Tag Archives: Scott Swain

“Regeneration enables the act of reading as covenant friendship” by Scott Swain

“Just as the Spirit laid the foundation for the church in the writings of prophets and apostles, so He builds upon that foundation through, among other things, the reading of the saints.

The same Spirit who publishes God’s Word through inspiration and writing creates an understanding of God’s Word through illumination and interpretation (1 Cor. 2:14–16). The reading of Holy Scripture is a creaturely activity that corresponds to, and is also sustained and governed by, the Spirit’s work of regeneration and renewal.

The Christian life begins with regeneration (John 3:3, 5; Eph. 2:5; James 1:18; 1 Pet. 1:3, 23–25). When the Spirit brings the gospel effectually to bear upon the sinner’s heart, He breaks our relation to the Old Man and creates a relation to the New Man (Rom. 6:1–7; Gal. 5:24).

In so doing, He also implants a new principle of life (1 John 3:9). This new principle of life enables a new vision. Apart from this new vision, the gospel of Jesus Christ—and therefore the ultimate meaning of Scripture—remains hidden from us (2 Cor. 3:14–18).

However, being born again, we are enabled to “see the kingdom of God” (John 3:3). This new principle of life not only enables new vision, it also issues forth in new desires, new thirsts, and new hungers.

Chief among these is a longing for the word of truth (see 1 Pet. 1:22–2:3). God’s word is “sweeter than honey” to the regenerate taste (Ps. 19:10; 119:103).

The awakening of spiritual organs of perception and taste is essential to a profitable reading of Scripture.

“He who is deaf must first be healed from his deafness in order to be placed in true touch with the world of sounds. When this contact has been restored, the study of music can again be begun by him.” (Kuyper, Principles of Sacred Theology, 580).

This goes for biblical interpretation as well. The point is not that the “natural man” is unable to understand anything that Scripture says.

The point instead is that a profitable reading of Holy Scripture, one that receives Scripture’s words as the words of God, that ponders Scripture’s words as a way of pondering God, and that reveres Scripture’s words as a way of revering God, this sort of reading is only possible where the Spirit has caused the eyes of our hearts to be enlightened (Eph. 1:18; 1 Cor. 2:14).

Regeneration enables the act of reading as covenant friendship.

The Christian life begins with regeneration and continues along the path of renewal (Rom. 12:1–2; Eph. 4:21–24; Col. 3:10; 2 Pet. 3:18).

Because the regenerate life begins as the Spirit breaks our natural bond to the Old Man and forms a spiritual bond to the New Man, the growth and renewal of this life unfolds as a battle between the remaining impulses of our fallen human nature and the new reign of Christ through the Spirit.

“The desires of the flesh are against the Spirit, and the desires of the Spirit are against the flesh” (Gal. 5:17). In this battle, we are summoned to put to death the deeds of the body by the Spirit’s power and to put on the New Man, Jesus Christ (Rom. 8:13; Eph. 4:22–24).

In this battle, we are commanded not to be conformed to the pattern of this world but to be transformed, and this by the renewing of our minds (Rom. 12:2).

God renews and restores the whole man in sanctification, including the mind (cf. Rom. 12:2). The mind darkened by sin (Eph. 4:17–18) is made alive with Christ (Eph. 4:20–24).

The Spirit who searches the depths of God, and who sheds abroad the knowledge of God, gives us “the mind of Christ” (1 Cor. 2:16).

By the “unified saving action and presence of Word and Spirit, reason’s vocation is retrieved from the ruins: its sterile attempt at self-destruction is set aside; its dynamism is annexed to God’s self-manifesting presence; it regains its function in the ordered friendship between God and human creatures.” (Webster, “Biblical Reasoning,” 742–43)

Within the context of this “ordered friendship between God and human creatures,” reason plays what is first and foremost a receptive role. Reason is not the fountain of saving wisdom.

As Benedict Pictet states: “reason cannot and ought not to bring forth any mysteries, as it were, out of its own storehouse; for this is the prerogative of scripture only.” Instead, reason is an organ for receiving saving wisdom.

Reason, regenerated and renewed, understands “the things freely given us by God” (1 Cor. 2:12). However, in this receptive activity, reason is not wholly passive.

God’s word “evokes the works of reason”: “Think over what I say, for the Lord will give you understanding in everything” (2 Tim. 2:7). God’s living Word animates and answers the humble, suppliant work of reason.

Because God’s word unfolds itself in writing, one of the principal ways in which renewed reason fulfills its calling is through reading.”

–Scott R. Swain, Trinity, Revelation, and Reading: A Theological Introduction to the Bible and Its Interpretation (London; New York: T&T Clark, 2011), 96–98.

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“The triune God is not a means to an end” by Scott Swain

“Classical Protestant theologians spoke of two foundations of the church’s doctrine and life. They identified Holy Scripture as the cognitive foundation, the supreme source and norm of all the church is called to believe and to practice, the foundation of ‘the truth, which accords with godliness’ (Titus 1:1).

In addition to this cognitive foundation, they identified the triune God as the ontological foundation of the church’s doctrine and life. As all things are ‘from’ and ‘through’ and ‘to’ the triune God in the order of being (Rom. 11:36), so, they judged, all things are from and through and to the triune God in the order of theological understanding and Christian living.

The doctrines of creation and providence, the person and work of Jesus Christ, the church and sacraments, salvation and last things– each of these doctrines rests on the doctrine of the triune God for its meaning and significance, and the life of godliness that builds on these doctrines directs us to the triune God as our supreme good and final end.

The confession that Jesus is the Christ, the Father’s Spirit-anointed Son, is the foundation of the Christian confession (Matt. 16:16; 28:19; Mark 12:1-12; Eph. 2:20).

For this reason, the doctrine of the Trinity is the foundation of Christian teaching and living. Without the doctrine of the Trinity, there is no Christianity.

One of the major missteps recent trinitarian theology took was to suggest that the Trinity is only meaningful insofar as we can demonstrate its usefulness for various practical, social, and political ends.

But this is to get things utterly backwards.

The Trinity does not exist for our sake or for the sake of our agendas.

The triune God is not a means to an end. We exist for Him (1 Cor. 8:6).

The Trinity is an end in Himself (Rom. 11:36).

Therefore, studying the Trinity– seeking better to know and understand, to cherish and adore, to worship and serve the triune God– needs no justification beyond itself.

The reason for studying the triune God is not to bend the Trinity to our various social programs.

The reason for studying the triune God is to bend our minds, wills, actions, and communities to the Trinity, confident that, in doing so, we will discover in Him both the reason for our existence and the fullness of joy (Ps. 16:11; John 15:11; 17:13).”

–Scott R. Swain, “Foreword,” in Matthew Barrett, Simply Trinity: The Unmanipulated Father, Son, and Spirit (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker, 2021), 13-14, 15-16.

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“God’s triune name” by Scott Swain

“We were baptized into God’s triune name so that we might learn to praise God’s triune name.”

–Scott R. Swain, The Trinity: An Introduction (ed. Graham A. Cole and Oren R. Martin; Short Studies in Systematic Theology; Wheaton, IL: Crossway, 2020), 27.

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“The God who is Father, Son, and Spirit” by Scott Swain

“The God who is Father, Son, and Spirit has reached out through the Son and by the Spirit to embrace us as sons and daughters to the end that we may call God our Father in the Spirit of the Son.”

–Scott R. Swain, The Trinity: An Introduction (ed. Graham A. Cole and Oren R. Martin; Short Studies in Systematic Theology; Wheaton, IL: Crossway, 2020), 26.

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