Archive for February, 2013

Is the Westminster Confession “scholastic”?

February 27, 2013

To follow in the footsteps of the Reformed orthodox, “we distinguish”! Here is Richard Muller on the issue of “scholasticism” and the Westminster Confession:

… the Westminster Confession, although produced in an era of scholastic doctrine, does not itself follow the method. As the theologians of the day would have noted, a confession is not “scholastic”; rather, it is positive or declarative and belongs to a genre parallel to that of a catechism … it is doubtless true that the architectonic vision and patters of definition found in the Westminster Assembly’s confession and catechisms reflect the concerns for clarity, precise definition , and logically presented argument characteristic of a mind trained in scholastic forms, but the documents themselves are not strictly “scholastic”.
Richard Muller, After Calvin, 27

Johannes Wollebius – Statements on Scripture

February 15, 2013

In a context where the evangelical doctrine of Scripture is being “rethought” in various places it is good to be reminded of the historic teachings of the Reformed churches on Scripture.  Here are some extracts from the great Reformed theologian Johannes Wollebius (all from Beardslee’s Reformed Dogmatics):

  • We … acknowledge no other basis for theology than the written word of God.
  • That the Holy Scripture is of divine origin and authority is a doctrine held without question among all Christians
  • Therefore, it is improper for a Christian to question whether Scripture, the Holy Bible, is the word of God. Just as in the schools there is no debate against anyone who denies postulates, so we ought to regard it as improper for anyone to be heard who denies the basis of the Christian religion.
  • The witness [to the divine quality of Scripture] is twofold … The primary witness is that of the Holy Spirit, both externally, in the Scripture itselt, and internally, speaking in the heart and mind of a believing person … The subordinate witness is that of the church.

May God’s word be a lamp to our feet and a light to our path!

The Viva is Over … The PhD has been Awarded!

February 8, 2013

On Tuesday this week I was in Lampeter at the University of Wales Trinity St David. I was there to have my viva where I had to defend my dissertation “Reformed Thought and the Free Offer of the Gospel: With Special Reference to  The Westminster Confession of Faith and James Durham (1622-1658)”.  The outcome was the award of the PhD with no changes to the dissertation other than the  correction of typos- the end of 6 years hard study and writing! Soli Deo gloria!

The viva itself was a good experience.  I had been well prepared by my supervisor (Dr. Gwyn Davies) but he constantly emphasized you can never tell where the challenges are going to come from! In the event questions focused on:

  • How did the 17th C Reformed theologians make the case that a well meant gospel offer was consistent with a particularist soteriology?
  • Did they really in practice preach a well-meant gospel offer?
  • Why did I chose the three later controversies over the free offer that I did as evidence of “ongoing” disputes over the free offer? (I looked at the Marrow Controversy, the credal revision controversy in America leading up to the 1903 revisions to the Westminster Confession and the disputes over the “three points of common grace” in the Christian Reformed Church.)
  • Was James Durham’s theology sufficiently Trinitarian? Was it as Trinitarian as I claimed?
  • Had I given enough time to, and treated fairly enough, those who deny the Reformed tradition has held to a well-meant gospel offer?
  • What are the implications of a well-meant gospel offer for the doctrine of God?

But overall the conclusion of the viva was that the dissertation made its case in a convincing manner and was therefore passed. The external examiner was Rev. Professor Andrew McGowan and the internal examiner was Professor Densil Morgan. Thanks are due to both men for their challenges to, and engagement with the dissertation, but most especially to Professor McGowan as the expert in the area.

Well, now that the PhD is over … I have some articles I can finally get round to writing 🙂