Hermeneutics

Paragraphs 5 and 6 in the FV statement deals with the Bible’s language as compared to systematic/confessional language. These paragraphs were disappointing to me, I have to admit, as well as being non-confessional.

WCF 1.6 specifically states that what can be deduced by good and necessary consequence is part of the whole counsel of God. That is, it has equal weight and authority as what is expressly set down (what is explicit). Of course, the WS do not mean to imply that all systematic formulations are correct. It is only those that can by good and necessary consequence be deduced from Scripture that have equal weight with what is explicit. The FV statement says that such systematic formulations (the statement uses the word “translations”) are not of equal authority as the express statements of Scripture. This marks a clear departure from the WS. This is the precise quotation:

At the same time, we do deny that such translations are superior to or equal to the rhetoric employed by the Spirit in the text…we reject the tendency to privilege the confessional and/or scholastic use of words and phrases over the way the same words and phrases are used in the Bible itself.

This is biblicistic and non-confessional. I actually wouldn’t have had a problem if they just used the language of “superior to.” The ipsissima verba of Scripture have the full weight and authority of God’s declaration. But the inclusion of the words “or equal to” is highly problematic. Systematic formulations that are in accord with Scripture’s teaching have the very same weight and authority as the ipsissima verba. We have to be very careful here. The qualifications are essential: the formulation has to be by good and necessary consequence deduced from Scripture. Secondly, the WS themselves are to be judged by the Scriptures. They are the normed norm, not the norming norm. There is always the possibility that a formulation could be proven wrong by careful exegesis of Scripture. But, positing that the formulation is an accurate summary of Scripture, then, being merely a restatement of Scripture’s teaching, it has the same weight and authority. This is the same thing we talk about when we say that a preacher is bringing to us the Word of God. To the extent that he accurately preaches the Word of God, it is the Word of God that he speaks. The same qualifications apply: what he says must be by good and necessary consequence; his statements are always to be subjected to the ultimate authority of the Word. But if these two conditions are met, then it is the Word of God that is being preached.

such hyper-specialized terminology

I wonder what terminology they have in mind. Maybe “covenantal-but-not-decretal justification, covenantal-but-not-decretal sanctification, covenantal-but-not-decretal election” would all qualify for such hyper-specialized terminology. Are they saying that we should not use the language of the Confessions in our preaching? If they are saying that we shouldn’t preach about supra- versus infra-lapsarianism, I might agree. Of course, the Confession doesn’t speak about that either. I don’t know how fruitful such a discussion would be for parishioners. I have not preached on it yet, and probably will not. It might come up in Sunday School, I suppose. But imputation, propitiation, justification, sanctification, etc. are all words that I explain regularly to my people. So, the upshot is that this FV statement is completely muddy. Without any kind of idea as to what terminology they have in mind, the statement is useless and hopelessly vague.

We deny that confessional commitments in any way require us to avoid using the categories and terms of Scripture, even when the confessional use of such words is necessarily more narrow and circumscribed.

In other words, the WS are not an accurate summary of the Bible’s teaching. There are such serious holes in the WS’s teaching that we have to invent new categories of understanding them. We have to deny “charitable judgment” interpretations of Paul (with a mere wave of the hand, and absolutely NO serious exegesis) in order to invent covenantal-but-not-decretal union with Christ, since the Confession never talks about the benefits that unbelievers receive (WCF 3.6, 10.4).

In line with this, we continue to honor and hold to the creeds of the ancient Church and the confessions of the reformational Church.

In other words, the Confession is no longer sufficient for the church today. Therefore, we don’t really hold to them, having gutted them of any authority they might possibly have.

I have been rather sharp in my criticism of these two paragraphs. The reason for that is that these are two of the worst paragraphs in the whole statement, allowing the FV folk to claim all they want to in regard to the Confession, while denying the Confession with their theology. No doubt Wilson will charge me with the “pot calling the kettle black” thing. I believe I have quite sufficiently proven my confessional position on the Sacraments, Wilson’s charges notwithstanding. I do not propose, therefore, to further that discussion, since he has so completely wrenched it from its original focus, which was the view of Warfield on the Sacraments. And since he did not engage my Warfield quotations directly, I am simply going to move on to the next chapter in RINE.

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