In part III, section V. of Jonathan Edwards’ Religious Affections, Edward’s helpfully explains the Holy Spirit’s inward testimony to scripture’s divine origin. In short, Edwards argues that the gospel itself is directly “self-evidencing.” Namely, that the Spirit enables individuals to apprehend and taste the excellencies of God in the Gospel, which, when perceived, are direct evidence of its divine origin and thereby grants sure conviction of its truthfulness.
He goes on to say that (what we might call) more “evidentialist”-type arguments are helpful inasmuch as they are serviceable to “awaken unbelievers” or “confirm the faith of true saints.” Yet “there is no spiritual conviction of the judgment, but what arises from an apprehension of the spiritual beauty and glory of divine things.”
Below is a compilation of select quotations from this section of his book as they address this subject:
It is evident that there is a spiritual conviction of the truth, or a belief peculiar to those who are spiritual, who are regenerated, and who have the Spirit of God, in his holy communications, dwelling in them as a vital principle. … [This] spiritual conviction of the truth of the great things of the gospel is such a conviction as arises from having a spiritual apprehension. … [And this spiritual apprehension] consists in a sense and taste of the divine, supreme, and holy excellency and beauty of those things. So that then is the mind spiritually convinced of the divinity and truth of the great things of the gospel, when that conviction arises … from such a sense or view of their divine excellency and glory as is there exhibited. …
A view of this divine glory directly convinces the mind of the divinity of these things, as this glory is in itself a direct, clear, and all-conquering evidence of it. … He that truly sees the divine, transcendent, supreme glory of those things which are divine, does as it were know their divinity intuitively. … The manifestations of the moral and spiritual glory of the Divine Being (which is the proper beauty of the divinity) bring their own evidence, and tend to assure the heart. … Continue reading
The printing press was invented in 1440, allowing written works — like the Bible — to be widely produced and distributed.
Desiderius Erasmus’ Greek New Testament of the Bible, the first of its kind to be made, was published in 1516, facilitating the movement “ad fontes,” and a close examination of scripture in its original language.
The Protestant Reformation kicked off contemporaneously, circa 1517.
Coincidence? I think not.
When the Word of God is unleashed, expect theological reform.
At the heart of the Reformers’ agenda was to put the scriptures into the hands and ears of the people. Contrast that with the Roman Catholic Church, who, at the time, forbid preaching or translating the Bible into the common language. (Of what were they afraid?)
The Reformation was a movement of the scriptures.
The Roman Catholic Church holds itself up as the official interpreter of scripture.
But to claim such is for the Roman Catholic Church to assert itself into a position of standing over scripture. No longer would God and his Word serve as a supreme authority. Final appeal would not be made to the scripture itself, but to Rome and it’s interpretation of it.
In such a model, the Roman Catholic Church would, in essence, serve as the highest authority. But to make something other than God the highest authority is functionally to say that something has more authority than God himself, which is blasphemy Continue reading
Are We Together? A Protestant Analyzes Roman Catholicism by R.C. Sproul
My rating: 3 of 5 stars
This book is written to those who are Protestant, in an effort to help them sense the theological chasm between Protestantism and Rome. As such, it is not written as much with an eye towards Catholics, to help them understand Protestant convictions or arguments.
Almost all attention is given to unpacking Catholic thought. Protestant views are only mentioned occasionally in so much as to provide a contrast. But they are not expanded upon.
The above is not a critique of the book, just a clarification that if you are looking for a book that contrasts Protestant and Catholic belief, simultaneously making a case for Protestantism, for example, this is not your book. Sproul, rather, is detailing Catholic thought with an aim of depressing inappropriate ecumenical tendencies (i.e., blowing off differences with Rome) among protestants.
As he proceeds towards this aim, Sproul does a fair job presenting Catholic views. He is charitable, and avoids caricatures, which are all too common among protestants. He gives the needed nuance to Catholic views. He wants to help protestants genuinely understand Catholic theology, and to see it’s rationale.
This book is to be recommended for those looking to understand Catholicism better, specifically on those key subjects where it differs most significantly from Protestant thought.
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I have learned to yield this respect and honour only to the canonical books of Scripture: of these alone do I most firmly believe that the authors were completely free from error. And if in these writings I am perplexed by anything which appears to me opposed to truth, I do not hesitate to suppose that either the manuscript is faulty, or the translator has not caught the meaning of what was said, or I myself have failed to understand it. As to all other writings, in reading them, however great the superiority of the authors to myself in sanctity and learning, I do not accept their teaching as true on the mere ground of the opinion being held by them; but only because they have succeeded in convincing my judgment of its truth either by means of these canonical writings themselves, or by arguments addressed to my reason. … [Others are] not … to be read like those of prophets or of apostles, concerning which it would be wrong to doubt that they are free from error.
~ Augustine of Hippo