Horton: The Word Always Creates the Church

Erik Raymond —  April 30, 2013

I’m really enjoying Michael Horton’s new Systematic Theology, Pilgrim Theology. A few guys at the church are going through it together and really benefiting from the simplicity and clarity that Horton offers. In his chapter on the Scripture he contrasts the Reformation and Roman Catholic understanding of Authority and Scripture…

The churches of the Reformation do not deny the ongoing authority of the church in its representative assemblies, but the key difference is this: whereas the Roman Catholic Church combines Scripture and tradition as one source of magisterial (i.e., ruling) authority, we confess that this belongs to Scripture alone, with tradition as ministerial (i.e., serving). Just as courts interpret the constitution, church courts interpret Scripture. This is why churches from the Reformation affirm the ecumenical creeds and subscribe to confessions and catechisms as communally valid interpretations of God’s Word. Yet again, it must be emphasized that this authority does not arise from the church. It arises from the canon that the church seeks faithfully to interpret in dependence on the Spirit.

To regard Scripture as the church’s constitution is to directly counter the Roman Catholic claim that the church is the mother of Scripture…

The canon, as the constitution of the church, is what constitutes a people as this people, under this government, in this body. Of course, the Reformers and their heirs never doubted that the church came before the completed canon of Scripture in history. However, they insisted that it is the word that always creates the church.

(Note: this book remains on sale for Kindle at $7.99 or Hardback)

Erik Raymond

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Erik has been writing at Ordinary Pastor since 2006. He lives in Omaha with his wife and kids while pastoring at Emmaus Bible Church. Follow regular updates on Twitter at www.twitter.com/erikraymond