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Chapter 7 — The Testimony of the Spirit Necessary to Give Full Authority to Scripture, sec. 1 & 2

January 18, 2014 Leave a comment

1. Before proceeding farther, it seems proper to make some observations on the authority of Scripture, in order that our minds may not only be prepared to receive it with reverence, but be divested of all doubt.

When that which professes to be the Word of God is acknowledged to be so, no person, unless devoid of common sense and the feelings of a man, will have the desperate hardihood to refuse credit to the speaker. But since no daily responses are given from heaven, and the Scriptures are the only records in which God has been pleased to consign his truth to perpetual remembrance, the full authority which they ought to possess with the faithful is not recognized, unless they are believed to have come from heaven, as directly as if God has been heard giving utterance to them. This subject well deserves to be treated more at large, and pondered more accurately. But my readers will pardon me for having more regard to what my plan admits than to what the extent of this topic requires.

A most pernicious error has very generally prevailed–viz. that Scripture is of importance only in so far as conceded to it by the suffrage of the Church; as if the eternal and inviolable truth of God could depend on the will of men. With great insult to the Holy Spirit, it is asked, who can assure us that the Scriptures proceeded from God; who guarantee that they have come down safe and unimpaired to our times; who persuade us that this book is to be received with reverence, and that one expunged from the list, did not the Church regulate all these things with certainty? On the determination of the Church, therefore, it is said, depend both the reverence which is due to Scripture, and the books which are to be admitted into the canon. Thus profane men, seeking, under the pretext of the Church, to introduce unbridled tyranny, care not in what absurdities they entangle themselves and others, provided they extort from the simple this one acknowledgement–viz. that there is nothing which the Church cannot do. But what is to become of miserable consciences in quest of some solid assurance of eternal life, if all the promises with regard to it have no better support than man’s Judgment? On being told so, will they cease to doubt and tremble? On the other hand, to what jeers of the wicked is our faith subjected–into how great suspicion is it brought with all, if believed to have only a precarious authority lent to it by the good will of men?

2. These ravings are admirably refuted by a single expression of an apostle. Paul testifies that the Church is “built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets.” If the doctrine of the apostles and prophets is the foundation of the Church, the former must have had its certainty before the latter began to exist. Nor is there any room for the cavil, that though the Church derives her first beginning from thence, it still remains doubtful what writings are to be attributed to the apostles and prophets, until her Judgment is interposed. For if the Christian Church was founded at first on the writings of the prophets, and the preaching of the apostles, that doctrine, wheresoever it may be found, was certainly ascertained and sanctioned antecedently to the Church, since, but for this, the Church herself never could have existed. Nothing therefore can be more absurd than the fiction, that the power of judging Scripture is in the Church, and that on her nod its certainty depends. When the Church receives it, and gives it the stamp of her authority, she does not make that authentic which was otherwise doubtful or controverted but, acknowledging it as the truth of God, she, as in duty bounds shows her reverence by an unhesitating assent. As to the question, How shall we be persuaded that it came from God without recurring to a decree of the Church? It is just the same as if it were asked, How shall we learn to distinguish light from darkness, white from black, sweet from bitter? Scripture bears upon the face of it as clear evidence of its truth, as white and black do of their color, sweet and bitter of their taste.

Calvin, John. Institutes of the Christian Religion. I.7.1-2.

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On Cross-Culture Disputes

January 16, 2014 Leave a comment

Critiquing another worldview is not as simple as most people seem to believe. By way of example, let’s take Eastern Orthodoxy and Protestantism since the two have engaged on Tumblr at times. An Eastern Orthodox critique of specific Protestant practices, framed as an Eastern Orthodox critique, is going to fall on deaf ears to one who is consistently Protestant. So will the Protestant critique qua Protestant against a particular Eastern Orthodox practice, whether of hermeneutics, doctrine, etc.

Why is this so? I’ll discuss one reason. If Lucretius were to critique Aristotle’s ethics according to his own Epicureanism, Aristotle could easily dismiss the critique as not comporting with reality. Why? Because the data are interpreted and emphasized differently depending on which system you are working in. Whereas Lucretius’s first principle would be the maximization of pleasure (forgive the broad stroke), Aristotle’s first principle (of ethics, at least) would be the inner (and outworked) virtue of the individual (again, broad stroke). Because any particular manifestation of Lucretius’s first principle would, in most circumstances, violate some aspect of Aristotle’s, Aristotle can simply dismiss it as groundless.

In like manner, a Protestant dismisses the Eastern Orthodox because the Eastern Orthodox’s claim, although logical within their own system, do not translate into the Protestant system. Why? Because of different sources of knowledge and authority (epistemology), doctrinal traditions, assumptions, presuppositions, etc. The Eastern Orthodox does the same. Both (and all) groups are guilty of confirmation bias; which authorities are heeded is determined, in part by what system you reason from (also, in part, by how consistently you reason from that system). And so, while a particular Protestant zinger against theosis may ring true for Protestants, the Eastern Orthodox may stare befuddled. And the Eastern Orthodox quotation of a Patristic may settle the matter for them, a Protestant will wonder why that settled anything.

So, what are we to do? If you are going to confront those with competing weltanschauung, you have to evangelize. By this I mean that you must translate what you mean into terms and concepts familiar to your audience. It is not enough to speak German to a Chinaman. The German ought to learn Chinese; and the Chinaman must be willing to grant some freedom of error in such a translation, as well as be willing to learn some German.

The 10 Principles of a Reformed Apologetic

January 2, 2014 2 comments
  1. The faith that we are defending must begin with, and necessarily include, the triune God–Father, Son, and Holy Spirit–who, as God, condescends to create and to redeem.
  2. God’s covenantal revelation is authoritative by virtue of what is is, and any covenantal, Christian apologetic, will necessarily stand on and utilize that authority in order to defend Christianity.
  3. It is the truth of God’s revelation, together with the work of the Holy Spirit, that brings about a covenantal change from one who is in Adam to one who is in Christ.
  4. Man (male and female) as image of God is in covenant with the triune God for eternity.
  5. All people know the triune God, and that knowledge entails covenantal obligations.
  6. Those who are and remain in Adam suppress the truth that they know. Those who are in Christ see that truth for what it is.
  7. There is an absolute, covenantal antithesis between Christian theism and any other, opposing position. Thus, Christianity is true and anything opposing it is false.
  8. Suppression of the truth, like the depravity of sin, is total but not absolute Thus, every unbelieving position will necessarily have within it ideas, concepts, notions, and the like that it has taken and wrenched from their true Christian context.
  9. The true, covenantal knowledge of God in man, together with God’s universal mercy, allows for persuasion in apologetics.
  10. Every fact and experience is what it is by virtue of the covenantal, all-controlling plan and purpose of God.

Taken from Oliphint, K. Scott. Covenantal Apologetics: Principles & Practice in Defense of Our Faith. Wheaton: Crossway, 2013. 47-55.

Timeline – Church History

December 29, 2012 2 comments

Timeline – Church History

Hey, guys. I’m working on a project compiling major events, figures, and publications in the history of the Church. It’s coming along well. I’ve filled out many details concerning the first thousand years, but, as is always true, more can be said. Nevertheless, if you’re interested, you can click through the link and take a look.

John R.W. Stott on contending for the truth

December 1, 2012 Leave a comment

We seem in our generation to have moved a long way from this vehement zeal for the truth which Christ and his apostles displayed. But if we loved the glory of God more, and if we cared more for the eternal good of the souls of men, we would not refuse to engage in necessary controversy, when the truth of the gospel is at stake. The apostolic command is clear. We are “to maintain the truth in love,” being neither truthless in our love, nor loveless in our truth, but holding the two in balance.

John R.W. Stott, Christ the Controversalist

 

R.C. Sproul interviews D.A. Carson concerning biblical exegesis

November 28, 2012 1 comment

Augustine on the incomprehensibility of God

October 15, 2012 Leave a comment

If anyone finds your simultaneity beyond his understanding, it is not for me to explain it. Let him be content to say ‘What is this?’ (Exod. 16:15). So too let him rejoice and delight in finding you who are beyond discovery than fail to find you by supposing you to be discoverable.

Augustine, Confessions

October 4, 2012 Leave a comment

John Warwick Montgomery on Presuppositionalism as Epistemology

September 22, 2012 Leave a comment

 

2.18: All arguments begin with presuppositions; thus, we are told by influential orthodox Protestant theologians, Christians have every right to start from the presupposition that God has revealed himself in Holy Scripture.
2.1801: Advocates of “orthodox presuppositionalism” go on to affirm that any attempt to justify the Christian world-view makes the presuppositions of one’s epistemology more fundamental than one Christian’s beliefs, thus idolatrously demeaning God.
2.181: Kant’s demonstrations that all arguments begin with presuppositions is eminently sound; but from this it does not follow that I can sensibly begin to construct a world-view from any presupposition whatever.
2.1811: If the latter were the case, then, as readily as one man took to his bosom an unjustified Christian presupposition, I could take to mine the aprioristic belief in a cheese0impregnated Deity with whom communion is possible through the medium of the toasted-cheese sandwich.
2.182: Religious presuppositions must be tested for truth-value from without; otherwise one claim has as much right to acceptance as a claim mutually incompatible with it.
2.1821: But as soon as one begins to test religious “presuppositions” for truth-value, these religious tenets lose absolute presuppositional value.
2.18211: It is nonetheless legitimate to speak of “the presuppositions of one’s systematic theology” (meaning the starting-points for one’s doctrinal system) as long as one recognizes that these “presuppositions” still require justification over against other possible starting-points for theologizing.
2.183: The truth-testing of religious first-principles does not lower their value or depreciate the Deity on whom they center.
2.1831: To use a road map to ensure that one reaches the king’s palace instead of a garbage dump does not give the king a status below the road map.
2.1832: What would doubtless offend the monarch is an attitude of indifference in the quest: a lack of concern to distinguish his palace from the garbage dump.
2.1833: It is a simple “category mistake” (in Ryle’s sense) to make invidious comparisons of value between substantive beliefs and the epistemological means by which those beliefs are verified; truth-tests and religious tenets have different functions; and the use of the former, instead of diminishing the value of the latter, actually enhances them.
2.1834: Care must be taken, therefore, not to confuse one’s starting-point for systematic theology (e.g., the God who reveals himself in Scripture) with one’s epistemological means of verifying that starting-point (e.g., Carnell’s employment of Brightman’s systematic consistency motif).

 

Joel Feinberg on happiness

September 9, 2012 1 comment

 

An exclusive desire for happiness is the surest way to prevent happiness from coming into being. Happiness has a way of “sneaking up” on persons when they are preoccupied with other things; but when persons deliberately and single-mindedly set off in pursuit of happiness, it vanishes utterly from sight and cannot be captured. This is the famous “paradox of hedonism”: the single-minded pursuit of happiness is necessarily self-defeating, for the way to get happiness is to forget it; then perhaps it will come to you. If you aim exclusively at pleasure itself, with no concern for the things that bring pleasure, then pleasure will never come. To derive satisfaction, one must ordinarily first desire something other than satisfaction, and then find the means to get what one desires.

Joel Feinberg, “Psychological Egoism”

 

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