|Our text for Sunday School (also "The Confession of Faith and Catechisms")|
Biblical Theology Bites
What is "Biblical Theology"?
Question and Answer
- What is meant by "the light of nature?"
- What is meant by "the works of creation and providence?
- Choose a section from Chapter One of "The Confession of Faith" and find a proof-text not chosen by the Westminster Divines (the authors of The Confession of Faith) to support that sentence, clause, or paragraph from the Confession.
- According Chad Van Dixhoorn, in his book "Confessing the Faith" the "light of nature" is "the divine imprint which is left on each of us by our Maker" (p.4). Ecclesiastes 3:11 says that "He has put eternity in their hearts." We remain creatures made in his image although we are fallen. We are image bearers. We will never cease to be.
Of the Holy Scripture
1. Although the light of nature, and the works of creation and providence do so far manifest the goodness, wisdom, and power of God, as to leave men unexcusable; yet are they not sufficient to give that knowledge of God, and of his will, which is necessary unto salvation. Therefore it pleased the Lord, at sundry times, and in divers manners, to reveal himself, and to declare that his will unto his church; and afterwards, for the better preserving and propagating of the truth, and for the more sure establishment and comfort of the church against the corruption of the flesh, and the malice of Satan and of the world, to commit the same wholly unto writing: which maketh the Holy Scripture to be most necessary; those former ways of God's revealing his will unto his people being now ceased.
2. Under the name of Holy Scripture, or the Word of God written, are now contained all the books of the Old and New Testaments, which are these:
Of the Old Testament:
Genesis II Chronicles Daniel
Exodus Ezra Hosea
Leviticus Nehemiah Joel
Numbers Esther Amos
Deuteronomy Job Obadiah
Joshua Psalms Jonah
Judges Proverbs Micah
Ruth Ecclesiastes Nahum
I Samuel The Song of Songs Habakkuk
II Samuel Isaiah Zephaniah
I Kings Jeremiah Haggai
II Kings Lamentations Zechariah
I Chronicles Ezekiel Malachi
Of the New Testament:
The Gospels Galatians The Epistle
according to Ephesians of James
Matthew Philippians The first and
Mark Colossians second Epistles
Luke Thessalonians I of Peter
John Thessalonians II The first, second,
The Acts of the to Timothy I and third Epistles
Apostles to Timothy II of John
Paul's Epistles to Titus The Epistle
to the Romans to Philemon of Jude
Corinthians I The Epistle to The Revelation
Corinthians II the Hebrews of John
All which are given by inspiration of God to be the rule of faith and life.
3. The books commonly called Apocrypha, not being of divine inspiration, are no part of the canon of the Scripture, and therefore are of no authority in the church of God, nor to be any otherwise approved, or made use of, than other human writings.
4. The authority of the Holy Scripture, for which it ought to be believed, and obeyed, dependeth not upon the testimony of any man, or church; but wholly upon God (who is truth itself) the author thereof: and therefore it is to be received, because it is the Word of God.
5. We may be moved and induced by the testimony of the church to an high and reverent esteem of the Holy Scripture. And the heavenliness of the matter, the efficacy of the doctrine, the majesty of the style, the consent of all the parts, the scope of the whole (which is, to give all glory to God), the full discovery it makes of the only way of man's salvation, the many other incomparable excellencies, and the entire perfection thereof, are arguments whereby it doth abundantly evidence itself to be the Word of God: yet notwithstanding, our full persuasion and assurance of the infallible truth and divine authority thereof, is from the inward work of the Holy Spirit bearing witness by and with the Word in our hearts.
6. The whole counsel of God concerning all things necessary for his own glory, man's salvation, faith and life, is either expressly set down in Scripture, or by good and necessary consequence may be deduced from Scripture: unto which nothing at any time is to be added, whether by new revelations of the Spirit, or traditions of men. Nevertheless, we acknowledge the inward illumination of the Spirit of God to be necessary for the saving understanding of such things as are revealed in the Word: and that there are some circumstances concerning the worship of God, and government of the church, common to human actions and societies, which are to be ordered by the light of nature, and Christian prudence, according to the general rules of the Word, which are always to be observed.
7. All things in Scripture are not alike plain in themselves, nor alike clear unto all: yet those things which are necessary to be known, believed, and observed for salvation, are so clearly propounded, and opened in some place of Scripture or other, that not only the learned, but the unlearned, in a due use of the ordinary means, may attain unto a sufficient understanding of them.
8. The Old Testament in Hebrew (which was the native language of the people of God of old), and the New Testament in Greek (which, at the time of the writing of it, was most generally known to the nations), being immediately inspired by God, and, by his singular care and providence, kept pure in all ages, are therefore authentical; so as, in all controversies of religion, the church is finally to appeal unto them. But, because these original tongues are not known to all the people of God, who have right unto, and interest in the Scriptures, and are commanded, in the fear of God, to read and search them, therefore they are to be translated into the vulgar language of every nation unto which they come, that, the Word of God dwelling plentifully in all, they may worship him in an acceptable manner; and, through patience and comfort of the Scriptures, may have hope.
+ What does it mean by "authentical"?
+Controversies of religion?
+Kept pure in all ages?
so as, in all controversies of religion, the church is finally to appeal unto them. (WCF 1.8 (S))
Proof Text (1.8.S): "And with this the words of the prophets agree, just as it is written" (Acts 15:15 NKJV)
"But, because these original tongues are not known to all the people of God, who have right unto, and interest in the Scriptures, and are commanded, in the fear of God, to read and search them." (WCF 1.8 (T))
Proof Text (T): "You search the Scriptures, for in them you think you have eternal life; and these are they which testify of Me. (John 5:39 NKJV)
Proof Text (T): "These were more fair-minded than those in Thessalonica, in that they received the word with all readiness, and searched the Scriptures daily to find out whether these things were so." (Acts 17:11 NKJV)
+Chris's Commentary: The Confession of Faith uses John 5:39 and Acts 17:11 as a proof text for the following text in footnote "T" (bottom of page 7 in the black book):
I somewhat disagree with these as a proof texts for this passage. But I can see why they were used. I think there are better passages elsewhere. The implications of these texts are sufficient.
In the Van Dixhoorn book, Dixhoorn drops Acts 17:11 completely as a proof text for 1.8(T).
Because the scriptures testify of Jesus, we are to read the scriptures. That makes sense.
At first I didn't see them as proof texts for this. But upon further examination, Jesus isn't commanding them to search the scriptures. He's pointing out that they do. That's not what makes this a proof text. Rather it's the rest of the verse. "they are they which testify of me." This is an example of a religious controversy. Jesus is settling an issue -- the issue of eternal life -- by pointing to the Holy Scriptures. It is implied that searching the scriptures is the way to know about Jesus and whether the things the disciples were saying about him were true.
I thought the Westminster Divines were using a description as a prescription in both texts and half-quoting in the instance of John 5:39. In some sense they were. But it was not the description of the Pharisees searching the scripture.
I made the same mistake with the Berean Jews text in Acts 17:11.
At first, I thought they were saying that this was a command to search the scriptures, since the Berean Jews were doing just that. But no. This is once again pointing to a religious controversy. In this case, Paul and Silas "went into the synagogue of the Jews" (Acts 17:10). The "Word of God was preached by Paul at Berea" (Acts 17:13). And the Berean Jews came to believe and become Christians. They "searched the Scriptures daily to find out whether these things were so" (Acts 17:11). This is a proof text because the Berean Jews-now-Jewish Christians appealed to the Bible to settle whether the preaching of the Apostle Paul was true. And it was!
9. The infallible rule of interpretation of Scripture is the Scripture itself: and therefore, when there is a question about the true and full sense of any Scripture (which is not manifold, but one), it must be searched and known by other places that speak more clearly.
10. The supreme judge by which all controversies of religion are to be determined, and all decrees of councils, opinions of ancient writers, doctrines of men, and private spirits, are to be examined, and in whose sentence we are to rest, can be no other but the Holy Spirit speaking in the Scripture.