Monday, March 06, 2017

Testimonium Spiritus Sancti Internum

Nothing like accrediting your theology with an appropriate Latin phrase.  Let's talk about it.

Evangelicals and fundamentalists argue for the internal testimony of the Holy Spirit.  This is important to them.  With the qualities of canonical books present, how would the church recognize them?  Because men are depraved, they couldn't assess the divine qualities of canonical books except by the internal testimony of the Holy Spirit.  This is not as private revelation, but to help people overcome the effects of sin so that they might distinguish actual scripture.  Even evangelicals believe that the consensus of the church is a key indicator of which books are canonical.

Scripture has divine qualities characteristic of its author, the Holy Spirit.  The Holy Spirit indwells believers.  Believers respond to what the Holy Spirit wrote, because He knows what He wrote.  That's how the argument goes.  The Holy Spirit was not only at work in the origination of the Bible, but He also is at work within the people who receive the Bible.  Donald Bloesch writes (p. 150, Holy Scriptures):
Scripture is a product of the inspiring work of the Spirit, who guided the writers to give a reliable testimony to God’s self-revelation in Jesus Christ. Its canonizing is to be attributed to the illumining work of the Spirit, who led the fathers of the church to assent to what the Spirit had already authorized.
I got 2,360 results from a google search of the Latin phrase that is the title of this post.  It is very technical language.  It is applied only to canonicity.  Those who use it use it only to apply to scripture.  The Holy Spirit could inspire very Words, but His people could be sure only about the Books.  Michael Kruger, writes in a very long footnote of his book, Canon Revisited:  Establishing the Origins and Authority of the New Testament Books (p. 101):
We need to recognize that the historical process of the church's recognizing canonical books is simply not parallel to the historical process of textual transmission. . . . It is a caricature to argue that a self-attesting canon means that even the smallest portions of Scripture, down to even a single word, can be immediately identified by Christians as divine.
I have questions about the doctrine of canonicity as it relates to the doctrine of preservation.  One, where is the scriptural basis for continued understanding or recognition of Books as opposed to or versus Words of Scripture?   The Bible nowhere talks about the Books of the Bible, but the Words. The Holy Spirit would lead the people He indwelt to accept the words the Father gave to the Son to give to His people (John 16:13; 17:8). Since believers are to live by every one of them (Matthew 4:4; Revelation 22:18-19) and are going to be judged by them at the last day (John 12:48), believers should also assume upon those biblical presuppositions that they can know with certainty where the canonical words of God are.  Francis Turretin wrote in the 17th century:
By the original texts, we do not mean the autographs written by the hand of Moses, of the prophets and of the apostles, which certainly do not now exist. We mean their apographs which are so called because they set forth to us the word of God in the very words of those who wrote under the immediate inspiration of the Holy Spirit.
Based on scriptural presuppositions, Turretin said the original text can be found not only in the autographs, but equally in the apographs (faithful copies). Turretin could pick up his Greek Textus Receptus and say with confidence, this is the original text of the New Testament.  The Textus Receptus was so named because it is the text received by the churches.   The London Baptist Confession of 1689 reads:  "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."

Two, if the recognition of scripture comes from the internal witness of the Spirit, why would we not assume that the Holy Spirit can recognize the Words that He inspired?  The recognition of the Books according to even moderate evangelicals comes by the inward testimony of the Holy Spirit.  Like there are "objective" criteria for a "subjective" witness of the Books, there is "objective" criteria for a "subjective" witness of the Words, so much so that saints of the 17th century possessed certainty in the text of scripture.

The so-called objective criteria became subjective criteria.  The witness of the Spirit was moved aside for man's observation.  R. J. Rushdoony states it right when he writes:
Consider what happens when the Received Text is set aside and scholars give us their reconstruction of the text. The truth of revelation has thereby passed from the hand of God into the hands of men. Scholars then establish the true reading in terms of their presuppositions…The denial of the Received Text enables the scholar to play god over God. The determination of the correct word is now a scholar’s province and task. The Holy Spirit is no longer the giver and preserver of the biblical text: it is the scholar, the textual scholar.
When I looked up the Latin language of the title, I also did a search of how many times that Latin phrase occurs before 1900.  It doesn't in a google search.  You won't find it in a google book before 1900.  It's a modern phrase that gives a flavor of something very old.  It's only applied to Books.  The concept of the internal testimony of the Holy Spirit applies to Words.  That's the biblical and historical position.


Bill Hardecker said...

Posts like this is what makes this blog my vade mecum.

Jon Gleason said...

Well, Kent, when I read your title I thought you must be really smart, but now I wonder if you found it on Google. How disillusioning. :) Anyway:

One of my favourite illustrations of your point is the story of the woman taken in adultery. When you read the modern scholars on this, they say it can't be really Scripture. But they always say things like it must be true, and "it is so very like the Saviour."

Sorry, you can't do that. Either it is truly Scripture or it was intentionally and wickedly inserted as a forgery and a lie of Satan. And they KNOW, everyone knows, it isn't the latter. That's not what Satan's lies sound like.

Ultimately, they know, even if they don't know that they know it, what you are saying here. The Saviour's sheep know His voice, and they hear His voice in that passage. They KNOW it is real because of that inner testimony of the Spirit to the voice of their Shepherd.

The Pericope Adulterae (Latin!) is not an example of the Received Text being wrong. It is actually a case of the modern critical theories discarding a text which everyone knows has been and continues to be attested by the Spirit.

It is thus a compelling demonstration of the fallacy of those theories. If your theory makes you discard a text like that, you need to discard your theory.

Jon Gleason said...

Addendum: I meant to also say, I'm no fan of Rushdoony, even if he got this point right and stated it well.

Unknown said...

I haven't had many discussions about the 66 canonical books,but have had many presevation/translation talks.Its a subject like , but dont know if I should bite my toungue or bite my nails when i talk to people about it.
Lets talk ,I like that opening.
Obviously the church is not infallible so we definitely need the Holy Spirit to be able to recognize the books of the Bible. There isnt a movement that is trying to eliminate certain books of the Bible,but a movement to change the Bible itself or into many different kinds of Bibles. We need the Church to guide,but the church is not recognizable in this specific area, or at least trouble has been brewing.
We can choose from many Greek text and many versions, choose what suits you best. Are the words of God under fire or the 66 canonical books at the burning stake?
Ok , Im done with my rant. I suppose its human nature to hold a book in your hands and say its the Bible.It makes a person feel secure. Yes the words are the inward witness and tesimony of the Holy Spirit, but the Bible is a book and we arent going to change that.
I like the post!

Lance said...

A central goal of satanic, worldly influence upon “the faith” is the attempt to subjectify the Word of God. In today’s world, dogmatic Theology has been emaciated. The BODY of post-modern orthodoxy has little flesh upon it.

Unknown said...

Dear K Brandendburg,
From reading your posts on preservation I would have to agree that i believe like you do that the Bible has been (every word)preserved by God. However, I do have a practical question that maybe you could answer.
Theologically the Bible was inspired in the originals and preservered for us through translation into English.
Is it ok to tell people that i believe that the KJV is an inspired book, or would it be more proper to say that its a preserved book.
Thanks for your time.