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Archive for the ‘Apologetics’ Category

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It seems to be a pattern that around the holidays of Christmas or Easter news magazine Newsweek usually publish some controversial issue attacking the Christian faith.  This year they decided to publish a piece titled “The Bible: So Misunderstood It’s a Sin” by Kurt Eichenwald.  I do think Eichenwald attacks the Bible and not just Conservative Christianity when he sees the Bible as containing “the flaws, the contradictions, and the theological disagreements in its pages.”

The ending of Eischenwald’s essay caught my attention:

And embrace what modern Bible experts know to be the true sections of the New Testament. Jesus said, Don’t judge. He condemned those who pointed out the faults of others while ignoring their own. And he proclaimed, “Thou shalt love thy neighbor as thyself. There is none other commandment greater than these.”

That’s a good place to start.

“Don’t Judge” has got to be the one of the most quoted Bible passages by those who seek to undermine the Bible’s message.  Kurt is no different.  Kurt here believes that Jesus “condemned those who pointed out the faults of others while ignoring their own.”  The thesis in his essay has been that fundamentalist Christians have been unenlightened and have not read the Bible for themselves to know what’s in it.  He laments how the majority of Conservative Christian are ignorant of scholarship about the Bible, or at least ignorant of the other side, that is, his side.  Can it be that Kurt does the same thing?

Tonight I saw on his facebook the following status that he posted on December 23rd:

Isn’t it interesting I write a piece that says, basically, let’s discuss the Bible and the response of Christian apologists is to name-call?

(Source)

I wondered who are these nameless Christian apologists who just engaged in name calling to his article as I haven’t seen any that match his description (note, I’m not denying that there aren’t any out there).  But more importantly, I thought if Kurt really is calling for an intellectually honest discussion about the Bible he would not use his facebook to drop a few second soundbite that bite the bait of low hanging fruits; why doesn’t Kurt take the opportunity instead to discuss with capable scholars from the other side?

It’s ironic that Kurt’s fault is the very ones he accuses his opponets of doing: Not “discussing the Bible” with a meaningful interaction of the other side but engages in name calling.  In fact reading the article itself you would think that his opponents were all guys who have never read the Bible themselves and then his facebook makes it out that no Christian apologist is willing to handle his piece other than to engage in name-calling.

But Christian apologists have meaningfully interacted with his article.

For starters, there is James White who refuted Kurt’s article in a recent episode of the Dividing Line:

Michael Kruger have also started a series responding to Kurt’s article which part 1 can be read by clicking HERE.

Both Dr. White and Dr. Kruger are men who have spent decades studying and writing on many of Kurt’s objection.

If Kurt wishes to avoid being a hypocrite he ought to interact with Dr. White, Kruger and others who are capable and have already responded publicly.

Rather than lament on some anonymous alleged name calling agaisnt him, he ought to interact with the content that Dr. White and Kruger has put forth.

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I hope you catch the irony with the title of today’s post.Perspective on the Worldwide Christian Movement

For a few months now I have been blogging about my concern with some of the disturbing trends with recent Christian missionary methodology.  One such concern I have is the fact that some seem to be against good reasoning.

An example of this can be seen in the case of C. Peter Wagner.  He is a former professor at Fuller Seminary’s School of World Missions (it has since been renamed the School of Intercultural Studies).  In a previous post I looked at some of the problem found in Wagner’s essay “On the Cutting Edge of Mission Strategy.

One of the things that Wagner said that I didn’t get to unpack in my previous post is Wagner’s view that Jesus prefer a demonstration of miraculous power rather than a”carefully reasoned argument” which he sees as a sign of Western “secularizing influence.”  I quote Wagner in his own words:

One of the more disturbing things we are beginning to discover is that, in more cases than we would care to think, our missionary messsage in the Third World has been having a secularizing influence.  I first realized this when I read an article by my colleague, Paul G. Hiebert, called ‘The Flaw of the Excluded Middle’ in 1982.  He begins the article by citing the question that John the Baptist had his disciples ask Jesus: ‘Are you the Coming One, or do we look for another?’ (Luke 7:20).  Hiebert emphasized that Jesus’ reply was not a carefully reasoned argument, but rather a demonstration of power in healing the sick and casting out of evil spirits” (Wagner, 581).

As one can see, Wagner came to his position through the writing of another professor at Fuller Seminary’s School of World Mission: Paul Hiebert.  The relevant quote that Wagner read is quoted below:

The disciples of Jesus asked Jesus, ‘Are you he who is to come, or shall we look for another?’ (Luke 7:20 RSV).  Jesus answered, not with logical proofs, but by a demonstration of power in curing the sick and casting out evil spirits.   This much is clear.  Yet when I once read the passage from my perspective as a missionary in India and sought to apply it to missions in my day, I felt a sense of uneasiness.  As a Westerner, I was used to presenting Christ on the basis of rational arguments, but by evidences of his power in the lives of people who were sick, possessed and destitute” (Hiebert, 407).

Note how both Wagner and Hibert appealed to Luke 7:20.  Here is Luke 7:20-23 in context:

20 When the men came to Him, they said, “John the Baptist has sent us to You, to ask, ‘Are You the[o]Expected One, or do we look for someone else?’” 21 At that [p]very time He cured many people of diseases and afflictions and evil spirits; and He gave sight to many who were blind. 22 And He answered and said to them, “Go and report to John what you have seen and heard: the blind receive sight, the lame walk, the lepers are cleansed, and the deaf hear, the dead are raised up, thepoor have the gospel preached to them. 23 Blessed is he [q]who does not take offense at Me.”

There are problems with what these two Professors of Fuller Seminary has to say against “reason:”

  1. Wagner’s and Hiebert’s position is self-refuting in that they are both against carefully reasoned argument, and yet they end up trying to present what they think is a carefully reasoned argument for their position when they invoke Luke 7:20.  On the one hand they don’t think carefully reasoned arguments are legitimate but they inevitably presuppose the endeavor is legitimate when they try to set forth their reason against carefully reasoned argument.
  2. Wagner believes “carefully reasoned argument” is an example of Western missionary’s secularizing influence upon the Third World.  But this does not logically follow.  Wagner commit the logical fallacy of slippery slope when he thinks that carefully reasoned argument is going to lead one to become secularized.  This is not the case and portray a misunderstanding of what reasoning is on the part of Wagner; if one’s premises is not secularized but Biblically informed and “sanctified” then one will not become secularized in their conclusion.  Again, Wagner’s concern does not logically follow.
  3. It is important to exegete Luke 7:20-23 accurately.  Nowhere in the passage does Jesus condemn “presenting Christ on the basis of rational arguments” (to use Hiebert’s own words).
  4. In light of point 3, it must be pointed out that both Hiebert and Wagner commit the logical fallacy of a false dilemma when they present the option as either we accept Christ’s miracle as having evidential value or we accept rational arguments as having evidential value.  Why must a Christian accept either/or instead of both/and?
  5. We can agree with Hiebert and Wagner that Jesus’ purpose of performing miracles was to confirm the truth about the claims of Jesus Christ for as Hebrews 2:3-4 attests on the nature of signs, wonders and miracles: “how will we escape if we neglect so great asalvation?[d]After it was at the first spoken through the Lord, it was confirmed to us by those who heard, God also testifying with them, both by signs and wonders and by various [e]miracles and by [f]gifts of the Holy Spirit according to His own will.” (Hebrews 2:3-4)  But notice Jesus expected the right extrapolation of what the miracles mean and this proper interpretation of what does the evidence mean is act of engaging in reasoning.
  6. Point 5 enjoy further support from the immediate context in Luke 7 if one examine verse 22.  What Jesus told the disciples of John the Baptist is very significant since this is an echo of Isaiah 61:1 as presented in Luke 4:18.  Jesus description of what He is doing also should make His hearers think of Isaiah 26:19, 35:5-6.  This heavy use of Isaiah’s terms and phrases indicate that Jesus wants John to think Biblically in interpreting the evidence of Jesus’ miracles.  He is making an argument!  He is not merely arguing from miracles alone but bringing in Scripture to show that His miracles fulfill Messianic Prophecies.
  7. The most ironic thing about Wagner’s complaint that missionaries who use carefully reasoned arguments are “secularizing Third World Nations” is that it is those who are like him who are secularizing Third World Nations and not the ones who believed in the Sanctified Use of reason and argumentation, etc.  Note how Wagner thinks the performance of miracles are sanctified for the Christian but reasoning is not.  This is the same paradigm that secularists adopt when they separate the domain of God and the miraculous from the domain of “reason.”  Contrary to his claim, it is the Christian who do employ sanctified reasoning that is consistent in rejecting the dualism of secular/sacred.

Bibliography

Hiebert, Paul. 2009. “THe Flaw of the Excluded Middle.”Perspectives on the World Christian Movement. Ralph D. Winter and Steven C. Hawthorne, eds., 407-414.

Wagner, Charles Peter. 2009. “On the Cutting Edge of Missions Strategy.”Perspectives on the World Christian Movement. Ralph D. Winter and Steven C. Hawthorne, eds., 574-582.

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Note: I had a long day on Friday so I wasn’t able to post yesterday on Veritas Domain.

journal of biblical apologetics

 

The Journal of Biblical Apologetics was published between the Fall of 2000 to Spring of 2008 and edited by Dr. Robert Morey.  While I do have some reservation with endorsing everything Robert Morey has to say, nevertheless in the past I have found some of the things that Dr. Morey said to be helpful.  I also appreciated The Journal of Biblical Apologetics because the Journal also featured other solid Christian Scholars writing on various topics.  There are also reprints of articles by well known apologists like Gordon Clark, Walter Martin, etc.

The Journal is now available online for free as a PDF!  You can download them below:

  1. JBA01—PDF
  2. JBA02—PDF
  3. JBA03—PDF
  4. JBA04—PDF
  5. JBA05—PDF
  6. JBA06—PDF
  7. JBA07—PDF
  8. JBA08—PDF
  9. JBA09–PDF
  10. JBA10–PDF
  11. JBA11–PDF 

 

What were the different topics that the Journal of Biblical Apologetics‘ addressed?

  1. Volume 1: Natural Theology
  2. Volume 2: General Theism
  3. Volume 3: Roman Catholicism
  4. Volume 4: Roman Catholicism
  5. Volume 5: Islam
  6. Volume 6: Islam
  7. Volume 7: Islam
  8. Volume 8: Islam
  9. Volume 9: Natural Theology

May God’s people be blessed by them!

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These are Presuppositional apologetics’ links gathered from the Web between November 15th-21st, 2014.

Enjoy!

1.) Rebutting Bill Nye’s Evolutionary Oath

2.) Does the Bible teach that a woman has to marry her rapist?

3.) Free on PDF! Redeeming Philosophy: A God-Centered Approach to the Big Questions by Vern Poythress

4.) A Denied Christian Newspaper Article

5.) The Circularity of Evolutionary Trees

6.) Apologetics for the Average Christian: Asking Good Questions

7.) Reformed Forum Show: Redeeming Philosophy

8.) Proofs, Persuasion and the Truth Problem

Last Installment: Mid-November 2014 Presuppositional Apologetics’ Links

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Should You Believe in God

Purchase: Westminster | Amazon

This booklet is a part of the “Christian Answers to Hard Questions” series that is put out by P&R Publishing and written by the faculty of Westminster Theological Seminary.  In this booklet Westminster Theological Seminary’s professor of apologetics K. Scott Oliphint tackles the question “Should you believe in God?’ and answers with the affirmative.  I was looking forward to the booklet because I wanted to see how would Oliphint summarize his answer to such an important question in a brief and hopefully profound way.  Often when Presuppositionalists talk about God’s existence it is no brief matter!  As I was reading this it reminded me of Cornelius Van Til’s famous booklet, Why I Believe in God, with its conversational tone, anticipating objections and also its content.  Like Van Til, Oliphint addressed the problem of neutrality and “conditioning” of beliefs from one’s upbringing and environment.  Unlike Van Til however, Oliphint’s upbringing was not in an orthodox Christian setting but a religion that teaches works righteousness.  But like Van Til, Oliphint also shows how God is the “All Conditioner” saves us from brute determinism that render everything meaningless and unintelligible.  I appreciated that Oliphint dealt with the question of whether truth is knowable in the beginning of the book and also how he summarizes the Gospel early in the conversation and in the end.  Besides the issue of neutrality Oliphint also tackles the nonbelievers’ assumption of the normalcy of man’s mind and naturalism.  Like Van Til, Oliphint sees that unless one presupposes the God of the Bible, one will eventually find everything meaningless and absurd.  What I like about the book is that it shows in summary what an application of Presuppositional apologetics looks like.  But I would also as a criticism of both Oliphint’s and Van Til’s booklet is that for such a controversial question it is hard to summarize everything in one little booklet.  I remember reading Van Til’s booklet many times and not seeing it—it was only after I read the booklet with Greg Bahnsen’s footnotes and commentaries did I get what Van Til was doing.  Nevertheless, I do recommend the book.

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I just posted a few minutes ago but this is too good not to share right now!

Redeeming Philosophy A God-Centered Approach to the Big Questions

Dr. Vern Poythress of Westminster Theological Seminary has just had his book Redeeming Philosophy published just a few weeks ago last month.  Apparently he has made this book available for free online as a PDF!

You can download the file if you click HERE.

Here’s the book’s description from the publisher’s website:

Who am I? Why am I here? Where do I find meaning?

Life is full of big questions. The study of philosophy seeks to answer such questions. In his latest book, prolific author Vern Poythress investigates the foundations and limitations of Western philosophy, sketching a distinctly Christian approach to answering basic questions about the nature of humanity, the existence of God, the search for meaning, and the basis for morality.

For Christians eager to engage with the timeless philosophical issues that have perplexed men and women for millennia, this is the place to begin.

Here is the table of content:

Table of Contents

Part 1: Basic Issues in Exploring Big Questions

  1. The Big Questions about Life
  2. The Bible as a Resource
  3. Opposite Approaches to Philosophy

Part 2: Metaphysics: What Is There?

  1. Inadequate Philosophies
  2. Christian Metaphysics

Part 3: Perspectives

  1. Introducing Perspectives
  2. Multiperspectivalism
  3. Perspectives on God
  4. Perspectives on the World
  5. Perspectives through Language
  6. Implications for Theology

Part 4: Examples of Metaphysical Analysis

  1. Metaphysics of an Apple
  2. Metaphysics of Walking
  3. Metaphysics of a Bookmark
  4. Perspectives in Combination

Part 5: Other Subdivisions of Philosophy

  1. Ethics
  2. Epistemology
  3. The Soul, the Mind, and Psychology
  4. Logic
  5. Aesthetics
  6. Specialized Branches of Philosophy

Part 6: Interacting with Defective Philosophies

  1. The Challenge of Philosophies
  2. Immanuel Kant
  3. Edmund Husserl
  4. Analytic Philosophy

Appendix A: Cosmonomic Philosophy
Appendix B: Perspectives on the Trinity
Appendix C: The Structure of a Bookmark

 

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One Christian apologist and theologian that I really got to read more this year has been John Frame.  His writing has been tremendously helpful and has the rare combination of being intellectually stimulating, biblically faithful and I would even say quite devotional.  Beyond the apologetics’ value of John Frame presenting a coherent Christian worldview in which he shows the inter-relationship and inter-dependence of Christian doctrines, I find that Frame’s writing engages my mind, will and emotions to love God and God’s truth more.

If you didn’t know already, every morning on Mondays through Saturdays we post quotes from John Frame on our Facebook page and our Twitter.  We plan to do this for the remainder of 2014 and going into 2015.

An example of Frame’s spirituality that seeps into his discussion about apologetics and theology is a passage in The Doctrine of the Knowledge of God that talks about doctrinal controversy and the relationship to spiritual immaturity in which he discusses the importance of Christians to grow in holiness and make progress in sanctification.  I appreciated that Frame did talk about this in the context of a book that talks about Christian theory of knowledge!  The Christian must not separate academic theological endeavors from one’s progress in being more like Christ!

Here is the quote:

Many doctrinal misunderstandings in the church are doubtless due to this spiritual-ethical immaturity.  We need to pay more attention to this fact when we get into theological disputes.  Sometimes, we through arguments back and forth, over and over again, desperately trying to convince one another.  But often there is in one of the disputers–or both!–the kind of spiritual immaturity that prevents clear perception.  We all know how it works in practice.  Lacking sufficient love for one another, we seek to interpret the other person’s views in the worst possible sense.  (we forget the tremendous importance of love–even as an epistemological concept; cf. 1 Cor. 8:1-3; 1 Tim. 1:5ff; 1 John 2:4f.; 3:18f.; 4:7ff.).  Lacking sufficient humility, too, we overestimate the extent of our own knowledge.  In such a csae, with one or more immature debaters, it may be best not to seek immediate agreement in our controversy”

(John Frame, The Doctrine of the Knowledge of God, 155)

Of course this does not mean that all doctrinal debate is the result of all parties being theologically immature but if we really believe what the Bible says about our sinfulness, we ought to be ready to search our motives, and re-check if any of the above is true.

Knowing this truth has made me more slower in responding to online debate and also see the importance of not just only reading up on theological and apologetics’ controversy but also the importance of resources on sanctification and godliness.

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