PCUSA Makes Marriage a ‘Unique Commitment’ – ChristianityToday.com

PCUSA Makes Marriage a ‘Unique Commitment’ | Gleanings | ChristianityToday.com.

marriagepic-1Christianity Today’s latest “Gleanings” feature (March 18, 2015) carried this note of further apostasy from the teaching of God’s Word about marriage on the part of the mainline Presbyterian church in this country.

Below is the first part of that story; for the full news item, visit the “CT” link above. The report includes a map showing how the various states have voted to this point (Michigan has not yet decided.)

May the Lord call out of this apostate denomination those who are truly His and who desire to be faithful to His Word and the true Presbyterian heritage (Rev.18:4).

The Presbyterian Church (USA) will now define marriage as a “unique commitment between two people,” rather than a lifelong covenant between a man and a woman as an act of Christian discipleship.

Last June, the PC(USA) general assembly voted to change the language in its Book of Order, the denomination’s governing constitution. Following the vote, a majority of the PC(USA)’s 171 presbyteries also had to approve the measure for it to go into effect. On Tuesday, this number (86) was reached.

The conservative Presbyterian Lay Committee (PLC) criticized the denomination’s shift.

“In terms of the PCUSA’s witness to the world, this vote demonstrates a complete accommodation to the prevailing winds of our culture,” said Carmen Fowler LaBerge, PLC president, in a statement. “Any prophetic voice that the denomination may have once had to speak truth and call people to repentance is now lost.”

A Thousand Hands Will Grasp You with Warm Desire: On the Persistence of Physical Books – A.Christie

The Millions : A Thousand Hands Will Grasp You with Warm Desire: On the Persistence of Physical Books.

Gutenberg_Bible,_Lenox_Copy,_New_York_Public_Library,_2009._Pic_01bigThis is a great piece of writing on the importance and permanence (humanly speaking) of the classic codex (book). It was posted on the website “The Millions” on March 2, 2015 and is written by Alix Christie, “a writer and journalist whose debut novel Gutenberg’s Apprentice (2014) tells the story of the invention of printing. …She currently lives in London, where she reviews books and arts for The Economist. Visit her at www.gutenbergsapprentice.com.”

I include here the wonderful image of the Gutenberg Bible that was on her post, a reference to which begins her article. To read the entire post, visit this page.

The Gutenberg Bible is a book of extraordinary beauty. One might even say it exudes beauty: its gleaming hand-tooled leather cover beckons to the hands to touch, to open, to reveal what lies inside. The day I saw it, it was sitting on the library table like a fat monarch laid in state, a foot wide by nearly a foot and a half long, light reflecting off the metal cornerpieces a binder had affixed for its protection half a millennium before. I asked Paul Needham, the librarian at Princeton’s Scheide Library, if I should put on gloves. He shook his head. Linen rag is not disturbed by finger oils, while calfskin in fact thanks them. I raised the solid wood-and-leather board. It opened right onto the text: two perfect jet-black columns, the ink still glossy after all this time. I turned one massive page, and then the next, intoxicated by the touch, the smell, the grace of that black block against the broad and creamy margins. To my amazement, I was leafing through the most famous and valuable book in the world, the first major volume made with metal type — the Ur-book of the age of print. Yet beyond all these superlatives, it was simply beautiful.

This volume, one of 48 that survive, was crafted with exquisite care roughly 560 years ago. Its makers — one inventor, one scribe, and one merchant who dealt in books — chose for each page the crispest letterforms, the purest linen, the ideal proportions of the golden section. In short, they selected the finest possible form to clothe the most sacred text of their age, the Christian Scriptures. I studied this book for several years, and have come to think that it has much to tell our age as well. For this Biblia latina, more than any other book, makes one thing clear: the more we value a text, the more we desire to fix it in the world, to grant it permanence. Today, as we rush headlong into the digital age, it seems to me that a similar tendency can be discerned. For against all expectation, we readers maintain our stubborn attachment to physical books, as though what they contained were somehow sacred.

The Arrival of Spring: “This is Aslan’s doing” – C.S. Lewis

The 3 R's Blog:

Front CoverAs the sun of God’s Son crosses the vernal equinox later today (a special happy first day of Spring to my wife, Verna!), marking the outset of Spring in the northern hemisphere, I re-post this wonderful piece of text from C.S. Lewis’ classic book, as first posted by Nick Roark on his fine reading blog “Tolle Lege.” You will understand its significance when you have read it.
Have a wonderful first day of Spring! “For, lo, the winter is past…”, Song of Solomon 2:11.

Originally posted on Tolle Lege:

“Every moment the patches of green grew bigger and the patches of snow grew smaller. Every moment more and more of the trees shook off their robes of snow. Soon, wherever you looked, instead of white shapes you saw the dark green of firs or the black prickly branches of bare oaks and breeches and elms.

Then the mist turned from white to gold and presently cleared away altogether. Shafts of delicious sunlight struck down onto the forest floor and overhead you could see a blue sky between the treetops.

Soon there were more wonderful things happening. Coming suddenly round a corner into a glade of silver birch trees Edmund saw the ground covered in all directions with little yellow flowers–celandines.

The noise of the water grew louder. Presently they actually crossed a stream. Beyond it they found snowdrops growing.

‘Mind your own business!’ said the dwarf when he saw…

View original 332 more words

Why Old Newspaper and Book Pages Turn Yellow

This article appeared yesterday on the “Today I Found Out” emailing that was sent to me. It follows nicely on a post on archives onvolving yellowed pages. Ever wondered why? Here’s the extended – and somewhat scientific – reason (And when you get to the end, you will understand why we use acid-free folders and boxes in archivs work):

It is generally thought that paper was invented around 100 BC in China. Originally made from wet hemp that was, then, beaten to a pulp, tree bark, bamboo, and other plant fibers were eventually used. Paper soon spread across Asia, first only being used for official and important documents, but as the process became more efficient and cheaper, it became far more common.

Paper first arrived in Europe likely around the 11th century. Historians believe the oldest known paper document from the “Christian West” is the Missal of Silos from Spain, which is essentially a book containing texts to be read during Mass. This paper was made out of a form of linen. While paper, books, and printing would evolve throughout the next eight hundred years, with the Gutenberg printing press coming in the mid-15th century, paper was normally made out of linen, rags, cotton, or other plant fibers. It wouldn’t be until the mid-19th century when paper was made out of wood fiber.

So what changed?  In 1844, two individuals invented the wood paper-making process. On one end of the Atlantic Ocean was Canadian inventor Charles Fenerty. Growing up, his family owned a series of lumber mills in Nova Scotia. Knowing the durability, cheapness, and availability of wood, he realized it could be a good substitute for the much more expensive cotton used in paper. He experimented with wood pulp and on October 26, 1844, he sent his wood pulp paper to Halifax’s top newspaper, The Acadian Recorder, with a note touting the durability and cost-effective spruce wood paper. Within weeks, the Recorder used Fenerty’s wood pulp paper.

At the same time, German binder and weaver Friedrich Gottlob Keller was working on a wood-cutting machine when he discovered the same thing as Fenerty – that wood pulp could act as a cheaper paper than cotton. He produced a sample and, in 1845, received a German patent for it. In fact, some historians credit Keller for the invention more than Fenerty simply due to the fact that he received a patent and the Canadian did not.

Within thirty years, wood pulp paper was all the rage on both sides of the pond. While wood pulp paper was cheaper and just as durable as cotton or other linen papers, there were drawbacks. Most significantly, wood pulp paper is much more prone to being effected by oxygen and sunlight.

Wood is primarily made up of two polymer substances – cellulose and lignin. Cellulose is the most abundant organic material in nature. It is also technically colorless and reflects light extremely well rather than absorbs it (which makes it opaque); therefore humans see cellulose as white. However, cellulose is also somewhat susceptible to oxidation, although not nearly as much as lignin. Oxidation causes a loss of electron(s) and weakens the material. In the case of cellulose, this can result in some light being absorbed, making the material (in this case, wood pulp) appear duller and less white (some describe it as “warmer”), but this isn’t what causes the bulk of the yellowing in aged paper.

Lignin is the other prominent substance found in paper, newspaper in particular. Lignin is a compound found in wood that actually makes the wood stronger and harder. In fact, according to Dr. Hou-Min Chang of N.C. State University in Raleigh, “Without lignin, a tree could only grow to about 6 ft. tall.” Essentially, lignin functions as something of a “glue,” more firmly binding the cellulose fibers, helping make the tree much stiffer and able to stand taller than they otherwise would, as well able to withstand external pressures like wind.

Lignin is a dark color naturally (think brown-paper bags or brown cardboard boxes, where much of the lignin is left in for added strength, while also resulting in the bags/boxes being cheaper due to less processing needed in their creation). Lignin is also highly susceptible to oxidation. Exposure to oxygen (especially when combined with sunlight) alters the molecular structure of lignin, causing a change in how the compound absorbs and reflects light, resulting in the substance containing oxidized lignin turning a yellow-brown color in the human visual spectrum.

Since the paper used in newspapers tends to be made with a less intensive and more cost-efficient process (since a lot of the wood pulp paper is needed), there tends to be significantly more lignin in newspapers than in, say, paper made for books, where a bleaching process is used to remove much of the lignin. The net result is that, as newspapers get older and are exposed to more oxygen, they turn a yellowish-brown color relatively quickly.

As for books, since the paper used tends to be higher grade (among other things, meaning more lignin is removed along with a much more intensive bleaching process), the discolorization doesn’t happen as quickly. However, the chemicals used in the bleaching process to make white paper can result in the cellulose being more susceptible to oxidation than it would otherwise be, contributing slightly to the discolorization of the pages in the long run.

Today, to combat this, many important documents are now written on acid-free paper with a limited amount of lignin, to prevent it from deteriorating as quickly.

As for old historic documents, there may not be a way to reverse the damage already done, but one can prevent further damage. It is important to store the documents or newspaper in a cool, dry, dark place, just like how museums store historic documents in a temperature-controlled room with low-lighting. Additionally, do not store them in an attic or basement; those places can get humid and can have significant temperature swings. If one would like to display the newspaper or document out in the open, put it behind UV protected glass to deflect harmful rays. Most importantly, limit the handling of said document or newspaper – nothing destroys a valuable piece of paper like frequent handling.

Published in: on March 20, 2015 at 6:25 AM  Leave a Comment  
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PRC Archives: Sovereign Grace Union, H.Atherton, and H.Hoeksema

Recently Prof.R.Dykstra asked me if we had in the Seminary library or PRC denominational archives a special book that Rev. Herman Hoeksema received from Rev. Henry Atherton of Grove Chapel in Camberwell, England.

Prof.Dykstra was covering the modern church history period of Great Britain and had mentioned to his students that Rev.Hoeksema had made friends with Rev.Atherton because of the latter’s strong sovereign grace views. Hoeksema had, in fact, made a trip to London in 1929, preaching in Grove Chapel on July 29, 1929 (see quote and article link below). A little over a year later (Sept.26, 1930) Atherton presented Hoeksema with a signed copy of a bound collection of pamphlets published by the Sovereign Grace Union, of which Atherton was general secretary for many years.

I recalled that we had the book, through a strange set of circumstances (which I will not go into now), and that it was in the archives, not in the library. After locating the book (which has the spine label “S.G.U. Pamphlets, 1929″), I rediscovered the personal note of Rev. Atherton to Rev.Hoeksema. I have scanned it and include it here.

SGU-HH Copy-1929

I then starting doing a Standard Bearer search to see what references “HH” may have made to this trip and book. And I found this: “I prefer to quote from the book that was given to me by Henry Atherton after I preached in Grove Chapel, London, on July 21, 1929″ (Taken from this SB article by HH, April 15, 1964).

I thought you might be interested in learning more about the SGU and its publications, so I scanned out of this bound volume of “HH” a number of the pamphlet covers and advertisements for this organization, and post them here in succession.


SGU-Ad re Good books

SGU-Book pg_Page_1

SGU-Special Ads_Page_1

SGU-Specials covers_Page_1

SGU-Special covers-2_Page_1



You may also be interested to know that the SGU continues to publish materials, including a magazine, which we receive in the Seminary library. Here is an image of the latest cover we have:

SGU-Peace&Truth Mag cover_Page_1

In addition, just recently in connection with their 100th anniversary (November 2014) the SGU published and sent to us a collection of Atherton’s addresses under the title The Gospel of Sovereign Grace. This work will be placed in our library, and our readers are more than welcome to read this if they desire. I have scanned a copy of its cover here for your benefit.

SGU-Atherton book cover_Page_1

Finally, I can mention that I also found these additional references to SGU in the “SB”.

From the April 15, 1966 SB (“Book Reviews”):

Several Sovereign Grace Union Tracts by various authors and of various prices. These tracts and a price list of other publications are available from Grace Literature, P.O. Box 879, Gaffney, S.C. 29340.

Many of our older readers will recall that formerly we had some contacts with the Sovereign Grace Union of England, particularly through the friendship between the late Rev. Henry Atherton and my father. Recently several tracts from this organization were sent to me by a U.S. agent whose address I have given above. Among these were “Table Talk About Election,” a very brief tract about election; “An Accomplished Redemption,” a little pamphlet on particular atonement; and “What Is This Calvinism,” a brief exposition of the Five Points of Calvinism.

Although much of what is contained in these tracts is a kind of Calvinism, yet I was frankly rather disappointed in what I read. I get the impression that the Sovereign Grace Union is not putting out the kind of literature that it formerly did; at least, this material does not compare with many former productions which I have in my library. The Calvinism of these tracts is “watered down” Calvinism. “Table Talk About Election” is definitely a failure when it comes to the crucial subject of reprobation. The pamphlet on “An Accomplished Redemption” speaks of common grace fruits of Christ’s death as well as of His atonement for the elect. As to “What Is This Calvinism?” I would have to say that Calvinism is much more than the Five Points of Calvinism. Hence, tracts of this nature are of very limited, and sometimes questionable, value.

I also received the SGU quarterly, “Peace and Truth,” the subscription price of which is $1.05 per year. This little magazine contains some brief articles and sermons and items of interest concerning the SGU.

Perhaps I might add that the SGU does not publish many large books any more. This seems to be done more by the Banner of Truth Trust. However, for those interested in SGU publications, here is some information.

—H.C. Hoeksema

And Rev.R.Harbach quoted Atherton in an SB article on crusade methods in the Sept.1, 1969 issue:

In closing, we can do no better than to quote Henry Atherton, who in 1929 said, “All systems of Theology are reduced to two outstanding principles, called Calvinistism and Arminianism. Arminianism is man’s religion, which can be accomplished by man. Man is the main power: with man it begins, and with man it shall perish. Calvinism is the Divine revelation. It requires the Lord for everything, acknowledging the sovereignty of God; and all its purposes and power must come from God. God elects, God redeems, God ingathers, God keeps, provides, sustains and operates according to His own purpose and wisdom, and all redound to God’s grace and glory.”

Word Wednesday: Pseudepigrapha

This morning while cataloging two large volumes for the Seminary library, I discovered a somewhat rare word which I thought I could share with you on this “Word Wednesday.” The volumes are titled The Apocrypha and Pseudepigrapha of the Old Testament in English, edited by R.H. Charles (Oxford, 1978) – surely an exciting title to Seminary students as well as to you! :)

I believe most of us are familiar with the Apocrypha, but what about these “Psuedepigrapha”? What are they? The word derives from two Greek words – pseudo, “false” and epigrapha, “inscribed writings” – so that this term refers to false or spurious writings ascribed to biblical writers. The term is closely related to the apocryphal writings, therefore, though there is a difference between Catholics and Protestants about how these books are received.

Here is one dictionary’s definition:




1. Spurious writings, especially writings falsely attributed to biblical characters or times.
2. A body of texts written between 200 bc and ad 200 and spuriously ascribed to various prophets and kings of the Hebrew Scriptures.

And to help us fill out this definition, we find this information also online:

Pseudepigrapha (also Anglicized as “pseudepigraph” or “pseudepigraphs”) are falsely attributed works, texts whose claimed authorship is represented by a separate author; or a work, “whose real author attributed it to a figure of the past.”[1] The word “pseudepigrapha” (from the Greek: ψευδής, pseude, “false” and ἐπιγραφή, epigraphē, “name” or “inscription”or “ascription”; thus when taken together it means “false superscription or title”;[2] see the related epigraphy) is the plural of “pseudepigraphon” (sometimes Latinized as “pseudepigraphum”).

Pseudepigraphy covers the false ascription of names of authors to works, even to authentic works that make no such claim within their text. Thus a widely accepted but an incorrect attribution of authorship may make a completely authentic text pseudepigraphical. Assessing the actual writer of a text locates questions of pseudepigraphical attribution within the discipline of literary criticism.

In Old Testament biblical studies, the pseudepigrapha are Jewish religious works written c 300 BC to 300 AD, not all of which are literally pseudepigraphical.[3] They are distinguished by Protestants from the Deuterocanonical (Catholic and Orthodox) or Apocrypha (Protestant), the books that appear in the Septuagint and Vulgate but not in the Hebrew Bible or in Protestant Bibles.[3] Catholics distinguish only between the deuterocanonical and all the other books, that are called biblical Apocrypha, a name that is also used for the pseudepigrapha in the Catholic usage.

So how do we know as Christians that these are “false writings”? How can we tell what really belongs to the Bible as God’s holy Word? Our Belgic Confession, Arts.4-6, help guide us here:

Art.4 – We believe that the Holy Scriptures are contained in two books, namely, the Old and New Testament, which are canonical, against which nothing can be alleged. These are thus named in the Church of God. The books of the Old Testament are, the five books of Moses, namely: Genesis, Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers, Deuteronomy; the books of Joshua, Ruth, Judges, the two books of Samuel, the two of the Kings, two books of the Chronicles, commonly called Paralipomenon, the first of Ezra, Nehemiah, Esther, Job, the Psalms of David, the three books of Solomon, namely, the Proverbs, Ecclesiastes, and the Song of Songs; the four great prophets Isaiah, Jeremiah, Ezekiel and Daniel; and the twelve lesser prophets, namely, Hosea, Joel, Amos, Obadiah, Jonah, Micah, Nahum, Habakkuk, Zephaniah, Haggai, Zechariah, and Malachi.

Those of the New Testament are the four evangelists, namely: Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John; the Acts of the Apostles; the fourteen epistles of the apostle Paul, namely: one to the Romans, two to the Corinthians, one to the Galatians, one to the Ephesians, one to the Philippians, one to the Colossians, two to the Thessalonians, two to Timothy, one to Titus, one to Philemon, and one to the Hebrews; the seven epistles of the other apostles, namely, one of James, two of Peter, three of John, one of Jude; and the Revelation of the apostle John.

Art.5 – We receive all these books, and these only, as holy and canonical, for the regulation, foundation, and confirmation of our faith; believing without any doubt, all things contained in them, not so much because the Church receives and approves them as such, but more especially because the Holy Ghost witnesseth in our hearts, that they are from God, whereof they carry the evidence in themselves. For the very blind are able to perceive that the things foretold in them are fulfilling.

Art.6 – We distinguish those sacred books from the apocryphal, namely: the third book of Esdras, the books of Tobias, Judith, Wisdom, Jesus Syrach, Baruch, the appendix to the book of Esther, the Song of the three Children in the Furnace, the history of Susannah, of Bell and the Dragon, the prayer of Manasses, and the two books of the Maccabees. All of which the Church may read and take instruction from, so far as they agree with the canonical books; but they are far from having such power and efficacy, as that we may from their testimony confirm any point of faith, or of the Christian religion; much less detract from the authority of the other sacred books.

And by the way, you may find a listing of these pseudepigrapha on this website that carries the name; it’s a “mixed bag” site, but interestingly, the links to the specific books of the pseudepigrapha lead you to the works found in the volumes edited by R.H. Charles that I cataloged for our library.

Help Yourself Read Slowly and Attentively – A.Jacobs

PleasureofReadingBkThis is a situation… which seems to lend itself to advice, to recommendations [Jacobs is referring here to the distractions our modern technology forces on us daily with regard to good reading.]. But what would be the point? We all already know what we need to do if we want to get back to reading slowly and attentively. Shut down the computer; put aside the cellphone. If the temptation to check email or texts or Twitter is too strong, then take yourself somewhere where the gadgets aren’t. Lock them in the car before you enter the coffee shop with your book; give them to your spouse or partner and request that they be hidden, and then go into a room with a comfortable chair and close the door behind you. It’s not hard to come up with handy-dandy practical suggestions; what’s hard is following them – or rather, even wanting to follow them. What’s hard is imagining, fully and vividly, the good things that happen when we follow through.

Alan Jacobs in The Pleasures of Reading in a Age of Distraction (Oxford, 2011), 84.

(True) St. Patrick’s Day Commemoration!

Indeed, it is St.Patrick’s Day. And we shall not allow the world to grab another day off the church’s calendar (as arbitrary as it is) and rob it of its true significance.

Therefore, in the spirit of remembering God’s work through one of His servant-saints in the fifth century, we shall proceed to note this day with true commemoration of Patrick, missionary to Ireland – the chief thing for which he should be remembered (born c.389; died c.461-493).

We begin with this brief video on St.Patrick from Rose Publishing (“Christian History Made Easy”), which debunks many of the myths associated with him while relating the story of his life and work.

Patrick-Portraits-HHanko_Page_1Second, we point you to an article Prof.Herman Hanko wrote for the Standard Bearer back in 1990, titled “Patrick, Missionary to Ireland.” This article later became a chapter in his book Portraits of Faithful Saints, (cf. image to the left, which is the opening page) published by the RFPA in 1999 (pp.46-50). Here is a part of that article/chapter which introduces us to this zealous man:

The early history of the church of Christ is an exciting and moving history of her missionary enterprise. Scripture itself records for us how the gospel was brought to Judea, Samaria, and the entire Mediterranean world, so that the church was spread throughout the Roman Empire. The early annuls of the church provide us with information of how courageous missionaries moved beyond the Mediterranean world into darkest Europe to bring God’s Word to the many barbarian tribes who had moved into Europe and settled there.

Through the labors of the church the whole of Europe was Christianized, so that it was changed from darkest heathendom and paganism and became the cradle of Christianity. Although the work covered many centuries, it had its lowly beginnings in the lives of men who sacrificed all for the cause of the gospel.

This is the story of one such missionary: Patrick, missionary to Ireland.

To read the rest of this story, follow the link above with the title.

And, finally, we include here this beautiful arrangement of the prayer attributed to Patrick, as composed by John Rutter and sung by the Cambridge Singers.


All Thy Works Shall Praise Thee: God’s Gift of “Air” – J.Minderhoud

SB-March1-2015Another excellent article in the March 1, 2015 issue of the Standard Bearer is Joel Minderhoud’s most recent contribution under the rubric “All Thy Works Shall Praise Thee.” In his series of articles he is calling attention to the “main characters in the most elegant book” of creation (a phrase taken from the Belgic Confession, Art.2), and in this particular article he focuses on God’s gift of air.

At the outset he ties it to the annual Prayer Day service the Protestant Reformed congregations hold in this season of the year, by means of which we confess together our complete dependence on the God of creation:

…We do so for no small reason. Each of us in truly dependent upon God’s provisions for our daily existence. Though North American society has drastically changed in the past one hundred years, from the farmland to the office cubicle, we are no less dependent upon the physical creation for our daily existence.

…In this article we will examine air – and more particularly its fundamental element, oxygen – and note our absolute dependence in our every breath for this indispensable gift of God. As we observe the annual day of Prayer, calling on Almighty God to grant us what we need both physically and spiritually, may we give earnest attention to His good provisions in the creation for our physical needs.

To give you just a glimpse into this one amazing gift of God called “air”, Minderhoud writes the following about the process known as “respiration”:

God in His wisdom designed a pair of processes – respiration and photosynthesis – that by His providence give ample oxygen for us and the animals of creation to breathe. As fast as we remove oxygen from the atmosphere via respiration, photosynthetic organisms such as plants, algae, and cyanobacteria convert carbon dioxide ( a waste product of our respiration) into a fresh, new oxygen supply. Organisms that contain the green-colored, ‘solar-powered’ chloroplast organelles are the best-known ‘recycling facilities’ on the planet. All through the day, as humans (and animals) use oxygen for their daily existence, the chloroplasts, powered by sunlight, convert the waste carbon dioxide that we exhale back into oxygen gas (and simultaneously produce sugar products that are stored in the plant fibers, which we, incidentally, will use later on as our food supply). By this marvelous pair of processes, the oxygen supply in the atmosphere remains fairly stable so that we always have sufficient oxygen to breathe (257-58).

All that God does, just so we can breathe and live, and move about so as to carry out our callings in this world. One of which is certainly to praise Him for this work too. Do we? Have we thought today about His gift of air and oxygen? Have we asked Him to grant us this gift, without which we die and return to the dust?

Things to ponder as we learn about these characters of God’s most elegant book, creation.

Where Does Scripture’s Authority Come From? – Keith Mathison

What We’ve Received by Keith Mathison | Reformed Theology Articles at Ligonier.org.

TT - March 2015The above-linked article in this month’s Tabletalk is the third one centered on the theme of the March issue – “Inerrancy and the Doctrine of Scripture.”

Dr.Keith A. Mathison is the author of this article, and in it he treats the authority of Scripture in connection with how we know in the first place what books belong to the Bible (its “canon”). As he shows us the Reformed doctrine of sola Scriptura, he refutes Rome’s claim that the church is the body that determines the canon of the Bible and therefore she is the one who gives Scripture its authority. Mathison shows plainly that the Bible carries its own authority because it is the Word of God.

What I appreciated about this article is its solid historical and confessional foundation rooted in the great Reformation. Repeatedly Mathison takes us to the historic Reformed creeds of the Reformation (Westminster Confession, Scots Confession, Belgic Confession, Second Helvetic Confession, etc.).

This is a lengthy article, but well-worth your reading. I give you a portion of it here, where Mathison gets at the heart of the controversy between the Reformed and Rome. Find the full article at this link (or the one above).

The question at the heart of the debate between Rome and the Protestants regarding the canon and the authority of Scripture may be stated as follows (using Michael Kruger’s terminology): Is the canon of Scripture community determined or is it self-authenticating? According to Rome, the authority of Scripture depends upon the authority of the church. The most fundamental problem with this view, however carefully it may be nuanced and qualified, is that it unavoidably and inevitably places the authority of God beneath the authority of the church. It completely reverses the true state of affairs. If we are to believe in the authority of Scripture, according to Rome, we must assume the authority of the church. But why should we accept the authority of the church? Is it self-authenticating? No, Rome says, and she appeals to Scripture to establish the authority of the church just as she appeals to the church to establish the authority of Scripture. The circular nature of this appeal has been pointed out since the Reformation.

To say that the canon and authority of Scripture is self-authenticating is to say what the Reformed confessions say. It is, to use the words of William Whitaker, to say that “the Scripture is autopistos.” It has “all its authority and credit from itself.” Why? Because it is the Word of the living God, and God does not have to appeal to the church in order to establish His own inherent sovereign authority. God is God. The church is not God.

So, how is it that the church has come to recognize the right books and only the right books? Jesus Himself gives us the answer when He says, “My sheep hear my voice, and I know them, and they follow me” (John 10:27). As Roger Nicole has pointed out, the best way to describe the way in which we know the canon is “the witness of the Holy Spirit given corporately to God’s people.” Recognition of the canonical books is due to the action of the Holy Spirit’s enabling God’s people to hear His voice.


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