Rutherford, The Gift of Prophecy, and the WCF

Discussion in 'The Confession of Faith' started by KMK, Dec 4, 2007.

Thread Status:
Not open for further replies.
  1. KMK

    KMK Moderator Staff Member

    The following is from Douglas A. Oss' contribution to the book "Are Miraculous Gifts For Today: 4 Views"

    Is Oss' understanding of Rutherford's writings correct?
    If so, does that change the "prevailing cessationist interpretation" of the WCF?
     
  2. NaphtaliPress

    NaphtaliPress Administrator Staff Member

    That sounds accurate as to what Rutheford worte. See this thread from 2005.
     
  3. Reformed Covenanter

    Reformed Covenanter Puritan Board Doctor

    Don't the Steelites believe in continuing prophecy of some sort?
     
  4. NaphtaliPress

    NaphtaliPress Administrator Staff Member

    Yes; I think at least some do; but I believe the thread is about Rutherford.;)
     
  5. Reformed Covenanter

    Reformed Covenanter Puritan Board Doctor

    They claim to be the true heirs of Rutherford, thus that is where they say get there ideas from...maybe I should put an :offtopic: smile in.
     
  6. Reformed Covenanter

    Reformed Covenanter Puritan Board Doctor


    Right Ken, is the argument basically that new revelations of the Spirit are okay just as long as they are not added to the text of Scripture. To me this is strange; if there are new revelations, then why can't they be added to the text of Scripture?

    :offtopic: I believe that ideas such as this are facilitated by people not holding that the canon was closed before 70 AD. In my humble opinion, the canon of the New Testament must have to have been completed before the Old Covenant system was finally abolished.
     
  7. KMK

    KMK Moderator Staff Member

    My main question is the second one. Understanding what Rutherford believed concerning prophecy, could one believe in the miraculous gift of prophecy today and still be confessional?

    I am not interested in Cessationist arguments against Oss in general but specifically his use of Rutherford to cast a different view on the meaning of WCF chapter 1 than the "prevailing" view.
     
  8. wsw201

    wsw201 Puritan Board Senior

    No. One could not believe in the miraculous gift of prophecy today and still be confessional. The WCF is a cessationist document. Though Rutherford was quite a gifted teacher, he wasn't right about everything so one should not attempt to create a view of the Standards based on what Rutherford thought regarding prophecy.
     
  9. Reformed Covenanter

    Reformed Covenanter Puritan Board Doctor


    I think the Steelites would argue "yes" you could as long as you are not inscripturating your new "revelations".

    However, I tend to agree with Wayne's comments above; Rutherford held a number of things that were unbiblical - such as denying the absolute necessity of the atonement - hence we cannot impute all his opinions to the Westminster Divines per se.
     
  10. Davidius

    Davidius Puritan Board Post-Graduate

    What??
     
  11. KMK

    KMK Moderator Staff Member

    In this section of the book, Oss is arguing against the use of the WCF as an argument for historical cessationsim. If Rutherford (and the others that Mr. Coldwell speaks of in the thread cited above) believed in the miraculous gift of prophecy, how can you state that the WCF is a 'cessationist' document? Isn't it standard practice to use the extra-confessional writings of the Divines to clarify the confession itself?

    I am not arguing, just asking for some elucidation.
     
  12. Reformed Covenanter

    Reformed Covenanter Puritan Board Doctor

    :owen: versus :rutherford:

    Chris can probably highlight some materials on the PB to substantiate this. However, if you look at John Owen's A Dissertation on Divine Justice, in volume 10 of his works, he takes issue with Rutherford and William Twisse for teaching that God could (not did) have devised some other means for the redemption of sinners other than the death of Christ. This is nonsense, because how could God's justice be satisfied apart from Christ's atoning work? The answer, as Owen demonstrates, is that it could not; and so due, to the death of Christ, God saves sinners in a manner consistent with His justice. Hence Paul could say that God is "just and the justifier of the one who has faith in Jesus" (Rom. 3:26).
     
  13. wsw201

    wsw201 Puritan Board Senior

    One needs to be careful in using the various writings of those who were at the Assembly. No doubt that Rutherford, as well as the other Scotish attendees, were very influential, but the Standards are a consensus document. Based on the plain reading of Chapter 1.1, it would appear that the concensus was that ongoing prophecy had ended with the last Apostle. This has also been the position of the Church for quite awhile now.

    Rutherford was also a supralapsarian, but I have never heard anyone argue that the Standards promote a supralapsarian view. In fact the Standards promote an infralapsarian view.
     
  14. NaphtaliPress

    NaphtaliPress Administrator Staff Member

    It was not just Rutherford's view, and while they may have said more about it (maybe the problem is they said to much?), I think it is also found in English Puritanism; maybe some one can document that. My pov is that this was a dearly held Scottish position and that if the Scottish Kirk thought the view was precluded by the WCF, they would have had something to say about it. It was as far as I know not officially debated at the Assembly, though the fact Gillespie addresses it as a topic in his Miscellany, made up of what one has theorized as study papers, may indicate some discussion of it amongst divines took place, or it at least was a topic that occurred to him while at the Assembly (which, and I may be wrong, I believe is where most of the papers in the Miscellany were written).
     
    Last edited: Dec 4, 2007
  15. Amazing Grace

    Amazing Grace Puritan Board Junior

    Chris: :offtopic: question, but was it done by a majority vote for the WCF? In an instance like this, there had to have been talks even if not recorded since Rutherford and the scots were so prevalient in other areas, when they "lost" their opinion, was it settled under contention?

    Supralapsarianism for instance, Twisse was hardcore, you mentioned Rutherford, and there were many others. Why was there such a spirit of compramise for the document, yet their private writings are against what they actually signed. Am I missing something or can you or anyone else enlighten me.
     
  16. NaphtaliPress

    NaphtaliPress Administrator Staff Member

    No dissenting votes were noted; and again, if this had been understood as disavowing this view, it would have caused some discussion in Scotland for sure. I do not think Rutherford and Gillespie who both wrote on this topic I think during the Assembly (Gillespie in his Miscellany papers and Rutherford's Spiritual Antichrist was published in November 1647 according to Thomson's copy; he crossing out the 8 of 1648 in his copy, which is strange but I suppose Thomson would know what year he bought his copy even though the book stated 1648), believed their view was crossway with WCF 1.1. I do note that it was at the very beginning of the debate on chapter one that the following was decided by the assmbly: "That Mr Reynolds, <Mr Herle, Mr Newcomen> be desired to take care of the wording of the Confession of faith as it is voted in the Assemby [fo. 78v] <from time to time and to report to the Assembly when> they thinke fit ther should be any alteration in the words. They are first to <consult with> the commissioners from the church of Scotland <or one of them> before they report to the Assembly." VanDixhoorn, volume 6, p. 145. Given how highly involved the Scots were in any word changes, I think if the Scots had seen this view as forbidden doctrinally they would have made as big a stink about this as they did over the Directory and the use of a table in communion, and we'd have something to read about as we do in that case. :2cents:
     
  17. Scott

    Scott Puritan Board Graduate

    I think that the confessional language is broad enough to be understood as allowing for Rutherford's views. Here is one reformed church's session's detailed defense of why those views are consistent with the Confession: A Reformation Discussion of Extraordinary Predictive Prophecy Subsequent to the Closing of the Canon of Scripture.

    I know Richard Baxter has a section in his Christian Directory on how to distiniguish true from false prophecy. He takes the same approach as Rutherford on this. Seems like this view may have been common.
     
  18. KMK

    KMK Moderator Staff Member

    Mr. Coldwell, do you still hold to this view from you post in that thread from 2005?

    If so, then perhaps the disagreement is a matter of semantics? Mr. Wylie believes the WCF is a 'cessationist document'. But the Scots did not seem to hold to the same kind of 'cessationism' that Mr. Wylie holds to. Could we say the the WCF is cessationist in that it does not agree with a 'miraculous gift' of prophecy, but leaves room for 'extraordinary providential illumination' or something like that?

    :candle:
     
  19. Scott

    Scott Puritan Board Graduate

    The test for canonization is broader than whether something is inspired. A lot of special revelation was not inscripturated. The Holy Spirit preserved what he willed for the Church. Canonical revelation is that body of revelation that was meant for the Church throughout time. With other special revelation, God had more specific purposes aside from edifying the entire Church. Think of it as the difference between a father's letter to his entire family and a father's letter to his daughter. The first letter is for a broader audience and the second is for only one person.
     
  20. Scott

    Scott Puritan Board Graduate

    While this is not what Wayne means, it is correct to say that the WCF is cessasionist in terms of the canon.
     
  21. KMK

    KMK Moderator Staff Member

    Mr. Roberts, this quote is from a post you made in that thread from 2005:

    However, the link does not seem to work. Is it the same document?
     
  22. wsw201

    wsw201 Puritan Board Senior

    Assuming Rutherford's view of prohecy that does not need to be apart of Scripture, then how do we deal with the word of knowledge and word of wisdom crowd? They make "prophetic" predictions all the time. Should they be condemned or exalted?

    They argue that what they receive from God is small "p" prophecy versus big "P" prophecy and does not need to be canonized. I believe Wayne Grudem is a proponent of this type of prophecy especially when he was an apologist for the Vineyard.
     
  23. Reformed Covenanter

    Reformed Covenanter Puritan Board Doctor

    :agree:

    Very well said. Lets just say, for instance, that a young man in our congregation said to a girl "the Lord told me that I am to marry you" - if he claims that it is a prophetic utterance, and the congregation believes in continuing prophecy, then is the girl sinning if she refuses to marry him?

    :wwbd:
     
  24. NaphtaliPress

    NaphtaliPress Administrator Staff Member

    No; that is where I'm comfortable still. I think that is a resolution of sorts without simply throwing overboard the Presbyterians and Puritans that say something to the effect this phenomena is valid. I'm not sure their theological explanations are correct; but I'm more concerned about labeling all such recorded instances as lies, etc.
     
  25. NaphtaliPress

    NaphtaliPress Administrator Staff Member

    Rutherford attempts to distinguish his position from the Familists and such that claimed revelations. I'm not sure the text is totally clean but see the link for his division of the types of prophecy and his handling of them.
     
  26. KMK

    KMK Moderator Staff Member

    I think you are right about Grudem and this seems to be a fair picture of Oss' position. However, I am not looking for another discussion on cessationism in general but the original intent behind the WCF. The cessationist argument does not stand or fall on the WCF. Even if room can be made for Rutherford and Gillespie's view of prophecy within Chapter 1, that does not mean that the continuationist is correct.

    My concern is that of Mr. Coldwell in that we don't read the WCF in such a way that misrepresents the Divines' intent.
     
  27. MW

    MW Puritan Board Doctor

    I appreciate and support Chris Coldwell's position that this subject is best discussed under extraordinary providence, or perhaps, because that phrase is usually associated with miracles, it would be best to call it unusual providence. Note especially the statement from Robert Blair in the linked thread concerning times of suffering, which are times when the Lord will often undertake for His people in unusual ways.

    There is a fundamental problem with the way modern folk interpret the language of men like Rutherford. Their statements are not understood within the basic theological framework they worked with. Now Rutherford held some fairly concrete ideas on the subjects of Scripture and assurance. Most moderns do not hold Rutherford's doctrine of immediate inspiration, but follow men like Warfield and adopt a more organic approach. So it comes about that when Rutherford speaks of the possibility of continuing revelation, the modern mind naturally assumes he is referring to the same process which was necessary for the production of the Scriptures, and subsequently concludes that he did not hold a cessationist position. Again, Rutherford held that assurance requires us to know something infallibly which is not specifically stated in Scripture, namely, our personal interest in Christ. Most moderns cannot appreciate the nuances of his position here, and so it is wrongly concluded that Rutherford believed the Spirit immediately witnesses truth to the heart of the elect.

    The fact is that Rutherford held there are different kinds of revelation, and he articulated this in the very passage men quote to show he was not cessationist. Now, if the revelation which continues is different from the revelation which produced Scripture, and the revelation which produced Scripture is regarded as having ceased, it should be obvious to clear thinking people that Rutherford held to the position that special revelation has ceased. What continues is not the special revelation which produced Scripture, but another kind of revelation altogether. Given this fact, he cannot be used as an example of a non-cessationist advocate influencing the formation of the Westminster Standards.
     
  28. Scott

    Scott Puritan Board Graduate

    Baxter has a section on how to evaluate claims of others to prophecy. Do you have his Christian Directory? I can try to find the section and direct you to it, but I don't want to lay it all out here (time constraints, etc.).
     
  29. Scott

    Scott Puritan Board Graduate

    For what it's worth, Rutherford, Baxter, and others of this school of thought taught that these private prophecies were not binding on the consciences of others. They also provided direction on how to evaluate claims to prophecy. If you have Baxter's Christian Directory I will try and find the section and point you to such Puritan guidance.

    How would someone prior to the closing of the canon dealt with this issue? The methods are really the same.
     
  30. MW

    MW Puritan Board Doctor

    I wasn't going to reply to this since it's a bit off topic; but it would seem a shame to let go an opportunity to delve into a subject which touches on the heart of reformed thought.

    Owen's view is (1.) necessitarian, and (2.) contradictory to his own voluntarist view of the divine decree. In Death of Death he forcibly argues that God's attributes are not constrained to act in this or that manner towards the creature since all the acts of God are determined according to the freedom of His will. In the treatise on justice he says the contrary.

    On four accounts the Larger Catechism (71) says justification is an act of God's free grace. (1.) In accepting the satisfaction from a surety. (2.) In providing the surety. (3.) In imputing the righteousness of the surety to believers. (4.) In giving faith as the means to receive this righteousness. Justice demanded satisfaction from the soul that sinned. If justice must be inflexibly satisfied there could be no possibility of substitution. It is better to consider atonement as the means which God freely determined to use for the display of the glory and harmony of His perfections in the salvation of sinners, rather than create a doctrine which might assist one aspect of reformed thought but which essentially undermines the reformed system because it exhibits God as enslaved to the principles of "nature."
     
Thread Status:
Not open for further replies.

Share This Page