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Archive for March 6th, 2015

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Here are some rough notes from last evening’s message.  Some notes were added by me to further explain or illustrate a point.

  • German liberal scholarship brought upon disastrous effects in the nineteenth and twentieth centuries.  One of her most influential planners is most notably Schleiermacher.  He asserted “that religion is primarily not a matter of doctrine but rather of feeling, intuition and experience” (Iain H. Murray, Evangelicalism Divided: a Record of Crucial Change in the Years 1950 to 2000, 5).  Consequently, this substituted personal subjective thinking for God’s divinely revealed Word.  This man did not believe in verbal plenary inerrancy.  As Evangelicals, we believe every Word is inerrant.
  • We believe in verbal plenary inspiration of the Word of God.  The church believed in Sola Scriptura.  The Chicago Statement on Biblical Inerrancy affirms the doctrine of inerrancy.  To stray away from Scripture in Word and in deed is to depart from our Master.
  • It is not only the affirmation of inerrancy that is important, but as B.B. Warfield mentioned, the church’s doctrine of inerrancy is important too.  Belief in inerrancy is what makes up the church, the living organism.  Warfield states, “This church-doctrine of inspiration differs from the theories that would fain supplant it, in that it is not the invention nor the property of an individual, but the settled faith of the universal church of God; in that it is not the growth of yesterday, but the assured persuasion of the people of God from the first planting of the church until to-day; in that it is not a protean shape, varying its affirmations to fit every new change in the ever-shifting thought of men, but from the beginning has been the church’s constant and abiding conviction as to the divinity of the Scriptures committed to her keeping” (Benjamin B. Warfield, The Inspiration and Authority of the Bible, 106).
  • There is no one untouched by this modern crisis.  The air is polluted with Higher Criticism.  They want to redefine the Bible and treat it the same as other ancient books.  Some academians and preachers are ashamed to affirm inerrancy.
  • Does inerrancy entail a hermenutic?  Inerrancy and hermeneutics are inseparable.  When we think about inerrancy and hermeneutics, we need to think about the relationship between two.
  • If the Word of God is inspired, then we must be committed to a historical grammatical mode of interpretation.
  • It was not coincidental that ‘The Chicago Statement on Inerrancy’ was followed just a short while later by ‘The Chicago Statement on Heremeneutics.’  The most important state comes from the statement on inerrancy.
  • 2 Timothy 2:15 — “Do your best to present yourself to God as one approved, a worker who has no need to be ashamed, rightly handling the word of truth.”
  • Here are the twelve principles of hermeneutics for inerrantists:
    1. When the Bible speaks, God speaks.  That means that the Scripture is an oracular book (“Whatever it says, God says” [B.B. Warfield, The Inspiration and Authority of the Bible, 106]).  Our task is to hear God’s voice.  This is our presupposition.  Hermeneutics of submission is our belief.  We do not submit to a hermeneutic of suspicion.  Hermeneutic of submission stands upon verbal plenary (entire Scripture) understanding of inerrancy.
    2. Biblical text determines the boundaries/limits of its own interpretation.  We take the text as it is given to us.  We are given different forms of literature, but what we have received is given by God.  We do not look or wait for a meaning after the text.  The text determines the meaning.  There is no hidden meaning.  There is no Bible code.
    3. Scripture is to be interpreted by Scripture (Analogy of Faith).  This means of course that there is no contradiction whatsoever.  Brian McLaren, a prolific figure in the emerging church movement, who subscribes to postmodernism says we have different interpretations because each community determines that.  That goes against Scripture.  Different communities provides different interpretations, but God only has one interpretation.
    4. Biblical text addresses in sentences (words, grammar, syntax, proposition).  Words are actual conveyors of truth.  We who are made in the image of God were made to collaborate with words.  We are creatures who understand words and propositional truth claims.  Karl Barth (leading figure as well as Emil Brunner who espoused neo-orthodoxy–a movement that came after World War I, differs from the original orthodoxy concerning bibliology and biblical anthropology).  Barth was against this.  He contradicts himself because he writes with meaning that have propositional claims (i.e. I love my wife has a subject, verb, and period at the end).  I can’t speak of a relationship without a proposition,  Words and propositions are necessary.
    5. The canon establishes the limits of God’s Word.  We need all of it until Jesus comes.  It limits where we look (2 Tim. 3:16).  Canon is not an accident, nor is it arbitrary.  God built the canon.  Bart Ehrman is wrong.  He thinks the church built the canon (Please see excellent book, “Challenging the Status Quo in the New Testament Debate: The Question of Canon” by Michael J. Kruger).  As for Jesus Seminar, this far, far left group who believed that doing a historical investigation on the Bible is possible.  They took all the sayings of Jesus from the Synoptic Gospels to see if they were the words of Jesus.  They voted on it with different colored marbles.  They cut out many of Jesus words that did not subscribe to their theological expectation.  They denied the supernatural works of Jesus.  This group fell apart.  They lost all their marbles.  We are limited to the canon and we need the canon.
    6. Hermeneutical principle necessitates that all forms of biblical literature of Scripture are given as the divine author intended.  The forms of different literature are from God.  They are essential to us.  We are not to teach anything than what was intended.  A parable is a parable.  Poetry is poetry.
    7. No extended authority can correct the Word of God.  Archaeology cannot be used to put God on trial. Can Scripture be put to the test by modern archaeologists?  Nothing can correct God’s Word.  No form of knowledge can.  Nor can science do it either. Modern science has no absolute assured results.  Opponents against inerrancy say we need to get with their program.  We cannot do abject theological surrender.  Norma, norma–The Roman Catholic Church can’t norm Scripture.  Scripture is the norm that can’t be normed.  Peter Enns says that Scripture is not tenable anymore when faced with modern archeology.  But Scripture can’t be normed.
    8. Holy Scripture which operates in the history of the space-time continuum are to be believed and taught as having actually happened in the space-time continuum.  What the Bible says happened, happened.  There is no such thing as “history-like.”  The Bible does not says once upon a time, but it says, “In the Beginning…”  Our salvation depends on the space-time continuum.
    9. Holy Scripture is to be read as a story that presents a story.  It has a meta-narrative.  We not only affirm historical-grammatical hermeneutics, but we also affirm the redemptive story.
    10. Scripture is Unbroken.  He has promises that have been fulfilled and more that are awaiting fulfillment.
    11. Our study and interpretation is dependent upon the the Holy Spirit.  The Holy Spirit makes the voice of God’s Word heard clearly (perspecuity).
    12. Our study and interpretation is not an end to itself.  Teaching must be done.  The end of hermeneutic is not hermeneutic.  Hermeneutics leads to a homelitic.  Homelitics leads to a changed life.  Preachers have a unavoidable task.  The task is to proclaim His truths.  The supreme court judges have much at stake in their chambers concerning same-sex marriage, but the stakes are higher when you stand behind your pulpit.  Jeremiah 23:28, “The prophet who has a dream may relate his dream, but let him who has My word speak My word in truth. What does straw have in common with grain?” declares the Lord.

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Sproul Theology

Introduction

I was unable to attend RC Sproul’s session at the Inerrancy Summit.  After Sproul’s message there were several guys at the Conference that asked me what I thought about Sproul’s swipe against Presuppositional apologetics.

I finally got to see the video and if you want to see it yourself the video is below:

I thought it was ironic that Sproul spoke out against Presuppositional apologetics at the Inerrancy Summit in which many of the other speakers and audience subscribe to Presuppositionalism.

In what follows I can only give a quick response to Sproul’s objection found within the first eight minutes.  However, I think the brief summary written here does pose serious challenges to Sproul’s objections to Presuppositionalism.

 

Issue #1: Did Sproul accurately represent Presuppositional apologetics’ argument?

Sproul’s discussion of Presuppositionalism first identified two proponents of Presuppositionalism: Gordon Clark and Cornelius Van Til.  Keep this in mind as we want to see his description and criticism of Presuppositional apologetics being relevant to these two men rather than some random Internet keyboard warrior.

Sproul goes on to level his first charge against Presuppositional apologetics by giving what he claimed was the Presuppositionalist’s argument:

 

P1: The Bible is the Word of God

P2: The Bible claims to be the Word of God.

Conclusion: The Bible is the Word of God.

 

Then Sproul charged Presuppositionalists for being circular on the basis that the above is the Presuppositionalists argument.  However, did Gordon Clark and Van Til argue in this way?

Clark definitely wouldn’t have presented the above argument.  That’s because Clark’s apologetics is more axiomatic in his approach.  Note Clark stated “Our axiom shall be, God has spoken. More completely, God has spoken in the Bible. More precisely, what the Bible says, God has spoken.”[1]  In the same essay Clark also clarified how “axioms” cannot be proven: “But the axioms are never deduced. They are assumed without proof.”[2]  If something cannot be proven than by definition it can’t be “argued” for (moving from one premise to another), since it is merely assumed.  And assuming something is different than arguing for something.

If Sproul is talking about Van Til’s approach here it seems that Van Til is actually more complex than presented.  The closest I can see Van Til saying something approximating with what Sproul claim of how Presuppositionalist argues is with the following quote below:

To admit one’s own presuppositions and to point out the presuppositions of others is therefore to maintain that all reasoning is, in the nature of the case, circular reasoning. The starting-point, the method, and the conclusion are always involved in one another.”[3]

While admitting the role of presuppositions and worldviews makes things “circular” in one’s reasoning as in the sense of it being in one’ system of beliefs, Van Til elsewhere has also shared the kind of argumentation needed to get around this potential impasse:

The Christian apologist must place himself upon the position of his opponent, assuming the correctness of his method merely for argument’s sake, in order to show him that on such a position the “facts” are not facts and the “laws” are not laws. He must also ask the non-Christian to place himself upon the Christian position for argument’s sake in order that he may be shown that only upon such a basis do “facts” and “laws” appear intelligible.[4]

Note here that Van Til’s argument is not merely providing “The Bible claims to be the Word of God” as a second premise.  There is a lot more going on here.

 

Issue #2: Circular reasoning

We have noted above that Sproul did not do the best job representing the argument of the Presuppositionalist.  With this straw man argument Sproul also fault the Presuppositional apologist for committing circular reasoning.  Sproul notes that the Presuppositionalists are not bothered with this since they say all reasoning are circular.  He counters this by asserting “Circular reasoning invalidate any argument.” But if circular reasoning invalidate any argument, can Sproul give further argumentation proving that this is true?  And after he provides this argument can Sproul also provide additional supporting arguments which in turn be supported with additional round of arguments, etc?  If one truly believes circular reasoning invalidates every argument then Sproul would need to ground every premise with an argument to be rational and here Sproul would be caught in an infinite regress.  I would also encourage the readers to read this article that further address the issue: Is Circular Reasoning Always Fallacious?

 

Issue #3: Presuppositionalists commit a fallacy of equivocation?

Sproul also fault Presuppositionalists who argues “All arguments are circular” as commiting the fallacy of equivocation in that they change the definition of circularity within the discussion.  Sproul’s assertion raises several questions: Where did the Presuppositionalists changed the definition of circularity during the discussion?  If there is equivocation going on, what are the multiple different meanings of circularity being used by the Presuppositionalists?  Sproul is obligated to demonstrate that there really is the fallacy of equivocation being committed and not merely assert it.

Those who are more familiar with Presuppositional apologetics will note that Van Til does talk about vicious circularity and broader circularity but the Presuppositionalists are not using those two terms equivocally since they are not switch-referencing the term “circularity.”  Note also as well that just because Presuppositionalists sees different kinds of circularity that does not mean that the meaning of circuliarity itself is being changed.  Rather the distinction between vicious and non-vicious circularity are seen by presuppositionalists as two different subset of circularity BUT NOT as two different meanings of circularity.  I must note the obviously: Presuppositionalists wouldn’t want to equivocate the two kinds of circularity anyways lest they want to make all circularity equally fallacious (Sproul’s view, and a view which he acknoweldge is not that of the Presuppositionalists) or equally virtuous (which would make the endeavor of apologetics pointless if every circular argument is right).  Sproul’s charge of an equivocation fallacy is unfounded.

 

Issue #4: What about other religious Scriptures?

According to Sproul anyone could make such claim that their book is the book of God such as the Book of Mormon and the Quran.  He seems to be bringing this objection as a defeater to the Presuppositionalist’s commitment to the Bible as the Word of God in their apologetics.  This is where Sproul’s misrepresentation of the way Presuppositionalists argues brings obstacles to the discussion rather than help it.  If Presuppositionalists merely claim that the Bible claim to be the Word of God and therefore it is, then the defeaters with the example of other religious scripture might work.  However, the Presuppositionalists view of Clark and Van Til include the element of examining the other worldview and demonstrating how they are internally problematic.  In fact, one can adequately counter both Mormonism and Islam within a Presuppositionalists’ framework.  For an example on Mormonism see my review of Presuppositional Apologetics Examines Mormonism: How Van Til’s Apologetic Refutes Mormon Theology by Mike Robinson.  Concerning Islam see my outline WITNESSING TO MUSLIMS: THE QURANIC VIEW OF THE BIBLE.

 

Issue #5: What does Sproul believe is self-evidencing?

I want to turn the tables around.  As a presuppositionalist I am aware that everybody presupposes something in their belief system that is so foundational it is taken as self-evidencing.  Of course people disagree with what truths are self-evidencing.  Sproul hinted at what he thinks is self-evidencing:

“Obviously if it were God speaking and we heard his voice directly from his lips we won’t have to construct to have an argument to defend his infallibility or his inerrancy because we know that God is incapable of deceit and lying.”

Apparently sensation of the supernatural physically taken place is self-evidencing enough in Sproul’s view to establish that God did speak and that God is incapable of deceit and lies.  “Obviously.”  That’s Sproul’s own words.  Sproul brings this up in juxtaposition to his objection to the Presuppositionalists view that the Bible’s claim for itself is sufficiently self-evidencing.  So we see here that on the one hand the supernatural hearing of God speaking audibly is obviously self-evidencingly while the Bible claims as God’s Word is not as obviously self-evidencing.  Does the Scripture support Sproul’s perspective?

Jesus in Luke 16:31 tells a story in which Abraham tells someone how to weigh the evidential value between the miraculous with the Scriptures: “‘If they do not listen to Moses and the Prophets, they will not be persuaded even if someone rises from the dead.’”

[1] See more at: http://trinityfoundation.org/journal.php?id=50#sthash.73rgGFRo.dpuf

[2] Ibid.

[3]  Cornelius Van Til, Apologetics, Chapter 4.

[4] Van Til, Defense of the Faith, Third Edition, 100-101.

 

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