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Archive for the ‘christian apologetics’ Category

Van Til Defender of the Faith An Authorized Biography

William White. Van Til, Defender of the Faith.  Nashville, TN:
Presbyterian and Reformed Publishing, 1979. 233 pp.

The work is primarily a brief biographical sketch of the life of Cornelius Van Til. It is good sometimes for serious disciples of Van Til’s apologetics or those curious to know the background of Van Til’s life and the historical development that led to Van Til’s ideas. Reading this book, one can not help but to think about the soverignty of God as He orchestrated the timing of various Dutch Reformed thinkers who shaped Van Til, and events leading to the founding of Westminster Seminary. The book was not intended to be read as a robust defense of Van Tillian apologetics, but rather as a biography laced with sentimental values antidotes.  However, the two appendix in the book features a good summary outline by Van Til himself of his apologetics, and a paper he delivered that expouse his ideas. Those who are out looking for Van Til’s ideas will find the two appendix to be precious gems.

I must add though that John Frame think this book is rather simplistic concerning its treatment of Van Til’s ideas.  Since it has been a long time since I read this book (I’m posting this review up because it’s been sitting for years on draft) Frame might be right.  This was one of the first biography of Van Til written and since this work was published another one put out by Presbyterian and Reformed has provided a more scholarly biography of him by a capable historian of the OPC.  Nevertheless, I did enjoyed this biography as well for its personal flavor.

Purchase: Amazon

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800px-Wasserfall_Plitvicer_Seen

These links are gathering between May 1st-7th, 2015.

1.) New Apologetics Book: REALITY AND THE FOLLY OF ATHEISM: THE INCOMPATIBILITY OF TRUTH AND ANTI-THEISM

2.) 

3.) Hindus’ “Where was God” Argument Against Christianity Self-refutes Hinduism

 

4.) Lee Strobel Meme: Saved by Intellectual Assent or True Faith

5.) APOLOGETICS AND YOUR KIDS (5) – GOD, MAN AND THE WORLD

6.) Retooling TAG

7.) Believe it or not: 5 types of doubters

8.) Vern Poythress’ Foreword to Jonathan Stoddard’s Book, “Computer Science”

 

Missed the last round up?  Check out the re-blogged post from a friend

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John Frame Selected Shorter Writings Volume Two

 John M. Frame. Selected Shorter Writings Volume Two.  Phillipsburg, NJ:
Presbyterian and Reformed Publishing, 2015. 382 pp.

This book is the second volume of John Frame’s Selected Shorter Writings that contains some of John Frame’s essays that are outside of his Theology of Lordship SeriesI have previously reviewed volume one of Dr. Frame’s Selected Shorter Writings. Although I highly recommend both volumes I actually enjoyed volume two more in comparison with volume one.  As usual with John Frame’s writings, I appreciate what he has to say since he makes me think more deeply about the inter-connectedness of Biblical doctrines, theological foci and various method and divisions of theology and philosophy.  Readers will not be disappointed.  Frame’s characteristic way of writing that stresses the authority of Scripture, his exploration of the inter-dependence and inter-connectedness of perspectives along with his straight forward and clear way of writing is evident throughout the book.

The book is divided into seven parts: There are miscellaneous theological topics, theological education, theological method, apologetics, ethics, the church and a personal section.  All seven parts of the book contained essays which were very stimulating and eye-opening.  I have read thousands of pages of Frame’s work and I found that there were still things I learned from reading this book.  Anyone who thinks a book titled “Selected Shorter Writings” means that this is a stale collection of ad hoc old ideas is badly mistaken.  I was highlighting a lot of materials as I was reading through it.  In what follows I want to share some of what I appreciated from the book.

PART 1: Theological Topics

  • I appreciated the first chapter of the book that was adapted from Frame’s ETS presentation in which he talked about inerrancy and how Evangelicals must not be naïve to think that the question of inerrancy can be resolved with liberals and non-believers by simply talking about facts since methods and presuppositions are important.  Using Alvin Plantinga’s famous essay on the role of Christian philosophers’ project being for the Christian community rather than just appeasing the secular academic world, Frame also calls Christian scholars to embrace inerrancy “as a place to live” in one’s academic career.
  • Concerning the relationship between philosophy and theology I thought chapter five presented the most succinct presentation of the Van Tillian perspective: theology and philosophy need each other, theology and philosophy are similar although it uses different language and terminology to describe the world and the nature of ultimate reality and of course there is a need for philosophy needs to examine itself from a biblical theological perspective, etc.

PART 2: Theological Education

  • The first three chapters in this section comes from the first three chapters of his book titled The Academic Captivity of Theology and Other Essays, published by Whitefield Publishers.  This is one of Frame’s lesser known work but after reading these chapters I admit I want to read the rest of the book to see Frame further articulate his distinct philosophy of theological education.  He has a lot to say that those involve in leadership of Christian institute of higher education needs to hear.  He has a good point concerning the problem of Evangelicals idolatrously seeking doctorate programs in schools that does not honor God’s Word.  I thought it was fascinating that he noted how in the past famous Christian scholars such as Machen and Warfield did not have earned doctorates but were nevertheless highly effective with their masters’ degree.  Frame also talked about seminary desire for academic respectability from the world sets it in conflict with its aim to train men for the ministry at the church.  He argues that in the end it is the church who has the authority to evaluate the means and goals of a seminary and not a secular accreditation agency.  Accreditation agencies often making a seminary do more unnecessary and unhelpful work in order to be accredited.  There is so much more than I can summarize here in this review.
  • His essay on the demise of systematic theology also demonstrated the difference between a liberal philosophy of education and the biblical aim of seminary education.  A doctorate in systematic theology at centers that does not have a high view of Scripture would only teach guys to teach theology that becomes more of a kind of historical theology that only states what other scholars believe; but this kind of method is inadequate in an Evangelical seminary where the skill requires is finding out what the Word of God says about a respective subject.

PART 3: Theological Method

  • The chapter “Arguments and Conclusion in Theology” is partly in response to WSC and those who advocate “Escondido Theology.”  However it’s usefulness extends beyond the debate of Radical Two Kingdom Theology.  Frame rightly point out that some systematic theologians today are weak in logical thinking.  Case in point: Those whom Frame critiques in his book Escondido Theology responded to Frame’s book by denying the conclusion of Frame’s argument.  But the critics have not interacted with Frame’s actual argument that lead to his conclusion.  It is not enough to say one does not like the conclusion but one must also demonstrate why the argument does not lead to the conclusion.

PART 4: Apologetics

  • This was by far the longest part of the book!  It is also the section of the book that demonstrate Frame at his best!
  • I appreciated that Frame in his opening chapter to the section looked to the Scripture first concerning why it is hard to believe in God and at the same time why it is easy to believe in God.  A good editorial decision that lays the foundation before the other chapters look at some intense apologetics’ matters.
  • Chapters 19-22 were on Van Til.  Some of these were short summaries of Van Til but then you also have chapter 21 titled “Van Til: The Theologian.”  This chapter was originally published years ago as a pamphlet and also as a chapter in a Festschrift for Van Til that was published by theonomists in the 1970s.  When I read this essay many years ago it totally revolutionize my own theological method and how I looked at theology so it was refreshing to re-read this essay again now that I am older.  “Van Til: The Theologian” was what got me going with teaching systematic theology in such a way as to try to portray how doctrines from Scripture beautifully integrate and mutually support one another.  This essay has ever since moved me to doxological fervor in teaching the inter-connectedness of theology in order to deepen our worship and further a coherent apologetics by showing how a truly Biblical system of theology have doctrines “cohere” with one another while also maturely handle theological paradox.

PART 5: Ethics

  • His chapter on the failure of non-Christian ethics is a very good summary of the problem of trying to ground morals and ethics apart from the Christian God.  Excellent!  It is worth reviewing from time to time.
  • I must say though that the weakest chapter of the book was found here:  Frame sees Joel Osteen as less of a problem than I would like and I wish Frame could have considered the question as to what Osteen believes concerning the role of repentance and the Gospel.
  • “But God Made Me This Way” is a neat chapter and very relevant in light of the advancing agenda of homosexuality and Same Sex Marriage in today’s culture.  Good response.

PART 6: The Church

  • Good discussion about the problems of denomination and also church unity.

PART 7: Personal

  • A light hearted chapter on Frame’s Triperspectivalism applied to the issue of eating and dieting.

Again there is more to the book than my highlights mentioned here.

After finishing the book I’m convinced that this book is useful for Christians across all spectrum of theology and familiarity with the John Frame.  I think the nature of short essays make it helpful as an introduction to those who are new to John Frame’s work.  The book also has a “theological devotional” flavor to it that makes a wonderful read for those who want something to stimulate their minds more deeply in terms of devotional materials.  I believe it would make a wonderful “devotional” for the theologian in which one can read a chapter a day (give or take for the longer ones) where one has something theological that is God-centered at the same time it exercises one’s mind to love God’s truth (that was practically how I did read this book).  For those who consider themselves “John Frame buff” or experts of his theology, this book is still worthwhile to purchase the book as there are still things in this book that I think is new to chew on.  It also serves as a good refresher to Frame’s Theology of Lordship.

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

Purchase: Westminster | Amazon

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GO TO PART 27

Kenyan-headed-for-South-Korea-accidentally-traveled-to-North-Korea

Point: Ever had someone object that all religion are all the same, that it leads down to the same road?  Or ever have someone say that the details of religion doesn’t matter and that any religious differences between Christianity and other religions are rather superficial?  How do you respond?

Picture: I saw a news story with the following title “Kenyan headed for South Korea accidentally traveled to North Korea:

SEOUL, April 24 (UPI) — An indigenous Kenyan cow herder registered to attend a U.N. biodiversity conference in Pyeongchang, South Korea, said he was detained in Pyongyang, the capital of North Korea, after booking a wrong flight last September.

Daniel Olomae Ole Sapit, 42, who is from Kenya’s semi-nomadic Maasai tribe, said the similar sounding names had confused him and his travel agent in Kenya, who booked the flight.

“For an African, who can tell the difference?” Sapit told The Wall Street Journal.

According to the Journal and South Korean media, Sapit was eventually allowed to leave North Korea and board the correct flight to South Korea’s Incheon Airport, but only after he signed a North Korean document admitting to violating laws, being detained for several hours, and paying for a new ticket and a fine of $500 for entering North Korea without a visa.

The Kenyan national said he did not suspect anything wrong, even after boarding an Air China flight to Pyongyang, North Korea.

When he glanced out the plane window as he descended, however, the view below struck him as odd.

“It seemed to me a very underdeveloped country,” said Sapit, who was expecting to see the urbanized and industrialized cityscape of South Korea.

After landing at North Korea’s Sunan International Airport, where he saw hundreds of soldiers and portraits of North Korea leaders, he knew he had made a mistake.

Pyeongchang, a South Korean city on the eastern coast of the Korean peninsula, is scheduled to host the 2018 Winter Olympics.

Dick Pound, a Canadian member of the International Olympic Committee since 1978, said in 2002 there was initial confusion about the name, when Pyeongchang first emerged as a bidder for the Winter Olympics.

There was more confusion, the Journal reported, when South Korean provincial governor Choi Moon-soon suggested North Korea could host a few events, such as snowboarding – a statement he was later forced to retract.

In 2014, CNN reported North Korea opened a ski resort and hotel, Masik Pass, located in the northern half of the same province that will host the 2018 Winter Olympics. The ski resort was completed in just under a year, and was an attempt to convince South Korea that Pyongyang could host at least some of the 2018 events.

I think this News story is a helpful apologetics illustration for the objection.  Let me explain by the following scenario below.

POSSIBLE SCENARIO FOR EMPLOYING THIS ILLUSTRATION DURING APOLOGETIC EVANGELISM

OPPONENT: I don’t really see any differences between Christianity and other religion.  They are all the same.

CHRISTIAN: You think they are the same?

OPPONENT: Yes.  There are a lot of similarities between Christianity and other religions.

CHRISTIAN: Such as…?

OPPONENT: Christianity like other religions teaches good morals.  Wouldn’t you agree?

CHRISTIAN: Christianity certainly has high standards of ethics.  Other religions I’m sure teaches some morals and have rules.  But I think there is a difference in terms of the end goal and motivation for why Christians pursue holiness that sets it apart from other religions.

OPPONENT: Oh but the details doesn’t matter.

CHRISTIAN: You really want to say the details doesn’t matter?  And that the differences of the end goal and motivation doesn’t matter?  Have you heard about this one story?

OPPONENT: I’m listening.

<Give illustration >

CHRISTIAN: Do you think it’s important not to confuse the city of “Pyongyang” and “Pyeongchang?”

OPPONENT: Yes.

CHRISTIAN: Even though for an outsider such as the Kenyan Man, it sounds the same?

OPPONENT: Yes.

CHRISTIAN: So I suppose details does matter.  If details matter in our day to day mundane life why is there an exception for religious and spiritual matters?

OPPONENT: Good point.  But I must protest…

CHRISTIAN: Let me finish my point first if I may.

OPPONENT: Sure.

CHRISTIAN: Let’s say you discovered the error the Kenyan man made while you were chatting with him as you two were sitting in the terminal lobby.  You are heading to Pyeongchang and his ticket says Pyongyang.  He’s convinced that the details doesn’t matter.  In fact he sees your scheduled departure at the terminal next to his as a sign that there’s no difference.  Is the Kenyan man reasonable to see the near proximity of your terminal with his as meaning that the end goal of the flight being the same?

OPPONENT: Of course not!  Being next to one another in terms of terminal has no bearing as to where the flight is going!

CHRISTIAN: I submit the same is true with our religious direction if we are wrong with the details and wrong with the destination.  At first it might seem that both flights are taking the same course of direction for most of the journey from Africa to the Korean Peninsula.  But the moment of truth arrives when one finally gets closer to the destination.  Suddenly the path diverges.  In the same, there might be times when outwardly it looks like the various religions teaches someone a life path that somewhat follows the Christian path.  But sooner or later the path diverges as one gets closer to the end goal.  It is the same with Christianity and other religion.  Christianity’s end goal is to glorify God and enjoy Him forever.  A Christian salvation means escaping hell through Jesus’ work on the Cross where one is declared righteous not because of one’s own righteousness but that of Christ.  Other religions’ end goal of what salvation means differ.  For the Buddhist it’s about Nirvana.  For the Buddhist, it’s being back to one with God in which one’s Divinity is absorbed back into One.  The means are also different: God in Christianity provides grace for salvation through faith alone in Christ alone.  Other religions teaches works-righteousness as a means to achieve salvation.

 

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shoot-yourself-in-the-head

I know it has been over a week since Twitter exploded with Hindus going against Christians praying evangelistically for Nepal in light of the recent earthquake.  They have been going around labeling Christians with the hashtags “#Soulvultures.”  I can’t help but to notice how some of the Hindus Twitter arguments against Christianity are self-refuting; that is, they come up with arguments that go against Hinduism itself.  It’s like they are bringing a revolver to a gunfight; only that it’s a revolver that aims at their own head.  I’m doing them a favor by telling them not to use it.

An example of such arguments is when a Hindu gives a “Where was Jesus (or God)” form of argument.  Note this Tweet from a self-professed Krishna lover from Thiruchirapalli, India:

look at how these r Ridiculing Nepal Quake!Where was Jesus during Sandy?!

Of course the reference to Sandy is Hurricane Sandy.  Here’s another example of another Tweet from a Hindu from Bangalore:

wherewas their Jesus hiding when such earthquake struck in South America? Indonesia? In a bunker? Morons

And a final example:

Where was Jesus, what he was doing when Haiti Earthquake happened? Ohh i just forget they practice Voodoo not Christianity. Fair!

I mentioned the above (all can be googled) to show that I’m not making it up, but the “Where was Jesus” argument was continuously thrown at us on Twitter during the week of Hindu harassment.  Unfortunately, Twitter with their word limitation does limit a full meaningful response especially if one wants to move beyond soundbites.  Hence, I am writing out my observation here as a post.  Readers must remember to read this post as a sort of “internal critique” in which I am applying back the Hindus’ own rhethoric and religious doctrines to themselves.

1.) It is fascinating to wonder if any of the Hindus realized that the same “Where was Jesus” argument can be turned around back to the myriads of gods and goddesses of Hinduism.  It doesn’t take a Christian to make this observation; even an honest Hindu should see that this form of argument can be applied to Hinduism.  Where was the Hindu deity Krishna?  Vishnu?  Etc.

2.) For a Hindu who uses this type of argument the question of where were the Hindu gods is even more relevant in light of the fact that Hindus on Twitter kept on referring to Nepal as “Hindu land.”  Where are the Hindu gods and goddesses in their own self-professing Hindu land?

3.) One approach of getting the Hindus gods and goddesses “off the hook” can be gleam from exploring Hinduism’s view on suffering and Karma.  But I think this creates more problems than it solved for those who are going to condemn Christians as #Soulvultures.  Over at Patheos religion library on Hinduism there is a page on suffering and the problem of evil.  The following excerpt is relevant to my observation:

The key to understanding the existence of suffering and evil in Hinduism is the central concept of karma. Karma is at once the simplest of concepts and the most complex. The word itself simply means “action,” and originally referred to the sacrificial action that was at the center of the Vedic world. Karma gradually took on the meaning of both action and the effect of action.

According to this worldview, there is no such thing as evil. There are “bad” people, who are bad because they have done or continue to do bad things; bad events happen as a result of karma as well

(Source)

Note what I have in bold.  How can a Hindus whine on Twitter against Christians who pray evangelistically because a Christian believes there is a need to share the Gospel of grace of Jesus Christ to sinners when a Hindu himself understand that bad things such as the earthquake is the result of the earthquake victim’s own karma?

4.) The same source also goes on to tell us the following:

here is another way of understanding things that might appear evil that focuses not on humans but on the gods. Sometimes things happen that do not seem to be the result of any karmic activity: earthquakes, say, or tsunamis, or droughts. One way to understand such events, which of course can be quite catastrophic, is that they are the result of the play of the gods, or lila. Although the gods’ lila can be a profoundly positive source, such as the “play” of Krishna with which he combats demons, it can also be negative in the human realm. Ultimately, such divine play is mysterious. Humans cannot possibly understand why the gods do what they do, why they allow bad things to happen to good people. It is simply lila, mysterious.

(Source)

So the Earthquake might have happened as a result of the gods playing?

5.) In light of observation point number 4, we also note that Hindus appeal to mystery as to why some natural disasters happen.  This therefore is a self-defeater to the Hindu who object to the Christian’s appeal to mystery with the problem of suffering.

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Sav I dont think you know what it means

We’re still getting Tweets against us for praying for Nepal and also discussion of Christian evangelistic relief workers.  Over the last few days one of the better Hindu that we’re able to have more meaningful dialogue with tweeted this to us:

and if hearing Gospel saves life. Are you sure none of 9/11 or Katrina victims had heard the Gospel?

And this:

and if hearing the gospel saves lives?? Close down hospitals across Europe n Americas..#Sicko

There’s been so many others like him who tweet out using the hashtag “#Soulvultures” against praying Christians on Twitter saying similar things.

At the heart of the Hindu’s argument is this:  If the Gospel save lives then people would not physically die.  People do physically die including those who believe in the Gospel.  Example given include those in 9/11, Hurricane Katrina and those in American and European Hospitals.  Very likely among those who died in the tragedies listed include individuals who believed in the Gospel.  Therefore, according to our Hindu friend the Gospel does not save lives, when the Gospel is suppose to save lives.

The problem of course is with the Hindu’s misunderstanding of what Christ’s saving works means.  In other words, there is a fallacy of equivocation being committed here concerning the term “saved.”

To illustrate, let the definition of saved, in terms of being rescued from eternal punishments, be labeled as saved1A. The other definition of saved, in which we define as rescue from physical life-threatening situations, such as being rescued from the tragedies mentioned above, will be labeled as saved2B.  To be saved1A requires belief or believing in His Son as Savior, as John 3:16 states, “For God so loved the world that he gave his only Son, that whoever believe in him shall not perish but have everlasting life.”  However, Biblically speaking being Saved1A, or being saved from God’s wrath over our sins, doesn’t necessarily mean that you will be saved in the sense of saved2B from a particular event that can take one’s life.   We think of Steven the first Martyr in the Church in Acts 7 who was a Christian (saved1A) yet was murdered for his faith.  His physical life was taken from him.  We think of the Apostle Peter who knew Jesus as His Savior and had eternal life (saved1A) and yet Jesus prophecied in the Gospel of John that he will die for his faith.  We could multiply examples upon examples.  Being a Christian is not a promise of having one’s present life a bed of rose garden.  That’s another Gospel, and not the Christian Gospel.

The tragic thing about this particular Hindu was that he first tweeted us in response to our tweet linking my piece “Twitter attack on #SoulVultures and the Nepalese Earthquake” and he claimed to have read half that article.  The first half of the article did explain the Christian Gospel and nowhere was the Gospel presented as being saved in the sense of Saved2B mentioned above.  So I don’t know where he gets the sense that we believe in a Gospel that gives promises of being saved from natural disasters, etc.  I submit a strawman fallacy is being committed here.

Readers might also check out my fellow blogger EvangelZ’s post on what is the Gospel: Gospel is Desperately Needed for the Lost in Nepal.

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Presuppositional apologetics Round Up

Here are links gathered from April 22nd-30th, 2015.

1.) Twenty Ways to Answer A Fool [15]

2.) Twitter attack on #SoulVultures and the Nepalese Earthquake: Can a Hindu, Buddhist, Atheist and Pragmatic Humanitarians object to Christian evangelistic prayer and relief effort in Nepal in light of their own worldview?

3.) Refuting 4 Irrational Assertions Made by Atheists

4.) Why These 66 Books?

5.) Is Apologetics a form of atheism?

6.) Theology and Philosophy

7.) What is Metaphysical Grounding?

8.) A FRANK ADMISSION OF GUILT

 

Missed the last round up?  Check out the re-blogged post from a friend

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