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Archive for the ‘Reformed’ Category

In Defense of Theology Gordon Clark

Gordon Clark. In Defense of Theology.
Milford, MI: Mott Media Inc, 1984. 119 pp.

Most Christians if they know anything about Gordon Clark probably know of him as a critic of Christian apologist Cornelius Van Til.  It is a shame that few Christians even among those interested in Christian philosophy, apologetics and Reformed theology know who Gordon Clark is.  In contrast to Van Til, Gordon Clark seems to have written more works at the popular level than Van Til did while remaining less known than Van Til.  This work is one of them.  In this review I want to look at Clark’s work as a full blooded Van Tillian who disagree with Gordon Clark but have found him beneficial to read and interact with.

I appreciated this book because while Clark is capable of writing more technical and difficult work this seems to be the one book that is accessible for lay people that pretty much summarize Gordon Clark’s apologetics.  The book presents a defense of the endeavor of theology while embracing the Biblical worldview and subjecting opposing worldviews to logical scrutiny and refutations.  The flow of the book critiques three groups of people with the first being those who subscribe to atheism, secondly those who are disinterested and the third group being Neo-Orthodox.

I really like his chapter on atheism.  Even if one disagrees with his apologetic methodology it is succinctly stated.  Clark notes briefly that he has problems with the Classical arguments for the existence of God which puts Clark in a different trajectory with his approach towards the question of God’s existence and atheism.  I think Clark persuasively argued contrary to the Existentalists that it is important to first discuss about essence over existence; practically for the topic at hand Clark note that it is important to define what God is and which God we are believing before we ask whether or not it exists because after all the Christian is not engage in prove some kind of bare theism or some other gods that is not the Christian God.  I think Clark’s discussion about axioms and ultimate authority being axiomatic is excellent.  While I don’t necessarily fault the book for fleshing it out given its limited space nevertheless it is important for readers to know that my general criticism of Clark’s apologetics is applicable to the methodology of the book here: I often wish Clark developed more of the implications of Romans 1 for apologetics and shaping how he understands the unbeliever and approaches towards their unbelief.  In particular, I wished he could have seen the apologetic value of the phenomenon in which people suppressed the truth they do know and perhaps lead him to see a role of some kind of transcendental argumentation to make that point.

Clark’s chapter on the disinterested is rather short but he does give more space to critique the Neo-Orthodox.  His survey of the Neo-Orthodox works chronologically backwards since he wishes to begin the readers with better known contemporary writers and then tracing it back their influences.  I think his critique of the irrational claims and methodology of Liberals and Neo-Orthodox is excellent.  Clark is really out to defend the propositional nature of Scripture.

This leads to a chapter length discussion about the role of logic in the Bible.  This discussion is indeed a key component in Clark’s defense of theology, given that the task itself involve the use of logic.  The book ends with a fourth group that is contrast to the first three group in that these are believers of Jesus Christ who loves the Word from the Lord.  He also add in this chapter a discussion about grounding the laws of logic in the Imago Dei that I think should have been better organized to have been part of the chapter on logic.

Overall good book.  If you had to read a book that’s an introduction to Gordon Clark and also get a flavor of his method (and his highbrow sarcasm) then this is the book.

Purchase: Amazon | Also Available as E-Book from Trinity Foundation

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Princeton Seminary 1812-1929 Gary Steward

Gary Steward. Princeton Seminary (1812-1929): Its Leaders’ Lives and Works.
Phillipsburg, NJ: Crossway Books, 2014. 321 pp.

The legacy of Princeton Theological Seminary has been hotly debated over the years yet fascinatingly enough a revival of interests into the theology and professors of Old Princeton has been growing in light of the growth of Calvinistic expressions of the Christian faith.  This book tells the story of Old Princeton during the years of 1812 through 1929 by giving the readers a biographical account of theologians that has defined the Seminary.  I enjoyed how the book not only gave us the life of these theologians but also each biographical chapter on a theologian is followed by a chapter that takes a closer look at the respective man’s particular theological writing and contribution.  This format allows us to get a sense of the “life and doctrine” of Old Princeton.  It also helps to advance the author’s thesis that Old Princeton held to two uncompromising conviction: (1) rigorous academic theologizing which is compatible with (2) personal piety and holiness.  I think Steward does persuasively makes his case and after reading the book I think it is unfortunate that Old Princeton has become so maligned even among Christian circles.

The first chapter of the book covers the founding of Princeton Seminary.  I appreciated the author giving us a larger context of theological education for Pastors prior to the Seminary being formed.  Obviously there was a need before the founding of Princeton.  I learned from the book that before 1746 ministers had only three options for their education: Harvard, Yale or Europe.  It certainly makes one appreciate the contemporary landscape in North America with countless seminary to choose from.  I also learned from the first chapter of the book of the Log College that would serve as a model for Princeton Seminary with its emphasis on spiritual experience and intellectual cultivation.  At first the Presbyterians founded a college (later Princeton University) but eventually the need for a separate Seminary independent from the college led them to found the Seminary.  Early on Princeton Seminary was founded to accomplish the goal of producing men who were capable scholars of the Bible that was able to handle the Scripture in its original languages and faithful to the Westminster Confession of Faith in their application of the Word of God to ethics and apologetics.

The first biographical chapter in the book was on the Seminary’s first full time professor, Archibald Alexander.  Alexander was an incredibly intellectually gifted man.  In an era in which it was hard to acquire books Alexander was able to purchase the library of a minister from Holland that allowed him to become well acquainted with Dutch Reformed thought, early Patristic, Renaissance philosophers and the history of the larger Protestant theology.  With all his contribution in his prime of his life it is amazing to read that he worked hard even towards the end of his life with the last ten years his most productive.  The author also examined more closely Archibald Alexander’s work titled Thoughts on Religious Experience which focuses on one’s examination of religious experience to see if its Scriptural and authentic, thus showing how early in the Seminary history Old Princeton faculty was not only about the mind but ministered with nuance sensitivity in taking into account all of man’s faculty.

Other theologians that the book focused on included Samuel Miller (their second professor in the Seminary), Charles Hodge, James and Joseph Alexander (sons of Archibald Alexander), and Archibald Alexander Hodge (son of Charles Hodge and obviously named after Archibald Alexander).  I was intrigued to learn that Charles Hodge was the first in the faculty to go to Europe to study abroad.  This was in order for Hodge to familiarize himself with the bad theology coming from Liberal scholarship especially from Germany.  Of course later other professors from Old Princeton (and at other seminary I would add, including today) would follow suit.  I wonder if that was a wise precedence for others to follow since one who is not theologically grounded can come back with dangerous ideas and teachings that can “infect” a good seminary.  In the case with Charles Hodge it was beneficial.  I was very encouraged with the biographical account of James Alexander who first became a missionary who later on did much work in reaching the urban poor and develop materials for the Sunday School movement.  The personality of A.A. Hodge with his ability to effectively popularize Princeton theology and illustrate spiritual truths for people’s understanding was equally encouraging for anyone desireingto follow the model of a “Pastor-Scholar” or “Scholar-Pastor.”

I wished the book would have also given a full chapter each on the life of B.B. Warfield and Machen.  Both Warfield and Machen were important figures in the twilight years of Old Princeton but the author lumped the two of them together in a brief sketch in the last chapter of the book.

Another aspect of the book that I appreciate is the historical perspective that one gets to look at the times through the College/Seminary and its faculty.  These faculty members lived through some amazing time period of American history.  Sometimes they also participated in American history such as Witherspoon, Rush and Stockton of Princeton College who participated with the cause of American Independence and even signed the Declaration of Independence!  Yet we also see as a general trajectory a caution among the faculty of the Seminary itself, such as Miller who backed away from the political the older he became, Charles Hodge’s reluctance to fan the flame before the Civil War by even adopting a moderating tone while being against slavery but being cautious towards full abolitionists and Secessionists in the South.  Towards the end of the Civil War Charles Hodge did become more vocal about the Union, even seeing the North’s victory a sign of God’s providence.  Hodge’s own son also was against slavery but was able to see the difficult question and concern for church entanglement politically with the slave question.

In conclusion I was greatly encouraged and challenged by the book and the examples of the theologians of Old Princeton to be a minister of the Word who continue to strive to grow in intellectual ability in articulating, preaching and defending the faith while also continue to grow in personal holiness.  This book would be a great gift to encourage your pastor and also for Seminarians to see their studies with the need to be pastoral.  It definitely encouraged my soul as a Pastor.  I pray that I can follow in these men’s footstep and be to some degree the kind of men these guys were.

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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frank schaeffer

I have written on Franky Schaeffer in our blog before where we looked at the irrational things he has said in public.  He’s the son of the late Christian apologist and evangelist Francis Schaeffer.  Franky himself is an apostate has spent much time and energy attacking his father and the Evangelical faith of his father.

I just found out that his latest book is titled “WHY I AM AN ATHEIST WHO BELIEVES IN GOD.”  Most people would think, “Is that logically possible?”  Frank in a video recorded book discussion have said that he intentionally had a provocative title to make people think and:

Basically telling people that first of all labels are Nonsense.

He’s not the only one that says something like this.  I had flashback of hipster Emergents, old College hippie professors, etc., when I heard Franky say that.

What are Franks’ reasons for why he thinks labels are nonsense?  He’s explained:

“Because you may describe yourself one thing today but give it twenty years and you may well look at yourself as something else.  And we all change in our journey.”

And in his dribbling monologue he’s also talked about the need to embrace paradox rather than resolve everything.

I want to address this issue since it’s bigger than him and many people throw this or something similar out there during religious discussions.

1.) Whenever I hear someone say labels are categorically nonsense I always want to show them a picture of this:

food-labels

A picture is worth a thousand words.  Seriously, labels are nonsense?

2.) Secondly, Frank’s first reason for why labels are nonsense does not logically follow.  Just because people do change over time this does not necessarily mean labels are in of itself nonsense.  Sure, people twenty years from now may change in their views of themselves and what they believe but that doesn’t mean labels are in of itself are nonsense.  It just means one might change “labels” even if that label is something different than the previous label or those labels are different from the larger segment of the population.  Go change labels a hundred times that still doesn’t mean labels are nonsense!

3.)  Frank’s second reason for why labels are nonsense is equally problematic.  Just because there are paradoxes in life that one must embrace surely does not logically follow that labels are nonsense and ought to be categorically rejected. What about two paradoxical labels?  Should we embrace them (give his call to embrace paradox)?  Or should we reject them because they are labels?  We have here a rational/irrational tension.  Note here that Frank’s second reason is talking about a different subject (paradox) and not the issue at hand of why labels are nonsense.  A categorical fallacy.

4.) Paradoxes won’t exists if two or more objects are at minimum in a contrary tension (I don’t think paradoxes must necessarily be in actual contradictory relationship).  People often use shorthand terms to denote things, and when we identify paradoxes we are saying two or more things share a tension in their relationships.  Notice denoting things is an act of “labelling.”  Thus to talk about paradox one are already engage in the act of giving labels.

4.) As an example of point four, look at his own author-talk where Frank does the same thing.  His talk goes on about the problem of the label love and hate and yet he talks about “hating less” is an act of “love.”  Even for an anti-label guy like Frank, he’s incurably using labels.

5.) Someone might object that Frank does not refer to “labels” as the act of denoting, naming, defining something but rather sterotyping something.  But that does not seem to be case because as one seen in the quote above, Frank talks about how the labels we give ourselves changes.  I don’t think Frank is saying we are sterotyping ourselves ignorantly.  His talk in the beginning makes it pretty clear he does not like “Certainty Addicts” who wants him to define things.  Frank is against the very act of defining things.

6.) Concerning “labeling” as sterotyping people, isn’t ironic that Frank’s writing always engage in labeling others in that sense of the term?  Within that Huffington Post I linked, note how he labels pro-science advocates and fundamentalists: “Somewhere between the sterile, absolute, and empty formulas of reductionist, totalitarian science and the earnest, hostile, excessively certain make-believe of religious fundamentalism, there is a beautiful place.”

7.) By the way, rejecting a bad and negative label does not mean one should reject labeling in the first sense of the term.

8.) Per point five, since Frank is against the act of labeling in the sense of defining things, he’s destroyed in his own worldview the ability to communicate since words must mean something and not mean its opposite, etc.  But he doesn’t really believe that inside even though he claims it because he’s still communicating with words the words that undermine the intelligibility and meaningfulness of those words.  Franks’ father had a mentor who would have noted the folly and suppression of the truth in Frank’s apostate antinominian atheist worldview.

Frank’s rejection of labels is nonsense.

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complaints-letter-structure

Earlier during the month I wrote a piece titled “.”  It proved to be a very popular post, generating thousands of hits and many comments.  I am thankful to you guys who shared it with others.  As people were sharing this post online I have also seen strange criticisms of the post.  These criticism are now what I want to address.

Here’s one comment on Facebook from someone named Yochanan Lilley that was originally directed towards someone who shared the article:

My friend this article could not miss the point more; the man who wrote it clearly does not understand philosophy, particularly concerning epistemology.

For everything he said in this article I would like to hear his argument for why the doctrine of inspiration is true of the Bible from a pressupositionalist position; can you give me the argument you think he would make which is not the argument Sproul used?

Response: First off, I think our friend Lilley has the burden of proof to demonstrate his claim that I’m philosophically and epistemologically ignorant.  Secondly, let’s hypothetically grant for the sake of the argument that I don’t understand philosophy and particularly epistemology.  He still faces the following four dilemmas:  (a) We must remember that he is merely asserting that and doesn’t give any actual substantive reason to support his claim that my lack of understanding of philosophy and epistemology has somehow made me deficient in my evaluation of Sproul’s objection towards Presuppositional apologetics.  (b) I also don’t know how much his criticism of my epistemological ignorance has any bearing to the immediate issue at hand since my original post was more about the obvious logical fallacies and problematic reasoning in Sproul’s objections to Presuppositionalism rather than it being some kind of sophisticated and technical epistemological counter-defeater that understandably require a deeper understanding of philosophy and epistemology.  (c) If our friend object that I must employ more advance epistemological and philosophical content in order for me to discuss about Presuppostionalism and RC Sproul’s objection, note that our friend failed to engage in the same fashion according to his own standard.  (d) Actually, for all our friend’s one liner about epistemology and philosophy, I think my post touches on those aspect more than his comment did.  Should we then apply his own sloppy line of reasoning to himself and then conclude that he is even more ignorant of philosophy and epistemology?

Secondly, our friend has also committed a red-herring fallacy.  Again my original article addressed the fallacies Sproul committed in his criticism of Presuppositional apologetics.  Our friend has not interacted with the fallacies we pointed out at all but merely dismissed it in another comment saying that there are much words but no substance to the charge.  But a mere waving of the hand doesn’t do anything; he has the burden to prove his claims that the fallacies I pointed out were not there in Sproul’s presentation.  Instead Lilley wants to talk about something else (whether Sproul’s argument and the Presuppositionalists argument will differ concerning Inerrancy).  The two topics are distinctly different.  There are some Presuppositionalists like John Frame who would probably be comfortable with Sproul’s positive case for the Bible while noting that being grounded with a Christian worldview would solidify the foundation that is necessary for Sproul’s endeavor with historical apologetics for the Bible to work in the first place.  Among such Presuppositionalists, asking whether the Presuppositionalists argument is different than Sproul’s argument for inerrancy isn’t an issue.  Moreover, let’s say for the sake of argument that Lilley is right, that the Presuppositionalists does use the Classical Apologist’s argument for Inerrancy.  That still does not remove the fallacies Sproul committed when he objected towards Presuppositionalism.  Nor does one have to be a Presuppositoinalist to see the fallacies and misrepresentation that Sproul committed against Presuppositionalism.  One can subscribe to the Evidentialist school of apologetics and still admit that Sproul’s objections against Presuppositionalism has problems.  Again, all this demonstrate that Lilley has committed a red-herring fallacy by not addressing the elephant in the room.


 

I want to look at another comment by James O’Brien:

This author’s complaint seems to be that Sproul did not engage in an elaborate critique of presuppositionalism, but then, that wasn’tSproul‘s purpose was it?

However this criticism commits a straw man fallacy.  My original post was not a complaint that Sproul didn’t engage in an elaborate critique of Presuppositionalism.  Rather the point of my original post was that Sproul’s critique wasn’t adequate in that Sproul mispresented Presuppositionalism, haven’t interacted with the Presuppositionalist’s answer concerning circular reasoning, was in error in charging the Presuppositionalists with the fallacy of Equivocation along with the errors of asserting that Presuppositionalism was inadequate to deal with Islam and Mormonism and finally some of Sproul’s objection to Presuppositionalism was also a self-defeater for his own apologetics’ methodology.  That’s quite different than complaining that Sproul should have had an elaborate critique of Presuppositionalism isn’t it?

 

I think we as Christians can try to read better those we disagree with.  I’m not immune to this.  This also does not mean we never fault someone’s writing and point out fallacies.  Rather it means we represent the other side carefully and also think clearly and logically if we are going to disagree.  It goes without saying that we ought to be respectful as well.

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Ecuador-Quito-Street-L

Posting these a little earlier than usual in light of Evangel’s scheduled book review tomorrow. These are links gathered between March 15th-20th, 2015.

1.) Apologetic Methodology in Dialogue

2.) Why You Should Believe in God and Reject Atheism part I

3.) “Protective strategies”

4.) APOLOGETICS AND YOUR KIDS (2) – THE PRICE OF TRUTH

5.) The Futility of Autonomy

6.) Irony and Illegitimate Standards

7.) Author Interview with John Frame

8.) Covenantal Apologetics: Defending The Faith and Beyond

 

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

 

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RTS

About five months ago I shared on our blog a dissertation titled “The Self-Attestation of Scripture as the Proper Ground for Systematic Theology” that was completed at Southern Seminary.  Personally I find the self-attestation of Scripture to be a fascinating doctrine that has tremendous implications for how we do theology, counsel believers, evangelize non-believers and present an apologetics to those who ask for the reason for the hope that we have.

Today I want to share a thesis that was completed for a Masters of Arts that was completed over at Reformed Theological Seminary.  It is titled “The Self-Attesting Nature of the New Testament Canon” and written by John Gordon Duncan.  Duncan takes the approach of exploring how the self-attesting nature of Scripture has its contribution towards the canonicity discussion.  In his introduction he writes the following summary:

For the purposes of this paper, the canonization of the New Testament will be explored by examining the subject of criteria, including the early Fathers’ perception of scripture, inspiration, and apostolicity, with an emphasis on the self-authenticating nature of the New Testament. By taking a self-authenticating approach, such language as Eugene Ulrich uses when he talks of, “the historical development by which the oral and written literature…was handed on, revised, and transformed into the scriptures,”9 will be avoided. The scriptures were handed down. However, a revision or transformation from letter to scripture cannot be supported. Once that fact is established, this paper will offer a summary of the various lists and collections that led to the recognition in the late fourth century that the canon was closed.

For the PDF of this thesis click HERE.

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Abner Chou

Pay attention to the name Abner Chou as I believe he will be more well known in the larger Evangelical world of Scholarship in the next few years.

Abner Chou is Assistant Professor of Biblical Studies at The Master’s College and Seminary. From what I understand he turned down his college acceptance to Princeton or some other Ivy League School to attend the Master’s College.  After the Master’s College he went on to the Master’s Seminary where he completed M.Div., Th.M., and Th.D.  This year he was a speaker for the Truth and Life Conference and was a seminar speaker for the Inerrancy Summit.  He is currently working on an exegetical commentary on the book of Lamentation for Logos’ Evangelical Exegetical Commentary.

Dr. Chou recently spoke at the Seminary’s Chapel from Acts 17 on the subject of the need for Christian Intellectual Engagement.

I’ve halfway through the video.  What is your thoughts on the message?

 

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