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James White

We have posted on our blog various debates by James White that his ministry has recently made available for free for viewing on Youtube.  About two weeks ago Dr. White’s ministry posted a video titled “James White and Tom Ascol – The Debate that Never Was.”  While technically this is not a debate, the context of this video was originally there was suppose to be a debate on the topic of Calvinism between James White teaming up with Tom Ascol between Ergun and Emir Caner.  That debate at Liberty University was cancelled and James White in another conference presented his discussion not too long after the cancellation.  For those of you guys that followed the controversy some years ago, you would probably remember things were pretty heated.  It is interesting to look back a few years later and see where Ergun Caner’s ministry and life has headed.

Here’s the video of the discussion between Reformed Baptists James White and Tom Ascol of the Founders’ Ministry:

May it be for the edification for God’s People in Sound and Biblical doctrine.

Note: I’m posting later than usual this Sunday, I had a busy week with ministry.  For the next few weeks on Sunday we will feature a review of books outside of theology, philosophy and apologetics.  Each review of a non-Christian book will also have a section titled, “What’s in it for the Christian?”

In the President's Secret ServicePurchase: Amazon

With all the news about the Secret Service this past year I thought I spend some time to read this book.  What an interesting read!  I thought the book was insightful into the men and women who protect the president of the United States and also insightful in terms of some of the things members of the Secret Service have observed about various US presidents.

Since the book does discusses the account of agents’ observation on the President of the United States, the author makes the point that while the president should have some privacy of their private lives nevertheless there are some conducts and character that the public should know about if it affects their ability and judgment as president.  The author feels that Secret Service agents as are public employees of the people ought to make certain concerns made known for the interest and well being of our nation.

It seems from the book that presidents who were Democrats tend to have a bad rap in their personal life and relations to others more than the presidents who were Republicans—we have stories of Jimmy Carter’s bad attitude towards Secret Service agents and Carter having the Secret Service become his servants to carry things until the Secret Service had to finally tell him that it’s not their job.  The book also record the account of Secret Service members observation of how Jimmy Carter loved carrying his own luggage when the media was around—but had the Secret Service carry it as the soon as they left, and sometimes Carter would even carry an empty big luggage bag just for show!  Secret Service agents were also struck with the hypocrisy of Jimmy Carter who talked much about how the White House was free from alcohol when they were not—and how ironically the Regan first family didn’t ban drinking in the White House actually drank less in the White House than the Carters.  Carter’s behavior is in contrast to Regan, George Bush senior and junior who were typically cozy to security.  The book also described how Hillary Clinton was not very nice to her Secret Service agents and how she’s never even talked at all to some of her personal details for years.  I thought it was strange to hear about Hillary’s odd habit of not wanting anyone to say hi to her when she’s walking and how she even scolded an agent who made the mistake of greeting her.  Then you also had Vice President Al Gore who scolded his son in front of agents that if he does not do well in school he could end up being like these guys (pointing to agents).

The book is more than a look at the idiosyncrasies of the President; the book also talk about the Secret Service as an agency in trouble.  What amazes me is that this book was written in 2009, before the recent media storm against the Secret Service.  I think the author accurately anticipated the problems of the Secret Service and he was right in sounding the alarm concerning the current state of the agency.  The book does not attack the typical agents but faults the problem with the leadership of the Secret Service.  According to the author the agency has taken on more duties after 9-11 but has often failed to ask for more realistic resources and funds from Congress but instead pride itself as an agency who is doing more with less.  However, this has affected the quality of services, training and agent that the Secret Service could provide.  The author talks about how good agents are experience burn outs with the long hours that are demanded of them and how talented agents are leaving for other Federal agencies.  The book also talks about the negligence that fewer agents have produced, such as dropping training standards.  It was sad to read in the book of how some agents are so busy guarding important dignitaries that they have not gone to the gun range in years—and how the leadership have not enforce physical fitness standards and even fail to test agents but instead have agents fill out their own paper work of what they think their run time is.  The low standards of the Secret Service has affected their weapons platform, with the Secret Service still using older MP5s to do things that other agencies are using M4s to fulfill, etc.  The book calls for new management, one that involves new leadership that’s fresh outside of the Secret Service in order to change the agency’s culture.  I think the author here has a case.

Just so I don’t misrepresent the book, the book records many stories of the men who serve nobly in the agency.  The book tells us stories of Secret Service agents who serve sacrificially in protecting our president and their first family.  The author definitely have a high respect for the agents and what they do, even as he faults presidents and the leadership of the agency.  I think this book is worth reading.

What’s in it for the Christian: An unspoken rule is that Secret Service agents are to be ready to give up their life to protect the president.  They are ready to take the bullet for him.  This should remind us of the truth that our Savior is also one willing to lay down His life to save us–and indeed He has done so.  Secret Service agents are great examples of sacrificial service and commitment to one’s duty–virtues that a Christian should emulate in their devotion towards God.

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These are Presuppositional apologetics’ links gathered from the Web between November 15th-21st, 2014.

Enjoy!

1.) Rebutting Bill Nye’s Evolutionary Oath

2.) Does the Bible teach that a woman has to marry her rapist?

3.) Free on PDF! Redeeming Philosophy: A God-Centered Approach to the Big Questions by Vern Poythress

4.) A Denied Christian Newspaper Article

5.) The Circularity of Evolutionary Trees

6.) Apologetics for the Average Christian: Asking Good Questions

7.) Reformed Forum Show: Redeeming Philosophy

8.) Proofs, Persuasion and the Truth Problem

Last Installment: Mid-November 2014 Presuppositional Apologetics’ Links

apologetics2 In our September blog’s series “Mission, Culture and being Biblical” we gave special attention to the danger of the Insider Movement in which their philosophy of missions were evaluated biblically and logically.  In particular, we noted that the Insider’s Movement’s method of doing missions suffer from the defect of having an unbiblical theology of other religion, an unbiblical view of culture and an unbiblical theology of the church.  Here we also want to focus on the Insider Movement’s faulty view of apologetics and while the movement is not monolithic and not everyone will necessarily share the same view of apologetics, we will focus more narrowly on the teaching of a key leader of the movement name John Travis.  What he has to say strongly resonate with those in the Insider Movement.  We will examine Travis’ view of apologetics as part of his missionary approach towards Muslims found in his essay titled “Must all Muslims Leave ‘Islam’ to Follow Jesus?”  This essay is from the fourth edition of Perspectives on the World Christian Movement : A Reader.  At the least I hope that this post can encourage those within the Insider movement to think more along the lines of what Scripture has to say about apologetics. In writing about the need for an apologetics to deal with an Muslim region called Islampur, John Travis writes,

Concerning the high regard for the Qur’an among Islampur believers, an apologetic response concerning the Qur’an must be developed whereby the truth in it can be affirmed (especially for purposes of a bridge for witness) yet is is not put on equal (or superior!) status to the Injil.  Fortunately, until such an apologetic is developed the Islampur believers are regularly reading the Injil rather than the Qur’an” (669).

I am glad that Travis finds it fortunate that these “believers” are regularly reading the Injil (New Testament Gospel).  But I find his reaction to the Islampur’s believers’ high view of the Qur’an as problematic.   He wants Christian apologists to develop an apologetic that affirms that Qur’an.

First off, why focus on “affirming” the Qur’an when these believers are already regularly reading the Gospels in the New Testament rather than the Qur’an?  Isn’t the goal to go to the Bible (Old and New Testament) since it is God’s Word?

Second,  isn’t also backwards to go back to the Qur’an even according to Travis’ own beliefs if these believers are already reading the NT and he himself believes the Qur’an is not equal nor superior to the Gospel?  Why try to promote third rate products so to speak when you can give someone something that is first class?

Third, is the goal of Christian apologetics really to defend another religion’s Scripture?

Fourth, he assumes that an apologetic must be developed to use the Qur’an as a bridge for witness; but Travis never mention or interact with the content of the Qur’an since this is important when we discuss whether the Qur’an can be used as a bridge in the first place.  Does the Qur’an explicitly teaches a theology that is antithethical to Christianity and the Bible?  This would seriously limit the Qur’an as a witnessing bridge towards Christianity if it is a bridge that is with holes and weaknesses.

Fifth, there are many resources on Christian apologetics on Islam, most of it refuting it and also handling Islamic objection towards Christianity.  In fact, the apologetics’ endeavor with Islam has been going on for hundreds of years.  I wished Travis would have shared what he thinks of the apologetics Christians have given over many generations rather than be silent on it and then merely assert that he wished an apologetic would be developed to affirm the Qur’an.  I think it is appropriate to ask why we must affirm the Qur’an in the first when the overwhelming majority of Christian apologetics does not, or at least explain why he thinks many of his fellow Christians are wrong in their approach given that his view is that of a minority.

Sixth, it might be that Travis does not see the place for “negative” apologetics, in which one refute other worldviews and other religion’s Scripture.  I do think Scripture does give a place and role for “negative” apologetics.

We are destroying speculations and every lofty thing raised up against the knowledge of God, and we are taking every thought captive to the obedience of Christ, (2 Corinthians 10:5)

In Islam, the Qur’an is raised up above against the Old and New Testament (which is the source of knowledge of God).  2 Corinthians 10:5 demand that we destroy it (intellectual and biblical refutation).  

For more on what we have written in the past on how to witness and engage in apologetics with Islam check out the index to our series.

Should You Believe in God

Purchase: Westminster | Amazon

This booklet is a part of the “Christian Answers to Hard Questions” series that is put out by P&R Publishing and written by the faculty of Westminster Theological Seminary.  In this booklet Westminster Theological Seminary’s professor of apologetics K. Scott Oliphint tackles the question “Should you believe in God?’ and answers with the affirmative.  I was looking forward to the booklet because I wanted to see how would Oliphint summarize his answer to such an important question in a brief and hopefully profound way.  Often when Presuppositionalists talk about God’s existence it is no brief matter!  As I was reading this it reminded me of Cornelius Van Til’s famous booklet, Why I Believe in God, with its conversational tone, anticipating objections and also its content.  Like Van Til, Oliphint addressed the problem of neutrality and “conditioning” of beliefs from one’s upbringing and environment.  Unlike Van Til however, Oliphint’s upbringing was not in an orthodox Christian setting but a religion that teaches works righteousness.  But like Van Til, Oliphint also shows how God is the “All Conditioner” saves us from brute determinism that render everything meaningless and unintelligible.  I appreciated that Oliphint dealt with the question of whether truth is knowable in the beginning of the book and also how he summarizes the Gospel early in the conversation and in the end.  Besides the issue of neutrality Oliphint also tackles the nonbelievers’ assumption of the normalcy of man’s mind and naturalism.  Like Van Til, Oliphint sees that unless one presupposes the God of the Bible, one will eventually find everything meaningless and absurd.  What I like about the book is that it shows in summary what an application of Presuppositional apologetics looks like.  But I would also as a criticism of both Oliphint’s and Van Til’s booklet is that for such a controversial question it is hard to summarize everything in one little booklet.  I remember reading Van Til’s booklet many times and not seeing it—it was only after I read the booklet with Greg Bahnsen’s footnotes and commentaries did I get what Van Til was doing.  Nevertheless, I do recommend the book.

I just posted a few minutes ago but this is too good not to share right now!

Redeeming Philosophy A God-Centered Approach to the Big Questions

Dr. Vern Poythress of Westminster Theological Seminary has just had his book Redeeming Philosophy published just a few weeks ago last month.  Apparently he has made this book available for free online as a PDF!

You can download the file if you click HERE.

Here’s the book’s description from the publisher’s website:

Who am I? Why am I here? Where do I find meaning?

Life is full of big questions. The study of philosophy seeks to answer such questions. In his latest book, prolific author Vern Poythress investigates the foundations and limitations of Western philosophy, sketching a distinctly Christian approach to answering basic questions about the nature of humanity, the existence of God, the search for meaning, and the basis for morality.

For Christians eager to engage with the timeless philosophical issues that have perplexed men and women for millennia, this is the place to begin.

Here is the table of content:

Table of Contents

Part 1: Basic Issues in Exploring Big Questions

  1. The Big Questions about Life
  2. The Bible as a Resource
  3. Opposite Approaches to Philosophy

Part 2: Metaphysics: What Is There?

  1. Inadequate Philosophies
  2. Christian Metaphysics

Part 3: Perspectives

  1. Introducing Perspectives
  2. Multiperspectivalism
  3. Perspectives on God
  4. Perspectives on the World
  5. Perspectives through Language
  6. Implications for Theology

Part 4: Examples of Metaphysical Analysis

  1. Metaphysics of an Apple
  2. Metaphysics of Walking
  3. Metaphysics of a Bookmark
  4. Perspectives in Combination

Part 5: Other Subdivisions of Philosophy

  1. Ethics
  2. Epistemology
  3. The Soul, the Mind, and Psychology
  4. Logic
  5. Aesthetics
  6. Specialized Branches of Philosophy

Part 6: Interacting with Defective Philosophies

  1. The Challenge of Philosophies
  2. Immanuel Kant
  3. Edmund Husserl
  4. Analytic Philosophy

Appendix A: Cosmonomic Philosophy
Appendix B: Perspectives on the Trinity
Appendix C: The Structure of a Bookmark

 

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One Christian apologist and theologian that I really got to read more this year has been John Frame.  His writing has been tremendously helpful and has the rare combination of being intellectually stimulating, biblically faithful and I would even say quite devotional.  Beyond the apologetics’ value of John Frame presenting a coherent Christian worldview in which he shows the inter-relationship and inter-dependence of Christian doctrines, I find that Frame’s writing engages my mind, will and emotions to love God and God’s truth more.

If you didn’t know already, every morning on Mondays through Saturdays we post quotes from John Frame on our Facebook page and our Twitter.  We plan to do this for the remainder of 2014 and going into 2015.

An example of Frame’s spirituality that seeps into his discussion about apologetics and theology is a passage in The Doctrine of the Knowledge of God that talks about doctrinal controversy and the relationship to spiritual immaturity in which he discusses the importance of Christians to grow in holiness and make progress in sanctification.  I appreciated that Frame did talk about this in the context of a book that talks about Christian theory of knowledge!  The Christian must not separate academic theological endeavors from one’s progress in being more like Christ!

Here is the quote:

Many doctrinal misunderstandings in the church are doubtless due to this spiritual-ethical immaturity.  We need to pay more attention to this fact when we get into theological disputes.  Sometimes, we through arguments back and forth, over and over again, desperately trying to convince one another.  But often there is in one of the disputers–or both!–the kind of spiritual immaturity that prevents clear perception.  We all know how it works in practice.  Lacking sufficient love for one another, we seek to interpret the other person’s views in the worst possible sense.  (we forget the tremendous importance of love–even as an epistemological concept; cf. 1 Cor. 8:1-3; 1 Tim. 1:5ff; 1 John 2:4f.; 3:18f.; 4:7ff.).  Lacking sufficient humility, too, we overestimate the extent of our own knowledge.  In such a csae, with one or more immature debaters, it may be best not to seek immediate agreement in our controversy”

(John Frame, The Doctrine of the Knowledge of God, 155)

Of course this does not mean that all doctrinal debate is the result of all parties being theologically immature but if we really believe what the Bible says about our sinfulness, we ought to be ready to search our motives, and re-check if any of the above is true.

Knowing this truth has made me more slower in responding to online debate and also see the importance of not just only reading up on theological and apologetics’ controversy but also the importance of resources on sanctification and godliness.

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