For the Faculty: James T. Dennison, Jr. (Editor), Scott F. Sanborn, J. Peter Vosteen
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James T. Dennison, Jr. and George C. Young II with Francis X. Gumerlock and Andrea Rafanelli
William D. Dennison
Charles G. Dennison
James T. Dennison, Jr.

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ISSN 0888-8513
Vol. 21, No. 1
May 2006


[K:NWTS 21/1 (May 2006) 3-10]

Trinitarian Confession of the Italian Church of Geneva (1558)

James T. Dennison, Jr. and George C. Young II

Assisted by Francis X. Gumerlock and Andrea Rafanelli

On May 22, 1558, John Calvin (1509-1564) wrote a letter to Peter Martyr Vermigli (1500-1562) detailing the troubles in the Italian congregation of Geneva over the doctrine of the Trinity.1 The ghost of Michael Servetus (1511-1553),2 as it were, reappeared in the several Italian heterodox refugees huddled in Geneva against the Catholic Inquisition and other threats. Among the agita-


1 Jules Bonnet, The Letters of John Calvin (1858) 4:421-23. On the history of the Italian church, see James T. Dennison, Jr., "The Life and Career of Francis Turretin," in Francis Turretin, Institutes of Elenctic Theology (1992-97) 3:360 and notes.

2 The anti-Trinitarian Christology of Servetus is a hodge-podge of chaotically contradictory elements. Stephen Edmondson's "a mélange of elements" is an apt description (Calvin's Christology [2004] 212). Servetus was adamant in what he rejected, if enigmatic in what he proposed—Jesus of Nazareth was not a hypostatic person, i.e., he does not consist in a union of a divine and human nature. Servetus argued that Christ became the son of God at birth by a mixture compounded from the essence of God, a spirit element and flesh. Hence he is more created son of God (from a Logos template) than ontological Son of God. The Platonic influence evident here led the Strasbourg Reformers to state that Servetus posited a verbildung ("pattern") for the pre-mundane Logos. As he rejected the ontic deity of Christ, Calvin vigourouly opposed his confused formulations. It is Servetus's furious repudiation of the Nicene formulation of the Godhead that brings Calvin to its defense in response. Cf. The Two Treatises of Servetus on the Trinity, trans. Earl M. Wilbur (1932); but see George H. Williams's summary of his mature anti-Trinitarian thought, The Radical Reformation (1962) 610-12; Calvin, Institutes, II.xiii.22.


tors were Giorgio Biandrata/George Blandrata (1516-1588), Matteo Gribaldi/Matthew Gribaldi (1506-1564), Paolo Alciati/Paul Alciati (ca. 1515-1573) and Giovanni Valentino Gentile/John Valentine Gentile (ca. 1520-1566). Of Gribaldi, Calvin remarked to Vermigli that he "had been scattering the seeds of his errors" on the Trinity in the Italian congregation.3

Gribaldi's opportunism was emboldened by the death of the pastor of the Italian church, Celso Martinengo (b. 1515), in July 1557.4 Lattanzio Ragnone (d. 1559) succeeded as pastor of la Chiesa degli Italiani and inherited the brewing firestorm. Gribaldi was reinforced by the arrival of Biandrata in 1557. Over the next year, Biandrata sought a number of personal interviews with Calvin in order to present his novel views on the Trinity. Calvin courteously heard him out several times, but finally realized he was incorrigible and broke off the meetings.5 Pastor Ragnone summoned Biandrata, Alciati and Silvio Tellio before the consistory of the Italian church in May 1558. Remembering the fate of Servetus, Biandrata saw the handwriting on the wall and fled to Berne. Calvin joined Ragnone on May 16, 1558 in a petition to draft a confession of faith on the Trinity for the Italian congregation. The confession was quickly drafted and read to the church on May 18. In the process, Calvin entertained a three-hour discussion in which open expression of opinion was guaranteed. Alciati was present for this exchange, but Gentile was absent. At


3 For surveys of these Trinitarian disputes, see Joseph Tylenda, "The Warning that went Unheeded: John Calvin on Giorgio Biandrata." Calvin Theological Journal 12 (1977): 24-62; G. H. Williams, op. cit., 236ff.; Stanislas Lubienicki, The Polish Reformation and Nine Related Documents (1995) 498ff.; Wulfert de Greef, The Writings of John Calvin: An Introductory Guide (1993) 178-80; Antonio Rontondò, Calvin and the Italian Anti-Trinitarians (1968); as well as the standard biographies of Calvin by B. Cottret, W. Bouwsma, T.H.L. Parker and Fr. Wendel. Cf. the more biased account in Earl M. Wilbur, A History of Unitarianism: Socianism and its Antecedents (1945), 2:97-238.

4 Gribaldi had previously unsettled the congregation by criticizing the doctrine of the Trinity in September 1554. Calvin urged him to appear before the Consistory on June 29, 1555 and subsequently the Council. All of which came to naught as Gribaldi was not a citizen of Geneva, but of the territory of Berne. He professed three distinct and separate beings in the Godhead—hence Tritheism, as Marian Hillar demonstrates, The Case of Michael Servetus (1511-1553)—The Turning Point in the Struggle for Freedom of Conscience (1997) 378-79; cf. also Wilbur, op. cit., 222; Williams, ibid., 625.

5 See Tylenda, 29ff.


the conclusion of the open interaction, the congregation was asked to sub-scribe the confession. All but seven agreed.6 On May 19, the seven who de-murred were summoned before Ragnone and given yet another chance to subscribe. On May 20, the congregation formally endorsed the confession with only two refusals—Alciati and an unnamed confederate. Even Gentile attached his signature.7

However, within a few weeks, Gentile had second thoughts about the orthodox doctrine of the Trinity. He was seized, in turn, and imprisoned on July 9. Distancing himself from Servetus's merely economic Trinity, Gentile suggested a Trinity of persons of decreasing potency from the Father to the Son to the Holy Spirit. Realizing his cause was hopeless, he agreed to recant and was publicly humiliated.8 In a short time, Gentile abandoned Geneva sojourning in Farges (an estate near Gex), Lyons and Grenoble before being arrested in Gex (Bernese jurisdiction) in 1561. He had already attacked Calvin's doctrine of the Trinity, detailed in the latter's 1559 edition of the Institutes, with his infamous Antidota (no longer extant). The authorities in Gex demanded that he publish his views in a Confessio which was released in Antwerp in 1561. The following year Gentile emigrated to Poland with Paolo Alciati where he settled in Cracow before moving on to Pin´czów. Two years later, he was in flight again for Moravia, Vienna and Savoy. Returning to Gex in 1566, he refused to recant his anti-Trinitarian views (as he had in 1558) and was beheaded September 10.

Poland, Hungary and Transylvania would become the hotbed of anti-Trinitarianism after 1558. Because of religious tolerance prevalent in these regions, Biandrata, Gentile, Alciati and the Socinian duo (uncle, Lelio [1525-1562] and nephew, Fausto [1539-1604]) insinuated the ancient Arian heresy and worse into Protestantism, giving birth to the modern Unitarian movement.


6 Tylenda, note 31, p. 31 provides the list.

7 See Calvin's letter to Galeas Caraccioli, Marquis de Vico, of July 19, 1558 in Bonnet, op. cit., 4:440-46.

8 See the text of this public penance in Bernard Cottret, Calvin: A Biography (2000) 255-56.


Our translation is based on the side-by-side Italian-Latin version found in Ioannis Calvini Opera quae Supersunt Omnia, ed. by G. Baum, E. Cunitz and E. Reuss (1870), 9:385-88. The Italian text has been translated by George C. Young II with the help of Andrea Rafanelli. The Latin text has been translated by James T. Dennison, Jr. with the help of Francis X. Gumerlock.


Confession of Faith set forth in the Italian Church of Geneva May 18, 1558

Italian Version

Although the confession of faith contained in the Apostles' Creed should suffice for ordinary Christian people, nevertheless because some, by their curiosity, having deviated from the pure and true faith, have disturbed the union and harmony of this church, and have sown false and erroneous opinions, to obviate all the craftiness of Satan and to be armed and prepared against those who would seduce us, and to show that we believe with one heart and speak with one mouth, and similarly that we refute and detest all heresy against the pure faith, which until now we have held and which we wish to follow to the very end, we have resolved to make the declaration which here follows, as to the one and simple essence of God and the distinction of the three persons.

We declare therefore that God the Father has even generated [generato] from all eternity his Word and Wisdom, that is his only Son, and that the Holy Spirit proceeds from both, since there is but one sole and single essence of the Father, of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit: and this, that the Father is distinct from the Son, and the Holy Spirit from the one and the other, in respect to the persons.


Therefore we condemn and detest the error of those who say that the Father simply, as far as his essence, and as He is the one true God (as they say), generated [generato] his Son: as if the Divine Majesty, Glory, essence, and in sum the true Divinity, belonged to the Father only, and that Jesus Christ and the Holy Spirit were divine beings proceeding from Him, and that hence the unity of the divine essence were divided or separate.

So, confessing that there is but one God, we acknowledge that all that is attributed to the Divinity and to His glory and essence, is as fitting to the Son and to the Holy Spirit, when one speaks simply of God without making comparisons between one person and the other. But, when making the comparison between the persons, one from the other, it is fitting for us to recognize that which is proper to each, to make the distinction that the Son is not the Father, nor is the Holy Spirit the Son.

As to the person of our Lord Jesus Christ, other than having been generated [generato] from all eternity by God His Father, and being a person distinct from Him, we believe that in his human nature, in which he clothed himself for our salvation, he is still the true and natural Son of God, having thus united the two natures, that there is none but one mediator alone, God manifest in flesh, still preserving the properties of each of the two natures.

Furthermore, making this declaration we declare and upon the faith which we owe to God, we promise and we obligate ourselves to follow this doctrine, and to persevere in it, without contravening it either directly or indirectly, or with any malice, that would nourish any dissent or disagreement that would divert us from this accord. And in general to shut the door on any future discord, we declare that we want to live and die in obedience to the doctrine of this church, and, as much as we are able, to resist all sects which may rise up. And so we approve, accept and confirm it, under penalty of being held perjurers and ones lacking in faith.



Latin Version

A Brief Explanation of the impiety and threefold perfidy and perjury of Valentine Gentilis, about which the Senate of Geneva became aware, described from the Public Acts.

When four years before, the elders of the Italian church which is among us had perceived (as by scent), that among some of the flock perverse words were being spoken against the first head of our faith concerning the three persons in the one essence of God, it seemed to them that there was no better remedy than that a confessional formula be drawn up to disclose whether that poison lay hidden. This we have inserted here rendered word for word in Latin, to which all should subscribe.

Confession of Faith set forth in the Italian Church of Geneva May 18, 1558

It is indeed necessary to all sober Christians that the confession of faith comprehended in the Apostles' Creed be sufficient. Yet because some, whose curiosities have seduced certain ones from that pure and true faith, having sown certain false opinions and errors, have disturbed the peace and concord of this church, it seemed [necessary] to us to publish the present confession of faith concerning the one and simple essence of God and the distinction of the three persons, both in order that we may meet all these subtleties of Satan, and also in order that we may be sufficiently instructed against these imposters, and in addition in order that we may demonstrate, that we believe the same in one heart and speak with [one] voice, and at the same time reject and detest all heresies contrary to this pure faith which thus far we have retained and have decreed to follow up to the end.

Therefore we profess God the Father even to have begotten [genuisse] his Word or Wisdom from eternity [ab aeterno], who is his only Son, and the Holy Spirit thus to have proceeded from them both since there is one sole and simple essence of the Father, Son and Holy Spirit. Moreover [we profess] that


the Father is distinct from the Son, and the Holy Spirit is distinct from both, that being granted in respect of persons.

Thus we condemn and detest the error of those who affirm the Father simply with respect to his essence, and that (as they say) he is the only and true God, having begotten [genuisse] his Son, as if by divine majesty, glory and essence; accordingly that true deity is proper to the Father only, or Jesus Christ and the Holy Spirit are divine beings proceeding from him, and hence the unity of the divine essence is divided and separated.

Also since we confess one God only, we acknowledge that whatever is attributed to his deity, glory and essence, is suitable as much to the Son as to the Holy Spirit, since it is said of God simply, without mutual comparison of persons among themselves. But on the contrary, as the persons are compared among themselves, they are to be marked by individual properties, by which they should be distinguished in this manner: that the Son is not the Father, neither is the Holy Spirit the Son.

What belongs to the person of our Lord Jesus Christ, other than [the fact] that he has been begotten [genitus est] from all eternity [ab omni aeternitate] by God the Father, and is a person distinct from him, we also believe that he, in his human nature which he assumed for the sake of our salvation, is the true and natural Son of God, because plainly two natures are so joined in one as to be sole mediator, God manifest in the flesh, preserving nevertheless the properties of both natures.

So furthermore we publish this confession, that we may testify and promise in a godly manner, by that faith by which we have been bound by God, that we are going to observe this doctrine and thus persevere in it, [and] that we should never, either directly or indirectly, repudiate it through malice or by a decree that supports any kind of disagreement that can destroy this concord. Finally, in order that we may address all future disagreements, we profess to have determined to live and die according to the doctrine of this church, and against all sects that may rise up. We approve, receive and confirm all these things, with the condition that he who does otherwise is to be considered a perjurer and faithless.


Joh. Sylvester Telius, I approve the above written confession and detest whatever is repugnant to it.

Fr. Porcellinus I receive and approve whatever is encompassed in the above written confession

Joh. Valentinus Gentilis I accept as above

Hippolytus Pelerinus Carignanus I accept as above

Joh. Nicolaus Gallus I accept as above


[K:NWTS 21/1 (May 2006) 11-39]

The Redemptive-Historical Hermeneutic and Preaching1

William D. Dennison, Ph. D.

Introduction: The Present Climate of Discussion

When I was a student at Westminster Theological Seminary in Philadelphia during the mid 1970's, the historic Reformed faith was the archimedean point of the institution as a heterogeneous faculty and student body advanced their own convictions and concerns about that historic faith and the direction that she should adopt. In my judgment, supporters of practical theology, systematic theology, and biblical theology seemed to dominate the corridors of the school. Although defenders of each rubric were loyal, articulate, and passionate concerning their own persuasions, faculty and students from each perspective engaged others in civil as well as tense deliberations. From these discussions emerged serious differences and challenges; even so, I do not recall a spirit in which the orthodoxy of each perspective was seriously questioned.


1 This article should be viewed as the third part in a trilogy by the present author. If one wishes to read the previous articles in sequence, I would suggest that one begin with "Reason, History, and Revelation: Biblical Theology and the Enlightenment," Kerux: The Journal of Northwest Theological Seminary 18/1 (May, 2003): 3-25; and then, one should read, "Biblical Theology and the Issue of Application," in Reformed Spirituality: Communing with Our Glorious God, eds. Joseph A. Pipa, Jr. and J. Andrew Wortman (Taylors, SC: Southern Presbyterian Press, 2003) 119-151.


In the present Reformed climate, however, a spirit of peaceful coexistence seems to have fallen upon rocky soil. Particularly, the field of Reformed Biblical Theology has been the object of intense hostility. It is not clear what events have transpired to create this change. Perhaps, the models in evangelism, church growth, and pastoral counseling that gripped Reformed ecclesiology during the 1970's were foundational to the present antagonism. Possibly, the issue is more theological than a particular ecclesiastical model, e.g., the issue of creation, the debate concerning justification, or the understanding of the law. Maybe the problem is quite simple; the Biblical theologian is accused of failing to exegete and apply the Biblical text properly to the everyday domestic, ecclesiastical, social, cultural, and political life of the people of God. Pursuing another direction, could the present theological climate be an atmosphere of personality variants in which arrogance, pride, power, and ego on both sides of the issue has emerged in order to guard one's own theological and ecclesiastical turf? Although it is probable that all these factors as well as others have contributed to the present climate of suspicion and division, it seems that the issue of applying the Biblical text has caused the most friction.

If my assessment is credible, it may be imprudent to place before the church a case for Biblical theological or redemptive-historical hermeneutics and preaching. Furthermore, it may seem irresponsible to support such an approach as the most Biblical approach to the Scriptures and the pulpit. Although I hope for a renewed peaceful coexistence with the opponents to Biblical Theology, I do not believe that I should resist my own Biblical convictions. After all, from my viewpoint, the definition and understanding of Biblical Theology lies within the parameters of the analogy of Scripture found in the Westminster Confession of Faith, i.e., "the infallible rule of the interpretation of Scripture is the Scripture itself (I:ix)."2 In my judgment, the Confession's


2 Others have made this same observation about the relationship between the analogy of Scripture in the Westminster Confession and the discipline of Biblical Theology (see John Murray, "Systematic Theology," in The New Testament Student and Theology, ed. John H. Skilton [n.p.: Presbyterian and Reformed, 1976) III: 26, n. 20, and Richard B. Gaffin, Jr., "Systematic Theology and Biblical Theology," in The New Testament Student and Theology , ed. John H. Skilton [n.p.: Presbyterian and Reformed, 1976] III: 45). Gaffin's comment is worth noting: "It does not appear to be going too far to say that in `biblical theology,' that is, effective recognition of the


statement on the "infallible rule" of Biblical hermeneutics is an essential component of Biblical Theology. For this reason, Biblical Theology has a favorable and positive disposition in the heart of the Reformed confessional tradition.

Terminology: Biblical Theology and Redemptive-Historical

In any theological controversy, the language associated with the dispute seldom maintains a universal understanding. Often both the proponents and the critics seem to speak and write without effectively comprehending what each side is saying. Although this condition seems to describe the present situation, I believe the terminology of Biblical Theology and redemptive-history remains adequate if we define carefully these concepts within the tradition of Biblical and Reformed orthodoxy.

From my perspective, Biblical Theology and the redemptive-historical hermeneutic are inseparable and complementary. As the terms initially appeared in the Reformed world, Biblical Theology referred to a discipline being defined within the theological corpus, whereas the redemptive-historical hermeneutic referred more directly to the exegetical enterprise. Although Geerhardus Vos (1862-1949), the father of Reformed Biblical Theology preferred the phrase "History of Special Revelation,"3 he wrote, "Biblical Theol-ogy is that branch of Exegetical Theology which deals with the process of the self-revelation of God deposited in the Bible."4 Or, as he stated in his inaugu-


redemptive-historical character of biblical revelation, the principle of context, of the analogy of Scripture, the principle that Scripture interprets Scripture, so central in the Reformation tradition of biblical interpretation, finds its most pointedly biblical realization and application" (cf. also his "The Vitality of Reformed Dogmatics," in Vitality of Reformed Theology: Proceedings of the International Theological Congress, June 20-24, 1994 [Kampen: Kok, 1994] 26, n. 19).

3 Biblical Theology: Old and New Testaments (Grand Rapids: Wm B. Eerdmans, 1954) 23. As he reviewed the objections and criticisms to Biblical Theology, Vos expressed that he preferred "History of Special Revelation." John Murray also seemed to prefer the phrase, "History of Special Revelation" (see "Systematic Theology," 18-19).

4 Ibid., 13.


ral address at Princeton Theological Seminary (1894), "Biblical Theology, rightly defined, is nothing else than the exhibition of the organic progress of supernatural revelation in its historic continuity and multiformity." 5 At least two points need to be stressed from Vos's definition: (1) the place of Biblical Theology in the theological corpus and (2) the record in the Bible of the progressive self-revelation of God.

At the end of the nineteenth century, the four departments of Exegetical, Historical, Systematic, and Practical theology were the typical divisions of the theological encyclopedia.6 Although Biblical Theology was not one of the four branches, Vos understood the discipline as the crown and final product of the various components of Exegetical Theology.7 Even Vos's illustrious colleague at Princeton, the didactic and polemic theologian Benjamin B.


5 "The Idea of Biblical Theology as a Science and as a Theological Discipline [1894]," in Redemptive History and Biblical Interpretation: The Shorter Writings of Geerhardus Vos, ed. Richard B. Gaffin, Jr. (Phillipsburg: Presbyterian and Reformed, 1980) 15. Vos used this same definition in his article, "The Nature and Aims of Biblical Theology," The Union Seminary Magazine (February-March, 1902): 197; this article has been republished under the same title in Kerux: A Journal of Biblical-Theological Preaching 14/1 (May, 1999): 3-8, esp. p. 6.

6 (See Abraham Kuyper, Principles of Sacred Theology, trans. J. Hendrik De Vries [Grand Rapids: Baker, 1980] 630 and Vos, Biblical Theology, 12-13). One may wish to note that A. A. Hodge only mentioned three departments: Exegetical, Dogmatic or Systematic, and Practical—excluding the Historical (Outlines of Theology, ed. William H. Goold [London: T. Nelson and Sons, Paternoster Row, 1872] 51). Although he wished to add a fifth department of Apologetic Theology to the encyclopedia, Benjamin B. Warfield, in his inaugural address at Princeton Theological Seminary (May 8, 1888), articulated and defended an exalted position for Systematic Theology. In doing so, he discussed the relationship between Systematic Theology and the other disciplines, including a positive assessment of Biblical Theology in the entire theological enterprise (Inauguration of the Rev. Benjamin B. Warfield as Professor of Didactic and Polemic Theology [New York: Anson D. F. Randolph & Company, 1888] 22-28; cf. also his "The Idea of Systematic Theology (1896)" in The Princeton Theology 1812-1921: Scripture, Science, and Theological Method from Archibald Alexander to Benjamin B. Warfield, ed. Mark A. Noll [Grand Rapids: Baker, 1983] 241-261, esp. 250-253).

7 Vos understood that Exegetical Theology comprises four disciplines. If we begin with man's investigating procedure, then Biblical Theology is the last step: (1) study of the content of Scripture, (2) typical "introductory" issues of the Biblical text, (3) questions surrounding "Canonics," and (4) the study of the actual self-disclosure of God—Biblical Theology. On the other hand, Vos strongly emphasized that the procedure and sequence is reversed from the viewpoint of God's activity (see ibid., 13). Specifically, Vos remarked, ". . . Biblical Theology is that part of Exegetical Theology which deals with the revelation of God" ("The Idea of Biblical Theology," 6). For further insight to the relationship of Biblical Theology and Exegetical Theology, see James T. Dennison, Jr's article, "Building the Biblical-Theological Sermon. Part I: Perspective," Kerux: A Journal of Biblical-Theological Preaching 4/3 (December, 1989): 30-32.


Warfield (1851-1921), spoke of Biblical Theology as the "ripest fruit" of exegetics, as the discipline that systemized and organized the work of exegetics. Warfield also expressed his desire to see that every Biblical commentary would include Biblical Theology as the "capstone" of its particular work.8 Although Warfield sifted Biblical Theology through his own "systematic" and "scientific" grid, he realized that the final work of exegetics (Biblical Theology) was to organize God's recorded revelation in history.

If we exclude from Vos's first definition the reference to the discipline within the theological corpus, his second definition is simply an elaboration of the first definition, i.e., God records in the Bible the supernatural revelation of Himself as it unfolds, grows, and matures historically in various forms (language, theophany, prophecy, etc.) as one holistic document. Likewise, Warfield maintained that Biblical Theology opened "a new era in theological investigation by making known to us the revelation of God genetically—that is, by laying it before us in the stages of its growth and its several stadia of development."9 In agreement with Vos, Warfield apprehended that the Scripture recorded a revelation from God that held together as a whole; there was an interdependence and continuity that existed within the revelatory fabric of the Bible from the book of Genesis to the book of Revelation.

Although the theological landscape of the nineteenth century seemed to grasp afresh the various stages and developments of God's progressive revelation by virtue of Biblical Theology, Vos and Warfield simply captured and


8 Inauguration, 24-25 and "The Idea of Systematic Theology," 252. Furthermore, Warfield expressed this elevated position even in respect to Systematic Theology; he held that Systematic Theology is "founded on the final and complete results of exegesis as exhibited in Biblical Theology" as the later "is the basis and source of Systematics." In other words, for Warfield, "Biblical Theology provides the material for Systematics" (Inauguration, 26 and "The Idea of Systematic Theology," 252).

9 "Century's Progress in Biblical Knowledge [1900],"in Selected Shorter Writings of Benjamin B. Warfield, ed. John E. Meeter (Nutley: Presbyterian and Reformed, 1973) II: 12. The article originally appeared in Homiletic Review (March, 1900) 195-202. Relevant to our immediate comments, Warfield further elaborated on the distinction between Systematic Theology and Biblical Theology when he wrote: "If men have hitherto been content to contemplate the counsel of the Most High only in its final state—laid out before them, as it were, in a map [Systematic Theology]—hereafter it seems that they are to consider it by preference in its stages, in its vital processes of growth and maturing [Biblical Theology]" ("Century's Progress,"12).


articulated what the Scripture already taught in the opening verses of Hebrews: "At many times and in various ways, God, in the past, spoke to our forefathers through the prophets, but in these last days he has spoken to us in His Son (1:1-2a)."10 Or, as the Westminster Confession states: "Therefore it pleased the Lord, at sundry times, and divers manners, to reveal Himself, and to declare that His will unto His church" (I.1). The author of Hebrews and the Confession encapsulates the notion of Biblical Theology that Vos and Warfield articulated. Even so, it should be noted that Vos viewed the discipline more from the perspective of an exegete, whereas Warfield viewed the discipline more from the perspective of a scientific systematic theologian. Nevertheless, both theologians provided the seminal understanding of Biblical Theology within Reformed orthodoxy.

Although he stands firmly upon the previous work of Vos and Warfield, Richard B. Gaffin, Jr. wishes to understand Biblical Theology as a method "indispensable for sound biblical interpretation."11 Herein, Gaffin does not wish to focus his understanding of Biblical Theology upon its definition (Vos) or the systematic arrangement of the data (Warfield), although such concerns are not curtailed in his work.12 Rather, one's engagement with the Biblical text is his primary concern. For him, such an engagement always presupposes a hermeneutical method to interpret and understand the Biblical text. In other words, the method of exegesis or interpretation is bound to his view of Biblical Theology. Specifically, the context and text of the Biblical narrative must


10 Richard B. Gaffin, Jr. captures the impact of this Biblical text for hermeneutics when he writes, "The clearest, most explicit biblical warrant for this fundamental theological construct [redemptive-historical or Biblical theological hermeneutic] is provided by the opening words of Hebrews 1:1-2a: . . . This umbrella statement, intended to provide an overall perspective on the teaching of the entire document, is fairly applied, by extension, to the Bible as a whole. Note how it captures three interrelated factors: a) revelation as a historical process; b) the diversity involved in that process (including, we might observe, multiple modes and literary genres—as well as, too, whatever legitimate methodologies have emerged, particularly in the modern era, for dealing with them); and c) the incarnate Christ as the integrating omega-point (cf. 2:2-4; 3:1-6, esp. 5-6), the nothing-less-than-last days, eschatological endpoint of the process" ("Redemption and Resurrection: An Exercise in Biblical-Systematic Theology," in A Confessing Theology For Postmodern Times, ed. Michael S. Horton [Wheaton: Crossway Books, 2000] 230).

11 Ibid., 229.

12 See Ibid., 230, 245, n.1.


always be "read in its redemptive or salvation-historical context, understanding the text's subject matter within the horizon of the unfolding history of salvation."13 In this manner, Biblical Theology becomes known as "biblical-theological exegesis (=redemptive-historical interpretation)."14 Moreover, for Gaffin it is important to note that the redemptive-historical interpretation can be viewed in its "broadest" context as the covenant-historical interpretation.15 Unlike those who wish to pit a covenant-historical hermeneutic (begins pre-fall) against a redemptive-historical hermeneutic (limited to post-fall), Gaffin does not wish to suggest that these two concepts are in contention with each other. Rather, Gaffin sees the covenant-historical hermeneutic as an expanded version of the redemptive-historical hermeneutic. Even so, on the basis of where the believer and the church now stand in God's providential history, he correctly prefers the name, redemptive-historical, to describe his method of interpretation as implicit to his understanding of Biblical Theology.

Redemptive-Historical Hermeneutic and the Doctrine of Scripture

We have seen that in Reformed theology the name Biblical Theology refers to its position in the theological encyclopedia, its definition, its organizing task, and its method of interpretation. Concerning the method of interpretation, we have also seen that the redemptive-historical hermeneutic may best describe the exegetical activity of Biblical Theology—a method of interpreting and applying the Biblical text. At this point, it is crucial to understand that the redemptive-historical hermeneutic is connected organically with the historic Reformed view of Scripture. Reformed orthodoxy has held to a high view of Scripture as the authoritative and infallible Word of God. In my judgment, such a doctrine of Scripture cannot be compromised. In fact, I believe it is the constant duty of the Reformed exegete to freely critique his own work in order to remain more consistent to an integral relationship between exege-


13 Ibid.

14 Ibid.

15 See Gaffin's, "The Vitality of Reformed Dogmatics," 25-26.


sis and the doctrine of Scripture. Interestingly, the Westminster Confession of Faith provides the directive for this integral relationship. Since the Bible is "infallible," it is logical that the exegete will want to remain within the infallible self-conscious revelation of God in order to understand what God says. The Westminster Confession's statement that "the infallible interpretation of Scripture is Scripture itself" (I:9) is not a platitude of Reformed piety that is declared in order to impress our constituency or those outside our constituency with our high view of Scripture and method of interpretation. Rather, it must be a principle at work in the Reformed exegete. Specifically, the exegete must engage constantly in critical self-examination as to whether his method of Biblical interpretation is in compliance with the authority of Scripture, or to put it another way, is in compliance with the infallible Scripture interpreting the infallible Scripture. This critical analysis has been at the heart of Reformed Biblical Theology and its redemptive-historical hermeneutic; after all, in my judgment, the Westminster Confession's rule of interpreting Scripture is redemptive-historical—it is Biblical theological.

Recently, Gaffin has provided further enlightenment for our understanding of Biblical revelation. He has brought to the forefront an observation that was inconspicuous and subtle in Vos. He has highlighted Vos's position that the Scriptures are God's document concerning His activity (event) and His interpretation of that activity. The sequence is crucial: act (event) precedes interpretation (word).16 The historical activity of God occurs initially independent of the Scripture; then the Holy Spirit, through a chosen human instrument, records the revelatory-activity in written form. Simply, the Bible is the record of God's activity in the process of history. Or, to approach the issue from the other angle, the Bible is God's own interpretation of his own acts—God is interpreting his events when he performs them. More specifically, the


16 Cf. Vos, Biblical Theology, 13; Vos, "The Idea of Biblical Theology," 7; Gaffin, "The Vitality of Reformed Dogmatics," 26. James T. Dennison, Jr. captures Vos's position: "He [Vos] emphatically declares the revelatory character of the mighty acts of God in history. The act is identified with revelation in history. Moreover act is further explicated by word. Hence the mighty acts of God are not abstract moments—they are followed by words of explanation and interpretation. And in the organic continuum of redemptive history, act and word progressively unfold. Acts recapitulate one another; words additionally exegete one another" ("What is Biblical Theology? Reflections on the Inaugural Address of Geerhardus Vos," Kerux: A Journal of Biblical-Theological Preaching 2/1 [May, 1987]: 38).


Bible is God's own running commentary on the progressive unfolding of his own self-disclosure in history. In fact, the Bible is God's own infallible commentary on His mighty acts (Magnalia Dei). In the Bible, therefore, the record of God's acts and God's interpretation of those acts are united.17 One cannot separate act (event) from interpretation (word). Hence, the Bible declares and interprets God's acts in the continuing life of the covenant people of God.

We have just pierced the inner core of Reformed Biblical Theology and the redemptive-historical hermeneutic; in the Scriptures we have entered into the very fabric of God's historical progressive revelation. Unlike the discipline of Systematic Theology, such an understanding is not a scientific activity of arranging, structuring, or organizing revelation. Rather, Biblical Theology and the redemptive-historical hermeneutic attempts to understand and present the revelation of God's self-disclosure in a manner that is truly consistent with the progressive revelation of God in a particular text as well as in the context of the whole of Scripture. It seems to me that within a consistent Reformed view of Scripture that Biblical Theology becomes the highest branch of theology in the encyclopedia. Why would we want to maintain that Systematic Theology is the highest branch of theology, since it is the operation of a human theologian? The systematic theologian takes the data of Scripture as a finished document and by using the canons of human logic arranges the material of Biblical revelation into logical sequential topics. Likewise, why would some maintain that Practical Theology is the highest branch of theology, since it looks at Scripture from the perspective that the exegete must infer and deduce ethical maxims for the sake of practical living in the believer's present situation? Such a human scientific activity assumes a gap between God's Word and the world in which the believer lives. Although both Systematic Theology and Practical Theology have a positive position in the branches of theology, Biblical Theology and the redemptive-historical hermeneutic are pushing us into the inner fabric of God's own revelation. We are entering into the actual manner of God's self-unfolding revelation of himself. This is not a


17 This integration is affirmed by Vos when he wrote: "The relation between Jesus and the Apostolate is in general that between the fact to be interpreted and the subsequent interpretation of this fact. This is none other than the principle under which all revelation proceeds. The N.T. Canon is constructed on it" (Biblical Theology, 325).


scientific exercise; we are not attempting to construct or build a theology. Rather, God himself as theologian is confronting us here.18 The absolute integrity of God's self-revelation is the issue for the Reformed Biblical theologian. The Bible is God's theology book to the church. Herein, I am resorting to the literal and simple etymology of the term, theology (theos=God; logos=word or discourse).19 To say that the Bible is God's theology book is equivalent to saying that the Bible is God's Word of God. Theology does not get any better than this! How can it? God is the author; he is the theologian. God has arranged his theology (Word of God) as he performed it in history. Herein, one conforms to God's method, his arrangement, his logic, and his relevance in distinct contrast to conforming to the canons of human logic or the ethical maxims of relevance for a particular era. God's theology discloses his providential plan; we are peering into the unfolding counsel of God's will in time and space. The task of the exegete is to become, therefore, existentially unified into the progressive activity of God's work as God records His


18 I want to make three crucial points here. First, as Vos mapped out, I am not overlooking that Exegetical Theology consists of four scientific disciplines in which Biblical Theology is the last discipline (see footnote #7 above). We recall that Vos noted that from the perspective of man's investigation of the Biblical text, Biblical Theology is the last discipline of Exegetical Theology. Herein, Vos is thinking of the typical introductory issues such as textual, literary, and historical criticisms as well as issues dealing with authorship and canonics. On the other hand, Vos was clear that God was not subject to such a scientific procedure. From God's perspective, the order is reversed; Biblical Theology is the first discipline of Exegetical Theology—the Bible is the record of His own self-disclosure in history. Hence, one needs to note that I am attempting to push the discussion into the realm of God's perspective, i.e., Biblical Theology as the first discipline of Exegetics. Second, an analogy to the work of Cornelius Van Til in Apologetics becomes appropriate here. Van Til grounded all ontological, metaphysical, and epistemological issues in the God of the Bible, and therefore, declared that the self-attesting Christ of Scripture is the starting point of Apologetics. In a similar manner, following Vos, I am attempting to ground all introductory textual issues in the God of the Bible, and therefore, declaring that the author of the Bible—God Himself—must be our starting point as we engage the Biblical text. Just as we begin with God Himself in Apologetics, we begin with God Himself in Exegetics. Third, in my judgment, future discussion of Reformed theological prolegomena must take the directive that I am suggesting here. Prolegomena must be pressed back into a pre-scientific understanding of the revelation of God Himself. For this reason, Michael S. Horton's recent project—"an attempt to integrate biblical theology and systematic theology on the basis of scripture's own intrasystematic categories of covenant and eschatology"—provides little advancement in theological prolegomena (Covenant and Eschatology: The Divine Drama [Louisville: Westminster John Knox Press, 2002] 1).

19 Cf. Francis Turretin, Institutes of Elenctic Theology, trans. George Musgrave Giger, ed. James T. Dennison, Jr. (Phillipsburg: Presbyterian and Reformed Publishing, 1992) I: 1.


theology book.20 Such a task can only be accomplished if the exegete is convicted and persuaded that the Holy Spirit is the final author of the holy Word of God.21 Herein, the spirit of the convicted and persuaded exegete is unified with the Holy Spirit as the Spirit imparts the treasures and riches of God's progressive revelation (e.g., I Cor. 2:6-16; Acts 2: 14-41).

This incredible bond between the Holy Spirit and the spirit of the believing exegete has another dimension. Historic Reformed theology has been emphatic that the Holy Spirit is the person of the Godhead who applies the truth of Scripture to the everyday walk of the believer and the church.22 As we maintain that the Holy Spirit is the author of Scripture and that it is the same Spirit who applies the truth of God's Word to his people, then there is a certain sense that the Bible is itself the application of its own message. In a preliminary manner, permit me to highlight two points here, although later in this essay I will want to enrich and deepen this concept. First, the Bible records an act of God and the Bible supplies its own application of that act. For example, God creates the world and Psalm nineteen supplies an application to the work of God's creation. Or, God resurrects Christ from the dead and the Apostle Paul provides an application of the resurrection of Christ in Colossians chapter three. Second, the Holy Spirit as the author of Scripture has the power to melt, convict, and shape the hearts of readers by the very words He has written so as to cause the human spirit to act and respond. Hence, to speak of the Bible as application does not mean merely that the message of the Bible is relevant to every age; rather, the very words of Scripture are effectual. Directly, the words of the Holy Spirit in Scripture are life. In saying this, clarity and caution must be exercised. As I maintain the sovereign and independent


20 As Vos stated: "The circle of revelation is not a school, but a `covenant'" (Biblical Theology, 17). Vos went on to write: "To add `from within Scripture' is essential, for we do not dare to impose upon the divine process and its product a scheme from any outside source. If redemption and revelation form an organism, then, like every other organism, it should be permitted to reveal to us its own articulation, either by way of our observing it, or by our receiving from it the formula of its make-up, where at certain high-points it reaches a consciousness of its inner growth" (ibid., 321).

21 See Westminster Confession of Faith, I:5.

22 See Westminster Confession of Faith, VIII: 8; X: 1-4; XI: 4; Larger Catechism, questions 58 and 59 and Shorter Catechism, questions 29 and 30; Belgic Confession, IX; XXIV; Heidelberg Catechism, question 53.


work of God and his Word in the heart of the believer, I am not attempting to truncate the Biblical teaching that the exegete provides an interpretation of the interpretation. In other words, the exegete interprets the interpretation that God has already infallibly given to his own activity. Obviously, I am thinking here of the preacher or the human interpreter of Scripture. Often Philip's engagement with the Ethiopian eunuch concerning the interpretation and understanding of Isaiah 53 is given as the example (Acts 8: 26-40). Moreover, the Second Helvetic Confession (1566) is instructive on this point when it states:
For he that illuminates inwardly by giving men the Holy Spirit, the self-same, by way of commandment, said unto His disciples, "Go ye into all the world, and preach the gospel to every creature" (Mark 16:15). And so Paul preached the Word outwardly to Lydia, a purple-seller among the Philippians; but the Lord inwardly opened the woman's heart (Acts 16:14). And the same Paul, upon elegant gradation fitly placed in the tenth chapter to the Romans, at last infers, "So then faith cometh by hearing, and hearing by the word of God" (Rom. 10:17).23

As one can see, the Second Helvetic Confession made the distinction between the "inward" and "outward" applicatory work of the Holy Spirit. Indeed the Holy Spirit instructs the people of God inwardly, but God has also decided to instruct the people of God concerning his will through the outward preaching of the Word of God. The Second Helvetic Confession refers to the preaching of the Word as the "usual way of men, delivered unto us from God, both by commandments and examples" (I:7). It is apparent, therefore, that in the context of the human exegete or the preacher, another dimension has been added to our original structure of act (God's activity) precedes interpretation (the Bible). The structure now looks like this: act precedes God's infallible interpretation (Bible), which in turn precedes human fallible interpretation (preacher or exegete).

If Biblical Theology is the prime discipline in the theological encyclopedia, then the redemptive-historical hermeneutic is its intimate companion.


23 Reformed Confessions Harmonized, eds. Joel R. Beeke and Sinclair B. Ferguson (Grand Rapids: Baker, 1999) 12; Second Helvetic Confession, I:6.


Simply, the redemptive-historical hermeneutic is interpreting revelation in the manner in which it was revealed. Specifically, God is creator, author, and interpreter of his revelation in the process of redeeming his people. Hence, the redemptive-historical hermeneutic is the most Biblical hermeneutic or method of preaching because it enters into the exact same unfolding pattern in which God himself records his infallible Word and interprets his works.

Redemptive-Historical Preaching and Application

When Biblical Theology and the redemptive-historical hermeneutic enters into the realm of applying the Biblical text in our preaching, we must remain consistent to the continuum revealed in Holy Scripture and affirmed in the Reformed Confessions: event (God's act)? God's interpretation (Scripture)? our interpretation (our preaching, e.g., Philip and the Ethiopian eunuch in Acts 8:26-39). In light of the work of the Holy Spirit, it is imperative that the issue of application in our preaching not deviate from the bounds of this continuum. Simply, we must remain consistent with the coherent and progressive element of Biblical revelation as delivered by the Holy Spirit in the text of Scripture as he applies the work of Christ and the message of the text to the hearts of God's covenant people. From God's performance in history, to the Holy Spirit recording his performance in written form as well as the Holy Spirit applying the written Word of God's performance in the hearts of the church, the continuum is bonded in God's covenant oath and faithfulness in Jesus Christ. The work of the Father and the Spirit is centered upon the Son; the focus of Scripture is also upon the work of Christ (Lk. 24:27, 44-47).

With the continuum in mind, we turn to the issue of application. Specifically, the Scripture knows nothing of moral obedience outside our union with the saving work of Christ in his historical life, death and resurrection as the ground of the imputation of his righteousness to the sinner (justification; Rom. 4:25; 5:19), death to sin in the sinner (definitive sanctification; Rom. 6:6-7), and the continuing sanctifying work of Christ's Spirit in the believer (progressive sanctification; Rom. 6:12-13). In terms of the operation of the triune God of the Bible, history, soteriology, and ethics are inseparable companions; moral or ethical duty and obedience cannot be separated from the historical saving activity of God. For this reason the preacher must not drive a wedge between


the Biblical text (as a document of antiquity) and the present stance of his listeners (as the notion of application is frequently used as a distinct tool to bridge the gap between ancient text and present life).24 Moreover, the preacher must avoid the current popular language that maintains that the preacher applies the text to the people while the people are stimulated and inspired to understand that application is something that they do. Often in such a construction, the Reformed preacher, in compliance with the Reformed doctrine of the Holy Spirit, will employ sincerely the Spirit as the One who bridges the gap by applying the text to the believer's will. Although the Reformed doctrine of the Holy Spirit may be upheld, the Holy Spirit is invoked in a construction where the historical discontinuity between the Biblical text and the present historical life of the listener is presupposed. Such a conception fails to take into consideration a more comprehensive redemptive-historical concentration on the work of the Holy Spirit. Hence, within the Biblical and Confessional understanding of the continuum, the interpretation and application proclaimed by the preacher is always to be grounded in the redemptive-historical event performed by God (centered in Christ) as the Holy Spirit interprets the event in his Word. Application in a sermon is never separated from event and God's Word; the preacher is always drawing the congregation into the world of the Biblical text for the Word of God and the saving activity of God in Christ brings power and life! The issue is not to assume a gap or discontinuity between the Biblical text and ourselves which must be bridged by some abstract principle; rather, the issue addressing the pastor is to draw God's people into the saving activity of God's work as a participant in the event recorded in the text, not as a spectator to that event (cf. Ex. 13:8; Hab. 3:15-16; Gal. 2:20-


24 John R. W. Stott, The Art of Preaching in the Twentieth Century: Between Two Worlds (Grand Rapids: William B. Eerdmans, 1982), 138. This qualitative distinction between the Biblical world and the modern world is also presupposed in Haddon W. Robinson, Biblical Preaching: The Development and Delivery of Expository Messages, 2nd edition (Grand Rapids: Baker, 2001) 27-32, Jay Adams, Truth Applied: Application in Preaching (Grand Rapids: Minister's Resources Library, 1990) 27, 47-55, Sidney Greidanus's, The Modern Preacher and the Ancient Text: Interpreting and Preaching Biblical Literature (Grand Rapids: William B. Eerdmans, 1988) 11, and Bryan Chapell's, Christ-Centered Preaching: Redeeming the Expository Sermon (Grand Rapids: Baker Books, 1994) 77-78. For an analysis of Greidanus's book, one should consult Charles G. Dennison's review entitled, "Preaching and Application: A Review," Kerux: A Journal of Biblical-Theological Preaching 4/3 (December, 1989): 44-52. Likewise for a review of Chapell's book, one should consult Gary Findley's "Review," Kerux: A Journal of Biblical-Theological Preaching 11/1 (May, 1996): 37-41.


21; the preacher is drawing God's people into the saving work of God as recorded by the Holy Spirit who is also the Spirit who sanctifies God's people).25 In my judgment, the Biblical model is clear: "Good preaching does not apply the text to you, but good preaching applies you to the text." To put it another way, "The preacher does not take the word and apply it to you, but the preacher takes you and applies you to the word."26

The directive should be understandable. The sanctifying Spirit of God accompanies the preaching of the Word as the preacher draws the congregation as participants into the event and the interpretation of the event that the sanctifying Spirit has recorded for the church of Christ. As the congregation sees herself as participant in the event of the text and its interpretation, she sees herself as applying her participation in union with the text (grounded, rooted, and sustained by God's sanctifying Spirit) to the continuing eschatological drama of redemptive-history—to every single situation in which the believer is engaged. In other words, the eschatological drama of redemptive-history found in the Biblical text extends into the continuing life of Christ's church until Christ comes again (we see ourselves in the continuing tension of the "already" and "not yet"). In fact, we live in the same redemptive-historical period as the apostles, i.e., between the death, resurrection, and ascension of Christ and his second coming; we live in the eschatological drama of the two ages—belonging and living in "the age to come" while still living in the "present evil age." We are to see ourselves in the same redemptive-historical


25 See Charles G. Dennison's "Thoughts on the Covenant," in Pressing Toward the Mark: Essays Commemorating Fifty Years of the Orthodox Presbyterian Church, ed. Charles G. Dennison and Richard C. Gamble (Philadelphia: The Committee for the Historian of the Orthodox Presbyterian Church, 1986) 7-21; cf. also his "Some Thoughts On Preaching," Kerux: A Journal of Biblical-Theological Preaching 11/3 (December, 1996): 3-9, and his lecture delivered at Covenant College on March 2,1998 entitled, "The Bible and Rhetoric." Jay Adams never comprehends this point in Reformed Biblical theological preaching as he delegates its preaching to the realm of "spectator" (Truth Applied, 19-24). For this reason, his criticism seems to be experiential and reactionary rather than a scholarly examination of the transcendental foundations of the Biblical theological corpus on preaching.

26 Both of these quotes come from a sermon delivered by Rev. Charles G. Dennison at Grace Orthodox Presbyterian Church in Sewickley, PA on Habakkuk 3:18-19/Galatians 2:20 on November 19, 1995.


period as they lived; there is no discontinuity in the sense of living in the same eschatological tension of the "already" and "not yet" as well as the overlapping of the two ages.27 As participants in that same period, the work of the Holy Spirit in the present life of the believer is never separated from the power of God's saving work as communicated in his Word.

For example, returning to Philip and the Ethiopian eunuch, the preacher engages the congregation as participant in the event of the text, i.e., like the eunuch, the church is in need of those ordained by the Lord to unfold the meaning of the gospel of Jesus Christ, in this case, as revealed in the event of prophecy to Isaiah, which in turn directs us to the event of the suffering Christ. As Philip engages the eunuch as participant in the prophecy of Isaiah, likewise the present preacher engages the congregation with this event recorded in Acts. In our particular redemptive-historical context, however, the congregation will become a participant in three events in the text (the actual incident of Philip and the eunuch, the prophecy of Isaiah, and the fulfillment of that prophecy in the suffering servant, Jesus Christ). Herein is the salvation of the eunuch; it is in the work of Christ; likewise, herein is the salvation of any sinner! Hence, those who come to an understanding and belief in the gospel of Christ are to be baptized as members of his body. As we live in the continuing eschatological drama of redemptive-history, we know that the Holy Spirit, through the preaching of the Word, will apply the saving work of Christ in the hearts of men. Even in this text, we are observing that the total work of salvation is the complete operation of the triune God. Indeed, the Father has decreed those who are being saved in the efficacious work of Christ's death and resurrection as the Holy Spirit effects God's decree in Christ's redemption to the hearts and daily walk of God's children.


27 Cf. Geerhardus Vos, Pauline Eschatology (Grand Rapids: Wm. B. Eerdmans, 1972) 1-61; Herman Ridderbos, Paul: An Outline of His Theology, trans. John Richard De Witt (Grand Raids: Wm. B. Eerdmans, 1975) 44-100; Richard B. Gaffin, Jr. Resurrection and Redemption: A Study in Paul's Soteriology (Phillipsburg: Presbyterian and Reformed, 1987) 33-74; and William D. Dennison, Paul's Two-Age Construction and Apologetics (Lanham: University Press of America, 1985) 27-53. As Vos put it: "Still we know full well that we ourselves live just as much in the N.T. as did Peter and Paul and John" (Biblical Theology, 326).


With this initial understanding of the continuum and its relationship to the issue of application before us, I wish to continue in this area by addressing two popular criticisms leveled at Reformed Biblical Theology and the redemptive-historical hermeneutic: (1) the failure to use Biblical examples and (2) the failure to preach imperatives in the Biblical text. Because of the limitation of space, my response to both criticisms will be brief.

Beginning with the criticism of Biblical examples, I contend that most critics of Biblical Theology use Biblical examples as an instrument of aspiration. In this case, the Reformed pastor shapes the application of his message around an ethical or moral ideal (principle) as revealed in the Biblical example: e.g., Abraham's act of faith in offering Isaac, Moses' strength before Pharaoh, David's defiance of Goliath, and Christ quoting Scripture to thwart off Satan in the wilderness. The task of the pastor is to encourage his congregation to pursue or emulate the moral ideal as embodied in the Biblical character (the example) as models or "ideal types." We are to aspire to act and respond in our present situations as they did. In such a model often the language seems confusing enough to suggest that the moral ideal exists as an independent transcendent and eternal moral principle beyond us, and yet, it is parallel to God's existence which he alone is able to embody and conform. For example, just as Christ quoted Scripture to thwart Satan in His temptation, Christ (God) provides the moral example (ideal) for us to thwart Satan by quoting the Word of God in our temptations (Christ conforms to the transcendent principle). When such a presentation is conceived and delivered to the people of God, I believe the Reformed pastor feels uncomfortable with his presentation; he knows something is not right with his model. He knows that there is no independent transcendent principle outside of God and he knows that in light of man's fallen nature that it is impossible to duplicate the actions of Christ in our temptations by Satan. Simply, the pastor knows that the entire body of Christ fails to live up to the aspired model.

As the pastor is caught in this dilemma, he invokes his only recourse; even though it is impossible, Jesus is there to help you with His Spirit. In this case, the pastor believes he has preserved the ethical duty of the believer by baptizing it with the power and assistance of the gospel. He believes that such a construction has solved the dilemma. But there is a serious problem with his


construction; this model of example by aspiration is Platonic, and not Biblical.28 This popular and dominant use of example, even within Reformed preaching, seriously flirts with works righteousness. It seems to follow a twofold procedure: you must do as the example has done, and as your shortcomings arise, God will come to your assistance. Sadly, even Reformed preaching seems to be immersed in western ethical theory (especially the dominant ethos of Plato); whether consciously or not, the pastor has laid Plato's ethical model of aspiration over the content of Biblical revelation. Such a confusing synthesis of Biblical revelation with the Platonic model, even as it is unconsciously proclaimed, is a speculative and abstract metaphysical exercise which has no place in God's letter to His church—the Scriptures.

The Biblical directive is different than the Platonic model; in my judgment, the picture presented in Holy Scripture is one of assimilation, not aspiration. Herein, the believer assimilates the life pattern of the Biblical example.29


28 In the Phaedo, Plato argues that virtue is attained only in the Form world; life in this world is the rational quest for untainted virtue—a transcendent and eternal principle. It should be the task of humanity to aspire to the truth of the ideal although most of us will never attain it because of the vices of the body. Only the philosopher lives within the rational framework to attain the Form world after death (e.g., Socrates). In his Republic, Plato's famous allegory of the cave also illustrates this point. Alasdair MacIntyre does not fail to note this basic structure in Plato's view of virtue. In contrasting the sophist and Platonic view of virtue, MacIntyre writes: "If for Callicles [the sophist who appears in Plato's dialogue, Gorgias] the satisfaction of desire is to be found in domination over a polis, in the life of a tyrant, for Plato rational desire could be genuinely satisfied in no polis that actually existed in the physical world, but only in an ideal state with an ideal constitution [Form world]. Thus the good to which rational desire aspires and the actual life of the city-state have to be sharply distinguished. What is politically attainable is unsatisfying; what is satisfying is attainable only by philosophy and not by politics" (After Virtue: A Study in Moral Theory, 2nd edition [Notre Dame: University of Notre Dame Press, 1984] 140-141; cf also his, A Short History of Ethics: A History of Moral Philosophy from the Homeric Age to the Twentieth Century [New York: Macmillan Publishing Company, 1966] 26-56).

29 In discussing the various components of sanctification, John Murray's work is dominated by the term, "pattern." A careful examination of Murray's corpus leaves the reader with the distinct impression that Murray's terminology was deliberate; the moral and sanctifying life of the believer is not an aspiration to be achieved in one's own strength, but a life pattern conformed to the image of Christ (see his, Collected Writings of John Murray [Edinburgh: The Banner of Truth Trust, 1977] II: 277-317). In fact, Murray guards his readers against the concept of aspiration when he wrote: "There is a sense in which to aspire after the likeness of God is the epitome of iniquity" (ibid., 306). I believe that a thorough and careful reading of Murray's discussion on the components of sanctification will disclose a clear compatibility with the direction that I am taking. Moreover, it would be difficult to conceive of his discussion without the influence of his teacher, Geerhardus Vos.


Specifically, the believer is absorbed, or merged, into the life-pattern of the Biblical example; in fact, this union of covenant bond is so unique that the believer is viewed as a participant in the life-pattern of the example as if it were his own life, i.e., bound in "likeness" to one another (Rom. 6:1-14, esp. vs. 5; cf. Rom. 8:3; Phil. 2:7).30 This binding union can only exist by the sovereign and mysterious supernatural work of God (it exists by grace); man cannot create this union by thinking, saying, or doing it. God alone understands the depths of man's spirit in order to bind spirit to spirit, life pattern to life pattern (I Cor. 2:10-16). Moreover, the concept of assimilation is grounded and exposed in the historical revelation of God's activity (event); there is no life pattern to assimilate without the actual work of God in history in which the believer participates. Since pastors commonly use Christ, the central person of our holy faith, as our example, let us return to Christ's temptation to illustrate my point (Mt. 4:1-11; cf. Mk. 1: 12-13; Lk. 4:1-13).

As the preacher proclaims the message of Christ's temptation, he must grasp its redemptive-historical significance. The event of Christ's temptation in the wilderness is a reenactment of the event of Israel's temptation in their wilderness journey [note the parallels: the event takes place in a wilderness; forty days and nights (Christ) corresponds with forty years (Israel); Christ is tempted as "Son of God" corresponds with Israel's temptation as the "son of God" (Ex. 4:22-23; Deut. 8:5); every quote from Scripture recited by Christ to Satan is taken from the context of Israel's wilderness journey (Deut. 8:3; 6:16,13)]. Where Israel failed as "son of God" in their wilderness journey against Satan, Jesus Christ, the true Israelite, is victorious as the final and perfect "Son of God" in His wilderness journey against Satan. The point of Christ's temptation in the history of redemption is not to provide an example of one who meets the moral ideal, and thus, we are to do and conquer as Christ


30 My use of the term, "assimilation" is captured by Murray's use the Biblical term "likeness" and its relationship to the term "pattern" (Rom. 6:5; see Ibid., 311). Commenting on Rom. 6:5, John Calvin also captured the idea that I am attempting to convey when he wrote: "The comparison which he [Paul] introduces removes all ambiguity, since our ingrafting signifies not only our conformity to the example of Christ, but also the secret union (arcanam coniunctionem) by which we grow together with Him, in such a way that He revives us by His Spirit, and transfers His power to us" (Calvin's Commentaries: The Epistles of Paul The Apostle to the Romans and to the Thessalonians, ed. David W. Torrance and Thomas F. Torrance, trans. Ross MacKenzie [Grand Rapids: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Company, 1961] 123-124).


did in our temptations by Satan. After all, as we participate in the event, we are transposed into the event of Israel's journey; as fallen creatures, we see ourselves in union with Israel, i.e., sinners who cannot in our strength withstand the temptations of Satan. For this reason, God sent His Son to confront the enemy that Israel as well as we cannot conquer. God places His Son in the exact same conditions in history that Israel faced. But this time, since Christ is the perfect and eschatological Son of God, He defeats Satan.31 The message now becomes clear: only in union with the active obedience of Christ is there victory over Satan. The congregation is encouraged (it is imperative) to flee from relying upon their own strength against Satan, and to place their faith alone in the victorious work of Jesus Christ, who alone conquers the Evil One.

In light of the redemptive-historical understanding of Christ's temptation, he is pictured as our example for conquering Satan. There is, however, only one way for us to experience and follow his example. By grace, through faith we are brought into union (participation) with Christ's efficacious obedience in this event as he moves towards the final episode of victory at the cross. So powerful is Christ's victory that the believer is drawn into the humiliation and exaltation of Christ's confrontation and conquest (his life-pattern). The life of the believer is captured and transformed into the example of Christ as he assimilates Christ's life-pattern of humiliation and exaltation. As the Spirit of God makes the application of his own interpretation (Holy Scripture) of the event to the heart of the believer, the believer now experiences the life-pattern of Christ as his life-pattern; indeed, in the sole power of God's


31 Interestingly, in this case, God places Christ as the participant in Israel's wilderness; in fact, Christ assumes their same life-pattern. By grace, and in Christ, God has his Son reenact an event that came under failure and divine judgment in order to rectify the event for blessing and salvation. Herein, Christ's reenactment and participation in the former event turns the event upside down. Christ's participation and salvific life-pattern becomes the ground for the redemption of the remnant in that former event as well as the members of the New Testament church who now participate in Christ's salvific work in the temptation. As Christ's life on earth reenacts many former events, keep in mind that He conquers those of divine judgment, and He fulfills those of divine blessing.


Spirit, the believer is following Christ's example.32 Our victory, salvation, and obedience are found only in our union with what Christ has accomplished for us in history.

In light of everything that Christ has accomplished, could the preacher still encourage the congregation to use the Scriptures in our times of trial and temptation with Satan? Has Christ's accomplished victory over Satan negated the necessity for us to use and know God's Word as "the prince" of this world continues to entice the church? Even in light of what Christ accomplished, the church understands that it continues to exist in the eschatological tension of the "already" and "not yet" and that "the prince" of the present evil age is still real. Since we have not yet experienced the total glorification of our existence, we continue to battle the effects of sin in our being (Rom. 7). Again, however, we must be clear on the directive the believer must take here; we are to assimilate the life-pattern of Christ. Indeed, remaining clearly self-conscious of what has already been noted about the text, we follow the life-pattern—the example—of Christ. As Christ quoted the powerful and living Word of God in his humiliation against Satan, likewise, in our state of humiliation before Satan we are to confront him with the Word of God. We adopt this pattern in our union with Christ. The believer now knows, however, that only in faith-union with Christ's all-sufficient power, which is applied to the heart of the believer through the Holy Spirit, is there any hope of following Christ's example. And when the believer fails, there is the constant covenant bond of Christ's salvation and faithfulness that He has already secured the victory for his children. Herein, Christ's activity is not an ideal which we aspire to copy and reach, rather Christ's activity is a life-pattern which is to be followed, knowing that He has already accomplished everything for us (we are to live


32 In this Biblical understanding of example and application, there is no room for any hint that the believer can claim or can follow the actual steps which Christ took in His victory over Satan. Furthermore, there is no room for a position that such a conception of union with Christ's example dissolves the Creator-creature distinction (see Murray, Collected Shorter Writings, II: 306).


what we already are in Christ).33 Only in Christ's obedience is there victory over Satan. Herein, there is no hint or confusing language of a transcendent ethical dimension to which God complies and man seeks; rather, the moral holiness and righteousness of God condescends into the creation in God's Son (very God of very God) as his obedience is imputed to the sinner (justification) as a gift of sovereign grace. Through the power of Christ's death and resurrection and the application of that event to the justified sinner by the Holy Spirit, the believer now lives (definitive sanctification) and is required to live by faith (progressive sanctification) the life-pattern of His Savior as his example.

Hopefully it has now become apparent that Reformed Biblical theologians have no problem following the directive of Scripture in Hebrews 11 and I Corinthians 10: 6-13. Of course, the author of Hebrews presents the men and women of faith in chapter eleven as examples to us. But what kind of examples are they? First, one must not fail to presuppose the event of God coming into a fallen creation and implementing His covenant of grace or promise. The faith described in the list of Old Testament saints is nonsense without presupposing the event of God's covenant because one of the main points of the examples are that they embraced the promises of the covenant without receiving its final blessings. Second and more specifically, they are examples of men and women who lived by faith—the faith described in verse one: "Now faith is the assurance of things hoped for, a conviction of things not seen." This understanding of faith is driven home by the fact that "these [Abel, Enoch, Noah, Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, Sarah] all died in faith, not having received the


33 In light of our fallen nature, we cannot model the moral perfection, holiness, and righteousness of Christ, but by the grace of God through the Holy Spirit we do assimilate the life-pattern of Christ. At the heart of this life of assimilation is the cross and resurrection of Christ. As the church of Jesus Christ, we are called to live as pilgrims in this world taking up our own cross—a life of suffering (it is impossible to carry Christ's cross). As we assimilate the life of the cross, God exalts His beloved servants. The Christian life is one of humiliation to exaltation, just as the life of our Savior is one of humiliation to exaltation. This activity is a work of God's sovereign grace through the Holy Spirit in the life of the believer. Within the dynamic of God's work, the believer now lives as an example of Christ's work. Herein, application is not something additional to what the text says. By the work and sanctifying power of the Holy Spirit, the believer is being drawn into living the pattern of Christ—the believer is being brought into solid union with the saving work of Christ as he takes on the pattern of that saving work (I Peter 1: 2). For example, just as Christ served, we are to serve—we follow the same pattern (Phil 2:1-11). Just as Christ loved selflessly, we are to love selflessly.


promises, but having seen them and greeted them from afar, and having confessed they were strangers and pilgrims on earth" (vs. 13; cf. I Peter 2:11-12). They were living under the assurance and conviction of an eschatological inheritance that they hoped for and did not see. Third, if we comprehend the context of Hebrews eleven, then we realize that the conditions for these men and women of faith in the Old Testament is similar to the conditions for the believer living between the death, resurrection, and ascension of Christ and the promises of his eschatological inheritance in Christ (Hebrews 10:19-39; cf. Eph 1: 3, 2:6; I Peter 1: 3-12). Indeed, the Old Testament saints are models and examples for the New Testament to follow. We are to follow the same life-pattern (a life of faith) as children who live in union with God's covenant oath as he promises our eschatological inheritance. The examples of faith are not examples of aspiration (works), but assimilation (grace). Our living and eschatological faith takes on the exact same pattern; we are called as pilgrims and strangers on earth in which we await the final promises of a blessed inheritance in Christ in the heavenly places.

In I Corinthians 10:6-13, Paul provides an example of warning to the church. In this case, the warning is clear; if we aspire to assimilate the same life-pattern as Israel, i.e., lusting after evil things, idolatry, eating and drinking, fornication, then we will perish as they perished (cf. Heb. 3:1-4:11). Again, one needs to understand the way Paul is using example; he is placing it in the context of event (I Cor.10:7 refers to the incident of the golden calf in Ex. 32:6). In the event of their idolatry, they rejected life in union with the redeeming event of God's exodus (Ex. 32:1, 4b, 8b, 23). As they trade one life of assimilation for another, they will transform their allegiance of assimilation (union with Satan and his kingdom) into a world of aspiration; they aspire to be just like the Egyptians. Paul is very clear to the Corinthians; if they direct their steps in the exact same life style as those Israelites, then they will come under the same eschatological judgment of God.34 Likewise, in the


34 If we correctly understand the progressive revelation of the triune God of the Bible (keeping in mind the continuum), I think it is fair to say that Paul provides a specific hermeneutical principle here, i.e., one can view the entire Old Testament canon as example for the church of Jesus Christ. If one wishes to see Paul's hermeneutic principle applied among Biblical theologians, I suggest the sermon series delivered by the Rev. Charles G. Dennison on I Samuel to Grace Orthodox Presbyterian Church in Sewickley, PA from August 31, 1997-March, 1998.


same urgency that the Spirit compels Paul, the present pastor must issue the same warning to his congregation!

Another popular criticism of Reformed Biblical theological preaching is its alleged failure to use the imperative mood of the verb in preaching. Many critics believe that Biblical theologians give more attention to the indicative mood to the neglect of the imperative.35 Specifically, Biblical theological preaching fails to present a "proper balance" between the indicative and the imperative. Again, I am not convinced that the critics of Biblical Theology comprehend the revelatory-structure in which the Reformed Biblical theologian is operating. The Biblical theologian will not submit the indicative-imperative structure of Biblical ethics to the "golden mean" of a pragmatic rendition of Aristotelian ethics, i.e., that the extremes of the indicative as well as the imperative must be opposed for the sake of the "mean" (balance) between


35 E.g., Jay Adams writes: "Abhorrence of direct application leads biblical-theological preachers . . . into common ground with many liberals who believe that the use of the indicative alone, to the exclusion of the imperative, is adequate. At best, such preaching is applied (if at all) by implication, and yet, at worst, only by inference. Application becomes the task of the listener rather than the preacher" (Truth Applied, 21). In criticism of a specific weakness in the sermons of Geerhardus Vos, John Carrick writes: "The indicative mood dominates throughout, and he [Vos] scarcely ever utilizes the probing, searching interrogative or the commanding, hortatory imperative. Thus Vos' sermons are characterized by the indicative, but at the expense of the imperative; they are characterized by the descriptive, but at the expense of the prescriptive; they are characterized by the doxological, but at the expense of the hortatory. There is in his sermons a very striking lack of application" ("Redemptive-Historical Preaching: An Assessment," Katekômen [Summer, 2001]: 12). At this point, I wish to bring one further insight before the reader. This present article was written in 2002 as a request from an individual who was sponsoring a book project that has never materialized. Since 2002, the popular attack on Biblical theological preaching with regard to the lack of the imperative has become directed increasingly towards the Dennison brothers (see John Carrick, The Imperative of Preaching: A Theology of Sacred Rhetoric [Edinburgh: The Banner of Truth Trust, 2002] 108-145; idem. "Redemptive-Historical Preaching: A Critique," in Reformed Spirituality: Communing with Our Glorious God, eds. Joseph A. Pipa, Jr. and J. Andrew Wortman (Taylors, SC: Southern Presbyterian Press, 2003) 153-174; Stefan T. Lindblad, "Redemptive History and the Preached Word: Part 1: Introduction," The Banner of Truth [May, 2005]: 22-25; and Stefan T. Lindblad, "Redemptive History and the Preached Word: Part 2: Interpretation," The Banner of Truth [July, 2005]: 17-23. What is disappointing and embarrassing for those making this popular charge is that none of them seem to be aware of the fact that a positive discussion about the relationship between the indicative and the imperative appeared back in 1979 by William D. Dennison (see his "Indicative and Imperative: The Basic Structure of Pauline Ethics," Calvin Theological Journal [April, 1979]: 55-78).


them.36 Such an edition of the Aristotelian model placed upon Biblical revelation leads to a formulation which views the indicative as being independent and distinct from the imperative as the imperative is independent and distinct from the indicative. Hence, the Christian life is viewed as a life of being and acting in which each independent and distinct mood of the verb is comprehended and lived in balance. The idea that seems to be portrayed is that the imperative (specific acts of obedience) must be added as a complement to our lives in order to establish the balanced life. The Westminster Confession's position of faith and duty has the perception of faith plus duty (WCF SC Q&A #3). One can see that in this construction, application in preaching is a vehicle to stimulate and demand that the believer live the balanced life. In my judgment, this pragmatic edition of the Aristotelian mean becomes the archimedean point for faith and practice—the model for the Christian life.

As we keep in mind the continuum in Biblical revelation, the indicative-imperative construction is not to be modeled after Aristotle's balanced life in which we are to avoid extremes. Rather, the issue in the Bible is to understand its organic unity; the Christian life is the organic union of the indicative and the imperative. Our Savior is very clear: "If you love me, you will keep my commandments." According to Christ, it is impossible to truly love Him, and yet be totally disobedient to Him. The Christian life is one of faith and obedience. Indeed, the indicative and the imperative are two distinct verb moods; the indicative mood "makes an assertion," or a "statement," whereas the im-


36 See Aristotle, "Nicomachean Ethics" in The Basic Works of Aristotle, ed. Richard McKeon (New York: Random House, 1941) II: 1-9, 952-964. We must be cautious and fair here; I have chosen my wording deliberately (rendition and edition) to be fair both to Aristotle and the position that I am analyzing. For Aristotle, the "golden mean" is a virtue that exists between two extreme vices; the virtuous life is the life of moderation between excess. Herein one lives the balanced life. Many in the western world have adopted, applied, and reshaped Aristotle's construction to fit their own particular interests in moral theory. This applies to our own situation; to emphasize the indicative at the expense of the imperative is excess and not balance (vice), and likewise to emphasize the imperative at the expense of the indicative is excess and not balance (vice). The virtuous Christian life is the life of balance; like the equal weight on a seesaw, the Christian life holds the indicative and the imperative in balance as the golden mean. The actions of the balanced life move the person towards his end, i.e., towards the goal of happiness (in the Christian construct, happiness is found in God). Actions are teleological in Aristotle's construction (cf. MacIntyre, After Virtue, 146-163; idem., History of Ethics, 57-83; and William K. Frankena, Ethics [Englewood Cliffs: Prentice Hall, Inc. 1963] 70-74).


perative mood is used in making a "command, entreaty or exhortation."37 In Biblical revelation, although they are distinct, they are not understood as independent of each other; rather, they express an intimate union in the life of the believer.38 The theological content conveyed in these verb moods is crucial for understanding and meaning; in fact, it is interwoven in the continuum.

A Biblical understanding of the indicative denotes the believer's ethical existence in faith-union with the powerful redemptive-activity of God (event). Herein, it is common to view the indicative as describing the status of the believer's existence by virtue of the accomplished redemptive work of Christ in history. At this point, however, it is important not to view the indicative as merely descriptive, and therefore, as an abstract grammatical statement of the believer's condition in Christ. Rather, the indicative is descriptive of event (work of Christ) as the event itself possesses power. The believer in the event now possesses the power of God displayed as God maintains clearly the Creator-creature distinction. The power of the event as well as its saving content are applied to the life of God's children, e.g., when Christ died, I died; when Christ arose, I arose (cf. Rom. 6:11; II Tim. 2:11). Indeed, at the heart of the theological content of the indicative is an application component, e.g., the death and resurrection of Christ has been applied to the existence, identity, and status of the believer (he has died to sin and now lives in the newness of life; Rom. 6:8). Interestingly the indicative incorporates the foundation of Biblical application; it not only includes the accomplishment of redemption but it also includes the application of redemption as centered in the efficacious affect of the event. Specifically, God's act is performed; the Holy Spirit in Holy Scripture records the act. Through the power of the Spirit and the power of the living and active Word of God, the efficacious work of God in the event is applied to the believer's life. If we start with man, the process is reversed. The preacher draws the believer into the divine power of the Bibli-


37 J. Gresham Machen, New Testament Greek for Beginners (Toronto: The Macmillan Company, 1923) 20, 180, and J. W. Wenham, The Elements of New Testament Greek (Cambridge: At the University Press, 1970) 11-12.

38 See William D. Dennison, "Indicative and Imperative: The Basic Structure of Pauline Ethics," 55-78, and Ridderbos's, Paul, 253-257.


cal text that interprets the powerful saving event of God. Simultaneously the power of the Spirit applies the event efficaciously to the existence and status of the believer as his own; such an active event defines the identity of the believer that the Scripture describes by using the indicative mood.

Furthermore, the Spirit who interprets the event (text) is the same Spirit who drives the event into the soul as it encapsulates one's whole being to embrace joyfully and enthusiastically the imperative in response to God's saving work. In terms of the indicative-imperative structure, we are noting that in the imperative the believer is being commanded or exhorted to apply (imperative) what is already applied by grace to his life (indicative). Simply put, since your sin has already been totally crucified to the cross of Christ (indicative), you are commanded not to allow sin to reign in your mortal body (imperative; Rom. 6:8, 12). In the integrated and holistic moral Christian life, there is no imperative application without the indicative application, e.g., we cannot deny the power of sin in our life (imperative) without the power of the cross (event) in our life (indicative).39 Theologically speaking, the two moods of the verbs are inseparable and interwoven.40 Doctrine is life! The same Spirit mediates God's Word and the event into the progressive sanctification of the believer (Eph. 2:10). For this reason, one should never assume that the imperative appears independently in the Biblical text outside a redemptive-historical context (the indicative). Within this revelatory framework, the Reformed Biblical theologian preaches emphatically and passionately the imperatives of the Biblical text. In doing so, he is in compliance with the Biblical model, i.e., the imperative is grounded in the indicative, or the imperative is implied in the indicative. Or, we may say it another way, the imperative flows out of the indicative. Vos put it this way: the indicative effects or is the


39 It is within this framework that we must understand such a position that states, "The Bible itself is application." The Bible is not application in itself because one can apply an eternal Biblical principle that appears in Scripture to one's contemporary situation. Rather, "the Bible itself is application" because the event recorded in the living Word is applied to us in order that we may live and persevere in its truth.

40 Murray presented the idea—"the interweaving of the indicative and the imperative" (Collected Writings, II: 280-281).


source of the imperative.41 Whatever states the truth best, one point is clear; the entire work of salvation is the work of the triune God of the Bible—from beginning to end; it is not the work of man.42


In this essay I have attempted to make a brief and preliminary defense that Biblical Theology and the redemptive-historical hermeneutic is the most


41 "The Eschatological Aspect of the Pauline Conception of the Spirit," in Redemptive History and Biblical Interpretation: The Shorter Writings of Geerhardus Vos, ed. Richard B. Gaffin, Jr. (Phillipsburg: Presbyterian and Reformed, 1980) 237.

42 The entire soteriological enterprise comes to the people of God as gift; moreover, the entire soteriological enterprise is the sovereign work of the transformation of the sinner. Just as God is the alpha and the omega, the first and last in terms of his self-identity; likewise our existence of salvation begins in God and it is consummated in God. It is truly an eschatological existence; this personal dimension of our eschatological existence corresponding with God's eschatological identity must not be trivialized. Herein, history, eschatology, soteriology and ethics are interwoven. For this reason, the Biblical theologian refuses to understand obedience and sanctification outside such a Biblical paradigm. Indeed, in line with Calvin's presentation of the third use of the law, the Reformed Biblical theologian will definitely continue to maintain and declare the law as a positive rule in the present life of the believer in order to understand God's will and confirm one's existence in the law. Calvin outlines the problem clearly which must be addressed and confronted in every believer: "however, eagerly they [believer] may in accordance with the Spirit strive toward God's righteousness, the listless flesh always so burdens them that they do not proceed with due readiness. The law is to the flesh like a whip to an idle and balky ass, to arouse it to work" (Calvin: Institutes of the Christian Religion, ed. John T. McNeill, trans. Ford Lewis Battles [Philadelphia: The Westminster Press, 1960] II:7:xii, 361). Indeed, even in this continuing conflict or battle which exists for the believer as he is a pilgrim on earth, Calvin holds that such an understanding of the law is not devoid of the present reign and work of the Holy Spirit as well as the intercessory work of Jesus Christ in the believer. The Spirit as well as Christ's work is fundamental and foundational to the third use of the law. It is this point that the Reformed Biblical theologian will not relinquish; furthermore, it is this point that he attempts to enrich by grounding the third use of the law more deeply in the redemptive-historical work of Christ and His Spirit. In other words, you will only understand the nature of God's will and the confirmation of his law if you understand the death and resurrection of Christ (event) through his Spirit. The full exposition and exposure of the nature of God's will and the truth of His law is at the cross! We must not forget that this is where Sinai is pointing; herein we also invoke the position of Calvin who habitually asserted "that the law has validity only as it is related to Christ" (ibid., 348, n.1). Calvin's own words are so potent here: "In the law and in Christ signify as much as by the law and by Christ, according to the Hebrew phrase" (Commentary Upon the Acts of the Apostles, ed. Henry Beveridge, trans. Christopher Fetherstone [Grand Rapids: Wm. B. Eerdmans, 1957] I: 543).


Biblical way to interpret and preach the whole counsel of God.43 It has been my goal to make this defense in a manner that unfolds and submits the discussion to the very fabric of Biblical revelation as it is disclosed in the manner God presented himself. As we keep in mind the various perspectives on hermeneutics upon the Reformed ecclesiastical landscape, it is not my intent for the redemptive-historical approach to become elitist or intolerant, as some of our critics have alleged we have. Indeed, we will not shy away from our enthusiasm, passion, and conviction for such an understanding of Biblical revelation, but we also understand the necessity of patience and open discussion. It is my personal conviction that the Reformed mind wants seriously to have his entire Christian life under the authority and direction of God's infallible Word. I believe that such a conviction comes from the Spirit of God. As the Biblical theologian holds his convictions concerning his understanding of Biblical revelation, he also realizes that there is a need in the church to sharpen, clarify, and critique the hermeneutical paradigms that occupy the present discussion. Through such a discussion, he hopes that the various proponents of Reformed hermeneutics will do everything within their finite ability to conform the entire theological encyclopedia to the manner in which God does theology in His holy Word to the church.


43 Cf. Richard B. Gaffin, Jr., "The Whole Counsel of God and the Bible," in The Book of Books: Essays on the Scriptures in Honor of Johannes G. Vos, ed. John H. White (n.p.: Presbyterian and Reformed, 1978) 19-28.


[K:NWTS 21/1 (May 2006) 40-41]

Last Enemy

(Written upon the death of Cornelius Van Til)

Charles G. Dennison

Now death—

now death comes.

Teeth bared,

the beast rushes at the shortness

of my breath

bent on the feast.

But I stared you down,

you damned coward!

This once I stand my ground.

My anger rises, rips and tears;

like Samuel,

eyes blazing

streaked with blood,

I grab the sword from Saul's

impotent hand


and slide the blade around

their silent gaze

to Amalek—

arm and leg and lung,

hacked and separated,



this boast itself grows old

and I give way—

wound and buried to tears

taunting my frivolous triumph

until the stones roll back;

seed to grain,

shade to light,

I see him at my door's


and me unbound

by his call,

his life,

the all in all.



[K:NWTS 21/1 (May 2006) 42-48]

The Law from the New Mount

Matthew 5:27-28

James T. Dennison, Jr.

It would appear that the obvious point of this passage is the sin of lust, including everything that incites to lust. The ready application would be an attack on the pornography industry which Judge Robert Bork has called a "national plague." Mainland China is not about to permit digital pornography to become a national plague within her Internet lines, so she has banned it: `Puritanism' with a Marxist face! Ironically, the guardians of America's reading habits, the American Library Association (ALA), have taken the opposite tack from Communist China—restriction of pornography on the Internet, even in public libraries, would be a serious violation of the First Amendment of the United States Constitution and an insidious threat to our liberties. The Library Association and the American Civil Liberties Union are still reeling from the recent United States Supreme Court ruling upholding the Children's Internet Protection Act which requires local libraries to place filters on their Internet computers so as to block sexually explicit material.

Ever since Hugh Hefner discovered that airbrush pornography sells, American males have been exercising their liberties. And if Bob Guccione's Penthouse empire eschewed the airbrush, it was to outsell the Playboy centerfold. Alas, we must give equal time to the liberties of the female devotees of pornography—Playgirl and other assorted beefcake erotica are a testimony to the EPA—Equal Pornography for All.


It would appear that the moral to the story is that lusting after a woman as well as lusting after a man is a multi-billion dollar industry. Adultery—as defined by Jesus in Matthew 5—sells! Recall the Hollywood box office blockbuster of a few years back: Clint Eastwood and Merle Streep in "The Bridges of Madison County"—a film about two adulterers. And recall the people leaving the movie theaters in tears at the end of that film. And why were they in tears? Because Eastwood and Streep couldn't continue their adultery! Hollywood's message? Adultery sells! But I should not slight the moral paragons of the sports industry. Basketball star Kobe Bryant wears the `scarlet letter' and is accorded multi-media coverage to advertise his adultery. Indeed, adultery sells!

The degradation and dehumanization of men and women in reducing them to the genital is an ugly and vicious depravity. Nor is the evangelical and Reformed church exempt from the plague. Ministers are guilty of adultery with their parishioners; counselors are guilty of adultery with their counselees; educational leaders are guilty of adultery with their secretaries. I knew a seminary professor who had his Playboy subscription sent to his seminary mailbox, not to avoid his wife's notice, but to advertise his liberty to the student body when he peeled off the wrapper each month. The social consequences of this dreadful liberty for pornography are legion: rape, murder, abuse, frigidity, bondage, chains, whips, sadomasochism.

But we have not so learned Christ. And we are quick to point to the Sermon on the Mount as providing the consummate warning against illicit sexual fantasy including titillation from photo, video, digital image. As good Augustinians, we acknowledge that sin—even sexual sin—begins in concupiscence. Or, as Paul puts it in Romans 7 (and I paraphrase): sin is first in the desire before it is in the deed.

And so we quote Matthew 5:28 as a standard proof-text for the connection between sin in the heart and sin in the act. We are careful to guard our exegesis from overkill by noting the prepositional phrase "to lust after her." Not every look upon a woman is adultery of the heart. Female beauty may be admired, as may male handsomeness. But the gaze, which has as its intent the illicit sexual use of a woman or a man, is equivalent to a violation of the seventh commandment. Hence we warn men and women everywhere to repent of adulterous desires as well as adulterous acts.


So, it would seem, does our Lord in our text. In fact, it would appear that Jesus' unique contribution to Biblical sexual ethics is the notion that the lustful thought incurs guilt, as does the lustful act. It would appear that Jesus is saying something brand new in the history of morals—adultery of the heart is as bad as adultery of the body. And to buttress this interpretation of Matthew 5:27-28, the antithesis in our Lord's vocabulary is cited: you have heard it said by them of old, but (strong adversative) I say unto you.

The difficulty with this viewpoint is that there appear to have been a number of contemporary first century Jewish traditions prohibiting lust of the eye. For instance, the so-called Testament of Isaac commands: "do not look at a woman with a lustful eye." The Testament of Issachar reads: "nor was I promiscuous by lustful look." And the Leviticus Rabbah virtually echoes Jesus: "even the one who commits adultery with his eye is called an adulterer." My point is that the uniqueness of Jesus' teaching on sexual ethics in the Sermon on the Mount is notnot that adultery includes the lust of the eye as well as the lust of the flesh. This concept appears to have been commonplace in first century Judaism.

Well then, if Jesus is not contributing a unique new moral insight—the "mental" dimension of illicit sexuality—what is he doing in Matthew 5:28? If he is not merely focusing on an internal moralistic category, what is his unique teaching here in the Sermon on the Mount? To answer this question, we must examine the context of Matthew 5:27-28. We cannot remove this passage from its context so as to atomize its ethical truth. We must see Jesus' ethical teaching in broader context—in the broader context of Matthew's gospel.

Now the broader context of the gospel of Matthew is the fullness—the fullness of the history of redemption with the coming of Christ. In Matthew 3:15, Jesus says to John the Baptist that he has come to "fulfill all righteousness." And what particularly is this fullness? "And from that time Jesus began to preach and say, `Repent for the kingdom of heaven is at hand'" (Mt. 4:17). The dawn of the kingdom of heaven and the era of eschatological fullness—that is what Jesus is proclaiming in Matthew's gospel. But notice, interestingly, this eschatological fullness replays the past history of Israel. In Matthew 2, Jesus descends into Egypt. In Matthew 3, Jesus passes through the waters. In Matthew 4, Jesus goes to the wilderness for forty days and forty


nights. And now, verse 1 of chapter 5, Jesus goes up to a mountain. And from this mountain, Jesus reviews the Law and the Prophets (5:17). Did you notice the pattern Matthew has described: Jesus out of Egypt; Jesus through the waters; Jesus to the wilderness where he is tested; Jesus to the mountain? Jesus' life like Israel's life. You do see it, don't you? Matthew shows you Jesus, the new Israel—the true Israel—the Israel whose very own history is a replay—a recapitulation—of Israel in Egypt, Israel at the Red Sea, Israel in the Wilderness, Israel at Mt. Sinai.

It is the fullness, which has arrived in Matthew 5; it is this eschatological fullness, which is new and distinctive and unique as we read the Sermon on the Mount. We cannot read Matthew 5:27-28 without understanding Matthew 1-5 and the arrival of the fullness of the kingdom of heaven. We arrive at the new mount (Mt. 5:1) and at this eschatological mountain, we hear the law—the law of the kingdom of heaven. The eschatological law of the eschatological kingdom—a heavenly kingdom and its heavenly law.

Jesus, the new mountain, the law in the context of the arrival of the kingdom of heaven. It jumps right out at us in the list of beatitudes—Matthew 5:3-10. Notice the first beatitude: "blessed are the poor in spirit for theirs is the kingdom of heaven." And the last beatitude (v. 10): "blessed are those who have been persecuted for the sake of righteousness for theirs is the kingdom of heaven." The beatitudes are enclosed by the kingdom of heaven. The kingdom of heaven forms an inclusio around the blesseds attached to the time which Jesus brings. The kingdom of heaven has come and the meek are blessed; the time of the kingdom has come and the merciful are blessed, the pure in heart are blessed, the peacemakers are blessed. And why are the blessed? Because heaven is a blessed place. Every one of the beatitudes is an anticipation of the blessed arena of the kingdom of heaven.

So (and here is the unique and singular element in Jesus' teaching in the Sermon on the Mount)—Jesus' Sermon on the New Mount is a sermon about life in the kingdom. It is a sermon about life in heaven. Jesus is telling his disciples—telling us: here is what it is like to live out of the kingdom of heaven. It is to possess the kingdom now; it is to possess heaven now; it is to live now as a mirror image of the heavenly kingdom in this world, even as we await the arrival of the consummate fullness of the world to come. Our life in Christ is


a life of beatitude already; our life in Christ is a life in the kingdom of heaven already. The law from the new mount is not the law from Sinai per se—it is the law from heaven itself. Jesus eschatologizes the Law in the Sermon on the Mount. From Matthew 5, the law is now seen from the standpoint of heaven itself.

This is not moralism, nor is it legalism. This is not abstracting the law as an absolutistic legal order. No, Jesus is transferring the law to heaven and he is saying to his disciples who live in the kingdom of heaven—now, live out of heaven—live out of the law of the kingdom of heaven. Live as if you were in front of the face of God in heaven. That, dear brothers and sisters in Christ, is Jesus' unique contribution to ethics in the Sermon on the Mount.

Return with me to our text, Matthew 5:27-28. Let us now consider this text in the full light of its context. Let us consider Matthew 5:27-28 in the light of the fullness—the eschatological fullness—the redemptive historical fullness of the arrival of the kingdom of heaven. Imagine yourself immersed in the atmosphere, the environment, the arena of heaven itself. You are seated before the throne of God; you are nestled at his footstool basking in the glory-presence of the King of kings: your mind, your heart, your body are transformed by that arena—that heavenly glory. Can you commit adultery in heaven? In heaven, can you gaze upon a woman, upon a man, with lust? The purity indeed the holiness of heaven cannot abide lewd thoughts, let alone lewd acts. So those who belong to the kingdom of heaven are powerfully and wonderfully moved by the atmosphere to which they belong—by the King of the kingdom to whom they belong—by the heavenly life they now possess. Reduce a man or a woman to a sexual object? an object of personal gratification? an object of selfish sexual gratification? No! Heaven won't allow it! My heavenly kingdom-life will not permit it! My Savior has brought me into the arena he inhabits—into heaven—and he has given me, ever so graciously given me, the life he now lives by the power of his resurrection from sin and death. Resurrection life is the life of the kingdom I now inhabit; resurrection life is the life of the kingdom of heaven and I now live in the life of that heavenly kingdom.

My union with Christ is a sweet union with the resurrection life of the kingdom of heaven. And out of that Christ-centered, heaven oriented, resur


rection life, I now live. How can I commit adultery if my life is united to the resurrection-life of my Lord and Savior? I now live out of this heavenly kingdom; I now live out of union with this wonderful Savior. My indicative state—united to Christ by faith—is inseparably joined with my imperative acts—"do not commit adultery."

Jesus is asking you to measure your gaze—what you look at—by the standards of heaven. Is this not exceedingly helpful in our struggles with sexual temptation and sin? What I look at must be measured by the standard of heaven. Could I look at that picture, that movie, that screen, that scene if I were in heaven? Could I look upon that woman or that man in that picture, that movie, that screen, that scene if I were in heaven? Pornography is bondage; beefcake erotica is bondage—they are slavery, slavery to the base, crass, vile degradation and dehumanization of another being made in the image of God. Jesus is helping us immensely here in the Sermon on the Mount; he is placing human sexual ethics in the light of the glory of heaven.

With every adulterous temptation, with every lascivious inducement, with every lewd image, I turn my heart to heaven and rejoice that Jesus has united me unto himself, that he has seated me already in his heavenly kingdom, that he turns my mind to things above—to the wonderful blessings of life before his glorious face. And so I see women as Christ sees them—made wonderfully, beautifully in God's own image—not to be degraded, debauched, dehumanized, reduced to objects. And so the Christian woman sees men—fearfully and wonderfully made in God's image—not to be seduced, manipulated, tantalized, reduced to or toyed with as objects of illicit fantasy.

In Matthew 5:27-28, Jesus provides a new motivation for the sons and daughters of his kingdom. He says, "I have brought you to this new and eschatological mountain in order to show you the fullness—in order to show you what was veiled from even Moses' face. I have brought you to this new and eschatological mountain so that you may understand what I have brought with me into history. And as you live out of the fullness of the kingdom which I have brought into history, little children, live as if you were living in heaven—even now. Live as if you were standing before the glorious throne of God—even now. Live out of the life given to you from above." Live with delight in your husband, your wife—even as Christ lives with delight in his beloved


spouse and she with him. Live with dignity and respect for the sexuality of men and women everywhere—even as God himself has granted them that dignity and respect.

Sons and daughters of the kingdom of heaven, walk even now as the children of the eschatological kingdom in union with the eschatological King.



[K:NWTS 21/1 (May 2006) 49-50]

Eckhard J. Schnabel, Early Christian Mission: Jesus and the Twelve (vol. 1); Paul and the Early Church (vol. 2). Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press, 2004. 1928 pp. Cloth. ISBN: 0-8308-2790-0 (set). $90.

Schnabel, Professor of New Testament at Trinity Evangelical Divinity School, has compiled an impressive survey of Christian missions from the era of the Old Testament and Inter-testamental Judaism (including Apocrypha, Qumran and Rabbinical sources) to the era of Christ and the apostolic church. Focusing on the message of Jesus as an evangelistic missions proclamation (inclusive of Jew and Gentile), Schnabel details the unfolding attraction of the message of God's Son as it spreads through the Greco-Roman world of the first century. As such, we have in these two volumes a virtual encyclopedia of the first Christian century from the advent of Christ to the end of the apostolic period. In many ways, this set is a detailed commentary on the gospels and the book of Acts. We have meticulous details on places (geography), names (history) and gospel message (theology) from Christ's proclamation of the Kingdom of God (Mt. 4:17; Mk. 1:15) to Paul's (Acts 28:30-31). The whole is copiously footnoted with a bibliography of nearly 200 pages.

Yet Schnabel is a defender of the accuracy and historicity of the biblical record—a refreshing confirmation of more traditional views, even as he explores the voluminous literature in search of support for that apologia. In the process, he provides a carefully worked out chronology of the era of Christ and the apostles—especially the missionary journeys of Paul. His defense of


Paul's release from his first Roman imprisonment authenticates the Pastoral Epistles as well as the fabled mission to Spain (1262ff.). Critical fundamentalists will reject this excursus, but perhaps it is their bias in favor of deutero-Paulinism which may be surrendered without regret.

As a comprehensive exegesis of Christian mission theology and strategy in the first century A.D., these volumes are a tour de force. They are also, in the main, a refreshing confirmation of conservative and orthodox conviction about the New Testament. The reader is not only stimulated by the detail, he is encouraged by the theology of mission as it arises from Christ and his inspired apostles. Indeed, they undergird our mission from the transformation of the ages which dawned upon us when the Word became flesh and commissioned us as his witnesses—even to the end of the age!

—James T. Dennison, Jr.

[K:NWTS 21/1 (May 2006) 50-53]

Colin G. Kruse, The Gospel According to John. Grand Rapids, MI: William B. Eerdmans Publishing Co., 2004. 395 pp. Paper. ISBN: 0-8028-2771-3. $16.50.

The Tyndale New Testament Commentary series was originally conceived as a brief, up-to-date, evangelical exposition of each of the twenty-seven books of the New Testament. First published from 1956, it is now being completely rewritten so as to maintain the `up-to-date' status. Kruse is Lecturer in New Testament at the Bible College of Victoria in Melbourne, Australia; his volume replaces that of R.V.G. Tasker (1960).

This is a workmanlike effort with conservative endorsement of Johannine authorship, ontic Christology, textual integrity (chapter 21 is not an appendix by a different author), evangelical soteriology and adequate perception of current scholarship. The current hot-button issue in John studies is anti-Semitism; Kruse addresses this issue very well (50). The overview of current trends in fourth gospel research is handled adequately. Yet, the commentary appears to reflect little use of these studies, particularly recent narrative, structural and biblical-theological investigations. Kruse, while aware of


deeper insights into the text, retreats to a rather safe, yet un-exciting, standard conservative exegesis. With a few exceptions, we have in this volume a short form of William Hendriksen (NTC) and Leon Morris (NICNT). This is not all bad, but it is not all good either. Charles Talbert, Jeff Staley, Mark Stibbe, George Mlakhuzhyil, even Thomas Brodie, do not appear to have stimulated Kruse to rethink his approach to this remarkable gospel (nor do they appear in his select bibliography, pp. 13-15).

Kruse is to be commended for pointing out the infelicities, misrepresentations and outright additions which the NIV translators make of and to the fourth gospel. This is particularly grievous in a translation which millions of evangelicals take for gospel. In fact, the NIV is a translator's travesty (the NASB is far superior) and Kruse routinely points this out in his remarks.

It is refreshing to learn that our author has not yielded to the pandemic functional Christology of the late 20th and early 21st centuries. His exegesis of John 1:1c is Trinitarian; he renders John 1:18 as "God the One and Only" (74); and he does not shy away from Thomas's acknowledgment of the deity of Christ (Jn. 20:28). Still, his note on monogenes ("only begotten") (71) is a capitulation to the contemporary evangelical translation of this term as "unique", "singular", etc. (cf. the NIV on Jn. 1:18 and 3:16). It appears to escape the erstwhile modern evangelical that if God the Father has a Son and that Son is unique and singular, the way in which he (the Son) is related to the Father is by filiation (to use the technical term) or by "eternal generation" ( to use the patristic term). What other term comports with the Son addressing the Father as Father, and the Father addressing the Son as Son? Surely, to take pater and hyios seriously in the inspired Greek text is to understand that this one and only Father generates (eternally) his one and only Son. And precisely that dynamic relationship is communicated by the term monogenes ("only begotten"). The Father is the Eternal Begetter; the Son is the Eternally (albeit Only) Begotten. Simple!

Sampling some of the highlights of Kruse's work. He is very good on the symbolism of the Jewish purification jars at the wedding at Cana (94-95)—but he misses the structural inclusio which delimits the passage. "Born of water and the Spirit" (Jn. 3:5) is a hendiadys, i.e., "a figure of speech using two different words to denote one thing" (regeneration) (107). This is very


helpful, though he misses the eschatological significance of "birth from above" (anôthen) in Jn. 3:3. His understanding of the egô eimi ("I am") declarations of Jesus is consistent with the high Christology of the gospel—and Jesus' own self-consciousness. Kruse does not give in to the sacramental interpretation of John 6 and the Bread of Life discourse. In a gospel of profound metaphors, this chapter uses them to express the nourishing character of union with Christ or faith in Christ. Kruse provides adequate background to the water and light ceremonies at the Feast of Tabernacles (Jn. 7-8)—all of which intensifies Christ's stunning declarations on that occasion: "If any one is thirsty, let him come to me and drink"; "I am the light of the world." This is powerful replacement and displacement language—Jesus is the eschatological fullness of the Feast of Tabernacles. With his declarations, the Feast of Booths passes away.

While very clear on the supernatural character of the miracle-signs in the fourth gospel, Kruse misses the mimetic (i.e., imitative or mirror character) egô eimi in John 9:9 (the man born blind uses the self-revelatory formula of Jesus himself as an imitatio Christi, for he has wonderfully been folded into union with the identity of the supreme I AM who has given him light out of heaven). The same paradigm returns in John 11. Lazarus and Jesus become mimetic mirrors of one another: Jesus drawn to Lazarus's death and resurrection as Lazarus becomes the prototype for Jesus' death and resurrection.

Kruse identifies the eight sequential scenes of Christ's trial before Pilate (Jn. 18:12-19:16), but without acknowledging Raymond Brown as the source of the paradigm (cf. the latter's Anchor Bible commentary, vol. 2:859), nor matching up the parallel sides of the descending and ascending parabola (trough and transition in the scourging of Jesus, 19:1-4). With respect to Pilate's fear of Christ as a threat to his own gubernatorial seat, Kruse invokes the paranoia of Tiberius Caesar, but fails to consider the death of Sejanus as a possible raison d'être. If Tiberius had executed Sejanus for presuming too much, and Sejanus had procured Judea for his friend, Pontius Pilate, and Pilate knows of Tiberius's removal of his praetorian patron, is it not possible that Pilate too looks over his shoulder to the west and is very, very cautious not to arouse suspicion (or attention) about his rôle from Jewish fanatics? Hand washing is preferable to imperial scrutiny!


All in all, a useful piece of work—yet weak where it needs to shine the brightest with regard to this gospel which soars like the eagle. The eschatological drama of the incarnation of God the Son is blunted and subdued. John's gospel is more exciting (and death-life transforming) than this commentary allows.

—James T. Dennison, Jr.

[K:NWTS 21/1 (May 2006) 53-55]

Donald W. Howard, Jr., Renewal of Worship: Caring for the People, A Resource Guide. Lanham, MD: University Press of America, 2005. 233 pp. Paper. ISBN: 0-7618-3047-2, $35.00.

According to the back cover of this book, our author is a veteran pastor of twenty-two years in the Presbyterian Church (USA), and is now an educator in New York as a consultant for New York State Charter School aspirants.

The basic concern of the book is that pastors must know their church members intimately in their daily life in order to make the worship of the church meaningful. He states that the decline of the church is directly related to the irrelevance of what transpires in worship to the lives of those seated in the pews. To remedy this, the pastor must meet the people where they are: "at work, whether a school, home, hospital, gas station, supermarket, factory, nursing home, courtroom, or barn. It means sitting on the curb talking with a teenager about school and home pressures, sitting in a fishing boat with a lonely widower, or walking through the woods on opening day of buck season—wherever your congregation works or plays becomes the place for the pastor to visit" (18-19).

The book is divided into two parts. The first part takes the theme of the book and develops it along five lines: Worship as pastoral care; The role of the pastor; The role of the laity; Getting into the field: the pastor as sower, cultivator, and gleaner; and finally, Bringing in the sheaves: the resultant meaningful worship.


In the second part, he develops his thoughts about the various parts of the worship service. In the previous section he has already talked about the centrality of the word, so he does not have a separate chapter on that in this second section. Rather, he spends his time on the Liturgy.

He spends three chapters on the sacraments. He advocates making infant baptism a very special occasion by giving to the child a candle (as in a birthday) and then writing him/her a letter to be placed in a scrapbook telling of the importance of the occasion. He does not think it is a good idea for the pastor to take the child and go parading up and down the aisles of the church showing him/her off to all of the worshippers.

He also asserts the importance of celebrating the Lord's Supper weekly, but not without the preaching of the Word. "The Word and the Sacraments are understood as events in worship for the entire congregation. If either the Word or the Sacraments are emphasized to the exclusion of the other, this results in an incomplete and distorted experience of worship" (88).

In dealing with special services, he has four chapters on hatched (baptism), matched (marriage), and dispatched (funeral). He finishes this section with three chapters, each one dealing with prayer, music, and the liturgical year. In the latter, he advocates using the liturgical calendar, going through the year from Advent to Pentecost. His reasoning is, "the liturgical calendar helps the worshipper see the redemptive work of God through His Son Jesus Christ. The calendar shows that worship is more than an isolated act, separated from one's everyday life experiences. In worship the church participates in the movement from Christ's birth through His sufferings, to His resurrection and Kingship. In following these events as its pattern for worship, the church encompasses all the dimensions of God's plan for the salvation of His people" (187-88).

In his final word, Pastor Howard says, "In order to insure that the service remains meaningful and participatory, the pastor requires knowledge of his or her congregation. Here, pastoral care comes into the service of worship. This book was intended as a means to revive the notion of pastoral care as essential to the worship of God" (211-12).


In assessing this book, we must say that the author has a point. It is important that a pastor know the members of his congregation. And this knowledge will influence the way that he conducts worship. However, although the book does have moments when it deals with Scripture and also church history, for the most part it is pious advice. This advice you will at times agree with and at other times disagree with. For the most part you will be better advised to spend your time on something more edifying.

—J. Peter Vosteen

[K:NWTS 21/1 (May 2006) 55-57]

Jeff A. Benner, Learn to Read Biblical Hebrew: A Guide to Learning the Hebrew Alphabet, Vocabulary and Sentence Structure of the Hebrew Bible. College Station, TX: Virtualbookworm Publishing, 2004. 120 pp. Paper. ISBN: 1-58939-584-0. $12.95.

One of the biggest difficulties for students entering first year Hebrew is overcoming the alphabet barrier. Many beginning Hebrew grammars have students memorize the entire alphabet and then move on. Here is where this book possesses its greatest strength. Each chapter introduces students to two or three consonants and one or two vowels, taking eleven short chapters to teach the whole alphabet. Each chapter introduces vocabulary words and exercises only containing those letters introduced so far in the book. This allows students to gradually learn the alphabet and overcome the hurdle it poses without becoming overwhelmed.

It also contains a useful chart comparing letters that look alike (61). These letters sometimes confuse beginning students.

However, the book does not deliver on its title. While it provides short comments to help students find the root (sometimes helpful, cf. p. 49 on final he and initial nun), it provides no explanation for the nif`al, pi`el, pu`al, hitpa`el, or hif`il. The book is too incomplete to learn to read Biblical Hebrew. Instead, it would best serve as an introduction to the Hebrew Alphabet (or Alephbet, as the author prefers).


At the same time, Benner introduces some other elements that he believes will allow the reader to learn all 8,000 words in the Hebrew Bible by only memorizing 750 roots. To assist in this task (we assume), he provides a frequency list of words used more than twenty-five times. In two additional lists, he provides what he calls parent and child roots, and adopted roots.

There are two points to note about this—first, the pedagogical one. Most grammars are on more solid ground, having students memorize a limited amount of vocabulary and then practicing it in readings. Memorizing lists is usually less helpful. Second, while a reviewer with a greater knowledge of Hebrew etymology is needed to recognize the propriety of Benner's two-consonant parent roots, this clearly sets up a system (88) that he will develop in his proposed new Hebrew lexicon.

Here the assumption (already present in this introductory book) is that every Hebrew word has a concrete (as opposed to an abstract) meaning. In many cases, the concrete meaning of each three-consonant (child) Hebrew root derives from the concrete meaning of its two-consonant root parent. Thus, the parent root BL gives birth to BLH ("aged"; a "flowing away of youth") and BHL ("panic"; "a flowing of the insides," 88). Benner considers the more concrete meaning to be the real Hebrew meaning, while the first meaning comes closer to our Greek abstract mindset. Behind this dichotomy lies the ghost of Thorleif Boman's book Hebrew Thought Compared with Greek which Benner promotes on the website noted in his book.

While most Hebrew scholars may not accept Benner's conclusions at this point (and the fact that he is an engineer, turned self-trained Hebrew teacher may not help him), some fundamentalists will. And it may be that his pragmatic approach to the language will provide an underpinning for their pragmatic moralism.

Still, as an introduction to the Hebrew alphabet this book may be helpful for some. But even for that purpose, the book could use some rewriting. Sometimes it doesn't introduce all the vocabulary needed for a reading—it would be helpful if it did. Occasionally it mentions letters with their transliterated name, but fails to write them out in Hebrew. This can be confusing for the introductory student. There are also a few typos. An aleph is put for a zayin


(29). Teh-hown (to use the author's transliteration) is written out twice in Hebrew script when quoting Genesis 1:2 (43). And "tw-letter" is put for "two-letter" (88).

Overall, the book may be useful for those needing to ease into the alphabet for the first time, but it needs to be followed by another first-year text. And if that other text suffices, this one may not be needed.

—Scott F. Sanborn

[K:NWTS 21/1 (May 2006) 57-59]

Glenn S. Sunshine, Reforming French Protestantism: The Development of Huguenot Ecclesiastical Institutions, 1557-1552. Kirksville, MO: Truman State University Press, 2003. 193 pp. Cloth. ISBN: 1-9311-1228-2. $49.95.

What factors influenced the institutional development of the French Reformed church during the 16th century? Glenn Sunshine argues that the typical perception of these churches as nothing more than miniature Genevan colonies fails to do justice to the innovative ecclesiastical model that arose in the French church as a result of their unique situation in Catholic France (10-11). In fact, Sunshine's central argument is that the institutional development of the French Reformed church was not primarily the result of an imported Geneva ecclesiology, but rather was more attributable to original structural innovations that occurred in response to their own unique circumstances. Furthermore, Sunshine argues, these French Reformed ecclesiastical features subsequently spread to other Reformed churches abroad and became an integral part of the Calvinist tradition in Western Europe (167). To support his thesis, Sunshine's book documents the complexities of the institutional development of the French Reformed church in France during the 16th century.

Departing from the socio-economic models typically used to explain this expansion, the book begins by detailing the growth of French Protestantism and argues that the movement drew from a diverse range of social and economic classes in different locales. As this emerging diverse French Protestant church grew, the need to adopt a unified doctrinal statement and a common system of church polity became increasingly apparent. The result was the


production of the Gallican (or French) Confession (1559) and the Discipline ecclésiastique. The author argues that although Calvin played a part in crafting the Gallican Confession, the Discipline (which was more dynamic and subject to change than the confession) was the product of internal dynamics unique to the situation faced by the French Protestant churches (as evidenced particularly by many innovative elements contained in the Discipline). Sunshine notes that the greatest challenge the Discipline faced was how to develop a system of collective church government without the support of the civic authorities (since the officers of the French magistrate were often Catholic) and without creating any hierarchical relationship among the churches. In contrast to other Reformed churches (which adopted an essentially hierarchical structure at the synod level), the French church was the first to systematically apply the principle of ministerial and ecclesiastical equality at the collective governmental level (37). Thus the "presbyterial" polity that emerged was primarily the result of applying the basic principles of Reformed ecclesiology to the unique situation facing the French Protestant church. The result was a system that prevented any locale from becoming the regular meeting place of a synod or any person from becoming either the permanent moderator of a synod or having permanent oversight of churches.

An additional challenge that the French churches faced was how to appoint and manage local pastors. This task was believed to be too important to be entrusted solely to the laity of a local congregation without sacrificing the important principle of congregational autonomy (since the French resisted the Genevan tendency toward centralization). Eventually, the Colloquy emerged as a formal part of French Protestant polity; it would become the primary instrument of pastoral selection and oversight.

Sunshine also argues that French Protestant church polity evidenced an eclectic blend of Reformed and non-Reformed elements at the local church level (especially evident in the features of the diaconate). The French deacons differed from their Geneva counterparts with respect to their liturgical and catechetical duties (features that they shared in common with the Catholic diaconate), but also with regard to their participation in the consistory (119). In light of the unique situation of the French churches (especially the shortage of qualified people to fill ecclesiastical offices), the deacons of the French


church were included in the consistory (they were not participants in the Genevan model). Deacons increasingly took on the responsibilities of elders, until the two offices became practically indistinguishable and the diaconate (as defined in the Confession) essentially disappeared (170).

Sunshine then discusses the important place that the house churches of the nobles played in France, especially their independent status with regard to the collective governmental structure of the synods (which they often disregarded). Additionally, he describes the tenuous and fragile relationship between the Reformed consistories and the civil magistrates, since in most cases the magistrates were controlled by Catholics who were hostile to the Reformed cause (not to mention the natural tensions that arose with regard to competing claims of jurisdiction). In addition, since the French king was also hostile to the Protestant cause, the primary liaisons the Reformed churches established with the royal court was the representation afforded by the Protestant nobility.

This book provides an interesting account of the institutional development of the French Reformed church—a history that is made all the more interesting in light of the hostile environment from which it emerged. Sunshine ably documents the differences between the structural ecclesiology of the Genevan and French Reformed churches at both the local and collective governmental levels—differences which are too significant to ignore. As a result, his thesis appears to be established that the institutional development of the French Reformed church must be considered in light of their attempt to apply Reformed ecclesiastical principles in the context of the unique circumstances they faced.

—C. Ryan Jenkins

Peoria, Illinois