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Archive for the ‘doctrinal apologetics’ Category

There’s a lot of bad arguments against the Trinity, more than I have time to fully respond to.  In one of the comments in my previous post “” there was a comment from “Alfeo piedad” that tried to argue against the Trinity:

If the trinity is true , it should have been complete from the beginning.”

I want to reply concerning the methodology behind the objection.  This objection sets up an artificial standard of proof against the Trinity in that the Trinity can only be true if the Bible has taught it completely from “the beginning.”  Here’s my reply:

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trinity

While teaching Christology overseas a student asked me how does one handle the following objection: “I don’t believe in the Trinity because the Word Trinity is not in the Bible.”

Here’s my take on the objection.

First, more important than the term is whether or not the concept of the Trinity is found in the Bible.  We must be more concern about the concept more than a specific theological terminology that Christians later use as a handle for the various truth claims about God.  If the concept of the Trinity is found in the Bible, it is enough to establish the doctrine of the Trinity.

I know my first point often don’t satisfy cultists and heretics. Hence the following points:

Secondly, just because you use biblical terminology doesn’t mean the concept behind the term you are using is faithful to the Bible.  I bring this point to illustrate that it is a naively flawed methodology to assume that merely finding a word in the Bible establish the truth content that one might put into the terminology.  People twists the meaning of biblical terms all the time.  In the end, what’s important is the concept behind the terms which reinforce my first point.

Thirdly, depending on the specific cultists or heretic I would also point out how the kind of argumentation presented in this objection to the Trinity also undercut their specific belief systems.   That is, the argumentation is a self-defeater to their own religious beliefs.  For instance, with Jehovah’s Witnesses I apply back this same kind of bad reasoning back to them:  I don’t believe in the Watchtower Tract and Bible Society because Scripture itself doesn’t mention these words.  We shouldn’t attend any of their Kingdom Hall because the word “Kingdom Hall” doesn’t appear in the Bible.  If one uses this flawed logic that is the basis for objecting to the Trinity, the cultist or heretic must also admit that it undermine their very own beliefs and belief system as well.  But if they sidestep this rebuttal by saying the concept is taught in the Scripture, note here that they also admit that content is what matters and not merely the appearance of a terminology in Scripture.  Either way you go, the problem is with the interlocutor.

 

Fourthly there are also other theological terms that Christians use that is not found in Scripture but the concept is taught in Scripture.  Think of the word “Bible.”  Yet the concept is there within the Bible.  Again, content is what is more important than merely doing a superficial word search.

Fifthly, to be very technical even a lot of terms in our Bible translations are also not found in the original language of the Bible.  The English Bible talks a lot about “God.”  But the Hebrew and Greek words in the manuscripts are “El,” “Elohim,” “Yahweh,” and “Theos.” Nowhere do we find in the original language manuscripts the English term “God,” the German word “Gott” or the Japanese term for deity called “Kami,” etc.  We can multiple the same thing with the term “Jesus,” “faith,” and “Salvation.”  That doesn’t mean we reject “God” because it’s not a term that’s found in the Original language of the Bible.  We might have many terms that “translates” the content of what the Bible is saying.  Note the priority: It is the content of Scripture that shapes a term that signify its meaning.  In some sense the Trinity is a theological translation of the concept of the Oneness and Threeness of the True God as attested in the Scriptures.

 

This objection might sound like it has a lot of force when one first hears it, but there’s no wind behind its sail upon closer analysis.

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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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john frame

How should we understand the concept of God’s presence? Isn’t there a dilemma of God bring non-physical and yet is described as all present?
John Frame has a good paragraph:

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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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southern seminary

A doctrine of Scripture that has been under-utilized in apologetics has been the historic belief in the self-attestation of Scripture.  There is a Doctoral Dissertation on the topic: “The Self-Attestation of Scripture as the Proper Ground for Systematic Theology” by Matthew Scott Wireman.  Dr. Wiseman completed this thesis in 2012 through Southern Seminary, best known with its president Al Mohler.

Southern Seminary and Dr. Wireman has made the dissertation available as a PDF.  You can download it by clicking HERE.

Here is the description of the dissertation broken down by chapters:

This dissertation examines the Protestant doctrine of Scripture’s self-witness of divine authority. Chapter 1 examines the current evangelical milieu. The doctrine has become nearly obsolete in the discussion of systematic theology. Consequentially, wherein lies authority has been greatly misunderstood in Protestant circles.

Chapter 2 surveys the doctrine through the history of the church. Particular note is made of Augustine, John Calvin, John Owen, and Herman Bavinck. This chapter evinces the near consensus of the church that the authority for the Church is found preeminently in the Scriptures.

Chapter 3 summarizes post-conservative, Stanley J. Grenz and John R. Franke, attempts to ground theology in Scripture plus culture and tradition. This chapter does not offer a critique as much as it aims to represent post-conservatives in their own words.

Chapter 4 looks at how the Old Testament viewed itself–particularly through the ministries of Moses and the prophets. YHWH chose representatives who would speak to the covenant community and write down the stipulations and history of YHWH’s relationship with Israel for posterity.

Chapter 5 looks at the New Testament, which follows the paradigm instituted by the Old Testament. In the person and work of Jesus Christ, God’s promises find their fulfillment, which foments his commissioning of the Twelve Apostles to be his spokesmen.

Chapter 6 ties together the threads that cohere in the two testaments of Scripture. It makes explicit the claims of Scripture that God is a se, he communicates with his creation, he uses spokesmen, and his written Word is its own witness for its authority.

Chapter 7 defines the doctrine of Scripture’s self-witness and applies it to tradition, culture, and the task of apologetics. The chapter explicates the thesis of the dissertation that Scripture’s self-witness must be the ground of systematic theology.

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James White

Here is a Youtube video of a debate between a Reformed Baptist apologist James White and a Roman Catholic priest name Mitchell Pacwa.  The topic of the debate: Is The Roman Catholic Priesthood Biblical & Ancient?

This debate took place May 29th, 2003.

Here’s the description of the debate from Youtube:

James White and Fr. Mitchell Pacwa debate the validity of the Roman Priesthood. Does the New Testament describe an office of priest in the Church today? Does the New Testament teach that there is a Christian Prieshood? Are priests to be unmarried as Rome teaches? Is it true as the Council of Trent declared that a New Testament Priesthood was transformed from the Old? Is it correct to call someone “Father?” What is the priesthood of all believers as mentioned in the New Testament? What are the Biblical offices in the Church today? These questions and many more are answered in this debate. A wide variety of issues are discussed. This subject also ties in with the subjects of the Mass, purgatory, confession, and the celibacy of priests in Roman Catholic theology. This debate is probably the best debate these two gentlemen have ever had. Highly recommended. (2 hours 44 minutes)

Enjoy!

 

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