Calvin On Inerrant Inspiration; Excerpts From Authorities -- By: Charles E. Edwards

Journal: Bibliotheca Sacra
Volume: BSAC 088:352 (Oct 1931)
Article: Calvin On Inerrant Inspiration; Excerpts From Authorities
Author: Charles E. Edwards


Calvin On Inerrant Inspiration; Excerpts From Authorities

Charles E. Edwards

Even intelligent laymen may be surprised to learn that doctrinal convictions can have more to do in uniting or dividing denominations than questions of economy, finance or efficiency. Church mergers are not the same as those of banks, corporations, political parties or colleges. Worldly men like Pope Leo X are apt to undervalue Biblical discussions such as Luther’s, at first academic, within a university, but which started the Reformation; or like Pilate, to ask “What is truth?” and stay not for an answer even from the Son of God. Differences that seemed academic arose between Dr. Briggs and those associated with him in the conduct of a theological Review. But those differences spread far and wide, and led to the trial of Dr. Briggs in 1893, which consumed much time and money, in the General Assembly of the Presbyterian Church U. S. A. Union Seminary left the Presbyterian Church, and ever since its place has been vacant in the Assembly’s Minutes.

Did Calvin, as our best informed theologians know, believe that the original Scriptures were inspired of God and free from error? So he did, and the Westminster Confession agrees with him and echoes his powerful voice. The first chapter of this Confession, “Of the Holy Scripture,” is the foundation of all the other chapters, which lose authority, if that is undermined.

It is strange what mistakes can be made by famous scholars; and yet what “fear on every side” when “all scholars,” “all scientists,” are said to agree! It is like that terrible ghost, “the consent of the fathers.” The Reformers insisted that the fathers were not always unanimous, and when in error, not authoritative. So, some scholars have declared that Calvin did not affirm inerrancy for Scripture, but Dr. B. B. Warfield and others have exhibited their mistakes. Turn to his article, “Calvin’s Doctrine of the Knowledge of God” (Princeton Theol. Review, April, 1909, pp. 252, 256, etc.) References to Calvin here are

from editions of the Calvin Translation Society. He says: —“Nothing is more certain than that Calvin held both to ‘verbal inspiration’ and to the ‘inerrancy of Scripture,’ however he may have conceived the action of God which secured these things.” He quotes Otto Ritschl: “If we may still entertain doubts whether Bullinger really defended the stricter doctrine of inspiration, it certainly is found in Calvin after 1543.—It is peculiar to him that he conceives both the books of the Old Testament inclusively, as contained in the historical enumerations, and those of the New Testament, as arising out of a verbal dictation of the Holy Spirit....

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