Review of By Scripture Alone by W. Gary Crampton

By Scripture Alone, The Sufficiency of Scripture, by W. Gary Crampton, Unicoi, TN: The Trinity Foundation, 2002, 245 pp.

Though the subtitle of By Scripture Alone is “the sufficiency of Scripture,” the book does cover quite a lot more than that. The first part of the book is framed as a commentary on chapter 1 of the Westminster Confession of Faith. The second part of the book is a defense of Sola Scriptura against the Roman Catholic view of Sola Ekklesia.

By Scripture Alone has a high content-to-syllable ratio. That is a good thing. There is no wasted space. It is not a book that makes any groundbreaking statements, but is an excellent summary of Protestant views. It reads in many ways as a summary of the views published by the Trinity Foundation in books by Gordon H. Clark and John Robbins with some references also to the works of Robert Reymond and Ronald H. Nash.

Some items of note in the volume include:

1. Crampton’s view of the status of Romans Catholics seems to be inconsistent. In the introduction he refers to Roman Catholics (and modernists, Pentecostals-Charismatics, and the Greek Orthodox) as “opponents of Christianity” (p. 16) but later refers to them as a “nominally Christian group.” (p. 41) Crampton points out inconsistency in the Roman Catholics anathematizing Protestants for their views while also referring to Protestants as “our brethren.” (p. 151) Probably Crampton’s view could be ironed out along the lines of Gordon Clark’s excellent Faith and Saving Faith by saying that there can be saving faith among Arminians and Catholics who don’t fall for the damning errors taught in their churches.

2. He defines Sola Scriptura as “Scripture alone has a systematic monopoly on truth; it is the sole criterion for truth.” (p. 15) This seems to me to go beyond the historical definition and usage.

3. There is an excellent quote on correspondence and coherence theories of knowledge: “A biblical epistemology denies a correspondence theory of truth, that is, that the mind of man has only a representation of the truth, and not the truth itself. Rather, a Biblical epistemology hold to a coherence theory of truth, which maintains that what man has is the truth: the same truth that exists in the mind of God.” (p. 30)

4. Crampton well writes, “The central problem with the dictation theory is not that it accords too much control to God, but too little. Unlike a businessman and his stenographer, God created and prepared His stenographers in every detail of their lives (Psalm 139:13-16) so that their personalities and education was exactly what God required to write His word.” (p. 70-71)

5. Crampton nicely summarizes the practice of apologetics in saying, “After or while demonstrating the internal incoherence of the non-Christian views, the Biblical apologete will present the truth and the internal, logical consistency of the Scripture and the Christian philosophy revealed therein. He will show how Christianity is self-consistent, how it gives us a coherent understanding of the world, how it answers questions and solves problems that other worldviews cannot. This method is not to be considered as proof that the Christian view is true. It is a presentation of the propositions of Scripture with the prayer that the Holy Spirit will cause the hearer to believe them. It shows that intelligibility can be maintained only by viewing all things as dependent on the God of Scripture, Who is truth itself.” (p. 87)

6. Crampton cites Van Til as saying that man’s knowledge is “at no point identical with the content of God’s mind.” His footnote references Van Til’s “Introduction” to B. B. Warfield The Inspiration and Authority the Bible, p. 33. This is interesting because while The Complaint certainly had this similar phraseology, Van Til was only one of its authors. The reference to the introduction written solely by Van Til confirms his holding to that statement. It should be pointed out though that Van Til seems to have meant something else by “content” than the common definition or understanding. But it is difficult if not impossible to know how he understood the term since he refused to define it. See The Presbyterian Philosopher, pp. 112, 128, 136-137, 158-160.

7. Crampton defends the Majority Text. (p. 120 ff.)

8. An interesting way of considering the relationship of exegesis and hermeneutics is presented. Crampton writes, “Exegesis is the practice of hermeneutics, whereas hermeneutics is the theory of exegesis.” (p. 127)

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About douglasdouma

I am a husband to beautiful wife, an ordained minister in the Reformed Presbyterian Church - Hanover Presbytery, and founder of Sola - Appalachian Christian Retreat (www.discoversola.com). In addition to blogging at this site I am the author of The Presbyterian Philosopher - The Authorized Biography of Gordon H. Clark (Wipf&Stock, 2017) and compiling editor of Clark and His Correspondents: Selected Letters of Gordon H. Clark (Trinity Foundation, 2017). I have a bachelor degree in mechanical engineering (University of Michigan), a master's in business administration (Wake Forest University) and a master of divinity (Sangre de Cristo Seminary). I'm an avid hiker, having completed a northbound thru-hike of the Appalachian trail in 2013 and the first 500 miles of the Pacific Crest Trail in 2016.
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