Martyred for the Gospel

Martyred for the Gospel
The burning of Tharchbishop of Cant. D. Tho. Cranmer in the town dich at Oxford, with his hand first thrust into the fyre, wherwith he subscribed before. [Click on the picture to see Cranmer's last words.]

Collect of the Day

The Second Sunday in Lent.

The Collect

ALMIGHTY God, who seest that we have no power of ourselves to help ourselves; Keep us both outwardly in our bodies, and inwardly in our souls; that we may be defended from all adversities which may happen to the body, and from all evil thoughts which may assault and hurt the soul; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.

The Collect from the First Day of Lent is to be read every day in Lent after the Collect appointed for the Day.

Daily Bible Verse

Sunday, March 25, 2012

Charles Hodge Rebukes Mike Horton On Inspiration

[See also review of The Christian Faith, Part One].

Although Mike Horton exalts the "metanarrative" above the propositional truth claims of Holy Scripture and rejects the doctrine of plenary verbal inspiration indirectly, [Horton says that those who interpret Scripture as basically systematic expositions of propositional truth and that those who do so advocate both univocal knowledge and inspiration as mechanical dictation] the fact is that the classical reformed view is that what the Bible says God says:

On this subject the common doctrine of the Church is, and ever has been, that inspiration was an influence of the Holy Spirit on the minds of certain select men, which rendered them the organs of God for the infallible communication of his mind and will. They were in such a sense the organs of God, that what they said God said. 
Hodge, Charles (2011-10-20). Systematic Theology (With Active Table of Contents) (Kindle Locations 3449-3454). Kindle Edition.
According to this definition Horton must accuse Hodge of advocating the mechanical dictation view along with Gordon H. Clark and Carl F. H. Henry, those darned "fundamentalists!"

Furthermore, Hodge says that "knowledge" is what is communicated in revelation--NOT metanarratives, stories, dramatic recounting of salvation history, sagas, or "factual" myths!

    C. Distinction between Revelation and Inspiration.    Second. The above definition assumes a difference between revelation and inspiration. They differ, first, as to their object. The object of revelation is the communication of knowledge. The object or design of inspiration is to secure infallibility in teaching. Consequently they differ, secondly, in their effects. The effect of revelation was to render its recipient wiser. The effect of inspiration was to preserve him from error in teaching. These two gifts were often enjoyed by the same person at the same time. That is, the Spirit often imparted knowledge, and controlled [it] in its communication orally or in writing to others. This was no doubt the case with the Psalmists, and often with the Prophets and Apostles. Often, however, the revelations were made at one time, and were subsequently, under the guidance of the Spirit, committed to writing. Thus the Apostle Paul tells us that he received his knowledge of the gospel not from man, but by revelation from Jesus Christ; and this knowledge he communicated from time to time in his discourses and epistles.

Hodge, Charles (2011-10-20). Systematic Theology (With Active Table of Contents) (Kindle Locations 3468-3477). Kindle Edition.
Unfortunately, Hodge opens a door that should not be opened when he distinguishes between direct revelation from God and the inspired historical narratives which were also recorded in Scripture.  Although  Hodge is correct to make this distinction, he is wrong not to identify the whole body of the Scriptures as divine revelation.  He implies by this distinction that the Bible is inspired but only parts of the Bible are divine revelation.  The whole Bible is a revelation from God and is completely inspired or "breathed out by God."  

Moreover, everything we know about the history of Israel that is binding  upon us in regards to Christian doctrine and propositional truth is recorded in the inspired and inerrant Bible.  Hodge's view implies that some sections of Scripture are more important than others because one part conveys direct revelation from God in the form of knowledge and another merely conveys historical facts.  What Hodge overlooks is that historical facts are knowledge as well and this knowledge has profound impact on the doctrines of grace.  Hodge does, however, acknowledge that inspiration is for "teaching."

Futhermore, the proposition that "David was the king of Israel" is a propositional truth claim and it is an historical fact as well.  These historical events are given propositional meaning even when they are not given by direct revelation and are incorporated into the text from uninspired sources by the inspired writer.  Even quotes from pagan poets, philosophers and apocryphal books take on the nature of revelation as they are quoted for specific propositional and theological points by the inspired writers.  That would include places where Paul quotes pagan poets for a particular theological point (Acts 17:28) and where Jude quotes an apocryphal book, namely Enoch, in support of his theological point in the inspired text (Jude 1:14, 15).

To suggest, as Horton does, that these quotes are not inspired even when propositionally interpreted by the human authors and therefore not God's divine revelation is to create a canon within the canon:

Ascribing inspiration to Luke's acccount of Paul's speech in Athens in no way entails that the writings of pagan philosopher Epimenides or poet Aratus (the latter, in a hymn to Zeus) were inspired, even though Paul quoted them in Acts 17:28.  Nor does it mean that their words were inspired, but only that Paul's interpretation--his use of their words--shared in this inspired speech.  Whatever these speakers intended, God's intention was to use these lines in the script of his unfolding drama, although these pagan sources are not treated as normative.  Therefore, it is impossible to treat every word as normative, much less as the direct utterance of God.  Yet the Bible as a whole is God's inspired script for the drama of redemption.  Michael Horton.  The Christian Faith.  (Grand Rapids:  Zondervon, 2011), p. 162.

Any idea that some parts of Scripture are more inspired than other parts or that some conceptual knowledge in the Bible is more revelatory than other parts is to create a false distinction and an unnecessary one since Scripture interprets Scripture.  God's written words are logically consistent and God never contradicts Himself.  The axiom of the Apostle Paul stands firm here:  "All Scripture is inspired of God."  (2 Timothy 3:16).  No one denies that the sources, from which these quotes are drawn, are not inspired.  The issue here is that the quotes occur within the inspired Scriptures and therefore, even though the words are drawn from extrabiblical sources, the inspired record is infallible; therefore, in that sense every word in Scripture is an infallible record of what God intended for us to know.  Even natural revelation given to pagan poets is inspired of God when it is included in the verbally and plenarily inspired Scriptures and when such quotes are given propositional interpretation.  As Paul said, "All Scripture is inspired of God."  The proposition that "we live and move and have our being" because of God's sovereignty is certainly a true proposition, even when it is said by someone who is not an apostle or prophet (Acts 17:28).

Of considerable concern is Horton's animosity to Scripturalism and propositional truth, especially in regards to Gordon H. Clark. Alarmingly, Horton's biases cause him to endorse Donald Bloesch's neo-evangelical barthian theology.  In fairness to Horton, he does occasionally contradict himself and his emphasis on story and drama at certain points.  Although he fails to see the relative affinity between his own view and that of Bloesch, Horton does seem to uphold propositional truth when it suits his purposes:

There have been valiant attempts to reconcile Barth's doctrine of Scripture with the church's traditional view, among which that of Donald Bloesh is especially notable.  (104)  He allows that Barth's formulation too sharply separated the Word from the words, yet argues that "in his emphasis on the revealing work of the Spirit [Barth] is closer to the intention of the Reformers than is modern fundamentalism in this regard." (105)  Bloesch realizes that Protestant orthodoxy "sought to maintain a tendency to deny its human aspect.  (106)  He correctly observes the correlation between fundamentalism's mechanical view and belief in "the univocal language of Scripture concerning God, which contravenes the position of most theological luminaries of the past who held that human knowledge concerning God is either metaphorical or at the most analogical." (107)
Nevertheless, Bloesch repeats the prevalent caricature of Warfield's position when he suggests that the latter "is reluctant and often unwilling to affirm" the humanity of Scripture, including its "marks of historical conditioning." (108)  More problematic is Bloesch's own attempt at reconciliation.  On one hand, he writes, "Revelation includes both the events of divine self-disclosure in biblical history and their prophetic and apostolic interpretation."  On the other hand, he adds, "At the same time we must not infer that the propositional statements in the Bible are themselves revealed, since this makes the Bible the same kind of book as the Koran, which purports to be exclusively divine." (109)  It is unclear to me how the inclusion of propositions among other speech acts as part of revelation necessarily entails an "exclusively divine" dictation, as Islam considers the Qur'an to be.  How can we maintain coherently that Scripture is inspired--including "prophetic and apostolic interpretation" of divine acts--if we exclude propositional statements?  If Scripture cannot be reduced to propositions, it is just as arbitrary to exclude such statements.  (Horton, pp. 183-184).

Unfortunately, Horton cannot resist the temptation to throw in that last self-contradictory slam that propositional truths are not the focus of Scripture because that would "reduce" Scripture to propositions.  What is arbitrary is Horton's vacillation between propositional truth and the metanarratives of postmodernism.  Horton has clearly been influenced by neo-orthodoxy and by higher critical views of Scripture.



aaytch said...


I don't read the last line of Horton's statement as saying what you think it says. I see him saying that Scripture consists of only ("reduced to") propositions. If there are suppositions, then the Bible's claim to inspiration is arbitrary and confused, which clearly is not the case.

It seems to me that

1. All Biblical narrative is true, propositional and inspired.
2. All non-Biblical narrative is suppositional and uninspired, but it may or may not be true.
3. All true narrative is necessarily inspired of God but may or may not be Biblical. As such, things that are true may be either suppositional or propositional.
4. All false narrative is necessarily uninspired, non-Biblical and suppositional.

I agree with you about the distinctions of Hodge. I'm afraid he gave generations of Reformed teachers the cover they needed to co-exist with post-modernism.

Charlie J. Ray said...

Hudson, Mike Horton is a Van Tilian, meaning that he does not accept that the Bible is propositional truth in any meaningful sense. He adopts the neo-orthodox theory of Scripture as merely a metaphor or an inspired but factual myth. He hides behind the theory of analogy to do so but anyone who has read Carl F. H. Henry or Gordon H. Clark can spot compromise on this issue a mile away.

I would suggest that you read my other posts on Horton's systematic theology:

Part One You can follow the links in each article from there.

Charlie J. Ray said...

My point is that Horton is hiding behind Hodge and others to promote what is essentially a postmodernist and semi-neo-orthodox theology of Scripture.

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