Sunday, June 14, 2009

On WCF and the misleading rhetoric of good and necessary deduction

In Return to Rome: Confessions of an Evangelical Catholic (Brazos, 2009), former ETS president Francis Beckwith writes:

"My Evangelical Protestant contemporarires seemed to treat the Bible as if it could be read as an authoritative depositary of orthodox doctrine apart from the historic church and the formation of Christian theology during the early centuries of its existence. The whole idea that, according to The Westminster Confession, one may 'deduce' necessary doctrines from 'scripture' treats theology as if it were a branch of mathematics." (p 80)

I find it very interesting that Mr. Beckwith has come to this conclusion. When I first made a similar observation in 2005/6, I thought it was such an important insight that I decided to begin writing a book about it. I am excited to say that my new book, By Good and Necessary Consequence: A Preliminary Genealogy of Biblicist Foundationalism, has just been released by Wipf and Stock. It is presently available through the publisher and will become available at amazon, barnesandnoble and other vendors in a few short weeks.

Although in my first book I argued that scripture could never practically be one's "ultimate" authority and, in my new book, that a good-and-necessary-consequence approach to theology is ill-advised, it wasn't until some time last year (when writing an article that that will appear in Theology and Science) that I began to realize that sola scriptura may be little more than a rhetorical rallying cry for Protestants or, in Beckwith's words, "more of a slogan than a standard."