While the created order so powerfully reveals God’s “goodness, wisdom, and power” (WCF 1:1) as to leave humanity without excuse for our sin, they are not sufficient to give us knowledge unto salvation, the Westminster Confession of Faith states. For this reason, God revealed Himself to his people throughout the history of redemption, and committed “the same [revelation] wholly unto writing” for the purpose of propagating the truth and establishing the church against the corruptions of the flesh, the world, and the devil. Scripture is given for the salvation of mankind and the ordering of the church.
To know God is to know the God who reveals Himself, who interacts with His creation, and he does so with words. Kevin Vanhoozer, in his essay in Christian Dogmatics, highlights God as “a personal speaker: a communicative agent who uses words to do things, mostly in relation to administering covenants and addressing his covenant people.” (Allen and Swain, p. 34) Vanhoozer argues that Scripture is the discourse of the triune Lord, God’s active arm in the economy of salvation. “The Father initiates, the Son effectuates, and the Spirit consummates the discourse that Holy Scripture preserves in writing[…].” (p. 44) He seeks a doctrine of Scripture shaped by the Trinity. He unpacks this thesis by examining the ontology (what Scripture is), function (what Scripture does), and teleology (why Scripture is and does) of Scripture.
Ontologically, the Word of God is divine discourse. By His word, God interacts with His creation, particularly by making covenants, which Vanhoozer defines as “binding words- words sealed by an oath- by which God promises to be there and do things for his people.” (p. 46) The divine discourse takes various forms in the economy of salvation: God has spoken to His people directly (Adam and Eve, Abraham, giving of the Ten Words); He has spoken through particular covenant- representatives (Abraham, Moses, the prophets, etc.); and, climatically, God sent His Word in the person of his Son to reveal Himself among us. This divine discourse is recorded for us in Holy Scripture, the body of written text inspired by God Himself. It is “the creaturely instrument of God’s living and active Word[…].” (p. 48)
Functionally, “Scripture is a creaturely ingredient that continues to function as part of the economy of triune communicative action.” (p. 50) It is “living and active” (Heb. 4:12), not simply a static recording of past speech. God uses His Word in history to accomplish his purposes. He speaks through the Word, and the Word “solicits a personal response on the part of its hearer or reader[…].” The Word is inherently missional: God sends out His Word on mission to accomplish his purpose in his creation.
Teleologically, the divine discourse is intended “to transform the reader- to form Christ in us.” (p. 53, emphasis original) Scripture is intended to be heard (or read), and in that reception the Spirit brings the effect of transformation, a response from the hearer.