How Can We Know Who Jesus Christ Is? (Part 3)

WHOHowJCThe Second Helvetic Confession

The second Confession from which we will seek guidance on Biblical interpretation is the Second Helvetic, which was written in 1561 by Heinrich Bullinger.

The following excerpt from the Book of Confessions provides background.

The word “Helvetic” is Latin for “Swiss.” The setting of the Second Helvetic Confession is Swiss-German Reformed Protestantism.  …

Reflecting the theological maturity of the Reformed churches, the Second Helvetic Confession is moderate in tone and catholic in spirit. From the opening paragraphs it emphasizes the church and its life and affirms the authority of the Scriptures for the church’s government and reformation. By including an article on predestination, the confession asks the church to trust in God’s free and gracious election of its membership in Jesus Christ. At the same time, the confession addresses the practical life of the gathered community, detailing matters of worship, church order and conflict, ministry, the sacraments, and marriage.

As in the previous post, indented text indicated commentary on the previous Confessional text.  I will do my best to avoid unnecessary repetition, but some points are so important that they bear repeating.

Chapter I:  Of the Holy Scripture Being the True Word of God

CANONICAL SCRIPTURE. We believe and confess the canonical Scriptures of the holy prophets and apostles of both Testaments to be the true Word of God, and to have sufficient authority of themselves, not of men.

For God himself spoke to the fathers, prophets, apostles, and still speaks to us through the Holy Scriptures.  And in this Holy Scripture, the universal Church of Christ has the most complete exposition of all that pertains to a saving faith, and also to the framing of a life acceptable to God; and in this respect it is expressly commanded by God that nothing be either added to or taken from the same.

Note that neither of the two Testaments is given precedence.  It was by the Old Testament that the Gospel of Jesus Christ was preached to the Jewish and Pagan populations in the Roman Empire.  The New Testament as we know it today didn’t come into existence until centuries later.  Thus, at a time in which the Christian Church was at it’s smallest the Old Testament was more than sufficient to bring many thousands into saving faith.  Jesus Christ Himself  clearly considered the Old Testament to be God’s Word, and treated it as such (as did the Apostles). So, when a Christian claims spiritual superiority because they follow only the New Testament they are turning their back on Christ’s actual teaching.  What a sad commentary on the state of Biblical knowledge.

Chapter II: Of Interpreting the Holy Scriptures; and of Fathers, Councils, and Traditions

Emphasis added.

THE TRUE INTERPRETATION OF SCRIPTURE. The apostle Peter has said that the Holy Scriptures are not of private interpretation (II Peter 1:20), and thus we do not allow all possible interpretations. … But we hold that interpretation of the Scripture to be orthodox and genuine which is gleaned from the Scriptures themselves (from the nature of the language in which they were written, likewise according to the circumstances in which they were set down, and expounded in the light of like and unlike passages and of many and clearer passages) and which agree with the rule of faith and love, and contributes much to the glory of God and man’s salvation.

The first bolded phrase is in direct contradiction to the post-modern understanding of Scriptural interpretation, where each individual is free to conclude whatever they wish.

The second bolded passage makes clear that Scripture is interpreted by Scripture itself.  That is, we must search for answers within the bounds of Scripture while taking into account contextual issues.

The third bolded phrase means that, prior to stating an opinion on the meaning of Scripture, we must search out all of the related passages, compare them and only then attempt to derive an answer.  Thus, were many relevant passages of Scripture ignored in order to reach a conclusion then the credibility of the interpretative process must be rejected.


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