Our Lord’s declaration that God’s Word is truth (John 17:17) demands the reaffirmation of each next generation of Christians. Yet more is required than just that: the inspiration, trustworthiness, and clarity of Scripture also deserve restatement in light of new forms of denial.
For example, if God is the principal author of Scripture, must we admit creaturely limitations because it comes to us via the hands of human authors? And the questions continue:
• If we cannot understand our contemporaries’ views and commitments, how much less can we understand the ancient Scriptures?
• Since the Scriptures are human writings, don’t they possess the limitations of all other human communications?
• Aren’t these limitations exacerbated by the historical anomalies of time and space?
• Don’t human cultural concerns and self-interests overshadow or even dominate whatever inescapable authorial intent the Scriptures may present?
• Even if the Scriptures are the Word of God, how can mere finite creatures, especially untutored laypeople, possibly apprehend the transcendent mind of God cloaked in such obscure texts? (pp. ix-x)
Did God Really Say? sets out to answer these and other questions for our generation with a bold reaffirmation of the common doctrine of the church captured well in the Westminster Confession of Faith – that Scripture is necessary, inspired, authoritative, infallible, perspicuous (clear), translatable, self-interpreting, and the very voice of the Holy Spirit (pp. x-xi).
The book was the joint effort of faculty from Covenant, Reformed, or Westminster Theological Seminaries for the 39th General Assembly of the Presbyterian Church in America (June, 2011). Scott Oliphint’s opening chapter provides a superb unpacking of the logic of the WCF doctrine of Scripture – really an excellent essay that is itself worth the price of the book and that identifies a doctrine of Scripture that is distinctly Reformed.
What we have, therefore, in this most excellent beginning chapter from the WCF is something solidly Reformed, magnificently creative (in the best sense), and theologically (as well as philosophically) charged. What we have is an articulation and a true “confession” of what are for Reformed folk our bedrock foundations, Scripture and God, apart from which we cannot know anything, without which we cannot have any certainty, and behind which we cannot go (p.6).
Other essays treat very contemporary points of debate such as New Testament Canon (Michael Kruger), God and Language (Vern Poythress), and N.T. Wright’s view of Scripture (John Frame). Some of the chapters are outstanding, but all are helpful contributions to the contemporary discussion.
Table of Contents
Robert C. (Ric) Cannada Jr., Bryan Chapell, and Peter A. Lillback ix
David B. Garner
1. Because It Is the Word of God
K. Scott Oliphint
2. The Church, a Pillar of Truth: B. B. Warfield’s Church Doctrine of Inspiration
Michael D. Williams
3. Deconstructing Canon: Recent Challenges to the Origins and Authority
of the New Testament Writings
Michael J. Kruger
4. Inerrancy’s Complexities: Grounds for Grace in the Debate
Robert W. Yarbrough
5. God and Language
Vern S. Poythress
6. N. T. Wright and the Authority of Scripture
John M. Frame
7. Did God Really Say?
David B. Garner
Index of Subjects and Names
“This does not mean that nothing else attends that authority; there are other evidences, which we will see in a moment. What it does mean is that nothing else whatsoever is needed, nor is there anything else that is able to supersede this ground, in order for Scripture to be deemed authoritative. To put the matter philosophically, Scripture’s warrant rests solely and completely in itself, because of what it is, the very Word of God” (p.14).
“We should note here that the point made in section 4 of the confession is not simply that Scripture is the Word of God because it says it is. Rather, the point is that Scripture is the Word of God because God, who is truth itself, is its author” (p.15).
“God is the primary author of Scripture, and men are instrumental secondary authors. And, if instruments, then what men write down is as much God’s own words as if he had written it down without human mediation…. In other words, what the confession sets out to affirm here is that Scripture is foundationally and essentially divine” (p.17).
“What is remarkable about the New Testament canon, then, is not that it took several centuries for the boundaries to be solidified (some disagreement is to be expected), but that the core New Testament was in place so early” (p.56).
“When the redemptive pattern of Scripture and the role of the covenant are understood, then we can see that conceptions of the canon as a merely a product of the early church fundamentally miss what canon really is. The canon was not an after-the-fact development, but something woven deep into the fabric of God’s redemptive plan” (p.59).
“The church’s reception of these books is not evidence of its authority to choose the canon, as Allert and others maintain, but is evidence of the opposite, namely, the authority, power, and
impact of the self-authenticating Scriptures to elicit a corporate response from the church. The church’s full affirmation of these books does not show that it created or constituted the canon, but is the natural and inevitable outworking of the self-authenticating nature of Scripture” (p.68-69).
“The human authors are not “creating” meaning, but expressing God’s meaning, meaning that he already had. The events have always had meaning; there are no “bare” events with no meaning, because God controls all of history” (p.101).
“Wright’s view is not Barthian, but he does not assert the equation between God’s words and the Bible’s that is typical of evangelical accounts” (p.110).
“When I say that something is not clear that God has spoken clearly, I am hardly manifesting the doxological posture incumbent upon a student of Scripture. Denial of perspicuity is not humility; it is arrogance of the highest order” (p.135).
“If real meaning derives from the reader, no redeeming clarity in biblical language exists in any meaningful sense” (p.137).
“Biblical perspicuity ensures interpretive perspicacity. God has spoken clearly in his Word and he intends his people to understand” (p.161).
Fred G. Zaspel