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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 Fifth Sunday after the Epiphany.
The Collect.

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.

Daily Bible Verse

Tuesday, March 19, 2013

B. B. Warfield on Inspiration: An Inherent Flaw of His Position

These we first prove authentic, historically credible, generally trustworthy, before we prove them inspired. And the proof of their authenticity, credibility, general trustworthiness would give us a firm basis for Christianity prior to any knowledge on our part of their inspiration, and apart indeed from the existence of inspiration.  -- Benjamin B. Warfield

[Charlie's comments: The problem with Warfield's statements above and below is that it presupposes that empirical evidences can prove the Bible's authenticity.  As the late Dr. Gordon H. Clark clearly argued basing our faith on sensations, historical evidences, or the proofs of our knowledge of Christianity would ultimately result in skepticism.  We do not prove the Scriptures to be true based on reason or historical evidences or general trustworthiness.  History is relative and can be revised and rewritten.  History is man's opinion and can be rewritten.  The only basis for theological knowledge of God, the incarnation of Jesus Christ, and the way of salvation is through the divine revelation of God in the fully inspired and verbal inerrancy of Scripture.  The Scriptures claim to be the inspired word of God (2 Timothy 3:16; 2 Peter 1:19-21).  As Warfield concedes, the Scriptures themselves teach the doctrine of plenary verbal inspiration and inerrancy (1 Thessalonians 2:2-3).  The beginning point of all Christian faith is Scripture, not reason or historical proofs.  Reason leads to skepticism.  The idea that Christianity stands on the trustworthiness of evidences and Christian tradition ultimately leads to skepticism and agnosticism.  I totally disagree with Warfield's comments below.  Without inspiration of Scripture there would be no Christianity, contra Warfield.  The axiom of Christianity is, "Scripture is the Word of God."  

The inspiration of Scripture is not an afterthought as Warfield contends:  "We do not think that the doctrine of plenary inspiration is the ground of Christian faith, but if it was held and taught by the New Testament writers, we think it an element in the Christian faith;. . ."  No, the revelation of God comes to us in the written words of Scripture and if we had no other evidence for the life, ministry, crucifixion, and resurrection of Christ Jesus that would be enough.  As the Westminster Confession of Faith clearly states:

Chapter 1: Of the Holy Scripture. 
6.  The whole counsel of God concerning all things necessary for His own glory, man’s salvation, faith and life, is either expressly set down in Scripture, or by good and necessary consequence may be deduced from Scripture: unto which nothing at any time is to be added, whether by new revelations of the Spirit or traditions of men. (2 Tim. 3:15–17, Gal. 1:8–9, 2 Thess. 2:2) Nevertheless, we acknowledge the inward illumination of the Spirit of God to be necessary for the saving understanding of such things as are revealed in the Word: (John 6:45, 1 Cor 2:9–12)

The Westminster Confession of Faith (Oak Harbor, WA: Logos Research Systems, Inc., 1996).
While Warfield clearly contributed many solid theological insights to the Reformed theological tradition, this is not one of them.]




Let it not be said that thus we found the whole Christian system upon the doctrine of plenary inspiration. We found the whole Christian system on the doctrine of plenary inspiration as little as we found it upon the doctrine of angelic existences. Were there no such thing as inspiration, Christianity would be true, and all its essential doctrines would be credibly witnessed to us in the generally trustworthy   p 210  reports of the teaching of our Lord and of His authoritative agents in founding the Church, preserved in the writings of the apostles and their first followers, and in the historical witness of the living Church. Inspiration is not the most fundamental of Christian doctrines, nor even the first thing we prove about the Scriptures. It is the last and crowning fact as to the Scriptures. These we first prove authentic, historically credible, generally trustworthy, before we prove them inspired. And the proof of their authenticity, credibility, general trustworthiness would give us a firm basis for Christianity prior to any knowledge on our part of their inspiration, and apart indeed from the existence of inspiration. The present writer, in order to prevent all misunderstanding, desires to repeat here what he has said on every proper occasion—that he is far from contending that without inspiration there could be no Christianity. “Without any inspiration,” he added, when making this affirmation on his induction into the work of teaching the Bible53—“without any inspiration we could have had Christianity; yea, and men could still have heard the truth and through it been awakened, and justified, and sanctified, and glorified. The verities of our faith would remain historically proven to us—so bountiful has God been in His fostering care—even had we no Bible; and through those verities, salvation.” We are in entire harmony in this matter with what we conceive to be the very true statement recently made by Dr. George P. Fisher, that “if the authors of the Bible were credible reporters of revelations of God, whether in the form of historical transactions of which they were witnesses, or of divine mysteries that were unveiled to their minds, their testimony would be entitled to belief,   p 211  even if they were shut up to their unaided faculties in communicating what they had thus received.”54 We are in entire sympathy in this matter, therefore, with the protest which Dr. Marcus Dods raised in his famous address at the meeting of the Alliance of the Reformed Churches at London, against representing that “the infallibility of the Bible is the ground of the whole Christian faith.”55 We judge with him that it is very important indeed that such a misapprehension, if it is anywhere current, should be corrected. What we are at present arguing is something entirely different from such an overstrained view of the importance of inspiration to the very existence of Christian faith, and something which has no connection with it. We do not think that the doctrine of plenary inspiration is the ground of Christian faith, but if it was held and taught by the New Testament writers, we think it an element in the Christian faith; a very important and valuable element;56 an element that appeals to our acceptance on precisely the same ground as every   p 212  other element of the faith, viz., on the ground of our recognition of the writers of the New Testament as trustworthy witnesses to doctrine; an element of the Christian faith, therefore, which cannot be rejected without logically undermining our trust in all the other elements of distinctive Christianity by undermining the evidence on which this trust rests. We must indeed prove the authenticity, credibility and general trustworthiness of the New Testament writings before we prove their inspiration; and even were they not inspired this proof would remain valid and we should give them accordant trust. But just because this proof is valid, we must trust these writings in their witness to their inspiration, if they give such witness; and if we refuse to trust them here, we have in principle refused them trust everywhere. In such circumstances their inspiration is bound up inseparably with their trustworthiness, and therefore with all else that we receive on trust from them.

On the other hand, we need to remind ourselves that to say that the amount and weight of the evidence of the truth of the Biblical doctrine of inspiration is measured by the amount and weight of the evidence for the general credibility and trustworthiness of the New Testament writers as witnesses to doctrine, is an understatement rather than an overstatement of the matter. For if we trust them at all we will trust them in the account they give of the person and in the report they give of the teaching of Christ; whereupon, as they report Him as teaching the same doctrine of Scripture that they teach, we are brought face to face with divine testimony to this doctrine of inspiration. The argument, then, takes the form given it by Bishop Wordsworth: “The New Testament canonizes the Old; the INCARNATE WORD sets His seal on the WRITTEN WORD. The Incarnate Word is God; therefore, the inspiration of the Old Testament is authenticated by God Himself.”57


Benjamin B. Warfield, The Works of Benjamin B. Warfield, Volume 1: Revelation and Inspiration (Bellingham, WA: Logos Bible Software, 2008), 209-12.

5 comments:

(Aaytch) Hudson said...

Warfield does not presuppose "that empirical evidences can prove the Bible's authenticity". Like Article 2 of the Belgic Confession, he is simply saying that if the Bible is true then the empirical evidence, with respect to God's decrees on earth, exists and can be known by investigation like any other theorem of science, and it can be falsified. That is NOT the same thing as saying it can be proven. Indeed, scientific theorems by their very nature are not axiomatic. They rest upon evidence. Now if we were to be asked about some assertion like the Trinity, well then one does not "prove" it by direct evidence. Rather one accepts it by faith but is not surprised to find corroborating or circumstantial evidence because the Lord has promised to be active in the world and to show Himself. The Comforter is not known in spite of evidence. Our eternal security is not supposed to be received in spite of evidence, but rather we are supposed to use the senses that He gave us to "test all things and hold to that which is good."

Does evidence lead inevitably to skepticism and agnosticism? Of course not. Contrary evidence would, but supporting evidence absolutely does not.

What we know comes to us by two means, the book of Scripture and the book of Nature. The Creation reveals God. We assert them BOTH to be infallible and to describe things which are visible. With respect to this visible world, we expect to know it more and more as we investigate or test. We expect these 'books' to be congruent, and sure enough that's how they appear after investigation.

There are other "invisible" things that we do not expect to find anyplace other than in Scripture, but our confidence in the Truth of these is emboldened as we come to see that Scripture is always true. Yes, there are some things for which we can never have any direct evidence; the contents of the "Book of Life" for example.

Charlie J. Ray said...

The true presuppositionalist does not prove the trustworthiness of Scripture or anything the Bible says, including inspiration and inerrancy. The self-evident truth (axiom) is that "Scripture is the Word of God." We would know nothing about Jesus being the incarnate Logos of God unless Scripture had revealed it to us.

(Aaytch) Hudson said...

The evidentialist on the other hand is not trying to "prove" anything. He's just providing evidence to support a thesis. I cannot prove to you that I'm married, but I have both documentary and natural evidence that satisfies me. The evidence is so good that it is tantamount to 'proof'. The best part is that it is not circular. The methodology subscribes to the same scientific method which Scripture describes as the foundation of all human knowledge. My conclusion remains falsifiable, but given the mounting evidence that seems rather unlikely.

(Aaytch) Hudson said...

Besides, I don't agree with you. Scripture declares that man is without excuse, that the testimonies of the Lord are written in the book of Nature, that the guilt of Adam is written on his heart and is evident in his body. Does it mean that there's enough in Nature to lead a man to Christ assuming he is predestined for it? I've never seen it happen, and Scripture also says there must be a preacher in the equation. But again, based on the fact that Scripture says the evidence is sufficient and that the calling is sure, I would expect there to be some evidence that it has happened. How about Rahab?

Charlie J. Ray said...

All "evidence" is tautological and circular. How I know you're telling the truth? I have no way to know if you're married or not. :)

The point is that empirical proofs prove nothing since the senses can be deceived. A color blind person cannot see red or green.

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