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Scripture As Covenant Canon

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God’s Ruling Constitution (Word as Canon)

Matthew begins by identifying the suzerain according to his human genealogy as the seed of the woman promised in Genesis 3:15. The first verse of Mark’s Gospel reads, “The beginning of the gospel of Jesus Christ, the Son of God.” The Gospel of Luke begins by explaining the author’s historical method (eyewitness report). The preamble and historical prologue of John’s Gospel most closely echo Genesis 1: “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was in the beginning with God. All things were made through him, and without him was not any thing made that was made. In him was life, and the life was the light of men. The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it” (vv. 1–5). Next, we are introduced to John the Baptist’s ministry and his testimony to the Messiah.

The Christian Faith: A Systematic Theology for Pilgrims on the Way I. God’s Ruling Constitution (Word as Canon)

Christ’s death inaugurates the new covenant as a royal grant—that is, a last will and testament that dispenses an inheritance based on his perfect, personal, and perpetual obedience rather than our own (Mt 26:26–30 par.; Gal 3:10–29; 4:21–28; Heb 8:1–13; 9:15–28).

2 Peter 1:19–21 ESV
And we have the prophetic word more fully confirmed, to which you will do well to pay attention as to a lamp shining in a dark place, until the day dawns and the morning star rises in your hearts, knowing this first of all, that no prophecy of Scripture comes from someone’s own interpretation. For no prophecy was ever produced by the will of man, but men spoke from God as they were carried along by the Holy Spirit.
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1 Peter 1:23 ESV
since you have been born again, not of perishable seed but of imperishable, through the living and abiding word of God;
Isaiah 55:10–11 ESV
“For as the rain and the snow come down from heaven and do not return there but water the earth, making it bring forth and sprout, giving seed to the sower and bread to the eater, so shall my word be that goes out from my mouth; it shall not return to me empty, but it shall accomplish that which I purpose, and shall succeed in the thing for which I sent it.

A Biblical Model of Canonicity

The Canon is the result of the decision of a group of religious men.
The Historical-Critical Model
The Roman Catholic Model
The Canonical-Criticism Model
The Canon-within-the-Canon Model
The Criteria of Canonicity Model
The Self-Attestation of Canon

The Self-Attesting Model of Canonicity

Providential Exposure
Divine Qualities
Corporate Reception
Apostolic Origin
How does the Self-Attesting Model differ from other models of canonicity?

Inspiration: God’s Word and Human Words

Jesus assumed that written Scripture was the Words of his own Father

Matthew 4:4 ESV
But he answered, “It is written, “ ‘Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that comes from the mouth of God.’ ”
John 10:35 ESV
If he called them gods to whom the word of God came—and Scripture cannot be broken—
2 tim 3: 15-17
2 Timothy 3:15–17 ESV
and how from childhood you have been acquainted with the sacred writings, which are able to make you wise for salvation through faith in Christ Jesus. All Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness, that the man of God may be complete, equipped for every good work.
1 Timothy 5:18 ESV
For the Scripture says, “You shall not muzzle an ox when it treads out the grain,” and, “The laborer deserves his wages.”
Luke 10:7 ESV
And remain in the same house, eating and drinking what they provide, for the laborer deserves his wages. Do not go from house to house.
Deuteronomy 25:4 ESV
“You shall not muzzle an ox when it is treading out the grain.
2 Peter 1:21 ESV
For no prophecy was ever produced by the will of man, but men spoke from God as they were carried along by the Holy Spirit.
2 Peter 3:15–16 ESV
And count the patience of our Lord as salvation, just as our beloved brother Paul also wrote to you according to the wisdom given him, as he does in all his letters when he speaks in them of these matters. There are some things in them that are hard to understand, which the ignorant and unstable twist to their own destruction, as they do the other Scriptures.
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Trinitarian Cooperation in Inspiration

The locutionary act of speaking is the Father’s; the Son is the content or illocutionary act that is performed by speaking, and the Spirit works within creation to bring about the intended effect. For example, the Father gives the gospel, the Son is the gospel, and the Spirit creates faith in our hearts to receive it.

The event of one’s writing, uttering, or otherwise signifying something is called the locutionary act. What we do through such signifying is referred to as the illocutionary act (or force). That which is brought about in the hearer as a result is its perlocutionary effect.

The Father Speaks through the Son: locution. The Son’s speaking takes on acts, such as exhorting, informing, warning, commanding, etc. The Holy Spirit uses those words in application, transforming us more and more into the image of Christ, that image which was lost in the fall.

This means p 158 that Scripture not only functions as the Word of God at various times, but it is the Word of God by virtue of its origin (from the Father), its content (in the Son), and its inspiration (by the Spirit)

Apologetic moment: Leighton Flowers claims that men can be saved by properly responding to the light of general revelation. In Flowers version, God will reward men with greater light. In William Lane Craig’s version, the light they have seems to be sufficient. Why do they make this argument and how does it impact the necessity of Scripture?

Verbal-Plenary Inspiration

This consensus that Scripture is inspired in its words as well as its meaning is aptly summarized by the phrase verbal-plenary inspiration.

First, verbal-plenary inspiration does not mean that the prophets and apostles themselves were inspired in their persons, as if everything they believed, said, or did was God’s Word.

Scripture is God-speaking, God breathed. Scripture is exhaled from the mouth of God.

Second, this view does not assume that the prophets and apostles were merely passive in the process of inspiration.

Third, this formulation also does not suggest that inspiration pertains to the intention of the human authors, who prophesied more than they themselves knew.

Fourth, verbal-plenary inspiration does not collapse all events of inspiration into the prophetic mold.

There are sentences in the Bible and ideas expressed in the Bible that are wrong. Job’s friends. Satan?

Although inspiration pertains exclusively to the original speech acts that are included in the canon, God’s extraordinary providence ensured the integrity of the process that led to inscripturation. We have no reason to deny that later redactors (editors) committed orally transmitted instances of revelation to textual form and collected them into what we now know as canonical books. In the words of the Reformed scholastic Johannes Wollebius, “God’s word at first was unwritten, before Moses’ time; but after Moses it was written, when God in his most wise counsel would have it to be sealed and confirmed by prophets and apostles.” Clearly, for example, Moses did not write his own obituary (Dt 34). In this interpretation of verbal-plenary inspiration, the original words of Scripture were given by the miracle of inspiration, and the process of compiling, editing, and preserving the text was superintended by God’s providence.

Inspiration and Illumination

What is the difference between illumination and inspiration?

We receive the Scriptures as God’s Word not because our reason judges it true and useful. Nor do we embrace them on the basis of the Spirit’s inner testimony or our experience of new birth. Rather, through that testimony of the Spirit we come to understand and accept the message that Scripture communicates.

As Bavinck observes, “we believe Scripture ‘not because of but through the Spirit’s testimony.’ ”

If we divorce illumination (the inner testimony of the Spirit) from inspiration, we easily fall into the impersonal view of Scripture as a dead letter, a view for which conservative Christians are often criticized and caricatured. However, the opposite danger is simply to collapse these categories.

1 Thessalonians 2:13 ESV
And we also thank God constantly for this, that when you received the word of God, which you heard from us, you accepted it not as the word of men but as what it really is, the word of God, which is at work in you believers.
Thus, in every way possible, the church has borne her testimony from the beginning, and still in our day, to her faith in the divine trustworthiness of her Scriptures, in all their affirmations of whatever kind. At no age has it been possible for men to express without rebuke the faintest doubt as to the absolute trustworthiness of their least declaration.

The Truthfulness of Scripture

Thus, in every way possible, the church has borne her testimony from the beginning, and still in our day, to her faith in the divine trustworthiness of her Scriptures, in all their affirmations of whatever kind. At no age has it been possible for men to express without rebuke the faintest doubt as to the absolute trustworthiness of their least declaration

The historical facts of creation and redemption would be true regardless of whether God chose to report them through inspired Scripture. However, if God has in fact done so, then the Spirit’s utterance cannot include error.

There is therefore no “canon within a canon”; all Scripture is God-breathed and therefore useful (i.e., canonical) for norming the church’s faith and practice.

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The Princeton Formulation of Inerrancy

The only really dangerous opposition to the church doctrine of inspiration comes either directly or indirectly, but always ultimately, from some false view of God’s relation to the world, of his methods of working, and of the possibility of a supernatural agency penetrating and altering the course of a natural process.”

What is the difference between Verbal-Plenary Inspiration and the Dictation Theory?
How do we deal with the claim that there are contradictions in the Biblical Text?
Could the apostles have been wrong about something in their personal life or understanding?

Inerrancy After Barth

First, Barth’s criticism of the traditional accounts of biblical inerrancy arises from his distinctive actualist ontology. Therefore, his logic concerning Scripture might be put in the form of this syllogism: (1) God’s being is in act; (2) revelation is identical with God and is therefore always an event (action), never a given deposit; (3) therefore, Scripture, as an object (i.e., written text), cannot be identified directly with revelation.

However, as Timothy Ward points out, “There seems to be a contradiction between this equation of revelation with the person of Jesus Christ and the earlier claim that revelation is speech ‘in and of itself as such.’ ” How can revelation be a person and speech? Barth seems aware of the problem. He wants to affirm the “personalizing” of the Word of God without “deverbalizing” it. Yet his fear of making revelation into an “object or thing” seems to triumph over his concern to affirm it as speech. Therefore, Barth concludes, “The Bible is not in itself and as such God’s past revelation,” but is a fallible, though normative, human witness to revelation.100 Otherwise, we will make God (revelation) a human possession. “The Bible is God’s Word to the extent that God causes it to be his Word, to the extent that He speaks through it.”

There have been valiant attempts to reconcile Barth’s doctrine of Scripture with the church’s traditional view, among which that of Donald Bloesch is especially notable. He allows that Barth’s formulation too sharply separated the Word from the words, yet argues that “in his emphasis on the revealing work of the Spirit [Barth] is closer to the intention of the Reformers than is modern fundamentalism in this regard.”105 Bloesch realizes that Protestant orthodoxy “sought to maintain a dynamic view of both revelation and inspiration” and eschewed fundamentalism’s tendency to deny its human aspect. He correctly observes the correlation between fundamentalism’s mechanical view and belief in “the univocal language of Scripture concerning God, which contravenes the position of most theological luminaries of the past who held that human language concerning God is either metaphorical or at the most analogical.”107

How do you know the Bible is the Word of God?
Apologetic Scenario: You are witnessing to someone and they respond by challenging your view that the Bible is the Word of God, claiming that it is no different from any other holy book. How do you respond?
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