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Archive for the ‘John Frame’ Category

Can I Really Trust the Bible Cooper

 
You can order “Can I really trust the Bible?” over at Amazon

This is a book that is part of the Questions Christians Ask Series. Previously I have only read one work in this series, “Is God Anti-Gay?” and I thought it was the best compassionate and biblical work I have seen addressing those who have same sex attraction. This book on whether one can trust the Bible is also very good. Over five chapters the author Barry Cooper answers three important questions: (1) Does the Bible claim to be God’s Word? (2) Does the Bible seem to be God’s Word? (3) and does the Bible prove to be God’s Word? Cooper devotes two chapters to the first question, two more chapters to the second question and one chapter to the third question.
One thing I really like about the book is how the author is conscious of nonbelievers and young believers in the faith that would be reading his book. For instance, I appreciate Cooper explaining what verses are and the history of the Bible being divided into chapters and verses. There are helpful small excursuses throughout the book answering questions such as “What’s inside the Bible?” and “Aren’t some of the stories from Jesus’ life just legends and later additions?”
I also think that Cooper does a great job packing this small book with many illustrations that are helpful in supporting his explanation. For instance, in explaining why he begins with the question of what does the Bible claims about itself he gives the illustration of two individuals on vacation talking about the identity of someone they just saw and how it would not make be rational if these two individuals only engage in speculation but never bother to ask the person at all. Likewise it would also be unwise to speculate on what is the characteristic and identity of the Bible if we never look at the Bible’s own claim of itself. In considering the remarkable unity in the flow of redemptive history, Cooper gave this short illustration: “What if multiple authors had each written a single page of this little book you’re holding? What if each author wrote in different genres, in different centuries and in different countries, with no ‘master plan’ for them to consult? What is the likelihood that it would make any sense at all?” (38). Concerning multiple Bible versions, Cooper also made this point: “Jus because there are 15 different English translations of Dante’s Divine Comedy, it doesn’t mean we can’t know what Dante meant” (56). Another good one: “The person who never wants the Bible to be hard is like the person who goes to the gym and never want to sweat” (74).
In reviewing this book I must also state my bias as someone who subscribe to Presuppositional apologetics. I am somewhat weary of works by naïve evidentialists who does not give much room for God’s Word to be self-evidencing and who up share evidences without conscious consideration of one’s philosophy of evidence. I was glad that this is not one of those works. I was surprised to see the author in several instances quote from John Frame (a plus!). In particular I was impressed with how Cooper dealt with the objection that an argument for the Bible as God’s Word is circular: Cooper would ask a question that would reveal the interlocutor’s own circular authority and Cooper also noted the nature of any ultimate authority would begin with itself or otherwise if it appeal to another authority, than that new authority is the ultimate authority. It is good to see a book of this size be conscious of the issue of ultimate authority!
In terms of constructive criticism, I wished Cooper could have gone through more Messianic prophecies that was fulfilled in Scripture. Cooper did mention Isaiah 53 and Micah 5:2. But I think Cooper accomplished a lot in 81 pages.
I highly recommend this book.
NOTE: I received this book for free from the publisher The Good Book Company through Cross Focused Reviews in exchange for my honest opinion. The thoughts and words are my own and I was under no obligation to provide a favorable review.

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Introduction

Our series on “Mission, Culture and Being Biblical” have noted that some of the problems with contemporary missions philosophy such as that of the Insider Movement is the result of bad theology.  Specifically we have seen instances of a defective theology of false religion, sin and the church.  Added to this is also a defective understanding of the relationship between the Bible and Culture.

What is culture?

What is culture and how do missiologists define it?  It is not an easy thing to define and missiologists do acknowledge this.  For instance Lloyd Kwast, a former chairman of the Department of Missions at Talbot Seminary once said

There is probably no more comprehensive word in the English language than the word ‘culture,’ or no more complex a field of study than cultural anthropology.  Yet, a thorough understanding of the meaning of culture is prerequisite to any effective communication of God’s good news to a different people group” (Kwast, 397)

The Lausanne Committee for World Evangelization, a group made up of 33 individuals with theological, anthropological, linguistic and missional background has admitted in their Willowbank Report that

Culture is a term which is not easily susceptible to definition” (Lausanne Committee, 507).

In working towards understanding what culture is, Kwast finds it helpful to see culture as having several layers that addresses certain questions (see the image below):

Lloyd Kwast culture

I do find Kwast conceptual understanding to be helpful and especially insightful is that the core of a culture is one’s worldview.  Those familiar with Presuppositional apologetics will definitely see how apologetics will intersect with culture (a given for most) and also missions (this is by implication, given that missions deals with unreach people group with the barrier of culture).

Dr. Charles Kraft is an important figure who co-wrote a 1979 paper on a new way to reach Muslims that set the trajectory for the Insider Movement.  He describe culture in the following manner:

The term culture is the label anthropologists give to the structured customs and underlying worldview assumptions which govern people’s lives.  Culture (including worldview) is a people’s way of life, their design for living, their way of coping with their biological, physical and social enviornment.  It consist of learned, patterened assumptions (Worldview), concepts and behavior, plus the resulting artifacts (material culture)” (Kraft, 401).

I also appreciate 

What are the possible relationships between the Bible and Culture?

Bible believing missionaries are to share the truth of the Bible to those who do not know Him that is situated in another culture.  But what is the proper relationship between the Bible and culture? These are the  possibilities:

  1. The Bible has nothing to say about culture
  2. The Bible is against everything in culture
  3. The Bible is for everything in culture
  4. The Bible is for and against different parts of culture

What model of Bible relationship to Culture should Christians Embrace?

Bible believing Christians should hold to the fourth view of the relationship between the Bible and culture: The Bible is for and against different parts of one’s culture.

The problem with the first view (the Bible has nothing to say about culture) is that since culture is something that man has made then God has the progative as the Creator of man to pronounce approval or condemnation upon man’s cultural endeavor.  Recall that the definition of culture given by Kwast and Kraft who both identify that the core or deepest layer of culture is one’s worldview.  One’s worldview is inherently religious (or anti-religious) in the sense that religion has been defined by Tillich as one’s ultimate commitment.  Thus, Henry Van Til was onto something when decades ago he said that culture is one’s religion externalized.  If culture is man’s religious expression then the Bible have jurisdiction over culture since it has jurisdiction over “religious” matters.

The problem with the second view (the Bible is against everything in culture) is that culture isn’t wrong in of itself.  God’s Word does prescribe to His people answers to the different levels of questions that a culture is composed of: What is real?  What is true?  What is Good or Best?  What is done? (see Kwast’s picture above).

God is not totally against culture in of itself as evident from God’s cultural mandate in Genesis 1:26-28:

Then God said, “Let Us make man in Our image, according to Our likeness; and let them rule over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the [a]sky and over the cattle and over all the earth, and over every creeping thing that creeps on the earth.” 27 God created man in His own image, in the image of God He created him; male and female He created them. 28 God blessed them; and God said to them, “Be fruitful and multiply, and fill the earth, and subdue it; and rule over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the [b]sky and over every living thing that [c]moves on the earth.”

Even after the Fall has taken place God reiterated the cultural mandate in Genesis 9:7.  The God of the Bible also has not categorically condemn the material side of culture per se; rather He even empowered men by the Spirit of God to do craft work as in Exodus 31:1-6.

The problem with the third view (the Bible is for everything in culture) is that since culture involves the participation of man, man who is thoroughly sinful (Romans 3:23) will inevitably bring his corruption to his cultural activity.  We should therefore not be surprised to see manifestation of man’s depravity and wickedness in every culture.

It is the third view that both the missiologists and the critics of contemporary unbiblical missiologists wishes to address but from two different starting points.

The Concern OF Contemporary Missiologists: Equivocating A Missionary’s Culture with what’s Biblical

Most contemporary missiologists are concerned that people from missionary sending church naively assume that their culture = what’s Biblical.

Concerning culture, Charles Kraft notes the problem one has of being epistemologically conscious of what is merely one’s own culture versus transcendent universal truth:

We are totally submerged in it, relating to it much as a fish relates to water.  And we are usually as unconscious of it as a fish must be of the water or as we usually are of the air we breathe.” (Kraft, 402).

Unfortunately we don’t really notice our own culture until we are exposed to another culture.  And if one is not aware of one’s own culture by being aware of another culture we face the following danger:

We have continually reverted to the assumption that becoming Christian means becoming like us culturally” (Kraft, 400).

The Concern FOR Contemporary Missiologists: Letting an Unreached Culture go against what’s Biblical

A missionary or missiologist can become so cautious of everything in one’s original culture that they then end up spending all their time and energy discerning against it while failing to have the same level of scrutiny for the culture of the unreached people group.  Or one can be so zealous to see the lost come to know Christ that one then pragmatically use the vehicle of the recipients’ culture without as much discernment as they should be having.  In both instances, one can let the culture of the unreached people people group become practically more authoritative than the Bible in one’s philosophy of missions.  When this happen we see the problem of unbiblical compromises or worst: syncretism.

The Solution:

David Hesselgrave’ Three Culture Model is a helpful paradigm in thinking about the solution:

3culture missions

What Hesselgrave don’t want is the arrow with broken line between the missionary culture being transmitted to the respondent culture as Gospel truth.  Instead Hesselgrave is right to note that missionaries must go back to the Bible (arrow from missionary culture pointing to “Bible Culture”) and know it really well which the missionary then brings the “Bible Culture” to the unreached people group in their culture (arrow from “Bible Culture pointing to “Respondent Culture”).

I would add another arrow to the picture: there needs to be an arrow from the respondent culture pointing back to “Bible Culture” to convey the need for the unreached people group to go back to the Bibles themselves and see that it is taught in Scripture.  We see the Biblical support for this idea in Acts 17:11 when it talks about the Bereans that Paul was trying to reach:

Now these were more noble-minded than those in Thessalonica, for they received the word with great eagerness, examining the Scriptures daily to see whether these things were so.

Essentially what we need more of is the Bible!  In order to avoid either the senders’ culture or the culture of the unreached people group interfering with the Gospel message and biblical evangelistic method we need to know more deeply the Bible.  We need to be faithful to it and trust that it is true when it talks about the human condition and the hope of sinners.  We must not lean on our own understanding and think we are wiser than the writers of Scripture just because our day and age has become more sophisticated in cultural anthropology.

We must not forget 1 Corinthians 1:18:

For the word of the cross is foolishness to those who [m]are perishing, but to us who[n]are being saved it is the power of God.

Bibliography

Hesselgrave, David. 2009. The Role of Culture in Communication.  Perspectives on the World Christian Movement. Ralph D. Winter and Steven C. Hawthorne, eds., 425-429.

Kwast, Lloyd. 2009. Understanding Culture. Perspectives on the World Christian Movement. Ralph D. Winter and Steven C. Hawthorne, eds., 397-399.

Kraft, Charles. 2009. CUlture, Worldview and Contextualization. Perspectives on the World Christian Movement. Ralph D. Winter and Steven C. Hawthorne, eds., 400-406.

Lausanne Committee for World Evangelization.  2009. The Willowbank Report.  Perspectives on the World Christian Movement. Ralph D. Winter and Steven C. Hawthorne, eds., 506-528.

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Doctrine of Christian Life John Frame

Note: You can purchase this work at a discounted price over at Westminster Bookstore by clicking HERE.

A massive volume on the important subject of Christian ethics by one of the most sophisticated Biblicist today.  This volume by Dr. John Frame in his theology of Lordship series was a wonderful read and was intellectually stimulating and doxological—what I expect from John Frame’s work and something I hope to be able to emulate in my own teaching ministry.  This work is different than most Christian text book on ethics in that it applies John Frame’s Triperspectivalism (looking at things with the consciousness of the normative, situational and existential perspective) and a robust Reformed and Biblical theology to the area of Christian ethics and living.  I also think Frame’s Van Tillian side is also a big a plus since I appreciate how the beginning of the book John Frame goes about refuting non-Christian philosophy, religion and worldview that are competitors against the Christian worldview of ethics.  This section is excellent and can be a small book that is worth buying alone.  Frame also wasn’t just into refutation but a positive presentation of the Christian position on ethics as well.  In fact the bulk of the book was his exposition on the ten commandments and he did a good job of showing how other parts of the Scripture illuminates the Decalogue with more specific application or nuances.  Even if one might not agree with Frame in the particular, he nevertheless will provide great food for thought and challenge the reader to think more biblically and rigorously on ethical matters.

Frame was able to strike my interests and simulated my thought throughout the thousand page book which I think is quite a feat.  In what follows I can only share some of the highlights:

  • Frame had a good discussion in the book about the danger of exclusively preaching redemptive-history especially without the intention of application. If one reads his collection of shorter works, Frame expands on this concern he has.
  • The chapter on motive and virtue was saturated with the Gospel and how it motivates a believer’s sanctification; this same chapter also had a good discussion trying to reconcile imprecatory prayers with loving one’s enemy with Frame noting the distinction between wanting God to pour out His wrath while we not doing this ourselves.
  • Another highlight in the book was John Frame’s discussion about racial equalities. I think what he has to say is probably the closest position to mine that I have seen in print.  In particular, I find it helpful his discussion of various ways people use the term “racism.”  I also liked his discussion about race within the context of the church such as his quote: “Churches do not have to seek a quota of every ethnic or national group in their vicinity.  But they must welcome everyone” (John Frame, Doctrine of Christian Life, 674).
  • The discussion on war is a good one; Frame is conscious of what the Scripture say and does not say and he brings this to bear in his observation and criticism of Just War theory. As a Marine myself, I have had some questions about various aspect of Just War theory that seems problematic such as what is proportional force, etc.  I appreciate Frame saying that Just War Theory isn’t so much a theory as it is a series of good questions we must ask concerning war.
  • I really appreciate the section of the book on culture. He does a good job working towards a theological definition of culture and from there explain the various model of the relationship between Christ and culture along with his criticism of each respective views’ strength and weaknesses.  Frame’s discussion about culture also led to the topic of Christians and film; he gives some good principles of what to ask when one watches movies as a Christian and also a defense that movies are not wrong in of itself.
  • For anyone who has read Frame before, there are many points he makes that makes one think not only with the doctrine or position at hand, but also the theological method that is driving Frame as well. I feel Frame is great to read to think about theological method more consciously.
  • In terms of the appendix, I really appreciated Frame’s review of RJ Rushdoony’s book, The Institute of Biblical Law. I thought Frame did a good job of noting Rushdoony’s contribution to Christian study of the law while also being critical in a helpful way that can help push the Christian Reconstructionist movement forward.  His review noted some good problems in Rushdoony’s book while Frame was also able to address Theonomy’s critics that they must not knee-jerk emotionally reject God’s Law out of hand just because we don’t like it, because afterall it was at one time God’s Law.

With the positive I must add a few constructive criticism of the book but I hope this is not misconstrued to mean that I thought Frame did a poor job.  On the contrary, I think it speaks to the quality of the book that my criticisms are few for such a lengthy book:

  • The book is weaker theologically concerning eschatology and especially the millennial positions. Frame doesn’t get into much of eschatology although I think its worth pursuing by others more systematically the relationship between eschatology and Christian ethics.
  • The book gave a short treatment on the topic of spiritual growth and I wished he talked more about sanctification but for such a lengthy book that already covered so many areas one can’t really fault John Frame.
  • A lot of the appendixes were book reviews of works in the 1980s or earlier. Since the book was published in 2008, I thought it would have been nice to see reviews of books that are more recent in publication.

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John-Frame

Here’s an extended quote from John Frame on defining culture.  He begins first with two definitions of cultures given by others and work on a more nuance definition.  It is important to make a good definition for culture if one is engage in cultural apologetics, Christian ethics and engage in the thinking of the Christian Worldview.

The Lausanne Committee on World Evangelism defined culture as “an intergrated system of beliefs, values, customs, and institutions which binds a society together and gives it a sense of identity, dignity, security, and continuity.”  Ken Myers writes that culture is “a dynamic pattern, an ever-changing marix of objects, artifacts, sounds, institutions, philosophies, fashions, enthusiasms, myths, all embodied in individual people, in groups and collectives and associations of people (many of whom do not know they are associated), in books, in buildings, in the use of time and space, in wars, in jokes, and in food.”

From definition and descriptions of this sort, you might come away thinking that culture is everything.  But that would be a mistake.  We should make an important distinction between creation and culture.  Creation is what God makes; culture is what we make.  We should make an important distinction between creation and culture.  Creation is what God makes; culture is what we make.  Now of course God is sovereign, so everything we make is also his in one sense.  Or, somewhat better: creation is what God makes by Himself, and culture is what he makes through us.

(John Frame, Doctrine of Christian Life, 854)

 

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John-Frame

We have been posting daily quotes from John Frame’s Doctrine of the Christian Life on our facebook and twitter account.  This morning I want to share an extended lengthy quote from John Frame on the relationship of the intellect, will and emotions.  John Frame is at his best when he explores the inter-relationships and/or inter-dependence of things and here is no exception.  People often have a wrong conception of the relationship between will and the intellect so the following is helpful.

Traditionally, will is contrasted with intellect (reason) and emotions.  In some accounts, it almost seems as though will, intellect, and emotions are little beings up in our heads who vie for supremacy.  Arguments have been made both about which of these three faculties is superior to the others and about which one ought to be superior.  Philosophical movements have been identified by views on this alleged conflict: Aquinaas has been called an intellectualist, Scotus a voluntarist, and Kierkegaard an emotionalist.

My own view, however, is that we make decisions as whole persons, and that intellect, will and emotions are perspectives on the whole persons, not subsistent entities.  The intellect is the person’s ability to think, the will his his capacity to decide, and the emotionsa re his capacity to feel.  We are talking about three abilities that people have, not three independent entities within them.  That I think is a more biblical perspective, for Scripture never distinguishes these three capacities or make any general statements about the superiority of one or the other.

In my view, the three abilities are interdependent.  You cannot make a decision (will) unless you judge (intellect) that it is the right thing to do.  On the other hand, you cannot make the right judgment (intellect) unless you choose (will) to make it.  The will is certainly involved in our intellectual judgments.  As Paul teaches in Romans 1, certain people choose to disbelieve in God, despite the sufficiency of the evidence of his existence.  Other people choose otherwise.  In both cases, belief is a choice.  The intellectual judgment is a decision of the will.  That is one reason why I have emphasized that the intellectual realm has a moral dimension, that there is an ethics of knowledge.

So will and intellect are dependent upon one another, and so are choice and reason.  They are not independent entities, but perspectives on the mental acts of human beings.  In everything we do, there is thought and choice.  And we think about what to choose, and we choose what to think.  And we choose what to think about what to choose.  We accept reasons because we choose them, and we choose them because we find them reasonable.

(John Frame, Doctrine of the Christian Life, 368).

I find the above helpful.  I would add that not one of the above faculty is morally superior to another.  Our sinfulness has corrupted all our faculty.  So we sin with our mind, our choices, and have sinful emotions, etc.  This has implication for apologetics that we have unpacked on our blog elsewhere; certainly the most obvious is that our mind is not a neutral arbiter of facts, nor does appealing to our intellect alone would necessarily lead someone to Christ if the sinful will chooses not to do so.   How much more do we need the grace of God.

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Here are links on the subject of Presuppositional apologetics gathered from the World Wide Web between July 1st-7th, 2014.  Which ones did you enjoyed?

1.) Mars Hill: A case for friendship evangelism or antithesis?

2.) Word Faith worldview: An Inexhaustive Internal Critique

3.) Theological Memeology: Infinite Punishment for Finite Crimes

4.) Keep A Record Of God’s Providence In Your Life

5.) The motivation of Frame

6.) Life is but a dream–Great point about the paradox of atheistic materialism being similiar to Idealism and a fading dream!

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John Frame's Selected Shorter Writings Volume 1

For those who want to get this book at a discounted price go over to WTS Bookstore online by clicking HERE.

This is a collection of various essays and articles written by John Frame over the years that hasn’t been published, with some being articles on his website and others being shared for the first time.  For anyone who is a fan of Frame this is a great supplement to the many works that Frame has written over the years.  Ideally those who have a little exposure to John Frame’s writings (say a book or two or some journal articles by him) will benefit the most from this book.  John Frame can write very lengthy books so I appreciate the format of shorter essays in this book.  In particular I found the first chapter that serves as a great introduction and summary of his perspectivalism.  This essay is very important in light of how some within the Reformed camp have misunderstood his position as relativism.  If some of his opponents have known about this essay it might have deterred some of the unhelpful criticisms of John Frame out there (or then again it might not).

I also found the various articles in part one of the book that focus on theological method to be a wonderful feast for the mind—in fact it’s probably the best part of the book.  Specifically I enjoyed his discussion about contrast and exegesis, with his call for preachers and theologians to properly extract what exactly the Scripture is saying and then correctly noting what the contrast of the idea is; this is important when we say that the Bible prohibit or refute something and people often err in saying what the Bible is against when in actuality the Scripture didn’t prohibit or contradict it.

In part two of the book on theological meditation I appreciated his review of N.T Wright’s bibliology in which Frame showed how Wright overstretched his rhetoric when he claimed in the subtitle of a recent book that he has gone beyond the “Bible Wars” by offering another alternative.  In reality Wright didn’t really offer anything new and it turns out instead that at times he is unhelpful because he isn’t clear or too ready with the cliché.  At times Wright turns out to be still quite conservative in his view of the Bible despite how he rags on conservatives.  Frame also did a good job of showing Wright’s complaint to move beyond the concept of infallibility is inconsistent with his job of being a Bible historian is still dedicated to defending the historicity of the Bible.

Surprisingly the shortest part of the book was the section on apologetics.  Here I have to level a criticism of Frame’s review of Greg Bahnsen’s Presuppositional Apologetics: Stated and Defended.  After going through carefully what Frame has to say, I thought the essay really was not a review of the book but more of a celebration and recollection of Greg Bahnsen the apologist.  Frame criticized Bahnsen for being unfair to Gordon Clark, Carnell and Schaeffer but Frame doesn’t really demonstrate that Bahnsen really was unfair in his critique of these men.  It was more of a comment made in passing rather than actual documentation it was so.

The last section was more personal and had several assorted pieces that reveal more of John Frame the man.  If you are a big fan of Frame you would love this section and Frame is pretty funny.  I recommend this work to those who want to understand more of Frame’s contribution to theology and apologetics and those who want to get every work by Frame.  These two types of readers will benefit most from this book.

NOTE: This book was provided to me free by P&R Publishing and Net Galley without any obligation for a positive review. All opinions offered above are mine unless otherwise stated or implied.

 

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