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Posts Tagged ‘Westminster Confession’

Detail from The Tower of Babel by Peter Brugel, 1563.

In the beginning God created the heaven and the earth.

  • Genesis 1:1

“The authority of the Holy Scripture, for which it ought to be believed, and obeyed, dependeth not upon the testimony of any man, or Church; but wholly upon God (who is truth itself) the author thereof: and therefore it is to be received, because it is the Word of God.”  Thus reads Chapter 1, Section 4 of The Westminster Confession of Faith

Last week it was mentioned that it would be both foolish and impious of me to attempt to prove that the 66 books of the Bible are the infallible and inerrant Word of God.  The foolishness of this project, as you may recall, was found in the axiomatic position the Bible plays in the Christian system of thought. 

An axiom is a first principle, an unproven and unprovable first principle.  The reason an axiom is unproven and unprovable lies in the very definition of the term “axiom” itself.  If one were to prove a first principle, then it would no longer be a first principle.  Whatever argument used to prove the axiom would take the original axiom’s place as the new first principle.   

Some Christians may be concerned by the assertion that we do not prove the axiom of Christianity – The Bible Alone is the Word of God – supposing that somehow this puts Christianity on a shaky footing.  But this concern can be assuaged by remembering that all systems of thought – and this includes all secular systems of thought of the sort the world delights to throw at Christians – have their axioms.  In this case, the Christian with his axiom is no worse off than the secular scientist or philosopher with his axioms.  The Christian begins his thinking in one place, the 66 books of the Bible.  On the other hand, the scientist begins his thinking in another place, perhaps on the axiom of the general reliability of the senses.

In addition to it being foolish to attempt to prove that the Bible is the infallible and inerrant Word of God, it was also mentioned that it would be impious to do so.  “Impious” is not a term we use often, so perhaps a definition is in order.  Merriam Webster defies it as irreverent or profane.  The notion that the fallible words of sinful man are better testimony of the truth than God’s Word itself is the very definition of impiety.   

The Westminster Confession citation above refers to several passages from Scripture to supports its claims.    

  • 1 Peter 1:19, 21 And so we have the prophetic word confirmed, which you do well to heed as a light that shines in a dark place, until the day dawns and the morning star rises in your hearts; for prophecy never came by the will of man, but holy men of God spoke as they were moved by the Holy Spirit.
  • 2 Timothy 3:16 All Scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness.
  • 1 John 5:9 If we receive the witness of men, the witness of God is greater.

It was Augustine who famously wrote, “For understanding is the reward of faith. Therefore do not seek to understand in order to believe, but believe that you may understand” (Tractate 29 on John 7:14-18).  In this statement, Augustine shows himself a Scripturalist.  He attempts not to prove the Bible is the Word of God, but accepts it as true – that is, he accepts the Bible as his axiom – and his understanding of God and his works follows from this.

With all this said, let us turn to the subject at hand, which is Genesis as history.

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