Over at www.wscal.edu you can read a book review I did on Michael J. Vlach, Has the Church Replaced Israel? A Theological Evaluation. In this book, Vlach argues against the so called supersessionism. He defines it as “the view that the New Testament Church is the new and/or true Israel that has forever superseded the nation Israel as the People of God.” He argues that Reformed exegetes who hold to these beliefs introduce “change, alteration, or reinterpretation to the original meaning,” of the Old Testament text, and they “do not allow” Old Testament passages “to be the reference points for their own meaning.”
In reality, Reformed Christians see no replacement of Israel because there are not two particulars in the first place. The New Testament assumes corporate unity between Israel and the church. Christ is presented as the representative of the true Israel of the Old Testament, and the true Israel—the church—in the New Testament. The Bible presents a unified history controlled by a wise and sovereign God, who planned the early parts of his Word to correspond and point to the latter parts. Geerhardus Vos states in BiblicalTheology that “revelation does not stand alone by itself,” rather it is “inseparably attached” to the activity of Redemption. Revelation is the interpretation of redemption. Because of this, it unfolds itself “in installments as redemption does” (5–6). Hermeneutics therefore should come from a canon that allows the latter parts of biblical history to function as the broader context. Christ and the Apostles of the New Testament interpret the Old Testament in light of redemption. Jesus Christ is the center of history, and the key that unlocks the early portions of the Old Testament promises. The canon does interpret the canon.
The third proof for the RPW comes from the Second Commandment’s prohibition against idols. It was James Ussher who influenced the Westminster divines to settle that the Second Commandment taught the RPW. His unique contribution to the Assembly shows itself brilliantly in his catechism, “What is the scope and meaning of this commandment [the Second]?” The answer, “to bind all men to that solemn Form of Religious Worship which God himself is in his Word precribeth: that we serve him not according to our fancies, but according to his own will (Deut 12:32).” This answer is followed by the question, “What is generally forbidden herein?” And its answer:
Every Form of Worship, though of the true God (Deut 12:31) contrary to, or diverse from the prescript of God’s Word, (Mat 15:9) called by the Apostle Will-worship, (Col 2:23) together with all corruption in the true worship of God, (2 Kings 16:10) and all lust and inclination of the heart unto superstitious pomp and rites in the service of God.
“Will-worship” from Colossians 2:23 became the term that marked worship methods not found in Scripture. It was worship that man had willed but not God. Ussher argued that it was idolatry. The Puritans jumped on this term and charged it to the practice, whereby human rites and ceremonies were added to the worship service. The Second Commandment forbids man-made practices.
 James Ussher, A Body of Divinity: The Sum and Substance of Christian Religion, (Solid Ground Christian Books, 2007-06-12), 199.
The first proof for the RPW comes from the doctrine of the Sufficiency of Scripture (Ps 119; 2Tim 3:16). This doctrine carries a positive and a negative statement. The positive statement, “the whole counsel of God concerning all things necessary for his own glory…is either expressly set down in Scripture, or by good and necessary consequences may be deduced from Scripture.” With creaturely knowledge, only the Bible gives us the specifics on how to glorify the Creator. This, however, is not enough the creature must not add “at any time…whether by new revelations of the Spirit, or traditions of men,” to what the creator has given. No creaturely innovations for worshipping the creator are allowed because innovations infer that the Bible, the Creator’s Word, is lacking and imperfect in leading his church in worship, hence the sufficiency of Scripture. Belgic confession 32 is clear on this point as well, “Therefore we reject all human inventions, and all which man would introduce into the worship of God, thereby to bind and compel the conscience in any manner.” This confession is unambiguous, human inventions may not be introduced into the worship of God, and the reason segues into the next point, to bind and compel conscience. Stay tuned to learn about Worship and Christian liberty, an important doctrine for the Reformed. Continue reading →
The catechism was composed in 1563 at the request of Elector Frederick III for the purpose of instructing the youth of the day, and guiding pastors and teachers in their teaching duties. Of the Heidelberg Catechism, Schaff writes, “The Catechism is a work of religious enthusiasm, based on solid theological learning, and directed by excellent judgment.… It is the product of the heart as well as the head, full of faith and unction from above. It is fresh, lively, glowing, yet clear, sober, self-sustained. The ideas are Biblical and orthodox, and well fortified by apt Scripture proofs. The language is dignified, terse, nervous, popular, and often truly eloquent. It is the language of devotion as well as instruction. Altogether the Heidelberg Catechism is more than a book, it is an institution, and will live as long as the Reformed Church.”
Solascriptura rejects any idea that Scripture is incomplete and needs the augmentation of tradition. It does so with another attribute of Scripture—the doctrine of sufficiency. Sufficiency means Scripture contains the articles of faith and matters necessary for salvation, but not everything needed for church organization. There are many different things needed for the Christian life and tradition plays a role. The Reformation was not a revolt from tradition rather it was a reform. The Reformers, when developing these doctrines, did not believe they were starting over with the Bible alone. They were getting back to the analogy of faith that began with the apostolic church. Continue reading →
Sola scriptura (Tradition 1) means that Scripture is the final and infallible authority. The Bible is the sole authority because it is divine revelation (Scripture = divine revelation). Nowhere else is special revelation found, but in the Bible alone. God, however, did not just drop Scripture from the sky and leave us on our own to interpret it. Scripture alone does not mean my Bible and me only. It does not mean that there is no church or Spirit. Continue reading →
At first glance, Solo scriptura’s creed, “The whole Bible and nothing but the Bible” might seem sound. As Protestants, who would want to apply anything to the Bible? However, is tradition 0 biblical? Is this the position held by the church from antiquity? Continue reading →