirit.

Let us know your thoughts in the comments below.

One Lord. One Faith. One Bible?

There is one body, and one Spirit, even as ye are called in one hope of your calling; One Lord, one faith, one baptism, One God and Father of all, who is above all, and through all, and in you all.”

Ephesians 4:4-6

John Calvin writes in his commentary on the above passage from Ephesians, “Some consider the unity of the Spirit to mean that spiritual unity which is produced in us by the Spirit of God. There can be no doubt that He alone makes us “of one accord, of one mind,” (Philippians 2:2,) and thus makes us one; but I think it more natural to understand the words as denoting harmony of views.”

It seems fair that we have a harmony of view regarding Christ as Head, the Christian calling, Christ as Lord, and God as Father. The Cross is exclusive in its efficacious work. There is only one way to salvation. There is only one true faith.

Calvin goes on to write regarding verse 4 “that we are subject to a law which no more permits the children of God to differ among themselves than the kingdom of heaven to be divided.” And what exactly does this look like? Recall the words of Jesus as he taught the disciples to pray, “thy will be done on earth as it is in heaven.” The unity on earth is to mirror the unity in heaven and in one particular way. We must be united in the will of God and that it be done.

For the cessationist, what is the revealed will of God on earth in the present church age? The word of God, Scripture, is that revealed will. In commenting on verse 5, Calvin observes that “Christ cannot be divided. Faith cannot be rent. There are not various baptisms, but one which is common to all. God cannot cease to be one, and unchangeable.” We are no more permitted to differ over what words are God’s words than the kingdom of heaven is to differ over which words are God’s words.

Where do we learn that there is one Lord, Christ? The Bible. Where do we learn that there is one faith? The Bible. Where do we receive faith? By hearing the Bible. Where do we learn that there is one God? The Bible. Where do we learn this one God is Father to the Christian? The Bible. Where do we learn of the one Holy Spirit? The Bible. Where do we learn from this one Holy Spirit? The Bible. Yet the epistemological source, the ground and foundation of where we learn all these “ones” is not one. The English-speaking believing community does not have one God’s word from the one Spirit to learn of the one God, the one Spirit, the one faith, the one Lord.

We here at StandardSacredText.com concur with Calvin in confessing that “Christ cannot be divided. Faith cannot be rent. There are not various baptisms, but one which is common to all. God cannot cease to be one, and unchangeable.” And as such, There cannot be various God’s words, but one which is common to all. God’s word cannot cease to be one, and unchangeable.

Apographa

copies of an original;

specifically, the scribal copies of the original autographa (q.v.) of Scripture.”

Richard Muller, Dictionary of Latin and Greek Theological Terms: Drawn Principally from Protestant Scholastic Theology, Term: apographa.

The term apographa deserves close attention in that the documents were not merely understood to be copies of copies of copies, but for the Protestant Scholastics and for us here at StandardSacredText.com the apographa is in one sense the copies of the original autographa. Muller observes under the same entry,

“The Protestant scholastics distinguished between the absolute infallibility of the original copies of the biblical books and the textual imperfection of the apographa.”

Muller, Dictionary, apographa.

For the Protestant scholastics there were two kinds of “copies.” First, there were the copies which made up the sacred text of God’s people from which the Protestant scholastics did battle with Roman Catholic apologists. Second, the apographa as “manuscript tradition” which though essentially correct, did possess imperfections which Protestant scholastics thought easily remedied through “their exegetical method intended, by means of mastery of the languages and the comparative study of the extant texts, to overcome errors caused by transmission.”

“In addition, the Protestant orthodox held, as a matter of doctrinal conviction stated in the locus de Scriptura Sacra of their theological systems, the providential preservation of the text throughout history.”

Muller, Dictionary, apographa.

This “matter of doctrinal conviction” is born out quite clearly in the declaration of the Westminster Confession of Faith 1.8:

“The Old Testament in Hebrew…and the New Testament in Greek…being immediately inspired by God, and, by His singular care and providence, kept pure in all ages, are therefore authentical.”

Westminster Confession of Faith, 1.8.

In short, first, the historic Protestant orthodox position on this point was to hold that the original text they held to as the sacred text, which was a copy, was equal to the autographa. Second, the textual tradition [i.e. the apographa] did indeed possess corruptions, but these corruptions could be easily overcome through “their exegetical method intended…to overcome errors caused by the transmission of the text.”

What is Standard Sacred Text.com – Text

Before addressing a topic so fundamental as the doctrine of God, Francis Turretin begins his Institutes of Elenctic Theology with a discussion on the doctrine of Scripture. Turretin is writing in the third wave of the Reformation and the struggle over the certainty and authority of the Scriptures was still a hotly contested locus between the Protestants and Catholics.

In his second topic and second question, Turretin asks,

“Was it necessary for the word of God to be committed to writing? We affirm.”

Francis Turretin, Institutes of Elenctic Theology, Vol. 1, Second Topic, Q. 2.

He goes on to remark on the three things which prove said necessity: “1.) the preservation of the word; 2.) its vindication; 3.) its propagation.” Turretin offers a summary of these three when he writes,

“It was necessary for a written word to be given to the church that the canon of true religious faith might be constant and unmoved; that it might easily be preserved pure and entire against the weakness of memory, the depravity of men, and the shortness of life; that it might be more certainly defended from the frauds and corruptions of Satan.”

Francis Turretin, Institutes of Elenctic Theology, Vol. 1, Second Topic, Q. 2, Sec. VI.

Note the timely and relevant language here. Turretin, writing in 1696, acknowledges the weakness of memory which is an Achille’s Heal of mere oral tradition, the depravity of men to alter the word of God, the brevity of human life, and finally Satan himself as corruptors of the Scriptural text. For Turretin and the Reformers in general, the textual issues is at the bottom a moral, generational, and spiritual one.

Observe even further that although a great bit of artillery is aimed at “the canon of true religious faith” Turretin declare that the writing of Scripture “remains constant and unmoved.” The very writing of the Scriptures ensures for the Reformers an easy preserved, pure, and entire written word of God.

Simply put, we here at StandardSacredText.com hold to the same conclusion. God gave His word in written propositions easily, purely, and entirely. Those same propositions, by virtue of being God’s propositions, remain easily, purely, and entirely preserved in a single standard sacred text. We here at StandardSacredText.com hold that text to be the union of the Masoretic Hebrew Text of the Old Testament, and the 1881 Scrivener’s Greek New Testament. Regarding the English-speaking believing community. We believe the King James Version to be the standard sacred text for the English-speaking believing community.

William Whitaker and Revelation 20:18

Welcome to the Brickyard. This is a place to find quotes for use in your own research. The bricks are free but the building is up to you. The following quotes are from William Whitaker on Revelation 20:18. He originally wrote them in 1588.

“For we may, by parity of reason, argue thus: The authority and analogy of the other books is the same: if, therefore, it be not lawful to add to this book, then, by parity of reason, it will be unlawful to add to any other book, or detract from it.”

William Whitaker, Disputations on Holy Scripture, trans. and ed. William Fitzgerald (Orlando, FL: Soli Deo Gloria Publications, 2005), 622.

“Those, therefore, who add any thing to the scripture itself, or take any thing from it, are obnoxious to this denunciation.”

William Whitaker, Disputations on Holy Scripture, trans. and ed. William Fitzgerald (Orlando, FL: Soli Deo Gloria Publications, 2005), 622.

“I confess that the apostle denounces an anathema against those who add any thing to that word of God which he preached; but I maintain that the whole of that word is contained in the scriptures.”

William Whitaker, Disputations on Holy Scripture, trans. and ed. William Fitzgerald (Orlando, FL: Soli Deo Gloria Publications, 2005), 623.

What is Standard Sacred Text.com – Sacred

Eminent scholar, Daniel Wallace opines in the following manner,

“I would question whether it is an epistemologically sound principle to allow one’s presuppositions to dictate his text-critical methodology. This is neither honest to a historical investigation nor helpful to our evangelical heritage.”

Daniel Wallace, “Challenges in New Testament Textual Criticism for the Twenty-First Century” in Journal of the Evangelical Theological Society Vol. 52, Iss. 1 (March 2009): 79-100. 93.

Here at StandardSacredText.com we do not question whether it is an epistemologically sound principle to allow one’s theological presuppositions to dictate text-critical methodology. Indeed, we argue the opposite. We argue that it is honest to historical investigation. Why? Well of course the Scriptures are historical particulars but so is divine revelation.

The fact that the Red Sea parted is a historical fact. According to the Christian worldview, the fact that God made the Red Sea part is also a historical fact. In fact, divine revelation is just as much a historical “artifact” as the physical document we call the Scriptures. The apostle John’s writing of the gospel of John is a historical fact. In the same way, according to the Christian worldview, God’s inspiring John to write the inspired words of the gospel of John is also a historical fact.

As such we do not exclude the Triune God or Christian theology from any of our academic endeavors whether that be linguistic, scientific, historical, or other. What we believe about what the Bible says about itself is sacred issue, indeed, a sacred duty. And by sacred we mean set apart to God. Paul reminds us in I Corinthians 10: 31, “Whether therefore ye eat, or drink, or whatsoever ye do, do all to the glory of God.” Text-critical method falls under “whatsoever ye do. ” If the glory of the Triune God is your aim in text-critical methodology then it seems something of your theological presuppositions is dictating your methodology.

If God’s glory is not the aim of the Christian, then said Christian violates Paul’s injunction. Certainly we would say this of a marriage which has some other aim. Or a business which has some other aim. In fact, some may say that this “other aim” may amount to idolatry.

“The glory of the Triune God” is a theological presupposition.
A: All the things a Christian does should be done to the glory of the Triune God.
B: Text-critical methodology is something a Christian does.
Conclusion: For a Christian, text-critical methodology should be done to the glory of the Triune God.