Part 2 - The Bible
Welcome to part two of our ongoing series on the Westminster Confession of Faith (WCoF), the main subordinate standard for the Free Church and most English speaking reformed churches.
This time we are going to look at chapter 1 of the Confession, which contains teaching on the Bible.
The WCoF begins by making it clear that nature and the world around us leave humanity with a clear indicator of God’s existence (what theologians call ‘general revelation’) and no excuse for denying Him. However, this natural revelation is not sufficient to bring us to a complete understanding or a saving faith. Therefore God has, over time, made ‘special revelations’ to various people and had these preserved in written form. This is what we know as the Bible or Scripture.
The Confession goes on to list the ‘canonical’ books of the Bible, stating that Old and New testament taken together form the Holy Scripture, with nothing to be added. It views scripture as holistic in nature, that is that there is a coherent unity to the Bible, it is one work, not an anthology of diverse works. Scripture’s authority comes not from any recognition by the church but by right of being the word of God, whilst it was written down by men, God is its author. In its original languages it is infallible and directly inspired by God, however we are required to make use of translations into the common, everyday languages of the people using it. It does not allow for additional revelations or special ‘new’ insights claimed by some, nor the elevation of traditions to the status of scripture.
Everything that we need to know can be found in the Bible. Sometimes this is expressed plainly and at other times it requires us to work out general principles to apply to situations the Bible does not speak about. The aid of the Holy Spirit is required to open up the scripture to bring saving faith. Whilst in depth study of God’s word is beneficial, the requirements for salvation are plainly laid out for all to read.
Scripture is to be the supreme judge of all questions in the church and holds primacy over all other traditions and documents (including the WCoF itself). As a result, the only guide to interpreting scripture should be scripture itself. Where one passage may be unclear, it’s meaning can be clarified in the context of scripture as a whole.
The Bible is given to us by God for our benefit, that we might know him better and have assurance and saving knowledge, all to his Glory.