Thanks to Kip Chelashaw for organising an excellent study day with my former college lecturer, Garry Williams. It was great to have my mind stretched on the big issue of scripture as covenant. Here’s my very sketchy notes which supplement Garry’s 25 page handout (just like being back at college! It appeals to my Scottish nature when I get thick handouts. £30 well spent). As always, these notes might not be what was actually said, but what I heard.
Michael Horton has published a systematic theology. Moore college has adopted it as their standard systematic theology text-book.
Are we comfortable with the circular argument that the bible authenticates the bible?
Roman Catholic doctrine is circular – the bible proves the church and the church proves the bible.
Argument from first principle. What’s the bottom line. Why do you believe that? Why believe that? You eventually hit the bottom line – God must reveal himself and the bible is God’s specific revelation of himself. Everyone has a bottom line. An ultimate authority.
Scientists presume the ultimate authority is human perception and investigation, this is their bottom line.
Is God and his word a circular argument. No. Because God collapses that distinction in scripture. His word is his breath. God acts by speaking. His word cannot be separated from God’s person.
How does a non-Christian come to a point where he once knew no specific revelation? The human mind is darkened and dead in sin and at the time of regeneration comes to see scripture in a new category. It is not that he had a previous category called “revelation” into which he fits scripture but rather the Holy Spirit opens blind eyes and creates the category in the new creation.
ANE stuff – are we in danger of applying extra-biblical revelation to authenticate scripture? No! Covenant theology and its understanding of the bible as covenant predates the archaeological discoveries of the last two centuries. We already knew that the bible reveals a covenantal relationship between God and his people.
What do we say to those who think the bible is a “baptised” version of what was already going on in the ANE?
Prisca theologia – ancient religions are both false and true. Sacrifice and “one God not many gods” contain elements of truth. All humans descend from Noah, who had special revelation, covenant, from which all other ancient religions are derived and, though twisted, contain elements of the original specific revelation from God to Noah.
Why does classical reformed theology not track covenant back into the being of God. If covenant as an attribute of God then God would have to relate covenantally within himself, not because his attributes lead inevitably to faithful, loving, unchanging relationship, who he is but because a form of relating is forced upon him by the form itself.
Canon – why this canon in this order?
Closed because the covenant cannot exist without the canon and the canon cannot exist without the covenant, which is a fixed rule.
The organic canon – not imposed by the church in the 4th century but rather canon develops organically from within scripture. The Holy Spirit speaks to the church in scripture and as the church is shaped by scripture and the Holy Spirit, the church recognises the canon because it emerges from within the text itself.
Dualism and gnosticism dominant today. People don’t know who they are. The text of scripture defines who we are and who God is and how sinners become reconciled to God. The universe is not about the conflict between good and evil but about how God makes peace with his enemies.
If I had two books: the bible and an inspired, divine book on birds. What is the difference? One is covenantal.