Another fine review from Jim over at The Domain for Truth.
This looks like a good little introduction to Covenantal Apologetics. (Also known as Van Tillian or Presuppositional Apologetics) We need to get away from elevating worldly philosophy over the Word of God and this book will, I think from the review, help with that task.
Enjoyed one of our regular trips to Aberystwyth this last weekend – this time to collect our daughter. As usual we went to Alfred Place Baptist Church where Geoff Thomas is the Pastor. In the evening Geoff preached on Romans 1: 19 & 20. There can be no excuse, there will be no excuse for anyone because God has made it plain. Weasel excuses like, ‘not enough evidence’ or ‘he never appeared to me’ will not cut it at the judgement seat of Christ. There is an abundance of evidence because God has made it so!
Romans 1:19 For what can be known about God is plain to them, because God has shown it to them. 20 For his invisible attributes, namely, his eternal power and divine nature, have been clearly perceived, ever since the creation of the world, in the things that have been made. So they are without excuse. (ESV)
I like the NIV here;
Romans 1:19 since what may be known about God is plain to them, because God has made it plain to them. 20 For since the creation of the world God’s invisible qualities – his eternal power and divine nature – have been clearly seen, being understood from what has been made, so that people are without excuse. (NIVUK)
There can only be one response, and that is to call upon the Lord for salvation.
Had a lovely chat with Geoff afterwords where he recounted addressing a group of ministers on Van Tillian apologetics without a single objection. Later my son (a deacon at AP – Alfred Place) told me Geoff said to him ‘some Van Til for your Dad tonight Chris.’
Here’s the link to the Sermon audio. Here’s the link to the Sermon transcripts page (when they upload it). The transcript is always slightly different to the sermon as Geoff writes them out in full and makes copies available for the service. It can be interesting to follow his typed sermon while listening.
Justin Brierly, host of ‘Unbelievable‘ had on his program yesterday K Scott Oliphint Professor of Apologetics and Systematic Theology at Westminster Theological Seminary.
Normally Justin tries to have an Atheist or Skeptic on debating with a Christian. But yesterday as he does occasionally had two Christians discussing different apologetic methodologies. Representing Evidentialism was Kurt Jaros of Real Clear Apologetics. Let’s hope his apologetic will soon be a lot clearer.
Many thanks to Justin for getting Scott Oliphint on and righting a wrong as it were in terms of Apologetic representation.
I didn’t know Scott had a new book coming out on PA (Covenantal Apologetics: Principles and Practice in Defense of Our Faith) so maybe Justin could have him back on with an atheist to discuss it. My only slight criticism of an otherwise excellent program was that Scott wasn’t always given the time to finish his points – the draw back of a radio schedule I guess – but I thought Scott was still able to put across the Covenantal (Presuppositional) approach and begin to show how it’s very misunderstood.
Presuppositional or Covenantal Aplogetics is the only method that is able to present the Christian faith as anything other than a probability. Sadly, it seems to me that so many Christians hand the Christian faith over as nothing more than a probability.
The program is well worth a listen and could be a good place to start if PA is new to you as the questions put to Scott are ones that many opposed to, or misunderstand this method are probably asking.
Follow link for Unbelievable and download the broadcast.Or download via iTunes player
We were treated last evening to a lecture on ‘Cornelius Van Til’ given by Geoff Thomas (Aberystwyth) in his own inimitable way. The lecture wasn’t the cerebral exercise many were expecting but was a warm lecture full of personal anecdotes and challenge by a man who knew personally Dr Van Til and Dr Martyn Lloyd Jones (You’ll get the connection when you listen to the lecture).
We were warned about the scientific method and evidentialism that hands authority over to man. It’s not for man to decide, it’s for man to repent and believe the Gospel. Preachers (and a lot were at the lecture) were encouraged to preach warmly to the conscience of man knowing there is a God and to not preach a Gospel of probability (my take) but of certainly.
Geoff said after that he should have mentioned ‘Paul at Athens’ and ‘Why I Believe in God’, two booklets by Van Til that are more accessible and available for free. Geoff wished Van Til had written more in this style.
Again as Geoff said afterwards, ‘there’s just so much to say and it’s a massive subject’. But everyone I spoke to and all the conversations I overheard were positive and appreciative of the lecture. He recommended the biography, Cornelius Van Til: Reformed Apologist and Churchman by John R. Muether and a newly released book of 9 sermons by Lloyd Jones, ‘Setting Our Affections upon Glory’.
The best recommendation of the lecture I heard came from a lady sitting in front of me when she said, ‘now I understand Van Til’.
Some of us have really been looking forward to this final lecture for 2013. So pray for Geoff that he will be enabled to give true credit and explain an apologetic methodology that is as misunderstood as it is caricatured. If you can make it to the lecture be assured of a warm welcome and a cup of tea and a biscuit afterwards. Lecture is at Bulkington Congregational Church. Audio of all three lectures to follow.
April 2013 Church History Lecture
7:30pm Monday 8th April 2013
Cornelius Van Til (1895-1987)
The 20th Century’s Supreme Defender of the Faith
I’m delighted to bring to your attention the Church History Lectures for next year – 2013. It’s a real privilege and pleasure to be involved in arranging these and I’m especially grateful to David Hodges and Pastor Peter Mackenzie of Bulkington Congregational Church for their support in this. Their aim, as is mine, that God’s people are blessed, encouraged, informed, educated and strengthened in their most holy faith in these days. How we need to learn that the God of these men is our God too.
Let’s pray that the Triune God will grant perseverance, faith and faithfulness to our generation and that the Gospel of the Grace of God will be powerfully proclaimed to a dying generation. I’m very excited about these lectures and so I commend them to you. If you are in the area please come and join with us. And if you are unable to attend, please pray they will be used for the Glory of God worldwide.
As usual the audio will be available soon after the lectures and I’ll post about this next year. I’ll also post reminders. They will of course also appear with many other lectures on my website. Please link to these if you are able. And so here are the lectures for 2013:
February 2013 Church History Lecture
7:30pm Monday 11th February 2013
Octavius Winslow (1808-1878).
Speaker: Richard Brooks
March 2013 Church History Lecture
7:30pm Monday 4th March 2013
“A Gentleman in Rags”
Speaker: Dafydd Morris
April 2013 Church History Lecture
7:30pm Monday 8th April 2013
Cornelius Van Til: 20th Century’s Supreme Defender of the Faith
Speaker: Geoff Thomas
A point to note here. Geoff was at Westminster in the 1960’s when Van Til was teaching. So his lecture will not be from hear-say or second hand.
Last month I think it was, when Reformation 21 invited readers to submit their Apologetic questions to Dr Scott Oliphint. He has now started to answer them. I did send off an email so I’ll have to wait and see if he was able to find a slot to answer mine.
Geoff Thomas kindly forwarded ‘An Introduction to Presuppositional Apologetics’ by Ian Clary. It doesn’t go into an enormous amount of detail but is well worth a read to get a taste for the Presuppositional method.
After a brief introduction Clary outlines The Task of Apologetics as fourfold going on to briefly summarise the three schools of thought, Evidential, Classical and Presuppositional. On the apologetic task Clary writes:
John M. Frame explains that there are three aspects to apologetics. First, apologetics is proof; it presents a rational basis for the Christian faith and proves it be true (cf. John 14:11). Second, apologetics is defense; it answers the challenges of unbelief (cf. Phil. 1:7). Third, apologetics is offense; it attacks the foolishness of unbelief (cf. 1 Cor. 1:18-2:16). In addition to this tripartite understanding of apologetics William Edgar adds that commending the faith is just as important as defending it. Therefore the command to evangelize is integral to apologetics. “Evangelism and apologetics are seamlessly linked and together function under the rubric of the Great Commission (Matthew 28:16-20).”
The bulk of the article considers Some Basic Tenets. There are four of these and I’ll briefly try to summarise them, using Clary’s order. It’s in the introduction to this section where we find ‘This list is not exhaustive, but will hopefully give an adequate basis for understanding what one writer has called “kung-fu” apologetics.”
Not only can ‘Kung Fu’ be dangerous for an opponent but a little knowledge can be dangerous for the practitioner. So we need to be careful that we do not use this method inappropriately, or think we are some kind of Apologetics ‘Martial Artist’ only to get battered in our first encounter. The need for humility and graciousness is paramount.
This section is concerned with two diametrically opposed views. Here’s a section from the article that puts it well:
The notion of antithesis is reflected in Scripture, as seen in the 1 Corinthians 2:14 passage noted above. Paul could ask in 2 Corinthians 6:14-16 what relation does righteousness have with lawlessness, or light with darkness? Here, Paul likely builds on the teaching of Jesus in Mark 9:40 who said, “For the one who is not against us is for us.” And of course, the antithesis can be traced all the way back to the garden of Eden after the fall where God said to Satan in Genesis 3:15 that he would put enmity between he and the woman, between his offspring and hers.
Point of Contact
I have heard people misrepresent PA by saying there is no point in evangelising and there is nothing in common with the unbeliever. On the contrary there are two very powerful points of contact. This is not talking about a common interest like DIY or stamp collecting but a theological ‘common ground’ a point of contact. These are two-fold and extremely powerful. Everyone lives in God’s world and the evidence for this confronts the unbeliever every moment of every day wherever they are. The Bible tells us quite explicitly that God has made it plain, His eternal power and divine nature are ‘clearly seen’ because God has made it so. Clary puts it this way,
Experientially, the non-Christian lives in God’s world and is confronted daily with general revelation. God’s revelation is clear whether an unbeliever observes creation from the farthest galaxy to the smallest cell. The apostle Paul makes this point in Romans 1:20 when he says that God’s invisible attributes—his eternal power and divine nature—are “clearly seen” in the created order.
The second point of contact is internal to each and every person as we are all made in the image of God. We have a conscience and there is a knowledge of God though suppressed in unrighteousness. Clary again,
Alongside revelation in the external world, the unbeliever internally has an experience of God: in conscience. Immediate knowledge of God, since conception, renders the unbeliever without excuse. This knowledge is a result of the unbeliever bearing the image of God and the implanted sensus deitatis. Paul says in Romans 1:21 that unbelievers “know God” but do not glorify him. Therefore every apologetic appeal is to something already known by the unbeliever. If by God’s grace that knowledge is brought to remembrance, then conversion occurs. However, if the unbeliever continues in hardness of heart, the apologist has still accomplished his or her task of showing the unbeliever that deep down inside, they truly know God. This only furthers unbelievers’ responsibility to believe.
This point is to do not just with authority, but with final authority. Once all the layers have been peeled away what is it we are standing on. One of the criticisms of PA and Van Til according to Clary is that of ‘circular reasoning’. We answer this by saying, doesn’t every one do that. I have posted on this before but this to me is the very power of the method. I must assume my conclusion because it’s my Ultimate Commitment or Final Authority – if I didn’t it wouldn’t be my final authority it would be something else. As a Christian surely my final authority, my ultimate commitment must be to Christ and His Word. Here’s a passage from Clary’s article,
The real issue comes down to justifying one’s starting point. Can the non-Christian substantiate their autonomous reason as a legitimate and rational epistemic foundation? To do so, he or she must first assume reason before it can be proven to be a justifiable authority. This is what Van Til called a “vicious circle.” He could also say, “To admit one’s own presuppositions and to point out the presuppositions of others is therefore to maintain that all reasoning is, in the nature of the case, circular reasoning. The starting-point, method, and the conclusion are always involved in one another.”
Transcendental Argument (TAG)
This is the one that is the most difficult to get my head around. I can see it, but have difficulty explaining it. So I obviously haven’t got a clear grasp of it – yet. So I’m not going to attempt an explanation at this point but to merely give some tasters from Clary and tempt you to check out the full article. And if you have a simple way of explaining this then I would love to hear it. Here’s a tempter from Clary,
Van Til once wrote, “At the outset it ought to be clearly observed that very system of thought necessarily has a certain method of its own.” For Van Til, the only cogent method of apologetics, from the Christian perspective, is the transcendental method. The most significant contribution that Van Til made to apologetics, what has been called a contribution of Copernican dimensions, is the “transcendental argument” for the existence of God.
Hope that helps someone that’s as new to this as I am. Come back to see if I am making progress.
You can find the full article at Apologetics Journal. There are a bunch of footnotes I have left out that you will be able to check out in the full article.
Taking a look at the Atheist Rally for Reason website makes one wonder if they really know what they are doing. The reason (there’s that word) I say this is because there are so many Christian books that encourage or use reason, so many in fact, that it might be profitable to list them here. Why Atheists think they have the monopoly on reason is a mystery – apart from them seeking to occupy that ground with the hope that ‘Joe Public’ will be fooled into thinking Christians don’t think. The reality is however, Christians lament that thinking in general about anything at all goes on far less today. The Rally for Reason is a good example.
Here’s a few Book Titles (in no particular order):
The Reason for God: Belief in an Age of Scepticism by Tim Keller
The point is not necessarily to recommend the above list but merely to note that Christians do not have an aversion to reason. The above titles are only those that have the word reason in them. There are many many more books that employ the God-given gift of reason but do not have the word in the title. Whatever flag (these particular) atheists are rallying around can’t exclusively be around the flag pf reason. Their Rally for Reason is therefore to my mind completely unreasonable.
God Himself exhorts sinners, inviting them to think and to apply reason – not only in dealing with God but with each other:
Isaiah 1:18 “Come now, let us reason together, says the LORD: though your sins are like scarlet, they shall be as white as snow; though they are red like crimson, they shall become like wool.
Lev 19:17 “You shall not hate your brother in your heart, but you shall reason frankly with your neighbor, lest you incur sin because of him.
Dan 4:34 At the end of the days I, Nebuchadnezzar, lifted my eyes to heaven, and my reason returned to me, and I blessed the Most High, and praised and honored him who lives forever, for his dominion is an everlasting dominion, and his kingdom endures from generation to generation;
Dan 4:36 At the same time my reason returned to me, and for the glory of my kingdom, my majesty and splendor returned to me. My counselors and my lords sought me, and I was established in my kingdom, and still more greatness was added to me.
Act 17:2 And according to Paul’s custom, he went to them, and for three Sabbaths reasoned with them from the Scriptures,
Act 18:19 They came to Ephesus, and he left them there. Now he himself entered the synagogue and reasoned with the Jews.
Jas 3:17 But the wisdom from above is first pure, then peaceable, gentle, open to reason, full of mercy and good fruits, impartial and sincere.
1Pe 3:15 but in your hearts honor Christ the Lord as holy, always being prepared to make a defense to anyone who asks youfor a reason for the hope that is in you; yet do it with gentleness and respect,