Friday, February 22, 2013

Reformed Apologetics and Scripture

Dr. Scott Oliphint has a short lecture (about 20 minutes or so) titled "Apologetics and the Doctrine of Scripture," in which he explains Reformed Apologetics. In Oliphint's view, Reformed (he likes the label "Covenantal") Apologetics are simply the apologetic implications of Reformed theology. In other words, theology informs apologetics - the two are not entirely separate endeavors. But what are the apologetic implications of Reformed theology? The primary implications relate to an epistemology of divine condescension.

God is known by Revelation (both general revelation and special revelation). Creation is related to God (either positively or negatively). Thus, a right understanding of Creation as a whole requires a right understanding of God, since the two are related. A right understanding of the relationship between Creation and God is obtained by Revelation. Since the Revelation comes from God, it is necessarily true. The clearest form of Revelation is verbal revelation, and indeed it is verbal revelation that serves as the basis for understanding general revelation. Scripture is the verbal revelation we currently have.

Therefore, in apologetics, as in evangelism, we present the truth of Scripture as against the claims of rival systems. Since the rival systems are necessarily false, the apologist's job is to help the unbeliever understand that the rival system is false, as well as to help the unbeliever understand that the Scripture is true.

In other words, the fundamental positive assertions of Reformed apologetics are (1) God has spoken and (2) it is our (humans') privilege and duty to do what God has commanded us.

William Edgar explains (here) a little different aspect of Reformed apologetics. He explains a general approach:
1) We acknowledge that unbelievers hold much true knowledge (knowledge that is objectively true).
2) We explain to the unbelievers that some of their beliefs are inconsistent with this true knowledge.
3) We invite the unbeliever to learn/believe/experience the truth of Scripture.

Of course, the steps aren't necessarily in that order, but rather are a general outline of the aspects of conversation we use in evangelism and apologetics. The steps are premised on our position that we know the truth because God has revealed it to us in Scripture.

I would add that this should govern our apologetic priorities, our apologetic targets, and our apologetic balance. For example, the authority of Scripture (as against that of the Roman magisterium, or that of the alleged prophets Mohammed or Joseph Smith) is a high apologetic priority, whereas pointing out the clash between Islam or traditional Roman Catholicism and post-modern ethics is something that would be a very low priority. That's partly because post-modern ethics are not especially faithful to Biblical ethics (even though they haven't entirely eradicated the light of nature). On apologetic balance, the point is that while there is a time for negative, internal critiques of other systems, this negative material must be supplemented by a positive presentation of the revealed truth of God in Scripture -- not necessarily in every presentation, but certainly not rarely.


Thursday, February 21, 2013

Darryl Hart on American Roman Catholicism

Darryl Hart at "Old Life" provides some quotations regarding the uniquely American experience of Roman Catholicism and how it hasn't really taken political root (link). I would add that Roman Catholicism does tend to exhibit a degree of syncretism. Thus, in its American embodiment it tends to be rather Protestant, but it has other flavors in other countries. For example, in Brazil, the Marxist influence is hard to deny (and is the topic of a significant amount of frustration amongst more traditional folks there).


Wednesday, February 20, 2013

April/May of a Year of Biblical Womanhood (Guest Post)

The following is part five of a critical review of Rachel Held Evans's book, A Year of Biblical Womanhood: How a Liberated Woman Found Herself Sitting on Her Roof, Covering Her Head, and Calling Her Husband “Master”, Thomas Nelson, 2012 (see this link for a little more background and an index to all sections of the review). Ms. Evans's book starts with October and ends with September, thus this review follows Ms. Evans's order.


There is not a lot to say about this month and its topic of Purity. The author misses the point of the Old Testament ceremonial regulations found in the following passages: Leviticus 15:19, Exodus 13:6-10, and Exodus 12:17. She consults with an Orthodox Jewish woman who gives her the Jewish scoop on these things, but the point of these laws is missed because their typical nature is not seen. The antidote to this chapter is to read and study 1 Corinthians 5:1-8, as well as to thoroughly study the book of Hebrews. An excellent commentary to study on this subject is Andrew Bonar's commentary on Leviticus (or click here for the free Google book version).


Fertility is the focus of this chapter and Evans’ take on topics like parenting, motherhood, large families, and babyhood comes into focus pretty clearly. First, Rachel reads a stack of parenting books, from William Sears and his view of attachment parenting to Ezzo's oddly detached view of parenting in On Becoming Baby Wise. Strangely, Rachel does not come down on either side. For a woman who purports to value discernment of biblical things I was surprised that she did not do more research on the nature of the Ezzo’s teachings. "Baby Wise" has been associated with ill health in babies (by mainstream pediatrics) and divided at least one church. I would have liked to have seen some real interaction with the Ezzo movement.

Next, she describes the “Quiverfull lifestyle” and contrasts her poverty-stricken friend from a large family with the Duggar family, now with 19 children and doing very well financially and apparently in every other way. But the quote from Jim Bob Duggar, “People think we are overpopulating the world. We are just following our convictions” seems fair enough. It doesn’t sound like a plot to make every family embrace their ultimate fertility to me. Do some people like to impose their “lifestyle” on others? I can think of lots of people who do, but I know of nobody who has tried to impose the large family lifestyle on others. I think that the Quiverfull movement is wrong on several counts, but no one is forcing me to join it.

This is the month Rachel and Dan receive via UPS their vinyl “baby,” a creepy marketing toy/ploy intended to get people to pay money experience what it’s like to have a baby around the house before they take the leap and become pregnant. It makes for a lot of creepy jokes about “Chip” (aka “Chucky”) before he’s mailed back to the rental company.


(This is a guest post.)


Sunday, February 17, 2013

A Half Century for the Emergence of the Council

One of the supposed benefits of Rome's councils is that they allegedly provide a clarity that is missing from Scripture. But those who think this should consider Benedict XVI's comments on Vatican II:
I would now like to add yet a third point: there was the Council of the Fathers – the real Council – but there was also the Council of the media. It was almost a Council apart, and the world perceived the Council through the latter, through the media. Thus, the Council that reached the people with immediate effect was that of the media, not that of the Fathers.


We know that this Council of the media was accessible to everyone. Therefore, this was the dominant one, the more effective one, and it created so many disasters, so many problems, so much suffering: seminaries closed, convents closed, banal liturgy … and the real Council had difficulty establishing itself and taking shape; the virtual Council was stronger than the real Council. But the real force of the Council was present and, slowly but surely, established itself more and more and became the true force which is also the true reform, the true renewal of the Church. It seems to me that, 50 years after the Council, we see that this virtual Council is broken, is lost, and there now appears the true Council with all its spiritual force.
(Original Link: Benedict XVI, "The Second Vatican Council, as I saw it" Updated Link: Meeting with the Parish Priests and Clergy of Rome, 14 February 2013 - the second ellipsis is part of the official text, the first is mine)

If a council is so easily misrepresented and so widely misunderstood, even when its writings are all easily obtained, how is that supposed to be a solution to the problem of alleged ambiguity in Scripture?