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Brian Rickett Presuppositional apologetics

Note: We appreciate Brian Rickett taking the time to contribute to this interview in light of his busy schedule with ministries as a Professor and a Pastor.  It is my prayer that God will allow him a full recovery after his accident that led to a broken neck.  Mr. Rickett also maintain a blog that you might want to bookmark. –SLIMJIM

1.) Describe your current ministry to the Lord and your educational background.

Current Ministry.  I’ve always considered myself to be a minister who tries to seize every legitimate opportunity to serve the Lord, not exclusively any one thing, but just a minister, generally speaking. This has at times included pastoring, church planting, and academic work, often simultaneously.

Since my M.Div. days, though, I have been a classroom instructor specializing in biblical languages.  My testimony about this can be found here.   I began with the Logos Bible Institute of Grace Community Church, then added The Master’s Seminary, and then College.  I taught on an adjunct basis from 1998-2008, for a combined 10 years, the last 5 of which was in a full time staff position for the biblical counseling department at TMC.  During that 10 year period, I was blessed to be able to teach the Bible in five languages in a variety of settings, as well as in each of the divisions in a typical theological curriculum.

Most relevant to this interview, I considered my emphasis to be the application of original language exegesis to theological systems/methods, particularly apologetic and counseling methodology.  During my time at TMC/TMS, I was able to teach both apologetics and counseling, and integrated these into a single MABC course—BC509: Apologetics and Biblical Counseling.

Those familiar Van Tillian thought will know that nouthetic counseling is essentially Van Til’s model applied to the ministry of discipleship.  Even more, though, one of his fundamental contributions was to urge a consistent application of reformed theology to every area of thought, life, and ministry.  The guys who started/currently oversee the Biblical Counseling department at TMC did their terminal degrees at Westminster and understand this.  This was part of the reason John Street hired me to work in his counseling department back in ’04.

When we moved to Arkansas in 2008 to plant the church where I now pastor, we naturally incorporated the best of what I had learned and taught into our church’s ministry philosophy.  In that sense, our whole philosophy of ministry is a Van Tillian model applied to a Bible Church, i.e. non-Presbyterian ecclesiology.  Here’s a sample of how we typically present it:

Our philosophy of ministry is three pronged.

1.  Preaching/Teaching. Key to the health of any church is biblically faithful preaching and teaching.  God takes the preaching and teaching of His Word extremely seriously (James 3:1).  So, a key distinctive of The Bible Church of Beebe is a very high view of those tasks (Ezra 7:10; 2 Tim 2:15).  Specifically, our pulpit and teaching ministries strive to be characterized by passionate, word by word and verse by verse expositional preaching/teaching that bring biblical principles to bear on the life of the believer.  Typically, we gather three times a week.  On Sunday mornings I preach from the NT.  On Sunday evenings I preach from the OT or address some or another issue.  On Wednesday nights I typically teach theology, counseling, or apologetics.  Currently, though, our Wednesday evening services are suspended due to a car accident in which I broke my neck.  We hope to recommence Wednesday evening services this summer.

2.  Shepherding the Flock. As the most basic function of shepherding, discipling believers is fundamental to our ministry.  Discipleship means to train believers to faithfully follow Christ.  We work hard at this.  Further, our shepherding model includes biblical counseling, which we also describe as intensive discipleship.  Biblical counseling means that we endeavor to assist believers in honoring Christ through specific challenges.  Finally, we endeavor to equip the saints “to do the work of service, to the building up of the body of Christ” (Eph 4:12).  So, one of our distinctives is that we are committed to Christ-centered discipleship, an important component of which is biblical counseling (Acts 20:28; 1 Pet 5:1-3).

3.  Evangelism/Apologetics.  We are committed to faithfully obeying the many commands of Scripture to engage in evangelism and apologetics (Matt 28:18-20; 2 Cor 10:3-5; 2 Pet 3:15; Acts 17:23-31).  In evangelism, we endeavor to proclaim the Gospel to unbelievers with a message and method that honors Christ (2 Tim. 4:5).  In apologetics/irenics, we actively endeavor to defend the system of Christian truth, and to respond biblically to the many challenges that come against biblical Christianity (Titus 1:9; 2 Tim 4:3-5).  So, we are committed to evangelizing the lost and to providing a reasoned defense of the system of Christian truth.  We boldly proclaim that Christianity is not a blind faith, but that it is the only internally coherent and rationally viable worldview.

The academic year following the church’s organization, I returned to the classroom teaching biblical language and other courses for the Baptist Missionary Association Theological Seminary.  BMATS was founded in the 1950s, has about 175 students on its two campuses, in Jacksonville, Tex. and Conway, Ark.  The Ark. campus is about 25 miles from our church.  We planted the church relatively close to the seminary to give students an opportunity to study our ministry model, while reaching an area without a similar church.

Currently, I am both the Pastor-teacher of The Bible Church of Beebe as well as Professor of Biblical Studies for BMATS—amazingly, by God’s grace I get to teach all of my favorite subjects in both the church and classroom.  Beginning June 1st, however, I will add an administrative role. At that time I will become Administrator of BMATS, Arkansas.  There will be some other exciting developments at our campus that may be of interest to your readers.  You’ll want to check up with the seminary in early June to see what’s happening.

As Administrator/Director of BMATS, Ark, I hope to continue refining our curriculum, and training students in the tasks of expository preaching, biblical counseling, and presuppositional apologetics based on solid exegesis.  Already we have brought in a biblical counseling professor (John Street) from The Master’s College on an adjunct basis to teach Introduction to Biblical Counseling.  There are other things as well, but check back in June.

Educational Background: I did a BS in Bible (1996, Central Baptist College, Conway, Ark.), M.Div. (2000, The Master’s Seminary), Th.M. in OT (2003, TMS), and did Th.D. work in OT (2004-07) for a time until a debilitating eye condition forced me to become inactive.  However, in connection to improvements with my eyes, increasing cultural challenges, and my new administrative role at BMATS, I’ve begun the new D.Min. program in Christian Worldview and Cultural Engagement at SWBTS.  I know what you’re thinking—yes, they knew who I was when they accepted me.

Going forward, I expect to devote a strong percentage of my energies to issues related to worldview and cultural engagement and in preparing Christian leaders to do the same.  I invite readers interested in getting this sort of diverse, cutting edge training to shoot me an email.  I would be glad to talk about how BMATS can give them a robust set of ministry tools they can use in their chosen ministry environments.

2.) How did you became a Presuppositionalist?

I became a presuppositionalist at TMS during my M.Div. days.  I am attracted to multi-perspectival thinking in the vein of Poythress (cf. Symphonic Theology)—considering the details of things from various perspectives, systematizing the details into a whole, developing a method, and then evaluating and practically testing the method.  Presuppositionalism was/is attractive to me for this reason.  Even more, though, I have found it to be the most biblically faithful model, as well as the most powerful method for apologetic interchange.  When I employ Van Til’s “indirect method,” I have the sense that not only am I’m honoring the Lord intellectually, but I’m engaging in a palpable act of worship.

3.) What is a typical objection to Presuppositionalism that you hear?

The objections I encounter have changed with a change in ministry venue.  Before, criticisms were based largely on misconceptions and superficial analysis.  The charge of fideism often came up, which I addressed in Chapter 2 of my Th.M. thesis on ‘04.  One interesting challenge that sometimes comes up is related to differences between Frame and Bahnsen.  I understand these, but am not disturbed by them.

Another common criticism is that it’s too philosophical.  Admittedly, often it is, but it doesn’t have to be.  The justification for the system gets philosophical real fast, particularly as proponents seek to justify the method theoretically in contrast to other approaches.  Practically, though, there is little reason for this.  People in your church can learn to use presuppositional apologetics without having to ever hear about the more philosophical stuff.  Quite frankly, most of us enjoy talking about the philosophical, theological, and nuanced aspects of such things and so we overdo it and turn people off in the process.  This is particularly true in connection to another often valid criticism—when enthusiasts go about charging non-proponents with heresy or making other overly aggressive assertions.

Right now, we have a college student in our church who is benefitting from training in presuppositional apologetics.  This semester he is sitting under a hostile professor in his philosophy course at the state university down the road.  Our student’s ability to interact with the professor’s thinking is impressive, and we’ve rarely exposed him to all of the philosophical stuff.

In our current environment, no one really questions presuppositionalism, because few people here really take apologetics seriously.  Our biggest challenge is anti-intellectualism generally.  In California, there was a clearer distinction between believers and unbelievers.  Here, most churches are seeker sensitive, tend towards mysticism, or are just dead.  Discussions over apologetic methodology just don’t come, it just isn’t where people are.

To expand the “overly aggressive” idea mentioned above, I remember years ago when a friend of mine who is a Professor of Philosophy and Apologetics introduced me to his wife.  As I recall, he is thomistic in his approach.  When we met, she was genuinely surprised to learn that I was a presuppositionalist, friendly, and didn’t intend on attacking or making trouble for her husband.  Apparently, she had been very hurt by something like that in the past and held all presuppositionalists in suspicion.  The point is that one of the criticisms of presuppositionalism that has concerned me most is this one.

 

4.) Some people believe that Dispensationalism and Presuppositional apologetics are incompatible.  Do you believe this is so?  Why or why not?

What does John Frame think?  I’ll side with him on this issue.  To me, this sounds like the debate over who’s the most reformed, where the guy who thinks he is the most reformed wins.  What is the minimum set of criteria required to be a presuppositionalist? If I employ a methodology where I seek to expose the internal tensions inherent within the unbeliever’s world and life view, and then to show the unbeliever how his irrationality is immoral due to his failure to acknowledge and submit to the Christian God in his thinking and living, do I qualify?  What if I successfully expose the rational/irrational dialectic in my friend’s thinking and then present the gospel as the only means via which he may ever hope to have his irrationality/immorality resolved, do I qualify as presuppositionalist?  Here’s what I teach in my classes.  See if this makes sense:

The presuppositionalist argues that: a. the espoused presuppositions of the unbeliever (his articulated worldview) cannot account for reality as we know it, and b. reality is as our experience and knowledge demonstrates it to be because it has its ultimate basis in the Christian God, without whom nothing—including reason itself, can be accounted for.  Furthermore, c. at heart the unbeliever knows this to be so, but sins against better knowledge by suppressing the truth about God in his unrighteousness (though evidence for God is abundant—existing within him and without, screaming at him from every existing fact with the result that he is culpable for his disbelief and without excuse).  Finally, d. as explained in Scripture, the unbeliever’s irrationality is fundamentally immoral and must be confronted with the gospel.

So, following Bahnsen, here’s what we do methodologically:

Step 1: Identify the opponent’s crucial presuppositions.  Do this by asking key worldview questions.  Then, once you have done the necessary data collecting, proceed to step 2.  Step 2: Criticize the autonomous attitude that arises from a failure to honor the Creator-creature distinction.  That is, call the unbeliever to account for his attempt to operate out from under the authority of God and in accord with his own reasoning.  Step 3: Expose the internal and destructive philosophical tensions that attend autonomy.  That is, perform an internal critique (transcendental critique) of his worldview.  Demonstrate to him how his worldview is unable to provide the necessary preconditions for the intelligible interpretation of reality, i.e. expose the rational—irrational dialectic in his thinking.  Be sure to demonstrate to him how his professed world and life views contradict his ultimate presuppositions and render rationality impossible.  Step 4: Set forth the only viable alternative.  Expound the Christian position by providing him with the biblical answer to the tensions you have uncovered in his worldview and specifically show him how Christian-theism provides the fundamental preconditions for the intelligible interpretation of reality.

A simplified way to express this would be: 1.) Identify what the unbeliever believes or thinks; 2.) rebuke your friend for his failure to submit to God; 3) Show your friend how his espoused worldview is contrived and makes no sense based on what he has said; 4.) Present the Gospel as the solution to his folly and call him to repent.

Perhaps the critic of dispensational presuppositionalism has some specific objections he needs to have clarified.  I suspect these will be person variable, but part of the problem may result from a misconception that this means a rejection of covenantalism in the sense employed by Oliphint in Covenantal Apologetics.  Honestly, I haven’t heard what I thought was a credible charge of incompatibility.

By the way, the first time I taught a seminary presuppositional apologetics course, it was at The Master’s Seminary in ’04.  The opportunity came up quickly and I needed some help preparing.  So, I emailed John Frame, who was one of my thesis readers, for help.  He emailed me his personal teaching notes and gave me access to many of his own files.  The result: he aided and abetted me—a dispensationalist teaching presuppositionalism at a dispensationalist seminary.  Now who wins?

Note: John Frame is so humble, he doesn’t remember helping me, so whenever I remind him, it’s as though he’s hearing it for the first time.  Admittedly, though, he has more important things to do than to think about me.

5.) What prompted you to write your thesis on Psalm 19 and Presuppositonal apologetics?

I gave an extended rationale for this in the first chapter of the thesis.  In part, it was related to: 1.) the debate over which apologetic method was most consistent with biblical theology, and 2.) the lack of exegetical work that had been done to validate presuppositionalism.  Those familiar with Van Til will remember this was an issue he admitted.

6.) Any resources on apologetics, worldview or theology that you recommend?

Read everything by Frame and Poythress.  Read James Sire’s The Universe Next Door.  Familiarize yourself with the complete works of Francis Schaeffer including valid criticism’s of his work.  Don’t forget Bavinck’s Creation Theology.  Get a good feel for the best of what has come from the reformed epistemology movement.  A good little free book for Kindle that serves as an introduction to Greek Philosophy is John Marshall’s A Short History of Greek Philosophy.  It’s dated, in a good way, free, and imminently readable.  Familiarize yourself generally with logic and logical fallacies.  You can find this sort of thing for free on the internet, but try to make sure you are reading a credible source.

Everybody by now has read Rosaria Butterfield’s book, Secret Thoughts of An Unlikely Convert, but in case you haven’t, you should do so.  By the way, she agreed to address my apologetics class at some point.  We’re doing some different things with our seminary schedule, so we’ve made it a bit tough on her, but hopefully we can get to this.

7.) You have taught Biblical Hebrew, among other subjects.  Do you see any relationship between Presuppositional apologetics and academic work in the Old Testament?

Absolutely, yes. My Th.M. thesis provides a presuppositional critique in Chapter 3 of many OT scholars & publications related to Psalm 19.  There, I tried to show that their presuppositions have so predisposed them to modern, critical views of the text they may justifiably be accused of incompetence in their work.

Apologetics makes use of philosophy as a tool built on logic, employing it to engage in the critical evaluation and scrutiny of truth claims.  In this way, it is appropriately suited to engage in critical analysis of various theories, including but not limited to literary theories/linguistic approaches to the text, as well as the methods and conclusions of such approaches.

Let’s consider some of Tremper Longman’s work for example.  In His argument against Solomonic authorship of Ecclesiastes in his commentary, he commits several basic errors.

One that comes to mind combines a grammatical error with a procedural problem.  Working off of the NIV, rather than the Hebrew text, He cites Ecc. 1:12 as an argument against Solomonic authorship.  It states, “I, the Teacher, was king over Israel in Jerusalem” (NIV).  He then argues that the verse identifies a time when Solomon had been alive but not king, basically concluding that since this doesn’t fit with what we know of Solomon it wasn’t really him.

This is a scandalous assertion.  Longman seems not to know that, 1.) Hebrew uses the perfect conjugation to express either simple past or past perfect verbal ideas.  Thus, “I was king” or “I have been king” are equally valid translations that any student of basic Hebrew would know—seriously.  2.) A consultation of other translations should have at least tempered his argument. 3.) In actuality, the statement seems merely to place Qoheleth’s attitude within its historical setting.  This deficiency on the part of Longman suggests either incompetence in the language, or some unargued philosophical bias that prevents honest assessment here.  But there’s more.

Citing 1:16, he argues, “It would be strange to hear Solomon state:I said to myself, ‘Behold, I have magnified and increased wisdom more than all who were over Jerusalem before me; and my mind has observed a wealth of wisdom and knowledge.’”  Why is this strange—because there was only one king before Solomon?  However, the chronicler in 1 Chronicles 29:25 uses this exact language to make the same case.  He says, “The LORD highly exalted Solomon in the sight of all Israel, and bestowed on him royal majesty which had not been on any king before him in Israel” (1Ch 29:25 [emphasis mine]).  Longman seems to arrive at his conclusion without adequate scholarly reflection on the wording.  Is the phrase an idiom, figure of speech, a common way of taking into consideration powerful men including but not limited to the reigning monarch?  These would be the normal sorts of questions to ask.  These are not addressed though.  When combined with other textual arguments, one can only conclude that Longman simply didn’t read/think carefully about this.  So, failure at this juncture also looks suspicious.  But there’s more.

Longman argues that Qoheleth is a pseudonym for the one assuming the Solomonic persona, or if applied to Solomon, a “nick-name.”  He writes:

“One must ask what is gained or what possible reason could Solomon have had for adopting a name other than his own in this book?  Is he hiding his identity from someone?  If so, for what possible reason?  Does the nickname add anything to the message of the book? After all, the connection to Solomon is tenuous, and no one has argued that the name contributes to the meaning of the book.  It is much more likely that the nickname Qohelet was adopted by the actual writer to associate himself with Solomon, while retaining his distance from the actual person” (p. 4).

Apparently, Longman is unaware that Hebrew nouns typically come from verbs, so that the title Qoheleth is most likely derived from some activity for which he was noted.  Since the verb is qahal, the title Qoheleth is connected with some assembling activity, perhaps the assembling of people or proverbs, etc.

Finally, at least for this interview, it is notable that Longman begins his arguments against Solomonic authorship seemingly by committing the “snob approach” variety of the argumentum ad poplum fallacy.  He states, “Attentive readers of the Bible have felt uneasy about the simple identification of Qohelet with Solomon for a long time” (p. 4).  And, “Even in the light of strong internal and external testimony to the contrary, a small, but vocal group of evangelical scholars still advocate this [Solomonic authorship] view” (p. 3).  He then props this up with poor arguments including the ones above.

Notice how he is arguing that anyone who fails to recognize the truth of his assertion is not an intellectual (“attentive”), and it would be in the best interest of the reader to listen to himself.  There are additional points in this particular case to argue, but this is not the place for that.  I would just say that Longman’s argumentation against Solomonic authorship is scurrilous.  To answer the question, is apologetics helpful for biblical studies generally and OT specifically, again, yes.  Perhaps if more biblical scholars were trained in apologetics, a lot of the stuff that passes for biblical scholarship would never gain a legitimate hearing.  Instead, junk scholarship is published and passed off as cutting edge and respectable.

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The Doctrine of the Knowledge of God John Frame cover

 

John Frame’s The Doctrine of the Knowledge of God is an excellent work touching on apologetics, Reformed theology, the Bible and epistemology (philosophical branch of studying how do we know what we know).

Reformed Audio ministry reads aloud various books and literature and makes them available for free and last month they read aloud chapter four from The Doctrine of the Knowledge of God.

Enjoy!

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Palmyra- Cassas Baal Temple

I’ve been noticing the last few months news story related to the Bible and Archaeology, from the sensational to the subtle announcement of academic bulletin.  Christianity Today even had a summary of the “Top 10 Discovery in Biblical Archaeology of 2013″ published earlier this month.

As some of the readers might be aware, there are two general camps when it comes to the issue of the reliability of the Bible as it relates to archaeology: the Maximalists and the Minimalists.  Since the archaeological data concerning the Ancient Near East (ANE) and the Biblical world are often fragmentary, sometimes archaeological data appear to conflict with what the Bible has to say.  What should we make of this, specifically with our conclusion concerning the veracity of the Bible?  Maximalism and Minimalism describes the general approach one answer that question.

Note what Jona Lendering of Livius website (on Ancient history) has to say about maximalists and minimalists:

Maximalist scholars assume that the Biblical story is more or less correct, unless archaeologists prove that it is not; minimalists assume that the Biblical story must be read as fiction, unless it can be confirmed archaeologically. “Minimalism” and “maximalism” are, therefore, methods, approaches, or theoretical concepts.” (http://www.livius.org/theory/maximalists-and-minimalists/)

Lendering even provide this additional example:

It is easy to recognize minimalists and maximalists. If the author’s method can not immediately be deduced from the evidence he puts forward, the auxiliary hypotheses usually offer a clue. When the archaeological evidence contradicts the Bible, the maximalist will write something like “absence of evidence is not evidence of absence”; the minimalist will stress that the Bible should be read as literature.

Take, for example, the Jericho walls: so far, no remains have been excavated of a wall that has collapsed in the Late Bronze Age, which contradicts the Biblical account of Joshua’s capture of the city. A maximalist will argue that these walls stood on top of the hill and must have eroded; his minimalist colleague might say that the story should be read as a description of a first fruits offering – the first town captured by the Hebrews was for God. There’s something to be said for both approaches, although in this example, the erosion argument is probably incorrect.”

The exchange between Maximalists and Minimalists in the past has been quite heated.  Probably adding fuel to the fire is the reality that this is not just another academic turf war between two competing school of thoughts: for some, there’s a deeper underlying current driving one’s methodological decision.  While not all minimalists are secularists, no doubt secular humanists and atheists would be incline towards the Minimalists approach.  Christians who hold to a high view of the veracity of the Bible of course would be inclined to the Maximalists’ approach (of course with the caveat that not all Maximalists are Evangelicals or identify themselves as Christian).

At this point one might say there’s a stalemate between the debate of Maximalists and Minimalists.  The Minimalists might charge Evangelical subsets of Maximalists for being driven by the Christian faith to dogmatically affirm that the Bible has to be true at the get-go.  It isn’t rational to do so, they say.  The Maximalists might reply with the observation that typically in archaeology one gives an ancient document the benefit of the doubt concerning it’s content being true unless proven otherwise so here we see the Minimalists being inconsistent.

It’s a dead end, some say, with the debate being a draw.  No side ultimately wins, nor has any side loses in a clear, knock out fashion.

I submit that Presuppositional apologetics is important here, with it’s attention on the role of worldviews.  As noted earlier, often there’s a deeper undercurrent that drives one to adopt a certain methodological approach towards the Bible and Archaeology.  The discussion between particular Maximalists and Minimalists doesn’t have to be at an intellectual stalemate if one discusses one’s worldview behind one’s methodology.  No doubt the most unpopular aspect of Van Til’s apologetics is the fact that it tells Christians to never compromise with the veracity of the Bible .  The content of the Bible is true if it has been attained via proper hermeneutics such as consideration of literary genres, etc.  But Presuppositional apologetics isn’t just about Christians being dogmatic, for it makes the observation that everyone including the minimalists are not immune to being dogmatic when it comes to their web of ultimate commitments which we call worldview.  But instead of being “stuck” with two dogmatic individuals talking to each other, Van Til’s apologetics goes further by asking whether one’s worldview would undermine or provide the intelligibility and meaningfulness of the archaeological endeavor in the first place.  Imagine the surprise if a Minimalist were to discover that the particular worldview which incline him towards Minimalism ends up being an undercutting defeater towards archaeological studies; now the dilemma is posed: does he continue to maintain his Minimalism for the sake of his cherished worldview or does he back away from it seeing the catastrophic consequence of it making archaeology categorically unintelligible and insignificant?

Space does not permit me to flesh out the details since for now I just want to provide a sketch of what does Presuppositional apologetics in relationship to archaeology would look like.  Here also we find philosophy to be a helpful tool and valuable in assessing the merit of the internal relationship between one’s view of reality (physical world, and metaphysical, if any) and the epistemological status of archaeology.  Interdisciplinary studies and the exploration of perspectival relationship of knowledge is quite fascinating!  

Perhaps in the far future I might write a post on how the Christian worldview (Christian theology from the Bible that supplies the meta-narrative of the world) allows Archaeology to be a sensible and rational pursuit.  This would touch on theology Proper, doctrine of providence, God’s relationship to history, biblical anthropology, etc.  Again, how beautiful is the fact that there can exists an inter-relationship of various disciplines from archaeology, history, philosophy, and now, even theology–I find it so beautiful to see this inter-dependent unity of a well-put together world for knowledge  that it makes me want to praise God.  Presuppositional apologetics and Perspectivalism (John Frame’s variety) regularly bring me to doxology.

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john frame

 

I thought this was a quote from John Frame on the problem of Libertarian Freewill.  What makes it interesting is that it was in the footnote of the book rather than the main body.  Here John Frame writes:

Many have argued that this kind of freedom is the ground of moral responsibility.  But is that at all likely?  Imagine that an atom swerved randomly somewhere in your head and made you steal $500.  Would you feel guilty?  More likely you would feel like the victim of a random event–like being struck by lightning.  You didn’t do anything to make the atom swerve.  How can a human being be blamed for a mental accident?  If libertarian freedom exists, it is not the ground of moral responsibility.  Rather, it destroys responsibility.”

(John Frame, The Doctrine of the Christian Life, 93 footnote 1)

It is a wonderful little illustration to describe the problem of LFW.

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No foundation

A round up of links for those who follow Presuppositional apologetics between January 8th-14th, 2014.  Which ones were you blessed with?

1.) Postmodern Integration

2.) Clark and Van Til

3.) Dr. Cornelius Van Til: The Misunderstood Apologist

4.) Attention Christian Intellectuals: 10 Indicators You Might Apostatize in 2014

5.) Sale .99 Cents Sale new book “God’s Not Dead: Many Proofs” Apologetics Book

6.) An Example of Logical Fallacies in Common Phrases Concerning Luck

7.) Peripatetic 25 – Ignorant Objections, Bigotry and Duck Dynasty

8.) When Atheists Are Angry at God

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John_FrameThis year I am planning to read more of John Frame’s work.  I’m beginning with John Frame’s The Doctrine of the Christian Life and thought this was a good quote where he discusses the meaning of theology:

But theological propositions are useful only in the context of teaching that leads to spiritual health.  In that sense, theology is a practical discipline, not merely a theoretical one.  I do not disparage theory; indeed, my own books are more theoretical than practical.  But, in my definition, theory is not the only kind of theology there is, nor is it theology par excellence…Theology is the application of the Word to all area of life.  Academic or theoretical theology is one kind of theology, not the only kind.  And I shall argue later that theory is not more ultimate than practice, nor is it the basis of practice; rather, theory and practice are both applications of God’s Word, and they enrich one another  one another when they are biblical.  For that matter, the line between theory and practice is not sharp.  Theory is one kind of practice, and theoretical and practical are relative terms that admit of degrees” (Page 9-10)

What I like about this quote is the fact that it is relevant to the discussion about the place for theoretical versus practical theology.  Some sees one is better than the other, while some are reductionist and think there should be one at the exclusion of the other.  Still, some see there can be a mutual balance between the two but what the mechanics look like is not delineated.  Frame earlier in the book made the point that all theology is ethical in that what is true from God’s Word are what the readers OUGHT (moral obligation) to be believe.  If that’s the case, what is ethical is definitely practical, at least in the area of what we are to practically believe is true.  However, truth about God and the relationship of God to everything else also has further implications for our living as well but we must not miss the ethical and practical nature of even believing the truth of God’s Word.

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worldview1

These are links from November 16th-21st 2013 on Presuppositional apologetics.

What other links should we have included here?

1.) Numbers Need Worldviews

2.) Thoughts on Systematic Theology by John Frame

3.) Critical Evaluation of Tim Keller’s apologetical method By Wes Bredenhof

4.) Extracting Nectar From a Painted Rose

5.) On Sale for $0.99 – Pick up “Lying: The Case Against Deception” HERE

6.) Apologetic Evangelism 101: Evangelism’s Woes  JUST ADDED!

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1.) John Frame Interview Transcript–Over at Apologetics 315.

2.) What is the evidence for the existence of God?

3.) Questions about Apologetics and Worldview: Why Should the Bible Be Our Source for Morality?

4.) –Transcript from a lecture in Bahnsen’s Seminary apologetics.

5.) Questions about Apologetics and Worldview: Why Should the Bible Be Our Source for Morality?

6.)  Calvinism and the First Sin–A scholarly essay by James Anderson.

7.) Content and Method–Ben Hollaway return with this essay!

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There’s always more truths and application from a passage of Scripture than what time allows to be actually preached on Sunday.  Sometimes there’s more “minor” point from the text that are good devotional observation for my own life as I think about apologetics and evangelism, that won’t fit into the main point of my sermon.  As we approach the Christmas season, I wanted to share some of these observation from Luke chapter 1-2 which is often called the Infancy Narrative, that has implications for the Christian who is conscious about evangelism, apologetics and worldview.  This series will be tagged under the category “Devotional for the apologist.”

We will look today at Luke 1:1-4, which is the prologue not just for the infancy narrative but for the entire gospel of Luke:

Inasmuch as many have undertaken to compile an account of the things accomplished among us,just as they were handed down to us by those who from the beginning were eyewitnesses and servants of the word, it seemed fitting for me as well, having investigated everything carefully from the beginning, to write it out for you in consecutive order, most excellent Theophilus; so that you may know the exact truth about the things you have been taught.

(NASB)

Here Luke desire to pursue careful and accurate historical investigations.  It’s evident with his choice in use of certain Greek terms.

Words used showing Luke’s care for truth and historical investigation and it’s accurate presentation of it:

  • account” (v.1)– Where we get our modern English word “Digest.”  Often used in classical and Hellenistic Greek to refer to historical writing (Fitzmyer, 292).
  • accomplished” (v.1) –Literally is “to bring to full,” that is to fulfill or accomplish in full.  Is there an allusion to Biblical prophecies being “fulfilled” here as well?
  • eyewitnesses” (v.2)– The Greek being αυτοπται, the root word is where we get the English word “Autotopsy.”  There is an emphasis of this word, with it being nuance since it appears before the verb though it’s the object.
  • those who from the beginning“–Luke’s emphasis from the beginning can be seen in that the first two chapters of Luke has 132 verses concerning the beginning that is new information not covered as detailed in other Gospels (Hendriksen, 17).
  • having investigated” (v.3)–Has the meaning of investigating and following up as used by Josephus (Fitzmyer, 297).  The use of the perfect tense for this participle indicates that the action of Luke’s investigation was all done and completed prior to him every writing.  That is, he did his homework before writing!
  • everything” (v.3)–Shows completeness of what Luke into.
  • carefully” (v.3)– Adverb that suggests the quality of Luke’s investigation.
  • consecutive order” (v.3)–A word that describes what happens next is what is being said next (Hendriksen, 56).  Luke wants to write history here.

What do these notes means for the Christian apologist?  I realize that Luke was divinely inspired when he wrote his gospel but nevertheless, in light of the fact that Scripture has a human aspect to it, I see some implications for the one who wishes to develop and live out a Christian worldview:

1.) First off, Christians can go to the Gospel of Luke (and the rest of Scripture) “so that you may know the exact truth about the things you have been taught” (v.4).  Test all things you heard about Jesus to the Word of God.  A Christian must not forsake the authority of the Word of God just because he’s doing apologetics.

2.) Secondly, if Luke, being guided by God, is interested and concern with history, so should we as Christians.  History is not just another boring subject, something trivial, useless or something we pretend to be interested in it so that our boring senseless teacher will give us an A in school.  There is a place for Church history, historical theology, historical apologetics and studying the historical background that is the milieu in which Scripture was written through disciplines such as archaeology, Ancient Near East studies, etc.

3.) Thirdly, Christians ought to acknowledge and synthesize other data correctly.  Note that Luke acknowledges others have written on Christ in verse 1.  There is an absence here of him saying that these accounts were wrong.  This sort of confirm that there is such thing as “Perspectivalism” or Symphonic theology as expressed in John Frame’s and Vern Poythress’ work, provided they are not truly contradictory or against Scripture.  We can emulate Luke’s acknowledgement of other sources before he writes by also starting with what God’s Word has to say about any given subject and it’s implication first whenever we study any particular issues in-depth.

4.) Fourthly, the Christian ought to study things with care and sharpness if we want to emulate Luke.  Can you say with a clear conscience, that your studies have reasonably “investigated everything carefully“?  This glorifies God when we do this, knowing that He’s a God of truth.

5.) Fifthly, the Christian ought to present the things he studied with equal care and sharpness (like the way he ought to study) if we want to emulate Luke.

6.) Last but not least, Christians engaged in historical apologetics, who are students of history or pursuing studies and teaching in general are doing it to serve other believers and nonbelievers, just as Luke also can give a purpose clause for why he was doing what he was doing in verse 4.  So choose your specialization carefully.  Think of how you can bless and be a benefit to others with what you learned, rather than just to puff up one’s ego.

Are there also other implications you can see from Luke 1:1-4?

PART II

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Some links related to Presuppositional apologetics around the web!

1.) Self-Deception and Karl Rove’s Near Meltdown– Thoughts from Mike Robinson.

2.) The Eternal, Inextricable Link–Scott Oliphint on the antithesis.

3.) It’s Circular Because It’s Circular– Chris Bolt on what he believes is the most ridiculous objection against Presuppositionalism.

4.) Van Til’s Apologetics– Over at Wesminster Theological Seminary’s website.

5.) War against Cultural Warrior– Steve Hays go full throttle in a response and there’s something you can learn from this exchange.

6.) Van Til’s Presuppositionalism & Frame’s Perspectivalism– Joseph Torres discussion about Frame’s Perspectivalism and Van Tillian apologetics.

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Here are things around the internet that might interests those who are into Presuppositional apologetics that’s rounded up from the end of this month.  We have just completed our marathon series on our blog on Dispensational Presuppositionalists and you can see that this stream of Presuppositionalists are included here.

1.) Fallacies Everywhere: What Should a Christian Do?

2.) Concerning Presuppositional Epistemology and Apologetics

3.) Presuppositional Dispensationalism Part I

4.) Presuppositional Dispensationalism Part II

5.) Review of John Frame’s The Doctrine of the Word of God 

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As it was previously announced, beginning today on September 17th, 2012 is the kickoff for our blog’s marathon series focusing on Calvinistic Dispensationalists who are Presuppositional in their apologetics.  The desire for this marathon series began when I noticed that there is a stream of Dispensationalists who subscribed to Van Til’s apologetics, though it seems that very little is mentioned about this camp of Presuppositionalists by others who are more Covenantal in their theology.  The only exception to this that I have been able to find in the literature is from John Frame, who in his chapter on “Van Til’s Successors,” in his work Cornelius Van Til: An Analysis of his Thoughts he wrote the following:

Van Til’s influence has been felt beyond his basic Reformed constituency.  Some dispensational theologians have been attracted to his ideas. John C. Whitcomb taught Van Tillian apologetics for many years at Grace Theological Seminary.  At Dallas Theological Seminary, Stephen Spencer taught from a Van Tillian perspective courses that were taught by Norman Geilser, an evangelical Thomist. (Page 394-395)

That statement was published in 1995 which was 17 years ago.  I think that much more can be said about Dispensational Van Tillians after all these years with more than one paragraph.  Nevertheless I am thankful that John Frame has brought the attention to his readers that there is some kind of Van Tillian influence among some circles of Dispensationalists.  Lord willing, I hope in the future that either I or someone else would write some kind of brief historical theology delineating how Van Til’s idea made it’s impact within Dispensational circles.  But for now, I think this marathon series would suffice for the time being!

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Here are some links from the internet, that might be of interests to the Presuppositionalists and those who follow Presuppositional Apologetics.

The first two is concerned with engaging or not engaging an opponent:

1.) How to Reply to Numerous Questions by Genuine or Insincere Questioners Regarding the Truth of Christianity by Mike Robinson.

2.) On Not Worrying About Critics by Gary North.

The rest is on various issues with Presuppositionalism:

3.) Reformed Forum Interviews Vern Poythress on Inerrancy and Worldview

4.) Presuppositions Defined and Lordship by Joe Torres, quoting John Frame.

5.) Thought Thinking Itself? by Scott Oliphint.

6.) Recent Rise of Covenantal Apologetics: On Doug Wilson by Chris Bolt.

7.) Confession of 1967 by Cornelius Van Til

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Michael J. Kruger has recently authored a new book on the Canon of the Bible.  He is a professor of New Testament at Reformed Theological Seminary, Charlotte, NC.  I will be listening to these four lectures on the origins and development of the Canon!  According to Monergism, they were produced for the Kistemaker Lecture Series, RTS-Orlando, March 2012.  If John Frame’s endorsements on the back of Michael J. Kruger’s new book mean anything, it seems that Kruger has added the insights of Presuppositional apologetics in the discussion of the Canon and the defense of the Canon, and that’s exciting!  It’s wonderful to see Van Til being relevant.

“The Definition of ‘Canon’: Exclusive or Multi-Dimensional?” (MP3)

“The Origins of Canon: Was the Idea of a New Testament a Late Ecclesiastical Development?” (MP3)

“The Artifacts of Canon: Manuscripts as a Window into the Development of the New Testament”(MP3)

“The Messiness of the Canon: Do Disagreements Amongst Early Christians Pose a Threat to Our Belief in the New Testament?” (MP3)

(HT)

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There are many things to be thankful to God for, concerning the works of John Frame with all his scholarship that the church has benefited in terms of his presuppositional apologetics and perspectivalism for philosophy and theology.

Added to this blessing is the fact that many of his materials are available for readers for free!

Frame has written his critique concerning some of the issue with Dooyewerrd in a work titled, “The Amsterdam Philosophy.”  It is now available for IPAD Ibook by clicking HERE.

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