Scripture

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The Church Fathers and Scripture

Posted by on 09 Nov 2009 | Tagged as: Early Church Father, Scripture

A Patristic Reading of Scripture

Last week, Robert Lewis Wilken gave an excellent speech at Wheaton College on the Church Fathers’ method for interpreting Scripture. His talk was given at the inauguration of the Wheaton Center for Early Christian Studies. David Neff reports:

Wilken made several key points about the Fathers’ nonliteral and image-laden reading of the Bible.

1. The New Testament authors clearly applied Old Testament texts in ways that departed seriously from the plain, surface meaning of the text. When Paul cites Psalm 19 in Romans 10 (“their voice is gone out into all the world”), he applies the Psalmist’s statement about the heavens to the preaching of the apostles. This runs against the plain meaning, said Wilken.

2. The books of Scripture do not bear their own significance. They must be united to something greater, which is Christ. Thus Paul interprets the creation of man and woman as a great mystery, which is Christ and the church; and he interprets the water-giving rock in the Sinai desert as Christ.

3. Typically, such creative renderings of the Bible are focused on the Old Testament. That is because the Old Testament text signifies Christ, but the New Testament text does not signify another Christ. It requires no allegory or analogy to reveal the Incarnate Word.

4. The Fathers also understood the interpretation of Scripture to require the reader’s participation in the spiritual reality of the text. Thus it is not enough to say that Christ was crucified. We must also say, “I am crucified with Christ,” and thus also I am raised with Christ.

HT: Christian History Blog

The Evangelical Impulse

Posted by on 06 Jul 2009 | Tagged as: Conversion, David Wells, Evangelical, Martin Luther, Scripture, The Cross

usevangelicals1990

Evangelical Essentials (Introduction)

For the love of Christ compels us, because we judge thus: that if One for all, then all died; and He died for all, that those who live should live no longer for themselves, but for Him who died for them and rose again.

2 Corinthians 5:14-15 (NKJV)

The Evangelical impulse is a vital, Spirit-motivated, joyful hunger to declare the saving, unmerited grace of Christ by calling all sinners to the bloodied Hill of Calvary for forgiveness and mercy. The Evangelical impulse proclaims this message of Good News to the least, lost, and the lonely while simultaneously working to reform the Church according to the Scriptures. This impulse began with the New Testament, continued in the Patristic period, renewed during the Reformation, and revived during the Great Awakenings of the 18th and 19th century.

[Richard Lovelace, “A Call to Historic Roots and Continuity,” in The Orthodox Evangelicals, eds. Robert Webber and Donald Bloesch (Nashville, TN: Thomas Nelson, 1978), 47.]

The Evangelical impulse is birthed in the Scriptures, empowered by the Holy Spirit, centered in the cross and resurrection of Jesus Christ, and compelled by the story of Christ’s saving acts throughout the world.

Church historian, Stephen Nichols elaborates:

Luther spawned more than a singular alternative to the Roman Catholic Church. Yet, while there are alternatives, to be sure, at the heart of these various Protestant groups who remain faithful to the gospel there is a common core: a theological center that consists of the authority of Scripture alone and insists that salvation comes by faith alone through God’s grace alone—and that this salvation comes through the work of Christ alone. This is the lasting legacy of the Reformation—not the discovery of truths, but their recovery and their return to the heart and center of the church.

[Stephen Nichols, Pages From Church History: A Guided Tour of Christian Classics (Phillipsburg, NJ: P&R Publishing, 2006), 35. ]

At the heart of the Evangelical impulse is the abiding concern for the salvation of every person and that salvation in grounded in the phrase, “The truth of the gospel is salvation by grace alone through faith alone in Christ alone.” Our deliverance from sin is not based on our performance, but based on Christ’s performance on the Cross—it is all grace. The Evangelical impulse is motivated by God’s very gracious grace:

No one can understand the message of Scripture who does not know the meaning of grace.  The God of the Bible is ‘the God of all grace’ (1 Pet. 5:10).  Grace is love, but love of a special sort.  It is love, which stoops and sacrifices and serves, love which is kind to the unkind, and generous to the ungrateful and undeserving.  Grace is God’s free and unmerited favour, loving the unlovable, seeking the fugitive, rescuing the hopeless, and lifting the beggar from the dunghill to make him sit among princes.

[John Stott, Understanding the Bible, Revised (London: Scripture Union, 1984), 127.]

For the Evangelical, God’s grace draws us saying, “Trust Christ’s finished work on the Cross as your own, know that his death paid your penalty, and that his obedient life is now your righteousness.” The Evangelical experience of conversion is typified by these elements: conviction of sin, power of preached Word, call to faith, focus on Jesus Christ and his saving work on the Cross, and personal heart change.

Scholar, David Bebbington, identifies four key elements of the Evangelical impulse:

1) Life-change: the belief that hearts need conversion.

2) Bible priority: all spiritual truth is found in sacred scripture.

3) Evangelism: all Christ-followers are engaged in spreading the knowledge of Christ’s life, death, burial, and resurrection.

4) Crucicentrism: Christ’s death and resurrection is the central event for our salvation providing reconciliation with God.

[David Bebbington, Evangelicalism in Modern Britain: A History from the 1730s to the 1980s (London: Unwin Hyman, 1989), 2. ]

The Evangelical impulse focuses on changing lives by changing hearts one-by-one by the power of the Cross. Evangelicals trust the transforming work of the Holy Spirit, he applies Christ’s finished work on the Cross to the lives of individual sinners setting them free from themselves by converting their hearts from self-absorption to love of God and others.

God’s love is his holiness reaching out to sinners; grace is but the price that his love pays to his holiness; the cross is but its victory over sin and death; and faith is but the way in which we bring our worship to him who is holy.

David F. Wells, The Courage to be Protestant (Grand Rapids, Mi.: Eerdmans, 2008), 130.

The Apocrypha: CEC Statement

Posted by on 20 Oct 2008 | Tagged as: Apocrypha, Bible, Charismatic Episcopal Church, Scripture

Statement on the Canon of Scripture from the US House of Bishops of the Charismatic Episcopal Church:

We, the US House of Bishops, unanimously confirm the original teaching of the ICCEC, that the 66 universally accepted books of the Old and New Testaments are the Word of God, containing all things necessary unto salvation.  As regards those several works commonly referred to as the Apocrypha or Deutero-canonical books, we further reaffirm the position which we have embraced as a communion since our founding, that while beneficial for edification and teaching, they are not to be considered part of the canon of Holy Scripture.  They may, therefore, be read in public worship, but not used to establish dogma or doctrine.  The US House of Bishops recommends this position to the Patriarch’s Council for adoption in our Canons.

The Apocrypha: An Evangelical-Catholic Perspective

Posted by on 20 Oct 2008 | Tagged as: Apocrypha, Bible, Church Fathers, Evangelical, Scripture

The Apocrypha: An Evangelical Catholic Perspective[1]

Canon Glenn E. Davis

Overview

The Morning Star of the Reformation, John Wycliffe, voiced in the fourteenth century a love for scripture that Evangelicals embrace today:

Christian men and women, old and young, should study well in the New Testament, for it is of full authority, and open to understanding by simple men, as to the points that are most needful to salvation. Each part of Scripture (i. e. Old and New Testaments), both open and dark, teaches meekness and charity; and therefore he that keeps meekness and charity has the true understanding and perfection of all Scripture. Therefore, no simple man of wit should be afraid to study in the text of Scripture.[2]

For Evangelicals there is nothing more important than God’s word for in it is found “the infallible rule of faith and practice.”[3] However, Evangelicals disagree with Roman Catholics and Eastern Orthodox as to exactly what books make up the canon-or the official list of books of scripture. This debate began in second century A. D. and magnified in significance during the Reformation. This disagreement persists to this day between Protestants, Roman Catholics and Orthodox, raising passions and intense theological debate concerning the nature of inspiration, the authority of the church, and the weight of Tradition. This dispute concerns the “Apocrypha,” a collection of fourteen or fifteen books (or parts of books) not included in the Masoretic text of the Hebrew Bible, but translated in the Greek version of the Hebrew Bible called the Septuagint (LXX). These books were written during the last two centuries before Christ and the first century of the Christian era. The following are the titles of these books as given in the Revised Standard Version (1957):

1. The First Book of Esdras

2. The Second Book of Esdras

3. Tobit

4. Judith

5. The Additions to the Book of Esther

6. The Wisdom of Solomon

7. Ecclesiasticus, or the Wisdom of Jesus the Son of Sirach

8. Baruch

9. The Letter of Jeremiah

10. The Prayer of Azariah and the Song of the Three Young Men

11. Susanna

12. Bel and the Dragon

13. The Prayer of Manasseh

14. The First Book of the Maccabees

15. The Second Book of the Maccabees

Three theological convictions dominate the discussion of the merits or deficiencies of including the Apocrypha as canon of  Scripture. The Anglican Thirty-Nine Articles state that the Apocryphal books are not Holy Spirit inspired, but are instructional.[4] The Evangelical position is that they are not Holy Spirit inspired but are useful only for historical study.[5] The Roman Catholic Church considers them as the inspired Word of God.[6] This essay will explore the early disagreements and focus on the Evangelical opposition to the inclusion of the Apocrypha.

Read the entire essay here: the-apocrypha-an-evangelical-catholic-perspective-blog-version.
Canon Glenn E. Davis

Canon Theologian, Southeast Province, CEC


[1] Lutheran Theologian, Carl Braaten, coined the term, “Evangelical Catholic.” An Evangelical Catholic is a believer who holds to the Tradition of the Early Church Fathers and regards the Reformation Period as a much needed corrective for a drifting Historic Church. Evangelical Catholics believe that the Western Church was losing her theological and moral direction in the Medieval Age and needed renewal. “By becoming more evangelical, the church will become more catholic; and by becoming more catholic, she will become more evangelical.” (Mother Church: Ecclesiology and Ecumenism).
[2] John Wycliffe, The Wicket, Christian Quotation of the Day, December 31, 2006; available from http://www.cqod.com/.

[3] “The Lausanne Covenant,” Article Two, The Authority and Power of the Bible (The Lausanne Committee for World Evangelization website); available from http://www.lausanne.org/Brix?pageID=12891.

[4] Thirty-Nine Articles of Religion, Article Six, (The 1662 Book of Common Prayer website); available from http://www.eskimo.com/~lhowell/bcp1662/articles/articles.html#6 “And the other books (as Hierome saith) the Church doth read for example of life and instruction of manners; but yet doth it not apply them to establish any doctrine.”

[5] Westminster Confession of Faith, Chapter One, Article III (The Center for Reformed Theology and Apologetics website); available from http://www.reformed.org/documents/wcf_with_proofs/ . “The books commonly called Apocrypha, not being of divine inspiration, are no part of the canon of the Scripture, and therefore are of no authority in the Church of God, nor to be any otherwise approved, or made use of, than other human writings.”

[6] Catechism of the Catholic Church, Second Edition, Paragraph 120 (Saint Charles Borromeo Catholic Church website); available from http://www.scborromeo.org/ccc/p1s1c2a3.htm#120.