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Bavinck on the Analogy of Faith

Did the Reformers hold to a version of the “analogy of faith”? I affirm, says Bavinck. And this he sees as perfectly in keeping with sola Scriptura; and indeed, for him, the derivation and intelligibility of this “analogy” is closely dependent on the clarity, or perspecuity, of Scripture. He explains as follows:

On account of this perspecuity, Scripture also possesses the “power of interpreting itself” and is the “supreme judge of all controversies.” Scripture interprets itself; the obscure texts are explained by the plain ones, and the fundamental ideas of Scripture as a whole serve to clarify the parts. This was the “interpretation according to the analogy of faith,” which was also advocated by the Reformers. They too did not come to Scripture without presuppositions. They adopted the teaching of Scripture, the Apostles’ Creed, the decisions of the early councils, virtually without criticism. They were not revolutionary and did not want to begin all over again but only protested against the errors that had crept in. The Reformation was not the liberation of the “natural man” but of the Christian person. From the start, therefore, the Reformers had “an analogy of faith” in which they themselves took position and by which they interpreted Scripture. By that analogy of faith they originally understood the sense derived from the clear texts of Scripture itself, which then was later laid down in the confessions. In connection with that, the church also had a responsibility with respect to the interpretation of Scripture. (Reformed Dogmatics, vol. 1, p. 480)

By E.J. Hutchinson

E.J. Hutchinson is Assistant Professor of Classics at Hillsdale College.

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