Showing posts with label Apologetics 101. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Apologetics 101. Show all posts

April 1, 2008

Van Til's Presuppositional Apologetic

I ride the train to work every day, so I often read or blog--or both, grabbing the first thing in my library that grabs my attention (whether I've read it or not). So today, Scott Oliphint is on the train with me. In his book/pamphlet "CVT and the Reformation of Christian Apologetics" he writes (quoting CVT), "While traditional Apologetic approaches ask the unbeliever to understand his world in order to understand God, Van Til affirms, (with Reformed theology) that because God controls 'whatsoever comes to pass,' because it is 'in God that we live, move, and exist,' the world can never be understood aright at any point without reference to God." (P. 5) And later Oliphint writes, "It is important to understand that one of the primary reasons Aquinas...could not account for the existence of the God of the Bible is because, in assuming the autonomy of hiuman reason, he refused to start the knowledge transaction with the Triune God of Scripture." (P. 15).

There is so much to unpack here, but understand that beginning with the autonomy of reason logically leads to the worlsdview of humanism that rejects the supernatural and states that the highest value is individualism and autonomy.

We are in need of a radical restoration of CVT's thought in our sermons, books, blogs, and other places where Christians not only influence unbelievers, but each other. The autonomy of reason finds itself elevated in Christian circles as much as anywhere else--it affects how we think and how we live. Talking about submitting to God in all areas of our life is immediately limited by how we think about ourselves. We must start everything--political engagement, apologetics, infertility, and our grocery shopping with the God of the Bible.
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March 25, 2008

Apologetics 101: Faith vs. Values?

This interview of Will Smith in Men's Vogue reveals a guy with great personality, significant intelligence, and tremendous character. He's in love with both his family and his work and is portrayed as someone who usually puts others before himself. I'm sure he has his flaws, but I think its safe to say that the overall clean-cut image he puts forth is probably not very common in the Hollywood subculture.

But despite all that is good about Will Smith, his significant intelligence has sadly evaded him as he has been taken in by the cult of Scientology a la Tom Cruise. I like Will, I hope he will come around. In the interview with Men's Vogue, he states very tragically that he sees little difference between Scientology and the Bible, because there is much more to Scripture--in content and in purpose. He says,
I’ve studied Buddhism and Hinduism and I’ve studied Scientology through Tom. And nobody’s saying anything different! Look, I use the Bible to explain the ideas of God, and life, and love, and relationships, and the life of Jesus Christ to teach my children how to defend their spirit. But in all of the experiences I’ve had with Tom and Scientology, like, 98 percent of the principles are identical to the principles of the Bible. The Bible says, Do unto others as you would have them do unto you. And you know, there’s a Scientology principle: Do not create experiences for others that they cannot comfortably perceive.
It's unfortunate that he has come to think of the Bible this way--as merely a handbook for morality. Do unto others should not be approached independently of no one comes to the Father except through me. But is he all that different from many Christians who regard the moral propositions of Scripture above the saving power of the gospel. Perhaps we could helpfully understand the gospel call as one of many moral appeals, yet is the one that lacks political correctness.

As an ethicist who believes we need to always be in conversation about morality, the good, true, and the beautiful, I'm saddened that the Bible has been reduced to merely a set of values. The Bible does contain moral precepts, but not to be removed from the context of the Christian life, apart from which they make little sense. I make this argument from an epistemological perpective because while people can do good and know right from wrong, they cannot always account for it.

As a believer, have you been prepared to engage someone who aspires to the values but rejects Christ? Do you have the knowledge and the courage to confront someone who chooses only to accept bits and pieces from Scripture, ultimately making themselves their own authority? As Christians we need to consider the moral conditions in culture that we are growing our families in, be we need to be prepared to show the difference between adopting a set of moral values over and above embracing the gospel. There is no absolute truth, no absolute right and wrong, without the God from whom all truth eminates.

March 24, 2008

On Heaven and Earth

The context of Scripture is such a great thing, it helps us to avoid the dangers of misapplying or misinterpretting a passage. I woke up this morning thinking about what it means to be a "citizen" of heaven while at the same time being an image bearer with the task of the crration mandate. How are both true when Scripture seems to weigh so heavily on the heavenly? After all, in times of trial and despair, this is what we hear from the pulpits. Or perhaps the emphasis is slightly in error?

Philippians 3:18-20 states "For many, of whom I have often told you and now tell you even with tears, walk as enemies of the cross of Christ. Their end is destruction, their god is their belly, and they glory in their shame, with minds set on earthly things. But our citizenship is in heaven, and from it we await a Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ..." and so the passage continues.

It is clear from the context that Paul isn't doing away with the creation mandate. He is not speaking of "earthly things" generally, rather he's contrasting idolatry with godliness, "earthly things" a rhetorical device for what is sin.

This is an example of how a particular verse can be taken out of context and misappropriated. Paul's intention is not that we be so heavenly minded that we're of no earthly good, he is simply saying that there are those wh elevate the sins of the flesh over the things of God, and as Christians, we are called to a higher standard.
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March 10, 2008

Apologetics 101: The Exclusive Nature of Religious Pluralism

The latest book to be introduced through Oprah's book club is easily described as new-agey. The implications of this term are quite broad, but it includes the idea of man as the divine-self who creates his own reality, God as an impersonal force or consciousness, altered states of consciousness, the use of yoga, crystals, past life therapy and acupuncture. You can read more indepth information about the new age movement here.

Understanding the concept of religious pluralism will help you to navigate the myriad of religious claims that permeate our society, including but not limited to the new age movement. Oprah's claim is, I am a Christian who believes that there are certainly many more paths to God other than Christianity. This is the essence of religious pluralism.

Religious pluralism (RP) is the belief that every religion provides an adequate means to "God" and is, therefore, true. The problem with RP is obvious when comparing it to a biblical Christian worldview. The law of noncontradiction says that no 2 completeing claims can be true in the same sense at the same time. Therefore, there are no 2 opposing views of ultimate reality that can be true at the same time in the same sense without violating this law of logic. Yet, representatives of RP insist this is no big deal. (While I'm weary of politicians trying to be philosophers, I'm even more weary of talk show hosts being theologians.) One cannot say that Christianity is as true as any other religion, or call oneself an "open-minded" Christian without first redefining Christianity. And it is at this point that it no longer remains the historic faith that it is -- and is no longer Christianity. Words have meaning, and the term Christianity is defined by Scripture and a host of doctrines contained therein.

RP says basically that all roads lead to God, yet the knowledge for this claim is absent. Those who promote RP lack the epistemic foothold on the argument, but because it is such an attractive idea to a world who views religion merely as a set of personal values, this ideal sits well with contemporary culture.

To look at RP more closely, one has to admit that it cannot really exist because religious pluralism cannot embrace historic Christianity, it rejects it. Historic Christianity teaches that it is only through faith in Jesus can anyone be saved, and RP rejects this claim. Therefore, all roads do not lead to God, rather any road other than historic Christianity leads to God. This view of religion forces religious pluralism into the category of exclusivism, that only one religion is true and any religion that opposes it is false. On the surface you may find yourself rejecting this conclusion, but if you consider RP as a collective of many views becoming one religion, than you can recognize how it fits into the category of exclusivism.

Is faith a matter of truth or personal values? Do you as a Christian contribute in some way to this way of thinking about your faith? Christianity is more than a set of personal values, is more than scripture slapped on top of truths common to us all, it is the total truth. When confronted with the notion of RP, remember that there are limitations on what it embraces, and historic Christianity does not fit snuggly into its paradigm.