These are Presuppositional apologetics links gathered from the World Wide Web between March 1st-7th, 2013.
Archive for the ‘Cornelius Van Til’ Category
Posted in apologetics methodology, christian apologetics, Christianity, Cornelius Van Til, Greg Bahnsen, Presuppositional Apologetics, presuppositionalism, Reformed, Van Til, tagged Bahnsen Conference on February 19, 2014 | 2 Comments »
One of the apologists that has influenced me greatly is Greg Bahnsen, a protege of Dr. Cornelius Van Til. Bahnsen has helped popularized and applied Presuppositional apologetics. Unfortunately he went to the Lord rather suddenly but he was a good steward of the time God has given him on earth.
To celebrate and reflect on his life, on October 25-26th 2013 a Conference was commenced centered on Greg Bahnsen in Southeren California.
Four of the seven videos from the Bahnsen Conference are up online! Thanks goes to Branch of Hope Church for hosting the conference and making the videos available.
As the other videos are made available, I’ll be loading them up on here as well.
Posted in Bible, Biblical archaeology, Christianity, Cornelius Van Til, John Frame, Maximalism, Perspectivalism, Presuppositional Apologetics, presuppositionalism, theological method on January 29, 2014 | 5 Comments »
I’ve been noticing the last few months news story related to the Bible and Archaeology, from the sensational to the subtle announcement of academic bulletin. Christianity Today even had a summary of the “Top 10 Discovery in Biblical Archaeology of 2013″ published earlier this month.
As some of the readers might be aware, there are two general camps when it comes to the issue of the reliability of the Bible as it relates to archaeology: the Maximalists and the Minimalists. Since the archaeological data concerning the Ancient Near East (ANE) and the Biblical world are often fragmentary, sometimes archaeological data appear to conflict with what the Bible has to say. What should we make of this, specifically with our conclusion concerning the veracity of the Bible? Maximalism and Minimalism describes the general approach one answer that question.
Note what Jona Lendering of Livius website (on Ancient history) has to say about maximalists and minimalists:
Maximalist scholars assume that the Biblical story is more or less correct, unless archaeologists prove that it is not; minimalists assume that the Biblical story must be read as fiction, unless it can be confirmed archaeologically. “Minimalism” and “maximalism” are, therefore, methods, approaches, or theoretical concepts.” (http://www.livius.org/theory/maximalists-and-minimalists/)
Lendering even provide this additional example:
It is easy to recognize minimalists and maximalists. If the author’s method can not immediately be deduced from the evidence he puts forward, the auxiliary hypotheses usually offer a clue. When the archaeological evidence contradicts the Bible, the maximalist will write something like “absence of evidence is not evidence of absence”; the minimalist will stress that the Bible should be read as literature.
Take, for example, the Jericho walls: so far, no remains have been excavated of a wall that has collapsed in the Late Bronze Age, which contradicts the Biblical account of Joshua’s capture of the city. A maximalist will argue that these walls stood on top of the hill and must have eroded; his minimalist colleague might say that the story should be read as a description of a first fruits offering – the first town captured by the Hebrews was for God. There’s something to be said for both approaches, although in this example, the erosion argument is probably incorrect.”
The exchange between Maximalists and Minimalists in the past has been quite heated. Probably adding fuel to the fire is the reality that this is not just another academic turf war between two competing school of thoughts: for some, there’s a deeper underlying current driving one’s methodological decision. While not all minimalists are secularists, no doubt secular humanists and atheists would be incline towards the Minimalists approach. Christians who hold to a high view of the veracity of the Bible of course would be inclined to the Maximalists’ approach (of course with the caveat that not all Maximalists are Evangelicals or identify themselves as Christian).
At this point one might say there’s a stalemate between the debate of Maximalists and Minimalists. The Minimalists might charge Evangelical subsets of Maximalists for being driven by the Christian faith to dogmatically affirm that the Bible has to be true at the get-go. It isn’t rational to do so, they say. The Maximalists might reply with the observation that typically in archaeology one gives an ancient document the benefit of the doubt concerning it’s content being true unless proven otherwise so here we see the Minimalists being inconsistent.
It’s a dead end, some say, with the debate being a draw. No side ultimately wins, nor has any side loses in a clear, knock out fashion.
I submit that Presuppositional apologetics is important here, with it’s attention on the role of worldviews. As noted earlier, often there’s a deeper undercurrent that drives one to adopt a certain methodological approach towards the Bible and Archaeology. The discussion between particular Maximalists and Minimalists doesn’t have to be at an intellectual stalemate if one discusses one’s worldview behind one’s methodology. No doubt the most unpopular aspect of Van Til’s apologetics is the fact that it tells Christians to never compromise with the veracity of the Bible . The content of the Bible is true if it has been attained via proper hermeneutics such as consideration of literary genres, etc. But Presuppositional apologetics isn’t just about Christians being dogmatic, for it makes the observation that everyone including the minimalists are not immune to being dogmatic when it comes to their web of ultimate commitments which we call worldview. But instead of being “stuck” with two dogmatic individuals talking to each other, Van Til’s apologetics goes further by asking whether one’s worldview would undermine or provide the intelligibility and meaningfulness of the archaeological endeavor in the first place. Imagine the surprise if a Minimalist were to discover that the particular worldview which incline him towards Minimalism ends up being an undercutting defeater towards archaeological studies; now the dilemma is posed: does he continue to maintain his Minimalism for the sake of his cherished worldview or does he back away from it seeing the catastrophic consequence of it making archaeology categorically unintelligible and insignificant?
Space does not permit me to flesh out the details since for now I just want to provide a sketch of what does Presuppositional apologetics in relationship to archaeology would look like. Here also we find philosophy to be a helpful tool and valuable in assessing the merit of the internal relationship between one’s view of reality (physical world, and metaphysical, if any) and the epistemological status of archaeology. Interdisciplinary studies and the exploration of perspectival relationship of knowledge is quite fascinating!
Perhaps in the far future I might write a post on how the Christian worldview (Christian theology from the Bible that supplies the meta-narrative of the world) allows Archaeology to be a sensible and rational pursuit. This would touch on theology Proper, doctrine of providence, God’s relationship to history, biblical anthropology, etc. Again, how beautiful is the fact that there can exists an inter-relationship of various disciplines from archaeology, history, philosophy, and now, even theology–I find it so beautiful to see this inter-dependent unity of a well-put together world for knowledge that it makes me want to praise God. Presuppositional apologetics and Perspectivalism (John Frame’s variety) regularly bring me to doxology.
Posted in apologetics methodology, christian apologetics, Christianity, Cornelius Van Til, Michael Boehm, Presuppositional Apologetics, presuppositionalism, Reformed, Van Til, tagged Covenantal Apologetics on January 17, 2014 | Leave a Comment »
I first heard of Michael Boehm’s ministry on Sermon Audio. Through his ministry, Youth Apologetics Group, he makes available for free many of his teachings. They cover a vast area, ranging from the cults, worldviews and atheism.
I don’t doubt his ministry is used by the Lord to bless others and he certainly seems like a sincere nice guy. He has recently written and spoken on three types of apologetics that touches on Evidential, Presuppositional and Classical school of apologetics. While I haven’t listen to the audios yet, I think his written overview on Presuppositional apologetics could have been better and merit a response. This response in no way take away from what he is trying to do in serving the Lord. I hope in some way this might encourage him to give Presuppositional apologetics a closer look in the future.
In what follows, I quote Michael Boehm followed by my thoughts.
A CLOSER LOOK
1.) “The name Presuppositional Apologetics was formally coined by apologist Cornelius Van Til and popularized by Greg Bahnsen.”
Response: Typically it would make sense to assume that the father of a movement or school of thought would have the privilege of naming it what they want it to be named. However, this isn’t always the case. To be historically correct, Cornelius Van Til didn’t coin the term “Presuppositional apologetics.” Presbyterian historian and Van Til biographer John Muether describes the interesting story behind the name “Presuppositionalism”:
The term presuppositionalism was probably coined a decade before the Clark controversy by Allan MacRae, Van Til’s antagonist on the early Westminster faculty, and it was intended as a term of derision. J. Oliver Buswell later popularlized it in a series of articles in The Bible Today that ran in 1948 and 1949. The term was not Van Til’s choice, although eh frequently referred to the necessity of reasoning by presupposition
Still, it is striking to discover in Van Til how rarely he labeled his own work as ‘presuppositionalism.’ As MacRae and Buswell trafficked in the term critically and disparagingly, Van Til seemed to respond by acknowledgin that, despite its vagueness and ambiguity, it was of some usefulness. However, he seldom chose to call his system by that name. He tended to refer to it simply as ‘Reformed apologetcs,’ thereby stressing its consistency with Reformed theology and epistemology.” (John R. Muether, Cornelius Van Til: Reformed Apologist and Churchman, 113-114)
One of Van Til’s successor, K. Scott Oliphint himself advance the thesis that it’s better to rename Van Til’s apologetic Covenantal apologetics, since he believes that Presuppositional apologetics “is no longer descriptively useful, and it offers now more confusion than clarity when the subject of apologetics arises” (K Scott Oliphint, Covenantal Apologetics: Principles and Practice in Defense of Our Faith, 38). Many reasons drive Oliphint to say that and no doubt among them is the fact that Van Til himself didn’t invent the term. I do think the term Covenantal Apologetics is also a loaded term but as they say, that’s another sermon for another time.
2.) “Presuppositionalists understand that everyone has presuppositions or starting points. The starting point for the believer is that God exists and he has written His law on our hearts. It is also presupposed that everyone deep down inside understands this.”
Response: I agree. But I think it’s also important to add that a distinctive of Presuppositional apologetics is how these truths shape the Presuppositionalist’s apologetics: To demonstrate that the unbelievers suppress the truth inside, the apologist must make the unbeliever “epistemologically conscious” and show how the worldview they claim will reduce the intelligibility and meaningfulness of everything, yet they believe there are some things in life that is meaningful and intelligible indicating another worldview is actually presupposed.
3.) “Presuppositional Apologetics allows you to skip past the multitude of intellectual arguments and go straight to the heart of the issue which is their sin and need for a savior. By skipping over the intellectual and personal objections you can get to the gospel every time.”
Response: I don’t think we can find in the writing of Cornelius Van Til and Greg Bahnsen (the two Presuppositionalists Michael Boehm referenced) saying we must “skip” the unbelievers intellectual objections per se. While they stress the priorities of presuppostions that shape one’s intellectual objection against the faith that must be first addressed, Presuppositionalism isn’t a strategy of dodge and run. It doesn’t seem that Boehm is accusing Presuppositionalists of this but I want to clarify so it doesn’t seem to imply to this for those who might read his article and are skeptical of Presuppositionalism. It is true though that a Presuppositionalist must go to the heart of the matter and to the Gospel when they are dialoguing with an unbeliever, as any apologist must do if they are Christian. I also believe hitting on the core presuppositions that are dear to the heart allows one to be closer to address the issue of the heart, intellectual idols and ultimate commitment, etc., that makes a great bee line for the Gospel.
4.) “Presuppositional Apologetics often tends towards a hyper-Calvinistic position. Because hyper-Calvinism puts a heavy emphasis on God being the one that does all the work converting the sinner, the hyper-Calvinist may not put as much passion and effort into witnessing.”
Response: I disagree. A hyper-Calvinist who erroneously believe that God does all the work and that He has not ordained believers as the means to His purpose will end up not doing anything–not even engaging someone with Presuppostional apologetics. So I don’t see how Presuppositionalism “tend towards a hyper-Calvinistic position.” Presuppositionalism does not necessitate hyper-Calvinism nor vice versa.
5.) “Another potential drawback to Presuppositional Apologetics is that the sceptic might accuse you of begging the question. They may feel that you’re not proving your point and that you’re assuming what you’re trying to prove.”
Response: This is the biggest objection people typically bring against Van Til’s apologetics, the charge of circularity or begging the question. It is a charge that I’m often surprised at since it has been addressed many times by Presuppositionalists. For instance, Van Til himself took on the Charge of Circular Reasoning, Chris Bolt of Choosing Hat some years back has written “It’s Circular Because It’s Circular” and many other individuals responded to this charge when Paul Copan wrote “Questioning Presuppositionalism.” One might find what these men written helpful. My own thoughts on the issue of authority and circularity can be found in outline teaching form at “The Doctrine of the Self-Attesting Word of God.”
Posted in Christian worldview, Christianity, Cornelius Van Til, free book, Presuppositional Apologetics, presuppositionalism, Reformed, Rousas John Rushdoony, Theology, Van Til, tagged Rushdoony on January 5, 2014 | 2 Comments »
Last month we reviewed a new book that came out on the apologetics of Cornelius Van Til. Viewers who are interested or missed it can access it here: Review: Van Til and the Limits of Reason by R. J. Rushdoony.
I have discovered that Chalcedon Foundation, the group that publishes Rushdoony’s material (and founded by Rushdoony himself) have generously allowed people to view the book for free as research.
You can access the book online if you visit Van Til and the Limits of Reason by Rev. R. J. Rushdoony.
Posted in Apologetics, apologetics methodology, Book Review, Christianity, Cornelius Van Til, herman dooyeweerd, Presuppositional Apologetics, presuppositionalism, Rousas John Rushdoony, Theology, Theonomy, Van Til, tagged RJ Rushdoony on December 20, 2013 | 3 Comments »
This is a book that has been recently published towards the end of 2013 by Chalcedon Foundation. This work is a compilation of writings by R.J. Rushdoony by his son Mark Rushdoony on the insight of the Christian apologist Cornelius Van Til. When I first heard about this work I wanted to get it because Rushdoony was one of Van Til’s early expositor, having written several works expounding his ideas and also applying his apologetics towards other areas as well. Rushdoony’s The One and the Many is one such example in which Van Til’s argument that the Trinity is the solution to the philosophical problem of the one and the many gets some more pages of application especially in the area of critiquing political philosophy. In Van Til and the Limit of Reasons, the first part of the book (chapters 1-3) was originally a booklet on Van Til that Rushdoony wrote for the Modern Thinkers Series in 1960. I have seen this booklet once at a used Christian bookstore years ago and haven’t been able to find it since, so I am happy to see it being republished as three chapters in this present work. I’m also happy that this will also reach a newer audience in our modern world of kindle and the internet. According to the beginning of the book, chapters four through seven are published for the first time. Chapter three is the longest chapter of the book and what seems to me the meat of the book. Rushdoony has a good and memorable analogy from the children story of the Emperor having no clothes to illustrate the task of Christian apologetics: we are exposing the uniblical worldview and philosophy around us as intellectually bankrupt and empty. In this chapter Rushdoony quotes heavily from Van Til’s syllabus Metaphysic of Apologetics and Van Til’s essay titled “Nature and Scripture” in a compilation work by Westminster Theological Seminary titled The Infallible Word. Van Til’s Metaphysic of Apologetics is better known by it’s later publication title A Survey of Christian Epistemology. On page 45 Rushdoony has an excellent discussion distinguishing the difference between ultimate and immediate starting point. This is helpful for readers who might be struggling with the objection that some people have that as human beings we practically begin our starting point with ourselves and what we experience. Van Til’s point was to distinguish between our immediate starting point and the foundation for those starting point, what he calls the ultimate starting point. One of the things I like about reading Rushdoony is following the trail of endnotes of the fascinating documentation of what people think and say. The first half of the book quotes work heavily from the first half of the twentieth century but the second half of the book even quote a work as recent as the 1990s (remember, Rushdoony died in 2001). For the end notes, there is a mistake in which chapter six is titled “Rationalism and Sentimentalism” and chapter seven is titled “The Irrationalism of Rationalism.” It should be the other way around. Examining the end notes and the date of the publication of the works cited made me realized at how old some of these chapters have been written—not necessarily a bad thing but it made me appreciate just how early Rushdoony came around to Van Til’s apologetics and further examine his heavy reading load in light of a Van Tillian framework. The fact that it was written very early also made it valuable to me in terms of historical insight; there are several instances I was surprised to see references to Herman Dooyeweerd. For instance chapter two suggests the optimism of Reformed philosophy during the early days of Dooyeweerd, Van Til and other translators of Dutch Reformed philosophy. I realized Rushdoony’s son in law later published The Twilight of Western Civilization and I can’t help but to imagine Rushdoony had something to do with it but in the end Van Til and Dooyeweerd ended up disagreeing.
I wouldn’t necessarily recommend this as the first work for someone new to Presuppositional apologetics to read; it require some familiarity with Van Til’s theme and a knowledge of philosophers such as Kant, Hume, etc. But I would recommend this if you want to see how Van Til’s idea eventually shape Rushdoony, and in turn Rushdoony’s application of Van Til here and elsewhere.