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Posts Tagged ‘Richard Pratt’

Someone was asking me about this book and I thought I had a review of this work on the blog but somehow I haven’t posted it!

Richard Pratt. Every Thought Captive.  Phillipsburg, NJ: Presbyterian and Reformed Publishing, August 1st 1979. 142 pp.

4 out of 5

Purchase: Westminster Amazon

This book was written by Richard Pratt, the Old Testament professor out at Reformed Theological Seminary. Quite the well rounded professor, he wrote this work when he was much younger, for the purpose of training young Christians (high school age) in the defense of the Faith from a Van Tillian perspective. I appreciated Pratt’s effort of communicating Van Til’s school of apologetics in non-technical language. The thirteen lessons are perfect for sunday school material, and each lesson ends with several discussion questions. The book also has various drawings as visual aids, a plus for those who learn visually. The book also manage to critique popular non-Presuppositional apologetics in lesson nine, where Pratt provided a general yet gracious critique of Paul E. Little’s popular, “Why I Believe”. But the gist of the book was positive construction of the framework to engage in apologetics. The core of his apologetics methodology applied is found in lesson 11-13, and much of his attention is on the certainty-uncertainty dialectic found in the autonomous (what Pratt calls ‘independent’) man. The book close with an illustration of a hypothethical scenario of apologetics applied.

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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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