Collect of the Day
O LORD, we beseech thee to keep thy Church and household continually in thy true religion; that they who do lean only upon the hope of thy heavenly grace may evermore be defended by thy mighty power; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.
Thursday, August 13, 2009
Part XIV: Thirty-Nine Articles: The Historic Basis of Anglian Faith: The Biblical Basis of the Articles
"God's servants were His instruments in writing His Word, but His relationship to their mind was in accordance with human nature so that the words of Scripture remain truly human words while having also all the characteristics of divine words. Though infallibility is an essential characteristic of divine words, error and inadequacy are not an essential characteristic of human words. Nor is there any invasion of the integrity of human nature in the divine Spirit guiding the human mind. Thus there is no contradiction in the concept that Scripture is a fully human document and divinely infallible at the same time."
Thirty-Nine Articles: The Historic Basis of the Anglican Faith
The author: Canon David Broughton Knox, B.A., A. L. C. D., B.D., M.Th., D. Phil. (Oxford), was Principal of Moore Theological College, Sydney, Australia. Ordained in 1941 he served in an English parish and as a chaplain in the Royal Navy before becoming a tutor at Moore College 1947-53. On leave in England he was tutor and lecturer in New Testament at Wycliffe Hall, Oxford 1951-53 and Assistant Curate in the parish of St. Aldale's, Oxford. He became Vice Principal of Moore College in 1954 and Principal in 1959. He was elected Canon of St. Andrew's Cathedral in 1960. His other books include "The Doctrine of Faith in the Reign of Henry VIII" (London: James Clarke, 1961).
David Broughton Knox also founded George Whitefield College in South Africa in 1989.
The Biblical Basis of the Articles
The question of the nature of biblical revelation is so fundamental to the interpretation of Scripture, and therefore to the understanding of Christian doctrine, that it seems desireable at this point to revert to the subject and to deal with it more fully than was possible in Chapter 3.
The objection that modern critics have to the scripturalness of the Articles is more fundamental than that they reflect scriptural teaching out of due proportion. The whole question of the nature of the guidance that Scripture gives to the knowledge of God is disputed. The Articles (and here the credal statements stand or fall with them) are said to be based on an outmoded approach to Scripture. 'The generally accepted view of the divines of the Reformation period was that the whole of the canonical Scriptures were verbally inspired and that every part of both Old and New Testaments is the Word of God . . . Our understanding of the nature of the inspiration of Scripture has radically altered since then.'i
In considering God's relationship to the words of the prophet or the apostolic writer, the question to be decided is whether it is a relationship of general concurrence by which God upholds all things, the good and the bad indifferently, or a special relationship so that the words of Scripture are in a different category from other words in that they may be described as God's words and consequently have the infallibility of God in the matters for which they were inspired. There is no doubt of our Lord's views on this question. For Him, what the Old Testament said, God said. An example is Matthew 19:4, 5 where a comment by the writer of Genesis is ascribed directly to God. Jesus quoted the Old Testament as of final authority -- 'It is written . . .', (Matthew 4:4, 6, 7). In our Lord's view, the written Word is God's Word by which He speaks not only to the original hearers but directly to the present-day reader. Thus Jesus asked the Sadducees, 'Have you not read what was said to you by God . . . ?' (Matthew 22:31, R.S.V.) It is the written Word, the Scripture, and not merely the spoken word which preceded it, or the thoughts or events which preceded this, that participates in the divine infallibility. 'The Scripture cannot be broken' (John 10:35).
The Apostles shared this same view of the character of Scripture. It is the end-product, the written words of Scripture that are testified to as having been breathed out by God (II Timothy 3:16). The words of Scripture are equated with the words of God. Quoting a psalm, the Apostle wrote, 'The Holy Ghost saith . . .' (Hebrews 3:7). The Old Testament Scriptures are 'the oracles of God' (Romans 3:2).
God's servants were His instruments in writing His Word, but His relationship to their mind was in accordance with human nature so that the words of Scripture remain truly human words while having also all the characteristics of divine words. Though infallibility is an essential characteristic of divine words, error and inadequacy are not an essential characteristic of human words. Nor is there any invasion of the integrity of human nature in the divine Spirit guiding the human mind. Thus there is no contradiction in the concept that Scripture is a fully human document and divinely infallible at the same time. This divine and human character of Scripture is reflected in Peter's address: 'Brethren, it was needful that the scripture should be fulfilled, which the Holy Ghost spoke before by the mouth of David . . .' (Acts 1:16 R.V.), and also in the prayer of the church: 'Lord . . . who by the Holy Ghost, by the mouth of our father David thy servant, didst say . . .' (Acts 4:25). In the opinion of the apostles, what David said in Scripture, God said. These examples could be multiplied, leaving no doubt as to the view of the apostles about the relationship of God to the written words of Scripture.
It is a serious question as to what weight and authority we should give to the united testimony of Jesus and the apostles about God's relationship to that part of His creation which comprises the words of Scripture. If we cannot accept their testimony here, what authority is there for accepting their authority for God's relationship to any other aspect of creation? They cease to become authoritative teachers, sources of our knowledge of God; and their teaching becomes acceptable on the basis of that of any other teacher, namely because of the excellence we may discern in its ideas and content.
However, unless the teaching of Jesus and His apostles is received as a God-given revelation of God and so authoritative in its own right, apart from our approval, it cannot be the ground of future hope. Yet Christianity has always been characterized by its vigorous hope. The vigour of the Christian hope springs from its certainty, which rests on the reliability of God's revelation in the Old and New Testaments.
The matter may be put another way. If we regard the statements of the Bible as authoritative for belief in our resurrection, or for the coming of Christ, or for the fact of heaven, or the judgement -- or indeed for any purpose of God in the future -- or for the forgiveness of sins, or for any action of God inaccessible to sense perception, it is because we accept the apostolic testimony that the Scriptures are a revelation of God. If we accept the Scripture testimony on these doctrines, by what criterion can we reject its testimony on another doctrine, namely that revelation is infallibly conveyed by the propositions in which Scripture consists?
[Charlie's note: Perhaps Knox is influenced here by Gordon H. Clark and/or Carl F. H. Henry's theology of propositional truths contained in Holy Scripture?]
iW. R. Matthews: The Thirty-Nine Articles, (London, 1961), p. 22.
The Ninth Sunday after Trinity.
GRANT to us, Lord, we beseech thee, the spirit to think and do always such things as be rightful; that we, who cannot do any thing that is good without thee, may by thee be enabled to live according to thy will; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.
Posted by Charlie J. Ray at 10:40 AM