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Archive for the ‘doctrine of revelation’ Category

Foundations for theology

This is a four part audio series on the foundations for theology that was given before exploring further the various doctrines of God.  The audios are in MP3 format and I’ve included the PDF of the outlines to follow along as well.

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question theology foundation

Last week we finished our Saturday four-part outline series on “Three Theological Questions Foundational to Studying God.”

I thought I put together a table of content for easy access to the series.

1.) 

2.) 

3.) 

4.) Three Theological Questions Foundational to Studying God: How has God revealed Himself? Part 2: Special Revelation

 

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question mark

Over on Facebook a question was asked:

How would you respond to an atheist who said that he presupposes the laws of logic as descriptions of reality? Consequently, it’s not that they have any justification, they are just part of the way things are. Is there a contradiction in such a view?

Here’s my take:

There might not be an obvious contradiction at the surface level of the atheist statement but I do think his claim faces tension with other beliefs he might hold.

1.) I think I would begin by saying that in agreement with him I too presuppose that the laws of logic are “descriptions of reality” but I would press him on how is it that he as a finite being cannot know that without a revelational epistemology (one which situate properly basic beliefs and intuition in the context of General and Special revelation).  Can he say the laws of logic are “descriptions of reality” and claim that “they are just part of the way things are” if he hasn’t experienced all of reality?

Finite Infinite problem

 

2.) We must be acutely aware of the naturalistic fallacy of confusing “is” with “ought.”  In order for the laws of logic to be functional it is not enough to presuppose that the laws of logic are descriptive.  I think I would also press him to see if he thinks the laws of logic are “merely” descriptive.  There is also a prescriptive aspect to the laws of logic governing our thoughts; for example, when someone gives a logically sound argument with true premises that individual is saying to himself and others that they are obligated to accept the conclusion.  We must not make the fallacious jump from “is” to “ought.”

3.) I am not going to rehearse the whole discussion here but in light of my second point I would also also say that the standard Presuppositional arguments apply here concerning the problem of norms being unintelligible and meaningless in a non-Christian worldview given that the nature of the laws of logic is also prescriptive.

4.) I’m sometimes amazed at how much an atheist can sound like a Van Tillian when he asserts that the laws of logic are descriptions of reality.  When pressed often the answer I hear is that they say we need the laws of logic because it just is the case and that without the laws of logic nothing else makes sense.  The argument here is Transcendental in nature, just like the Transcendental Argument the Presuppositionalist use.  My observation here is that an atheist in this scenario doesn’t reject the form of the Transcendental argument a Christian use since they employ it themselves.  If they reject TAG the very arguments can be used as a self-defeater to those who claim he can just presupposes the laws of logic as descriptions of reality.  But we are not left with two equally plausible alternative between God and atheism after the two Transcendental arguments have been given; we must remember the problems described in point one through three that is stacked against an atheism that presupposes the laws of logic as descriptions of reality.

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John_Frame

What is the role of Scripture and extrabiblical data in light of the sufficiency of Scripture?

I appreciate John Frame’s definition of the sufficiency of Scripture not as “sufficiency of specific information but sufficiency of divine words” with the note that “Scripture contains divine words sufficient for all of life.” (John Frame, Doctrine of Christian Life, 157).  I think this definition is helpful because it allows us to delineates the use of Biblical and extra-biblical data in knowing and doing things as Frame explained in this extended quote:

If you remember that the sufficiency of Scripture is a sufficiency of divine words, that will help us to understand the role of extrabiblical data, both in ethics and theology.  People sometimes misunderstand the doctrine of sufficiency by thinking that it excludes the use of any extrabiblical information in reaching ethical conclusions.  But if we exclude the use of extrabiblical information, then ethical reflection is next to impossible.

Scripture itself recognizes this point.  As I said earlier, the inscriptional curses does not forbid seeking extrabiblical information.  Rather, they forbid us to equate extrabiblical information with divine words.  Scripture itself requires us to correlate what it says with general revelation.  When God told Adam to abstain from the forbidden fruit, he assumed that Adam already had general knowledge, sufficient to apply that command to the trees that he could see and touch.  God didn’t need to tell Adam what a tree was, how to distinguish fruits from leaves, or what it meant to eat.  These these were natural knowledge.  So God expected Adam to correlate the specific divine prohibition concerning one tree to his natural knowledge of the trees in the garden.  This is theology as application: applying God’s word to our circumstances.

The same is true for all divine commands in Scripture.  When God tells Israel to honor their fathers and mothers, he does not bother to define ‘father’ and ‘mother’ and to set forth an exhaustive list of things that may honor or dishonor them.  Rather, God assumed that Israel have some general knowledge of family life, and he expects them to apply his commands to that knowledge.”

(John Frame, Doctrine of Christian Life, 163).

Some of the highlights I put in bold font.

I think Frame is building upon the observation that I first read from the apologist Cornelius Van Til of the need of general and special revelation being inter-dependent.  God’s Special Revelation always interpret His General Revelation and extrabiblical information; but note here that Special Revelation assumes that there are extrabiblical information out there; moreover, it will never contradict God’s special revelation.

For more quotes from John Frame, I invite you to “like” our blog’s face book page which will be featuring daily morning quotes from Frame’s book, The Doctrine of the Christian Life.

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young vantil

 

Cornelius Van Til is the father of Presuppositional apologetics.  Here is a quick quote from The Reformed Pastor and Modern Thought pages 5-6:

All the facts of the universe are of necessity God-created, God-dependent facts. Therefore men ought to see that God is man’s Creator and his Judge. “For the invisible things of him from the creation of the world are clearly seen, being understood by the things that are made, even his eternal power and Godhead; so that they are without excuse” (Rom 1:20).”

If God has indeed revealed Himself to all to such an extent that they are without excuse, shouldn’t this shape how we engage in apologetics with those who do not believe?

It should.  And Van Til was trying to be conscious of his Reformed and biblical conviction as what should drive and shape his apologetics.

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<Note: By being interviewed here on Veritas Domain, readers must understand that Dr. George Zemek does not necessarily endorse or have any association with the conviction of this blog, the opinions of individual contributors of this blog nor an endorsement or association of any other external links and resources provided here on Veritas Domain.>

In yesterday’s post, we shared an important doctoral dissertation defending Van Til’s apologetics exegetically by George Zemek.  Dr. Zemek has been kind enough to answer briefly some of the questions we have for him.  He holds an MDiv, ThM and ThD all from Grace Theological Seminary.  Currently he is the academic dean at The Expositor’s Seminary, which webpage has the following biographical information about him:

Dr. Zemek is the Academic Dean of The Expositors Seminary. In 1975, he began his teaching career in the Greek department at Grace College. During that period he also served as a part-time instructor in the Homiletics department of the seminary. From 1977 to 1988, Dr. Zemek was a full-time professor of biblical languages, theology, and apologetics, serving also as Grace Seminary’s Director of Doctoral Studies from 1985-1988. Beginning in 1988, he taught the biblical languages, apologetic methodology, and theology, for six years at The Master’s Seminary in Sun Valley, California. In 1994, Dr. Zemek became the founding Pastor-Teacher and professor, respectively, of Grace Bible Church and The Ministry Training Center in Brandon, Florida. From 2000 – 2009 he served as the Dean of The Ministry Training Center at The Bible Church of Little Rock in Arkansas, where he also served as an elder and Pastor to Seniors and Shut-ins. Beginning in the fall of 2009 he moved to the Jupiter campus of the seminary to serve full-time as Academic Dean, Professor, and Scholar-in-Residence of The Expositors Seminary. He and his wife Judy have been married for over 40 years and currently reside in Jupiter.

The following questions are in bold, with Dr. Zemek’s answer in normal font.

1.) Describe your current ministry to the Lord.

I am currently serving as Academic Dean and Resident Scholar at The Expositors Seminary on the hub campus of Grace Immanuel Bible Church where I also minister as one of the elders.

2.) How did you first became acquainted with Presuppositional apologetics?  Who was your big influence?

As background, I need to briefly give you a bit of data pertaining to your questions 2 and 6. Probably my greatest prompter of interest in presuppositionalism was Dr. John C. Whitcomb, Jr. in a Grace Seminary course on Evidences and Apologetics. 

3.) I believe that your dissertation should be known by the greater community of believers who practice Presuppositional apologetics, especially in harnessing exegetical support for this school of apologetics.  What led you to write your doctoral dissertation on Presuppositional apologetics?

We read quite a few of Van Til’s works which I enjoyed but found them to be a bit too philosophical. So I started to think about the best way to “defend” presuppositionalism and came to the conclusion that it was to rely exclusively on the self-authenticating, all sufficient Word as wielded by the Spirit who gave it and supernaturally effectuates it.

4.) How many years have you been teaching apologetics and theology?

I also taught my course in “Christian Apologetical Methodology” at Grace Seminary until 1988, then at The Master’s Seminary from 1988-1994, at ministry training centers in two churches from 1994-2007, and now at The Expositors Seminary. In answer to your question, I’ve been teaching theology for nearly 40 years and apologetical methodology a good share of that time also.

5.) Some see Presuppositional apologetics as being the apologetics method of Covenantal theology only, give it’s root.  Do you think Presuppositional apologetics is compatible with Calvinistic Dispensationalism, and if so, explain.

It may seem historically and traditionally shocking, but I don’t see any necessary connection between Covenantal theologies and Dispensational theologies with respectively presuppositionalist or verificationalist methodologies. For example, consider Sproule, Gerstner, and Lindsey’s Classical Apologetics and my review of it in the Grace Theological Journal, 7:1 (Spring 1986). They jump track with their Reformed theological heritage when it comes to apologetical methodology.

 To me what constitutes an exegetical theological presuppositionalist is one who consistently applies the doctrines of God’s sovereign grace to his apologetical methodology; hence, my dissertation, Exegetical and Theological Bases for a Consistently Presuppostitional Approach to Apologetics; and two of my books, A Biblical Theology of the Doctrines of Sovereign Grace: Exegetical Considerations of Key Anthropological, Hamartiological and Soteriological Terms and Motifs, and Doing God’s Business God’s Way: A Biblical Theology of Ministry.

6.) Did others at Grace Theological Seminary at one time taught or subscribed to Presuppositional apologetics?

Years before I wrote my dissertation Charles Horne had written one at Grace Seminary that also defended presuppositionalism; however, he took a different tack.

7.) For those who wish to make a contribution towards advancing Presuppositionalism, what would you like to see a thesis written on?

I don’t think it’s possible to over-emphasize the noetic effects of sin on man’s inability to process spiritual realities (e.g., Rom 1:28; 1 Cor 2:14; Eph 4:17-18; etc). Also, the last word has not been written on the perspicuity of general revelation (Rom 1:20) yet in view of the impossibility of it becoming salvific because of the characteristic and habitual suppression of it by mankind (Rom 1:18). In another area, the significance of the Testimonium Spiritus Sancti Internumalong with the Reformation Solas screams against those who would detour when it comes to apologetical methodology. This truth is the only means of overcoming the probability plague of all verificationalist systems (their arguments can never rise to the level of certitude).

Before I forget, I want to apprise you of a recently released volume from the pen of a former student, Biblical Apologetics, by Clifford McManis—it’s a must read!

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GO TO SESSION TWO

I.                    Definition of Special Revelation

a.      “God’s words addressed to specific people, including the words of the Bible.”[1]

b.      “Special revelation involves a narrower focus than general revelation and is restricted to Jesus Christ and the Scriptures.”[2]

c.       Some form of supernatural way in which God discloses himself (Prophets[3], Bible, visions and dreams)

i.      “He said, ‘Listen to my words: “When a prophet of the LORD is among you, I reveal myself to him in visions, I speak to him in Dreams” (Numbers12:6)

1.      Lest someone gets arrogant and think they are a prophet of God, look at the context of Numbers 12.

d.      Revelation of God that comes in propositional (verbal or written) form.

II.                 Types of Special revelation

a.       Jesus Christ

i.      Jesus reveals God

1.      “No one has ever seen God, but God the one and Only, who is at the Father’s side, has made him known.” (John 1:18)

ii.      Jesus is himself God revealed in Human form

1.      “For in Christ all the fullness of the Deity lives in bodily form” (Colossians 2:9)

iii.      God speaks to us through Jesus

1.      “In the past God spoke to our forefathers through the prophets at many times and in various ways, but in these last days he has spoken to us by his Son, whom he appointed heirs of all things, and through whom he has made the universe.” (Hebrews 1:1-2)

iv.      The revelation of Christ also limits Special revelation through the means of Prophets (who’s content is revealed to him through visions and Dreams, cf. Numbers 12:6)

1.      Note that Hebrews 1:1-2 states in the past God spoke through prophets but in “these last days he has spoken to us by His Son”

b.      Scripture

i.      Scripture reveals teachings from God

1.      “All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness” (2Timothy 3:16)

a.       Its because there is teachings from God in the Scriptures that one can have the content that is “useful for teaching”

ii.      God is in control of what Scriptural prophecies reveals

1.      “Above all, you must understand that no prophecy of Scripture came about by the prophet’s own interpretation.  For prophecy never had its origin in the will of man, but men spoke from God as they were carried along by the Holy Spirit.” (2Peter 1:20-1)

iii.      Scripture reveals the gospel to all the nations

1.      “…But now revealed and made known through the prophetic writings by the command of the eternal God, so that all nations might believe and obey him” (Romans 16:26)

a.      Notice that this verse mentioned that prophetic writings are revealed “so that all nations might believe Him”

iv.      The revelation of Scripture also further limits additions to Scriptural revelation

1.      “I warn everyone who hears the words of the prophecy of this book: If anyone adds anything to them, God will add to him the plagues described in this book.” (Revelation 22:18)

III.               Relationship of Special Revelation with General Revelation

a.       Special Revelation reinforces the truth found in General Revelation

i.      Analogy of the Traffic Signs and the Traffic Officer

1.      Sometime in a busy intersection we see not only the traffic signal but also a traffic officer.  Both of these give us information in different forms.

a.       Traffic signal is like General Revelation and the officer’s verbal/motion signaling is like Special Revelation.

i.      If you violate just the General revelation (traffic signal), it is sufficient enough to get you in trouble already.

1.      Yet Scripture (traffic officer) provides further instruction and warning for the benefit of man (driver)

a.       In this sense, Special revelation (traffic officer) reinforces the truth in General revelation (traffic signal)

b.      Special Revelation provides us the interpretative principles to interpret General Revelation

i.      Man have always needed the lens provided in Special Revelation to interpret Natural Revelation

1.      Man’s need for Special Revelation before the Fall

a.       “And the LORD God commanded the man, ‘You are free to eat from any tree in the garden; but you must not eat from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, for when you eat of it you will surely die’.” (Genesis 2:17)

i.      This was before the fall, and God’s Word was important than as it is now.

b.      Genesis 3 shows the magnitude of disobedience to Special Revelation and interpreting General Revelation contrary to Special Revelation

2.      Man’s need for Special Revelation after the Fall

a.       NOTE: The problem is not that General Revelation is unclear but since the effect of sin man misinterprets and/or suppresses the truth[4]

b.      If there was a need for Special Revelation before the fall, how much more so because of sin’s effect in misinterpreting General Revelation

i.      “We cannot understand natural revelation without distortion, unless we view it biblically.[5]ii.      “Being a sinner, man will not read nature aright unless he does it in the light of Scripture.”[6]ii.      There are no such thing as non-interpreted facts[7], therefore Special Revelation is the lens that pattern General Revelation[8]

c.       General Revelation points to the need of Special Revelation

i.      The relationship between the Conscience and the Gospel

1.      The Conscience is part of General Revelation, and the Gospel is revealed in Special Revelation

a.       The Conscience condemns but only the gospel can save

ii.      If God exists (as General Revelation testifies), has God spoken?

Indeed, He is there and He is not Silent!


[1] Wayne Grudem, Systematic Theology: An Introduction To Biblical Doctrine, (Grand Rapids: Zondervan), 1255.

[2] Paul P. Enns, The Moody Handbook of Theology (Chicago, Moody Press), 158.

[3] The question might be raised, “How do I know whether someone is a true prophet from God or not?”, the biblical test of a prophet is outlined in my article, “The Test Of A Prophet” available at http://teamtruth.com/articles/art_prophettest.htm

[4] See Romans 1:18-21.

[5] John Frame, “Is Natural Revelation Sufficient to Govern Culture?”, available at http://www.frame-poythress.org/frame_articles/2006NaturalRevelation.htm#_ftn5

[6] Greg Bahnsen, Van Til’s Apologetics: Readings and Analysis (Phillipsburg, Presbyterian and Reformed), 209.

[7] See my Article titled, “Impossible Neutrality: An Analogy From Humanistic Geography” available at http://teamtruth.com .

[8] For a discussion about ‘facts’ dependence of one’s worldview’s patterning, consult:

Cornelius Van Til, Common Grace (Philadelphia, The Presbyterian And Reformed Publishing Company), 1-13.


GO TO SESSION FOUR

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