Joel Beeke’s explanation of the authority of God’s Word is clear and solid: I really appreciated his article. Because of our disappointment with certain pastors, as well as the many false teachers who’ve arisen among us, some readers may object to Beeke’s emphasis on the importance of the Biblical role of pastor-teacher in the Church, but I believe it is what the Lord ordained for us. Godly pastors are His gift. Thank you, Lord!
The Sufficiency of the Bible Contra Rome
The principle of sola Scriptura explains why the Reformers accepted some parts of Roman Catholic teaching but not others. They believed that Christ, as the only Head, rules His church by His Word and Spirit. The authority of Scripture is thus absolute, the authority of Christ Himself, not an authority derived from or accorded to it by the church. Calvin said that Scripture is as authoritative as if we heard God’s “living words” from heaven with our own ears (Institutes, 1.7.1) and so Christians should be governed by its promises (Institutes, 3.2.6–7) and the church should be wholly subject to its authority (Institutes, 4.8). . .
The Bible’s sufficiency should also not be understood to exclude the use of the church’s helps, such as her many teachers past and present, and the writings produced by them. These are not to be rejected, but welcomed as a means that the Holy Spirit has provided in the body of Christ (1 Cor. 12:28; Eph. 4:11–13). However, they are subordinated to the Bible in such a way that they have authority to direct our faith and obedience only insofar as they faithfully reproduce and apply the teachings of Scripture. The principle of Scripture alone, rightly understood, does not mean the church of any given time or place operates by the Bible alone without reference to the traditions of the church through the ages. Rather, the sola of sola Scriptura means that the Bible alone is the fountain and touchstone for all authoritative teaching and tradition. This point especially needs to be emphasized in an ahistoric contemporary culture that emphasizes radical individualism and personal liberty. As Peter warns, “No prophecy of Scripture is of any private interpretation” (2 Pet. 1:20). . .
Photo: “Junge lammer des hausschafes” (Young lamb of the domestic sheep) by bohringer friedrich, 2006, Wikimedia.
16 For I am not ashamed of the gospel of Christ, for it is the power of God to salvation for everyone who believes, for the Jew first and also for the Greek. 17 For in it the righteousness of God is revealed from faith to faith; as it is written, “The just shall live by faith.”
The following is an insightful passage about Luther’s faith, from a beautiful tribute to him and Calvin, two men whom the Lord used in an extraordinary way during an extraordinary period of history. The article is interesting and edifying in many ways.
Soli deo Gloria — glory to God ALONE
by R. SCOTT CLARK
Luther was the pioneer of Protestant theology, piety, and practice. He gradually became Protestant in the period between 1513-21 as he lectured through the Psalms, Romans, Galatians, Hebrews, and the Psalms again. Reading Augustine as he lectured on the Psalms he realized that the doctrine of man and sin that he had learned in university did not agree with Scripture nor did it agree with Augustine. In the Psalms he saw that human depravity is greater than he had thought and grace is greater, more powerful, and more free than he thought, that God has elected his people to new life and true faith unconditionally, from all eternity (sola gratia). By the end of his lectures on the Psalms he had become young, restless, and Augustinian but he was not yet a Protestant. As he lectured through Romans, he began to see that the basis on which we stand before God is not the sanctity wrought in us by grace and cooperation with grace but Christ’s righteousness accomplished outside of us and imputed to us. As he lectured through Galatians he came to see that view confirmed and he began to re-think what he had learned about the role of faith in salvation, that it was not just another virtue formed in us by grace and cooperation with grace. The picture became clearer as he lectured through Hebrews and the Psalms again. Late in life, looking back at his theological development, he said that it was as he lectured through Psalms again that the light went on, as it were, and he realized that it is faith that apprehends Christ, that rests in and receives Christ and his righteousness for us. It is through faith the Spirit unites us to Christ so that he becomes ours and we become his (sola fide).
16 Thus says the Lord:
“Stand in the ways and see,
And ask for the old paths, where the good way is,
And walk in it;
Then you will find rest for your souls.
But they said, ‘We will not walk in it.’
“The gospel declares what God has done for us in Christ. It is not about what we can do to reach him.”
Under “Creeds and Confessions” at Theopedia.com, I found the Cambridge Declaration in a very readable format. Theopedia.com introduces the Declaration in this way:
“Formulated April 20, 1996, by a group of conservative evangelical theologians and pastors, The Cambridge Declaration of the Alliance of Confessing Evangelicals is a call to recover the historic Christian faith. The Five Solas of the sixteenth century Protestant Reformation form the outline of the declaration.”.
“Evangelical churches today are increasingly dominated by the spirit of this age rather than by the Spirit of Christ. As evangelicals, we call ourselves to repent of this sin and to recover the historic Christian faith…”
(This isn’t necessarily an endorsement of all the views of these authors or organizations.)
Reformation Essentials – Five Pillars of the Reformation by Michael Horton
Recovering Reformation Theology: Rejecting Synergism and Returning to Monergism by Bob DeWaay
The Five Solas of the Reformation: A Brief Statement by Gregg Strawbridge, Ph.D.
Alliance of Confessing Evangelicals’ posting of the Declaration
Four minutes of your time:
James Montgomery Boice: “Here we stand”