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Knowing God in his Word: Hagan Kelly on Danny Hyde’s The Good Confession, ch. 3

16 April, 2008

“Amazing Grace, how sweet the sound that saved a wretch like me. I once was lost but now am found, was blind but now I see.”

I think these words of the famed old hymn serve us well to enter into our review of the third chapter of The Good Confession: An Exploration of the Christian Faith. The chapter is entitled, ‘Knowing God in His Word.’ That’s good, because I believe Pastor Hyde really does want us, his congregation, to ‘know God in His Word.’ It’s a wonderful thing; and every Lord’s Day for the past few months I’ve had a wonderful ritual. I wake up to the lovely sunshine. I make myself up a nice cup of cowboy plains jet-black coffee (the kind that puts grinds in your teeth!) And I head over to the Oceanside United Reformed Church-which is situated in an old triangular chapel right next to the Pacific Ocean-where I learn theology from the good Reverend Hyde. Our class on this subject of knowing God in His Word was a few months ago now, but I still remember it vividly. As is his practice, Pastor Hyde began the class with a prayer to our Heavenly Father for His guidance. Then, with his usual Cheshire cat grin, he asked his class this question: ‘how does a person know God?” Hmm. The class was silent.

Pastor Hyde had us read article 2 of our Belgic Confession, “Of the knowledge of God”:

We know Him by two means: First, by the creation, preservation, and government of the universe; which is before our eyes as a most elegant book, wherein all creatures, great and small, are as so many characters leading us to see clearly the invisible things of God, even his everlasting power and divinity, as the apostle Paul says (Rom 1: 20). All which things are sufficient to convince men and leave them without excuse. Second, He makes Himself more clearly and fully known to us by His Holy and divine Word, that is to say, as far as is necessary for us to know in this life, to His glory and our salvation.”

Pastor Hyde then asked us to read the beauty that is Psalm 19:

“The heavens declare the glory of God, and the sky above proclaims his handiwork. Day to day pours out speech, and night to night reveals knowledge. There is no speech, nor are there words, whose voice is not heard. There measuring line goes out through all the earth, and their words to the end of the world. In them he has set a tent for the sun, which comes out like a bridegroom leaving his chamber, and, like a strong man, runs its course with joy. Its rising is from the end of the heavens, and its circuit to the end of them, and there is nothing hidden from its heat.”

And about then there was a sweet ocean breeze blowing in to our classroom, and I felt very warm and satisfied. I think this should have been very much enough for me to be thankful in my God! I mean, who wouldn’t want to just jump up and shout ‘Hallelujah!’ for such a sweet moment in time? Yet, as the Confession declared, ‘He makes Himself more clearly and fully known to us by His Holy and divine Word.’

Pastor Hyde went on to explain to us the difference between “general” and “special” revelation; that general revelation is what is seen in God’s creation, preservation, and government of the universe-and it is what is seen by all of mankind, day to day, and night to night as a most elegant book. It is the handiwork of God! It is the kindness that God showers upon every man, woman and child. Therefore, this is a “general” revelation.

But, “special” revelation is what only the Church will receive: it is the saving Word of God! It is the Bible. As I write this I am consumed by joy and wonder. I was once blind, but now I see. I was once deaf to the sweet sound of glad tidings-“Awake, O sleeper, and arise from the dead, and Christ will shine on you”-but now I hear! God by His Spirit has given me life by the hearing (and believing) of the gospel of Christ! Now, I think back to this last Lord’s Day-we were going over the Sacraments in our class-and I am filled with happiness to know why I was there. I was there because I am called by God to be a member of the body of Christ, the Church!

As Reformed Christians we believe that Scripture is our only rule for life and godliness. We believe that Scripture is of Holy origin, and that men spake from God, being moved by the Holy Spirit, as the apostle Peter says. We believe that the “inspiration” of Scripture is of an organic nature: that the Word is both divine and human. We believe that God is full of amazing grace in that he would give us, sinful creatures, His Holy Covenant Word of salvation! This is His Word-wherein He tells us that He cannot lie!

At this point it is good for us to understand what is the “canon,” or the bounds, of Holy Scripture. So what are those bounds? As Reformed Christians we believe that the canon is made up of the 66 books of the Old and New Testaments, and these only. We believe that you cannot add nor take away from these, for in them is revealed God’s Holy law and gospel. It states this in article 5 of the Confession, “Of the Authority of Holy Scripture:”

We receive all these books, and these only, as holy and canonical, for the regulation, foundation, and confirmation of our faith; believing without any doubt all things contained in them, not so much because the Church receives and approves them as such, but more especially because the Holy Spirit witnesses in our hearts that they are from God, and also because they carry the evidence thereof in themselves. For the very blind are able to perceive that the things foretold in them are being fulfilled.

This point fills me with peace, for without the empowering of God I cannot believe the gospel! This means that God is for us. And if God is for us, no one can stand against us! We will inherit the Kingdom that our Lord Christ has won for us. “For our sake he made him to be sin who knew no sin, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God.”

To sum up, we do not accept the Apocrypha on par with the canon of Scripture. This is because only the canon is the true, infallible, Word of God. Jesus and the Apostles do not quote from the Apocrypha in the New Testament, but only from the 39 books of the Old Testament. Therefore, we read only the 66 books of Holy Scripture as our authoritative guide in theology, doctrine and all of life as we await the return of our Savior Jesus Christ.

  1. 16 April, 2008 2:57 am

    You say that “Jesus and the Apostles do not quote from the Apocrypha in the New Testament, but only from the 39 books of the Old Testament.” Could you provide a list of quotes from the NT that come from from OT books? Say one quote per OT book. 🙂

  2. 16 April, 2008 12:15 pm

    Good post! I forwarded it to my Presbyterian PCA Pastor. He preached a sermon last Sunday morning on knowing God through observing nature and reading Psalm 19. Great minds think alike!

  3. thomasgoodwin permalink
    16 April, 2008 6:23 pm

    “Jesus and the Apostles do not quote from the Apocrypha in the New Testament, but only from the 39 books of the Old Testament.”

    What about Jude 14?

  4. creedorchaos permalink*
    17 April, 2008 6:15 am

    I think another, more explicit way to say this is that they don’t quote anything other than the Old Testament AS an appeal to authoritative scripture. The Bible uses and alludes to and appeals to all sorts of books and people’s words and actions, but the Old Testament scriptures are the ones they appeal to as SCRIPTURE — as the very written Word of almighty God.

    Anything else becomes authoritative scripture in and only in the prophets’ and apostles’ employment of it — Moses used extrabiblical documents, but his use of them doesn’t make THEM canonical — what makes something canonical is it being the written Word of God through these commissioned men that constitutes, addresses, and governs the covenant community. Same thing with Jude, or Paul’s citations of pagan philosophers, and so on.


  5. 17 April, 2008 6:40 am

    I knew it! Goodwin is on his way back to Rome. Sigh.

  6. 17 April, 2008 6:55 am

    Incidently, Hagan is not a student at WSC…yet (Danny’s not done with him).
    I surfed with Hagan back on the North Shore when I was 24 and he was 8. He remembers a few times (Laniekea for instance)where I almost drowned him in much too large of surf.
    He was one of the first people that I began to tell about Christ and pray for. He grew up to be a champion surfer and then the travel editor for Surfing Magazine. Somewhere in there my earliest prayers as a beiever were answered and he came to faith and was featured in the movie “The Outsiders.” I sought him out in San Diego and we were reunited. Because of his love for the Word I easily led him to Calvin and Reformed theology and then to Hyde and Oceanside URC where he has been thoroughly blessed. He and Inwoo want to take turns sharing what they’ve been learning as laymen at O-side.

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