Saturday, January 30, 2010

Gaffin and Old Amsterdam

There has, over the years, been debate over the position of Dutch Reformed theologians on the doctrine of scripture (eg. Rogers and McKim, and more recently McGowan). Some have argued recently, on the basis of work by Gaffin (published in two WTJ articles in 1983), that Dutch Reformed theology 'supports' the idea of inerrancy. However, it seems to me that the case is overstated. Readers of the works of Bavinck, Kuyper and Ridderbos cannot fail to notice the relative absence of references to inerrancy, or semantic equivalents.

Even Gaffin admits, with reference to a single quotation from Reformed Dogmatics where Bavinck writes of the scriptures as being 'without defect' that:
As far as I can discover, nowhere else than here does Bavinck address more directly the issue of error in Scripture, 'Old Amsterdam Pt II', WTJ 45/2 (1983), 248.
Gaffin also writes:

Admittedly Bavinck has little to say about the issue of error in relation to Scripture or its infallibility, at least in his development of the doctrine of inspiration. This is all the more remarkable in view of the times in which he was writing, 'Old Amsterdam Pt II', WTJ 45/2 (1983), 249, emphasis added.

Wednesday, January 27, 2010

AA Hodge on the Accuracy of Scripture

This quote from AA Hodge has probably been endlessly reproduced, but here goes anyway:

It is not claimed that the Scriptures, any more than their authors, are omniscient. The information they convey is in the forms of human thought, and limited on all sides. They were not designed to teach philosophy, science, or human history as such. They were not designed to furnish an infallible system of speculative theology. They are written in human languages, whose words, inflections, constructions and idioms bear everywhere indelible traces of human error. The record itself furnishes evidence that the writers were in large measure dependant for their knowledge upon sources and methods in themselves fallible, and that their personal knowledge and judgments were in many matters hesitating and defective, or even wrong. AA Hodge and BB Warfield, Inspiration (Grand Rapids: Baker, 1979), 27-28.

Note also Hodge's words regarding his fathers famous statement ('The errors in matters of fact which skeptics search out bear no proportion to the whole. No sane man would deny that the Parthenon was built of marble, even if here and there a speck of sandstone should be detected in its structure') when he writes to Warfield,

But the question remains was this book [the Bible] with its (1) human (2) oriental & (3) Hebrew characteristics intended to stand the test of microscopic criticism as to its accuracy in matters of indifferent detail? It appears my father [Charles Hodge] was speaking of the possibility of infinitesimal inaccuracies of no importance relating to the end designed, in Systematic Theology, Vol. I, p. 170. I say so too – very heartily. But the question remains what degree of minute accuracy do the facts prove that God designed to effect? That is for you critics and exegetes to determine.

Letter from AA Hodge to BB Warfield, November 14, 1880 (in Warfield’s papers, Speer Library, Princeton Theological Seminary), emphasis added.

Monday, January 25, 2010

Ridderbos and Bavinck on Rethinking Scripture

One of the key arguments of those at WTS who opposed Peter Enns was that the Westminster Standards had once for all defined sufficiently the doctrine of scripture. Of course, an extreme rigid confessionalism is the enemy of reformation - this point was powerfully made in the report of the Hermeneutics Field Committee.

Ridderbos, in Studies in Scripture and its Authority, writes:

When new light is cast on the Scripture, also through the investigations of historical science, the church has to rejoice, even though this may compel it at the same time to be ready to reconsider and redefine theological concepts related to Scripture, 35.

In his Reformed Dogmatics, Herman Bavinck writes (following a section dealing with discrepancies in the historiography of scripture and the use of citations) that:

On these points the dogma of Scripture is far from being fully developed and leaves room for many special studies, RD, I, 447.

Perhaps people like Enns are most obviously following the invitation of Ridderbos and Bavinck.

Thursday, January 21, 2010

Ridderbos on Scripture

One of the books I most appreciated whilst reading for my hermeneutics module was Ridderbos' Studies in Scripture and its Authority (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1978). Here's just one of many interesting quotes:

[D]ivine inspiration does not necessarily mean that the men who spoke and wrote under inspiration were temporarily stripped of their limitations in knowledge, memory, language, and capability of expressing themselves, as specific human beings in a certain period of history, 25.

Tuesday, January 19, 2010

Hanging by the Hare

I posted at the beginning of December on the Enns Documents (the documents relating to the disagreements amongst the WTS faculty over Enns' book, Inspiration and Incarnation). If you are interested in debates concerning the Doctrine of Scripture, then I would urge you again to read these documents.

Anyhow, my own reading of them was in preparation for a piece on the authority and inspiration of scripture. I'll post a few quotes relating to this topic over the next few days. To kick off, I deliberately reproduce this amusing verse (gleaned from Achtemeier) - the well-known piece of sarcastic doggerel from the nineteenth century prompted by debates over Leviticus 11:6 etc where the hare is described as chewing cud:
The bishops all have sworn to shed their blood
To prove 'tis true the hare doth chew the cud
O bishops, doctors, and divines, beware -
Weak is the faith that hangs upon a hare.

-Inspiration and Authority, 49.

Saturday, January 16, 2010

HTC appoints new NT lecturer

HTC has appointed Dr Jason Maston as NT Lecturer, to replace Dr Mike Bird, who returned to his native land of Australia a couple of weeks ago to take up a position at the Bible College of Queensland. Jason is a Paul scholar, having completed his PhD on Romans 7 at Aberdeen. Jason joins principal Hector Morrison in the elite band of HTC staff with names from Greek mythology!

Friday, January 15, 2010

Let Brotherly Love Continue

I was engaged last semester in some work on Hermeneutics and Scriptural Authority, and was revisiting two fairly recent books, I&I (Peter Enns) and Divine Spiration (Andrew McGowan), and some of the reviews and reaction that have followed in their wake. I've been struck again by the contrasts that can be seen in such reactions. Bruce Waltke's interaction with Peter Enns in WTJ was an example of respectful disagreement. So too the SBET review of Andrew McGowan's book by Rev Kenny Stewart of my own denomination. However, the ugly face of disrespectful jingoism too often raises its head. It is a shame to the evangelical community that Peter Enns should describe Waltke's brotherly approach as 'refreshing'.

Just before Christmas, the Reformation21 attack dogs were off the leash again, with predictable consequences. The authors of such pieces should learn from the brotherly approach of Mr Waltke. We must as God's people refrain from assuming the worst about a brother or sister, when there is absolutely no reason under heaven to do so. Do these people not live in the real world? What is one of the first reasons that unbelievers give for not taking Christianity seriously? Anyone?

Thursday, January 14, 2010

Bavinck on Roman Catholicism

Here's a quote from Bavinck on Roman Catholicism (taken from The Certainty of Faith) which was reproduced in part by Norman Jeune, who was in turn cited by Mike Bird. A fuller version is given here, which I reproduce below.
'Far be it from us to immediately denounce the latter with the protestant judgment that since such piety issues from a false principle—righteousness by works—it is therefore worthless to God. For no matter how much truth that judgment may contain, before we utter it we must remind ourselves that the Catholic righteousness by good works is vastly preferable to a protestant righteousness by good doctrine. At least righteousness by good works benefits one’s neighbor, whereas righteousness by good doctrine only produces lovelessness and pride. Furthermore, we must not blind ourselves to the tremendous faith, genuine repentance, complete surrender and the fervent love for God and neighbor evident in the lives and work of many Catholic Christians. The Christian life is so rich that it develops to its full glory not just in a single form or within the walls of one church.

Nevertheless, Catholic piety, even in its best form, is different in character from that of protestantism. It always remains unfree, unemancipated, formal, legalistic. Complete inner certainty of faith is lacking. It always leaves room for the question: Have I done enough, and what else should I do? Rome deliberately keeps the souls of believers in a restless, so-called healthy tension. Spiritual life fluctuates between false assurance and painful uncertainty. Catholicism does not understand the word of Holy Scripture that the Spirit testifies with our spirit that we are children of God and that all who are led by the Spirit of God are sons of God.'

Living as I do in a Roman Catholic community, I can uphold Bavinck's sentiments (particularly the final two sentences of the first para above). And I would urge Protestant Christians to think likewise, for they sometimes do not.

Tuesday, January 12, 2010

Spirit of the Hills

Well, the exams have come and gone; Christmas has passed; it's a new year, with the new impetus and hope that this time of year brings. The past few weeks have been pretty busy. Around 1500 miles in the car visiting family and friends; living out of a bag; sleeping in five different beds on five consecutive nights! So, I spent a day last week on the roof of Uist, in the quiet and solitude of a Hebridean summit. There may be higher hills than Beinn Mhor, but I doubt there's a vista to compare for many a long mile around.
...And so from the hills we return refreshed in body, in mind and in spirit, to grapple anew with life's problems. For a while we have lived simply, wisely and happily; we have made good friends; we have ventured well. The hills have taught us to be content in our faith and in the love of God who created them...
FS Smythe, The Spirit of the Hills (thanks Dad for that one)