“The external word is the instrument, the internal word the aim” by Herman Bavinck

“The difference between Rome and the Reformation in their respective views of tradition consists in this: Rome wanted a tradition that ran on an independent parallel track alongside of Scripture, or rather, Scripture alongside of tradition.

The Reformation recognizes only a tradition that is founded on and flows from Scripture. To the mind of the Reformation, Scripture was an organic principle from which the entire tradition, living on in preaching, confession, liturgy, worship, theology, devotional literature, etc., arises and is nurtured.

It is a pure spring of living water from which all the currents and channels of the religious life are fed and maintained. Such a tradition is grounded in Scripture itself.

After Jesus completed his work, he sent forth the Holy Spirit who, while adding nothing new to the revelation, still guides the church into the truth (John 16:12–15) until it passes through all its diversity and arrives at the unity of faith and the knowledge of the Son of God (Eph. 3:18, 19; 4:13).

In this sense there is a good, true, and glorious tradition. It is the method by which the Holy Spirit causes the truth of Scripture to pass into the consciousness and life of the church. Scripture, after all, is only a means, not the goal.

The goal is that, instructed by Scripture, the church will freely and independently make known “the wonderful deeds of him who called it out of darkness into his marvelous light” (1 Pet. 2:9).

The external word is the instrument, the internal word the aim. Scripture will have reached its destination when all have been taught by the Lord and are filled with the Holy Spirit.”

–Herman Bavinck, Reformed Dogmatics: Prolegomena, Vol. 1, Ed. John Bolt, and Trans. John Vriend (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Academic, 2003), 493–494.

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Filed under Bible, Biblical Theology, Christian Theology, doctrine of God, God's Excellencies, Herman Bavinck, Jesus Christ, Puritanical, Quotable Quotes, The Gospel

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