The Public Reading of Scripture

I appreciate Brian Tallman’s article at Reformation 21 on the public reading of scripture, and probably find his line of reasoning persuasive, though I am not in the PCA. However, I did find these three paragraphs on the WLC, which form part of the crux of his argument, wanting.

Second, the context of the question is important. WLC Q. 154 begins by dealing with the ‘outward and ordinary means whereby Christ communicates to his church the benefits of mediation.’ These means are all His ordinances, but especially 1) the Word; 2) sacraments, and 3) prayer.

From here the ministry of the word is taken up and divided into two subcategories: Reading (Q/A 156-157) and Preaching (Q/A 158-160). In this series of question and answers the catechism envisions the one who is preaching also to be the one who is reading because the reading of Holy Scripture is a ministry of the Word and thus a function of the minister who has been ordained to the ministry of the Word and sacraments.

Furthermore, from this it follows that all who are entitled to read are also entitled to preach because both reading and preaching are two aspects of the ministry of the word.

If the series of questions referred to by Brian are Q/A 158-160, yes, the WLC is thinking about the one preaching. But that does not mean it envisions the preacher being the one publicly reading; this subdivision is dealing specifically with how the Word of God is made effectual for salvation through preaching. Q/A 156 specifically understands that the Word has this power in private reading, and Q/A 157 is applicable to both private and public reading. Since the Standards don’t assume a loss of efficacy from the Word in different venues, these divisions serve to deal with general application in Q/A 155-157 (private, universal reading) and specific application through the ordinance of preaching in Q/A 158-160.

So it does not necessarily follow that the “all are not to be permitted to read the Word publicly to the congregation” means that only the one preaching is to read. In fact, the section from the Directory of Public Worship cited by Brain even seems to indicate that public reading could be done by pastors and teachers who are not currently preaching.