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Archive for the ‘Westminster Seminary’ Category

First off thanks to Jeff Downs for letting me know about these lectures!

Westminster Theological Seminary have these “Seminary on Saturday” series and during April 2017 they had their professor of Apologetics Dr. Scott Oliphint teach.  For those of you who didn’t know Westminster Theological Seminary is the seminary where Cornelius Van Til taught at many years ago who was the founder of Presuppositional apologetics.  Christians must be informed by the Bible in how they do apologetics and that’s one of the plus of this method (among other things).

These lectures took place at Covenant Church in Nashville, TN.

Here are the lectures:

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In the past I have appreciated Dr. Carl Trueman’s teaching on Medieval theology and also the Reformation available through Itunes University.  He’s also written a more practical book on the Reformation for today for the general Christian readers titled Reformation: Yesterday, Today and Tomorrow by Carl Trueman.

Every year The Master Seminary brings in a scholar to teach for the Winterim and for this year (2017) they have Dr. Trueman of Westminster Theological Seminary taught on the history of the Reformation.

The entire 19 lectures in video form have been made available online for free!

Enjoy!

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Scott Oliphint apologist

Rev. Dr. K. Scott Oliphint (PhD, Westminster Theological Seminary) is professor of apologetics and systematic theology at Westminster Theological Seminary.  He is a proponent of Presuppositional Apologetics which starts with a high view of the God of the Bible, Scripture and engages in apologetics at the level of worldviews.

He was recently on a show for the “Trinities Podcasts” which was loaded up online two days ago.  The topic: How Christianity Trumps Philosophy.  Readers should beware that not necessarily everything associated with “Trinities Podcasts” is orthodox although Dr. Oliphint who is being interviewed is himself orthodox.  Since our blog has a new wave of readers I would say if you are new to Presuppositional apologetics its better to start with .

Here’s the show as found on Youtube with further description below:

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Common Grace and the Gospel by Cornelius Van Til

Cornelius Van Til. Common Grace and the Gospel.  Phillipsburg, NJ: Presbyterian and Reformed Publishing, 1972. 233 pp.

This book is a collection of various essays by Reformed apologist and theologian Cornelius Van Til on the topic of common grace.  The writings found in this book spans twenty five years of Van Til’s teaching career.  By common grace we mean God’s unmerited favor shown both towards the believer and nonbeliever.  The subject of common grace has been a topic of no small debate in Reformed circles in the twentieth century (and carries over to the twenty-first century as well).  How the doctrine of common grace is understood or even rejected has implications for other areas of theology beyond the attributes of God such as the area of evangelism, apologetics, and one’s theological view of culture.  Here is Van Til’s contribution to the discussion gathered conveniently in one book.

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Van Til Defender of the Faith An Authorized Biography

William White. Van Til, Defender of the Faith.  Nashville, TN:
Presbyterian and Reformed Publishing, 1979. 233 pp.

The work is primarily a brief biographical sketch of the life of Cornelius Van Til. It is good sometimes for serious disciples of Van Til’s apologetics or those curious to know the background of Van Til’s life and the historical development that led to Van Til’s ideas. Reading this book, one can not help but to think about the soverignty of God as He orchestrated the timing of various Dutch Reformed thinkers who shaped Van Til, and events leading to the founding of Westminster Seminary. The book was not intended to be read as a robust defense of Van Tillian apologetics, but rather as a biography laced with sentimental values antidotes.  However, the two appendix in the book features a good summary outline by Van Til himself of his apologetics, and a paper he delivered that expouse his ideas. Those who are out looking for Van Til’s ideas will find the two appendix to be precious gems.

I must add though that John Frame think this book is rather simplistic concerning its treatment of Van Til’s ideas.  Since it has been a long time since I read this book (I’m posting this review up because it’s been sitting for years on draft) Frame might be right.  This was one of the first biography of Van Til written and since this work was published another one put out by Presbyterian and Reformed has provided a more scholarly biography of him by a capable historian of the OPC.  Nevertheless, I did enjoyed this biography as well for its personal flavor.

Purchase: Amazon

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Should You Believe in God

Purchase: Westminster | Amazon

This booklet is a part of the “Christian Answers to Hard Questions” series that is put out by P&R Publishing and written by the faculty of Westminster Theological Seminary.  In this booklet Westminster Theological Seminary’s professor of apologetics K. Scott Oliphint tackles the question “Should you believe in God?’ and answers with the affirmative.  I was looking forward to the booklet because I wanted to see how would Oliphint summarize his answer to such an important question in a brief and hopefully profound way.  Often when Presuppositionalists talk about God’s existence it is no brief matter!  As I was reading this it reminded me of Cornelius Van Til’s famous booklet, Why I Believe in God, with its conversational tone, anticipating objections and also its content.  Like Van Til, Oliphint addressed the problem of neutrality and “conditioning” of beliefs from one’s upbringing and environment.  Unlike Van Til however, Oliphint’s upbringing was not in an orthodox Christian setting but a religion that teaches works righteousness.  But like Van Til, Oliphint also shows how God is the “All Conditioner” saves us from brute determinism that render everything meaningless and unintelligible.  I appreciated that Oliphint dealt with the question of whether truth is knowable in the beginning of the book and also how he summarizes the Gospel early in the conversation and in the end.  Besides the issue of neutrality Oliphint also tackles the nonbelievers’ assumption of the normalcy of man’s mind and naturalism.  Like Van Til, Oliphint sees that unless one presupposes the God of the Bible, one will eventually find everything meaningless and absurd.  What I like about the book is that it shows in summary what an application of Presuppositional apologetics looks like.  But I would also as a criticism of both Oliphint’s and Van Til’s booklet is that for such a controversial question it is hard to summarize everything in one little booklet.  I remember reading Van Til’s booklet many times and not seeing it—it was only after I read the booklet with Greg Bahnsen’s footnotes and commentaries did I get what Van Til was doing.  Nevertheless, I do recommend the book.

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CarlTrueman

Earlier this month Westminister Theological Seminary has made available for free online on ITunes University their historical theology lecture series on the Reformation.  It is taught by Dr. Carl Trueman.  I am half way through the series and it is pretty good!

Dr. Trueman is a capable scholar and also one who teaches history in a way that is not boring.  He’s conversant with the material at hand, insightful and funny.

One of the things I really got out of the series thus far is the further appreciation for the historical context in which the Reformation took place.  I thought Trueman was also insightful in his observation that Martin Luther was really a Medieval man even as the age of modernity and the Reformation was dawning with Luther as the leader.

You can access the lectures on Itunes by clicking here: The Reformation

Or if you want to access it as an RSS feed click here: RSS

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davegarner

One of the leading Reformed Christian scholar responding to the Insider Movement is David Garner, a professor from the Westminster Theological Seminary (WTS).

He was the chairman for the three year study committee on the Insider Movement for his denomination, the Presbyterian Church of America (PCA).

He has written a five part series over at his blog with the Alliance of Confessing Evangelicals that must not be missed.  It took him several months but he completed at the end of last month!

The following are the links to his articles:

Stay In or Come Out

Old Trumps New or New Trumps Old?

Who am I and Who Says?

Missions: The Kingdom of Christ or the Church?

Church, Stay Out of Missions!

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PCA Report Insider Movement

Yesterday post I talked about how there are problems with some leading missionary strategists who pushes forth methods that are problematic.  This problematic movement that stresses contextualization is called the Insider Movement.  I’m glad to finally see that there are people who are responding to this biblically and exposing them.

One set of documents that are going to be important in the years to come is the report that the Presbyterian Church of America (PCA) has adopted in the General Assembly meeting on June 17-19, 2014 concerning the Insider Movement.   While it is prepared for the PCA, nevertheless there will be many in other denominations that will find this report helpful.  The chairman of Study Committee on the Insider Movement is Dr. David Garner who is a professor at the Westminster Theological Seminary and someone who have extensively researched and critiqued the Insider Movement.

Both these documents are in English and are available as PDFs.

Part one of the report is titled “LIKE FATHER, LIKE SON: DIVINE FAMILIAL LANGUAGE IN BIBLE TRANSLATION.

Part two of the report is titled “THEOLOGY, GOSPEL MISSIONS, AND INSIDER MOVEMENTS”

May the Lord use this to warn and equip God’s people of the Insider Movement

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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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Christianity and the Role of Philosophy by K. Scott Oliphint

(NOTE: For videos and my reviews of other booklets in this series click HERE)

Like other books in this series (Christian Answers to Hard Questions) I look to this book as a resource for discipleship to introduce to a believer concerning the Christian worldview and apologetics.  This particular work is foundational to the other work since it touches on the relationship between Christianity and philosophy.  The author Scott Oliphint is more than capable to address this topic, having written on this topic and teaching it for several decades at Westminster Theological Seminary.  I appreciated that the author is coming from a Van Tillian approach towards apologetics.

The book begins with a brief discussion of what are the three broad categories of philosophy (metaphysics, epistemology and ethics).  Readers familiar with philosophy wouldn’t find anything new in the introduction of the book but Oliphint later gave a good compact summary of a distinctively Christian view of these three branch of philosophy with the metaphysical question of what is the ultimate nature of reality being the Triune God, the epistemological question of how do we know is because God has revealed it and the ethical question of what is right and wrong being based upon what God says is right and wrong.

Oliphint gave a good analogy of the GPS as God’s revelation that tells where we are at, where we should be going, etc, and how without the “view from above” of where one is at we are lost.  This analogy is a helpful guide for later discussions in the book and makes his point easier to grasp.

I appreciated the book laying out the four possible ways people have seen the relationship of Christianity with philosophy.  Of course one’s view of the relationship between the two discipline will be shaped by one’s definition of the respective discipline which will set (or we can even say, “rig”) the answer already at the get go; yet Oliphint manages to push the discussion forward by asking the question of what is the foundation for theology and philosophy.  Oliphint then articulate the Reformed position and the reason for why Christians are obligated to believe theology govern philosophy if one holds to a high view of Scripture.  He concluded the book by sharing and expounding on Francis Turretin’s four good uses of philosophy by theology followed by four errors in the use of philosophy by theology.

In the end I would say this is a good book ideal for discipleship and also for a believer who have no idea what philosophy is to read on his own as a place to start.  It might be too basic for some though.  Like other books in the series there are “Before We Move On” questions for interactive conversations or personal reflection.

You can purchase the booklet at a discounted price from Westminster Bookstore by clicking HERE.

 

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How did Evil Come into this World Edgar

(This booklet is available from Westminster Theological Seminary Bookstore)

 

This is a book by the Christian apologist William Edgar who teaches at Westminster Theological Seminary.  I must say that I had high expectations even before I read the book for the following three reasons:  1.) Other works in this series (Christian Answers to Hard Questions) has been helpful such as The Morality of God in the Old Testament and Did Adam Exists? (our review can be accessed here and here respectively) 2.) I find most writings by the faculty from Westminster Theological Seminary to be theologically stimulating and 3.) I enjoyed the author’s previous work on Francis Schaeffer.  Perhaps due to my high expectation the book was not what I anticipated.

From previous advertisement of the book the booklet was originally titled “Science and the Problem of Evil” though at present the title is How Did Evil Come into the World?  I was disappointed since I presumed that the book was merely renamed but it was still going to deal with the interaction of science and the problem of evil.  Discussion of science and the intersection of theodicy, specifically with the claim that science challenges the Biblical account of evil was only mentioned in passing towards the end of the book.  What was said was very meager.  Edgar made the point that scientific theories continues to be challenged and modified so one should not base much on current scientific conjecture to dismiss what Scripture clearly teaches.  I concur with Edgar but wished he could have expounded more on the subject.

The book rightly point out that there are a lot of areas that remain mysterious for man concerning the origin of evil.  For instance, concerning the role of God’s sovereign ordination and how God could remain “not guilty” in ordaining them, Edgar writes that this is a mystery.  The book is helpful in setting up orthodox and Reformed boundaries in addressing the problem of evil.  Yet more could be said.  I wished the author could have articulated a compact form of the Ex Lex approach towards theodicy as advocated by Gordon Clark and Jay Adams as I find it personally helpful.

I must also say that the book’s proposal of a distinction between God’s metaphysical attributes and His covenantal qualities is not as helpful when it is used to address the difficult subject of the origin of evil.  I do think that as a concept for theology-proper the metaphysical-covenantal attributes of God is helpful as Edgar’s colleague Dr. Scott Oliphint wonderfully demonstrate in God With Us.  But there’s less mileage for theodicy.  The metaphysical attributes here deals with God as He is in his asiety while the “covenantal” attributes is concerned with God’s characteristics in special relationship to man.  After making this distinction the author noted that God ordain all events from all eternity but covenantally he abhors evil.  However I would add that God‘s ordination of events must be covenantal as well, since there is nothing that must necessarily come to pass in human affairs other than God’s free decision that it be so.  God’s ordination of events is the working of God’s covenantal attributes since it involves the relationship of Him to man.  We are back to the same problem where we started with.

I would recommend the book for an introduction to the discussion of the problem of evil and for Christians to know the theological boundaries one must embrace in conversations about the origin of evil.  Digging deeper require one to study other Reformed writers on this subject.

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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CHRISTIAN INTERPRETATIONS OF GENESIS 1 poythress

Vern Poythress has written a lot on Christian theology, worldview, and Presuppositional apologetics.

Earlier this year he has written for a series titled “Christian Answers to Hard Questions” put out by Presbyterian and Reformed Publishing and Westminster Theological Seminary titled, “CHRISTIAN INTERPRETATIONS OF GENESIS 1,”

Like many of Poythress’ work, he has been quite generous it making it available for free online.  You can download a copy of it if you click HERE.

Note: I don’t know what particular view he holds on Genesis 1.

Enjoy!

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God is With us Oliphint

Purchase: Westminster | Amazon

Anyone who wants to get a taste of strong Robust Reformed Theology Proper ought to read this book.  Scott Oliphint, the professor apologetics and systematic theology at Westminster Theological Seminary does an excellent job in this book.  My copy is heavily highlighted with notes and comments.  The following are some of the points that stood out to me:

  • This work has a good discussion of aseity as a foundational doctrine of God: God is God and not dependent upon His creation or creature.  From this point, it follows that God’s “essential attributes” are those that entail His independence (17).  Also gave a good definition of Divine Simplicity (17-18).
  • Oliphint gives a good hermeneutical principle concerning how to prioritize God’s attributes especially concerning passages that are anthropomorphic: “Contrary to what we have just noted, Scripture’s unity must be given priority in our interpretation of the various texts of Scripture.  Muller denominates that priority as ‘ontological.’  He means that any and all texts of Scripture (and here we will confine our concerns to texts that deal with the character of God) that seek to tell us something of God’s character must be prioritized on the basis of the fundamental aseity of God” (27).
  • The book is helpful in resolving the theological problem of how to account for passages in Scripture that describes God like man while also maintaining a strong aseity of Classical theism.  I found it helpful his distinction between God’s essential attributes and Covenantal attributes in which the latter describes God’s condescension in relating to us.  I think the term “covenantal” attributes is helpful even for those who might not subscribe to Covenant Theology.
  • I thought I read the best nuance definition of antinomy and paradox offerred by Oliphint on pages 36-38.
  • Interesting theological extrapolation from Exodus 3:1-14, pointing out Word Revelation and Deed Revelation, and how God’s deed in the Burning Bush tells us something about God: His presence with his people and also Him being self-sustaining.
  • At first I thought it was curious that Oliphint was cautious of using the term “Creator/Creature distinction” though he agrees with the idea as taught by those who are before him such as Cornelius Van Til, etc.  He has good reason: because God is more than a Creator, one does not want to give the idea that the essence of the distinction between God and all of His creation is because of His role as the Creator; rather, it’s because God in of Himself is wholly different.  Oliphint chooses instead to use “Eimi/Eikonic distinction” as a better term, with the term “Eimi” to capture God as the true original.
  • Book gives a good refutation of Middle knowledge including the Neo-Calvinistic version (99-105);  it must be understood in the context of God’s free knowledge and necessary knowledge which was finely discussed before Oliphint’s critique of Middle knowledge.  Here I am recalling Paul Helm’s point in another work of how Middle Knowledge is an unnecessary category in light of God’s free knowledge.
  • Oliphint is helpful to points out two kinds of condescension by God: adoption and adaptation (124-25).
  • I thought Oliphint has something stimulating to say about the issue of the incarnation.  On page 142, he has a good discussion of how the human nature of man is anhypostatic (that is, impersonal) apart from the person of the Son of God while also being enhypostatic (“in person”) through the person of the Son of God.
  • Enjoyed how Oliphint’s work was in conversation with systematic theology, historical theology, a tidbit of exegesis and philosophy.
  • It was beautiful to see Oliphint using the Doctrine of the Incarnation of Christ’s essential Divine nature and voluntary human nature to make us think about God’s relationship with us is much in the same way of His attributes He adds to condescend to us and His essential nature.

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A few days ago I posted an entry on Peter Enns’s theological method behind the formulation of his bibliology. What follows are some of the “leftovers”.  It is an example of the logical fallacies Enns commit in his book).

–         The gist of Enn’s discussion of Job as an example of “theological diversity” within the Old Testament was that, “Job’s friends express what seems utterly true; one would not blink if one were reading Deuteronomy and came across such statements.  In a way, they are well within their biblical right to draw the conclusion they do.” (Page 82)

o       Enn’s argument: “If disobedience leads to God’s curse (Deut. 28:15-68), then it is not too hard to reason back the other way: if you are cursed, you must have done something to deserve it.  This is the assumption that fuels the dialogue between Job and his friends in Job 3-37.” (Page 81)

§         Problem: Fallacy of affirming the consequent (If a, then b; b; therefore, a)

§         Conclusion: Enns is incorrect in saying that Job’s friends are “within their biblical right to draw the conclusion they do”, because it’s a misapplication of Scripture.

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