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Archive for August, 2009

I’ve been teaching in our church’s sunday school a “Second Level” Hermeneutics course, focusing on Genre.

I found this book to be helpful, and wished I read it earlier.

arthursvariety

Purchase: Amazon

In “Preaching with Variety”, Dr. Jeffrey Arthurs writes about how to have variety in one’s preaching. It is not however, a book which talks about changing the way expository preaching is done per se nor is it introducing some new preaching fad, but rather it is an emphasis of how varieties in preaching can be accomplished biblically by faithfully preaching on the various literary forms (genres) found within Scripture. Arthurs made it clear in his introductory chapter that he believes preaching must herald God’s Word or otherwise it is not preaching.

At first, to preach with variety might not seem like a big deal, but Arthurs gives at least three reasons this is important. It is important because the listener would benefit from hearing something different. The preacher could also break the monotony with the routine of preaching. More importantly, Scripture itself comes in a variety of genres.  In the book’s survey of genres found in the Bible, I found the chapters on poetry, narratives and apocalypse to be the most useful.

In the chapter on the Psalms, Arthurs was helpful in showing how to apply parallelism in the preaching process. Though I have been familiar with the various kinds of parallelism that exists within Hebrew poetry, I benefited with how he brought out some of the practical implications in identifying the various kinds of parallelism. For instance, previously a synonymous parallelism was to me just a poetic relationship between two lines, where the second line repeats the first line in a different fashion.  Arthurs points out how the idea in the second line is doing more than just repeating the first line, but rather it adds an intensifying sense to the text (43-44). The chapter also makes the point that organizing our sermon with parallelism structure is appropriate when we want to intensify the message (57).

Arthurs also offer some great insight when it comes to narrative. I learned that in the Hebrew, the word for “Behold” often indicate an omniscient point of view by the narrator (79).  In the sermon preparation process, the preacher ought to be aware of the different point of view being given from the text.  There were ample amount of examples of how to preach from narrative text given, and these instances also made the chapter a great read for spiritual edification.

Something I have never thought about before concerning apocalyptic genre, was Arthurs insight of how this genre has the flavor from other genres: Apocalyptic genre is poetic and also has the characteristics of rough narrative.  While acknowledging the difficulties in preaching from apocalyptic passages, Arthur’s approach makes the task of interpreting Apocalyptic genre a bit less intimidating and “Gnostic”.

A final comment concerning the entirety of the book was that it was useful that each of the chapters on Biblical genre ends with a checklist of the principles taught.  This allows a preacher to glance over the principles discussed in the book, after the book is done and the preacher is working on his sermon.

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I have read this a few years back, and I thought Norman Geisler wrote a particularly good article that is relevant for Christian scholars and students of theology and philosophy.*

http://www.ses.edu/Portals/0/journal/articles/2.1Geisler.pdf

It’s called “Beware of Philosophy: A Warning to Biblical Scholars”

In particular, is this quote:

In brief, my conclusion is this: We cannot properly beware of philosophy unless we be aware of philosophy…One of the most serious problems for evangelical exegetes is that many are not philosophically trained to snoop out alien presuppositions lurking beneath the surface of their disciplines.  In short, many evangelical exegetes do not know how to fulfill Paul’s admonition to ‘beware of philosophy”. (Page 18-19)

*This does not necessarily mean I endorse Geisler’s theology on other areas, nor his apologetics methodology, although I appreciate his contribution.

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Rifqa Bary, a Muslim 17 year old girl from Ohio, converted to Christianity and according to her account, has been threatened with death by her father for apostasy

She has fled to Florida

You can read of it here: http://www.foxnews.com/story/0,2933,541205,00.html

Here’s a website devoted to the situation: http://rifqabary.com/index.html

Tomorrow is her trial, and very likely she will be sent back

Pray for her, and the salvation of her family, to know Jesus Christ as their personal Savior.

I am praying.

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Twilightcover_02

Purchase: Amazon

I wished I have earlier gotten around to reading some of the Christian philosophers from the Dutch Reformed tradition.  The name Herman Dooyeweerd is probably the better known name for those new to it such as myself.  In the introduction of the book that Presuppositionalist thinker R. J. Rushdoony wrote, he stated that the book “In the Twilight of Western Thought” was a good guide to Herman Dooyeweerd other larger work, A New Critique of Theorethical Thought.  The orientation which drives my review of this book is basically VanTillian.  I have found that the work was helpful in providing further food for thought when it comes to critiquing Secular thought.

The first two chapters was devoted to the pretended autonomy of Philosophical Thought.  Seeing how these two chapters unfolded his “Transcedental Method”, I wished he could have defined more clearly what he meant by autonomy as well.  His insight with the modes of experience is fascinating, and a useful way of thinking about aspects of theorethical thought (6-7).  It was wonderful to see Dooyeweerd stress the interdependency of these modes (spatial, movement, organic, energy, etc), which would be the key to why he sees autonomous reasoning apart from the Transcendent God of the Bible is logically futile to begin with: Whenever man idolize something else as absolute in place of GOD, idolators in essence make an aspect of reality (mode) absolute.  But each of these modes require the necessity blocks of the other modes and hence no mode can not be the final foundation which everything stems from.  It is idolatry of various modes (history, economic, biological etc)  in place of God that result in the various “isms” of philosophy (historicism, logical positivism, Darwinism, etc).  Whatever is the foundation of theorethical thought in its entirety, it must transcend the level of philosophy found in each modes.  Another wonderful insight was how he saw the history of Western Civilization as driven by four motives, which is at core “religious”.  Three of these are dialectical: 1.) The Greek’s “Form vs. Matter”; 2.) the Scholastic’s Nature vs. Grace, 3.) and Nature vs. Freedom.  Contrary to these pretended autonomous starting point is Scripture’s Creation, Fall, Redemption Motive.

There are however, somethings that brought some red flags with this book.  Dooyeweerd sees religion as the ultimate foundation of man, including theorethical thought.  This I agree with, but he makes a distinction between religion and theology, a distinction that is rather difficult for me to accept.  According to Dooyeweerd, religion as “the spiritual basic motive”, “is elevated above all theological controversies and is not in need of theological exegesis, since its radical meaning is exclusively explained by the Holy Spirit operating in our opened hearts, in the communion of this Spirit” (Pg. 146).  Yet, this ‘religion’ of the heart is to be distinguished from the content of theology or exegesis.  The Christian religion that he stated is  the Creation, Fall and Redemption motif, but there is more content that needs to believed than that to be a Christian: There is the doctrines of the Trinity, Jesus Incarnation, etc, all which human arrived at through exegesis.  Yet exegesis is in Dooyeweerd’s view, part of the theological mode which has nothing to do with religion.  His terms are not helpful here.

Dooyeweerd himself stated that “it might seem a dangerous enterprise for a nontheologian to speak concerning the relation between philosophy and theology” (Pg. 113).  Because of his concept of the faith mode, which is where theology belongs in Dooyeweerd’s perspective, he dismisses six day creationism since this is the result of faith mode interfereing improperly into other modes such as astronomy and astronomy (Pg. 149-150).  He even think that six day creationism is the result of “Greek philosophy” rather than an exegesis of Genesis One!  I believe in six day creationism on the basis of the grammatical rule concerning the use of numbers in the Hebrew language, and it strikes me that the autonomy apart from God which he has tried to argue for, is sneaked back in with the independence of certain spheres and modes from the rule of what God’s Word might have to say in those spheres.  It boils down to the question of whether Dooyeweerd would allow the Scripture to speak on other spheres.

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In light of the last entry, I found this video of Tremper Longman III, the Old Testament professor out at Westminister Seminary, and his comment of which book has been influential in his life

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Defense of the Faith

Purchase: Westminster | Amazon

An eleven chapter book by Cornelius Van Til, the Father of Presuppositionalism. He addresses the topic of apologetics methodology throughout the book, and calls Christian to be alert for autonomous reasoning that does not submit to the Word of God. For readers who have been introduced to Presuppositional Apologetics through Greg Bahnsen, one will see some of the themes played out here, after all Bahnsen’s was a disciple of Van Til. Readers will see the theme of the Creator and Creature distinction much more clearly in this book than Bahnsen per se. In fact this is probably the best book to begin for those who want to read Van Til in his own words. Overall, the best chapter was chapter ten, titled “Defense of the Faith”. This chapter has a good discussion of what an “Evangelical” (non-Reformed) apologetics look like in a scenario where “Mr. Grey” evangelizes to the nonbeliever “Mr Black” while “Mr. White” (the Reformed Believer) observes the practical inadequacy of non-Presuppositional Apologetics.

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Even Seminary Students have told me that Van Til is not easy to understand when you first read his work.

I’ve always wondered which work to recommend people in the primary reading of Van Til.

So it came as a suprise to me that while reading his “The Defense of the Faith”, he wrote in the preface his recommendation of the order of reading his work.

“For those who, after finishing this work, wish to pursue the various areas discussed in more depth, unblished class syllabi are available.  They may be most profitably consulted in the following order:  First, The Protestant Doctrine of Scripture; second, Introduction to Systematic Theology; third, A Christian Theory of Knowledge; fourth, History of Christian Epistemology; fifth, Apologetics; sixth, Christian Theistic Evidences; seventh, Christian Theistic Ethics; eighth, The Truimph of Grace; ninth, Sovereign Grace Defended, and finally, The Phschology of Religion.”

I will soon be reviewing Van Til’s The Defense of the Faith here on Veritas Domain.

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