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Archive for April, 2010

Rick Warren said to Piper that he is a Calvinist believer of the Gospel…

And if clothes tells us anything, what he wears on his head show’s his favor of Apostate Judiasm

And what he says shows his Ecumenicalism

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1.) Rick Warren: “I think we have to work together, I think it pleases God we work together…you can work hand with hand without seeing eye to eye” (9:33-9:47)

RESPONSE: “Do not be bound together with (AJ)unbelievers; for what (AK)partnership have righteousness and lawlessness, or what fellowship has light with darkness?Or what (AL)harmony has Christ with Belial, or what has a (AM)believer in common with an (AN)unbeliever?” (2nd Corinthians 6:14-15)

2.) Rick Warren: “And I don’t demonize you.  Not all differences have to be demonized.” (10:26-30)

RESPONSE: Note Apostle John’s “demonizing” of Apostate Judiasm: “9‘Behold, I will cause those of (A)the synagogue of Satan, who say that they are Jews and are not, but lie–I will make them (B)come and bow down at your feet, and make them know that (C)I have loved you” (Revelation 3:9)

3.) Rick Warren: “Every religion, whether it’s Islam, Judaism, Christianity, has been caricaturized many, many, many times falsely.  And I like, I like to start a society for the..ending of stereotyping….that’s all I got to say “(10:32-11:00)

RESPONSE: “Do not be bound together with (AJ)unbelievers; for what (AK)partnership have righteousness and lawlessness, or what fellowship has light with darkness?Or what (AL)harmony has Christ with Belial, or what has a (AM)believer in common with an (AN)unbeliever?” (2nd Corinthians 6:14-15)

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See what else you can spot

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symphonic theology

Purchase: Westminster | Amazon

This is a short interesting book by Vern Poythress, the professor of New Testament interpretation at the Westminister Theological Seminary (WTS).  An initial glance at the title might lead one to ask the question of what is symphonic theology.  What is symphonic theology?  It would have been great to have Poythress provide a concise definition earlier in the book.  About a third way into his work, Poythress states what it is: “We use what we have gained from one perspective to reinforce, correct, or improve what we understood through another.  I called this procedure symphonic theology because it is analogous to the blending of various musical instruments to express the variations of a symphonic theme” (43).

Though Poythress coins the term “symphonic” theology, what he articulates here is better known as Perspectivalism.  It does not seem to be anyone else who subscribe to Perspectivalism that calls it symphonic theology, and for the purpose of this review, symphonic theology will be called perspectivalism instead.  According to Poythress, he attributes perspectivalism as a theological method that was spawned from the teaching “of Cornelius Van Til, John M. Frame, and Kenneth L. Pike” (121).  In assessing Poythress claim of the three influence of Poythress’ perspectivalism, only Frame (which by the way, is Poythress’ mentor and colleague) would explicitly subscribe to perspectivalism, while Van Til’s thought of apologetics and theology in the opinion of this reviewer laid the incipient form of perspectivalism along with the work of linguist Pike.

What is perspectivalism?  It has much to do with perspective, and aspects.  Chapter one offered various illustrations of how perspectives are a part of daily life.  It is amazing to even think of how common one is not aware of perspectives in our daily life, and yet it is assumed though not necessarily consciously.  Poythress introductory chapter is a helpful opening to illustrate from the physical to the spiritual.

In the next chapter, Poythress gets more specific on defining what he means by perspective.  He notes how the term “perspective” is often used in four ways: analogies, models, selective interests and one’s worldview.  He states that concerning “the first three senses, we frequently dealt with complementary truths and ways of looking at something”, but with perspective as a worldview “here, we have an exclusive category: one view is right, while the others are wrong” (20).  It is important to understand that Poythress’ perspectivalism is not a denial of absolute truth in the common understanding of the term, since Poythress believes that there can only be one right worldview.  The rest of the book focus on the other three meaning of perspective: analogies, models and selective interests.  He believes that perspectives in the latter three senses will be beneficial in the task of theology.

Of course in justifying whether or not multiple perspectives are valid in theology, Christians would have to ask whether the Bible in any way address the topic, whether directly or indirectly.  Concerning selective interests, Poythress writes, “We can see a similar kind of selectivity in the Bible.  The Gospel of Mark and the Gospel of John are different partly because they tell about different events.  John concentrates on Christ’s ministry in the area of Jerusalem, while of Mark concentrates on the Galilean ministry.  Mark includes an account of the Last Supper, while John includes the Upper Room Discourse” (17-18).  And “the Gospel of Mark presents us mostly with the theme of the kingdom of God, while the Gospel of John dwells on the themes of truth, light, glory, love, indwelling and faith” (17).  Christians should appreciate how the written gospels present one unified truth with diversity of perspectives.  While most Christians would agree with the observation that the four gospels are written from different perspectives, and all four gospel remain true, it is important to realize that perspectives in of itself does not imply relativism or a denial of the existence of objective truth.

There is a sense of perspective when we read the Bible, “we use a multitude of perspective on a passage, we do not expect a conflict or contradiction between perspectives.  Rather, we use each perspective to reinforce and enhance our total understanding” (24).  As an illustration that this reviewer can think of, the passage of Zechariah 12:10 can be mined for it’s truth as Messianic prophecy, while it can also be mined for it’s truth concerning eschatology.  However, this task is not together a subjective relativistic endeavor, since the historical-grammatical-literary hermeneutic provides an objective control of knowing first off the authorial intent.  In fact, Poythress points out that perspective is also important in solid hermenutics.  Any interpretation of a passage must take into account how it fits into the book’s larger theme: “Once a book has exhibited a clear-cut theme, the book invites us to see all its contents as somehow fitting in with the theme, sometimes loosely and indirectly, sometimes directly” (30).  This theme is a particular selected interests, or “perspective”.

If one’s theology is informed by Scripture, and Scripture is perspectival, then it should be surprising to find that a solid systematic theology should be perspectival as well.  For instance, Jesus as Prophet, Priest and King are traditional categories of the roles of Christ.  In a way, these traditional offices of Jesus are also perspectives of Jesus, which Poythress points out.  While one can see distinct functions in the three offices of Christ, Poythress reminds us that “we cannot ultimately isolate one piece from another” (40).  Each of the offices presupposes and need each other: “Christ’s prophetic proclamation of the kingdom of God in words goes together with and reinforces his kingly demonstration of the presence of the kingdom of God by casting out demons and working miracles” (40).  Again, in theology, various focuses on theology should reinforce and further our total theological understanding.  Rather than a threat, if one’s theology is true, one should expect that the various analogies and interests of theological aspect is complementary of other parts of theology.

It is important to understand that though theological perspective are inter-related, there is not one singular doctrine that is foundational to all other doctrine: “No one attribute is the ‘last thing back,’ from which all the others are derived.  Rather, any attribute can be seen as related to any other” (83).  Rather, there is an inter-dependence of doctrines, other doctrines require other doctrines.

Perspectivalism spans beyond the sphere of systematic theology.  There is also a sense in which there is a relationship between systematic theology and biblical theology.  Even in an area that most might not commonly think as having any relationship, a closer inspection reveal otherwise.  For instance, Poythress explores the relationship of systematic theology to Christian ethics.  He finds that there is in some sense, all of the biblically based systematic theology is ethically imperative:  “The whole of systematic theology can be viewed as a description of what we ought to believe on the basis of the Bible.  Thus all of systematic theology—all of doctrines—is simultaneously ethics” (25)! The above suggests that theology (in the example of systematic theology) share a relationship with philosophy (in this example, the area of ethics). Those familiar with the works of Van Til would realize that there is a sense in which philosophy and theology share an interesting relationship, and Van Til is quite insightful when he points out that philosophy is really doing theology in another language.  Though Poythress does not state so here, there is a sense also that important parts of philosophy is an attempt to engage in the task of theology but from another worldview perspective.  This truth should lead the Christian philosopher to realize that philosophy itself can never be autonomous from the Word of God, just as systematic theology can never be separated from the authority of Scripture.  Even in an area like apologetics and eschatology, there is an inter-dependent relationship, which is the subject of an essay by this reviewer.

Perspectivalism is a legitimate way of thinking in light of the truth that we are limited, and our knowledge of truth can at times be partial.  An important illustration is that of the jewel: there are various facets to the diamond of a pristine theology, but there is one diamond of true religion/worldview/faith.

Poythress discussion about error is also helpful, since not all perspective is legitimate.  Even then, “Error is parasitic on the truth,” that is “to be at all plausible, errors and lies must somehow look like the truth” (89).  He gave the example of how Jehovah’s Witnesses theology is false, and yet it parallel closely to the truth when it comes to the doctrine of the second coming, etc, and the elements of Watchtower theology which parallel the truth of Scripture will be an attractive bait to attract followers.  This truth should also imply that a Christian should always be discerning of error, because error often times is disguised so closely to the truth than one realize.

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Very good response.

I like Trueman’s vocabulary; is it just me but Brits communicate well?

Here’s the article: http://www.reformation21.org/articles/life-on-the-cultic-fringe.php

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For those who are interested in the Greek translation of the Old Testament, here is a transliteration of the Text

http://septuagint-interlinear-greek-bible.com/OldTestament.pdf

I just wish it had a textual apparatus with it!  But otherwise, for something that is offered for free, who are we to complain!

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Introduction

One of the glorious aspects of Christian truth that leads me to break out in doxological praise of the greatness of the Lord is the rational coherence of a Biblically informed worldview.  Within a Biblically-based worldview, no part of Christian theology ever contradicts another part of Christian theology.  This fact alone is a testimony of the greatness of God’s wisdom over that of man’s wisdom.  It is quite improbable that any man let alone any group of men who wrote the Bible with different backgrounds (in two or three continents, in three languages, spanning over the course of several centuries) could have enough foresight to come up with a system that would survive over two millenniums of theological scrutiny by some of the brightest minds in history.

Adding further to the worthiness of God’s infinite wisdom is the fact that the coherence of Christian theology lends itself to allow various aspects of Christian theology that share a rational inter-relationship.[1] It is a wonderful task for the Christian theologian to explore the inter-relationship of the various fields of theological study, not only to expound on the truth of God’s Word but also to point out the beautiful rational inter-locking relationship of Christian doctrines that reflect how God is worthy to be the subject of our praise, awe and adoration.  If a Christian goal in life is to glorify God in whatever he does (1st Corinthians 10:31), and God gets the glory when we enjoy Him, then Christian theology must never aim short of facilitating us to worship God!

In addition to providing exegetical arguments from Scripture, a theologian’s defense of any particular area of theology might receive further supporting arguments in light of the inter-relationships of Biblical doctrines.  For instance, if doctrine X is being doubted by an individual, it can be shown to be necessarily true if it is the foundation for doctrine Y and doctrine Y is true.[2] Or another doctrine (say, doctrine Z) might further support doctrine X, since the implications of Z supports X.  The inter-relationship of Christian doctrines is really an inter-dependence of Christian doctrines.  This inter-dependence of Christian doctrines provides a helpful paradigm in the task of constructing a robust and Biblical, systematic theology.  As an example of the interdependence of doctrines, this essay will explore some of the interaction between Biblical eschatology[3] and Biblical apologetics[4], and show the implication of each in vindicating the other.  First, a definition of eschatology and apologetics is needed.

What is Eschatology and Apologetics

Eschatology

Eschatology is considered one of the areas of Systematic Theology.  Literally, eschatology is the “study of the last”.  Hence, theologians have come to use this term to describe the study of last things.  The subject of eschatology includes the study of death, judgment, the Tribulation, the rapture, the resurrection, the millennium, the Eternal state, heaven and hell.  Louis Berkhof has noted the importance of eschatology to other loci of theology:

“It is the one locus of theology, in which all the other loci must come to a head, to a final conclusion.  Dr. Kuyper correctly points out that every other locus left some questions unanswered, to which eschatology should supply the answer.  In theology it is the question, how God is finally perfectly glorified in the works of His hands, and how the counsel of God is fully realized; in anthropology, the question, how the disrupting influence of sin is completely overcome; in Christology, the question, how the work of Christ is crowned with perfect victory; in soteriology, the question, how the work of the Holy Spirit at last issues in the complete redemption of the people of God; and in ecclesiology, the question of the final apotheosis of the Church.  All these questions must find their answer in the last locus of dogmatics, making it the real capstone of dogmatic theology.”[5]

One does not need to agree with Berkhof’s Amillennial eschatology to agree with his observation of the importance of eschatology for an overall systematic theology.

Apologetics

Unlike eschatology, there is less agreement among Christians over the definition and taxonomy of apologetics.  John Frame has defined Apologetics as “the application of Scripture to unbelief.”[6] Other apologists of the Classical and traditional Evidentialists’ persuasion would probably not enjoy Frame’s definition because of its emphasis on “Scripture” in apologetics.  It seems as if one’s method of apologetics will influence how one define apologetics, and categorize it in relations to other areas of study.[7] In general, apologetics is the art and science in the rational defense of the Christian faith, deriving its meaning from the Greek word ‘apologia’, which carries the idea of a legal defense.  Since apologetics defends the truth of Christianity, and the truths of Christianity are doctrinal in nature, Frame’s definition of apologetics is quite appropriate.  Apologetics as defined by Frame, avoids a definition that is reductionistic by being broad enough to account for the various facets of apologetics (historical, scientific, philosophical, counter-cult) and yet submits them all under the authority of Scripture.

Relationship of Apologetics to Theology in General

Before delineating the relationship of eschatology to apologetics, it would be appropriate to discuss how systematic theology relates specifically to Presuppositional apologetics.  In a booklet on the importance of Van Til’s thought, John Frame writes,

“If Van Til had done nothing more than to introduce some of the best insights of the Dutch theologians to the American public, even then his work would have been of substantial importance. But when one considers the uniqueness of his apologetic position and then further considers the implications of that apologetic for theology, one searches for superlatives to describe the significance of Van Til’s overall approach.Van Til’s apologetics may well be described as a group of original applications of some familiar Reformed doctrines…In Van Til’s view, apologetics and theology (particularly systematic theology) are very closely related: ‘… defense and positive statement go hand in hand.’ There can be no adequate positive statement without defense against error, and vice versa. In fact, ‘Systematic Theology is more closely related to apologetics than are any of the other disciplines. In it we have the system of truth that we are to defend.”[8]

Frame goes on to describe how Van Til’s view of apologetics brings with it a particular view of the relationship of apologetics to theology:

“Though Van Til does clearly distinguish “positive statement” from “defense,” and though in general he aligns the first with theology and the second with apologetics, he does insist that, because each is indispensable to the other, theology must have an apologetic thrust, and apologetics must expound theology.”[9]

If theology were to have an apologetic thrust and apologetics a theological thrust, is there really any difference between apologetics and theology then?  Frame writes, “The difference between the two in practice, then, becomes a difference in emphasis rather than of subject matter.”[10] Van Til’s methodology thus becomes a two edged sword towards the Classical apologist and the nonbeliever:

“His major complaints against competing apologetic methods are theological complaints, that is, that they compromise the incomprehensibility of God, total depravity, the clarity of natural revelation, God’s comprehensive control over creation, and so on. His appeal to the non-Christian contains much exposition of Reformed doctrine, in order that the unbeliever might know what sort of God is being argued for.”[11]

One’s theology then, must have an apologetic thrust, and one’s apologetics must be theologically driven.  Again, the two are indespensable.  Since eschatology is a locus in systematic theology, eschatology itself must have an apologetic thrust and apologetics put into application biblical eschatology.  It is important for Van Tillians to continue with Van Til’s legacy: “Unoriginal as his doctrinal formulations may be, his use of those formulations — his application of them–is often quite remarkable.”[12]

Interdependence of Eschatology and Apologetics

Future Judgment and the Meaning of Life

More than any other school of apologetics, Presuppositionalism’s defends Christianity as an entire worldview.  Greg Bahnsen states, “Van Til saw that the dispute in apologetics was not simply over isolated religious claims or conclusion, but was in principle a dispute regarding entire worldviews.”[13] In Van Til’s own words, “The fight between Christianity and non-Christianity is, in modern times, no piece-meal affair.  It is the life and death struggle between two mutually opposed life and worldviews.”[14] A worldview is reflected in how one answers the following questions:  What is the origin of everything?  Who and what are you?  What is the purpose of life?  How should we then live?  And what happens after you die?  Notice how the last question is eschatological in nature.  Berkhof makes the following point about how everyone has some kind of eschatology:

“A doctrine of the last things is not something that is peculiar to the Christian religion.  Wherever people have seriously reflected on human life…they raised the question, What is the end or final destiny of individual; and what is the goal towards which the human race is moving?  Does man perish at death, or does he enter upon another state of existence, either of bliss or of woe?”[15]

In an apologetics setting, a Christian eschatology will have to deal with a lot more than just competing with Christian eschatology such as Amillennialism and Tribulation views.  Whereas the various orthodox eschatological perspectives still share a general eschatology that there will be a future judgment of man by God, this is not taken for granted by the non-Christian, such as the self-described atheist.

Richard Dawkins, one of the best known leaders of the New Atheist movement, writes, “Religion teaches the dangerous nonsense that death is not the end.”[16] Calling themselves “Freethinkers”, the atheist president Annie Laurie Gaylor of Freedom From Religion Foundation writes, “Freethinkers accept the natural world, and reject the unproved and primitive supernatural myths about gods, devils, angels, magic, life-after-death and the suspension of natural laws (“miracles”) through wishful thinking (“prayer”).”[17] Atheist philosopher Bertrand Russell describes a much larger pessimistic eschatology in his atheistic worldview,

“Moreover, if you accept the ordinary laws of science, you have to suppose that human life and life in stage of decay you get the sort of conditions of temperature and so forth which are suitable to protoplasm, and there is life for a short time in the life of the whole solar system.  You see in the moon the sort of thing to which the earth is tending—something dead, cold and lifeless.”[18]

If apologetics is the application of Scripture towards unbelief, what should the Christian response to the atheist be?  An exegetically-based theology should inform the apologist’s response.  Ecclesiastes 3:11 enlightens the believers that God has set eternity into the hearts of man.  Exegete H.C. Leupold comments on Ecclesiastes 3:11, “Man has a deep-seated ‘sense of eternity’ of purposes and destinies.”[19] Man’s thought in his very being (the heart) should be inclined towards thinking about eternity yet atheists such as the ones mentioned above deny eternal existence.  Romans 1:18 sheds light on the matter, for sinners “suppress the truth in unrighteousness.”  If unbelievers are able to suppress the truth that is self-evident within them of the existence (Romans 1:19) and attributes (Romans 1:20) of the Living God, it would be no surprise that the same unbeliever can deny the testimony of God within them that there is eternal existence after death.

Scripture clearly teaches that there is a judgment of God after death: “In as much as it is appointed for men to die once and after this comes judgment” (Hebrews 9:27).  The book of Revelation gives further details.  It describes that after the Millennium is over, there will be a great white throne judgment (Revelation 20:11), in which there will be “the dead, the great and the small, standing before the throne, and books were opened; and another book was opened, which is the book of life; and the dead were judged from the things which were written in the books, according to their deeds” (Revelation 20:12).  Even those who have died or buried at sea will be raised for this judgment (Revelation 20:13), and those whose names were not in the Book of life were thrown into the lake of fire (Revelation 20:15).  Both unbelievers and believers will be judged by God, the former facing the wrath and fury of God (Romans 2:5-7) and the latter with rewards based upon the believer’s good or bad Christian life (2nd Corinthians 5:10).  More Scriptural references for the Great Judgment could be cited, as Wayne Grudem summarizes, “Scripture frequently affirms the fact that there will be a great final judgment of believers and unbelievers.  They will stand before the judgment seat of Christ in resurrected bodies and hear his proclamation of their eternal destiny.”[20]

Of course, the atheist would outright deny the Christian doctrine of God’s judgment.  Here is where apologetics, and in particular Presuppositional apologetics comes into play.  Presuppositionalism stresses the importance of Scripture.  An honest Christian would acknowledge that the basis for his belief in the Great white throne judgment is because the Bible teaches it.  The presuppositionalist believes that the Word of God is self-evidencing, and its content should be accepted because of Scripture’s self-attesting nature.[21] Speaking about the coming judgment and the reality of hell, Jesus in the parable of the rich man and Lazarus explained that “if they do not listen to Moses and the Prophets, they will not be persuaded even if someone rises from the dead” (Luke 16:31).  Just because the atheist denies the authority and the power of Scripture’s own testimony this should not make a Christian abstain from the use Scripture: It’s analogous to a burglar denying and mocking the power of a police officer’s shotgun.  Shoot, and see what happens.  A Christian should not lose confidence with the Scripture in defending the doctrine of God’s judgment to the atheist.

The atheist denial of God’s future judgment does not happen in a vacuum.  It should be obvious here that the atheist has a different method of “knowing” than the Christian with their Bible.  In fact, this eschatological debate becomes a clash of Christian versus atheistic epistemology.  Here again, Presuppositional apologetics is helpful.  Presuppositionalism stresses the importance of analyzing an opponent’s presupposition and epistemology, and refuting unbelief at the foundational level.  Besides believing in the power of God’s Word to be self-evidencing in presenting a positive case for God’s future judgment, Presuppositionalism also stresses the importance of negative arguments used to refute the opposing side.  John Frame explains the reasoning behind the importance of refutation in a debate:

“Note therefore that when you seek to refute someone’s position, it is never sufficient merely to set forth arguments for an alternative (and incompatible) view. Many modern theologians, for example, argue against the orthodox view of Scripture by presenting arguments for liberal constructions, without even considering the biblical evidence that motivated the orthodox view in the first place…In such situations it is best, then, not only to argue an alternative view but also to refute the arguments that produced the view you are seeking to overthrow. Even then, of course, an opponent convinced of the rightness of his cause may take refuge in the possibility of your being wrong. But the more you cast doubt on those considerations that weigh most heavily with your opponent, the more adequate your argument will be.”[22]

Again, the atheist denial of God’s future judgment does not happen in a vacuum.  So long as the atheist epistemology is left untouched, the atheist would think he is justified in rejecting the future judgment of God.  Typically, atheists in their epistemology subscribe to empiricism[23], or its subset, scientism[24].  Take for instance atheist spokesman Dan Barker: “The scientific method is the only trustworthy means of obtaining knowledge.”[25] Atheists like Barker adamantly deny the possibility of the afterlife[26], and yet given their empirical epistemology, they cannot justify their conclusion that there is no life, nor future judgment of mankind after death.  Barker and other empirical atheists cannot claim to know that the Christian doctrine of the Great white throne judgment is false.

Furthermore, empiricism as an epistemology suffers from incoherence.  Empiricism really is an idea.  Unquestionably, an empiricist believes that empiricism is the proper way to know truth, yet how can one empirically demonstrate that empiricism is true?  No one has ever seen, tasted, touched, smelled or heard the idea of empiricism itself.[27] Empiricism is not a physical entity that triggers sensations. Empiricism as an epistemology is self-refuting: that is, if empiricism really is true, then it is false.

Concerning the doctrine of God’s future judgment, it is not only eschatology which has benefited from its relationship with apologetics, but apologetics is further enhanced with the doctrine of God’s future judgment.  As mentioned above, two of the questions a worldview tries to answer is “What is the purpose of life?”, and “How shall we then live?”  The doctrine of God’s future judgment (or denial of this teaching) has bearing upon these two questions.

In a book of the Bible, written for the purpose “to convince men of the uselessness of any world view which does not rise above the horizon of man himself”[28], Ecclesiastes concludes with these two final verses:

“The conclusion, when all has been heard, is: fear God and keep His commandments, because this applies to every person.  For God will bring every act to judgment, everything which is hidden, whether it is good or evil.” (Ecclesiastes 12:13-14)

Here one sees a declarative and a motive clause.[29] The declarative clause provides us the purpose in life.  In light of all the vanities of life, what really matters for “every person” is to fear God and obey His commandments (v.13).  Fearing God here “means to respect, honor, and worship the Lord.”[30] The reason this is the real matter of life is because of the future reality of God’s judgment (v.14).  Longman III comments on verse 14, that the writer of Ecclesiastes “looked for a time when God would give the righteous their reward and the wicked their just punishment…”[31] In contrast to this meaning in life, the atheist Dan Barker believes that the meaning of life must be determined subjectively by each individual: “Since the universe is mindless and the cosmos does not care, you must care, if you wish to have purpose.”[32] If it’s up to each individual, then anything goes for each individual’s meaning of life.  Ecclesiastes is a tour de force that tackles this topic head on, with Solomon tackling various meaning in life only to discover that everything else was vanity.

How shall we then live?  Since God will one day judge even what is hidden, it behooves everyone to fear God and obey His commandments.  How one lives (ethics) should be based upon God, and God’s commandments in light of the truth that there is a future judgment of God.  In light of this eschatological doctrine, atheists who pride themselves as freethinkers have it wrong when they say “Freethinkers accept human life as the primary basis for morality.”[33] One should not base ethics on the subjective whims of man but on the objective requirements of God, because God will judge us accordingly in the future.  The future great white throne judgment is a reason for the non-Christian to accept the Christian meaning of life and Christian ethics, but it requires first that one is Born-Again.

Messianic Prophetic Evidence and the Future of Israel

It is a frequent misconception that Presuppositionalism is against evidence.  However, there is a way of presenting evidences within a Van Tillian framework without the pitfalls of traditional Evidentialism.[34] One of the greatest types of evidence for the Christian faith is the fulfillment of Messianic prophecies by Jesus Christ.  In a beautiful inter-relationship of Christian theology, not only do these passages have apologetic value, they also have eschatological value.

Three particularly verses that strongly demonstrate Jesus as the Messiah are Psalm 22:16, Isaiah 53:5 and Zechariah 12:10.  All three verses were written hundreds of years (and perhaps a thousand years in the case of Psalm 22) prior to the event itself of Jesus’ crucifixion.  Beyond their evidential value in apologetics, if one were to consistently employ the same hermeneutics that demonstrates Jesus as the Messiah unto the rest of the chapter in which the Messianic prophecy is found, it will demonstrate that Israel still has a special role in Biblical eschatology.  This section will consider Zechariah 12:10 in more detail, but the same argument can be developed with the other two verses and their particular chapters as well.  Such fulfilled Messianic prophecy is insightful for eschatology, as it validates proper hermeneutics for prophetic genre, and thus teaches the readers on how to interpret passages awaiting fulfillment.

The context of Zechariah 12:10 is in the middle of a transition between Israel’s battle and victory because of the return of the Messiah.[35] All the events described in this section are events that are yet to come in the future.  The text reads,

“I will pour out on the house of David and on the inhabitants of Jerusalem, the Spirit of grace and of supplication, so that they will look on Me whom they have pierced; and they will mourn for Him, as one mourns for an only son, and they will weep bitterly over Him like the bitter weeping over a firstborn.”

In terms of Messianic prophecy, the first thing this verse tells the reader is that there will be a Messiah who will be Yahweh Himself, thus predicting the Incarnation of Jesus Christ hundreds of years before He was born.  The verse begins with Yahweh Himself dramatically speaking in the first person.[36] Yahweh is the subject of this pronoun since no one but Yahweh Himself can pour forth His Spirit. The recipient of Yahweh’s pouring forth the Spirit is the House of David and the inhabitants of Jerusalem.  When this occurs, the verse tells us that “they will look on Me whom they have pierced.”  In the Hebrew, it is not so much the verb וְהִבִּ֥יטוּ that has been controversial, since it just means “to gaze at,” but the object of this verb, which is the Hebrew word אֵלַ֖י.[37] This is a first person emphatic pronoun, and in the context of this verse, it is talking about Yahweh.  But there are some MT textual variants that read “unto him” instead.[38] Feinberg takes the first person pronoun because he finds this reading “in all the ancient manuscripts, in the best and most numerous of the later ones…”[39] Klein reports that “all of the major ancient versions support the reading…”[40] Leupold concede that the “unto him” reading enjoy “a very small minority of manuscripts…”[41] This is an amazing prophetic reference to the deity of the Messiah, since Yahweh is talking about Himself (and no one else but Yahweh) as the one whom Israel will look at.  Yahweh was the one pierced!

A second point that this verse makes in regards to Messianic prophecy is that this verse demonstrate the fact that the Messiah will be pierced.

Thirdly, this verse also prophesied that the Messiah (who is Yahweh Himself) will be pierced by His own people, Israel. In the NASB, דָּקָ֑רוּ is translated “they have pierced.”  The antecedent of “they” is pointing back to the people of Jerusalem.  The plain meaning of the verb is “pierce, transfix, thrust through.”[42] Feinberg has observed that “there are some who would make darqaru mean ‘wound by insulting, by reviling.’”[43] For instance, Leupold believes that “…it is very obvious that the verb ‘they pierced’ must be used in a figurative sense and not literally, for God cannot be literally pierced.”[44] But stating that this is obvious is to beg the question.  Arguing like this is self-refuting to his position: if an argument of “what it obvious states” is used, the “obvious” reading is that “they pierced”, literally.  Unger even pointed out that Leupold failed to take into account the incarnation, “which is a prerequisite to the actual fulfillment of this prophecy.”[45] Leupold goes further, arguing that “a good parallel is Lev. 24:11, 16, where also a verb ‘pierced’ is used (not daqar as here but naqab), and its object is the name of God.”[46] Unger rebuts this, seeing Leupold’s argument as “pure supposition” since “not only are the words for ‘pierce’ different, but the idiom of Leviticus is different.”[47] Ultimately, Unger finds the basis for his position of a literal ‘pierce’ in John 19:37, which quotes this passage as a fulfillment of prophecy.[48] Leupold does not believe John 19:37 refer directly to Christ, but his justification is problematic when he believed it just “happened to offer a literal parallel for what was originally not to be construed in a literal sense.”[49] It seems unlikely that a prophecy “just happened” to be fulfilled in a way that parallel the prophetic text literally, but the prophecy was not meant in a literal sense!  Some have denied this piercing is in any way a future foretelling of the Messiah, since the verb is in Hebrew perfect tense, and thus must be describing an already reality of suffering or martyrdom.[50] This does not take into account that in the Hebrew, the perfect tense verb can be used in reference to a future time frame, in what is called the future perfect.[51] Since this verb appears in a prophetic genre, it makes it more plausible that this verb is functioning as a future perfect.  It is better to accept a literal rendering of “they pierced”.

A literal, historical-grammatical hermeneutic should lead a Christian to see that Jesus was the Messiah because these three things were fulfilled in Him.  It is quite amazing to consider that this passage was interpreted by the Jews quite literally, and understood by Jewish rabbis as being Messianic, as it is recorded in the Babylonian Talmud.[52]

It is ironic to observe how non-Dispensationalists would employ a literal historical-grammatical hermeneutic to Zechariah 12:10 from an apologetics perspective, but then fail to apply the same hermeneutic consistently to THE SAME VERSE when it comes to the topic of eschatology.  Dispensationalists would say that this verse support the teaching that there will be a future role of Israel in the Last Days, whereas non-Dispensationalists would disagree.  Representing the Amillennial camp, H.C. Leupold takes the position that this does not refer to literal Israel but to an allegorical city of God, “or better, consider the capital city as representing the people.”[53] In response, Unger is correct to say that Leupold “gives no reason other than to assert that this is ‘a tenet taught neither here nor elsewhere in the Scriptures.’”[54] One might be curious to ask Leupold that if he were to go down the allegorical path, what then is the allegorical meaning of “they will mourn for Him,” “and they will weep bitterly over Him”?  On top of that, how does he know that he has found the proper and correct allegorical interpretation?  It seems that those who are going to deny what this verse teaches regarding the future restoration of Israel during the future Tribulation do so quite arbitrarily if they also believe this verse prophesied about the Messiah.  The hermeneutics behind the Messianic interpretation of this verse has implications for the hermeneutics used in interpreting other eschatological prophecies that has not yet been fulfilled yet.

Employing a consistent historical-grammatical hermeneutic to the text, Zechariah 12:10 teaches that eschatologically Israel will one day see their Savior arriving and rescuing their city of Jerusalem (v.9).  They will then see that the long-awaited Messiah was Jesus, whom their forefathers have pierced, and this will lead the nation of Israel to experience a mournful repentance.  On the basis of Zechariah 12:10, the certainty of God’s future plan with Israel is just as certain as Jesus Christ being the Messiah.  A Christian should not deny the fact that God is not yet done with Israel as a nation.

Eschatological Resurrection and Christ Resurrection

In the fifteenth chapter of Paul’s first epistle to the church at Corinth, Paul devotes a lengthy treatment on the topic of the believer’s future bodily resurrection and its relationship to Christ’s bodily resurrection.  Christian historical apologists arguing for the fact that Christ was raised on the third day love to cite this chapter about what it means if Christ did not resurrect from the dead.  Readers should never forget that the main point in chapter fifteen is an argument for the future resurrection of all those who are dead.  It so happens that in the course of Paul’s argument, Christ’s resurrection was also discussed and the relationship between the two resurrections were discussed.

It is clear from chapter fifteen that the future resurrection of the dead depends on Christ resurrection. Paul asked rhetorically in verse twelve, “Now if Christ is preached, that He has been raised from the dead, how do some among you say that there is no resurrection of the dead?”  Paul then proceeds to provide a counter-factual argument of what it means to deny the resurrection of Christ (v.13-19) to illustrate the severity of denying the future bodily resurrection of the dead and it’s implication of Christ not rising. If Christ did not rise from the dead: Preaching and faith is in vain (v.14), Paul and the apostles who proclaim His resurrection turning out to be liars and committing serious sins against the Lord (v.15), with the result that the faith is then worthless (v.17), since believers are still in sin (v.17), and dead Christians perished for eternity (v.18), thus, Christians have become the ones who are to be most pitied among men (v.19).  Fortunately, this is not the case, because in verse twenty Paul goes on to write, “But now Christ has been raised from the dead, the first fruits of those who are asleep” (v.20).  Defending Christ’s resurrection falls under the domain of apologetics.

The Christian eschatological hope in a future bodily resurrection is built upon the basis that Christ Himself in history has been raised from the dead.  This fact is an essential element of the true gospel which saves (v.1-2).  From verses three through eight, Paul list the witness to Christ’s resurrection in the order of it’s priority.  “For I delivered to you as of first importance,” to use Paul’s own term, is the testimony of Scripture that Jesus has been raised (v.2).  Scripture’s testimony is important because it is the testimony of God to the resurrection.  Appealing to the subject of Messianic prophecies again, there are prophecies and types that foretold Jesus’ resurrection.  The most explicit prophetic witness is Psalms 16:10-11:

“For You will not abandon my soul to Sheol;

Nor will You allow Your Holy One to undergo decay.

You will make known to me the path of life;

In Your presence is fullness of joy;

In Your right hand there are pleasures forever.”

During the inauguration of the church at Pentecost, Peter cited this passage (Acts 2:26-28 of Psalm 16:9-11), then proceeded to argue that this cannot be referring to David since “he both died and was buried, and his tomb is with us to this day” (Acts 2:29).  Invoking God’s promise in the Davidic Covenant (Acts 2:30), Peter concludes that this passage was a Messianic prophecy that Christ fulfilled by being raised alive on the third day (Acts 2:31).  The resurrection was also witnessed by the Apostles as well (Acts 2:32, cf. 1st Corinthians 15:5, 7), five hundred other believers (1st Corinthians 15:6) and also Paul (1st Corinthians 15:7).  Yet, of first importance is Scripture’s testimony through Messianic prophecy.  Due to the certainty that the resurrection of Christ is a fact, Christians also have the same certainty that there will be a future eschatological event in which the dead will be resurrected.

1st Corinthians 15 also states that Christ’s resurrection depends on the future resurrection of all the dead: “But if there is no resurrection of the dead, not even Christ has been raised” (v.13).  So the readers would not be mistaken, Paul wrote again, “For if the dead are not raised, not even Christ has been raised” (v.16).  Biblically, as revealed by God through the Scriptures, there is a sense that the apologetics case for Christ resurrection rests upon the presupposition that God can and will resurrect people from the dead.  Although the actual event will take place eschatologically, Christ resurrection is a taste of the first fruits (v.20).

Conclusion

This essay began by setting the framework of how doctrines and areas of theological studies are inter-dependent in ways that gives God the glory, and illustrated this truth by surveying the relationship of apologetics and eschatology.  This essay is in no way exhaustive and more work needs to be done in fleshing out the details of their relationship.  For any future course of study, the horizon is almost limitless.  The following are suggestions of areas of further study: There is a need for pioneers to develop critiques of other untraditional non-Christian eschatology from a Van Tillian perspective, and this essay has tried to contribute towards this end by looking at the atheist’s eschatology; Concerning the interaction of Messianic prophetic evidences and proving the future role of Israel, this paper only had the time to look at Zechariah 12:10, while other Messianic prophetic verses such as Psalm 22:16 and Isaiah 3:5, with their respective chapters need to be exegeted in order to reinforce the argument; Though not discussed in this essay, what utility, if any, can discussion of the New Creation model have in the tool belt of the Christian apologist?  In closing, it is appropriate to consider the wonderful God whose infinite mind is somehow creative enough to present us with His truth with parts that beautifully connect with others in rational coherence, and to ascribe worship to this Great God who revealed Himself in Scripture and allow us the privilege of exegeting, contemplating, defending and praising Him.  Glory to Him forever!

Bibliography

Archer, Jr., Gleason L. A Survey of Old Testament Introduction. Chicago: Moody Press, 1974.

Barker, Dan. Losing Faith in Faith: From Preacher to Atheist.  Freedom From Religion Foundation Incorporated, 1992.

Bahnsen, Greg. Van Til’s Apologetics: Readings And Analysis. Phillipsburg, New Jersey: Presbyterian and Reformed, 1998.

Berkhof, Louis. Systematic Theology. Grand Rapids: William B. Eerdmans Publishing Company, 1941.

Chisholm, Jr., Robert B. From Exegesis to Exposition. Grand Rapids: Baker Books, 1998.

Dawkins, Richard. “Religion’s Misguided Missiles.” The Guardian. September 15th, 2001.

Elliger, Karl, and W. Rudolph, eds.  Biblia Hebraica Stuttgartensia.  5th ed.  New York:  American Bible Society, 1997.

Feinberg, Charles Lee. God Remembers: A Study of Zechariah.  Portland, Oregon: Multnomah Press, 1979.

Frame, John M.  The Doctrine of the Knowledge of God. Philadelphia: Presbyterian and Reformed Publishing, 1987.

Frame, John. Van Til: The Theologian. Phillipsburg, New Jersey: Pilgrim Publication, 1976.

Gaylor, Annie Laurie. In Defense of Godlessness. Madison, Wisconsin: Freedom From Religion Foundation Incorporated, 2004.

Grier Jr., James M. “The Apologetical Value of the Self-Witness of Scripture.” Grace Theological Journal 1, no. 1 (Spring 2008).

Grudem, Wayne. Systematic Theology: An Introduction to Biblical Doctrine. Grand Rapids: Zondervan Publishing House, 1994.

Klein, George L. Zechariah. The New American Commentary.  Edited by E. Ray Clendenen and Kenneth A. Mathews.  Nashville, Tennessee: B&H Publishing Group, 2008.

Leupold, H.C. Exposition of Ecclesiastes. Grand Rapids: Baker Book House, 1952.

Leupold, H.C. Exposition of Zechariah. Columbus, Ohio: Wartburg Press, 1956.

Li, Jimmy. “A Proposal on the Occasion and the Method of Presenting Evidence within a Van Tillian Framework.” Reformed Perspective Magazine 12, no. 9 (February 28th, 2010 to March 6th, 2010).

Longman III, Tremper. The Book of Ecclesiastes. NICOT. Grand Rapids: William B. Eerdmans Publishing Company, 1998.

Russell, Bertrand. “Why I Am Not A Christian.” In The Basic Writings of Bertrand Russell, edited by Robert E. Egner and Lester E. Denonn.  New York: Simon and Schuster Incorporated, 1961.

Unger, Merrill F. Zechariah: Prophet of Messiah’s Glory.  Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 1970.

Van Til, Cornelius. An Introduction to Systematic Theology. Philadelphia: Presbyterian and Reformed, 1974.


[1] John Frame’s various works has been influential in allowing me to see the importance of the inter-relationship of Christian doctrines and the contribution it allows in theology and apologetics.  What follows in this introduction has been largely shaped by Frame.

[2] This is similar to Cornelius Van Til’s “argument from presuppositions” which he used to argue for the existence of God.

[3] This essay assumes that Dispensational Premillennialism is Biblical.

[4] This essay assumes that Presuppositional Apologetics is the most faithful form of apologetics to the Scriptures, as formulated by Cornelius Van Til and his followers (“Van Tillians”).

[5] Louis Berkhof, Systematic Theology (Grand Rapids: William B. Eerdmans Publishing Company, 1941), 665.

[6] John M. Frame, The Doctrine of the Knowledge of God, (Presbyterian and Reformed Publishing, 1987), 87.

[7] It might also be one’s definition and taxonomy of apologetics which determines one’s method of apologetics instead.  Either way, this is another example of the inter-dependence of one aspect of theology to another.

[8] John Frame, Van Til: The Theologian, (Phillipsburg, New Jersey: Pilgrim Publication, 1976), 3.

[9] Ibid, 4.

[10] Ibid.

[11] Ibid.

[12] Ibid, 5.

[13] Greg Bahnsen, Van Til’s Apologetics: Readings And Analysis, (Phillipsburg, New Jersey: Presbyterian and Reformed, 1998), 101.

[14] Cornelius Van Til, An Introduction to Systematic Theology, (Philadelphia: Presbyterian and Reformed, 1974), 6.

[15] Berkhof, Systematic Theology, 661.

[16] Richard Dawkins, “Religion’s Misguided Missiles,” The Guardian, September 15th, 2001.

[17] Annie Laurie Gaylor, In Defense of Godlessness, (Madison, Wisconsin: Freedom From Religion Foundation Incorporated, 2004).  Emphasis is mine.

[18] Bertrand Russell, “Why I Am Not A Christian,” in The Basic Writings of Bertrand Russell, edited by Robert E. Egner and Lester E. Denonn (New York: Simon and Schuster Incorporated, 1961), 589.

[19] H.C. Leupold, Exposition of Ecclesiastes, (Grand Rapids: Baker Book House, 1952), 91.

[20] Wayne Grudem, Systematic Theology: An Introduction to Biblical Doctrine (Grand Rapids: Zondervan Publishing House, 1994), 1140.

[21] James M. Grier Jr., “The Apologetical Value of the Self-Witness of Scripture”, Grace Theological Journal 1, no. 1 (Spring 2008), 227.

[22] Frame, The Doctrine of the Knowledge of God, 258.  Emphasis is mine.

[23] Only way to acquire knowledge is through the five senses: See, taste, touch, smell and feel.

[24] Only way to acquire knowledge is through the scientific method: that is, knowing things empirically by repeatable experiments.

[25] Dan Barker, Losing Faith in Faith: From Preacher to Atheist, (Freedom From Religion Foundation Incorporated, 1992), 133.

[26] Ibid, 275.

[27] Although we can empirically experience the symbols of the in the forms of language, but the idea itself should never be confused with the symbols for the idea.

[28] Gleason L. Archer, Jr., A Survey of Old Testament Introduction, (Chicago: Moody Press, 1974), 475.

[29] Tremper Longman III, The Book of Ecclesiastes, NICOT (Grand Rapids: William B.

Eerdmans Publishing Co., 1998), 281.

[30] Ibid, 282.

[31] Ibid, 283.

[32] Barker, Losing Faith in Faith: From Preacher to Atheist, 134.

[33] Ibid, 134.

[34] An attempted to address this topic appears in the following article:

Jimmy Li, “A Proposal on the Occasion and the Method of Presenting Evidence within a Van Tillian Framework”, Reformed Perspective Magazine 12, no. 9 (February 28th, 2010 to March 6th, 2010).

[35] George L. Klein, Zechariah. The New American Commentary, edited by E. Ray Clendenen and Kenneth A. Mathews,  (Nashville, Tennessee: B&H Publishing Group, 2008), 48.

[36] Ibid, 362.

[37] Ibid, 365.

[38] Ralph L. Smith, Micah to Malach. The World Biblical Commentary, edited by David A. Hubbard and Glenn W. Barker, (Waco, Texas: Word Books, 1984), 276.

[39] Charles Lee Feinberg, God Remembers: A Study of Zechariah.  (Portland, Oregon: Multnomah Press, 1979), 179.

[40] Klein, Zechariah, 365.

[41] H.C. Leupold, Exposition of Zechariah.  (Columbus, Ohio: Wartburg Press, 1956), 238.

[42] Unger, Zechariah, 217.

[43] Feinberg, God Remembers, 179.

[44] Leupold, Exposition of Zechariah, 237.

[45] Unger, Zechariah, 216.

[46] Leupold, Exposition of Zechariah, 237.

[47] Unger, Zechariah, 216.

[48] Ibid.

[49] Leupold, Exposition of Zechariah, 238.

[50] Klein, Zechariah, 366.

[51] Robert B. Chisholm Jr., From Exegesis to Exposition. (Grand Rapids: Baker Books, 1998), 88.

[52] Seder Mo’ed, Sukkah, Bezah. The Babylonian Talmud, edited by I. Epstein, translated by Israel W. Slotaki (London: Soncino Press, 1938), xi.

[53] H.C. Leupold, Exposition of Zechariah.  (Columbus, Ohio: Wartburg Press, 1956), 236.

[54] Unger, Zechariah, 215.

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Two prominent scholars debate on the topic, “Does the New Testament Misquote Jesus?

Dr. Craig Evans vs Dr. Bart Ehrman.

Debate video here.

Debate MP3 Audio here.

(HT)

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This is Congressman Hank Johnson during questioning with a Navy Admiral about relocating the Marines from Japan to Guam

This Congress is getting whackier by the moment

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