An Introduction to Christ-Centered, Biblical-Theological Understanding

for those experienced with hermeneutics, Pastors who only learned evangelical hermeneutics, and novices not afraid of deeper studies.
The fifty Important icons represent important explanations.

When Jesus had spoken these words, he lifted up his eyes to heaven, and said, “Father, the hour has come; glorify your Son that the Son may glorify you, since you have given him authority over all flesh, to give eternal life to all whom you have given him. And this is eternal life, that they know you, the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom you have sent. (John 17:1–3)

Alongside thankfulness (1 Thess 5:16-18), the obtaining and meditating on the knowledge of God is one of the core wills of God for your life. He came to dwell among us (John 1:14) to reveal Himself to us (Colossians 1:15-19), but we've not been left with actions without description. God condescended to us (WCF 7.1) and moved men by the Spirit (2 Peter 1:21) for millennia for you to know Him. God has given us tremendous gifts, and sent commentators to explain His events.

Our task is to understand the message of Christ through the words of His Spirit. Geerhardus Vos (d. 1949) reminds us:

Jesus does not represent Himself anywhere as being by his human earthly activity the exhaustive expounder of truth. Much rather He is the great fact to be expounded.1

Our knowledge of God, often taking the form of systematic theology will be fed by a structured, historical understanding of the exegetical data of God's word. However, more often than not, our understanding of topics stop when new concepts and terms are introduced. Listen to seminary professor Scott Oliphint's comments he gave before an apologetics lecture. It will help orient you for what follows:4

Hermeneutics, the art and science of Biblical interpretation, is our toolkit for understanding God's revelation. It's an important topic whose significance never diminishes. It's a multi-tiered model, largely split into two aspects: grammatical-historical ("GH") and redemptive-historical ("RH"). We use the grammatical-historical in the context of the redemptive-historical to build the structured, historical understanding from which our systematic theology will emerge. Both aspects are required to efficiently progress in Reformed Biblical studies.

Biblical Theology and Redemptive-Historical Hermeneutics

Like most fields in Reformed theology, hermeneutics is symbiotic with other areas. It's strongest symbiote is Reformed Biblical Theology7: the history of special revelation; that is, the story of God's interaction with us. It's this story put into written form that's the focus and purpose of hermeneutics.

The plan of God has always been the eschatological elevation of man. The fall created a detour to this elevation via the resurrection. This becomes clearer when we repair a disastrous misconception around the word "eschatology". Listen to Lane Tipton:8

Eschatology isn't just the final chapter of redemptive history, it's the story of all history. Because it relates to the ultimate plan of God, it even precedes soteriology, the doctrine of salvation: God had a plan for humanity starting with Adam in the garden before the fall. This allows eschatology to act as the bookends and structural guide of history, pervading every area of theology.

Hermeneutics seeks to understand Scripture, ourselves, and all of reality in both its local and eschatological contexts, with eschatology leading the way. This means that eschatology drives our understanding of everything while everything we study helps clarify eschatology. Scripture will continually become clearer as our apprehension of the whole expands. Biblical theology is the heart of hermeneutics because Biblical theology is the outworking of that eschatological plan in history.

While it was the 17th century Puritans who were the principal masters of Biblical theology9 as seen in their lectures and sermons, the theologian most responsible for laying out and explaining the Biblical theological model is the 20th century theologian Geerhardus Vos. While not at all the originator of the concept, he distilled and repackaged the underlying methodology of the Puritans in such a profound way, that his work became the basis of contemporary Reformed hermeneutics.

Read the following from his aptly named book "Eschatology of the Old Testament":

It is not biblical to hold that eschatology is a sort of appendix to soteriology, a consummation of the saving work of God. . . . There is an absolute end posited for the universe before and apart from sin. The universe, as created, was only a beginning, the meaning of which was not perpetuation, but attainment. The principle of God’s relation to the world from the outset was a principle of action or eventuation. The goal was not comparative (i.e., evolution); it was superlative (i.e., the final goal). This goal was not only previous to sin, but irrespective of sin.10

The glory of eschatological communion is foreshadowed in the garden (Genesis 2:9), and mirrored in John's Patmos vision (Revelation 22:14), just as the shadow of the cross casts onto the whole of Genesis to Malachi11. The Old Testament may be the roots of the New, but the actions in the New have always been the destination of the Old. Or, as Augustine said, "the new is in the old concealed; the old is in the new revealed".

Since the Tree of Life appears in both Genesis and Revelation, it can act as a straight-forward way of seeing God's plan of eschatological elevation.

Read how 17th century Reformed theologian Francis Turretin (d. 1687) answers the question: How did the tree of life signify Christ?12

... Truly [Christ] is the only tree because no one except Christ is the author of eternal life (nor is there salvation in any other, Acts 4:12). No one except Christ is in the midst of paradise (Rev. 2:7) and of the street of the city (Rev. 22:2). Christ is in the midst of the church (as a more honorable and suitable place) to be near all and diffuse his vivifying power among all; to be seen by all, as the center in which all the lines of faith and love ought to meet, that they may acquiesce in him. The fruit-bearing tree (Rev. 2:7), which bears the sweetest and most exquisite fruit for the support of believers (Cant. 2:3)...13

Nancy Guthrie puts it more tangibly. After quoting Rev 22:1-3, she says...

The scene [Rev 22:1-3] described by John calls to mind essential features of Eden: the tree of life and the river of life, which, according to Genesis 2: 10, flowed out of Eden. In this new Eden, all those whose sin has been dealt with on the tree of Calvary not only drink freely from the river of life; they eat freely from the tree of life. As we look closely, we can’t help but recognize that this life-giving, forever-feeding, healing tree is none other than Christ himself. 12 “In him was life” John wrote (John 1: 4). And in a sense, this is what Jesus meant during his earthly ministry when he said, “Truly, truly, I say to you, unless you eat the flesh of the Son of Man and drink his blood, you have no life in you. Whoever feeds on my flesh and drinks my blood has eternal life, and I will raise him up on the last day” (John 6: 53– 54).14

The Tree of Life in the garden, the failure of Adam, the fulfillment of Christ, and the The Tree of Life in Revelation act as our guide markers in history. Redemptive-historical hermeneutics uses this guide when studying local texts, orienting all other considerations around it.

Listen to contemporary theologian Richard Gaffin:16

He continues:17

Luke 24 is the perfect hermeneutics-orienting text: Christ opened the eyes of his companions to see the root of redemptive-historical hermeneutics: ...beginning with Moses and all the Prophets, he interpreted to them in all the Scriptures the things concerning himself.

Put simply, history is His story. Our Biblical interpretation must begin with this message of the Bible.

Vern Poythress helps to clarify this:

There is no way to form sound hermeneutical principles in a vacuum, apart from religious commitments. You are either for God or against him. And even if you are for him, you need growth and sanctification. You are not perfectly pure, your mind is not perfectly pure, and your hermeneutical preferences are not perfectly sound. That is the nature of life in a fallen world.19

Elsewhere he says:

We use the Bible as our source for systematic theology, which is supposed to be a summary of what the Bible teaches. Then we use systematic theology as a presupposition for hermeneutics. And then hermeneutics guides how we interpret the Bible.20

Gregory Beale similarly says:

...a good biblical-theological assumption is that all interpreters have presuppositions and that some presuppositions distort the originally intended meanings of ancient texts, while other presuppositions actually guide one into the truth of texts.21

Because the whole of the law and prophets pointed to Christ and because Christ is the focus of redemption, Christ is the first, both in priority and order, biblical-theological assumption and presupposition in hermeneutics. Put negatively, we must avoid engaging in idolatry by reading any portion of Scripture as outside of God's eschatological plan. The books of Genesis to Malachi are Christian because they explain the outworking of eschatology in history. They are in perfect continuity with both the books ranging from Matthew to Relevation as well as the centuries of history between the Old and the New.

When reading without God's end (eschatology) in mind, we're reading differently than what God Himself intends; we're reading with cultural glasses imposed onto Scripture. For example, as we'll see later, we may not read the book of Genesis outside of the perspective provided by the New Testament. It's not that the Old Testament is Jewish and the New is Christian: the whole of Scripture is set with the ultimate in mind. Eschatology drives history.

Reading the local contexts outside of the global also leads to a chaotic model of disunified authors. We can say more than that the intention of all events eventually point toward Christ (christotelic); indeed, because of the ultimate divine author, all events are initially about Christ in the first place (christocentric). There's no value in reading the exodus narrative outside of Christ, especially since it was the Son of God who gave Moses the orders in the first place (Exodus 3:14, cf. John 8:58).

Lane Tipton summarizes:

For purposes of introduction, it is best to understand Christocentrism as the tenet that Christ is the central redemptive subject matter of the Old Testament, understood on its own terms, quite apart from the New Testament Scriptures. Christotelism is best understood to entail that Christ is the consummate telos of what the Old Testament Scriptures promise, namely, a crucified and resurrected Messiah. The christocentric and the christotelic require one another and mutually contextualize one another; the one does not exist apart from the other.22

Scriptural Trustworthiness

Trust in the Author's salvific work goes hand-in-hand with trust in His message. What we now call Scriptural infallibility and inerrancy have their roots in Scriptural sufficiency, completeness, and trustworthiness. Just as Christ accomplished redemption, He accomplished revelation. Just as Christ's work is sufficient, completed, and trustworthy, so the "the Holy Spirit speaking in the Scripture" (Westminster Confession of Faith 1.10) is sufficient, completed, and trustworthy. Just as we can trust the Trinitarian work of the application of redemption, we can trust the Trinitarian work of application of revelation (illumination).

The Reformers didn't invent the concept of Scriptural infallibility; that was established long before the reformation23. The lack of confidence in Scripture, even in Rome, is due to enlightenment and post-modern influences. However, related closely to the objective doctrine of Scriptural infallibility is our subjective confidence in Scripture.

Our subjective confidence in Scripture will come from the objective fact of Scripture's infallibility combined with a healthy understanding of textual criticism, translation methods, and the Spirit's illumination. The result will be an understanding that Scripture "by [God's] singular care and providence, kept pure in all ages, are therefore authentical" (WCF 1.8) and that "...our full persuasion and assurance of the infallible truth and divine authority thereof, is from the inward work of the Holy Spirit bearing witness by and with the Word in our hearts." (WCF 1.5)

Nonetheless, as Historian Richard Muller points out:

...it is one thing to argue the infallibility of the text in all matters of faith and practice and then to interpret the text following the fourfold “allegorical” exegesis typical of the medieval commentators...and quite another thing to make the same statement of the infallibility of the text in the context of a literal method of exegesis...25

Put simply: you can have the highest view of Scripture while still having an extremely sloppy way of reading it. They're separate issues. The medieval church developed a model called the quadriga. This is essentially a model of looking at a text to get a fourfold meaning of a text: the literal, the allegorical, the tropological (moral), and the the anagogical (heavenly, or relating to the afterlife). This is an eisegetical model of putting foreign meanings onto a text.

The Roman solution to this overly complex way of interpreting the text was the magisterium (teaching office of the church). However, during the late medieval period more people learned Greek and Hebrew and read the texts themselves, leading to various Christian humanist scholars seeing the clarity of the basic message of Scripture themselves26. Furthermore, interpretation was leaning toward a more natural approach27. This was one of the fuels for the upcoming reformation28. Whereas Rome looked here for final authority, the reformers looked to Scripture alone (sola Scriptura) for theirs.

The replacement for the quadriga is essentially treating texts as literary documents, thus leading to what we call a literal sense of Scripture (sensus literalis). The term "literal" has gained an additional meaning causing some to equate it with "wooden literal", but this isn't at all the point. The literal sense simply means the plain sense intended by the author, not simply the original human author in his own unique local context, but even more so the divine Author. This means that later revelation sheds light on the true intent.

Francis Turretin says:

The literal sense is not so much that which is derived from proper words and not figurative, as it may be distinguished from the figurative (and is sometimes so used by the fathers); but that which is intended by the Holy Spirit and is expressed in words either proper or figurative29

Removal of the quadriga means removing the search for a fourfold meaning, replacing it with a keen ear for the fullest sense that the divine Author intended30. So, for example, Christianity isn't promoting eisegesis by seeing Christ in Genesis 3:15; rather, this is undoubtably what the original divine Author intended in the first place. The same can be said for the Angel of the Lord31 and the burning bush32. In the same vein, we must declare that there are 150 Messianic Psalms.

Relating interpretation with infallibility, we can seek an infallible rule of interpretation. We have this in the analogia fidei (analogy of faith). This is a hermeneutical principle that gained confessional status in the Westminster Confession. Section 1.934 says:

The infallible rule of interpretation of Scripture is the Scripture itself: and therefore, when there is a question about the true and full sense of any Scripture (which is not manifold, but one), it must be searched and known by other places that speak more clearly.

Very closely tied to this is the concept of good and necessary consequence, which also gained confessional status. Read the first part of WCF 1.6:

The whole counsel of God concerning all things necessary for his own glory, man's salvation, faith and life, is either expressly set down in Scripture, or by good and necessary consequence may be deduced from Scripture: unto which nothing at any time is to be added, whether by new revelations of the Spirit, or traditions of men.

Combining the analogia fidei with good and necessary consequence gives us tools to lay out boundary markers of impossible interpretations. Once something is established as an absolute truth, such as the Trinity, everything contradicting it is marked out as impossible. As we'll see later, we can, should, and must rely on those who came before us who already set out the boundary markers.

We can see an example of these boundary markers in the work of Calvin, where he relies on the fact that the one Author will speak consistently.

The Spirit declares through Paul’s mouth that Abraham attained righteousness through faith, not through works [Rom. 4:3; Gal. 3:6]. We also teach that by faith all are justified apart from the works of the law. The same Spirit teaches through James that the faith both of Abraham and of ourselves consists in works, not only in faith. It is sure that the Spirit is not in conflict with himself.36

Feelings of tension within Scripture are signals of cognitive dissonance relating to your incomplete understanding, not signs of objective Biblical contradiction. The Bible is speaking the whole, thus the whole must be taken into account with the analogia fidei as your guide. This is the primary method for setting Scriptural interpretation, not the Roman magisterium.

We'll see the analogia fidei surface again when we add more detail to our eschatological model.

Biblical Theological Framework

To use the analogia fidei effectively, we won't correlate directly Scripture passages in an attempt to create little more than verse lists. Scripture has an underlying consistency that is only coherently understood when read through all prior understandings. We'll continually read the Bible through a correct understanding of the Bible. Our progressive internalization of the Biblical message will take the shape of an intuitive Biblical-theological framework. Our reading will be guided by framework and our theology will flow from it. We must develop a structured, developed understanding of theology, not merely an arsenal of facts.

Scriptural mediation requires this understanding, as does 1 Peter 3:15:

...in your hearts honor Christ the Lord as holy, always being prepared to make a defense to anyone who asks you for a reason for the hope that is in you; yet do it with gentleness and respect

Meaningful defenses of the faith require an understanding of Scripture informed by the whole of Scripture. There will come from a rich, ever-growing structured interpretive-framework providing grounding and support. Getting theology directly from a single passage, even one that seems to fit in the local context, can lead to disastrous long term results. This is how entire theological traditions become led astray.

It's easy to point out that teachers of different theological traditions need to be more Biblical, but, in reality, everyone is trying to be Biblical. However, without structural Biblical unity with the analogia fidei at the forefront of our minds and historical theology (a topic we'll discuss later), we're lead to the wax nose problem: twisting Scripture to fit whatever you want. This is what Rome warned the Reformers about.

There's an expanding layer of understanding between data and tentative conclusion in most fields of study. Physicians don't have a one-to-one mapping between problems and solutions; they use their training to account for a wide variaty of contexts. In Biblical studies, this is analagous to our Biblical-theological layer that sits between Scriptural exegesis and systematic theology.

This layer always exists, and when it's not explicitly set out, it will develop on its own and can lead to dreadful confusion and needless disagreements. Ultimately, you will claim to be Biblical and while you vehemently deny the existence of any external tradition, this imperceptible framework41 it will increase its stranglehold on your thought.

Sinclair Ferguson helps us:

What was sometimes overlooked was the fact that Scripture is not pre-theological nor is biblical interpretation a, theological. [The Bible] contains its own theological controls, its own "form of doctrine" (Rom. 6:17) to which believers are committed by the gospel. The theology taught in Scripture in turn provides an underlying framework for exegesis and biblical theology. The unity of Scripture makes that possible and in fact demands it. Sadly, however, the adage that scholars were "simply following the text" did not always take account of the fact that the text ought never to be isolated from its theological framework.42

We need to seek to replicate this theological framework in our own minds, then use it to interpret the Bible, ourselves, and everything else. The wider redemptive-historical context and your ever-growing Biblical-theological framework, connected to the objective reality of Biblical theology with the analogia fidei which will as as the interpretive lens through which all further studies will flow.

While knowing the original author and cultural context is helpful for understanding each Biblical book, knowing the ultimate Author and His intent is vital for understanding His work overall. The eschatological context is the ultimate context which each local text supports. Knowing Him and His intent for humanity from Genesis to Revelation is even more critical than understanding the reasons why, for example, Hosea wrote his work. Without keeping the divine Author and His intent as the controlling principle of hermeneutics, the doctrine of divine inspiration remains a theoretical doctrine without practical application.

Not everyone is familiar with the idea of Biblical Theology and a proper theological method. Most people are familiar with the dangers of proof-texting, but even with the local context, it's easy to abuse a passage when its disconnected from overall eschatological plan or the fact that scripture has a single ultimate Author. An explicit understanding of Biblical theology acts as a map to guide your local understandings in light of the global.

Sinclair Ferguson helps us again:

Depending on the “tradition” of theological education in which we have been reared, we tend to be introduced to “biblical theology” from different sources. Indeed the phrase itself means different things to different people. The majority of theological teachers and students did not suck in biblical theology with their mother’s milk (to rework some words of Calvin), and have accessed it through relatively recent literature; in addition they are often little versed in the theological literature of the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries. It is easy therefore to fall into the error of assuming that biblical theological, redemptive historical, and exegetical perspectives have been known and employed only relatively recently. We therefore need to be on our guard against the overworked canard that the authors of the Confession of Faith used a “proof text” method in doing their theology.

...the Westminster Divines were deeply opposed to producing a confession with proof texts and did so only under duress at the command of the English Parliament

...The truth is that there is an intricate weaving of exegesis and biblical and redemptive historical theology behind the wording of the Confession... 45

To reiterate, our systematic theology doesn't come directly from Scripture, it comes from your Biblical-theological framework built out of your exegetical work and previously established historical and systematic structures. simply citing Scripture directly without a theological framework within the understanding of an overarching global context ranges anywhere from unhelpful to actively dangerous.

For a text to have any ultimate meaning, it must be read in its local grammatical-historical context within its wider redemptive-historical, eschatological context. This is expressed by an ever-expanding theological framework. It's this framework that helps prevent proof-texting.

Vos explains as follows:

Biblical Theology occupies a position between Exegesis and Systematic Theology in the encyclopaedia of theological disciplines. It differs from Systematic Theology, not in being more Biblical, or adhering more closely to the truths of the Scriptures, but in that its principle of organizing the Biblical material is historical rather than logical. Whereas Systematic Theology takes the Bible as a completed whole and endeavours to exhibit its total teaching in an orderly, systematic form, Biblical Theology deals with the material from the historical standpoint, seeking to exhibit the organic growth or development of the truths of Special Revelation from the primitive pre-redemptive Special Revelation given in Eden to the close of the New Testament canon.47

He also famously summarized the relationship between the Biblical theological and the systematic theological as follows:

In Biblical Theology the principle is one of historical, in Systematic Theology it is one of logical construction. Biblical Theology draws a line of development. Systematic Theology draws a circle.48

Put another way, Biblical Theology speaks of a great epic, while Systematic Theology is the plot and character analysis of that epic49.

It's an entirely cyclical process: as your Biblical-theological framework improves, your systematic theology improves, which further strengthens your exegetical endeavors.

Vern Poythress summarizes:

The circle from the Bible to systematic theology to hermeneutics to the Bible is not a vicious circle, but a spiral of growth and progress, guided by the work of the Holy Spirit in illumination.50

As we've already discussed. scripture interprets scripture, not merely by directly correlating texts, but by reading Scripture through a proper understanding of Scripture (e.g. analogia fidei). This understanding is expressed by your Biblical-theological framework and systematic theology.

One point of fairly significant frustration is that those with the most polished Biblical-theological frameworks are those who are accused the most often of eisegesis (reading a meaning into the text). It's often easy to look at a text, even a text which seems to be in its local context, and come to a dogmatic conclusion.

It's the presence of an ever growing theological framework that brings forth humility, a meaningful application, a better foundation for further studies, and guardrails against reading a contradiction into the text. It will help us avoid impossible situations were two people are debating a doctrine using entirely incompatible Biblical theological frameworks..53.

It's at exactly this point where we can find ourselves in the safe company of the Westminster Divines (the authors of the Westminster Confession) and the Puritans in general. It can be easy to look at the Confession and wonder how they came to those conclusions, but we have the answer: a rich Biblical-theological framework.

Speaking on this, Stephen J. Casselli says:

The Protestant orthodox divines of the seventeenth century believed that any dogmatic inference, as long as it was “raised” from Scripture, was as much Scripture truth as any other....Their commentary work reveals the source from which their theological conclusions were drawn. This is one clear specimen of how theology and polemics were framed in the seventeenth century. Each doctrine drawn from Scripture was shown to be consistent with the received tradition of orthodox theology and defended against opposing opinions.54

This is why the Westminster Assembly objected to the requirement to proof-text the Confession. Without the understandings from the lectures, sermons, and commentaries to explain the Biblical-theological aspect, the Scripture citations don't seem to directly support the systematic-theological statements.

Reformed theologian Herman Bavinck (d. 1921) summarizes a Biblical-theological framework as follows55:

The “word of God” does not come only in the form of Scripture and its public proclamation; it also comes to us indirectly, secondarily, having been absorbed from Scripture into the consciousness of the church or a society of people. Above all, it is not merely a sound but also a power and the accomplishment of God’s will (Isa. 55:11)56

Pauline Eschatology

Returning to the orienting principle of eschatology, let's turn our minds to Genesis to speak further about the need of a biblical-theological framework.

It's beyond question that without the official, inspired commentaries written by the Apostles, Genesis represents more of a backdrop than a full picture. The context of Genesis 2 and 3 plays a critical role in both the goal (chapter 2) and the redemption (chapter 3) of mankind.

However, when Genesis is retold in narrative form, it's almost always done according to strict proof-texting, not the whole counsel of God. We hear about Adam, Eve, a Serpent, and sin with only a tiny reference to the coming of Christ (Genesis 3:15). Without a Biblical-theological framework developed from an understanding of Pauline theology, we just can't go any further.

Puritan Anthony Burgess (d. 1664) says plainly:

Yea, Paul guided by the Spirit of God, finds out that mystery, which none of us ever could discover, by reading the History of Mans Fall, related by Moses57

In the following overly summarized exegetical work, we'll very briefly see how we can use Biblical texts together in a redemptive-historical manner to build out an important aspect of Pauline theology. This concept represents the backbone of Reformed thinking and has been expanded into multiple books and entire seminary courses:

Romans 5:12-21 combined with 1 Cor. 15:34-40 fills out what was happening in Genesis in what's called the two-Adam Christology. Whereas the Romans text contrasts the representative heads Christ and Adam in redemption, 1 Corinthians does so in terms of eschatology. Compare Romans 5:15b: "...For if many died through one man’s trespass, much more have the grace of God and the free gift by the grace of that one man Jesus Christ abounded for many." with 1 Cor 15:45 "Thus it is written, “The first man Adam became a living being”; the last Adam became a life-giving spirit."

The significance of this is almost always lost in a quick read. The words "living being" (ψυχὴν ζῶσαν) represents a quotation of Paul's Greek Old Testament (the LXX), specifically Genesis 2:7. This is important because the fall doesn't happen until Genesis 3. This means that Paul is contrasting Christ, not with Adam as fallen, but as Adam as originally created. Paul, by the inspiration of the Spirit, views the resurrection as such an incredible elevation that he contrasts it with that which God calls good. The resurrection is better than good: it's eschatological59. In other words, Adam in the garden was not yet in his highest estate.

Furthermore, and this is critical, lest we fall into the pit of felix culpa (a happy sin), we must quickly deny that Adam's sin caused us to ultimately gain something better than what we would have received without sin. The transformation that the resurrection represents was the goal prior to the fall. This transformation was the entire point to begin with. Had Adam obeyed God in the garden, he would have been rewarded with the transformation by the Spirit.

Lane Tipton helps us link this concept with the Tree of Life:60

Per the Romans 5 text, the fall means that this path to eschatological life had to go through death, thus the resurrection. Without the fall, the Spirit would have transformed the first Adam, but, because of the fall, Christ was sent to do what Adam didn't. Consequently, it was Christ, the second Adam, Who was transformed and elevated. All those in the risen Christ share in this Spirit-transformation. Our resurrection isn't just from death (what we need to account for sin), it's elevation to eschatological life (what Adam would have received without sin).

Furthermore, we can use this eschatological understanding to deepen our understanding of the relationship of the Spirit and Christ in history, leading to quite astounding Reformed theological corollaries. Specifically, if eschatological life comes by the Spirit (as seen by potentiality with Adam), then it's easy to think that the Spirit is our goal. However, we know the Spirit's mission is to point us to Christ. The resurrection transformation of Christ allows Paul to refer to Christ as the "life-giving Spirit", leading Sinclair Ferguson to write:

Christ on his ascension came into such complete possession of the Spirit who had sustained him throughout his ministry that economically the resurrected Christ and the Spirit are one to us. 62

While they share a perfect unity with each other and with the Father in eternal, the eschatological transformation in the resurrection leads of us to speak of the unique Spirit-Christ unity as Christological-Pneumatology63.

In a lecture on Pentecost, Richard Gaffin says the following:64

Speaking further on Pentecost, in another lecture he clarifies what Pentecost is:65

Sinclair Ferguson gets right to the point by using Paul's terminology of life-giving Spirit to describe Christological-Pneumatology:

Christ has become ‘life-giving Spirit’. Having the Spirit is the equivalent, indeed the very mode, of having the incarnate, obedient, crucified, resurrected and exalted Christ indwelling us so that we are united to him as he is united to the Father.66

The word "mode" has special meaning to students of Calvin. This is the word (modus) Calvin uses to describe how Christ is represented in the Supper. Christ isn't present physically nor merely spiritually, but Christ is truly, really present in the elements in His full glorified humanity and deity, by the mode of the Spirit.

In addition to Reformed soteriology: Christ lives in you by His Spirit (a la "live-giving Spirit", cf. Romans 8:10), and, as we've just seen, the Reformed Supper, this also leads us to Reformed sanctification: being "Christ-like" means to show "the fruits of the Spirit"68,

Furthermore, it shows how Pentecost is about Christ69 and it enables us to understand John 16:770. This doctrine is what John Calvin himself used in the soteriological and sacramentological debates with the Lutherans71 and Romanists.

Paul's soteriological and eschatological writings are piecemeal over his entire corpus (Roman 4, 1 Cor 15, Eph 2), and it takes wisdom and the Spirit's illumination to correlate them. This is very likely why Peter, under the inspiration of the Spirit, wrote in 2 Peter 3:15b-17:

...just as our beloved brother Paul also wrote to you according to the wisdom given him, as he does in all his letters when he speaks in them of these matters. There are some things in them that are hard to understand, which the ignorant and unstable twist to their own destruction, as they do the other Scriptures. You therefore, beloved, knowing this beforehand, take care that you are not carried away with the error of lawless people and lose your own stability.

This concept should highlight the importance of a biblical-theological framework. Calvin and his Puritan grandchildren didn't engage in gross proof-texting, they responded with the whole of Scripture. This is the entire point: we never look at Scripture in isolation, but in light of the whole of Scripture. This will take the shape of a rich Biblical-theological framework and systematic theology guided by God's eschatological plan and within the guardrails of the creeds, catechisms, and confessions.

The bookends of human history is the eschatological transformation of humanity, but fabric connecting each end is the redemption of humanity in Christ. Historical theologian Richard Muller says:

The center of Scripture—the rule by which the message of Scripture is known to be authoritative—is the redemptive significance of Christ at the very heart of God’s saving revelation.73

Puritan Francis Roberts (d. 1675) puts it poetically:

That Jesus Christ our Mediator, and the salvation of sinners by him, is the very substance, marrow, soul, and Scope of the whole Scriptures. As many passages not obscurely intimate unto us. What are the whole Scriptures, but as it were the spiritual swadling-cloathes of the Holy child Jesus? 74

The Reformers and Puritans refered to Christ as the "scope" of the Scriptures; however, while we read scope to mean the range or extent, they used it in the Greek (σκοπέω) sense of focal point like in the words microscope or telescope. At every point in our Scripture reading, we're looking at a point on the map to eschatological triumph. Our biblical-theological framework needs to reflect this reality.

Historical Theology

Because of this, while there's everything right about studying books of the Bible, as previously discussed, if we do so without taking control of our Biblical-theological understandings, we're in danger of being enslaved to an underlying invisible tradition. We need to take an active role in examining and building our Biblical-theological framework and ensuring it's set on the foundation of the creeds, catechisms, and confessions.

One corollary of this is that "just Christian" Bible studies are inherently very limited in their utility. At nearly every point, once a study dives into any level of depth, "agree to disagree" simply breaks down. Disagreeing on foundational topics leads to a shattering of the interpretive lens, causing further interpretation to be severely skewed. Differences in views on the continuity of God's people (dispensationalism), anthropology or sin (Arminianism), or Christology (Lutheranism) represent very early divergences which can only be sustained in a group setting by egregious theological compromise. In fact, we're undoing the fundamentals of the reformation if we allow ourselves to relegate Christology or the sacraments to distantly tertiary issues.

The need for a common understanding is one reason why theological discussions on social media have extremely limited usefulness. While the fundamentals of Scripture are perspicuous (easily understood; cf. WCF 1.777), a lot of Scripture requires understanding of prerequisite Scriptural topics. Through many iterations of Scriptural study, the domain of comprehensible understanding is extended, revealing the underlying perspicuity. You either explicitly build this Biblical-theological domain or you impose one implicitly. When posting a Scripture passage on social media without explanation, you might be doing more harm than good.

You can see in the works of Paul, the author of Hebrews, and other Scriptural authors, a regular assumption of a shared Biblical-theological understanding. While knowing the audience of the Biblical book helps us understand the local context, first and foremost, that information told the author about their common Biblical-theological understanding. Even the most shallow comparisons between Christ speaking to his future Apostles and Christ speaking to Pilate shows the importance of a Biblical-theological understanding: those who should know better are treated more harshly. This is the core of the indictment in John 5:30-47 and in Christ's harsh words later in the letters in Revelation.

Despite the mythology, the Church didn't start out pristine with a perfect understanding of doctrine which later decayed. The Church began in an infant stage, just as we all do individually. The students of the Apostles (e.g. Irenaeus, Polycarp) differ from the Apostles in that the latter had the power of the Spirit in His accomplishment of revelation while the former had His power in the application of revelation (illumination). This puts a qualitative break between the two groups. We're in the same group as the students of the Apostles, yet in a better position since we have 2000 years of the Spirit's application of revelation.

This development of development in line with catholicity, called historical theology, provides both previous developed theology as well as the reasons for their development. Because issues repeatedly arise in the church, having a diary of conflict and massive set of historical precedent is invaluable. Theologian Kevin Giles says:

The study of the Scriptures does not explain why a doctrine emerged, how it was developed or what problem or question it sought to resolve. The history of the doctrine provides this information.78

As we ourselves are attached to and grow in the universal Church and share in a common catholicity, extending through the Puritans, Calvin, Augustine, Irenaeus, the Apostles, Isaiah, Moses, etc. It's simply irresponsible to disregard the many centuries of development. We simply don't have the time required (centuries) to catch up with the developments in theology by ourselves.

Church Historian Carl Trueman says the following of the Reformer's view of tradition:

While scripture has unique authority, the history of theology, especially as that history is embodied in the actions of the church, is to be taken very seriously. This represents neither a Catholic view of an authoritative church magisterium in matters of interpretation; nor a later, individualistic theological piety of the kind so often associated, rightly or wrongly, with later evangelicalism; rather, it is a typical Reformation approach to both history and the church, one which takes tradition seriously while yet striving to give final, decisive authority to scripture.80

The creeds, catechisms, and confessions have a foot in systematic theology and another in historical theology. It's the latter which can use to keep ourselves grounded the catholicity. We shouldn't be pulling interpretations from the sky as we read Scripture so much as we should be looking into the past and seeing how various people understood passages and theology. We'll never copy one person's theology wholesale, that being the shortcut to a cult, but some people may influence you more than others.

Westminster Divine Anthony Tuckney (d. 1670) says:

...ancient Creeds, Canons of Councils, and since the Confessions and Catechismes whither of whole Churches or of particular men, their Summes, Institutions, Systems, Syntagmes, Synopses, or by what ever other name you call such Modells of Divinity, as orderly lay down together such divine truths as are scattered up and down in the Scripture, or explain such as there seem to be something obscure, and so present them in a full and clear distinct view, for the better help, especially of a weaker eye against the fascinations of juggling Impostors.84

Regarding Tuckney, and the rest of the Reformed tradition, Youngchun Cho says:

...according to [Anthony] Tuckney, the creeds and confessions are indispensable if the church is to keep its soundness in doctrine and practice. The confessional standards as norma normata (a rule that is ruled) do not compete with Scripture, which is norma normans (the rule that rules), for the final authority on doctrinal matters. Rather, they uphold Scripture by providing a coherent and systematic understanding of the Word of God. Such a unified guidance does not undermine but rather promotes the communion of saints since it can prevent unnecessary conflicts caused by doctrinal ignorance or dissension. Additionally, the study of confessions strengthens one’s godliness and deepens one’s relationship with Christ. 85

The Reformers, for example, didn't trash 1500 years of theological development when they countered Rome and the biblicistic radicals who felt that all they needed was the Bible. They studied and quoted Augustine, Cyril, Gregory, Bonaventure, Berard and many others. The Westminster Divines would quote them as well as Calvin, Luther, Bullinger, and other first and second reformers. Today, we have an even larger pool tap into. It's one thing for an explanation to sound plausible, it's quite another for us to check ourselves against the past and cite sources to prove that we don't stand alone in their understanding or stand outside of our tradition.

The church has always had to deal with people who throw out tradition in favor of exclusive Bible reading. Cho reminds of the forefathers of today's theological liberals: the Socinians.

Tuckney was particularly concerned about the threats of Socinians and Arminians. They were considered greater threats than previous heretics, not because of what they argued but due to how they developed their arguments. They claimed themselves to be Bible-believing Christians and cited Scripture explicitly in support of their theological agendas. For example, the Racovian Catechism, which was the official confession of Socinianism in the seventeenth century, begins with a strong affirmation of the divine authority, certainty, sufficiency, and perspicuity of the Holy Scriptures.86

Exclusive use of the Bible without tradition was considered a heresy in both the reformation and the post-reformation era. Throwing the baby out with the baptism water is one of the hallmarks of the radicals (the anabaptists) during the reformation. The same idea expresed itself in the 17th century. Next to the antinomians and Arminians, the Socinians were the bane of the Puritan's existence. They help remind us that rationalists, apostates, and biblicists are merely different expressions of the same underlying problems: the spurning of a healthy catholicity. They don't hold to sola scriptura, they hold to solo scriptura. This one subtle difference is the difference between water (H2O) and hydrogen peroxide (H2O2).

Heretics don't turn away from the Bible so much as they turn away from the catholicity87. Ungrounded, naïve pithy Scriptural statements are easy to misapply, even when correctly in their local contexts. The trust in own's mind in reading the Bible and the equally unhealthy idea unmediated access to fresh revelation are the two poles around which heresy most thrives. Regarding the former, the complete disregard for thousands of years of the Spirit's application of revelation (illumination) leads to inherent, automatic ideological personal church schism. Regarding the latter, the denial of the accomplishment of revelation entirely removes any hope of catholicity.

Cho describes one particular Bible-only liberal from the 17th century:

Independent from Continental Socinianism, John Biddle, an Oxford tutor, developed ingenious arguments denying the deity of Christ through his own reading of the Bible. What made both Socinians and John Biddle more noxious was that they claimed themselves the true heirs of the sola Scriptura of the Reformation. They accused the early church of allowing Greek philosophical concepts and language to intrude into Christian theology and so developing many doctrines that compromised with heathen philosophy.88

This description should sound familiar, since it sounds exactly like any number of professors at Harvard, or multitudes of local independent congregations who take a distinctive pride in theory exclusive focus on the Bible, without interfere from Augustine or Calvin.

The creeds, catechisms, and confessions ultimately play a dual role in the church in both unity and clarification. Just as the early Church creeds and the fundamental Gospel agreements in the reformation unite the church against the world, our progressively more specific catechisms and confessions further the availability of deeper unity in the local church, while differentiating them from those in a different theological tradition down the street. This unity and diversity is not merely for the sake of orthodoxy, but also orthopraxy, and, by extension, orthopothathy:

Summarizing Tuckey's view on the creeds, catechisms, and confessions, Cho says:

To believe and love Christ is the telos of the creeds and confessions. Given this, it is clear that the pursuit of doctrinal precision in seventeenth-century Reformed theology was not for the sake of doctrine itself but because orthodoxy is indispensable for orthopraxis.92


The help from the past is indispensable for understanding Scripture, but, as time marches on and the pool of theologians increases, each generation gains a larger advantage over the indispensable. This is true, not just from a biblical or systematic-theological perspective, but also in terms of the tools we use to understand Scripture in it's local contexts, including better understandings of archaeology, cultures, and ancient languages.

While we don't want to lose the forest for the trees, the search for an overall message and an author's theology doesn't preclude the need for local contexts. It's the grammatical-historical aspect of hermeneutics which allows us to mine the riches of the local contexts of the literature God set before us.

Most hermeneutics books focus on the grammatical-historical aspect. The largest portions of each of these books often relate to basic reading comprehension and literary analysis:

  • who wrote it?
  • when was it written?
  • where's the main point?
  • what's the subject?
  • what is the meaning of this text with respect to its literary genre in the local context within the overall historical context?

Being able to answer these questions is critical, not just for reading the Bible, but for reading a newspaper or movie reviews. In addition, the grammatical-historical aspect gives us the tools to help examine register, idiolect, and basic points of grammar in the local historical context. You can't get through a day in contemporary life without these skills; even texting would be out of reach.

R.C. Sproul's classic Knowing Scripture helps us here:

The term genre means simply "kind," "sort" or "species." Genre analysis involves the study of such things as literary forms, figures of speech and style. We do this with all kinds of literature. We distinguish between lyric poetry and legal briefs, between newspaper accounts of current events and epic poems. We distinguish between the style of historical narratives and sermons, between realistic graphic description and hyperbole. Failure to make these distinctions when dealing with the Bible can lead to a host of problems with interpretation. Literary analysis is crucial to accurate interpretation.93

However, a meaningful grammatical-historical book goes beyond the basic ability to pass a high school introduction to literature exam, they'll also help you understand how to apply Hebrew literary principles to the content of Proverbs, the Psalter, and the prophets. You don't really stand a chance of understanding Biblical poetry without being able to identify synonymous, synthetic, and antithetical parallelism as well as chiastic structures. Sproul gives us an example:

The ability to recognize parallelisms can often clear up apparent difficulties in understanding a text. It can also greatly enrich our depth perception of various passages. In the King James Version of the Bible there is a passage that has caused many to stumble. Isaiah 45:6-7 says:

I am the LORD, and there is none else. I form the light, and create darkness: I make peace, and create evil: I the LORD do all these things.

I have been asked about this verse many times. Doesn't it clearly teach that God creates evil? Doesn't this make God the author of sin? The resolution of this problematic passage is simple if we recognize the obvious presence of an antithetic parallelism in it. In the first part light is set in contrast with darkness. In the second part peace is set in contrast with evil. What is the opposite of peace? The kind of "evil" is that evil which is contrasted not with goodness but with "peace." The New American Standard Bible, a recent translation reads, "Causing well-being and creating calamity." That is a more accurate rendition of this thought expressed by antithetic parallelism. The point of the passage is that ultimately God brings the blessing of well-being and peace to a godly people but visits them with calamity when he acts in judgment. That is a long way from a notion of being the creator of evil originally.94

Within this area exists also the concepts relating to language itself, that is after all what the "grammatical" part of the name means. You would do yourself a great service by learning the basics of linguistics and perhaps even starting to learn Ancient Greek; though, quite literally, learning any foreign language is helpful. There are far too many language myths out there for you to go out unarmed.

One incredibly naive statement you're likely to hear is that interpreters interpreter and translators translate, and never interpreter. In reality, interpretation is a core part of translation. Moises Silva doesn't overstate things when he says...

Translators who view their work as pure renderings rather than interpretations only delude themselves; indeed, if they could achieve some kind of noninterpretative rendering, their work would be completely useless.95

One illustration of this can be seen in my favorite Latin reader (A New Latin Primer, 1933). In one part it says "haec est magistra". You might translate this as "this is a teacher", but the moment you read "non magister est" (this is not a teacher), you realize that you have to change your first translation to "this is a female teacher" and make the second "this is not a male teacher". Interpretation is merely the use of context, thus interpretation and translation are tightly bound.

There's also the matter of specific words. Words don't simply have meaning, they have ranges of meaning. Words also don't own a meaning, other words can share in that same meaning. Furthermore, Biblical authors used their own personality and writing to pen the words of God. When we forget this, we fall into odd exegetical fallacies. Quite possibly the most common error is trying to take too much from the words ἀγαπάω (agapao) and φιλέω (phileo). Don Carson's book Exegetical Fallacies helps with issues like this:

...although it is doubtless true that the entire range of ἀγαπάω (agapaō, to love) and the entire range of φιλέω (phileō, to love) are not exactly the same, nevertheless they enjoy substantial overlap; and where they overlap, appeal to a “root meaning” in order to discern a difference is fallacious. In 2 Samuel 13 (LXX), both ἀγαπάω (agapaō, to love) and the cognate ἀγάπη (agapē, love) can refer to Amnon’s incestuous rape of his half sister Tamar (2 Sam. 13:15, LXX). When we read that Demas forsook Paul because he loved this present, evil world, there is no linguistic reason to be surprised that the verb is ἀγαπάω (agapaō, 2 Tim. 4:10). John 3:35 records that the Father loves the Son and uses the verb ἀγαπάω (agapaō); John 5:20 repeats the thought, but uses φιλέω (phileō)—without any discernible shift in meaning. The false assumptions surrounding this pair of words are ubiquitous... My only point here is that there is nothing intrinsic to the verb ἀγαπάω (agapaō) or the noun ἀγάπη (agapē) to prove its real meaning or hidden meaning refers to some special kind of love.97

Robert Frost famously said "Poetry is what gets lost in translation". Specifically, nuance and poetry don't translate well. You can see the difficulties by comparing multiple translations. However, English translations often influence each other too much. For example, the ESV is heavily influenced by the KJV-line of translations, so it's helpful to reference a different translation tradition like the NASB or NET. It's also incredibly helpful to reference foreign translations. You would do well to take the advice of Clair Davis:98

These considerations should highlight the importance of reading the local, grammatical-historical in light of the global, redemptive-historical. You might find that the grammar and cultural considerations are leading you toward a distinctly non-Christian understanding, but your overall biblical-theological framework will align you toward a better understanding.

When we tie the grammatical-historical and redemptive-historical properly, we'll understand what it means to keep things in context. Read Richard Gaffin:

...every unit of biblical material, however quantified, is qualified by a pattern of contexts relative to itself. Any unit is anchored in an expanding horizon of contexts—like the center of a series of increasingly larger concentric circles—that extends to the Bible as a whole.99

He later writes:

This reciprocal relationship may be aptly compared to literary analysis of a great epic drama. Biblical theology is concerned with the redemptive-historical plot as it actually unfolds scene by scene and over time. With an eye to that entire plot, systematic theology considers the roles of the primary actors, God and man. It highlights the constants that mark their characters as well as the dynamics of their ongoing activities and interactions.100

Keeping in mind the relationship between the redemptive-historical and Biblical-theological, read the following from one of Vos' students, and Richard Gaffin's mentor, John Murray:

Systematic theology is tied to exegesis. It coordinates and synthesizes the whole witness of Scripture on the various topics with which it deals. But systematic theology will fail of its task to the extent to which it discards its rootage in biblical theology as properly conceived and developed... The fact is that only when systematic theology is rooted in biblical theology does it exemplify its true function and achieve its purpose.101

Whereas Geerhardus Vos is the preeminent author for redemptive-historical hermeneutics, a great professor to study on the topic of Reformed hermeneutics in general is Vern Poythress. Note the balance between grammatical-historical and redemptive-historical aspects in the table of contents of his book "Reading the Word of God in the Presence of God: A Handbook for Biblical Interpretation":

  • Part V Issues with Language
  • 12 Basic Linguistic Structures
  • 13 Understanding Linguistic Subsystems
  • 14 Units in Contrast, Variation, and Distribution
  • 15 Meaning
  • 16 Figurative Language
  • 17 Words and Concepts
  • 18 Discourse
  • 19 Genre
  • 20 Using Commentaries
  • Part VI Redemptive-Historical Interpretation
  • 21 The History of Redemption
  • 22 Christocentric Interpretation
  • 23 Typology
  • 24 Additional Stages Reflecting on Typology
  • 25 Varieties of Analogies
  • 26 Varieties of Types
  • 27 Antitypes
  • 28 Themes

It's critical to keep in mind that the grammatical-historical aspect in isolation is not a Christian model. Even resurrection-denying theological liberals can heartily recommend analysis of grammar, history, context, and themes to their students. When studying any given text you must consult the overall, redemptive-historical context (as expressed by your Biblical-theological framework), established systematic theology, and the creeds, catechisms, and confessions.

Means of Grace

In addition to the redemptive-historical and grammatical-historical, there's actually a third area of hermeneutics, which actually precedes the others: the Spirit-worked. In the English (Westminster) confessional tradition, the three means of grace are Word, Sacraments, and Prayer. These are the ordinary ways Christ guides His people in growth.

Speaking of the Puritan hermeneutic, Joel Beeke and Mark Jones tell us:

In the Puritan view, correct interpretation of the Scriptures was not only a matter of employing the right interpretative tools, but also of having and using the right spiritual tools, such as prayerful dependence upon the Holy Spirit for illumination.102

The non-Reformed world tends to mock the idea of a means of grace, since, of course, grace isn't a quantifiable concept, it's unmerited favor. However, if we understand that engaging in sinful activities are means of the devil, we shouldn't have any issue with understanding the Word, Sacraments, and prayer as means of grace. There's nothing abstract about the means of grace, just as there's nothing abstract about the devil's work. Far from being an abstract philosophical concept, grace is the basis of our being conformed to the image of the risen, transformed, glorified Christ. In fact, this grace is given to us by the glorified Christ by His Spirit.

Compare the contemporary Evangelical model with what Herman Bavinck says:

How does Christ communicate his benefits to his people, to the church? Does he use means? Mystics deny this; Rome insists that they are essential and tied to the sacramental power of the institutional church’s priesthood. The Reformation adopted a position in between this mystical undervaluation and magical overvaluation of the means of grace.104

The Word, both read and preached, as a means of grace is instrumental in our own growth in the Lord. It's emphatically not the case that Christ left us His Scriptures, and only left the Spirit for enhancing our mental faculties. Christ left to return by the power of His Spirit (John 16:4-15, Acts 2). He lives in us by His Spirit and accompanies the Word, continually illuminating the message underlying the texts.

Bavinck expresses his well:

The word of God is never separate from God, from Christ, from the Holy Spirit; it has no permanence or existence in itself. It cannot be deistically separated from its creator and author. Just as Scripture was not just inspired at one time by the Holy Spirit, but is continually sustained, preserved, and made powerful by that Spirit, so it is with the word of God that, taken from Scripture, is preached in some fashion to people.105

It's vital to understand that just as Christ accomplished our redemption, and now engages in the application of that redemption, which we perceive as salvation, Christ also accomplished revelation, is the preeminent revelation of God Himself, and now engages in the application of that revelation by His Spirit in what we call illumination106. There's no new accomplishing of revelation in the same way there's no new accomplishing of redemption. They are accomplished and are now being applied.

It's hard to overstate the importance of avoiding abstract, mystical, philosophical ideas of the Spirit or grace disconnected from the risen Christ, as is often seen in contemporary evangelicalism. Reformed theology is weaved together by the fabric of the Spirit of Christ in such a way that there's no salvation, no growth, no sacraments, and no illumination without Christ indwelling you by His Spirit.

Whereas mysticism will speak of Christ as being far off, but leaving His Spirit with us, the Reformed strongly hold to the real presence of Christ in us by the presence of that Spirit.

Ferguson helps us here:

...as the bond of union to God, the Spirit indwells all who believe as the Spirit of the Lord Jesus Christ. This is a development of epochal proportions. The Spirit who was present and active at Christ's conception as the head of the new creation, by whom he was anointed at baptism (Jn. 1:32-34), who directed him throughout his temptations (Mt. 4: 1), empowered him in his miracles (Lk. 11 :20), energized him in his sacrifice (Heb. 9:14), and vindicated him in his resurrection (1 Tim. 3: 16; Rom. 1 :4), now indwells disciples in this specific identity. This is the meaning of our Lord's words, otherwise impossible to comprehend: 'It is for your good that I am going away' (Jn. 16:7)107

In addition to the Word and sacraments, we have been given the other direction of communication as a means of grace: prayer. Gaffin puts this into perspective:108

Now reread Roman 8:26-27

Likewise the Spirit helps us in our weakness. For we do not know what to pray for as we ought, but the Spirit himself intercedes for us with groanings too deep for words. And he who searches hearts knows what is the mind of the Spirit, because the Spirit intercedes for the saints according to the will of God.

Here we see the Spirit performing an action beyond merely holding us up as we pray (Exodus 17:12). The Spirit's intercession at this point is the groanings on our behalf according to the will of God109.

While we're meant to actively engage our minds in Scripture, we need to live by the Truth that we're studying. Puritan Anthony Tuckney (d. 1670) says:

Study much but pray more: for this wisdom must be got by asking, James 1:5. as it must be digged for. Prov. 2:4. so it must be cried after [Prov. 2:3]. 110

Without the Spirit, in our reading of Scripture, our limits will always be blocking us. Without the Spirit, we won't see what the Spirit wants us to see. Human reason alone is the fountain of heresy, but just as the authors of the Scripture used their own personalities with the Spirit's revelation, we use our own reason under the Spirit's illumination.

Joel Beeke and Mark Jones tell us how this shaped Puritan hermeneutics:

In Puritan England the role of reason in theology was a major point of contention between Reformed and Socinian theologians. Puritan theologians accused the Socinians of giving reason a place of preeminence above the Scriptures. Because they did this, the Puritans disagreed with the Socinians on almost every point of doctrine. And the Arminians also gave a place to reason that made it the rule of faith, which explains many of their own theological errors. The Lutherans and the Papists also were criticized by Reformed theologians for leaving reason at the door, so to speak, in their understanding of the Lord’s Supper.

For the Puritans, then, reason was helpful, but it had its limits. The mystery of the gospel holds out a number of truths that, on the surface, appear to be contradictions, but the Holy Spirit enables Christians to receive all of these truths without letting reason dominate in a way that leads to various theological errors.


Thus, the Holy Spirit is given by God to the saints in order for them to believe the truths of Scripture that reason, on its own, cannot accept.111

The relationship between the Spirit and human reason is directly shaped by how we think about revelation in the first place. This is where Reformed theology speaks about prolegomena.

Christological Prolegomena

If Christology is the primary theological topic studied in-depth in relation to early Church history, then Prolegomena is the topic for the 17th century. It's an important topic that often begins serious theological works.

This area of theology relates to the nature of revelation and theology given to us. While it may seem like a foreign area of study, it's actually discussed in Westminster Confession 7.1:

The distance between God and the creature is so great, that although reasonable creatures do owe obedience unto him as their Creator, yet they could never have any fruition of him as their blessedness and reward, but by some voluntary condescension on God's part, which he hath been pleased to express by way of covenant.

The distance between God and man isn't a matter of degree, it's a matter of kind called an ontological separation: no matter how high man builds his tower, he'll never reach God (Gen. 11). God must stoop to man.

The Reformed faith is quick to clarify this in the area of God's sovereignty, but it's just as true in revelation. God revealed Himself in the creation of the world in general revelation114, and He further reveals Himself by special revelation. It's not that the former is pre-fall, and the latter is post-fall; Adam and Eve spoke with God before the fall (Gen. 2), and God even spoke the world into existence (Gen. 1).

By creating man in His image, God created one like the moon whose light only exists because of the sun. Man doesn't source the attributes of God from himself, he exists as a pointer to God. Whatever else the imago Dei means, it means that man isn't God. In prolegomena terms, the ontological separation is this: God is archetypal, and everything about man is ectypal. God is the reality that man reflects as a mirror. Sin distorts that reflection, but can never break the mirror. God is always proclaimed through man, despite man's best efforts to fight it.

It's vital that we be specific man is made in the image of the Son118. We are the ectypal image of the Son as the Son is the archetypal image of the Father119. Everything about man points to the Son and everything about the Father comes through the Son (cf. Col. 1). Moses spoke with the Son in the tabernacle (cf. John 8:58). As we're the ectypal image of the Son, this image propagates (Gen 5:3) for all in Adam (of course the distortion of that image propagates to all those in Adam as well).

Westminster Shorter Catechism starts out as follows:

Q. What is the chief end of man?

A. Man's chief end is to glorify God, and to enjoy him forever.

While there's nothing wrong here, the following is more precise122:

A. Man's chief end is to glorify the Son, and to enjoy him forever.

Equally important is the fact that God's actions in history are activated by the Spirit. The Father creates, reveals, resurrects, and recreates through the Son by the Spirit. The Spirit is the illuminator by pointing your mind to Christ, it was the Spirit who caused the concept of the Son, and it was by the Spirit that Christ did his miracles.

Now that the Son has taken on human flesh by the incarnation and has perfect economic unity with the Spirit by the resurrection, all our revelation, blessings, and life flows from the glorified person of Christ, communicated to us by the Spirit.

Nothing can be known properly outside of Christ. He is the Lord of everything, including those who rebel against Him, the sands of the sea, and the crayons in the school. Reformed Prolegomena provides a hermeneutics of all of reality, not just Scripture. As such, we look to God for our examples of both morality and mathematics.

Vern Poythress reminds us "Logic in its divine origin belongs to the eternal self-consistency of God."127. Furthermore, "God the Father, God the Son, and God the Holy Spirit are all logical in the sense of being consistent with who they are."128.

While many of us have been taught the "law of non-contradiction", it's more of a law of consistency stating that logic retains its consistency. Nonetheless, whereas God's logic is archetypal, ours is ectypal and "Our knowledge of logic is mediated through Christ, who is God and man in one person."129.

There's a tendency to think of human limitations as always being a result of sin, but our first limitations come from our finitude. Our variable inabilities to grasp the whole of creation isn't merely a result of sin attacking our mental processes; we're simply not built to handle the whole of God's reflection (cf. Exodus 34:35).

On this point, Poythress, whose first doctorate was in mathematics, says "Since God is incomprehensible [archetype], His mathematics sometimes baffles us, and it is to be expected that it should."131.

Because God is equal to His attributes, God is love, God is consistency, God is His knowledge, and God is Archetype. From this, God develops and reveals the ectype. This derived, ectypal image is true, yet not the same.

Listen to Camden Bucey:132

See also the Van Til diagram, which represents the relationship between Archetype and ectype:

Van Til diagram

The way we make statements (e.g. 1+1=2, "I love you") relates to analogical predication. There's no direct comparison between us and God; there's a relation by image, much like how we are the image of God, not God Himself. Our forgiveness, love, and justice don't merely fall short of God's133, they're of an entirely different character. They're not like comparing a small tree to an unfathomably bigger one, they're like comparing a picture of a tree to the tree itself.

Religions of the world are endlessly trying to do direct comparisons, but it's simply not possible. Consider how "God is forgiving" (Archetypal) differs from "Sally is forgiving" (ectypal). Our forgiveness is an image (ectype) of the forgiveness of God, not the same forgiveness. While our forgiveness releases another from a debt, God's releases us from death (Gen 2:17).

While our forgiveness requires merely a release on our part, God's forgiveness requires that it be compatible with His own justice. Puritan John Owen (d. 1683) tells us:

...divine and human forgiveness are plainly of a different kind. The forgiveness of man only respects the hurt; the forgiveness of God respects the guilt.135

Our forgiveness may leave us wronged and cheated (1 Cor 6:7), but God's forgiveness must be compatible with His justice. Our forgiveness may lead to reconciliation overtime136, where as God's does so perfectly and immediately. The death of the infinite God-man was always the only means of redemption. Human forgiveness has no such requirements, as it's merely a picture of True forgiveness.

While a deeper study of prolegomena can lead to in-depth philosophical studies, perhaps contrasting Reformed theology with German idealism, prolegomena itself leads to a better understanding of ethics, marriage, family, morality, and every other area of life. We're not meant to study ourselves to discover the nature of God, nor are we meant to stare out a window to glean truth, we're meant to study what God told us about Himself.

Listen to Carl Trueman speak about Luther's view of how God's love differs from ours:140

We don't learn about the love of God by examining the pragmatics of humanity. A moral system, regardless of theological content, that learns about God by looking at man is inherently secular. We're meant to look to God and His Word, not to engage in an ever expanding situational ethic. Not only that, irrespective of content, any system that speaks outside of the Son of God, is inherently non-Christian.

Even when we seem to speak philosophically about morality and ethics, we never do so like worldly philosophies (e.g. Islam/Judaism, Secularism, Hinduism). God reveals Himself via the Son (Col 1:15-16). Christ is the preeminent revelation of God (John 14:4). We can easily miss the words "he has made him known" at the end of John 1:18142 (cf. Matthew 11:27). Just as we are made in the image of the Son, all images come through the Son.

Hermeneutics applies to all areas of life because God reveals Himself in all areas of life; that is, by both special revelation and general revelation. He speaks about marriage in both in Scripture and in nature. Cultures don't need to be told about marriage for marriage to exist. By general revelation cultural constructs are naturally built around the XX and XY chromosones in a way that speak plainly to all humanity that birth requires both a mother and a father. By nature mothers and fathers will nurture and provide for children in the context of family.

However, without special revelation, families are disconnected from the essential filter which gives everything meaning, leading to inevitable idolatry. Adam and Even, being the image of God without sin could look at each other and immediately be directly to God. Our image, being marred by sin, causes us to disconnect gifts such as marriage from the gift Giver.

The moral law differs from ceremonial and civil law in that it's an ectypal expression of the Son of God. It represents part of the blueprint of what it means to be the image of God. It's not simply that we may not murder (#7), but we must actively protect life. Beyond simply not lying, we must protect the truth (#9) as God is truth, as Vern Poythress helped us with earlier. God must be worshiped only as he commands (#2): through the Son, by the Spirit, using only authorized means as expressed by His sufficient Word and as His jealousy requires (Ex. 20:4–5, Numbers 25:10-13)143.

Even the 4th commandment, as we'll see a little later, has its basis in God Himself. Sinclair Ferguson gets to the point when he calls the moral law, "the moral shape that salvation takes"144. The moral law reflects the Trinitarian consistency and peace we are to reflect as being made in the image of the Son, and how are to be conformed to the shape and image of the risen Christ.

In prolegomena, union ectypal theology refers to Christ as the intimate human revelation of God; in Him, God "translates" His archetype to our ectype, and communicates through the Son. Puritan Thomas Goodwin (d. 1680), core contributor at the Westminster Assembly, speaks of Christ as the archetype-ectype bridge as follows:

...all that Christ doth for us is but the expression of that love which was taken up originally in God’s own heart. Thus we find that out of that love he gave Christ for us.145

While our morality, forgiveness, and love may not be equated with a divine counterpart, Christ as the glorified God-man is the concrete representation of the highest of human attributes. As we are conformed to the image of the glorified Christ (Romans 8:29) by the Spirit (Gal 5:22-23, cf. WLC 75), we get closer to the best representation for finite humanity.

Hebrews 4:15-16 helps us here:

For we do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but one who in every respect has been tempted as we are, yet without sin. Let us then with confidence draw near to the throne of grace, that we may receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need.

In Christ, God has revealed perfected humanity. Far from being a discussion of abstract philosophical deity, here we read that Christ, as the glorified God-man, sympathizes with our weaknesses. Among other things, this passage demonstrates that sympathy is itself not a weakness, since weakness is not an attribute found in the glorified Christ146 (cf. Rom 1:2). Though we may think Christ couldn't possibly understand our sins, we can't truly believe this while emphasizing double imputation147. Though Himself sinless, he bore the sins of the elect. He does understand and, now glorified, he no longer suffers from our sin, but he fully sympathizes with us.

Behind this Hebrews passage is also a signal that Christ is our access point to true, not merely analogical, predication. Though His is a glorified and perfected love, we do share a love with Christ, as Christ's love is truly human. In Christ is both the ectypal, analogical love, and the Archetypal love, as He is both God and man. While we may never know love as the Father knows love, we may know love as Christ knows love.

Goodwin writes, "‘God is love,’ as John says, and Christ is love covered over with flesh, yea, our flesh."148. Christ truly reveals God and He truly feels with us. He is the perfect God-man. As such, he makes God known to us, and we are to look to Him for our direction.

The Bible and Christ share the title "word of God" (John 1:1, Revelation 19:13, Hebrews 4:12-13) because these are the fullest revelations of God, They make Him known to us. We look to Christ and the Scriptures to understand both God and ourselves. Christ is the both the revealed Word of God as well as the hermeneutic of God. His presence with us by the Spirit is what's behind the means of grace149.

Your union with God is union with Christ by Christ literally living in you by the presence of the Spirit. He's not afar off, he's always with you. He guides your illumination just as he guided the authors' revelation. It's the same Spirit, it's the same Christ. This is how we're mean to understand Christ's works in John 16:12-17:

I still have many things to say to you, but you cannot bear them now. When the Spirit of truth comes, he will guide you into all the truth, for he will not speak on his own authority, but whatever he hears he will speak, and he will declare to you the things that are to come. e will glorify me, for he will take what is mine and declare it to you. All that the Father has is mine; therefore I said that he will take what is mine and declare it to you. Your Sorrow Will Turn into Joy A little while, and you will see me no longer; and again a little while, and you will see me.

Just as "men spoke from God as they were carried along by the Holy Spirit" (2 Peter 1:2) by using the personalities and skills of the authors, the same Spirit guides you in your reading as you apply your redemptive-historical and grammatical-historical hermeneutics.

An example from history may help to clarify the critical role a rich Biblical-theological framework and proper prolegomena play in our understanding of God's word. John Owen's 1652 doctoral dissertation provides a masterful defense of the necessity of the atonement based on the justice of God. His argument takes into account the Archetype-ectype distinction as well as a mature Biblical-theological framework. His work details that God must require atonement because He Himself is Just, and that it's not simply the case that God could have freely and sovereignly chose to ignore atonement.

While his work is interesting for multiple reasons, not the least of them is the fact that one of his primary adversaries on this issue was an only slightly younger John Owen. In 1647, Owen wrote The Death of Death in the Death of Christ where he stated the exact position he was correcting a mere 5 years later. In this work he says that "the Scripture affirming no such thing, neither can it be gathered from thence in any good consequence."151

His later newfound understandings in prolegomena and a richer Biblical-theological framework led him to use quite a lot of Scripture. This time he wasn't going to the Scripture verses directly, but to Scripture through a better overall understanding.152

Resting in Christ

Developing an understanding of Scripture doesn't happen by sparse tid bits of information, but my long term training. Your training will happen with or without your assistance, but when it's developed naturally by a secular society, there's little chance that your resultant intuitive understanding of Scripture with match up with the Author's intent.

This understanding of Scripture is so important that, while it's a daily endeavor, God set apart a day of the week for it. You need this day of separation in your normal cadence of life to detox from the worldliness you breathe in the other six days. 60 minutes of corporate worship out of a total of 10,080 isn't how God built us.

Thomas Goodwin speaks to this when he reminds us that God gave Adam the day for the contemplation of God, and God Himself used the day for the same purpose:

...the use and end of the Sabbath, which God himself sanctified, and upon it rested, to contemplate his works of creation; and this to be taken as an example unto Adam, how his mind upon this day was to be up, even in the contemplation of the works of God. And that that was the principal duty of the Sabbath...153

Like marriage and family, the Sabbath is not an Old Covenant (Mosaic) construct: it wasn't created by the 10 commandments. It's built into the very fabric of creation (Gen 2:2-3) -- preceding both marriage and family. He built into creation a day for us to focus on Him. As a prelapsarian (pre-fall) construct, it fully represents a blessing with no shadow of curse.

Vos explains:

It must be remembered that the Sabbath, though a world-aged observance, has passed through the various phases of the development of redemption, remaining the same in essence but modified as to its form, as the new state of affairs at each point might require. The Sabbath is not only the most venerable, it is likewise the most living of all the sacramental realities of our religion. It has faithfully accompanied the people of God on their march through the ages.155

Many aren't aware of this accompaniment through the ages: on this side of the fall, the blessings aren't diminished; rather, they're relatively intensified as God's people are surrounded by a chaotic realm of evil. The epoch-shifting event of the resurrection shifted the Sabbath from a rest relating to creation to one relating to recreation. Evil is on the defensive. Yet, as we're still affected by it, the peace of the oasis reaches its relative peak and its stable home.

The blessings God grants us are intensified as Christ lives in us by His Spirit. However, because contemporary Christianity is more affected by Evangelicalism than the Reformed faith, this entire concept of the Sabbath as an oasis is entirely foreign to most Christians.

Vos helps us again:

The principle underlying the Sabbath is formulated in the Decalogue itself. It consists in this, that man must copy God in his course of life. The divine creative work completed itself in six days, whereupon the seventh followed as a day of rest for God. In connection with God, ‘rest’ cannot, of course, mean mere cessation from labour, far less recovery from fatigue. Such a meaning is by no means required by the Old Testament usage of the word. ‘Rest’ resembles the word ‘peace’ in this respect, that it has in Scripture, in fact to the Shemitic mind generally, a positive rather than a negative import. It stands for consummation of a work accomplished and the joy and satisfaction attendant upon this. Such was its prototype in God.156

While we can and should cite the work of God in Gen 2:2-3 as the basis for Sabbath, notice how Vos mentions both God's rest from work and the Archetypal-ectypal economic relationship: "man must copy God in his course of life" and "such was its prototype in God." He goes on to explain that while our rest is a rest from turmoil, this rest is a reflection of the unchangeable peace in God. Being made in the image of God includes reflecting God's peace in the Sabbath.

Vos continues: "The Sabbath finds its prototype in the life and works of God. Thus, it means fulfillment; not cessation and weariness, but consummation."157 In other words, "rest from" is always second to "rest in". This better reflects the peace between the Father, Son, and Spirit.

How do we express our peace with God (cf. Romans 5:1)? By focusing on Christ by faith in the ordinary means of grace. The oasis of the Sabbath is both our representation of peace and a dedicated context to focus on Him. Though Christ is now Lord over all, the Sabbath is a time of special focus. It's the only commanded Christian holiday, as it's the holy holiday that mirrors a reality of God Himself. Within this Sabbath is the inner-sanctum: the worship service where we come to the collective, public means of grace.

Worship isn't over once the benediction is pronounced. The entire day is dedicated to worship. While we share this day with acts of mercy and necessity (WSC 60), our overall focus is particularly on Christ in an increased way. In this weekly context of separation from the world, we can take the time to read the Scriptures in a Christ-centered manner. Heaven forbid we forsake this opportunity to return to the barren wasteland so we can catch up on your favorite TV show, watch a sports game, or, worst of all, prevent restaurant staff from attending worship.


Without the all-controlling plan of redemption, as seen in the creeds, catechisms, and confessions, you're in danger of losing the forest for the trees. Grammar, history, context, and thematic analysis must be oriented by a developed understanding of God, man, and redemption. Each iteration of study brings a new orientation adjustment, thus a new reading. Your perspective will improve as your biblical theology and systematic theology improve. The Bible never changes, but you constantly are; however, never by our own power, but by the power of Christ living in us by His Spirit. From our expanding biblical theological foundation, we can reinterpret not just Scripture, but our understanding of the whole of reality.

The Scriptures are a treasury of riches, with far more to offer than a first glance would gather. If you were to look to the night sky, you'd see specks of light. If you look again with a telescope, you'd see colored spots. If you were to zoom in further and let in more light over time, those original pin holes of light become full colorful galaxies. Yet, seeing these in isolation has very limited application; we need to view each object in the context of the whole sky. We're not travel closer, we're simply examining the same light better, and with an ever-broadening context. So goes our close examination of Scripture.

Reformed hermeneutics isn't just about reading the Bible better, it's about understanding God in Christ better. It's a fully trinitarian endeavor from the Father, through Christ, and applied by the Spirit. While we should seek Christ at all times, God has graciously given us a day dedicated for this.

Ultimately, you must take an active role in your theological development. Ad hoc Biblical inquiery via commentaries, study bibles, Bible studies, or even seminary courses are only as effective as the active role you take in extending your Biblical-theological framework. Your continual, active, ceaseless pursuit of the knowledge of God is built on the foundations of eschatological history and accelerated by those who came before us.

This is how we may know Him, the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom He has sent, better.

Works Cited

Bavinck, Herman. Reformed Dogmatics: Prolegomena, vol. 1 (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Academic, 2003).

———. Reformed Dogmatics: Holy Spirit, Church, and New Creation, vol. 4 (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Academic, 2008).

Beeke, Joel and Jones, Mark. A Puritan Theology: Doctrine for Life (Grand Rapids, MI: Reformation Heritage Books, 2012).

Bucey, Camden. The Image of God: Different Views, Sermons at Hope Orthodox Presbyterian Church, 2016.

Burgess, Anthony. A Treatise of Original Sin.

Calvin, John. Institutes of the Christian Religion (trans. Ford Lewis Battles) (Louisville, KY: Westminster John Knox Press, 2011).

Cho, Youngchun. Anthony Tuckney (1599–1670), Theologian of the Westminster Assembly (Reformation Heritage Books: Grand Rapids, MI, 2017)

Carson, D.A. Exegetical Fallacies, 2nd ed. (Carlisle, U.K.; Grand Rapids, MI: Paternoster; Baker Books, 1996).

Casselli, Stephen. Divine Rule Maintained : Anthony Burgess, Covenant Theology, and the Place of the Law in Reformed Scholasticism (Reformation Heritage Books: GrandRapids, MI, 2016).

Davis, Clair. Medieval Church, Westminster Theological Seminary, 1980.

Ferguson, Sinclair. The Holy Spirit, ed. Gerald Bray, Contours of Christian Theology (Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press, 1996), 70-71.

———. The Whole Christ: Legalism, Antinomianism, and Gospel Assurance—Why the Marrow Controversy Still Matters (Wheaton, IL: Crossway, 2016).

Gaffin, Richard. Acts and Paul, Westminster Theological Seminary, 2005.

———. BB Warfield Memorial Lecture Series 2015 - Pentecost and the Work of the Spirit Today - Pentecost and the Gifts of the Spirit, 2015

———. Doctrine of Christ, Westminster Theological Seminary, 1994

———, et al. Seeing Christ in All of Scripture: Hermeneutics at Westminster Theological Seminary (Philadelphia, PA: Westminster Seminary Press, 2016).

———. Theology of Hebrews, Westminster Theological Seminary, 1991

Garcia, Mark. Life in Christ: Union with Christ and Twofold Grace in Calvin's Theology (Eugene, OR: Wipf and Stock Publishers, 2008).

Goodwin, Thomas. The Works of Thomas Goodwin (Edinburgh: James Nichol, 1863)

Guthrie, Nancy. Even Better than Eden (Wheaton, IL: Crossway, 2018).

Richard A. Muller. Post-Reformation Reformed Dogmatics: The Rise and Development of Reformed Orthodoxy; Volume 2: The Cognitive Foundation of Theology, 2nd ed. (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Academic, 2003).

Murray, John. The Westminster Theological Journal 26 (November, 1963).

Oliphint, Scott. Justified in Christ (Great Britain: Mentor Imprint, 2007).

Owen, John. A Dissertation on Divine Justice. The Works of John Owen, ed. William H. Goold, vol. 10 (Edinburgh: T&T Clark, n.d.).

Poythress, Vern. A Biblical View of Mathematics, ed. by Gary North, Foundations of Christian Scholarship (Vallecito: Ross House Book, 1976).

———. Logic: A God-Centered Approach to the Foundation of Western Thought (Wheaton, IL: Crossway, 2012).

Roberts, Francis. Clavis Bibliorum The key of the Bible. https://quod.lib.umich.edu/e/eebo/A57377.0001.001?view=toc

Silva, Moises. God, Language and Scripture: Reading the Bible in the Light of General Linguistics (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 1990).

Sproul, R.C. Knowing Scripture (Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Christian Fellowship, 1977).

Tipton, Lane. Eschatology, the Big Picture, Westminster Theological Seminary, 2004.

———. Jesus in the Old Testament, No Uncertain Sound: Reformed Doctrine and Life (Philadelphia, PA: Reformed Forum, 2017).

Tuckney, Anthony. A Good Day Well Improved, or Five Sermons. https://quod.lib.umich.edu/e/eebo2/A63826.0001.001?view=toc

———, Forty Sermons upon Several Occasions. https://quod.lib.umich.edu/e/eebo2/A63825.0001.001?view=toc

Trueman, Carl, John Owen: Reformed Catholic, Renaissance Man (Ashgate Publishing: Burlington, VT, 2014).

Turretin, Francis. Institutes of Elenctic Theology, ed. James T. Dennison Jr., trans. George Musgrave Giger, vol. 1 (Phillipsburg, NJ: PR Publishing, 1992–1997).

Vos, Geerhardus. Biblical Theology: Old and New Testaments (Eugene, OR: Wipf and Stock Publishers, 2003).

———. The Eschatology of the Old Testament (Phillipsburg, NJ: PR, 2001).

Further Reading

The following resources will guide you in both polishing your reading comprehension skills and guide you into a deeper understanding of interpreting the Bible using Christ as your ultimate hermeneutic.

Audio Reformed Forum Redemptive-Historical Hermeneutics Episodes

These episodes will give you a lay of the land and help you start mapping out which authors to read for starting your RH studies (David Murray, Nancy Guthrie, Lane Tipton, etc)

Book God Dwells Among Us

This book describes how God uses the 3-part temple pattern in the garden. It contains both understandable theological explanations and detailed Biblical data -- that is, it's solid on both Biblical theology and the exegetical data. This is also a great audiobook on Audible.

Book Richard Gaffin's chapter in Biblical Hermeneutics: Five Views (Richard Gaffin + others)

Richard Gaffin is the preeminent author on this topic of redemptive-historical hermeneutics. He's the professor's professor. You want to zoom into the chapter by Richard Gaffin. He provides a good overview of redemptive-historical hermeneutics and it's link to Biblical Theology. Gaffin can be advanced at times, but most people can handle advanced once the foundations are laid. Don't fear the advanced, prepare for it.

Video Building Biblical Theology (Third Millenium Ministries)

The foundations of our hermeneutics is our Biblical Theology. This short series will give you an introduction to Biblical Theology and Geerhardus Vos.

Book Reading the Word of God in the Presence of God: A Handbook for Biblical Interpretation (Vern Poythress)

The author treats each aspects of hermeneutics together. While this may not sound impressive, most books are either entirely redemptive-historical or only grammatical-historical.

Book Biblical Theology (Geerhardus Vos)

Vos is the professor's professor's professor's professor. Literally. Sinclair Ferguson's mentor was Richard Gaffin. Gaffin's was John Murray's was Vos. His early 20th century work was seminal is recalibrating our understanding of the history of redemption and revelation. You can easily test a Biblical Theology or hermeneutics text by searching for "Vos". If there's no hits, you can safely move on. If Vos had not lived into the founding of Westminster Theological Seminary, it's likely that the school would have been called Vos Theological Seminary.

You'll want to read and re-read this book.

Audio Vos Group (Reformed Forum)

You can get help understanding Geerhardus Vos' Biblical Theology by carefully listening to the audio in the Reformed Forum Vos Group. This discussions started in 2013 and are on-going. The current method of organization is confusing since they don't seem to be updating the easy-to-read table anymore. Because of this, the table on this website combines, and aims to recreate the original easier to use format.

Audio ST101: Prolegomena (David Garner)

Everyone should work through this at some point. You'll want to do both take notes and do the additional study. If he mentioned a book, study the book. Don't leave seminary studies to your pastor, do the work yourself.

Audio NT123: Biblical Hermeneutics (Vern Poythress)

You can simply skim the course titles to get an idea of how in-depth the topic can be. He covers both the grammatical-historical and redemptive-historical aspects of hermeneutics.

Book God, Language and Scripture: Reading the Bible in the Light of General Linguistics (Moisés Silva)

This is a great introductory book for those who want to know more about how language really works, and how we can apply it to Biblical studies. It's a fairly light read. If you want something more in-depth, you can move to his Biblical Words and Their Meaning

Book Biblical Words and Their Meaning: An Introduction to Lexical Semantics (Moisés Silva)

This book will give you a solid understanding of how words area meant to be used. It's deeper than the author's other book "God, Language and Scripture", as well as Carson's Exegetical Fallacies. An understanding of at least the first half of a Biblical Greek textbook would help you understand the book better.

Video Book Knowing Scripture (R. C. Sproul)

In the realm of GH, this book and video series will remind you how to handle literature and teach you how to handle poetry. There's no book I've bought and gifted more than Knowing Scripture. I buy them wherever I see them in clearance. It's a classic.

Book Exegetical Fallacies (D.A. Carson)

This is quite possibly the most important book any Christian can work through. Something that should bother your ear is hearing the myth that agape inherent means one thing and phileo inherently means another. This comes from people endlessly quoting each other without anyone in the entire chain validating anything. This book will help you get around a lot of nonsense out there.

Book The Hermeneutical Spiral: A Comprehensive Introduction to Biblical Interpretation (Grant Osborne)

With a layout setup of the various topics you need to grasp in reading literature, you can then go deeper. This book is much larger than the Sproul book, so this is not a place to start. You can use this book, specifically parts I and II, to dive into the various literary styles used in the Bible.

While this book used to be my favorite hermeneutics book, once I got better training in Biblical Theology, I realized how limited it was, thus it's at the bottom of the list. He isolates Biblical Theology into a chapter, instead of treating it throughout, which I see as a major error. He also approaches it from a non-Reformed perspective. His history of Biblical Theology is truly odd, and gives far too much credit to the liberal traditions.

Book The Shadow of Christ in the Law of Moses" (Vern Poythress)

This is simply required reading for all Christians. The title is wonderfully and poetically descriptive.

Book Logic: A God-Centered Approach to the Foundation of Western Thought (Vern Poythress)

This may seem like an on addition, but the entire series by Vern Poythress is an example of a proper way to deal with subjects with Reformed prolegomena in mind.

Related books include: Redeeming Mathematics, Redeeming Philosophy, Redeeming Science, and Redeeming Socioology.

He gives them all away for free online.

The author, Vern Poythress, also wrote A Biblical View of Mathematics (https://frame-poythress.org/a-biblical-view-of-mathematics/) -- this was originally a chapter in Foundations of Christian Scholarship: Essays in the Van Til Perspective. It's a great example of the importance of prolegomena in interpreting things beyond scripture.

Footnotes and Star Notes


Geerhardus Vos, Biblical Theology: Old and New Testaments (Eugene, OR: Wipf and Stock Publishers, 2003), 302


You should think of systematic theology like mathematics. There's just one thing called mathematics: it's the language underlying the structure of reality. As we progress through school, math is split up into pedagogical chunks: algebra, geometry, trigonometry, calculus, etc. As you progress through each chunk, you must reassess the others. Your algebra must be reexamined in light of your trigonometry, which must be reexamined as progress through calculus. Higher level mathematics will require reassessing and expanding everything. So it goes with systematic theology: as you learn Christology, you need to reassess your Pneumatology. As you learn more about the resurrection, you need to revisit Christology. It's one diamond which we can study from any number of angles.


The concept of exegetical data relates to the output of local hermeneutical analysis. This will be disusssed in the grammatical-historical section of this lesson, but without using the exact term again. As you'll see, the exegetical, biblical, and systematic interpenetrate and expand each other. Think perhaps of a baby in the womb: it's not just the baby which is growing, the environment is also changing to accompany the baby. In turn, the baby grows. Along side this are the other biological processes which intertwine with both the baby's and the environment's growth. They're all expanding together.


Scott Oliphint, The Christian, His Witness, and Defending the Faith


This symbiosis is exactly what we read about in a previous note: systematic theology is one thing which we can pedagogically split into chunks. So, it's not so much that topics have a symbiosis, it's that they aren't really different topics. However, if we do study topics separately, we need to seek to view them in terms of their symbiotic relationship.


"Reformed theology" is short for "Reformed Orthodox theology". Orthodoxy relates to codified confessions. In this case, of the 16th and 17th centuries. Reformed orthodoxy is in contrast to Lutheran orthodoxy. The theology of the Reformed side of the reformation that grew in the post-Reformation period defines "Reformed". Despite the influences from contemporary evangelicalism, we can't transform this term into "just believes in predestination". Reformed relates equally to some the defining characteristic relating to Christology, Pneumatology, sacramentology, etc. Any notion of Reformed theology that is purely theological without a practical aspect is foreign to the whole tradition. The term "Reformed" exists to distinguish itself from Lutheranism, Papism, and mysticism (evangelicalism) in both doctrine and practice. See also Muller's article "How many points?".


This is not to be confused with Biblical Theology from the liberal or fundamentalist traditions. Reformed Biblical Theology is the reframing of theology of the 17th century confessional Reformed theology by Geerhardus Vos. Biblical Theology is this context does not start with Johann Gabler.


Lane Tipton, Eschatology: the Big Picture, Westminster Theological Seminary, 2004


In his book "Divine Law Maintained", Casselli makes the odd statement about Puritan Anthony Burgess: "It is anachronistic to describe Burgess’s hermeneutics as biblical-theological." This is odd for a few reasons: First, the entire book is about the biblical-theological hermenuetics of Anthony Burgess (specifically focusing in on the moral law). Second, a bit later he writes "He needed positive law, “pre-redemptive special revelation,” in order to live in faithfulness to God in the world.", with a footnote to Vos' Biblical Theology. Third, he uses the word "historia salutis" in the book with regard to Anthony Burgess: this term denotes Biblical theology and it was coined in the 20th century by Herman Ridderbos. The terms may be anachronistic, but he's not consistent in his accusation. The Puritans definitely had a strong concept of the biblical-theological. In fact, Richard Barcellos' book "The Family Tree of Reformed Biblical Theology" demonstrates that Vos was not the inventor of the concept. While Vos is the preeminent author, overly defining "Biblical Theology" to force him to be the inventor is inappropriate.


Geerhardus Vos, The Eschatology of the Old Testament (Phillipsburg, NJ: PR, 2001), 73


An excellent resource on this is Vern Poythress, The Shadow of Christ in the Law of Moses (Phillipsburg, NJ: P&R Publishing, 1995).


It's rather odd for Turretin to write these words, though, since speaking of Christ in a prelapsarian context presupposes a Christological supralapsarian context. Turretin was a core contributor to the Formula Consensus Helvetica, and Canon VIII has much better nuance. Regardless, the point is this: the Tree of Life signifies eschatological life as sent by the Father, through the Son, as applied by the Spirit. Christ, being economically united with the Spirit at His resurrection unifies the works of Christ and the Spirit so that the Tree of Life later fully represents Christ. Christ doesn't point you to the tree, the tree points you to Christ. However, we may speak of Christ offering us the tree of life because he Himself is, because of the resurrection, now life-giving Spirit (1 Cor. 15:45).


Francis Turretin, Institutes of Elenctic Theology, trans. James T. Dennison Jr. (Phillipsburg, NJ: PR Publishing, 1992-1997), 582


Nancy Guthrie, Even Better than Eden (Wheaton, IL: Crossway, 2018), 40


More specificially, the Covenant of Works was a probationary test for Adam. Had he passed, he would have been transformed to eschatological life by the Spirit. Having failed, Christ came to 1) do the same thing and 2) deal with that sin. He lived a righteous life, fulfilling the Covenant of Works, took our sins, was raised by the Father, and transformed by the Spirit to the eschatological which Adam would have received. While predestination is considered by outsiders the defining doctrine of the Reformed, in reality it's position, like that of Covenants, is merely to support eschatology: eschatology relates to the ultimate plan while predestination relates the set of people in that plan and covenant fills out the structure in history.


Richard Gaffin, Lecture 01 - Introduction, Acts and Paul, Westminster Theological Seminary, 2005


Richard Gaffin, Lecture 01 - Introduction, Acts and Paul, Westminster Theological Seminary, 2005


Historical theology is important in understanding these documents. It's less about copying everything our forefathers said, and more about affirming a healthy Reformed catholicity and avoiding siding with the groups they were arguing against. For example, while we don't need to copy the original English views of civil government, we can't really argue with the Puritans on the moral law (e.g. 2nd and 4th commandments). One of the core purposes of the Westminster assembly was to fight antinomianism. For example, a popular, yet pernicious form of antinomianism during the days of the assembly can be characterized by "the New Covenant has no conditions, so we don't need to obey the moral law, our obedience is merely like a thank you note". One wonders how antinomians deal with 2 Cor. 5:10, Matt. 16:27, Jn. 5:28-29, Gal. 6:7-9, Rev. 20:13 and Rev 22:12. If we defend antinomianism or side with the Lutherans against the Reformed, we're outside the bounds of Confessional orthodoxy in both spirit and letter. See Historical Theology (Post-Reformation) for more information. See also Mark Jones' comments here: Opponents and Errors.


Vern Poythress, Biblical Hermeneutics, ed. Peter Lillback, Seeing Christ in All of Scripture: Hermeneutics at Westminster Theological Seminary (Philadelphia, PA: Westminster Seminary Press, 2016), 11


Vern Poythress, Biblical Hermeneutics, ed. Peter Lillback, Seeing Christ in All of Scripture: Hermeneutics at Westminster Theological Seminary (Philadelphia, PA: Westminster Seminary Press, 2016), 11


Greg Beale, New Testament Hermeneutics, ed. Peter Lillback, Seeing Christ in All of Scripture: Hermeneutics at Westminster Theological Seminary (Philadelphia, PA: Westminster Seminary Press, 2016), 31


Lane Tipton, Jesus in the Old Testament, No Uncertain Sound: Reformed Doctrine and Life


Richard A. Muller, Post-Reformation Reformed Dogmatics: The Rise and Development of Reformed Orthodoxy: Volume 2: The Cognitive Foundation of Theology, 2nd ed. (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Academic, 2003), 101


Don't confuse confidence with certainty. We are to have confidence in Scripture and its internal consistency. We do not have certainty about exact wording. The pursuit of certainty is the underlying driver for liberalism and King James-onlyism. The need for certainty pushes the former group to give up on Scripture entirely while it causes the latter group to invent a type of second accomplishment of revelation. Our confidence will come from the Author and the analogia fidei. Further confidence can be gained by studying textual criticism, which I've written about here: Textual Criticism.


Richard A. Muller, Post-Reformation Reformed Dogmatics: The Rise and Development of Reformed Orthodoxy: Volume 2: The Cognitive Foundation of Theology, 2nd ed. (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Academic, 2003), 28


Richard A. Muller, Post-Reformation Reformed Dogmatics: The Rise and Development of Reformed Orthodoxy: Volume 2: The Cognitive Foundation of Theology, 2nd ed. (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Academic, 2003), 470


Richard A. Muller, Post-Reformation Reformed Dogmatics: The Rise and Development of Reformed Orthodoxy: Volume 2: The Cognitive Foundation of Theology, 2nd ed. (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Academic, 2003), 59


Richard A. Muller, Post-Reformation Reformed Dogmatics: The Rise and Development of Reformed Orthodoxy: Volume 2: The Cognitive Foundation of Theology, 2nd ed. (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Academic, 2003), 469


Francis Turretin, Institutes of Elenctic Theology, ed. James T. Dennison Jr., trans. George Musgrave Giger, vol. 1


Richard A. Muller, Post-Reformation Reformed Dogmatics: The Rise and Development of Reformed Orthodoxy: Volume 2: The Cognitive Foundation of Theology, 2nd ed. (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Academic, 2003), 475


Herman Bavinck, Reformed Dogmatics: Sin and Salvation in Christ, vol. 3 (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Academic, 2006), 214


John Owen, An Exposition of the Epistle to the Hebrews, ed. W. H. Goold, vol. 24, Works of John Owen (Edinburgh: Johnstone and Hunter, 1854), 310


Try to remember the Latin more than the English description. Theological terms, like legal terms, are in Latin. While it's not appropriate to use Greek and Latin in sermons, we must stop being afraid to use the proper terminology in our own studies and in study groups. If we're not afraid of saying deja vu, et cetera, and "mi casa es su casa" in daily discourse, we shouldn't be afraid of theological terminology.


Richard A. Muller, Post-Reformation Reformed Dogmatics: The Rise and Development of Reformed Orthodoxy: Volume 2: The Cognitive Foundation of Theology, 2nd ed. (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Academic, 2003), 90


Closely related to the analogia fidei is the analogia Scripturae (analogy of Scripture): for any given event, we must read the unclear through the light of the clear.


John Calvin, Institutes 3.17.11


Our temperaments, cultures, personal contexts often hide the cognitive dissonance. For example, many will call for reliance on the Lord through the "do not worry" passage Matthew 6:24-35, perhaps relating it to Php 2:14-16 (often while ignoring Php 2:12-13). While this passage is meant to be comforting, by itself it can, and does, lead to Antinomianism and attacks against those who understand that God uses means. Yes, pray for health, but eat healthy and see a Doctor. Trust in the Lord and pray for wisdom. Depending on a person's temperament, the means of problem solving often looks like or even feels like anxiety. It's easy to confuse diligence with impatience. 2 Thess 3:9-11 and Matt 6:28 are meant to be understood together as written by the same divine Author. See also the ordinary means of Grace in Heb 10:23-25.


Carl Trueman, 13 - 1524 to 1525, The Reformation, Westminster Theological Seminary, 2013


More accurately, there's the moral Catholic reformation which needed to happen anyway, then there's the so-called "Counter-Reformation". This is less of a "counter" reformation as it is a positive campaign for the church to spread the fact that they finally have a doctrine of salvation. Our of this reformation comes the Jesuits. See also Carl Trueman: Catholic Reformation


False teachers like Joyce Meyer don't start ministries for the purposes of deceiving people. They truly believe they're being Biblical by going directly to the Bible without external interference. As we'll see, far from being a Christian model, this is actually the model of the rationalists.


"If you're not conscious of your traditions, you'll be enslaved to your traditions" - James White of Alpha and Omega Ministries (but he may have been quoting someone else)


Lane Tipton, Introduction: The Justification Crisis, ed. Scott Oliphint, Justified in Christ (Great Britain: Mentor Imprint, 2007), 152


Those who received their primary education through Ligonier Ministries may be at a significant disadvantage here. On the one hand, the theology of Sproul wasn't entirely Reformed, it was a mix of Thomism, hints of Lutheranism, and drizzled with general evangelical thought, on the other hand, students of Ligonier are convinced that Ligonier is a solid education. The good news is that Reformed Forum fills the gap that Ligonier dug. You would do well to study their resources in addition to Ligonier's.


For those familiar with presuppositional apologetics, this is exactly mirrored in apologetics: your method must match your theology. Put differently, the method must match the message. Van Til didn't pull this idea from the sky, it's simply his professor's theology applied to apologetics. His professor was Geerhardus Vos.


Sinclair Ferguson, The Whole Christ: Legalism, Antinomianism, and Gospel Assurance: Why the Marrow Controversy Still Matters, 146


The naive concept of proof-texting shows up everywhere. Qualification to work with a topic is not based on degrees or experience, it's based on the presence and active usage of a framework. My favorite illustration of this comes from the TV show Alias: the undercover protagonist needed to go through an foolproof lie detector, but she planned ahead to receive special training to defeat it. After passing the test, the examiner told her boss that she definitely failed. Her boss defended her by pointing at her great score, but the examiner explained that interpretation of data is his field. To use our terminology, her boss was looking at the data directly where as the examiner was using his framework to correctly interpret the data.


Geerhardus Vos, Biblical Theology: Old and New Testaments (Eugene, OR: Wipf and Stock Publishers, 2003), v-vi


Geerhardus Vos, Biblical Theology: Old and New Testaments (Eugene, OR: Wipf and Stock Publishers, 2003), 16


Richard Gaffin, Introduction to the Study of Christ, Part II, Doctrine of Christ, Westminster Theological Seminary, 1994


Vern Poythress, Biblical Hermeneutics, ed. Peter Lillback, Seeing Christ in All of Scripture: Hermeneutics at Westminster Theological Seminary (Philadelphia, PA: Westminster Seminary Press, 2016), 12


I once got into a pseudo-debate with Beth Moore on Twitter over complementarianism. While we agreed that men and women are absolutely equal in other areas of life, including the home, I maintained that only men may be in the pulpit in the context of Sunday worship because of Adam's prelapsarian role in the garden. She and her fans mocked me for saying there was a pulpit in the garden. However, a nuanced understanding of the role of priest through the whole of Scripture shows that Adam's role was exactly that of a protector of the inner sanctum, exactly as a Pastor today is to do. Surface-level accusations of eisegesis is often merely a misunderstanding of the deeper structures of theology. Gregory Beale's work in Biblical Theology, especially his book with Mitchell Kim, He Dwells Among us, is an excellent resource to help understand this.


This is why there are so many different understandings of the Book of Revelation. It's no accident that those who are most likely to proof-text are those so quickly to pull theology entirely out of thin air when reading Revelation. We can avoid this by building out our Biblical-theological framework. I find it quite fitting that the two best Revelation commentators are Vern Poythress and Gregory Beale, both of whom we've already read from in relation to Biblical Theology. An example of a pernicious implicit framework is dispensationalism with its confusing the contemporary "Israel" with the ancient Biblical land with the same name. In this framework, it's easy to see how a sensational tribulation and end-times model can be seen as obvious. The cure to this is a correct, explicit Biblical theological framework.


cf. Vern Poythress, 02 - Foundation of Biblical Interpretation II


Stephen Casselli, Divine Rule Maintained : Anthony Burgess, covenant theology, and the place of the law in reformed scholasticism


cf. Herman Bavinck, Reformed Dogmatics: Holy Spirit, Church, and New Creation, vol. 4 (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Academic, 2008), 449


Herman Bavinck, Reformed Dogmatics: Holy Spirit, Church, and New Creation, vol. 4 (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Academic, 2008), 441


Anthony Burgess, A Treatise of Original Sin, pg. 27


At Westminster Theological Seminary (WTS), Biblical Theology (NT123) and Acts and Paul (ST223) are two good example. The latter has been put into book form in 2022 under the title In the Fullness of Time. Prior to WTS courses, the book The Pauline Eschatology by Geerhardus Vos goes into amazing detail. Going back further, can see how it shapes the work of the Westminster Divines, as the Anthony Burgess quote shoes. Other Puritans, like Thomas Goodwin, also wrote extensively about Pauline eschatology.


Vos explains this in what might be the greatest footnote of all time: Geerhardus Vos, The Pauline Eschatology (Princeton, NJ: Geerhardus Vos, 1930), 168-169.


Lane Tipton, Eschatology: the Big Picture, Westminster Theological Seminary, 2004


Confusion on the point of Christological-Pneumatology inevitably leads a person to Lutheran, Romanist, or radaical positions. I once read a person who thought he was Reformed trying to make the case that Christ's mission was the bring the Spirit, and it was not the goal of the Spirit to bring Christ. He completely missed the point of their current economic unity.


Sinclair Ferguson, The Holy Spirit, ed. Gerald Bray, Contours of Christian Theology, ed. Gerald Bray, Contours of Christian Theology (Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press, 1996), 54


Mark Garcia, Christology, ed. Lane G. Tipton and Jeffrey C. Waddington, Resurrection and Eschatology: Theology in Service of the Church (Phillipsburg, NJ: PR Publishing, 2008), 439


Richard Gaffin, Lecture 14 - Perspectives on Pentecost V, Acts and Paul, Westminster Theological Seminary, 2005


Richard Gaffin, Pentecost and the Work of the Spirit Today - Pentecost and the Gospel, BB Warfield Memorial Lecture Series 2015


Sinclair Ferguson, The Holy Spirit, ed. Gerald Bray, Contours of Christian Theology, ed. Gerald Bray, Contours of Christian Theology (Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press, 1996), 71


More care should be taken in describing the doctrine of the Supper than usually is. The Reformed position is usually portrayed in an extraordinarily sloppy way. While it's accurate to say that "Christ is present spiritually in the Supper", even radicals can agree with that statement, pointing out that because Christ is divine, He is omnipresent. Radicals can even declare the poetic maxim that we "raise our hearts to Christ". However, the Reformed point is this: The Christ truly present is the glorified Christ who sits at the right hand of the Father in His completed work. This Christ as mediator is communicated to us by the means (mode) of the Spirit. If it's not the Christ who died and was raised, it's not the Supper. The Supper is the visible Gospel because the Gospel isn't a message: it's the person and completed work of the risen Christ. The message of the Gospel describes the Gospel while the Supper visually and tangibly portrays Him in a way removing all metaphor from John 6:53. Apart from us being conformed to the image of Christ, this is the only other authorized image of Christ. It's not the bare deity of Christ which saves us: that was the heresy of Osiander, who Calvin wrote against in his Institutes. Furthermore, being "raised to Christ" isn't a description of the Supper, but of Union (Eph 2:6).


Michael Christ, Preaching and Definitive Sanctification in Unio Cum Christo October 2021, pg. 127


Richard Gaffin, Justified in the Spirit - Life-Giving Spirit


Sinclair Ferguson, The Holy Spirit, ed. Gerald Bray, Contours of Christian Theology, ed. Gerald Bray, Contours of Christian Theology (Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press, 1996), 68


Mark Garcia, Life in Christ: Union with Christ and Twofold Grace in Calvin's Theology (Eugene, OR: Wipf and Stock Publishers, 2008), 170


This point here represents incredible confusion in contemporary pseudo-reformed evangelicalism. Double-imputation is not an ad hoc phenomenon: it's always and only in the context of being united to the risen Christ by the Spirit. This Spirit-forged bond to the risen Christ is the vessel of that righteousness, both imputed and infused. While "infusion" is a concept widely condemned by Protestant books; we must quickly clarify that it's only a problem when it's prior to imputation. In fact, WLC Q/A 77 explicitly states "...in sanctification his Spirit infuseth grace...". Because the presence of the One who makes us righteous (Christ) is the presence of the One who makes us holy (Spirit), we have both infusion and imputation in our union with Christ (cf. WLC 75, 76). Contemporary confusion on this point seems to come from both poorly written materials and an incomplete picture. Furthermore, placing double-imputation outside of union is actually an inconsistency that traces back all the way to the Reformation itself. True, not Fabricated Communion. Cf. No Confusion or Mixture


Richard A. Muller, Post-Reformation Reformed Dogmatics: The Rise and Development of Reformed Orthodoxy: Volume 2: The Cognitive Foundation of Theology, 2nd ed. (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Academic, 2003), 208


Francis Roberts, Clavis Bibliorum: The key of the Bible, 52-53


The influx of foreign elements of evangelicalism onto Reformed orthodoxy in the form of "exceptions" to confessional standards exasperates the situation dramatically. While everyone trusts that they're agreeing on the common foundations of the faith, disunity is propagated by some actively working against the Reformed in a particular area. We need to be careful to avoid theologies which take crass exceptions to the Reformed confessions. The Westminster Confession of Faith, for example, is already a bare-minimum compromising document, as the debates of the Assembly show. Cf. Opponents and Errors. Cf. Confessional Integrity in the PCA


In addition to allowing us deeper ecclesiastical fellowship, increasingly specific common theological foundations act as concrete points where we can we grow together theologically and morally. For sanctification and repentance to have any objective meaning, the theology of the moral law must be explicated. This is not possible in "general Christian" bible studies: Lutherans and Reformed don't share same ten commandments. Furthermore, evangelicalism, like 17th century Antinomianism and contemporary practical atheism, often prioritizes the second table of the law while reading the first table in light of everchanging cultural situational ethics.


"All things in Scripture are not alike plain in themselves, nor alike clear unto all: yet those things which are necessary to be known, believed, and observed for salvation, are so clearly propounded, and opened in some place of Scripture or other, that not only the learned, but the unlearned, in a due use of the ordinary means, may attain unto a sufficient understanding of them."


Kevin Giles, The Eternal Generation of the Son: Maintaining Orthodoxy in Trinitarian Theology (Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press, 2012), 1


Sometimes you'll hear "Roman Catholic is an oxymoron. If it's Roman, it's not universal". This is misleading. The entire point is that they think they represent true catholicity. Read what Williams Perkins (d. 1602) said in his work "Reformed Catholic": "By a Reformed Catholic, I understand anyone that holds the same necessary heads of religion with the Roman Church; yet so as he pares off and rejects all errors in doctrine whereby the said religion is corrupted." John Owen also picked up the term Reformed Catholic. We can properly speaked of Reformed catholicity, because we defend our position as the true catholic position.


Carl Trueman, John Owen: Reformed Catholic, Renaissance Man (Burlington, VT: Ashgate Publishing, 2014), 11


Historical theology is important in understanding these documents. It's less about copying everything our forefathers said, and more about affirming a healthy Reformed catholicity and avoiding siding with the groups they were arguing against. For example, while we don't need to copy the original English views of civil government, we can't really argue with the Puritans on the moral law (e.g. 2nd and 4th commandments). One of the core purposes of the Westminster assembly was to fight antinomianism. For example, a popular, yet pernicious form of antinomianism during the days of the assembly can be characterized by "the New Covenant has no conditions, so we don't need to obey the moral law, our obedience is merely like a thank you note". One wonders how antinomians deal with 2 Cor. 5:10, Matt. 16:27, Jn. 5:28-29, Gal. 6:7-9, Rev. 20:13 and Rev 22:12. If we defend antinomianism or side with the Lutherans against the Reformed, we're outside the bounds of Confessional orthodoxy in both spirit and letter. See Historical Theology (Post-Reformation) for more information. See also Mark Jones' comments here: Opponents and Errors.


Sometimes you'll hear "Roman Catholic is an oxymoron. If it's Roman, it's not universal". This is misleading. The entire point is that they think they represent true catholicity. Read what Williams Perkins (d. 1602) said in his work "Reformed Catholic": "By a Reformed Catholic, I understand anyone that holds the same necessary heads of religion with the Roman Church; yet so as he pares off and rejects all errors in doctrine whereby the said religion is corrupted." John Owen also picked up the term Reformed Catholic. We can properly speaked of Reformed catholicity, because we defend our position as the true catholic position.


While it's common to think that Protestantism came from Roman Catholicism, in reality both came from the medieval church, just as as all, including Eastern Orthodoxy, came from the early church. The harsh disjunction between Protestantism and "Roman Catholicism before the reformation" inappropriately demonizes the church before the 16th century. The question is often asked "How could anyone be saved before the discovery salvation by faith alone?" to which we must answer: we're not saved by doctrines, but by Christ through faith alone, and the doctrine was never truly lost. The church since the Apostles has been growing and developing with the salvation of Christ spreading all over the world. It's the oppressors who hid salvation behind excessive outward rituals, not the faithful, who are the outliers. One primary reason that the reformation spread so quickly was that the faithful were able to worship without the oppressors. We shouldn't shy away from reading the theologians of the church from before the reformation.


Anthony Tuckney, A Good Day Well Improved, or Five Sermons pg. 247-248


Youngchun Cho, Anthony Tuckney, Theologian of the Westminster Assembly (Grand Rapids, MI: Reformation Heritage Books, 2017), 91


Youngchun Cho, Anthony Tuckney, Theologian of the Westminster Assembly (Grand Rapids, MI: Reformation Heritage Books, 2017), 86


As one would expect, there's a continuum on what constitutes biblicism and the threshold that qualifies a person to have thrown out catholicity. One example of a particular extreme, therefore entirely unhelpful view is expressed by R. Scott Clark in Recovering the Reformed Confession (2008). By his own standard as set out in his first chapter, he would undoubtlably classify me as a biblicist. He seems to be a bit more forceful about accepting the wording of the confessions as Gospel. Of course, we who subscribe ex amino to the WCF feel that it correctly represents Scripture; but, this requires that we understand the understanding of the authors and compare it against our own understanding of Scripture. There's no direct comparison, lets we just move proof-texting to the confessions. Lane Tipton has a good response to Clark's attitude: The Road to Rome through Confessionalism


Youngchun Cho, Anthony Tuckney, Theologian of the Westminster Assembly (Grand Rapids, MI: Reformation Heritage Books, 2017), 110


This is one reason the 20th century invention of dispensationalism is so devastating to the church: the theological divergences are so early that theological fellowship can exist only at the surface level, both in the contemporary church and when reading theology from before the 20th century. Worse, any view in line with the catholicity of the chruch in any sense is inevitably attacked as being anti-semitic by dispensationalists. Dispensationalism is an example of a system with a rich theological-framework; however, this framework is so flawed at every level that it effectively vaccinates itself against substantial catholicity. The fact that the control most Christian radio stations is deeply lamentable.


Whereas the Catholic reformation was moral and the Lutheran reformation was theological, the Reformed reformation focused first on worship. Unity in essential worship practice is core to the Reformed faith. This can be seen by Calvin's disagreements with the city council, Knox' zeal for the purity of Scotish worship, and the fact that it was Laudian worship practices in English which sparked the existing tinder (e.g. regal-parliamentary disagreements, Antinomianism) leading to the English Civil War and the Westminster Assembly. This fact is even further evidenced by the 1662 Act of Uniformity which caused 2000 Church of England ministers (the Puritans) to be ejected. Blasphemous worship practices (candles in worship, images of Christ) may never be tolerated. It's best to leave those to the Anglican, Lutheran, and Evangelical congregations.


The difference between secular and Christian counseling is Christ. The difference between shallow and serious Christian counseling is a proper understanding of Christ and His revelation to us. The Christian Counseling & Educational Foundation (CCEF) excels in this area by applying counseling in the context of true Reformed theology. Their Journal of Biblical Counseling profounds excellent articles helping people do exactly that.


Youngchun Cho, Anthony Tuckney, Theologian of the Westminster Assembly (Grand Rapids, MI: Reformation Heritage Books, 2017), 91


R.C. Sproul, Knowing Scripture (Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press, 1977), 45


R.C. Sproul, Knowing Scripture (Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press, 1977), 79-80


Moises Silva, God, Language and Scripture: Reading the Bible in the Light of General Linguistics: 4


Many of us have heard that Greek has three words for love whereas English only has one. This is beyond preposterous. When I'm helping people work through their emotions, one of the first things I prescribe is that they stop using the word "love" entirely for a week. Instead, I want them to think about what they really mean: he admires a person's skill, she dotes on her husband, she likes mustand, he adores his daughter, etc. English has a plethora of words to use, not just one. We can use love for all these, or we can use something with a certain connotation. Just as the meanings of these words overlap, the meanings of the Greek words also overlap.


D. A. Carson, Exegetical Fallacies (Carlisle, U.K.; Grand Rapids, MI: Paternoster; Baker Books, 1996), 29-32


Clair Davis, Elements of the Medieval Church, Medieval Church, Westminster Theological Seminary, 1980


Richard Gaffin, Systematic Theology and Hermeneutics, ed. Peter Lillback, Seeing Christ in All of Scripture: Hermeneutics at Westminster Theological Seminary (Philadelphia, PA: Westminster Seminary Press, 2016), 42


Richard Gaffin, Systematic Theology and Hermeneutics, ed. Peter Lillback, Seeing Christ in All of Scripture: Hermeneutics at Westminster Theological Seminary (Philadelphia, PA: Westminster Seminary Press, 2016), 50


John Murray, The Westminster Theological Journal 26 (November, 1963), 44


Joel R. Beeke and Mark Jones, A Puritan Theology: Doctrine for Life (Grand Rapids, MI: Reformation Heritage Books, 2012), 27


In fact, if there's a proper dimishing of means, it's on the part of the Devil: we don't need the Devil's means to become worse. We should never say "the devil made me do it"; we ourselves are the experts in sin. Since Genesis 3, humanity itself has been the villain in God's story. Christ must make us good by union with Him. For us to have any growth, we need Christ. To have any Spiritual blessings (Eph. 1:3), we need Him by His Spirit. You don't create it; it comes by Christ. Not Christ as seated afar off, entirely out of touch of humanity, leaving the third person of the Trinity to do all the work, but Christ is united with the Spirit and with us by that Spirit in every moment. This is the difference between the Christ in shallow evangelical theology and the Christ of the Reformed faith.


Herman Bavinck, Reformed Dogmatics: Holy Spirit, Church, and New Creation, vol. 4 (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Academic, 2008), 441


Herman Bavinck, Reformed Dogmatics: Holy Spirit, Church, and New Creation, vol. 4 (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Academic, 2008), 459


cf. Richard Gaffin, Lecture 4 - Eschatalogical Structure: Part 2, Theology of Hebrews, Westminster Theological Seminary


Sinclair Ferguson, The Holy Spirit, p. 70-71


Richard Gaffin, Pentecost and the Work of the Spirit Today - Pentecost and the Gifts of the Spirit, BB Warfield Memorial Lecture Series 2015


Jared Oliphint's observations of a Gaffin chapel message are helpful in this context: https://www.thegospelcoalition.org/article/the-chapel-message-that-changed-my-prayer-life/


Anthony Tuckney, Forty Sermons upon Several Occasions, pg. 36


Joel R. Beeke and Mark Jones, A Puritan Theology: Doctrine for Life (Grand Rapids, MI: Reformation Heritage Books, 2012), 38-39


In this context, we talk about the Athanasian Creed, Nicene Creed, and the Chalcedonian Definition and the context of their development to counter Nestorianism, Eutychianism, Sabellianism, etc. See The Councils of Constantinople, Ephesus and Chalcedon for a summary. However, Reformed Christology goes above and beyond the early understanding. The early Church didn't have the tools to develop a full Christology. See the chapter "Puritan Christology" in A Puritan Theology for details.


The first section in Joel Beeke and Mark Jones's excellent "A Puritan Theology: Doctrine for Life" is called Prolegomena. Herman Bavinck's four volume set, "Reformed Dogmatics", starts with a volume on prolegomena. Richard Muller's four volume set of historical theological, "Post-Reformation Reformed Dogmatics", also starts with a volume on prolegomena. Muller's work goes into incredible detail regarding the theological views and debates on the topic on the 17th century. You can see my 100 slide presentation from 2014on Reformed prolegomena here -- in it I compare and correlate 17th century and contemporary Reformed prolegomena with secular and pagan prolegomena, and provide examples and application of how a God's approach helps and a secular approach hinders.


Closely connected to this is the concept of natural theology, which is beyond our scope. The goal here is to go from a general model of introductory evangelical hermeneutics to Reformed hermeneutics in order to prepare you for deeper Biblical studies and to handle researching concepts like natural theology on your own. For now, here's a starting point: Natural Man's Knowledge.


It may seem odd to explictly state this point, but there are strands of theological traditions which place special revelation strictly after the fall. Not only does this completely contradict the fact that Gen 2 precedes Gen 3, it gives general revelation too much credit. There was nothing inherently bad about the forbidden tree. It was God's command by special revelation which added the special meaning. Puritan Anthony Burgess was explicit about this need before the fall. In Vindiciae Legis, he used it as a basis for the probationary purpose of the Tree of Life.


For the Reformed, man doesn't have the image of God, he is the image of God. You can't lose it, you are it. Likeness and image in Gen 1:26 mean the same thing. See Bavinck: Image of God. Yet, this doesn't mean "God made me this way" as we often hear. The image is marred in such a way that we're like the prodigal son wallowing in the pig's mud. Christ cleanes the image as he conformed us to His image by the Spirit. The Romanist view is that the image really is clean, but is something in man. When the soul is attached to the body, there's a drag to sin called concupiscence. To obey God, He needed to granted the super donum additum (super added gift). In the fall, the image remains, but the gift is lost. There's no total depravity, just a drag to sin due to the loss of the super added gift. For Lutheranism, because the loss of holiness defines the imago Dei, man lost the image of God.


The technical terms are theologia archetypa and theologia ectypa and they exist as part of a long history of the study of prolegomena. Luther's concept of theologia gloria (the theology of the glory) is similar to the Reformed concept of archetypal theology, which is unmediated theology from God himself. We have no direct access. Luther's concept of theologia crucis (theology of the cross) is similar to the Reformed ectypal theology, which is theology revealed through the Son. These concepts can also be compared to the Scotistic doctrines of theologia in se and theologia nostra. See also Theologia in Se


Vern Poythress, Logic: A God-Centered Approach to the Foundation of Western Thought (Wheaton, IL: Crossway, 2012), 95


Vern Poythress, Logic: A God-Centered Approach to the Foundation of Western Thought (Wheaton, IL: Crossway, 2012), 439


Being made in the image of the Son does imply sonship. Seth being in the image of Adam in Gen 5:3 implies a familial relationship. However, there are different types of sonship. There's a sense in which all humans are the sons of God, but another in which only the redeemed are. The point is that we are made to be perfect sons of God. In the fall, we can only have this in Christ. The transformation Christ brings us into alignment with the ideal image. See also The Eternal Fatherhood.


This relates to the concept of personhood and natural generation. Those whose person is created under Adam are born "in Adam". Christ, being the eternal Son of God, does not have His personhood in Adam. This is why he was sinless. It had nothing to do with him not having an earthly father. Confusion on this point may point to a deeper Christological issue: the person of the Son preexists creation. The Son is not "in Adam". The Son didn't assume a new person, causing Him to be "in Adam"; He took on a human nature. See Christ and Adamic Stock.


Mark Jones explains this in Critiquing Westminster Shorter Catechism #1.


See Through the Son, cf. John 8:58


A significant difference between the eastern (e.g. Eastern Orthodoxy) and western Church (e.g. Rome, Lutheranism, Reformed) is the procession of the Spirit. For the east, the Son and Spirit proceed from the Father alone. For the west, the Father and Son send the Spirit. That is, that Spirit proceeds from the Father and Son to point us to the Son, making the Son the focus point of all life and history. The proverbial straw that caused the split between the east and west was the addition of the word filoque ("and the Son") to the Nicene creed. Though the theology is correct, modifying a creed like this violates catholicity. Nonethless, we in the west, including the whole of the Reformed, do accept that the Spirit proceeds from the father and the Son.


One of the early Christian heresies, Eutychianism, states that the two natures (Divine/human) in the one Person of Christ interact in some day. This was countered by the Chalcedonian Definition, which includes the word "two Natures unconfusedly, unchangeably". The two natures don't interact. Put practically, the divine doesn't leak into the human. While all Christians are to subscribe to this creed, in practice, most Christians are functional Eutychians: they view the miracles of Christ as being possible because Christ is truly God. This is a critical point where the Reformed differ from the Lutherans. For the Reformed, Christ didn't "cheat" by relying on His divine nature; His miracles come by the Spirit, not by His divine nature. It's also the Spirit who created the union of the Son of God with a human nature. While everything we do is via the Son, it's by historical interaction with the Spirit. This relates to the example in the "Pauline Eschatology" of this lesson: the perfect economic unity of the Spirit and Christ received at Christ's ascension means that Christ is here with us now in our union with Him, in the Supper, and in every other area of life is actualized by the presence of the Spirit. See also The Rest by the Spirit (Owen), Spirit as the Immediate Author (Goodwin), and Hypostatical Union (Tuckney), and Christ's Reliance on the Holy Spirit (Bavinck)


There's an intramural debate over Christ: is He the center of all history (a position called Christological Supralapsarianism) or just the center of redemptive history. Both positions are perfectly acceptable within the Reformed traditions, including the redemptive-historical tradition. However, bypassing the Son entirely, and seeking immediate access to the Father is altogether offlimits.


Vern Poythress, Logic: A God-Centered Approach to the Foundation of Western Thought (Wheaton, IL: Crossway, 2012), 86


Vern Poythress, Logic: A God-Centered Approach to the Foundation of Western Thought (Wheaton, IL: Crossway, 2012), 71


Vern Poythress, Logic: A God-Centered Approach to the Foundation of Western Thought


Finitude is not a problem to be fixed. It's an absolute unchangeable reality that's core to the definition of creation. We are ectypal and will never be archetypal. Nothing in Reformed soteriology or Reformed eschatology ever attempt to "fix" finitude. The gap between God and man, as expressed by Westminster Confession 7.1 is for God to come to man. Christ, as now transformed by the Spirit, is our bridge to the God. Had the fall not happened, this would have taken the form of the Father and the Son sending the Spirit to transform and elevate man. Still, man would have remained finite. Eastern Orthodoxy has a doctrine of theosis, or deification of man, which is a gross caricature of the Biblical reality. Core to Lutheranism is a bleeding of the divine into the human in Christ, enabling the body of Christ to be in multiple places in the Supeer. This too is a gross caricature. For the Reformed, everything is about the Person and accomplished work of Christ. He is finite and infinited. Christ transforms us into His image, which is the highest, yet finite, attainment of humanity. It's not about union with bare deity, but with Christ in His accomplished work, including his finite, glorified human nature.


Vern Poythress, A Biblical View of Mathematics, ed. by Gary North, Foundations of Christian Scholarship


Camden Bucey, The Image of God: Different Views, Doctrine of Man, Hope OPC


"fall short" (ὑστεροῦνται) in Romans 3:23 is in the context of "for all have sinned" (πάντες γὰρ ἥμαρτον), so it's not speaking of human limits, but human sin. However, even without sin "the glory of God" (τῆς δόξης τοῦ θεοῦ) would be a good example of ectypal glory in Christ. The glory of God by itself could be archetypal, but when in relation to humanity, it must be ectypal as communicated by the Son, now Christ. We're made in the image of the Son, and sin marred that image in us.


The need to speak of analogical language was an important development in the medieval church. In addition to speaking of analogical, there's also equivical and univocal predication. Equivical states that there's nothing relating God and man. One example of this would be the German philosopher Immanual Kant's distinction between the noumenal and phenomenal. Each realm stays in its own realm, leading eventually to a philosophical argument for a strict separation of science and religion. Univocal states that the way we speak about God is the same way we speak about man. This is just as anti-Christian as equivical, but it's the way of speaking most everyone starts with. An error at this point leads to innumerable errors down the line. The Archetypal-ectypal distinction and God's condescension need to be mastered early to avoid error.


John Owen, The Works of John Owen, ed. William H. Goold, vol. 10, ed. William H. Goold, vol. 10 (Edinburgh: TT Clark, n.d.), 588


One type of spiritual and emotional abuse comes from a perverted understanding of human forgiveness. Despite what's shown at the end of the 2016 remake of Ben-Hur, victims are not expected to embrace victimizers immediately. Listen to how CCEF handles forgiveness and reconciliation here: What does real forgiveness look like?. There are no all-purpose solution; each situation requires time and wisdom. Getting this wrong can lead to continued victimization and potential legal action. For any possible issue, sometimes the best thing truly is separation (e.g. Paul and Barnabas in Acts 15:39)


God and humanity differ also because of God's divine simplicity: God is without parts. He is not a complex being like a machine with parts or like us with our made up of different organs. God is His Love. God is His Holiness. God is His immutability. He is equal to His attributes. He may not "share attributes", because they are who He is. He creates and revealed Himself in the image (ectypal) of Himself. We are the image of the communicable (e.g. love) attributes, and not His incommunicable (e.g. omnipresence) attributes. The contemporary usage of the term "attribute" or of God "having" archetypal knowledge can lead to confusion. John has the attribute of love, while God is Love. When we say "John is loving" we're speaking of a separable, changable attribute. "God is Love" is a different thing entirely because God truly is His Love. We have ectypal knowledge. God is Archetypal knowledge.


This is, in fact, exactly the calling of apologist Cornelius Van Til. His professor, Geerhardus Vos, repackaged and distilled the theological methodologies of the Puritan, and the Church as a whole, into a shinier package. Van Til used this to provide a Christian response to both Hegel and Kant, creating what we now call presuppostional apologetics. Bahsen's presuppostional apologetics isn't really the same as Van Til's, so it's hard to see the link if that's the only version you know.


This concept is the foundations of theology (principia theologiae). The Reformed start with two parallel foundations or principles (principia): principium cognoscendi (principle of knowledge) and principium essendi (principle of being). The first is Scripture and the second is God. We can see these mapped out in the Westminster Confession as chapter 1 ("Of the Holy Scripture") and 2 ("Of God, and of the Holy Trinity"). See also Bavinck: "And the Holy Spirit, who has been poured out in the church, regenerates and leads it into the truth, is the internal source of knowledge (principia cognoscendi internum)." (RD 1).


Carl Trueman, 95 Theses, The Reformation, Westminster Theological Seminary, 2013


In prolegomena, we use the term theologia vera for true theology and theologia falsa for false theology. Reality is not split between science and religion, it's split between vera and falsa. The centrality of union with Christ, 1+1=2, and XX/XY are vera, Islam/Judaism, 1+1=4, and theistic evoluion are falsa. Some books will use the term theologia to mean knowledge of God. This would just be theologia vera.


This entire set of English words is just a single Greek word: ἐξηγήσατο. Though we need to be careful not to read back into the word contemporary meaning, this word is where we get our word "exegesis" from. Jesus really does make known the Father.


Thomas Watson, A Body of Divinity, pg. 8


Sinclair Ferguson, The Whole Christ: Legalism, Antinomianism, and Gospel Assurance: Why the Marrow Controversy Still Matters (Wheaton, IL: Crossway), 120-121


Thomas Goodwin, The Works of Thomas Goodwin, vol. 4 (Edinburgh: James Nichol, 1862), 86


In fact, in Pauline theology, "Spirit" is equated with power and glory in constrast with weakness. Cf. Spirit and Glory


Puritan Stephen Charnock (d. 1689) states double imputation better than most modern writers: Double Imputation


Thomas Goodwin, The Heart of Christ in Heaven, The Works of Thomas Goodwin, vol. 4 (Edinburgh: James Nichol, 1862), 116


In the 20th century, theologian Karl Barth poured new meanings into traditional Reformed terminology. He wrote so much that Barthianism (the primary branch of neoorthodoxy) is its own theological tradition, like Lutheranism and Papism. Today, it seems that most excellent Reformed books are required to have a section on Barth just to differentiate orthodoxy from neoorthodoxy. I continue this tradition here: Barth would say that Christ is the Word absolutely, and the Bible is the Word derivatively. His attempt to put Christ at the center of everything ends up forcing him to have an eternally incarnate Christ. Whereas in Reformed theology, the Bible is the Word of God, in Barthianism, only Christ is the Word of God, and the Bible becomes the word of God in preaching. This brings to mind Spurgeon's saying "Discernment is not knowing the difference between right and wrong. It is knowing the difference between right and almost right".


This point represents a place of diversity within the Reformed tradition, but a point of diversity which should cause us to raise an eyebrow. Owen was writing against himself, Samuel Rutherford, William Twisse, and the Socinians. Rutherford is an otherwise amazing theologian and one of the Scottish Commissioners to the Westminster Assembly. His view on this issue mustn't sour our of taste of his works. William Twisse, while he denied the active obedience of Christ, he was also the Prolocutor (presiding officer) at the Westminster Assembly. The Socinians on the other hand are the forefathers of the modern day theological liberals. The position Owen was writing against is acceptable, though admittedly awkward and it can lead to serious theological error. A door opening to a canyon can be left open without anyone getting hurt, but it can also invite people to fall. One point of irony here is that while Owen's first work was written against the Arminians, his later position puts him in agreement with Arminius himself. We shouldn't be afraid to agree with those with whom we usually have strong disagreements (cf. Rom 12:18).


John Owen, The Works of John Owen, ed. William H. Goold, vol. 10 (Edinburgh: T&T Clark, n.d.), 205.


A definitive treatment on this issue can be found in Carl R. Trueman's article John Owen’s Dissertation on Divine Justice: An Exercise in Christocentric Scholasticism. Where Trueman uses the term "analogy of being", we can read "prolegomena".


Thomas Goodwin, The Works of Thomas Goodwin, vol. 7 (Edinburgh: James Nichol, 1863), 48


The Sabbath, like the Book of Revelation, is an excellent example of the need for a rich Biblical-theological framework. Proof-texting doesn't get you very far, and going to the original languages provide very little assistance. While working on the Sabbath has always been off limits (even by 17th century liberals!), there was confusion about the source of the Sabbath: is it the 10 commandments or creation? Calvin himself didn't have a framework rich enough to answer the question properly, and he got it wrong. John Owen on the other hand looked at Gen 2:2-3 and said "so uncontrollable an evidence that I have often wondered how ever any sober and learned persons undertook to evade their force or efficacy in this cause" (Owen, Hebrews V2, pg. 294). As we'll see, Vos explains the Sabbath from the Archetype-ectype relationship.


Geerhardus Vos, Biblical Theology: Old and New Testaments (Eugene, OR: Wipf and Stock Publishers, 2003), 139


Geerhardus Vos, Biblical Theology: Old and New Testaments (Eugene, OR: Wipf and Stock Publishers, 2003), 139-140


Geerhardus Vos, The Eschatology of the Old Testament, ed. James T. Dennison Jr. (Phillipsburg, NJ: PR Publishing, 2001), 75


Sabbath, like the real presence of Christ by the Spirit in the Supper, is core the Reformed tradition. However, even today there's a question on the wording on the Westminster standards: what is "worldly employments and recreations"? Does worldly" modify "employments" only or also "recreations"? However, talk of what's not allowed is a deeply Pharisaical approach. If we were to apply talk of "what we can't do" to the 7th commandment, we'd immediately violate it; yet, unlike the 7th, how we positively enjoy the 4th may be cultural. In no situation, however, may we ever deprive others of their Sabbath. Ball games used to be a fun gathering, but now they're businesses. Even if you're not at the Super Bowl, watching it tells the business of the demand of Sabbath breaking. Matthew 18:6 speaks to this. Looking at it differently, it's easy to see how a wife would be offended that her husband spends their anniversary watching the big game. This should be part of our thought process for the Sabbath holiday.