One of the featured articles on the PRC website this month focuses on John Calvin’s doctrine of the holy Scripture. It was originally written for the special Reformation issue of the Oct.15, 1993 Standard Bearer and was penned by Rev. Dale Kuiper (1935-2014), then pastor of SE PRC in Grand Rapids, MI.
For this Saturday night we quote a part of this important and profitable article, encouraging you to read all of it at the link provided above. Or you may find the link to its original source here (and while there, you will see the other articles related to the theme of the Reformation’s doctrine of Scripture in that special issue).
In chapter seven [of his Institutes] Calvin teaches that unless the authority of Scripture is firmly established, doubts will flourish in them in the mind and there will be a lack of reverence for the Word. “But since we are not favoured with daily oracles from heaven, and since it is only in the Scriptures that the Lord hath been pleased to preserve his truth in perpetual remembrance, it obtains the same complete credit and authority with believers, when they are satisfied of its divine origin, as if they heard the very words pronounced by God himself” (p. 85) He calls it a pernicious error that the Scriptures derive their authority and weight by the suffrages of the church, or that the church decides what reverence is due the Scriptures, and what books comprise the canon.
Calvin destroys the argument that the Scriptures depend on the church’s decisions by quoting Ephesians 2:20, where we read that the church is built upon the foundation of the apostles and prophets. If the foundation of the church is Scripture, Scripture precedes the existence of the church, and the church cannot exist without Scripture. How, then, can she be the judge of them? “Wherefore, when the church receives it, and seals it with her suffrage, she does not authenticate a thing otherwise dubious or controvertible; but knowing it to be the truth of her God, performs a duty of piety, by treating it with immediate veneration” (p. 87).
…Calvin insists that the principal proof for the authority of the Bible is derived from the character of the Divine Speaker. “The prophets and apostles boast not of their own genius, or any of those talents which conciliate the faith of the hearers; nor do they insist on arguments from reason; but bring forward the sacred name of God, to compel the submission of the whole world” (p. 89). He immediately adds that “the testimony of the Spirit is superior to all reason. For as God alone is a sufficient witness of himself in his own word, so also the word will never gain credit in the hearts of men, till it be confirmed by the internal testimony of the Spirit” (p. 90). What must we think of Calvinists who wonder at the nature and extent of biblical authority in the twentieth century? Why appoint committees to study such a question? It is faithless conniving against the fundamental principle of the Reformation.