Thy Word is Still Truth Hardcover – 20 Sep 2013
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About the Author
Lillback pastors Proclamation Presbyterian Church (PCA) and is adjunct professor of historical theology at Westminster Theological Seminary.
Richard B. Gaffin, Jr. is professor of biblical and systematic theology. He is an ordained teaching elder in the Orthodox Presbyterian Church.
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I’m not going to give a detailed overview of the contents of this book, since you can find that here on Amazon using the "look inside" preview. A basic outline of the book is as follows:
Part 1: “Sola Scriptura: The Reformers’ Rediscovery of the Written Word of God” This section gives several Reformers’ views of Scripture (Luther, Zwingli, Bullinger, and Calvin).
Part 2: “The Reformed Confessions” This section includes the the wording of various 16th and 17th century Reformed confessions as they explained the doctrine of Scripture. It was nice to see, for example, the Irish Articles and the Scots Confession, just to name two.
Part 3: “Early Reformed Interpretation” Here there are about 50 pages of writings of what the Reformers said about interpreting Scripture (Calvin, Bullinger, Knox). As a side, I wonder why Jonathan Edwards was included in this section, since he isn’t “early Reformed” and since there are Reformed theologians who are more helpful than Edwards on this topic.
Part 4: “The Doctrine of Scripture in Reformed Orthodoxy” This part gives selections of four Reformed scholastics’ views of Scripture. Again, I’m wondering why Edwards makes this section as well, since he’s not a Reformed Scholastic properly speaking. I would have also liked to see more Puritans here, such as Thomas Watson.
Part 5: “The Doctrine of Scripture in the Scottish and Dutch Legacy” This fine section gives some great excerpts of Dutch and Scottish theologians as they wrote on Scripture.
Part 6: “Other Nineteenth Century European Contributions” Here there are a few lesser known contributions to the doctrine of Scripture, such as Louis Gaussen and Adolphe Monod. Charles Spurgeon is also in this section; although I appreciate Spurgeon’s sharp focus on the gospel, I’m not sure he’d be on my “must read” list when it comes to the Reformed doctrine of Scripture.
Part 7: “The Doctrine of Scripture in the Theology of Old Princeton” As you may have guessed, here you’ll find writings of men like Hodge and Warfield.
Part 8: “The Theology of Scripture of the Founding Fathers of Westminster” Again, this is pretty straightforward: Machen, Wilson, Van Til, and others make this list.
Part 9: “The Birth of Biblical Theology” This part of the book gives writings from men like Vos and Clowney along with Silva and Gaffin.
Part 10: “The Authority of the Old Testament and New Testament Canon of Scripture” This section is a bit more focused, as it emphasizes the authority of Scripture with articles written by Young, Stonehouse, and Gaffin.
Part 11: “Challenges to the Reformed Doctrine of Scripture” This part contains writings that deal with a few attacks on Scripture in the last 75 years or so. Here you’ll read articles from Waltke, Dillard, and Ferguson, for example.
Part 12: “The Westminster Controversy” This brief section contains documents from the 2008 Westminster Theological Seminary (in Philadelphia) dispute when Peter Enns left the seminary. Actually, I think it’s safe to say that this book, Thy Word Is Still Truth, was put together as later response to that controversy, as the editors mention in the introduction.
If you’ve read the main historic Reformed discussions of Scripture, you’ll have already read about 30-40% of this book (i.e. Turretin, Bavinck, Berkhof, and the Confessions). However, this shouldn’t hinder you from getting this book, since it does contain many other writings on Scripture that you may not have read (Bullinger, Knox, Cunningham, A. A. Hodge, etc.).
For those of you who want a mini-Reformed library on the doctrine of Scripture contained in a single volume, this one is for you. It is true that almost everything in this book has been published previously elsewhere, but it is handy to have them all in one book. And to top it off, there are very extensive indices (topical and scriptural). Even though you probably won’t sit down and read Thy Word Is Still Truth straight through, it contains many excellent resources that will stimulate your studies for years to come. I’m thankful that the editors and publisher put so much work into this volume. I’m sure it’ll benefit Christ’s church in the upcoming years. And it’ll help us to stand firmly upon the precious Word of God, which is a lamp to our feet and a light to our path.
When I see articles on the Bible in national magazines and in newspapers I rarely read them because they are always questioning (and the same questions are recycled about every ten years). Isn't it interesting that those who read the Bible the least usually question it the most and those who read it and study it the most- love it the most and are the most impressed with it? This book feeds you by taking you to many writers over the ages who defend the inerrancy of the Scriptures. Some articles are easy to read and some will tax you but there is nothing in it not worth being included.
It can be used as a reference book and referred to every now and then or as a daily theological read. By reading 4 pages a day one can read the whole book in a year.
This is a very special book worth buying and studying. This is certainly one of the best books I have purchased in the past ten years.
I had been a Christian, by the grace of God, for seven years, being transformed while in college. I had only a small exposure to nominal Christianity via my background in a liberal, mainline denomination. I knew only the most basic outline of the facts about Christ that I gleaned from each Sunday's liturgy. I believed that George Washington was the first President of the United Sates, that Mickey Mantle was my favorite baseball player, and that Jesus Christ died on the cross for our sins. And none of them made any difference to my daily life.
Then God intervened in my life out of the blue in 1969 and I was a different person. I had heard the gospel, been transfixed by its message and relevance, and was given grace to savingly trust in Christ alone for salvation. When I told my local priest that January afternoon that God had transformed my life and that I had been "born again" and was now trusting in Christ for my salvation, he told me that such teaching was dangerous and hoped I would "get over it". A former campus chaplain, he said that he had seen people really "messed up" by this kind of teaching. As I left his office that day, I knew he was not a safe guide for my spiritual life and perhaps he was the "messed up" person. (He left the ministry in the next few months to become a stock broker and make more money!)
In God's providence, at the time God chose to save me, I had been taking an obligatory religion class at my liberal arts college. My professors (from such prestigious schools at Yale, Princeton, Harvard Divinity School and the University of Chicago Divinity School) taught us that the Bible was unreliable. The Old Testament in particular was a collection of myths, pious sayings, ragged history, and outright fabrications.
At best it recorded the highest aspirations of pious Jews. I can remember sitting in class that Fall, yet to be converted, but wondering why these men had chosen a job of debunking what they were paid to teach. Why didn't they just go out and get real jobs positively standing behind SOMETHING!
My conversion in early January left me still a month until finals and time for a restudy of the Old Testament
materials. How amazed I was as a new Christian, now indwelt by the Holy Spirit, to read the Old Testament with new eyes. I certainly did not understand all that I was reading but I begin to understand a lot and I was given an inner witness by the Holy Spirit that this was the very Word of God. I grew to despise the liberalism that had kept the gospel from me when I was growing up and then attacked the Bible in class in college. To later find Bible believing Christians, and churches and student ministries beyond my college was a windfall beyond words. (After my conversion and subsequent spiritual growth, I recognized that I had seen first hand what "wolves in sheep's clothing" looked like.)
Back to 1976 and THE BATTLE FOR THE BIBLE. Now that I was involved in student ministries, I had begun taking classes in an evangelical institution and began to learn that the "battle for the Bible" goes all the way back to the Garden of Eden. When the serpent said to Eve: "Did God really say...?" and "No, you will not die..." and flatly contradicted God, the battle for the Bible was in full display right there at the beginning of human history. My studies showed me that almost every generation sees some attack upon the Word of God and its inspiration, truthfulness, clarity, sufficiency, and authority.
Battles for the Bible for the past 35 years have revolved around its clarity and sufficiency (do we need psychologists to fix us; prophets to give us newer words from God; the insights of anthropology to do missions, etc, etc.?) [A good example of a text addressing specious attacks on the Bible is Noel Weeks, THE SUFFICIENCY OF SCRIPTURE; Banner of Truth.)
That brings me to today and my reviews of three new books displaying and defending the greatness of the Word of God.
Kevin DeYoung, TAKING GOD AT HIS WORD (Why the Bible is Knowable, Necessary, and Enough, and What That Means for You and Me); Crossway Books
What a gem Pastor (and soon to be doctor) DeYoung has given us. It is refreshing and it is clear, accurate, encouraging, stimulating and correct. Christians today need to be taught or to learn for themselves through reading this book that the Bible is "more sure" than our experiences, that we critique our experiences by the Bible, not vice versa; that the Bible is enough, that we don't need psychologists, prophets, anthropologists, gurus or tongues and interpretations of tongues. The Bible is sufficient.
The Bible is clear, final and necessary. It is the unbreakable Word of God. DeYoung exhorts us to stick with the Scriptures and not be moved from our full confidence in the Word of God. Plus it has an excellent Appendix of some 30 of the "best books on the good book". With a large study guide available from Crossway, it would make a great and important Sunday School class, group study or church officer training study. Highly recommended. And kudos to Crossway in having DeYoung popularize so many issues and making the teaching of the Bible plain and for the masses.
FOR INTERMEDIATE READERS:
John Frame, THE DOCTRINE OF THE WORD OF GOD
(A Theology of Lordship, Volume 4); P & R
Reformed readers have probably heard of Professor John Frame though they may not have read any of his hefty tomes on theology. Don't let the size of this volume (650 pages) deter you from faithfully reading through the whole volume for it would be a tragedy of a wasted opportunity. Frame has the gift of writing clear, everyday English while writing on all kinds of theological topics. This may be his best volume!
Several trustworthy guides (e.g. J. I. Packer, Doug Kelly, and others) note that it may be the best current volume on the orthodox doctrine of Scripture. In the series, A THEOLOGY OF LORDSHIP, Professor Frame has already written on THE DOCTRINE OF THE KNOWLEDGE OF GOD (how do we know what we know and specifically, how does a human being come to have real and true knowledge of God). Then he wrote
on THE DOCTRINE OF GOD (who He is, what He is like and what that all means); and then THE DOCTRINE OF THE CHRISTIAN LIFE. Professor Frame admits early on the all of these books are based upon the trustworthy and sufficient Scriptures and show the trustworthiness of Scripture as each doctrine is treated. This entire volume is meant to help the reader think through all the the Bible is and should mean to us.
The Chapter headings are as follows:
PART ONE: ORIENTATION
1. The Personal-Word Model
2. Lordship and the Word
PART TWO: GOD'S WORD IN MODERN THEOLOGY
3. Modern Views of Revelation
4. Revelation and Reason
5. Revelation and History
6. Revelation and Human Subjectivity
7. Revelation and God Himself
PART THREE: THE NATURE OF GOD'S WORD
8. What is the Word of God?
9. God's Word as His Controlling Power
10. God's Word as His Meaningful Authority
11. God's Word as His Personal Presence
PART FOUR: HOW THE WORD COMES TO US
12. The Media of God's Word
13. God's Revelation Through Events
14. God's Revlation through Words: The Divine Voice
15. God's Revelation Through Words: Prophets and
16. The Permanence of God's Written Word
17. God's Written Words in the Old Testament
18. Respect for God's Written Words in the Old
19. Jesus' View of the Old Testament
20. The Apostles' View of the Old Testament
21. The New Testament as God's Written Word
22. The Canon of Scripture
23. The Inspiration of Scripture
24. The Content of Scripture
25. Scripture's Authority: Its Content, & Its Purpose
26. The Inerrancy of Scripture
27. The Phenomena of Scripture
28. Bible Problems
29. The Clarity of Scripture
30. The Necessity of Scripture
31. The Comprehensiveness of Scripture
32. The Sufficiency of Scripture
33. The Transmission of Scripture
34. Translations and Editions of Scripture
35. Teaching and Preaching
38. Confessions, Creeds and Traditions
39. Human Reception of Scripture
40. The Interpretation of Scripture
42. Person-Revelation: the Divine Witness
43. Human Beings as Revelation
44. Writing on the Heart
45. Summary and Organizational Reflections
APPENDICES--There are 17 Appendices on top of this!
What a wealth of good things. I would commend church officers, seminarians, pastors and thinking lay people to read and master this book. Again, Frame writes to be understood, not to show off a turgid or academic prose. Laymen can understand this book.
Pastors and seminarians should understand this book.
FOR MORE ADVANCED READERS:
Peter Lillback & Richard Gaffin, eds.; THY WORD IS STILL TRUTH (Essential Writings on the Doctrine of Scripture From the Reformation to Today); P & R
Another "Aha!" moment regarding the battle for the Bible came in 1980. I was in seminary and my professor, John Woodbridge, had a seminar class evaluating a then new book by Jack Rogers and Donald McKim, THE AUTHORITY AND INTERPRETATION OF THE BIBLE (An Historical Approach). The authors purported to show that the so-called modern idea of the "inerrancy" of the Bible was invented by professors at late 19th century Princeton Seminary (A. A. Hodge and B. B. Warfield). Their thesis was that the normative view of the church had been that the Bible had errors but not such that people could not be saved or grow. They told us that the church for nearly 2,000 years had always believed in an errant Bible. So the position of their seminary in California, which had changed to embrace the errantist position, was in the mainstream of church history.
The seminar class took the Rogers & McKim volume and looked up every footnote in the book. We could volunteer to back check chapters and I chose the ones on Charles Hodge (my thesis subject) and the Puritans (a growing love). How shocked I was to discover that the footnotes, by and large, were doctored! Quotes were trimmed to leave out contrary comments;
secondary sources were conflated with primary sources leaving a completely different impression of what the original author was saying, sentences from the middle of a paragraph were made to say something that the whole paragraph did not say, etc, etc. It was hash job!
When the class came together and we discovered that the others had found the same discrepancies that each of us had found, we sat silently in amazement. The professor reminded us that we were all sinners and sometime professing Christians did unrighteous things to justify their conduct. So professors from a reportedly evangelical seminary, seeking to help keep their support base, rewrote church history to make
themselves seem kosher. (You can read the results
of this class in John Woodbridge, BIBLICAL AUTHORITY: A CRITIQUE OF THE ROGERS/McKIM PROPOSAL; Zondervan; 1982)
The battle for the Bible was still in process and now so-called evangelicals were adjusting the Bible to the dictates of contemporary scholarship. For the past 30 years I have seen the on-going skirmishes as once professed evangelicals lose their confidence in the Scriptures and jump ship, landing in all kinds of strange places with strange bed-fellows.
One of the newest books to thoroughly debunk the notion that the church has never believed in inerrancy is THY WORD IS STILL TRUTH. Several decades ago,
Westminster Seminary Old Testament scholar E. J. Young wrote, THEY WORD IS TRUTH. It strengthened a generation of young evangelical and Reformed scholars as to the truthfulness and trustworthiness of the Bible.
What Drs. Lillback and Gaffin have done is bring together the best sources from the 16th century Reformation down to today to show that Christ's church has always believed in a fully trustworthy and inerrant Bible.
Westminster Seminary had been embarrassed a decade ago when one of its Old Testament professors did not teach and publish in accordance with the Scripture or the Westminster Standards and had to be removed. The final section of the volumes shows what Westminster faced and how they are currently in line with historic, orthodox Reformation Christianity.
PART ONE: SOLA SCRIPTURA: THE REFORMERS'
REDISCOVERY OF THE WRITTEN WORD OF GOD
--what Luther taught
--what Zwingli taught
--what Bullinger taught
--what Calvin taught
PART TWO: THE REFORMED CONFESSIONS
--almost all the 16th and early 17th century
creeds and confessions
PART THREE: EARLY REFORMED INTERPRETATION
--from Henry Bullinger to Jonathan Edwards
PART FOUR: THE DOCTRINE OF SCRIPTURE IN
--William Ames, John Owen, Francis Turretin and
PART FIVE: THE DOCTRINE OF SCRIPTURE IN THE
SCOTTISH AND DUTCH LEGACY
--John Witherspoon, William Cunningham,
Abraham Kuyper, Herman Bavinck, Louis Berkhof,
PART SIX: OTHER NINETEENTH CENTURY EUROPEAN
--Louis Gaussen, Adolphe Monod, Ernst Wilhelm
Hengstenberg, and Charles Spurgeon
PART SEVEN: THE DOCTRINE OF SCRIPTURE IN THE
THEOLOGY OF OLD PRINCETON
--Charles Hodge, A. A. Hodge, Benjamin B.
Warfield, and Moises Silva
PART EIGHT: THE THEOLOGY OF SCRIPTURE OF THE
FOUNDING FATHERS OF WESTMINSTER
--J. Gresham Machen
--Robert Dick Wilson
--O. T. Allis
--Cornelius Van Til
PART NINE: THE BIRTH OF BIBLICAL THEOLOGY
(at WESTMINSTER SEMINARY)
--Ned B. Stonehouse
PART TEN: THE AUTHORITY OF THE OLD TESTAMENT
AND NEW TESTAMENT CANON OF SCRIPTURE
(AT WESTMINSTER SEMINARY)
--Edward J. Young
--Ned B. Stonehouse
PART ELEVEN: CHALLENGES TO THE REFORMED
DOCTRINE OF SCRIPTURE
--E. J. Young
PART TWELVE: THE WESTMINSTER CONTROVERSY
PART THIRTEEN: CONCLUSIONS
This is no "ivory tower" dispute. This is no idle discussion by folks with too much time on their hands. I know what it is like growing up in a liberal denomination that has jettisoned confidence in Scripture and has nothing to say to a lost world. And the world has returned the favor by paying the church no mind.
The fate of Christ's church and the preaching of the gospel depends upon whether we have a sure Word of God. The churches of Europe were emptied in the late 19th century as the churches and preachers no longer believed "Thy Word is truth". Early 20th century Britain and modern America has seen the same things happen as denominations have lost 50 million adherents because their pulpits no longer blazed with "Thus sayest the Lord". When problems arise in Christian's lives today in these denominations, there is no longer a sure Word of God to turn to for answers.
Thank you Drs. Lillback and Gaffin and thank you to P & R for publishing so helpful a volume. May the Lord
bless it for the up-building of Christ's churches and the spread of the gospel.
Your Book Servant,
Pastor Steve Martin
As the editors of this volume write Westminster Seminary was noted by, “a high view of Scripture reflecting the historic Reformed theological and confessional tradition” (xix). This volume, is really a “reading syllabus” or “compendium” was born out of a “theological crisis, which was motivated by differing hermeneutical perspectives and broader understandings of confessional boundaries” (xx) as is related to the doctrine of Scripture. Lillbeck and Gaffin state,
Having resolved this conflict and having begun to articulate again a clear and historic witness to this core value. Westminster now gives the world a theological testimony of the integrity of our views that we believe are grounded in the long and august Reformed tradition on the doctrine of Scripture (ibid).
And further they state as their purpose for this volume to be,
to demonstrate that the conclusions reached in this controversy, whose focal point was at Westminster, are nothing less than the continuing flowering of the reformational views of Luther, Calvin, Bullinger, and the Reformed confessions on the doctrine of Scripture (ibid).
The “controversy” that the preface refers to dealt with the works of former WTS Professor Peter Enns who was suspended from the his professorship (after 14 years) by the Board of Directors, at the urging of Lillback. There had been a series of hearings, internal investigation, and written papers, and the faculty had voted that Enns’ work, Inspiration and Incarnation: Evangelicals and the Problem of the Old Testament (Baker, 2008), did not violate his faculty oath to uphold the Westminster Confession. He resigned shortly after being suspended (1319–33). However, unless the reader was already familiar with the situation, the entire context of this volume is rather arcane. Even the scant 14 pages dedicated to “The Westminster Controversy” are only copies of the board’s public statements and do little to clarify the opaque treatment of the situation that inspired this volume. An introductory chapter detailing the history of the “controversy” and providing a more thorough context of this book would have added significantly to its overall value.
What the volume does do, rather nicely, is present a compendium or “reader.” In a classroom setting this would have been called a “reading syllabus.” The first major section (3–83) is selected writings from Luther, Zwingli, Bullinger, and Calvin (the later being a section of his Institutes). This is followed by a long section of the “Reformed Confessions” (85–242); followed by “Early Reformed Interpretation” (243–495); “The Doctrine of Scripture in the Scottish and Dutch Legacy” (497–736); “Other Nineteenth Century European Contributions” (737–92); “The Doctrine of Scripture in the Old Princeton Theology” (793–892); “The Theology of Scripture of the Founding Fathers of Westminster” (893–981); “The Birth of Biblical Theology” (983–1108); “The Authority of the Old Testament and New Testament Canon of Scripture” (1121–63); “Challenges to the Reformed Doctrine of Scripture” (1179–1279); “The Westminster Controversy” (1319–33); and a concluding section (1337–48), consisting mainly of Gaffin’s contribution to God’s Word in Servant Form (Reformed Academic Press, 2008).
Except for the brief introductions that precede each major section, the preface and the longer introduction by Lillback in the conclusion, there is nothing that could be called new material. One oddity is the inclusion of a section from The Works of Jonathan Edwards, “Man’s Natural Blindness in the Things of Religion” (478–95) in the larger section containing excerpts from the Reformed confessions. While generally on theme for the totality of the volume, its placement with the confessions really doesn’t fit. The chapter excepting Charles Hodge’ section on Scripture (795–822) from his Systematic Theology retains the extensive use of Latin quotations. The editors could have assisted those who do not have facility in Latin by adding translations of the several long paragraphs in their footnotes.
While publishers have always placed brief endorsements of on the back, dust jackets, and elsewhere; the current practice of a page or two of such endorsements in the front has been gaining ground in recent years, a practice this reviewer finds to be an unnecessary and annoyingly “puffing” of a book. The ten pages given to these endorsements in the front of this volume are really beyond the pale of appropriateness. The subtitle is rather misleading; it is no doubt some of the “Essential Writings on the Doctrine of Scripture from the Reformation to Today” but it is hardly thorough. There is no mention of the work of the International Council on Biblical Inerrancy, which produced the statement, The Chicago Statement on Biblical Inerrancy. This is perhaps the single most important declaration on inerrancy in the last century (along with a subsequent statement on hermeneutics) yet it is only mentioned in passing and is entirely absent from the index. The neglect is even more startling considering the leadership of ICBI by the Presbyterian pastor and leader, James Montgomery Boice (albeit he was affiliated with the PCA). In fact, there is essentially no mention of works by those outside the larger Westminster sphere. The underlying notion that there exists a “Reformed” doctrine of Scripture, somehow unique or in some articulation distinct from traditional evangelicalism is a dubious proposition that is assumed rather than argued.
Despite the rather narrow and parochial purposes behind this work, as a compendium or reading syllabus this volume undoubtedly has some value. Its strength is in collating the writings in support Biblical inerrancy, albeit from the particular perspective of Westminster; but with little new or original material the price is rather steep for a collection of otherwise available writings. This is a book that could have been much more than it turned out to be.