Reformed Perspectives Magazine, Volume 8, Number 45, November 5 to November 11, 2006
Westminster and Contemporary Reformed Hermeneutics
By Dr. Richard Pratt, Jr.Professor of Old Testament at Reformed Theological Seminary, Orlando, FL., andFounder and President of Third Millennium Ministries, Fern Park, FL.
This year marks my 28th year of serving as a teaching elder, first in the Reformed Presbyterian Church and then in the PCA. It also marks my 21st and last year of serving as a full time professor at Reformed Theological Seminary. These bodies that I have served — the PCA, RPCES and Reformed Theological Seminary — have at least two things in common. First, they have drawn much of their theological orientation from a revival of historical Calvinism in the 1920’s and 1930’s under the leadership of J. Greshem Machen. Machen and his associates form what I often call the neo-Calvinist or American neo-Calvinist movement. Second, they have required their teachers to subscribe to the Westminster Confession of Faith (hereafter “Westminster” or “the Confession”). They have required this subscription on the belief that the Confession contains the system of doctrine taught in Scripture. This confessional tradition is not the tradition in which I was raised, but it is the tradition that I have identified as my theological home as an adult believer for all these twenty-something years.
Now my assigned task (not a task of choice) today is to speak to you of an issue that’s related to the conference title The Westminster Confession Today. And I have entitled my presentation “Westminster and Contemporary Reformed Hermeneutics.” The thesis of my presentation is rather straightforward, so I can give it to you very quickly. I am convinced that in our neo-Calvinist branch of the church, hermeneutical discussions are at a crossroads. I am also convinced that the wisdom of our heritage, reflected in the Confession, [It may be too early to tell at this juncture, but Pratt here seems to assume a “static” tradition rather than a developing one. This will likely prove important for understanding his argument below.]
has the ability to guide us through many of the choices we are going to have to make in the field of hermeneutics in the not too distant future.
It goes without saying that the Confession touches on biblical hermeneutics in many different ways, [Actually, I don’t think it goes without saying. It needs to be demonstrated, which, as we will see below, Pratt does not do.]
but time is only going to allow us to talk about a few of those ways. And so I’m going to talk about three main issues: first, the divine origin of Scripture; second, the historical reliability of Scripture; third and finally, the harmony of Scripture.