Tuesday, September 13, 2005

Revelation and Scripture

This term I am taking a class entitled "Confessing the Faith Today".  It’s a course that survey, doctrine by doctrine, the Creeds, Catechisms, and Confessions contained in the Book of Confessions of the Presbyterian Church (USA).  Each week we have to write a paper on that doctrine.  Each week I'll post my paper, as well as my own statement of belief at the end.

Within the Book of Confessions regarding the topics of Revelation and Scripture we find four that four topics are addressed: General Revelation, Scripture, Preaching and Jesus Christ.
The first is that which is often termed “General Revelation” which both Westminster (6.001) and the French (F.2) refer to God revealing himself in his works of creation. Both also make the point that God has reveled himself through scripture “more clearly” (in the words of the French Confession)
The second type of revelation is that of scripture. This is the principle type of revelation addressed by the Confessions. On the topic of scripture a number of commonalities exist. One such commonality is the universal agreement that the scriptures are comprised of the sixty-six books of the Old and New Testaments. (6.002, F.2. 3.18, etc.). As to the nature of scripture, the confessions also agree that the scriptures are from God and draw their authority from God alone. However, the confessions use varying language to describe this:“proceed from the Spirit” (5.008) , “given by the inspiration of God” (6.002) , “under the guidance of the Holy Spirit” (9.29). However, it is only the Confession of 1967 that makes the explicit statement that the scriptures are “nonetheless the words of men” (9.29). The Confessions also affirm scripture as the highest authority for the church. (3.20, 5.011-.014, 6.010, 8.11)
As to the content of scripture, three confessions affirm that all things necessary for faith, life, and salvation are set forth in scripture (3.18, 6.006, F.5, cf. 9.27). One distinction of note comes from the Westminster Confession, which adds that all things necessary for salvation are either explicit in scripture “or can be deduced from it” (6.006), appearing to given reason a role in the interpretation of scripture. It is also from scripture that we learn of sin and its consequences (4.003) as well as about Jesus Christ, the perfect mediator who is both true God and righteous man (4.019). It is also through scripture that God speaks to us today (5.001, 9.29)
The Confessions also address the issue of the interpretation of scripture. The Scots' Confession holds that interpretation belongs first and foremost to the Spirit of God and that no interpretation can be accepted that contradicts the plain meaning of scripture, a principle point of faith, the plain text of any scripture, or the rule of love (3.18). The Second Helvetic Confession echoes these statements and adds that interpretation should be that which is gleaned from the scriptures themselves, from the original languages, and in light of clearer passages (5.010, cf. 6.006). It adds that scripture should be interpreted according to the circumstances in which they were set down (5.010). The Confession of 1967 makes this point even more clear saying that church must approach the scriptures with a historical and literary understanding of them. (9.29)
The Confessions also holding preaching as a form of revelation in high regard. The Scot's Confession identifies preaching as one of three marks of the true church (3.18) and the Second Helvetic Confession says that when the word is preached by ministers who are lawfully called, the Word of God is truly proclaimed and received (5.004, 9.30).
Two Confessions put a slight twist on the issue of revelation. The Barmen Declaration and the Confession of 1967 both affirm that Jesus Christ is the “one word of God” (8.11) or “the one sufficient revelation of God” (9.27). I say that this adds a slight twist and not a contradiction because both confessions affirm that the knowledge of Jesus Christ comes through the scriptures (8.11, 9.27) thus still affirming scripture's central role, but distinguishing between the person of and the written Word of God.
Personal Statement: The scriptures bear witness of Jesus Christ and are comprised of the sixty-six books of the Old and New Testaments, which are understood fully in light of each other.   The scriptures are inspired by God through the Holy Spirit, draw their authority not from humans but from God alone, and are the only rule of faith and life.  We are to interpret scripture with a historical and literary understanding through the power of the Holy Spirit who bears witness to the scriptures, allowing scripture to interpret scripture and aware that no interpretation may contradict the plain sense of scripture or the rule of love.  God continues to speak to the church through the scriptures as well as the preaching of the Word.  When the Word is read and preached in reliance upon the Holy Spirit the Word of God is truly proclaimed.


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