So far, we have introduced the concept of good and necessary consequences (GNC) from scripture, shown how Jesus used these arguments, and began exploring why the Reformed tradition appealed to GNC as a valid means of interpreting Scripture. Today, we will continue with our discussion of Turretin and the use of GNC.
Turretin not only justified the use of GNC but also the right use of GNC within Scripture. We touched on this briefly in the last post (GNC must be proximate to the express meaning of Scripture and must be based on the evidence presented not the cleverness of the interpreter). We will flesh it out more here.
Required Elements of GNC
Turretin lays out the requisite elements of GNC for it to be valid for establishing doctrine.
First, at least one of the premises of the argument must contain words related to the consequence, either proper words or figurative words. Therefore, if discussing the divinity of the Holy Spirit, the only way that we may consider a consequence valid is if the premises include Scriptures which talk about the Spirit either figuratively or properly. Here’s an example below:
- The Holy Spirit is eternal (Hebrews 9:14)
- God is eternal (Psalm 90:2)
- God alone is eternal (1 Timothy 6:16; John 1:1-3)
Conclusion: The Holy Spirit is God. (For now, we will leave aside that the Holy Spirit is one of the persons of the Trinity, simply to demonstrate the point of how GNC is used).
Other required elements are that the consequence be necessary and evident. Meaning, that when the consequence is given, it must follow from the premises and the evidence presented. The reason why these things are necessary is that the rule from which they are derived is perfect (Scripture), not the reason of the interpreter. The plain meaning of each of the premises is without controversy. From it, the conclusion evidently follows. Scripture is our only rule, and it is a rule we must apply; one application is the use of consequences. As Turretin states “[f]or a rule is perfect, and yet we have to apply it. Nor does that application detract from the perfection of the rule, but rather proves and declares it” (Institutes, vol. 1, QXII, p.41).
The Use of Consequences and the Work of the Holy Spirit
Turretin goes on to discuss that the Spirit’s role in interpretation and the use of GNC can be shown from Scripture. As 1 Cor. 2:10 tells us “But God hath revealed them unto us by his Spirit: for the Spirit searcheth all things, yea, the deep things of God.”
How does this avoid being simply becoming a private interpretation which the Apostle Peter warns us against (2 Pet. 1:20)? Turretin states that “private interpretation” is not used subjectively to reject all interpretations by private individuals; indeed, it cannot. For we are commanded to “compare spiritual things with spiritual (1 Cor 2:13); to prophesy according to the proportion of faith (Rom 12:6); and to apply them to conviction and correction (2 Tim 3:16)” (p.42). Peter’s meaning was against the vain ideas arising from mens’ brains and which the comparing of many Scriptures “do not furnish” (p. 43) and which are an appeal to the speaker’s authority (here, he gives the example of the pope who allows any claim on Scripture by virtue of his own infallible ability to interpret the Word).
We Reason, Not Apart from Faith But Out of Faith
Turretin makes clear that our faith is what drives our reason, not the other way around. Though the use of reason is something suspect (particularly in our relativistic worldand because it is used vainly against the church), we ought not reject its use outright. Turretin states the apostles may have been simple men but they were not “brutes, but rational creatures” (v.41). There’s no conflict between the plain meaning of the Scriptures and what can be deduced from them; as we stated above, the Spirit dwelling is us assists us in searching the deeper truths of God’s word. Surely, there is abuse of reason but the abuse of an approach does not condemn its use. Turretin states that consequences are not of faith simply because we have reason to comprehend them; rather, they are of faith because the premises from which they are deduced require the consequence. In other words, It is the principles of the argument which are understood by a rational creature – not the mere presence of reason alone – which make the argument sound.
The Listeners in the Discussion are Responsible As Well
Turretin goes on to say that there is a responsibility on the part of the one listening to the GNC argument as well. A consequence should not be rejected simply because it isn’t immediately clear to the listener nor because he cannot see it. Rather, the consequences are “evident to those diligently attending and considering them in a proper manner, or such that he who does not see them cannot have a good conscience” (p.43).
We will conclude our discussion of GNC in a future post by applying it to a doctrine found in Scripture.