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Today I want to share a thesis that was completed for a Masters of Religion that was completed over at Reformed Theological Seminary.  It was completed last year in 2018.  It is titled “A Defense of Presuppositional Apologetics and Its Practical Application to the Public University Campus” and written by R. Shane Hartley.  I have found Presuppositional apologetics when properly understood and properly employed to be a very helpful and powerful apologetic.  I am also involved with college campus evangelism in which I will start back again next Lord willing (pray for me!).  So this thesis obviously caught my attention.

What is this thesis specifically about?  In his introductory paragraph to his thesis Mr. Hartley wrote the following summary:

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Richard P. Belcher Jr.  The Messiah And The Psalms.  Ross-shire, Scotland: Mentor Imprint, September 20th, 2014. 288 pp.

4 out of 5

Purchase: Westminster | Amazon

This book is on the topic of a Christ and the Psalms by an Old Testament professor at Reformed Theological Seminary.  The author Richard Belcher takes a Christocentric approach towards the Psalms.  If you are interested in the Psalms, Messianic prophecies, hermeneutics and preaching Christ this book might be for you even if you don’t necessarily agree with everything the author has to say.

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Reformed Theological Seminary has for the last three months or so posted short videos answering various questions with the hashtag “#WisdomWednesday.”  Here’s two that’s related to apologetics by Dr. John Frame and Dr. Michael Kruger respectively.

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James White discusses the revealed nature of the Quran and whether it is the Word of God with a Muslim Imam name Muhammad Musri.  This debate took place on March 21st 2015 at Reformed Theological Seminary in Orlando Florida.  Alpha Omega ministry has just loaded up the debate on Youtube recently!

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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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For the World Essays in Honor of Richard L. Pratt Jr

Note: To order the book at a discounted price at WTS bookstore, click HERE.

I first heard of Richard Pratt when I discovered his Third Millennium Ministries and not too long after that I read his short book on Presuppositional apologetics and some assorted articles that he wrote.  This particular book is a festschrift in honor of Dr. Pratt.  I really enjoyed how various contributors throughout the book gave readers their portrait of the man and his ministry; it was quite encouraging for me given how I have benefited from his writing but didn’t know much about him.  As a result of reading this book I have a greater respect for Pratt for his desire to make theological education cheap and affordable for the rest of the world through his online ministry.  In many instances these multimedia resources are available in many languages for free!  I did not fully realize how great an impact Third Millennium Ministries was until I read this book.  It has also lead me to pray for this ministry to increase many fold!

I also found the various essays within the volume stimulating with its various topic dedicated to Dr. Pratt and his field of interests, some of the highlights which I shall discuss below.

The second chapter of the book was titled, “Saying It Anew: Strange-Making as a Pedagogical Device” in which the contributor Scott Redd talked about the pedagogical device of defamilarization.  Defamiliarization is a technique in which someone says something strange for the sake of the learner to think more carefully about a certain truth.  As Redd explained, “Ironically, defamilarizatoin can result in clarity, in part because, when skillfully applied, defamiliarization causes the hearer to encourage the idea in a new way, as if for the first time, thereby bringing its elements into stark relief” (21).  This chapter also defended this idea biblically, nothing the various use of literary devices and also nuance word order in the Bible was meant to draw the readers’ attention with something unusual so as to slow them down and make them think more carefully.  I thought defamilarization can be a useful tool for pastors, Bible teachers, professors, evangelists and the apologists.  Certainly it has made me more conscious of incorporating defamiliarization as a way of being a clear and fresh communicator of God’s timeless truth.

The chapter on “Redeeming the ‘R-Word:’ Paul against and for Religion” was intriguing and relevant since it addressed the contemporary Christian cliche that “Christianity is not a religion.”  Reggie Kid, the author of this essay, noted how Paul was against bad religion (what in the Greek is called asebeia) but this in no way implies that Paul or the Bible ever pit Christianity against religion per se.  There is, biblically speaking, room for good “religion,” and good religion is one which adheres to right doctrines and also right practices.  The author made a good point that whatever value and advantages gained in using the mantra that “Christianity isn’t a religion,” it can in the long run be counter-productive against the church’s effort in evangelism and discipleship.  Hipster Christians need to read this chapter!

The book also had a good chapter on metanarrative by the editor Justin Holcomb which is probably the only chapter I was most critical of; nevertheless I found his essay helpful because it helped me to think more clearly and precisely as a result of interacting with what he has to say.  Holcomb argues that Christian scholars have used the term metanarrative incorrectly when they call the Christian faith a metanarrative.  Technically, the term metanarrative as originally used by Lyotard (who brought the term to prominence) meant something more along the lines of a story that is used by people to justify autonomy and man-centered institutions which oppressively silence others, etc; Holcomb argues that Christian must be against autonomy and also against the justification of wicked institutions so we shouldn’t be describing Christianity as the very thing that Christianity is against.  While I agree that the term metanarrative as Lyotard employed it does not describe Christianity, I also think this might be an instance of how the use of a term over time can have a different shade of meaning than how it was originally used.  I doubt most people today in popular parlance use the term metanarrative as narrowly as Lyotard originally used it so I don’t have as much of a problem with Christians using that term in describing the Christian worldview so long as it is qualified and explained.  I did appreciate Holcomb describing how Postmodern were not necessarily all about relativism but that there was some good coming from this camp in their critical assessment of modernity’s autonomy and arrogance; but sadly at the end of the day I don’t think Postmodernism has managed to escape the problem of autonomy either.  Furthermore, since Holcomb discussed quite extensively about Lyotard, I wonder if a secularist using Lyotard’s definition of metanarrative might not call Christianity a metanarrative despite Holcomb’s wishes since Christianity presents the story that justify the Cosmic institution of the Church.

The book also had a helpful chapter on youth ministry in which the contributor David Correa argues that in light of many young people’s search for meaning beyond themselves with the realization that things are not the way it should be, this should be an opportunity for youth ministry to present our theology to make sense of the world, where it is going and how we fit in, in light of God’s Kingdom.

For those involved in teaching theological education in the context of missions and/or to another cultural setting, the discussion in various chapters on the need to make theological education “fit” for the situational context of non-Western audience sets the right direction for the future.  What is neat is to know that Richard Pratt has made a significant inroad with his ministry towards that end which readers can praise God for.  I appreciated John Frame calling for a theological education that is more “boot camp,” that is rigorous also in practical application in ministry; then there is the mentoring-in-ministry discussion by Gregory Perry.

I recommend the book for those who has appreciated Dr. Pratt’s ministry and teaching.  I wished there were more Old Testament contribution within the book besides the one by Waltke in light of the fact that this is a festschrift for an Old Testament professor!  Those unfamiliar with Dr. Pratt and are involved with theological education can also benefit from the essays found within it.

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.

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John Frame’s teaching has been important in my life, shaping my apologetics and theology especially with his observation of the inter-connection of various perspectives/disciplines/doctrines.  I think he’ definitely contributed in theology and apologetics by developing the ideas of Cornelius Van Til forward.

Ten days ago his Systematic Theology book has been nominated as the book of the Year by World Magazine.  I thought it was appropriate to share with you the full length video below from the President’s Forum Interview with the President of Reformed Theological Seminary Orlando concerning Frame’s Systematic Theology and his life time contribution:

Enjoy!

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