Authority: The most important thing Graeme Goldsworthy has ever written?

Graeme Goldsworthy is not a name that is well-known by those in the pews, nor even by those in the pulpits. He is better known by those who train the men in the pulpits. He is influential in the renaissance, resurgence, continuation of the field of biblical theology. He emphasizes seeing the Bible as one story and seeing Christ as the point of that story. Which, if you want to be biblical about studying the Bible, is not too bad of an emphasis to have.

I have had his introduction to biblical theology, According to Plan, sitting on my shelf for a couple years. At a recent conference I picked up his successive works, Preaching the Whole Bible as Christian Scripture, Gospel-Centered Hermeneutics, and Christ-Centered Biblical Theology. Now having four books by the man I thought it might be a good time to get started actually reading them.

So far, the journey has been rewarding. In the third chapter of According to Plan, Goldsworthy offers up a couple paragraphs that I wish every Christian would grapple with:

 Presuppositions, then, are the assumptions we make in order to be able to hold some fact to be true. We cannot go on indefinitely saying, “I know this is true because…” In the end we must come to that which we accept as the final authority. By definition a final authority cannot be proven as an authority on the basis of some higher authority. The highest authority must be self-attesting. Only God is such an authority. [Emphasis mine]
The presuppositions we must make in doing biblical theology are those of Christian theism. The alternative to this is to accept the presuppositions of some form of humanism. Either we work on the basis of a sovereign, self-proving God who speaks to us by a word that we accept as true simply because it is his word, or we work on the basis that man is the final judge of all truth. The Christian position, to be consistent, accepts that the Bible is God’s Word, and that it says what God wants it to say in exactly the way he wants to say it.[1]

If I had the words to express how crucial the above declarations are, I would probably be writing books instead of reading them. The issue of authority is the spring from which a thousand streams flow.

If God is the final authority his Word must be given the same respect because it is the expression of his authority, the declaration of his will. Once a person sees what the Bible says, understands what the Bible says, and proceeds to say, “Yeah but…” he demonstrates that the Bible is not his final authority. The attempt to re-define, re-imagine, or re-interpret the plain statements of Scripture, is simply the rebellion of man against the authority of God. When Scripture is seen as out-of-date or unenlightened, it is simply the exaltation of man’s desires over God’s will.

When a church decides that women can be pastors, against the clear teaching of Scripture, there is really no reason to forbid a homosexual from being a pastor either: other than it would just gross some people out.

When the church decides that Adam and Eve were not really the first humans and that sin and death did not really enter creation through their sin in Eden, then there is really no reason to see Jesus as the Christ promised to deliver men from sin and death.

When the church starts parsing out which parts of the Bible to believe and practice, it is only cutting itself to pieces. If you are going to decide which parts to believe, why believe any of it? I can think of quite a few ways I would rather spend my Sundays.


[1] Graeme Goldsworthy, According to Plan (Downers Grove: InterVarstiy Press, 2002), 44.

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Bavinck v. Kuyper? Paging Ron Gleason, Richard Gaffin, et al

In conjunction with reading Herman Bavinck’s Reformed Dogmatics, I am reading Ron Gleason’s biography of Bavinck: Herman Bavinck: Pastor, Churchman, Statesman, and Theologian. I think it has been helpful so far and will continue to be so. During my last reading of Gleason, however, I was surprised at the content of footnote 15 on pgs. 230-231.

In the footnote, Gleason alludes to differences between Bavinck and Abraham Kuyper. He cites Richard Gaffin to mention Abraham Kuyper’s rejection of biblical theology in name and concept. Gleason then writes, “Bavinck, on the other hand not only rejected Kuyper’s Neo-Kantian tendencies but Kuyper’s disdain for biblical theology.” Such a statement is surprising to me because in volume one of RD Bavink writes,

But such a conception of “biblical theology,” besides being practically impossible, is also theoretically incorrect. Scripture is not a legal document, the articles of which only need to be looked up for a person to find out what is in view in a given case. It is composed of many books written by various authors, dating back to different times and divergent in content. It is a living whole, not abstract but organic. It nowhere contains a sketch of the doctrine of faith; this is something that has to be drawn from the entire organism of Scripture.

Now I have no reason to believe that Ron Gleason, Richard Gaffin, or any Bavinck scholar frequents my blog. But if someone with greater knowledge on this matter than I posses stumbles across this post, I would be interested in hearing more. It seems to me that Bavinck shares Kuyper’s disdain for biblical theology. Am I missing something in RD? Or did Bavinck write something to the contrary somewhere else?