Puritan Gems

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

The Necessity of the Incarnation

Is the Doctrine of the Virgin Birth is necessary for salvation? Al Mohler details how many "liberal scholars like Hans Kung" and "John Shelby Spong argue...that belief in the Virgin Birth is unnecessary." But what are the implications of such a belief, and on what authority do they support their claims?

If Mary was not a virgin, then Christ had a human father.

If Christ had a human father, then He was not God.

If Christ was not God, then He was not a sufficient sacrifice for sins.

If Christ was not a sufficient sacrifice for sins, then we are all hopelessly lost.

Thus the Doctrine of the Virgin Birth is necessary for salvation.

Tuesday, July 27, 2010

G.K Chesterton On Reason vs. Faith

G. K. Chesterton
Gilbert Keith Chesterton (1874-1936) was one of the biggest Christian apologists of the early 20th Century (literally, about 400 pounds worth).  A staunch Anglican, he battled against the materialistic worldviews of renowned friends and peers such as H.G. Wells, H.L. Mencken, and George Bernard Shaw. In his book Orthodoxy, Chesterton exposes the fallacy of pitting reason against faith.

"It is idle to talks always of the alternative of reason and faith.  Reason is itself a matter of faith.  It is an act of faith to assert that our thoughts have any relation to reality at all.  If you are merely a sceptic, you must sooner or later ask yourself the question, "Why should anything go right; even observation and deduction?  Why should not good logic be as misleading as bad logic?  They are both movements in the brain of a bewildered ape?"  The young sceptic says, "I have a right to think for myself."  But the old sceptic, the complete sceptic, says, "I have no right to think for myself.  I have no right to think at all.""  (G.K. Chesterton, Orthodoxy, 2006 Relevant Media Group, p. 23)

Wednesday, July 21, 2010


When trials come our way, it is very tempting to question the providence of God. For example, it would be very easy for a military veteran who was recently laid off to ask why? This trained paramedic lost his job in Illinois, moved to Colorado, and had to get a job "delivering pizzas to make ends meet". Why?

Perhaps this may give us some insight...

Colorado man delivers pizza and saves heart attack victim

I don't know the faith of anyone involved in this incident, nor will I suggest that God's reason for this trial has met it's ultimate purpose.  But I will suggest that the Linn family is very thankful that Christopher Wuebben got laid off as a paramedic.

Tuesday, June 29, 2010

The Knowledge Of God Part III

The God of Science

“To the choirmaster. A Psalm of David. The heavens declare the glory of God, and the sky above proclaims his handiwork.” (Psalms 19:1)
"Atheism is so senseless and odious to mankind that it never had many professors. Can it be by accident that all birds beasts and men have their right side and left side alike shaped (except in their bowels) and just two eyes and no more on either side the face and just two ears on either side the head and a nose with two holes and no more between the eyes and one mouth under the nose and either two forelegs or two wings or two arms on the shoulders and two legs on the hips one on either side and no more? Whence arises this uniformity in all their outward shapes but from the counsel and contrivance of an Author? Whence is it that the eyes of all sorts of living creatures are transparent to the very bottom and the only transparent members in the body, having on the outside an hard transparent skin, and within transparent juices with a crystalline Lens in the middle and a pupil before the Lens all of them so truly shaped and fitted for vision, that no Artist can mend them? Did blind chance know that there was light and what was its refraction and fit the eyes of all creatures after the most curious manner to make use of it? These and such like considerations always have and ever will prevail with man kind to believe that there is a being who made all things and has all things in his power and who is therefore to be feared." (Isaac Newton - A Short Schem Of The True Religion)
I love science. From as early as I can remember, I have been fascinated by the world we live in, by the living things that share this world with us, and by different minerals and where they came from. The vision of a night sky is enough to invoke wonder, even before one actually examines the vastness of the cosmos itself through the lenses of power telescopes. I was always curious about the way things worked, and wanted to know all I could about the mechanisms of cause and effect. In our scientifically advanced age, we have a tendency to take such advancement for granted, even becoming frustrated when our computers don’t work exactly right (or fast enough), or when our cell phones don’t get enough area coverage. But when we stop and consider what has gone into making these things work in the first place, we can’t help but be in awe.

However, as wonderful as science is, we must be careful to keep it in its place. In recent times, science has rebelled against its Christian foundations, and attempted to advance itself to idol status. Indeed, science has become the most popular haven for those who seek to burst apart the bonds of the Lord and cast away His cords from them. (Psalm 2:2). No field of study has attempted to present as harsh of a challenge to the Christian faith as that of science, but is such a challenge valid or logical?

The Failure of "Scientific Apologetics"

I am not a big fan of popular "scientific apologetics", as currently presented, for a variety of reasons, not the least of which is that they usually involve some pretty lousy science. When I was in the 6th grade, I was first introduced to a "science" that challenged my Christian faith. It was shortly afterwards that I was introduced to my first "scientific apologetics" comic book, which featured the now debunked yet still popular "moon dust" argument for a young solar system.

Of course, it is unfair to paint all scientific apologists with such a broad brush. There are a few that are scientifically sound, though many of these rely on questionable exegesis to support their concordist view of Scripture. Despite their best efforts, those attempting to approach God via science must implicitly accept naturalistic presuppositions. As a result, the best that they can expect to accomplish is to show that God "possibly" exists, or that God is the best explanation for the "gaps" that appear in the materialistic worldview. Those who tout “scientific evidence” as the primary tool of apologetics implicitly ignore the supernatural aspect of saving faith, and tend to offer a “god of the gaps” argument as the main naturalistic evidence of such faith. Consider the following statement from an atheist writer:

"Two popular god-gaps are the initial formation of life and the origin of the universe. While there are a number of hypothesis about both these issues it is difficult to say that there is a comprehensive scientific consensus - and so they are to convenient gaps where the religiously-minded can insert their deity of choice. It should be remembered however that the fact that science has no present explanation by no means means that god (or Uranus) exists. Indeed, if we were never to answer these questions it still wouldn't mean that Allah created the Universe or that Thor causes it to thunder."
Once materialism is conceded as the default worldview, the above statement is absolutely correct. The non-believer longs to establish science as the starting point for discussions concerning the supernatural, since science itself can neither directly prove nor disprove God’s existence. Increased examination or knowledge of the natural world, by itself, cannot convince the unbeliever, but instead renders him to be “without excuse” (Romans 1:20). As with knowledge itself, all that is meaningful in knowing God must be revealed to us by God (Matthew 16:17). God is more than simply the "God of the gaps"; he is the God of everything between the gaps.

Arguments for God based on science also have a tendency approach “natural law” in a deistic fashion. God is viewed as being separate from "natural law" (though He occasionally intervenes in order to perform a miracle). As a result, “natural law” becomes an impersonal standard by which all things, including God, must be studied, and thus science becomes the "neutral" or "default" truth. Such approaches, however well-meaning, are actually immoral, because they implicitly deny the Lordship of Christ over the human mind and the created order, relegating God to be a mere hypothesis that may be tested by our autonomous gray matter, "... exchang[ing] the truth of God for a lie, and worshipp[ing] and serv[ing] the creature rather than the Creator, who is blessed for ever. Amen." (Romans 1:25). Instead, we are commanded to " your hearts honor Christ the Lord as holy". It is only then that we may be "prepared to make a defense to anyone who asks you for a reason for the hope that is in you; yet do it with gentleness and respect," (1 Peter 3:15).

" wrong it is to use God as a stop-gap for the incompleteness of our knowledge. If in fact the frontiers of knowledge are being pushed further and further back (and that is bound to be the case), then God is being pushed back with them, and is therefore continually in retreat. We are to find God in what we know, not in what we don't know." (Dietrich Bonhoeffer, Letters and Papers from Prison, New York: Simon and Schuster, 1997 (ISBN 978-0-684-83827-4) "Letter to Eberhard Bethge", 29 May 1944, pages 310-312.)
The main weakness of any sort of “evidential” apologetic is that the unbeliever’s worldview is never challenged. The scientific approach, by granting a naturalistic worldview as the default, is left to try and prove a supernatural God by natural means. The unbeliever, on the other hand, is free from having to defend his presuppositions. He is never forced to defend his use of universal, invariant laws. He never has to explain how such laws can exist in a purely material universe. He never has to explain how the human mind, being an accident of biochemistry, is capable of perceiving such laws, or assuming any type of inductive reasoning. While the atheistic worldview cannot justify for any of these things, the scientific apologist is often willing to be “concessive on these basic points on which it should have demanded surrender” (Van Til).

Now there are certainly fascinating discoveries in science that can build our faith. We see the handiwork of God in the birth of the universe from nothing, in the creation of life from non-life, and in the precise mechanisms that allow life to exist. Volumes have been written on the Strong Anthropic Principle, which describes the way that the universe appears to be finely tuned for human life to exist. But we should also see God in the “scientifically explained” parts of nature, in the biochemistry of digestion, in the geology of a volcanic eruption, and in the cosmology behind the birth of a star. Who can miss the awe-inspiring order that makes science possible in the first place? The Christian can and should be inspired by God’s handiwork, for it is in this work that the Living God has been revealed to all men. John Calvin writes,

“And, first, wherever you turn your eyes, there is no portion of the world, however minute, that does not exhibit at least some sparks of beauty; while it is impossible to contemplate the vast and beautiful fabric as it extends around, without being overwhelmed by the immense weight of glory. Hence, the author of the Epistle to the Hebrews elegantly describes the visible worlds as images of the invisible (Hebrews 11:3), the elegant structure of the world serving us as a kind of mirror, in which we may behold God, though otherwise invisible. For the same reason, the Psalmist attributes language to celestial objects, a language which all nations understand (Psalms 19:1), the manifestation of the Godhead being too clear to escape the notice of any people, however obtuse. The apostle Paul, stating this still more clearly, says, “That which may be known of God is manifest in them, for God has showed it unto them. For the invisible things of him from the creation of the world are clearly seen, being understood by the things that are made, even his eternal power and Godhead” (Romans 1:20)....Paul, accordingly, after reminding the Athenians that they “might feel after God and find him,” immediately adds, that “he is not far from every one of us” (Acts 17:27); every man having within himself undoubted evidence of the heavenly grace by which he lives, and moves, and has his being...” (Calvin’s Institutes of the Christian Religion, Book I, Chapter 5)

God As The Foundation of Science

"Lift your eyes and look to the heavens: who created all these?” (Isaiah 40:26)
"You may find it strange that I consider the comprehensibility of the world to the degree that we may speak of such comprehensibility as a miracle or an eternal mystery. Well, a priori one should expect a chaotic world, which cannot be in any way grasped through thought... The kind of order created, for example, by Newton's theory of gravity is of quite a different kind. Even if the axioms of the theory are posited by a human being, the success of such an enterprise presupposes an order in the objective world of a high degree, which one has no a priori right to expect. That is the miracle which grows increasingly persuasive with the increasing development of knowledge." (Albert Einstein, 1956, Lettres a Maurice Solovine).
What is the proper role of science in revealing the one true God? How has he revealed Himself in nature, and to what effect is that revelation? As it turns out, science itself requires a Christian worldview, being based upon God’s creative attributes and His Providence. While Richard Dawkins may hide behind science in order to “become an intellectually fulfilled atheist”, one must make certain assumptions in order to even begin to do science that an atheist has no right to make. God is not dependent upon science, but science, as it turns out, must presuppose God.

The Uniformity of Nature and the Problem of Inference

"Thus says the LORD: If I have not established my covenant with day and night and the fixed order of heaven and earth," (Jeremiah 33:25)
In our last post concerning the knowledge of God, we examined several problems with the idea that “man is the measure of all things”. Scientists have a tendency to be empiricists, holding that firm observation by sense experience is the pathway to true knowledge. We touched briefly on the issue of uniformity in the empiricist worldview, particularly with empiricist William Clifford. In his essay, "The Ethics of Belief", Clifford examines the "limits of inference", and tells us that "we may add to our experience on the assumption of a uniformity of nature". Clifford writes,

"What this uniformity precisely is, how we grow in the knowledge of it from generation to generation, these are questions which for the present we lay aside..."
Yet Clifford never actually deals with the issue of uniformity. Yet like most empiricists, he has to use inductive reasoning in order to establish universal laws of science, logic, and morality. Yet his own empiricism cannot justify or account for this sort of reasoning. David Hume, in his work on "An Inquiry Concerning Human Understanding", undermined any sort of inductive reasoning by concluding that "causes and effects are discoverable, not by reason but by experience", since we have no way of proving that the future will be like the past.

“all the laws of nature, and all the operations of bodies without exception, are known only by experience… The mind can never possibly find the effect in the supposed cause, by the most accurate scrutiny and examination. For the effect is totally different from the cause, and consequently can never be discovered in it… Why then should we give the preference to one [effect], which is no more consistent or conceivable than the rest? All our reasonings a priori will never be able to show us any foundation for this preference.

In a word, then, every effect is a distinct event from its cause. It could not, therefore, be discovered in the cause, and the first invention or conception of it, a priori, must be entirely arbitrary. And even after it is suggested, the conjunction of it with the cause must appear equally arbitrary; since there are always many other effects, which, to reason, must seem fully as consistent and natural. In vain, therefore, should we pretend to determine any single event, or infer any cause or effect, without the assistance of observation and experience.” (David Hume – An Inquiry Concerning Human Understanding, Section IV: Sceptical Doubts Concerning the Operations of the Understanding)
This is an insurmountable obstacle for the naturalist, since induction is an a priori requirement for the establishment of any universal law, and induction assumes nature to be uniform. But on what basis will an atheist make such an assumption? Empiricism cannot account for inference, since any establishment of a universal law in an empiricist’s worldview would require universal sense experience. Omniscience can only be attributed to God, and our understanding of inference can only be revealed to us by an omniscient and omnipotent God (Genesis 8:22, Psalm 104:14, 20, Psalm 147:15-18, Jeremiah 33:25, Acts 17:28, Hebrews 1:3). Without God’s creative attributes and his providence, natural laws would be impossible, not to mention the ability of the human mind to comprehend such laws. The fact that scientists use inference without hesitation is proof that they know God and his attributes.

Physicist and popular science writer Paul Davies offers this observation:

"In the ensuing three hundred years the theological dimension of science faded. People take it for granted that the physical world is both ordered and intelligible. The underlying order in nature – the laws of physics – are simply accepted as given, as brute facts. Nobody asks where they came from; at least they do not do so in polite company. However, even the most atheistic scientist accepts as an act of faith that the universe is not absurd, that there is a rational basis to physical existence manifested as lawlike order in nature that is at least part comprehensible to us. So science can proceed only if the scientist adopts an essentially theological worldview."

The Non-Objectivity Of "Normal Science"

As a result of Christianity's concessions to the naturalistic worldview, it is often accepted that science is "neutral" or "objective". However, that is not, and indeed cannot be, the case. Thomas Kuhn, in his work "The Structure of Scientific Revolutions", shows how science, by its very nature, must operate within a certain paradigm. Experimental observations quickly eliminate competing paradigms, and after a time, anomalies are simply ignored or explained away. Experiments in what Kuhn refers to as “normal science” are expected to yield certain results.

Now this expectation is very acceptable once inference can be justified. Occasionally, a paradigm may be altered if enough anomalies occur to warrant such a shift, such as Einstein showing that Newtonian physics doesn't apply for objects at high speeds, or the discovery that certain material laws must be altered that the quantum level. But what do we do with a paradigm like Darwinian Evolution? This paradigm, too, has been altered in order to account for a lack of evidence. The neo-Darwinian model of gradual change has been replaced by "punctuated equilibrium" in order to account for a lack of fossil evidence. Consider Darwin’s own words concerning the Cambrian explosion.

“There is another and allied difficulty, which is much more serious. I allude to the manner in which species belonging to several of the main divisions of the animal kingdom suddenly appear in the lowest known fossiliferous rocks...if the theory be true, it is indisputable that before the lowest Cambrian stratum was deposited long periods elapsed… and that during these vast periods the world swarmed with living the question why we do not find rich fossiliferous deposits belonging to these assumed earliest periods prior to the Cambrian system, I can give no satisfactory answer...the case at present must remain inexplicable; and may be truly urged as a valid argument against the views here entertained." (Charles Darwin, The Origin of Species: On the sudden Appearance of Groups of allied Species in the lowest known Fossiliferous Strata, Sixth Edition (London: John Murray, 1872), Chapter X, pp. 285-288.)
In the nearly 150 years since Darwin wrote these words, no fossil discovery has been able to account for the ancestors of the Cambrian phyla, as admitted by late Harvard Paleontologist Stephen Jay Gould.

“The extreme rarity of transitional forms in the fossil record persists as the trade secret of paleontology. The evolutionary trees that adorn our textbooks have data only at the tips and nodes of their branches; the rest is inference, however reasonable, not the evidence of fossils.” (Stephen Jay Gould – Natural History Magazine, 1977)

Yet despite the failure of the fossil record to support the neo-Darwinian model, evolution has remained the paradigm, and those who work outside the paradigm are considered "unscientific". Many have abandoned the fossil arguments for evolution in favor of genetic arguments, but those fall short as well. No explanation has been given for how the extremely complex parts of a cell could have evolved in a naturalistic worldview, or how they could have survived as independent systems even if they had evolved. No mechanism has been discovered that can lead to beneficial speciation via natural selection while being able to avoid pure genetic drift. In spite of these and other challenges, genetic similarities are currently presented as the main evidence for evolution, since naturalistic evolution has become “normal science”. In contrast, the Christian can observe, for instance, certain similarities between the human and chimp genome and see a miraculous mechanism by which God beautifully and meticulously designed both creatures. (With the obvious physical similarities, finding genetic similarities is hardly surprising.) The evolutionist, on the other hand, can observe the exact same thing and see evidence of a common ancestor, not because the observable evidence demands such a conclusion, but because it fits the current paradigm.

The Nature of Evidence

Darwinian Evolution is one paradigm for which induction has exceeded its proper boundaries. Adherents demand materialistic explanations for all that exists, and if observable evidence offers no such explanation, the issue is shelved until such as time as one is offered. Whether such inferences are acceptable depend solely on one’s metaphysical presuppositions. In any case, science is not “objective”, for if it were, there could never be any scientific progress. This is true regardless of the paradigm and whether or not such paradigms are valid. Nor are scientists “objective” when it comes to observable evidence. What one considers to be valid “evidence”, and how one interprets such evidence depends entirely on ones metaphysical presuppositions. Consider this quote by geneticist Richard Lewontin:

“We take the side of science in spite of the patent absurdity of some of its constructs, in spite of its failure to fulfill many of its extravagant promises of health and life, in spite of the tolerance of the scientific community for unsubstantiated just-so stories, because we have a prior commitment, a commitment to materialism. It is not that the methods and institutions of science somehow compel us to accept a material explanation of the phenomenal world, but, on the contrary, that we are forced by our a priori adherence to material causes to create an apparatus of investigation and a set of concepts that produce material explanations, no matter how counterintuitive, no matter how mystifying to the uninitiated. Moreover, that materialism is absolute, for we cannot allow a Divine Foot in the door.” (Richard Lewontin, “Billions and billions of demons,” The New York Review (January 9, 1997), 31.)
Materialists like Lewontin have no desire to justify their precommitment to naturalism, but instead desire to be granted their worldview as the only valid starting point in the examination of any “evidence”. Such an arbitrary starting point is quite convenient for the naturalist. He’ll just define science as that which “cannot allow a Divine Foot in the door”, and then consider all creationist theories as “unscientific”.

Scientific Proof For God's Existence

Like Jonah, many dream of a place where God does not reign, and often this place is the land of scientific inquiry. Yet scientists live and operate in God’s universe, and cannot even begin to perform scientific tasks without basic assumptions for which only Christianity can justify. Yet one can hardly miss the substitute deity for which those who seek to maintain a naturalistic worldview bow to pay homage.

“Nature free at once and rid of her haughty lords is seen to do all things spontaneously of herself without the meddling of the gods.” – Lucretius
From whence comes this goddess “Nature”, and on what throne does she reside? Vern Poythress correctly observes that even the most strident atheists have a tendency to treat natural law as though it has divine attributes, including personhood. Such divine attributes are required in order to justify belief in human knowledge, logic, free thought, order, uniformity, and inference, all of which natural laws and the ability to comprehend such laws are absolutely dependent. Therefore, we may prove God’s existence by the following syllogism:

P1: If there is natural law, then God exists, since God is the precondition of natural law.

P2: There is natural law.

Conclusion: God exists.

Cornelius Van Til once compared atheists who constantly battle against the knowledge of God to a toddler sitting on her father’s knee while constantly slapping his face. Yet she would be unable to do so without the foundation that her father gives to her. So it is with the scientific assault on the Christian God. Science requires an objectively real and rational universe, providentially governed in order to main the necessary uniformity conducive to science, as well as an ordered human mind capable of comprehending both. Thus scientists, in order to even begin scientific inquiry, must acknowledge the Christian God (Romans 1:19-20), even unconsciously. The non-believing scientist wants to assume the benefits of God’s creation and providence, and yet denies the God who gave them. But despite our scientific progress, we are all still creatures dependent upon God for everything, including our knowledge of science.

Sunday, May 09, 2010

The Knowledge of Good and Evil

I'm not a big fan of "psychology" as most of it is pseudo-science. Nonetheless, I found this article to be quite interesting.

Babies know the difference between good and evil at six months, study reveals

"At the age of six months babies can barely sit up - let along take their first tottering steps, crawl or talk.

But, according to psychologists, they have already developed a sense of moral code - and can tell the difference between good and evil.

An astonishing series of experiments is challenging the views of many psychologists and social scientists that human beings are born as 'blank slates' - and that our morality is shaped by our parents and experiences."
In one fell swoop, this study refutes Arminianism, Pelagianism, and one common theory of "atheistic morality", not to mention what it does to the popular yet unbiblical evangelical doctrine of "the age of accountability".  Now that the "blank slate" nonsense has been challenged, psychology might actually be able to make some meaningful progress in the study of human behavior.

Friday, April 30, 2010

Atheistic Amens

Even a blind squirrel finds a nut every now and then, and sometimes atheists say things that make you want to shout, "Amen!!!"

"I would say that if you don’t believe that Jesus of Nazareth was the Christ and Messiah, and that he rose again from the dead and by his sacrifice our sins are forgiven, you’re really not in any meaningful sense a Christian." (Atheist Christopher Hitchens responding to Unitarian "Christian" minister Maryiln Sewell's denial of Christ's atonement)
"prosperity gospel" preachers..teach that God will reward those who give as much cash as they possibly can to his self-appointed representatives on Earth. These televangelists are obsessed with money and shamelessly exploit the faith and gullibility of their flocks to enrich themselves." (From Daylight Atheism: Probing the Prosperity Gospel)
“How can you know if you’ve saved someone if there’s never follow-up, never counseling, never a progress report? How can you be sure the person hasn’t instantly reverted to his old ways? In other words, aren’t you simply counting the people who prayed the prayer in that instant rather than counting new Christians?… If you’re a sincere Christian you believe all it takes is that instant, as long as you’re sincere. Once you’ve prayed the sinner’s prayer, you’re good to go. God is supposed to abide in you and guide you, but really your ‘ways’ don’t matter. Your name is written forever in the Lamb’s book of life.’ It seemed evident that evangelicals were padding their rosters.” (Atheist Gina Welsh: In the Land of Believers: An Outsider’s Extraordinary Journey into the Heart of the Evangelical Church, Metropolitan, 2010, p. 254)
It's a shame when atheists have a better grasp of Christian truth than nominal Christians.

Tuesday, March 30, 2010

The Resurrection of Jesus Christ

"Now if Christ is proclaimed as raised from the dead, how can some of you say that there is no resurrection of the dead? But if there is no resurrection of the dead, then not even Christ has been raised. And if Christ has not been raised, then our preaching is in vain and your faith is in vain. We are even found to be misrepresenting God, because we testified about God that he raised Christ, whom he did not raise if it is true that the dead are not raised. For if the dead are not raised, not even Christ has been raised. And if Christ has not been raised, your faith is futile and you are still in your sins. Then those also who have fallen asleep in Christ have perished. If in Christ we have hope in this life only, we are of all people most to be pitied." (1 Corinthians 15:12-19)

"On the constitutional grounds which we have before described, we are opposed to any attempt to elevate these five doctrinal statements, or any of them (including the Bodily Resurrection of Jesus Christ), to the position of test for ordination or for good standing in our church." (The Auburn Affirmation of the PCUSA, Section IV)

Christianity is more than just a religion or a philosophy. It is more than just a few rules and platitudes to live by. Christianity is a worldview that is based upon the most important event in the history of the world, that being the bodily resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead. The denial of this particular doctrine (as well as others) in the 1924 Auburn Affirmation was the beginning of the downfall of American Presbyterianism. Yet Paul correctly points this doctrine out as the most important of all. Without the bodily resurrection of Christ, we must conclude that we are still in our sins, that we have hope only in this vapor of a life, and that we are to be pitied. The resurrection of Christ is necessary for the new birth, which is the sole means by which one can see the kingdom of God.

"Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ! According to his great mercy, he has caused us to be born again to a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead," (1 Peter 1:3)

Time and again, unbelievers will ask for "evidence" of this event. How can we prove that Christ actually rose from the dead? The question, however, is usually slanted toward naturalism and rooted in a worldview of radical empiricism, for it can be readily established that no amount of evidence will be enough to convince the unbeliever. This is because the radical empiricism of the resurrection skeptic is a one-way street, as can easily be demonstrated by asking the skeptic for evidence that Christ is still dead. The desire of the unbelieving skeptic is always to establish his own worldview by default, and then debate Christian Doctrine based on that worldview. However, by denying the existence of God and the revelatory nature of human knowledge in the first place, the honest skeptic foregoes any basis for induction (Hebrew 1:3), and thus the lack of visible "resurrections" in history cannot be used to supplant the one-time event of Christ's resurrection.

As for empirical evidence that supports Christ's resurrection, there is no shortage of such (See the Resurrection Fact Sheet)1. We have the empty tomb (Matthew 28:5-8; Mark 16:2-7; Luke 24:1-7), the post-resurrection appearances of Christ (Mark 16:12-14, Luke 24:15-41, John 20:14-31), seen by over 500 witnesses (1 Corinthians 15:5-8), the radical transformation of the Apostles from timid, fearful fishermen (Mark 14:50) into bold disciples who turned the world upside down (Acts 17:6), and the conversion of Saul of Tarsus (Acts 9:1-10). The resurrection of Jesus Christ is even recorded in secular history.

"Now there was about this time Jesus, a wise man, if it be lawful to call him a man; for he was a doer of wonderful works, a teacher of such men as receive the truth with pleasure. He drew over to him both many of the Jews and many of the Gentiles. He was the Christ. And when Pilate, at the suggestion of the principal men amongst us, had condemned him to the cross, those that loved him at the first did not forsake him; for he appeared to them alive again the third day; as the divine prophets had foretold these and ten thousand other wonderful things concerning him. And the tribe of Christians, so named from him, are not extinct at this day." (Flavius Josephus - Antiquities of the Jews, Book XVIII, 3, 3)

It must be understood, however, that such evidence is rejected a priori by the unbeliever, not for any logical reason, but because he has already precommitted himself to a naturalistic worldview. Therefore, the problem isn't with the lack of evidence, as we have just established. The problem with the unbeliever is metaphysical. The unbeliever has already assumed that God does not exist; therefore Christ could not have risen from the dead. The problem that the unbeliever has can be summarized in 1 Corinthians 2:14:

"The natural person does not accept the things of the Spirit of God, for they are folly to him, and he is not able to understand them because they are spiritually discerned." (1 Corinthians 2:14)

So we must conclude that attempts to convince the unbeliever of Christ's resurrection using naturalistic philosophy is folly, as Scripture itself indicates. The unbelieving heart needs much more than additional information. It needs to be born again so that it can see the Kingdom of God. On the other hand, it is quite unfortunate to see this line of reasoning among the modern Agrippa's of liberal denominations such as the PCUSA2, who adopted the above Auburn Affirmation. In response, I would ask, "Why is it thought incredible by any of you that God raises the dead?" (Acts 26:8). One cannot serve two masters (Matthew 6:24), neither should Christians accept any naturalist reasoning regarding the resurrection. Instead, we must "in [our] hearts honor Christ the Lord as holy" so that we may be "prepared to make a defense to anyone who asks you for a reason for the hope that is in you;" (1 Peter 3:15).

The blending of naturalistic philosophy into a concoction of pseudo-Christianity has brought forth several ideas that attempt to explain the aforementioned evidence. I won't, as many do, spend much time attempting to refute the following theories. Just an explanation of each should suffice in expressing their vanity.

The Stolen Body Theory
This theory is the original story concocted by unbelieving Judaists in the first century (Matthew 28:12-15). It holds that the very disciples who feared for their lives at Christ’s arrest hatched a plan to sneak past the Roman guards to steal his body and fake his resurrection. Then they arranged a host of false witnesses, began to boldly preach the gospel of the kingdom, and ultimately suffered martyrdom for what they knew was a lie. Variations suggest that the body was simply missing, or that Jesus followers went to the wrong tomb.

The Swoon Theory
Originated by Venturinni at the beginning of the 18th Century. Hugh Schonfield holds to a variation of this theory in his book “The Passover Plot”. This theory holds that Christ did not really die on the cross, but merely passed out or “swooned”. After the Roman soldiers beat him, crowned him with thorns, and crucified him, they somehow failed to make sure that he was really dead (a practice that they were very good at). After Christ was buried, he managed to roll the stone away from the tomb, sneak past the guards, and convince his followers that he was the victorious, resurrected Messiah. Variations include the idea that Jesus was drugged.

The Twin Theory
Appears to be a modern theory originated by Robert Greg Cavin. This theory holds that Christ had an unknown identical twin who, upon the death of Christ, appeared to the disciples as the resurrected Messiah. Amazingly enough, Jesus’ own mother was apparently fooled by this twin. Variations include the idea that someone who looked like Jesus was actually crucified on the cross. (Muslims hold that is was actually Judas who was crucified.)

The Hallucination Theory
This theory can be traced back to the Gnostic Heresies of the 2nd Century. It holds that the followers of Christ were so disillusioned at his death that they began to hallucinate and see Christ alive after His burial. Amazingly, these hallucinations affected over 500 people, including a Christ-hating Pharisee by the name of Saul of Tarsus (1 Corinthians 15:8). Variations include post-hypnotic suggestion and different “Spiritual Resurrection” theories.

Unbelievers, such as the Jesus Seminar3 folk, would be better served to totally reject the Bible altogether and call their assembly something other than a "church" instead of propagating such nonsense. Most of these theories would readily acknowledge that the tomb was indeed empty, and that the apostles indeed saw someone that they recognized as the resurrected Messiah. Yet the best explanation for these facts, that Christ actually rose from the dead, is rejected out of hand due to unbelief. Such is the real issue in attempting to argue for the resurrection by way of searching for evidence that will satisfy a flawed metaphysic. For "...If they do not hear Moses and the Prophets, neither will they be convinced if someone should rise from the dead." (Luke 16:31)

The doctrine of the bodily resurrection of Jesus Christ is taught plainly in the Scriptures, and has been at the heart of every Christian Creed and Confession for nearly 2,000 years.

The Apostle's Creed - "The third day He arose again from the dead"

The Nicene Creed - "the third day He rose again, according to the Scriptures"

The Athanasian Creed - "rose again the third day from the dead"

The Waldensian Confessions of Faith (1120) - "That Christ ... rose again for their justification"

The Augsburg Confession - "truly rose again the third day"

The Heidelberg Catechism - "The third day he rose again from the dead"

The Belgic Confession - "he, by his resurrection, gave it (Christ's body) immortality"

The Westminster Confession of Faith - "On the third day he arose from the dead, with the same body in which he suffered"

As a Christian, one must hold that Scripture itself is the evidence needed to prove the resurrection, since it is God’s Revelation of Himself to mankind. The unbeliever must be brought to an understanding of Christ on that basis alone. As far as debating this doctrine within the church, let the debate end here. One may feel free to disagree with Christian Doctrine, but one is not free to redefine it. Anyone who rejects the doctrine of the resurrection is, by definition, not a Christian, regardless of denominational affiliation. Such a person does not qualify for church membership, let alone as a candidate for the ministry.


1 I purposely avoided the ongoing debates over the alleged
Ossuary of James and the alleged Tomb of Jesus. In actuality, both may very well be frauds (though it looks like the Ossuary may be authentic), and neither has any bearing on the resurrection debate short of finding Christ’s actual body. In the end, all evidence is subject to metaphysics, i.e. a person’s worldview will determine what will be acceptable as evidence.
2 I am aware of several godly members of PCUSA Churches, but it is disturbing that any Christian would continue fellowship with those who adopt the Auburn Affirmation.
3 The Jesus Seminar is a group of self-professed “scholars” who determine what “scholars” should think of Christianity, particularly of Jesus. Then they ignore the idea that dissenters can be scholars.
Mark Roberts does a masterful job of exposing this on his blog.

Thursday, March 04, 2010

The Great Commission Demands Theological Study

Many fundamentalists draw a false dichotomy between "saving souls" and sound doctrine. I am often asked how many people I have won to Christ with my strict adherence to biblical doctrine, as if somehow doctrine is a deterent to evangelism. Robert Reymond shows that the Great Commission itself demands theological study:

"After determining for his church the pattern and end of all theology, the glorified Christ commissioned his church to disciple the nations, baptizing and teaching his followers to obey everything that he had commanded them (Matt. 28:18-20). The Great Commission then places upon the church specific intellectual demands. There is the evangelistic demand to contextualize without compromise the gospel proclamation in order to meet the needs of every generation and culture. There is the didactic demand to correlate the manifold data of Scripture in our minds and to apply this knowledge to all phases of our thinking and conduct. And there is the apologetic demand to justify the existence of Christianity as the revealed religion of God and to protect its message from adulteration and distortion (see Tit. 1:9). Theology has risen in the life of the church in response to these concrete demands of the Great Commission. The theological enterprise serves then the Great Commission as it seeks to explicate in a logical and coherent manner for men everywhere the truth God has revealed in Holy Scripture about himself and the world he has created." - Robert Reymond, A New Systematic Theology of the Christian Faith, Introduction xxviii)

Thursday, February 18, 2010

Book Review: Getting Off The Niceness Treadmill

By Carol Noren Johnson

"For am I now seeking the approval of man, or of God? Or am I trying to please man? If I were still trying to please man, I would not be a servant of Christ." (Galatians 1:10)"
Such is the great gulf between "niceness" and "godliness", a necessary distinction that Carol Noren Johnson can relate to. In "Getting Off The Niceness Treadmill", Carol (NewKidontheBlogg) shares her life's journey that began in Portland, Oregon in a Christian family. Like many Christians, Carol learned that Christian girls are supposed to be "nice", a lesson that made her subject to being a pawn for many self-serving acquaintances along her life's path. "Niceness", she writes, "is not always biblical kindness, but an ego need, or, in my case, a habit from early training". Carol relates how her "addiction" to niceness made her a pushover for many, especially during her years as a widow. Her combination of loneliness and "need to be needed" allowed room mates and relatives to take advantage of her, junk up her property, use her as a chauffeur, and play to her "Christian" sympathies while embezzling and stealing money for drug use.

Carol traces her own addiction to niceness back to her teenage years, from a desire to please her loving yet strict Swedish grandmother to her later guilt trip over not providing the grandchildren that her mother desired.

"Please others! Because of my mother's and grandmother's rules, I began to reason that pleasing is the way to live. Be nice, do nice, so it will be easy for everyone and everyone will like me. I didn't realize that people don't have to like me. I didn't realize that I don't even have to begin to please everyone. Yes, we should respect our parents, but we must realize that they may never be pleased entirely. The script I was to live was prepared and would be a problematic journey for me." (p. 15)
Niceness can really become a problem for Christians in regards to church activities, a fact that I can relate to. Churches aren't immune to taking advantage of those who "need to be needed" in order to fulfill perceived needs in their ministry. Conventional wisdom has it that Christians who care for the ministry of the church should always say yes to the leadership of the church, up and until the time when the services are no longer needed. When Carol lost her church position without any explanation, she was asked to tell no one in order to avoid a church split. While it may have been the right thing for her to do out of respect for the Church of Jesus Christ, such an approach caused Carol much emotional pain and anguish that would last for years. (p. 21)

As a result, Carol moved away from California out of a need to "regain psychological health", and began to attend Michigan State University in order to obtain her PhD in Educational Systems Development. There she faced many obstacles as a student trying to make ends meet via odd jobs, battling loneliness, financial struggles, and health problems. Yet through God's providence, it is also where she met her first husband Don, whose knowledge in pastoral counseling helped her "work through the hurt" that she felt. (p. 24)

Carol's life is evident of the fact that doctrine does matter, and she elaborates in Chapters 6 and 7 on how sound doctrine helped her to arrive at a proper "perspective on good works, obligation, reciprocation, and the glory of God". (p. 47) Carol's "niceness" was in fact a combination of self-obsession and a works-based worldview instead of self-denial and a God-centered worldview. Too many Christians unfortunately see doctrine as purely an academic or theological matter, with no real practical use (other than to cause division in the church). But it was Carol's introduction to the Reformed doctrines of Sovereign Grace and Providence that began her migration off of the niceness treadmill. Mainstream evangelicalism, at some level, puts an emphasis on man's works, and that emphasis can only lead to either pride (a denial of the depths of ones sinfulness) or dispair (realizing that we can never do enough good works). Returning the focus to the finished work of Jesus Christ, however, can free us from the need to be needed, and thus give us the ability to walk in the good works that God has ordained for us, without becoming addicted to being nice. Sound doctrine teaches us that, as Christians, we are called into the fellowship of Christ's sufferings. The fact that all the we face in life has been ordained by a sovereign and loving God enables us to face hardships, even if those hardships are caused by others.

"It's kind and honest to tell the truth. We put on kindness and honesty, not niceness, when we go through the process of forgiving. We forgive because He first forgave all of our unrighteousness and self-righteousness." (p.25)
Having a proper view of God and man also helps give wisdom in providing for the needs of others. The opposite of niceness is not meanness, but living a life glorifying to God through biblical kindness, meeting needs as God provides without being a pushover. Though it may sound a bit odd, Carol relates how "niceness" is often built upon the sinful foundations of self-obsession.

"My sins were bitterness and self-pity, and then I shared the "poor me" story [about my previous church experience] with selected others. I kept busy with church, reading my Bible and praying.  When I laid down self-pity, I had taken up another strategy -- give money, take people in who needed lodging, make gifts, do whatever people expect a nice Christian to do.  Would that bring peace? Not really because of the expectations that I had. Certainly it didn't bring respect. It was self-righteous humanitarian behavior. I thought that life should go well for the nice person, and this notion was crumbling all around me". (p. 61)
Through years of growth, Carol was finally delivered from her niceness addiction, and thus she was able to chart a new course with a more godly, biblical attitude.

"_The ultimate gift is that God gave His Son to take our punishment and secure our reward in heaven. "Thanks be to God for His inexpressible gift." (2 Corinthians 9:15 RSV) Our humanitarian efforts are nothing in comparison to His gift.

_God, not Carol Johnson's efforts, supplies the needs of others. Now it sounds silly, doesn't it, that I had this nurturing need to help any and all who came to me.

_Let Him guide me when I feel generous. Am I being generous for a reward or to make my life easier? Don't expect a reward in this life "knowing that your labor is not in vain in the Lord". (1 Corinthians 15:58)

_I can be intolerant in an age of political correctness for causes I am led to support, even if it is not nice.

_Give the gift of time and attention to others. Have front porch discussions with others." (p.43)
True Godliness is not always "nice", and there are many things that Christians should not be nice about. Chapter 8 gives a brief list of such items, and particularly focuses on Carol's work with Drunk Drivers). Unlike many of the books reviewed on Covenant Theology, "Getting Off The Niceness Treadmill" is focused primarily on a particular life application of the doctrine of God's Sovereignty, putting man's works into proper perspective. Whether you or someone you know struggles with a need to please others in order to satisfy their own self-obsession, "Getting Off The Niceness Treadmill" is a helpful resource, particularly for those who are manipulated by niceness as a need to display his or her "Christian Faith".

Published by Genie Publishing Co. 2009
109 Pages
Easy Reading
Highly Recommended
Buy It Here

Thursday, February 04, 2010

Let the Dead Bury the Dead

There are two opposing schools of thought concerning evangelism. The modern pragmatist holds that it is the duty of the church to change it methods (as well as it's message) in order to meet the "felt needs" of the unsaved. There are even churches who send out questionaires asking unbelievers what it would take to get them into church. Such methods may be good for growing large churches, but that's all that they are good for. Dead people (Ephesians 2:1) are a poor judge of their own needs.

According to the Scriptures, it is the unbeliever who needs to be changed, it is the gospel that effects such change, and it is the "foolishness of preaching" that God has ordained as the means by which this gospel is spread. Try as we might, we cannot improve upon God's methods or His message.

Concern for the lost does not mean that we should capitulate to their excuses. They should serve Christ, and there is no excuse for them not to serve Christ (Romans 1:20). Every unbeliever has a self-justified reason why they don't serve Christ. For some, the church doesn't entertain them enough. For others, there are too many "hypocrites" in the church. Still others may justify their unbelief through science or philosophy. Whatever the reason, we must approach the sinner with the idea that he needs to be born of the Spirit of God, not the idea that we need to satisfy his excuses. Our Lord's response to excuses was sharp and pointed. "Let the dead bury the dead" (Matthew 8:22).

Tuesday, January 19, 2010

Book Review: Presuppositional Apologetics - Stated and Defended

by Greg L. Bahnsen
Edited by Joel McDurmon

"A truly Christian defense of the faith must never fail to exalt Christ as Lord over all, including argumentation and reasoning. An apologetic that builds on any other rock than Christ does not honor the greatness of divine wisdom; it is foolishly and audaciously erected on the ruinous sands of human authority".

What originally began as two chapter contribution to a collection of essays on Van Til's Reformed apologetic grew to Bahnsen's magnum opus on apologetics. However, the manuscripts of this work were lost until after Bahnsen's death in 1995, and have recently been published posthumously by a combined effort between American Vision and Covenant Media.

Part One contains three chapters. The first chapter, Introduction: God In The Dock? focuses on the necessity of the presuppositional method and exposes the insufficiency of traditional apologetics. The "charter" passage of Christian apologetics. 1 Peter 3:15, begins by telling us to "Sanctify Christ as Lord in your hearts...", a commandment that is unwittingly ignored by non-presuppositional methods. The chapter seems to be quite repetitive, but as such reveals Bahnsen's passion for the church at large to adopt what we know to be the truth in our apologetics, that Christ is Lord, and that the Holy Scriptures are the best evidence for that fact, since it is God's revelation to us. As such, man has no place to stand in judge of God or His Word, since his own intellectual efforts can only be meaningful in a Christian, theistic worldview. When Christians try to "prove" the Christian Faith using non-believing metaphysics, they not only give the unbeliever a free pass in defending their autonomous metaphysic, but at best they can only show that God "probably exists", hardly enough to convince the unbeliever to submit to God's authority.

Instead, Scripture tells us that all men know God, because he has plainly revealed Himself to them. (Romans 1:19). Yet unbelievers "suppress the truth in unrighteousness" (Romans 1:18). In other words, the problem that the unbeliever has isn't intellectual, it is ethical. He is commanded to submit to the revealed word of God, but instead has claimed some sort of intellectual autonomy, assuming without any reason whatsoever that the human mind is capable of meaningful thought processes outside of the creative and providential attributes of God. "Woe to those who are wise in their own eyes, and shrewd in their own sight!" (Isaiah 5:21) What the unbeliever needs isn't simply "additional information" in regards to science, philosophy, history, etc. A good Calvinist should know better. What the unbeliever needs is a new way of thinking that relinquishes any claim to intellectual self-sufficiency. He needs to be born again. It is this innate knowledge of God which resides in fallen creatures that the apologist must appeal to, not some non-existent "neutral" stance that puts God in the Dock.

Developing a faithful apologetic is a question of ultimate authority. Does all knowledge proceed from the Sovereign Creator or the fallen creature? Bahnsen thus criticizes the basis for traditional apologetical methods because "It does not at base present the intellectual challenge of the gospel, but makes fatal concessions to the unbeliever's desire for intellectual self-sufficiency." (Bahnsen - PA, p. 13.) Bahnsen adds:

"It is futile to appeal to standards which are allegedly intelligible apart from the truth of God's Word. No fact can be understood, and no reasoning can be meaningful, apart from Christ as Creator and Redeemer of men. Scripture provides the interpretive context within which fact and logic can be intelligible and used aright."

This is a truth that all Christians believe at some level, and honor such in their proclamation of the faith. Yet we have a tendency to forget this in our apologetic task of defending that same faith.

Bahnsen closes the chapter by examining the foundation of Van Til's apologetic, showing how it drew from the disagreements between Abraham Kuyper and B.B Warfield, while avoiding the pitfalls of both.

Chapter Two, The Christian Mind and Method provides a more scriptural defense of Van Tillian apologetics, expounding Colossians 2:8 and examining Paul's apologetic approach in Lystra, Rome and Athens. In no case did Paul seek religious common ground with unbelievers, nor did he evangelize using mere "natural" revelation. Rather he appealed to their ignorance, vanity, and foolishness (p. 44). Bahnsen presents the natural antithesis between the standards of Christian knowledge and the sandy ground of human wisdom, and how Christians should never argue in a way that grants knowledge to the unbeliever.

"The Word of God should not be treated as a hypothesis to be proved by rational-empirical testing; it must never be reduced to the level of probability. It is the unquestionable Word of Christ our Lord; we must begin with its veracity and argue accordingly. It is the thinking of the rebellious sinner, not the Word of the Lord, that must be brought into question. Our defense of the faith does not work toward an honoring of Christ's lordship; it works under that lordship!" (PA, p. 27)

"...our apologetic must not call the Word of Christ into question, but must challenge the unbeliever to the impossibility of knowledge outside of Christ." (p. 28)

Scripture itself never takes the time to debate the existence of God, but rather proclaims it in a self-attesting, authoritative manner. So should we also develop an apologetic that is faithful to the true and living God of Scripture instead conceding to the "worldly wisdom" of those who cannot even account for the very tools that they used to argue against the Christian Faith. The unbeliever needs more than good arguments, or solid "evidence" based upon his own worldview. He needs what Bahnsen dubs "Redemptive Revelation", the type that Peter received in Matthew 16:16-17. He needs to be born again.

"The change from unbelief to belief is not merely a matter of degree or the addition of a few further steps in reasoning, but rather a radical change of mindset." (p. 47)

The problem that unbelievers have is that they are spiritual "schizophrenics", because they both know God and don't know God. As a result, the unbeliever is always battling against the image of the one true God that he has ingrained in him. As one created in the image of God, the unbeliever has adequate knowledge of God has Creator, and thus he is able to obtain some knowledge of his world in spite of himself. Yet "Without the Word of Christ there is no theoritical basis for logic, history, or science; so when the unbeliever fights against the gospel he is working toward ruining his very tools of destruction! His "wisdom" becomes folly." (p. 49) Thus a good and faithful apologist must presuppose the Word of God and use it as the basis for all reasoning.

Bahnsen closes the chapter by putting man in his place in terms of knowledge. When Job dared to question God, he found himself to be the one on trial (Job 40:1-8). Thus we should use the Word to judge the thought patterns of the unbeliever, not vice versa. Indeed, according to the Scriptures, a repentant faith is a prerequisite for true knowledge (2 Peter 1:5, Proverbs 1:7, Proverbs 9:10, Proverbs 15:32, Job 11:12). We should faithfully use such knowledge "to overthrow reasonings and every high thing that exalts itself against the knowledge of God" (2 Corinthians 10:3-5).

Chapter 3, Neutrality & Autonomy Relinquished examines the groundless epistemology and metaphysics of unbelief. It includes Bahnsen's doctoral thesis on Self Deception, which explains how man can both know and not know God. It is possible for man to be wrong about his own knowledge, such as "knowing" a shortcut and getting lost, or being surprised at how he is able to pass a Calculus exam. In one sense, all men know God, because they live in God's universe, and cannot even function apart from acknowledging him in some way. God the Creator is known, because He has made Himself known in Creation (Romans 1:18-22). At the same time, they do not know God as Redeemer (and ultimately as Father) unless God Himself reveals it to him (Matthew 16:17).

By rejecting the need for revelatory epistemology, the non-believer is caught in a "subjective guessing game" about what he knows. Epistemology (What do we know?) and Metaphysics (How do we decide whether we know?) are mutually interdependent, and thus we are left with begging the question on every issue unless we can appeal to an ultimate authority. Thus there is really no such thing as an "unbiased" opinion on anything, because "one cannot gain an epistemological position untainted by metaphysical commitment" (p. 81). Neutrality is impossible, because we all have an "ultimate authority". As such, the real problem that an unbeliever has with Christianity is not a lack of evidence, for he has the same evidence that the believer has. The problem is with metaphysical commitment. Bahnsen goes on to explain how epistemology and metaphysics are, in fact, moral issues (obedience or disobedience to God's Word - see Romans 1:18.)

"Whether most philosophers like it or not, Scripture assuredly tells us the way a man uses his intellect is an ethical matter (e.g., rebellion against God leads to a darkened mind). Irrespective of the way in which men respond to it, God's clear revelation is the only escape we have from the skepticism that would otherwise result from the necessity of coordinating metaphysics and epistemology, and it is this revelation that provides both the epistemic ground and metaphysical content for the foundation of all of man's intellectual endeavors."

One of the most valuable contributions that Bahnsen's arms the Christian with is the ability to pull the rug out from the atheist concerning the tools he uses to debate. He summarized Thomas Kuhn's exhibit of the non-objective character of science and Kurt Godel's demonstratration of the non-neutrality of logic itself (p. 89). Both works beg further study, and I look forward to delving into these.

By expressing the need for revelational epistemology and exposing the end result rejecting Divine revelation, Bahnsen shows that the non-believers worldview ultimately leads to relativism in knowledge, failure in relevance and justification, chaos and subjectivism in history, and an irrational and unpredictable universe which makes science impossible (pp. 98-109).

At the end of Part One, Bahnsen makes us aware of the importance of the use of language, and how this use differs between different people, especially between believers and unbelievers (pp. 117-122). To quote Van Til:

"The basic falseness of this [traditional] apologetics appears in the virtual if not actual denial of the fact that the natural man makes false assumptions...Anyone who says "I believe in God," is formally correct in his statement, but the question is what does he mean by the word God? The traditional view assumes that the natural man has a certain measure of correct thought content when he uses the word God. It is his most effective tool for suppressing the sense of the true God that he cannot fully efface from the fibres of his heart... [The traditional apologist] must tie on to some small area of thought content that the believer and the unbeliever have in common without qualification when both are self-conscious with respect to their principle. This is tantamount to saying that those who interpret a fact as dependent upon God and those who interpret the same fact as not dependent upon God have yet said something identical about that fact" (Van Til's Defense of the Faith, cited by Bahnsen on p. 117).

In Part Two, Bahnsen deals with three Christian apologists (Gordon Clark, Edward J. Carnell, & Francis Schaeffer) that he charges with not using "Consistently Applied" Presuppositional Apologetics. While Bahnsen finds much to agree with in the presuppositional statements of these men (listed at the beginning of each section), he find that, as a whole, their apologetic is inconsistent.

In evaluating Gordon Clark, Bahnsen criticizes Clarks' invalid starting point, probablism, skepticism of sense experience, and Clark's "coherence test". In terms of Clark's starting point and probablism, Bahnsen cites Clark in a statement that is clearly not presuppositional, and requires some level of intellectual autonomy.

"That religion or Christianity in particular furnishes a better method than secularism is a possibility not to be dismissed without discussion" (cited by Bahnsen, p. 142)

So how would Clark arrive as such a conclusion? By tests of "logic" and "self-consistency".

"If the Biblical doctrines are self-consistent, they have met the only legitimate test of reason. This test of logic is precisely the requirement that a set of propositions be meaningful, whether spoken by God or man (p. 151)

Not only does Clark have an invalid starting point (intellectual autonomy), but such coherence tests require omniscience. However, the fatal flaw in such tests is that, when combined with Clark's skepticism of empiricism, Christianity fails Clark's test. Read the book for one example.

One final criticism of Clark's apologetic is that his skepticism of sense experience is irrational (we learn God's Word by sense experience) as well as unbiblical, (Faith cometh by hearing).

In the end, God Himself must be presented as the necessary precondition of "logic" as well as "sense experience". Clark fails to do this on a consistent basis.

Edward J. Carnell's apologetic works suffer the same shortcomings as Clark's, with a few additional problems. Carnell denies that God's Word is self verifying, and is repleat with rationalism and contradictions (ie. asserts the mind's depravity but not it's corruption). As with Clark, Carnell has an invalid starting point:

"a man of character can believe nothing until it is established by sufficient evidences" (p. 204)

Francis Schaeffer falls into the same error. His starting point leads to a surprising statement regarding the sufficiency of God's Word in evangelism:

"There must be a pre-evangelism before evangelism is meaningful to twentieth century people... This pre-consideration falls into two areas: the first is in the area of epistemology and the second, in the area of methodology" (p. 246)

Schaeffer views science as "incomplete", but fails to challenge naturalistic presuppositions.

While all three men were effective in their own right, they have a tendency to, on occasion, assert some sort of autonomy in human knowledge as the ultimate basis for their apologetic.

The book includes two valuable appendices:

1.) The Necessity For Revelational Epistemology

2.) The Pragmatist's Rejoinder And The Christian Alternative

Not only is the book highly recommended for those who wants a better grasp of Van Til and his apologetic method, but it is a must read for any Christian in dealing with our postmodern world and needing to develop a faithful, God-Centered apologetic. The failure to recognize the antithesis that exists between the believing an unbelieving worldviews lies at the root error of traditional apologetic methods, and thus those who use those methods are forced to make fatal concessions to those worldviews.

"The traditional based on the assumption that man has some measure of autonomy, that the space-time world is in some measure "contingent" and that man must create for himself his own epistemology in an ultimate sense.

"The traditional method was concessive on these basic points on which it should have demanded surrender! As such, it was always self-frustrating. The traditional method had explicitly built into it the right and ability of the natural man, apart from the work of the Spirit of God, to be the judge of the claim of the authoritative Word of God. It is man who, by means of his self-established intellectual tools, puts his "stamp of approval" on the Word of God and then, only after this grand act, does he listen to it. God's Word must first pass man's tests of good and evil, truth and falsity. But once you tell a non-Christian this, why should he be worried by anything else that you say. [sic] You have already told him that he is quite alright just the way he is! Then Scripture is not correct when it talks of "darkened minds," "wilful ignorance," "dead men," and "blind people"! With this method the correctness of the natural man's problematics is endorsed. That is all he needs to reject the Christian faith." (Cornelius Van Til - cited by Bahnsen, PA. pp. 13-14)

Published by American Vision and Covenant Media Press 2008
314 Pages
College Reading Level

Purchase it Here