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The apostolic fathers and their writings reflect the doctrine and life of the church immediately following the death of the apostles. They are called apostolic fathers because in their days the teaching and preaching of the apostles was still a matter of living memory in the church of a not yet remote past. The identity of these men and the authenticity of their writings are to some extent matters of scholarly debate which need not fully concern us. They lived and wrote roughly in the period from A.D. 100-A.D. 200.

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The apostolic fathers, as we have seen, did not have a formal doctrine of the Word of God or of inspiration. Rather they had an intuitive understanding that the Scriptures were the one unified and authoritative revelation of God by the apostles and prophets. We must also remember that for the apostolic fathers, the teaching and preaching of the apostles was a matter of living memory in the church. It is understandable therefore that along with Scripture, the canon of which had not yet been determined, they would place a high value upon that which they had heard directly from...

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By A.D. 150 the early new dispensational church was a well-established and growing church. Enduring the trials of persecution and the attacks of various Gnostic heresies, the church continued to grow in its understanding of the Word and to be led by the Spirit to discern God’s Word of Truth. By A.D. 180 a solid consensus was already forming in the church as to what constituted the New Testament Scriptures, though this process cannot be said to be fully finished until around A.D. 350.

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Thomas C. Miersma is pastor of the First Protestant Reformed Church, Edmonton, Alberta, Canada. We are considering in this column the Reformed principle of Scriptural interpretation, that the Word of God is its own interpreter. This principle, which the reformers have taught us, we are pursuing from the viewpoint of its application to our own Bible study, and confining ourselves for practical reasons to its application to the study of the English Bible. These are the same techniques and approaches which the reformers themselves used in their own exposition of God’s Word and which you will find reflected in their...

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Thomas C. Miersma is pastor of the First Protestant Reformed Church, Edmonton, Alberta, Canada. We have been considering the development of modern philosophy in its relationship to the development of the modern view of the doctrine of Scripture. That view, as we saw in connection with Immanuel Kant, fundamentally denies the possibility of revelation; it sets human reason above Scripture and subjects Scripture to the mind of man. The result is a fundamental divorce between reason and faith. The only place which Kant could find for religion was a certain feeling or sense of obligation and duty, of moral necessity....

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Thomas C. Miersma is pastor of the First Protestant Reformed Church, Edmonton, Alberta, Canada. We have been considering the underlying trend which lies behind the modern and liberal approach to Scripture. That approach is rooted in the principle that man’s reason is the standard of authority by which all things, including also God’s Word, are to be judged. The fruit of that philosophical principle has been, as we have seen, a separation between faith and reason. Reason belongs to the realm of human science and philosophical speculation. Faith in modern thought is no more a certain or assured knowledge, founded...

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Throughout the Middle Ages God always preserved in the church a remnant who kept the light of the gospel burning in the midst of the prevailing darkness. The Waldenses were such a group. They were not, for the most part, learned men or theologians. Originally they formed a group within the existing church, nor did they have any real desire to leave the church or to reform it. While their contribution to the history of doctrine is small, they did serve to a certain extent in preparing the way for a return to Scripture in the days of the Reformation...

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Thomas C. Miersma is pastor of the First Protestant Reformed Church, Edmonton, Alberta, Canada. The sixteenth and seventeenth centuries witnessed the reformation of the church and the consolidation of that reformation in Europe. It was the time not only of the reformers but of the writing of the Reformed creeds. The spiritual freedom which the Reformation brought with it in its return to the Word of God brought with it a period of thriving spiritual life and of intense study of God’s Word. The same period witnessed the rise of modern secular man and what is sometimes called the Industrial...

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In our study of the history of the doctrine of Scripture, the name of John Wycliffe (1330-1384) deserves a special place. An Englishman, well educated and trained, an Oxford professor, pastor and teacher, Wycliffe set forth in clear form the fundamental principles of the Reformed doctrine of Scripture more than one hundred years before the commencement of the Reformation. The first full English translation of the Bible is associated with his name as well. He truly deserves the designation, pre-reformer.

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We have been considering various aspects of the early church’s doctrine of Scripture and the development of its principles of Scriptural interpretation or hermeneutics. The church in these early centuries had to defend the truth of the Word of God against many different attacks upon it, both from within and without. Without a clear doctrine of Scripture the church was very vulnerable to these attacks. Various weaknesses began to creep into the church in her view of Scripture.

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