This is an hour long interview done by Striving For Eternity Ministries, who do a lot of evangelism in the East Coast. The topic is on Presuppositional Apologetics. This might be a good introduction to those who are totally new to Presuppositional apologetics’ methodology. The person being interviewed is Sye Ten Bruggencate, who has been greatly influenced by the works and example of Greg Bahnsen. Enjoy!
I’m reviewing this commentary in mind for the exegete rather than the person who’s looking for a devotional read through Jonah. To that end, it was surprisingly good and I thought this volume was the best critical commentary on the book of Jonah. Plenty of insights that are given above the usual obvious observation, especially at the greater syntactical and structural level of the book. It is part of the Old Testament Library commentary series, and my previous exposure to some of the volumes in this set has made me biased against this particular volume. However, this is a good example of why exegetes must weigh each individual commentary on it’s own merit rather than the series as a whole–for even good series have it’s weak volumes, and vice versa. The author James Limburg clearly loves the story of Jonah, who have even made it a hobby of his to visit different locations of Europe with artistic references to Jonah. This passion spills over into his commentary. Some notes of caution about this volume for the conservative expositor: Limburg believes that Jonah was written long after Nineveh was destroyed (Limburg, 78). That might be a rather trivial point compared to the fact that Limburgh does not believe the events of Jonah ever happened (Limburgh, 24). Yet despite this problem, he manages to draw out very good exegetical insight of the text itself. Ironically, Limburg does a good job defending the prayer of Jonah 2 as being part of the original composition of the text rather than the liberal game of redaction criticism, etc. I’ve also appreciated his appendix that provided a survey of the impact and references to it historically in the Apocrypha, first century literature (Josephus), Rabbinic Judiasm, Islam and the Protestant reformation. The most intriguing survey in the appendix for me personally was seeing just how whacky Rabbinic hermeneutics and embellishment can get.
Note: This illustration presupposes the framework of the dental analogy established previously in #9, and to set up the framework some of the contents there are repeated here.
Point: Sometimes people give excuses for rejecting Christianity and the Church on faulty grounds. Sometimes people can bring in news story of abuses and bad practices, leaders as the ground for rejecting Christianity as a whole. A parable of dental care might expose some of the common excuses and it’s folly.
Parable: A trip to the dentists got me thinking. This is kind of embarrassing to admit, but I have bad teeth. Its been years since I’ve been to the dentist. I finally went to have my teeth checked out. Going to the dentist, they told me of all my problems–of what I have been doing wrong all these years. They said I will lose several teeth and finally I asked, “Is there anyway to still save the rest of my teeth?” The dentist said that he cannot save the rest of my teeth himself–but he would like to introduce to me an Oral Surgeon that can really get the job done. Showing me the X-ray pictures, the dentist explained that it was not enough to save my teeth at this point by just brushing and flossing. I need dental surgery. The dentist also emphasized that even after oral surgery, I should make it a regular habit of regular dental care and going to the dentist to ensure that the great work the Oral Surgeon will be in vain. I thought to myself, wow, what an illustration of the Gospel truth (our works is not enough to save us, the need for the work of THE Oral Surgeon like Christ to save us, works following what the Oral Surgeon has done, etc). One can see the Oral Surgeon as Jesus, Christianity/”religion” as dental care, going to the dentist as church and dentist as Pastors, etc. In that light, when the dentist finally asked me why I delayed all these years to finally go to the dentist, I realized I had no good excuse–and the folly of it if I were to try.
Question for the listener: But let’s say I suddenly thought of an excuse why I did not wanted anything to do with dental care. What would you think, and how would you respond to the following excuses if I or someone else were to use a recent news article reproduced below as the grounds for rejecting the Oral Surgeon, dental care at large, etc?
Man sues orthodontist for leaving braces on 11 years
A 22-year-old Oregon man has sued an orthodontist for leaving his braces on for 11 years, resulting in straight but rotten teeth, The Oregonian newspaper reports.
Devin Bost, of Portland, claims he suffered serious tooth decay and periodontal disease from having worn braces from ages 7 to 18 while he lived in Eugene, Ore. Two to three years is normal for braces.
Some of Bost’s teeth will need to be replaced with implants, but others cannot be because they have rotted to the jaw, said his attorney, David Hollander.
The lawsuit states that Bost, whose mother is a medical doctor, “received an urgent phone call” in June 2008 from orthodontist Brad Chvatal’s office “that he needed to have the braces removed immediately.”
The paper writes, “As for how Bost could spend most of elementary school and all of middle school and high school years with braces, Hollander is still trying to sort the details out.”
“We aren’t really sure what happened,” he said.
Bost is seeking $185,000 — $35,ooo for dental bills and $15,000 for pain and suffering.
Chvatal told The Oregonian he could not have treated Bost until 2002, when he was licensed as an orthodontist. He has been licensed with the Oregon Board of Dentistry since 1997. He declined to comment on the case, citing patient privacy laws.
The president of the American Association of Orthodontiststold ABC News that it was “extremely unusual” for somebody to wear braces for 11 years and that he “could not think of an instance where that would be the case.”
In the same matter, what are we think of the same train of thought that rule out Christianity on the basis of bad religious or Christian leaders in the news?
POSSIBLE PRACTICAL EMPLOYMENT OF THIS ILLUSTRATION
Christian (C): So what led you to reject Christianity?
Non-Christian (NC): Well, many things. I find that religion in general is evil. For instance, did you hear on the news about the latest atrocity by religious leaders?
C: I’m listening.
NC: Where there’s _________ and then there’s also ________. Don’t forget about the history of the church. Think the crusades, inquisitions, etc.
C: If I may respond, I think this is rather problematic in rejecting the message of the Bible itself. Or the Christian gospel, which I hope I get to explain in a little bit. Have you ever had dental care before or seen an orthodontists?
C: What if I told you that you should not go to any orthodontists at all, or forget about the whole dental care business altogether because I saw this really bad news of an orthodontist that messed people’s teeth up instead? <Show news story> Or did you hear about the oral surgeonthat was a rapist? I could go on and on but I think you get my point. Do you think it’s still rational to go to the dentist or see an oral surgeon in general?
C: Why? I believe the same argument you give will be the same I give as well in defense of Christianity. The excuse is not good enough.
The author Victor Reppert has spend a significant amount of time defending the argument from reasoning for the existence of God in various setting before this book was written (2003) and after this book was published as well. As the title reveal, the author is a fan of C.S. Lewis’ particular formulation of the argument from reason, though the author wishes also to improve it and develop nuances. Although my theological and apologetics biases is Calvinistic and Presuppositional, I would have to say that the discerning and Scripturally grounded reader can profit from this work, though of course there will be disagreements (For the record, the author is neither Reformed or Presuppositional). There is something to be gained here especially with some of the parallels with the Presuppositionalist’s Transcendental Argument in general and in particular as that form of argument is applied to the issue of Logic/reasoning. The work only mention Cornelius Van Til and Greg Bahnsen once, and in the footnote in discussing about the author’s evaluation of a debate that Doug Wilson engaged in. The first chapter of the book discusses about how some biographies of Lewis has been inaccurate about certain facts concerning Lewis’ life and apologetics. This chapter alone was worth the time and money of reading this book! Very fascinating. The author also discuss about Lewis’ argument from reason in the context of Lewis’ challenger, Elizabeth Anscombe. The author notes Lewis’ improvement of his argument as a result of this interaction and then the author goes on to provide some further improvements to the argument from reason against Naturalism and responses to some rebuttals. The following were quotes that I thought were beneficial, whether insights or illustration that would be useful for future conversation:
Four kinds of explanation: (1) naturalistic causal explanations [physical laws], (2) logical explanation [relationship between premises and conclusions], (3) Psychological explanation and (4) personal history explanations [how someone came to a conclusion over time].
“But if wind blown leaves were to spell out the premises and conclusion of an argument of the form modus ponens, would we continue to regard it as even an argument at all if we truly came to believe that the leaves got to be in that formation because they have randomly blown that way?” (61)
“Instead he [C.S. Lewis] argues that there are two types of connection, connection by cause and effect and connection by ground and consequent. Both types of connection use the word because, but these represent two different types of relationship. If we say, ‘Grandfather is ill because he ate lobster yesterday,’ we are giving a cause of Grandfather’s illness. If we are told, ‘Grandfather is ill because he hasn’t gotten up yet,’ we are not talking about the cause of his illness (which antedates his failure to rise early); what we are talking about is the evidence that Grandfather is ill. The former is an example of cause and effect, the latter an example of the ground and consequent relationship. While every event in nature must be related to one another by cause and effect, the premises in a rational inference must be related to the conclusion by the ground and consequent relationship” (63).
“If you were to meet a person, call him Steve, who could argue with great cogency for every position he held, you might on that account be inclined to consider him a very rational person. But suppose it turned out that on all disputed question Steve rolled dice to fix his position permanently and then used his reasoning abilities only to generate the best available arguments for those beliefs selected in the above-mentioned random method. I think that such a discovery would prompt you to withdraw from him the honorific title of ‘rational.’ Clearly the question of whether a person is rational cannot be answered in a manner that leaves entirely out of account the question of how his or her beliefs are produced and sustained” (64-65).
“Any adequate account of the relation between reason and causes must provide an account of the role that convincing plays in our cognitive economy. The idea of being convinced by something seems to imply that reasons are playing a causal role. Anscombe is attempting not merely to distinguish, but to divorce reasons-explanations from causal exaplanations, considering the former to be noncausal explanations. And insofar as she is divorcing these types of explanations, here critiques of Lewis is faulty” (65).
“Rational inference involves the employment of the laws of logic. These laws are not physical laws. Indeed they pertain across possible worlds, including worlds with no physical objects whasoever. So while the laws of physics denote the powers and liabilities of things in the physical world, the laws of logic tell us what must be true in any universe whatsoever. Even in possible worlds with no law of gravity, the law of noncontradiction still holds. If one accepts the laws of logic, as one must if one claims to have rationally inferred one belief from another belief, then one must accept some nonphysical, nonspatial and nontemporal reality—at least something along the lines of the Platonic forms” (81).
“It is often supposed that the laws of logic are true by convention. But this is clearly not a coherent idea. Before conventions can be established, logic must already be supposed. If logical laws are human conventions, then presumably it is at least possible for us to have different conventions. But the laws of logic are conditions of intelligibility; without them we could not say anything. Part of what it means to say anything is to imply that the contradictory is false. Otherwise, language simply does not function in a declarative way. So the reality of logical laws cannot be denied without self-refutation, nor can their psychological relevance be denied without self-refutation” (82).
“If the chief enemy of a creature is a foot-long snake, perhaps some inner programming to attack everything a foot long would be more effective from the point of view of surval than the complicated ability to distinguish reptiles from mammals or amphibians” (101).