The Uses Of Scripture In Recent Theology -- By: John M. Frame

Journal: Westminster Theological Journal
Volume: WTJ 39:2 (Spring 1977)
Article: The Uses Of Scripture In Recent Theology
Author: John M. Frame

The Uses Of Scripture In Recent Theology*

John M. Frame

A Review Article

Although the authority of Scripture has been one of the chief preoccupations of twentieth-century theology, it is surprising that there has been so little genuine progress in understanding the subject. On the conservative side, following the Warfield corpus, I count only Meredith G. Kline’s The Structure of Biblical Authority, Cornelius Van Til’s A Christian Theory of Knowledge, and possibly Herman Ridderbos’ The Authority of the New Testament Scriptures as providing significant new light on biblical authority.1 The more fashionable theological schools have produced, on the whole, more sophisticated studies than the orthodox, and the seminal works of Karl Barth, Emil Brunner, Rudolf Bultmann, Gerhard Ebeling, Austin Farrer, Paul Tillich, and others must be praised at least for raising important issues. Most liberal theology, however, like most orthodox theology, merely echoes a few paradigmatic treatments; and even the leading thinkers in the academic theological mainstream have often been bogged down in the tiresome business of reconstructing the historic doctrine to make it agree with modern science and/or philosophy. This accommodationism not only produces doctrines of Scripture devoid of all relevant offensiveness, Christian distinctiveness, and practical impact; it also sidetracks these theologians from the really useful task of thinking through what is at issue in controversies over Scripture.

There is promise, however, of better things to come. The challenge

* David H. Kelsey: The Uses of Scripture in Recent Theology. Philadelphia: Fortress Press, 1975. ix, 227. $11.95.

of analytic philosophy has, since the late 1950’s, caused theology itself to become more analytic, more interested in clarifying issues, less satisfied with merely advocating positions. On the question of biblical authority, the work of James Barr, Langdon Gilkey, F. Gerald Downing, and others in the early 1960’s has pioneered in implementing this sort of concern, and others have followed since that time. In the last ten years, several important contributions of this sort have emanated from Yale Divinity School, specifically from Professors Brevard Childs, Hans W. Frei, and Paul L. Holmer.

David H. Kelsey, the author of the work before us, is also a professor at Yale and an analytically-minded theologian, but he very nearly transcends the young tradition of which he is a part. In shedding fresh light on the subject of biblical authority, his book is the most helpful volume of the group and po...

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