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sample from lecture on “Of Creation”

 

Our confession lays the groundwork for understanding the divine economy by first establishing its interpretive basis in theology proper and the doctrine of the written Word of God.

 

Prior to discussing the external operations of God, the confession contains foundational statements concerning the ontology and ad intra works of God, the very same God who operates ad extra. These statements are made prior to and apart from statements about God’s external operations. [1] For example, consider the following statements from chapter 2, “Of God and of the Holy Trinity”:

 

The Lord our God is but one living and true God . . . (2LCF 2.1; emphasis added)

 

God, having all life, glory, goodness, blessedness, in and of Himself, is alone in and unto Himself all-sufficient . . . (2LCF 2.2; emphasis added)

 

In this divine and infinite Being there are three subsistences, the Father, the Word (or Son), and Holy Spirit, of one substance, power, and eternity, each having the whole divine essence, yet the essence undivided . . . (2LCF 2.3; emphasis added).

 

These metaphysical, ontological assertions concerning who God is condition our explanations of what God does. Our confession displays a theological method which itself gives priority to who God is (i.e., ontology) before it tells us what God does (i.e., economy). This means that anyone who subscribes our confession (or the WCF or SD) and pushes back on the priority of the ontological to the economic implicitly contradicts their confession of faith. By the way, this method of giving priority to God in himself over God for us is amply reflected in any systematic theology textbook worth owning and consulting.

Verses like Genesis 1:1, 2, 3, and 26 not only require the priority of theology proper over the interpretation of God’s economy, they require a doctrine of the written Word, inclusive of a theory of its interpretation. Consider these words from chapter 1 of our confession:

 

The Holy Scripture is the only sufficient, certain, and infallible rule of all saving knowledge, faith, and obedience. (2LCF 1.1a)

 

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 by other places that speak more clearly. (2LCF 1.9)

 

Assuming the truthfulness of these assertions, nothing other than the Holy Scripture presents man with “the only sufficient, certain, and infallible rule of all saving knowledge, faith, and obedience” and nothing other than the Holy Scripture interprets itself infallibly. So, when seeking to explain creation and account for God’s ad extra works, we must not shelve our doctrine of the written Word, just as we must not shelve theology proper while doing the same. Let me dig into this a bit further.

 

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[1] In private written discussion on this issue, James Dolezal gave me this important feedback: “The order of the confession (in treating God before creatures) is logically arranged to reflect the order of principia, not to explain the epistemic route of humans in coming to the knowledge of God.” His point is that the confession is logically and ontologically arranged according to the principia theologiae, the fundamental principles of theology (i.e., Scripture and God). See Muller, Dictionary, 245-55.

 

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