(Read Part 1.)
If we turn to Covenant theology’s own explanations of their system we find a curious dualism of frankness and subterfuge. I do not use “frankness” in the ethical sense, just in the sense that there is sometimes a willingness to face the text and deal with what it actually says.
Likewise, by “subterfuge” I am not saying there is an unethical motive in these men, but that they almost instinctively avoid the clear implications of passages which undermine their teaching. Robertson, for example, when dealing with the inauguration of the Abrahamic covenant, carefully picks his way through Genesis 15 (and 12:1) without mentioning God’s land-promise (The Christ of the Covenants, ch. 8). He first constructs his thesis with the help of certain NT texts, and then deals with the land issue once he has a typological framework to put it in.
I think it is fair to say that the whole impetus for the covenants of redemption, works and grace in the Reformed Confessions stems from the assumption that the Old Testament must be read through the lens of the extra light of the New. If that assumption is flawed, as I believe it certainly is, then the whole project is in serious trouble.
The release of the Westminster Confession of 1647, although it was preceded by over a century of formative thinking about the covenant, stands out as the principal document of what is known as Covenant Theology.1 Covenant is employed as a fillip to understand and arrange the “doctrines of grace,” and is central to the Confession’s portrayal of redemption.2 This means that the concept takes on a deliberate soteriological hue. The WCF treats its concept of covenant as principally a gracious relationship; a condescension. And there is no doubt that in this it is correct. The Westminster Divines did not lay stress on a pre-creational ‘covenant of redemption’, although their anticipatory language of salvation for the elect in the ‘covenant of grace’ is in tune with it,3 and it is there in WCF 7:3.
CHAPTER IV — HOLY SCRIPTURE AND MODERN NEGATIONS
BY PROFESSOR JAMES ORR, D. D., UNITED FREE CHURCH COLLEGE, GLASGOW, SCOTLAND
Is there today in the midst of criticism and unsettlement a tenable doctrine of Holy Scripture for the Christian Church and for the world; and if there is, what is that doctrine? That is unquestionably a very pressing question at the present time.
“Is there a book which we can regard as the repository of a true revelation of God and an infallible guide in the way of life, and as to our duties to God and man?” is a question of immense importance to us all. Fifty years ago, perhaps less than that, the question hardly needed to be asked among Christian people. It was universally conceded, taken for granted, that there is such a book, the book which we call the Bible. Here, it was believed, is a volume which is an inspired record of the whole will of God for man’s salvation; accept as true and inspired the teaching of that book, follow its guidance, and you cannot stumble, you cannot err in attaining the supreme end of existence, in finding salvation, in grasping the prize of a glorious immortality.
From Paraklesis, a resource of Baptist Bible Seminary (Fall, 2012). Used by permission.
We might better ask the question, “Does the Holy Spirit have a role in interpretation?” If the Holy Spirit does have a role, what is that role?
The purpose of this article is to propose first that the role of the Holy Spirit in interpretation is not to enable the reader to grasp the meaning of a text. We will look briefly at certain verses which supposedly teach this to see whether they actually do teach this.
This article then proposes that a role of the Holy Spirit in interpretation is actually post-interpretation. The role of the Holy Spirit is to enable the reader to make a correct evaluation of the meaning of a text so that he can welcome or accept that meaning. The Holy Spirit also assures the reader of the truth of Scripture. A role of the Holy Spirit also may be to enable the reader to relate the meaning which comes from interpretation to his life. The article looks briefly at texts which seem to support these proposals and this suggestion.
The Holy Spirit does not enable the reader to discover the (author’s intended) meaning of a passage. He does not teach the reader the meaning of a text. The Holy Spirit does not help the reader to comprehend Scripture.
CHAPTER II — The Mosaic Authorship of the Pentateuch
BY PROFESSOR GEORGE FREDERICK WRIGHT, D. D., LL. D., OBERLIN COLLEGE, OBERLIN, OHIO
During the last quarter of a century an influential school of critics has deluged the world with articles and volumes attempting to prove that the Pentateuch did not originate during the time of Moses, and that most of the laws attributed to him did not come into existence until several centuries after his death, and many of them not till the time of Ezekiel. By these critics the patriarchs are relegated to the realm of myth or dim legend and the history of the Pentateuch generally is discredited. In answering these destructive contentions and defending the history which they discredit we can do no better than to give a brief summary of the arguments of Mr. Harold M. Wiener, a young orthodox Jew, who is both a well established barrister in London, and a scholar of the widest attainments. What he has written upon the subject during the last ten years would fill a thousand octavo pages; while our condensation must be limited to less than twenty. In approaching the subject it comes in place to consider
From Faith Pulpit, Summer 2015. Used by permission, all rights reserved.
“All Scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness, that the man of God may be complete, thoroughly equipped for every good work.”
As I study church history, 2 Timothy 3:16 and 17 is a comforting passage. When one studies the discipline of church history, many unsettling episodes present themselves. We often wonder how people could make the decisions they did, and even more, how they justified those decisions with the authorities they used.
We as Bible-believers have the benefit of going back to the divine source—the Word of God—as our authority. Whether we realize it or not, we are affected in the way we think by the events of the past. And it is true that no person or group can be completely isolated and not use their own personal understandings to interpret the Bible. Further, try as we might, we often struggle to understand the context of the Old Testament and even first-century Christianity.