Tuesday, November 10, 2009

why good and necessary consequences are good and necessary: part 1

We have seen that if we are to make any kind of doctrinal conclusions from Scripture, we require good and necessary consequence. This is simply drawing out the meaning that is already in Scripture. It doesn't add anything new. It must be what explicit statements of Scripture require and entail inevitably and not contradict the rest of Scripture. It is not reason speaking but the Scriptures themselves. These inferences were foreseen by God and are part of the intended meaning of Scripture. The Holy Spirit is involved in the process of enabling us to identify these consequences “the inward illumination of the Spirit of God [is] necessary for the saving understanding of such things as are revealed in the word.”

In order for consequences to be good, they 'must be truly contained in the inspired statements from which they profess to be taken'. In order for them to be necessary they must be 'unavoidably forced upon the mind, upon an honest and intelligent application of it to the Scripture page'. These are the words of James Bannerman, who goes on to say;

'The extent to which the principle of Scripture consequences is available in gathering up the meaning of the Word of God, is very great. It is hardly possible to conceive of a revelation from God in any form from which no inferences could be drawn, upon which we might legitimately found our faith, equally with its literal or express statements. It is impossible at least to conceive of a revelation assuming the shape found in the Bible, which teaches not by abstract and dogmatic propositions only, but by a thousand methods of historical example and incidental and indirect exhibition of truth, that would be possible or intelligible on the principle that each single proposition must be interpreted by itself and apart from every other, and that no comparison of Scripture with Scripture, and no deduction from the comparison, were lawful in framing our creed'.

The Second London Confession 1677/1689 produced by Antipaedobaptists substituted another phrase for 'good and necessary consequence'. The phrase was 'necessarily contained in Scripture'. This, however much people try to argue that it means the same, is not the same thing. It tells us nothing about the sound and logical method of drawing consequences - it tells nothing about any method. There may be a large body of truth necessarily contained in Scripture but we don't know how to draw it out. The definition of necessity may be as loose or tight, objective or subjective as we wish. It only leaves us with questions. How is it necessarily contained in Scripture and how do we distinguish this?

It amounts to less than the fully formed, defined and confessed Reformed doctrine of Scripture outlined the Westminster Confession and leaves Antipaedobaptists without a confession of this indispensable principle. This, despite the fact that it is clearly taught and demonstrated by the Lord Jesus Christ and the Apostles.

We are left with various options in relation to good and necessary consequence.

Option 1. To deny that it is legitimate to identify good and necessary consequences.

The first difficulty with this is that since this principle is nowhere expressly stated in Scripture, one must derive the principle itself only by good and necessary consequence.

The second difficulty is a very practical one. We can only have assurance and personal faith by good and necessary consequence. In order to say that such a promise, a warrant or offer belongs to me I must make use of good and necessary consequence. Boston writes 'Refusing to admit good and necessary consequences from scripture, overturns all religion, both law and gospel, faith and practice. For how shall it be proved, that John or James are obliged to obey the law, and believe the gospel but by Consequence ? where will they find an express text for these ? Only the law speaks to all, the gospel to every hearer of it, and consequently they oblige thee and me'.

A prohibition on making use of the Bible for good and necessary consequences is a prohibition of making any use of the Bible apart from reading it. Thomas Boston says: 'Good and necessary consequences are such as the word is designed for. What is deduced from them, so is indeed the sense and meaning of the words; and if you have the words without the meaning of them, or without the full meaning of them, in so far ye come short of the true intent of the words. If I bid a man draw near the fire, do I not desire him to warm himself, though I speak not one word of his warming himself" Were not the scriptures written for that end, that 'we through patience and comfort of them might have hope ?' Rom. xv. 4. But this cannot be obtained without the use of consequences. Are they not profitable for doctrine,--'that the man of God may be perfect, thoroughly furnished unto all good works ?" 2 Tim. iii. 16. But can this be had without the use of consequences?'

The third difficulty is that by simply quoting verses out of context you can arrive at a theology that although only based on Scripture texts is against the teaching of Scripture. For instance your doctrine of justification might be 'by works a man is justified, and not by faith only' James 2:24 but this would not be a fully scriptural doctrine cf. Galatians 2:15-16 - 15.

Rejecting good and necessary consequence is impossible therefore. In previous posts we have shown its scriptural basis.

Option 2. To restrict the scope of application of good and necessary consequences.

We have seen that we cannot restrict consequences simply to doctrine they must be applied to practice as Christ and the apostles have done. We have seen that we cannot avoid making personal application of good and necessary consequence. If we restrict the scope of good and necessary consequence we are saying that the Bible must not speak into these areas or that the only way the Bible can speak into these areas is by express statement and preachers cannot make application in these areas. Again we must have an express statement for this prohibition. It is arbitrary and unworkable.

Option 3. To restrict good and necessary consequence to the New Testament.

Once again we must ask of the Marcionite adopting this as to where his Scripture warrant from the New Testament is for this. The practical consequences will be that we have no limitation of consanguinity and affinity in marriage, little to go on against abortion etc. etc. It means that the Old Testament is reserved for illustration only and not for faith and life or practical application. The regulative principle of worship is also proved from the Old Testament and where Christ asserts it in the New Testament against the Pharisees, this is in an Old Covenant context.

To be continued...