Monday, July 15, 2013

Book Review: Covenantal Apologetics 5/5

Dr. K. Scott Oliphint has written a new resource entitled, "Covenantal Apologetics: Principles and Practice in Defense of Our Faith", which is on sale from the Westminster Bookstore for $8 - 60% off.

The Forward by William Edgar and book Introduction is available online here.

Anyone who has read my blog or attended church with me will know that I have pretty much always been skeptical about the methodology of presuppositional apologetics. Because the context in which I came to faith in Christ myself and in listening to and learning from Dr. R.C. Sproul and the fine folks at Ligonier Ministries, I've had severe and several reservations about presuppositionalism. Add to this the further clouded fact that so many of the most ardent adherents I've met personally tend to subscribe to a brand of reformed thought in the line of theonomy and Federal Vision, to which I am quite against.

So, I resolved to put aside my preconceptions and let the author speak to me on his own terms, translated into a common vernacular and devoid of the loaded technical jargon that tends to bog down discussions of principle and practice.

Anyway, having said all of that, I can honestly say that I was more than pleasantly surprised with this book. Not only did Dr. Oliphint address eventually every one of the objections that I have held against the presuppositional approach by describing the tenets in the manner he used, but he also showed me where some of my foundational understandings were not entirely squared up with the scriptures and the creeds of our faith. Granted, some of the objections to the line of argument were not directly answered at the moment in which they naturally occurred, but typically within a few pages, or perhaps in a following chapter, I found that these concerns were fully and repectfully answered. Throughout the book, for instance, I found myself continuing to disagree mildly with his notions of rationality and the use of evidences. By the end of the book, however, most especially the hypothetical dialog between the Muslim and the Christian, I found myself, finally, thoroughly convinced of the inability of rationality to arrive at ultimate Truth as worshippers of the Triune God understand it through His revelation.

Most appreciatively, the author has provided an engaging and gracious framework that, if followed, has huge implications for the advancement of (formerly known as presuppositional) covenantal apologetics. He models an approach that is gracious and merciful, but without compromising a crumb of truth on the alter of manners. He lays out key tenets for dialogs with "outsiders", while acknowledging that both evangelism and knocking down strongholds/false arguments are overarching movitvations in this approach, which resonated with me completely.

Additionally, this book clarified issues that for some reason, have not been effectively addressed to me in other discussions of presuppositionalism. One example of this is the proper use of the concept of general revelation. Every human being, created in the image of God, is implanted with the knowledge of their creator. Having come from a more Thomistic understanding of this doctrine, and even after having read the Institutes several times, I still held a false view of the general revelation concept. Previously, my assumption was that God gave mankind the ability to reason and think, so that they could perceive their Creator in what was Created. I've always assumed that's how it worked. The idea that we have all been implanted with the knowledge of God and His eternal attributes is a seemingly small distinction to some -- but let me just say that this distinction makes A HUGE difference and has been an unfortunate sticking point for me until now. The idea that all human beings, regardless of age or rational capability, actually have the knowledge of God implanted in their nature, because of the fact that we are all image bearers of Him, is a distinction that we should continue to be very careful not to forget or allow others to confuse. The implications of this truth are wide-reaching and help immensely in having a better concept of the Covenantal nature of our Lord!

Okay, this is getting long now; however, I must commend a particular portion of this book to every potential reader before ending my comments. If you are already acquainted with this style of apologetic and want to spend your time with just one chapter, you must read the one titled: "You Are Very Religious" including the hypothetical dialog between the Christian and the Muslim.  True, every chapter in the book has a great deal to commend, but from my perspective, the "Very Religious" chapter is becoming a much more relevant to the prevalent arguments coming from academia these days and in culture generally. The secular atheist, a la Dawkins, believe it or not is a declining category in these circles. The ability to address the theistic, oneist (often Eastern) philosophies will be our new frontier. This book, very graciously and theologically addresses some of the foundational arguments that we will be seeing more and more, as Muslim and Eastern philosophies advance in this country.

Thanks for reading this book review. And, thank you, Dr. Oliphint for taking the time to put these principles and this roadmap for apologetic practice into writing for all of us to read!

Thursday, July 11, 2013

On Being on the Unpopular Side of DOMA - Twice!

Ah! Now here is an article by Rosario Champagne Butterfield that I wish I had the talent and wit to write! Enjoy the whole piece from Desiring God: DOMA and The Rock

Here is an excerpt that really caught my attention (but do read the whole thing, since she says a lot more than just this little bit):

Lessons in Losing

    "So, here is what I have learned from being on the losing team of both historic, public, and political renderings of homosexuality.

    "Homosexuality is a sin, but so is homophobia. Homophobia is irrational fear of a whole people group, failing to see in that group God’s image diminished but not extinguished by sin, and that God’s elect people linger there, snared by their own design and awaiting gospel grace. Biding time. Think about that. Waiting like the caterpillar that spawned today’s butterfly. God has set apart a people from before the foundation of the world to receive his grace, and they are waiting for you in every nation and people group. It is an act of homophobia to believe that people in the LGBT community are either too sinful to respond to God’s call on their life, or to believe that people in the LGBT community have a fixed nature that will never, by the blustering, unfounded, and uncharitable declarations of secular psychology, change by the power of the gospel.
    The only fixed feature of the human constitution or badge of personal identity is the soul; imprint of God to us, it will journey from life to death to life and will last forever, permanently, for eternity in heaven or hell."

Wednesday, July 3, 2013

Blast From the Past: Happy Dependence Day

Blast from the past
All Things New: Happy Dependence Day: In so many ways, I'm really very American. The whole spirit of independence and personal autonomy drives me all too often. And therein lies the rub!

Am I living like an orphan (independent) or like a daughter of God?

Here are some characteristics to look for from Rose Marie Miller's book From Fear to Freedom:

Characteristics of an orphan -
  • Life consciously or unconsciously is centered on personal autonomy and moral will power, with grace understood as God's maintaining your own strength -- not as his transforming power.
  • Faith is defined as trying harder to do and be better, with a view to establishing a good record leading to self-justification.
  • Obedience is related to external, visible duties, with attitudes and deeper motivation virtually ignored.
  • "What people think" is represented as the real moral standard, based upon visible success and failure.
  • An "I-am-a-victim" attitude is supported by coping strategies: wall building, blame shifting, gossiping, and defending. All this is accompanied by intense feelings of aloneness, believing that no one understands and that one is trapped by circumstances.
Characteristics of a daughter of God
  • Increasing assurance of God as Father through knowledge of the doctrine of the Cross.
  • Building a partnership with God, relying on the Spirit for a willing and obedient life.
  • Forgiving instead of judging and condemning, putting off defensiveness, and learning to listen.
  • Relying on the Holy Spirit to use the tongue for praise and not complaint or gossiping.
  • Seeing by faith God's sovereign plan over one's life as wise and good -- a plan not to be feared.
  • Learning to pray; recognizing that we have no resources, and claiming the promises of God.
  • Relying on the Holy Spirit in going quickly to Christ with sins, burdens, and needs, seeking daily forgiveness and cleansing.