>

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

Friday, July 27, 2012

B. B. Warfied Rebukes Van Til, Mike Horton: Revelation Is NOT God's Mighty Acts

So express is its relation to the development of the kingdom of God itself, or rather to that great series of Divine operations which are directed to the building up of the kingdom of God in the world, that it is sometimes confounded with them, or thought of as simply their reflection in the contemplating mind of man. Thus it is not infrequently said that revelation, meaning this special redemptive revelation, has been communicated in deeds, not in words; and it is occasionally elaborately argued that the sole manner in which God has revealed Himself as the Saviour of sinners is just by performing those mighty acts by which sinners are saved. This is not, however, the Biblical representation.  --B. B. Warfield

In such an age, it is obvious that every inheritance from the past must be subject to searching criticism; and as a matter of fact some convictions of the human race have crumbled to pieces in the test. Indeed, dependence of any institution upon the past is now sometimes even regarded as furnishing a presumption, not in favor of it, but against it. So many convictions have had to be abandoned that men have sometimes come to believe that all convictions must go.  --J. Gresham Machen, Christianity and Liberalism.

Here is the crux. This understanding of revelation (inspiration as a concept has apparently gone by the board) means that God's revelation is confined within the historical events, so that no statements about God, even though made by the biblical writers themselves, are of final authority for our own thinking about God. Christian doctrines about God, Christ, salvation 'are subject to reinterpretation from age to age and are to be modified as science changes our views'.iii It follows that the documents -- whether the Creeds or the Articles -- which state these doctrines, no matter how closely they may reflect the statements of Scripture, are involved in the same relativism.  --D. Broughton Knox,  The 39 Articles:  The Historic Basis of Anglican Faith.

Written by Charlie J. Ray

In Mike Horton's systematic theology he over and over again points to the "drama", the "story", and the "acts" of God in salvation history and downplays the propositional truth claims God makes in the written words of Holy Scripture.  Anyone who disagrees with Horton is a "fundamentalist" or "trying to pry into the secret being of God" by the mere mention of the words "univocal revelation" in verbal and plenary inspiration of Holy Scripture.  In The Christian Faith, Horton says:  

The false choice between word-revelation and act-revelation that has been proposed by twentieth-century debates is exposed by the recognition that speaking is itself an action and not only descriptive of acts.  Communication is not limited to description, information, and instruction--as the propositional model implies.  (Page 120).

I could post other  quotes where Horton is enamored with the semi-pelagian view of the Eastern Orthdox Church where God "acts" in history.  Horton continually confuses general revelation with special revelation in Holy Scripture and then tries to use an eclectic method to syncretize modernist speech-act theories with neo-orthodoxy and Eastern Orthodox theology regarding God's "energies":

But does this mean that the Bible is merely a human witness to revelation and not itself the medium of direct divine revelation?
Part of the problem in answering this question is that our Western theology is usually restricted to the category of essence:  either divine or nondivine.  Eastern theology, however, introduced another category:  God's energies.  The sun's rays are not the sun itself, but they are also not the ground that is warmed by the sun.  Rather, they are shining forth or effulgence of the sun.  Similarly, God's energies (energeia) are neither God's essence (ousia) nor a created effect but  are God's knowledge, power, and grace directed toward creatures. (69)  This view is analogous to the familiar formula in Protestant orthodoxy already mentioned, namely that we come to know God in his works rather than in his essence.  God's works are neither God's essence nor merely the created effect of his action, but God's effective agency, which I have elsewhere called God's workings.  (70)  God's act of creating the world by his Word  is neither an emanation of God's being nor itself part of creation.  Rather it is God's activity.  (Page 130).

In case you missed it Horton is answering his own question.  Not only does he buy into modernist theories that speech and act are both revelatory but he necessarily puts revelation squarely in historical events rather than in Scripture.  It is true that historical events are recorded in the Bible but those historical events only have meaning in regards to the propositions attached to them by the verbally inspired and inerrant words of God recorded in Holy Scripture. Furthermore, to undermine verbal plenary inspiration is to contradict the whole of Reformed tradition, including the old line Princeton theologians.  God does not reveal saving knowledge through historical events in general.  But the only historical events that matter are recorded only in the propositional truth claims of Holy Scripture and those events are interpreted by the words God inspired.  To focus on acts rather than Scripture therefore is to undermine God's written Word, something Horton continually does throughout his book, The Christian Faith


Perhaps the only place Horton shines is in his discussion of the atonement and the propositional truth claims regarding penal substitutionary atonement.  Other than that Horton seems to fit Gordon H. Clark's assessment that when an Evangelical scholar wishes to conceal his liberalism he will only disagree with one or two points in regards to verbal and plenary inspiration while the full blown liberal disagrees with many. (Listen to Clark's audio recorded lecture on biblical inerrancy here:  Biblical Inerrancy).  Horton never discusses verbal plenary inspiration except in passing and even there his view is negative.  He in fact denigrates that view as the mechanical view as other liberal theologians do:

If our doctrine of inspiration is concerned exclusively with the authoritative source (the Father's speaking), it will gravitate toward a mechanical view.  We cannot develop an adequate doctrine of inspiration from an abstract concept of its supernatural origin independent of its content.  Yet if it focuses exclusively on the saving content (Jesus Christ), it is likely to yield a canon-within-a-canon approach, limiting inspiration to that which explicitly preaches Christ (leaving such determination to exegetes).  At the same time, focusing one-sidedly on the Spirit in our doctrine of inspiration typically generates various forms of mysticism and enthusiasm that separate the Spirit from the Word.  (Page 157).

Horton's view of inspiration even in his allegedly positive statements about verbal plenary inspiration is hopelessly confused and irrational since he attempts to mediate between the traditional Reformed and fundamentalist views of giants like B. B. Warfield and J. Gresham Machen and the Evangelical neo-orthodoxy of the Van Til school of thought:

Is God the author of Romans or is Paul?  However, if agency is analogical, then God's activity in producing these texts is qualitatively different from human agency.  (Page 162).

In other words, Horton tries to appear to be upholding the traditional view that Scripture is both fully human, since it is penned by men acting under inspiration of God, and fully divine as breathed out by God.  But Horton's theory of Scripture as merely containing God's revelation indirectly by way of analogy is essentially no different from the neo-orthodox view that God is totally transcendent and cannot reveal Himself directly in the fully inspired and inerrant words of Holy Scripture.  For Horton inerrancy and direct revelation only become possible because of the scholasticism of the Enlightenment era:

Fundamentalism and Protestant orthodoxy are distinct traditions, and nowhere can this be more clearly seen than in their differing emphases concerning biblical inspiration.  (Page 162).

Horton seems to forget that Old Princeton and even J. Gresham Machen were part of the Reformed and fundamentalist school.  Horton wishes to confuse and muddy the distinction between the anti-intellectualist fundamentalist movement exemplified by the KJV only movement with the solidly intellectual fundamentalism of J. Gresham Machen, who ironically founded Westminster Seminary in Pennsylvania, the mother of Westminster, California!  (See Christianity and Liberalism, J. Gresham Machen).  Horton has drawn a line in the sand and the side of the line he is standing on is not the same side that the Reformed forefathers stood on.


In closing I want to quote from B. B. Warfield to clearly show that Horton's view of God's acts and energies is totally out of step with truly reformed theology and the verbal plenary view of inspiration:

So express is its relation to the development of the kingdom of God itself, or rather to that great series of Divine operations which are directed to the building up of the kingdom of God in the world, that it is sometimes confounded with them, or thought of as simply their reflection in the contemplating mind of man. Thus it is not infrequently said that revelation, meaning this special redemptive revelation, has been communicated in deeds, not in words; and it is occasionally elaborately argued that the sole manner in which God has revealed Himself as the Saviour of sinners is just by performing those mighty acts by which sinners are saved. This is not, however, the Biblical representation. Revelation is, of course, often made through the instrumentality of deeds; and the series of His great redemptive acts by which He saves the world constitutes the preĆ«minent revelation of the grace of God—so far as these redemptive acts are open to observation and are perceived in their significance. But revelation, after all, is the correlate of understanding and has as its proximate end just the production of knowledge, though not, of course, knowledge for its own sake, but for the sake of salvation. The series of the redemptive acts of God, accordingly, can properly be designated “revelation” only when and so far as they are contemplated as adapted and designed to produce knowledge of God and His purpose and methods of grace. No bare series of unexplained acts can be thought, however, adapted to produce knowledge, especially if these acts be, as in this case, of a highly transcendental character. Nor can this particular series of acts be thought to have as its main design the production of knowledge; its main design is rather to save man. No doubt the production of knowledge of the Divine grace is one of the means by which this main design of the redemptive acts of God is attained. But this only renders it the more necessary that the proximate result of producing knowledge should not fail; and it is doubtless for this reason that the series of redemptive acts of God has not been left to explain itself, but the explanatory word has been added to it. Revelation thus appears, however, not as the mere reflection of the redeeming acts of God in the minds of men, but as a factor in the redeeming work of God, a component part of the series of His redeeming acts, without which that series would be incomplete and so far inoperative for its main end. Thus the Scriptures represent it, not confounding revelation with the series of the redemptive acts of God, but placing it among the redemptive acts of God and giving it a function as a substantive element in the operations by which the merciful God saves sinful men. It is therefore not made even a mere constant accompaniment of the redemptive acts of God, giving their explanation that they may be understood. It occupies a far more independent place among them than this, and as frequently precedes them to prepare their way as it accompanies or follows them to interpret their meaning. It is, in one word, itself a redemptive act of God and by no means the least important in the series of His redemptive acts.

This might, indeed, have been inferred from its very nature, and from the nature of the salvation which was being wrought out by these redemptive acts of God. One of the most grievous of the effects of sin is the deformation of the image of God reflected in the human mind, and there can be no recovery from sin which does not bring with it the correction of this deformation and the reflection in the soul of man of the whole glory of the Lord God Almighty.


Warfield, B. B. (2008). The Works of Benjamin B. Warfield, Volume 1: Revelation and Inspiration (11–13). Bellingham, WA: Logos Bible Software.






No comments:

Support Reasonable Christian Ministries with your generous donation.