Alpha & Omega Ministries Apologetics Blog
Today on the Dividing Line: Hitchens vs. Dembski, Roger Olson on Arminianism, E-mail Questions
11/30/2010 - James WhiteListened to portions of the Hitchens/Dembski debate on the existence and goodness of God. We were left wondering what a shallow defense of Mother Theresa had to do with the topic, and mourned the opening it gave Hitchens to conclude the debate most memorably. Theology matters, again. Then we took e-mail questions on a variety of topics, commented briefly on Roger Olson's "Arminianism is just as God-centered as Calvinism" article, and took a call on Geisler's "boys in the farmer's pond" illustration (I provide that call below in the video clip). Here's the program.
The Freedom of God in Salvation Debate, Now Available
11/30/2010 - James WhiteFour hours, 55 minutes. That's how much material is contained in this collection containing the debate with Steve Gregg on the freedom of God in salvation, along with follow up commentary and discussion of this vital issue. As Mr. Gregg's material is popular amongst the NDD (Non-Denominational Denomination, i.e., Calvary Chapel), this set will be of great value to many in our audience. An added benefit to our offering of this material is that while Catholic Answers has yet to even mention the debate with Tim Staples on Purgatory from earlier this year, they push the Staples/Gregg debate all the time, hence, you might wish to point out how many times Staples and Gregg agree on the basic issues of man's abilities and God's grace! Get yours today!
Van Til and the Trinity: Correlativism, Aseity, and the Trinity
11/30/2010 - Colin SmithThe Bible teaches that God is love (e.g., 1 John 4:8). Love is something that needs to be directed toward an object, so in what way does God love? One might say that God loves His creation, and in this way He is able to express love. However, God loves His creation in the same way that a man might love his dog in the sense that it is the love of a greater being to a lesser; and just as the dog cannot reciprocate with a love equal to that which his master is able to bestow, mere mortals cannot hope to return to God the same degree of love the immortal and infinite God is able to give. This actually creates a bit of a problem, because human beings are able to give and receive love mutually, whether it's between a married couple, or between siblings, or between friends. People are quite capable of loving one another in an equal and mutually beneficial way. Can it be that humans possess an important dimension of love that God does not? Indeed, if God is unique, peerless thoughout the entire universe, then how can He express love toward an equal? And if we are made in the image of God, where did this capacity to love our peers come from if it is not an attribute of God?
The problem goes deeper. One of God's "incommunicable attributes"--that is, an attribute of God that He does not pass on to humans--is his "aseity." God's aseity is simply His absolute independence from His creation. In order for God to exist, He doesn't require anything from anyone outside of Himself. He doesn't need food, oxygen, heat, cold, even our love and worship. God is totally self-sufficient. He created all things, but did not need to create anything. By contrast, God's creation is totally dependent first on the Creator to give and sustain life, and then on its constituent parts. Fish need water, people need food and oxygen, the earth needs the sun and the moon--I could go on. But I think you get the point. There is nothing in the universe that is self-sustaining, whether you talk about the ecosystem, or you talk about economic systems, or you talk about the mutual love expressed between people--everything depends upon something else. This concept is called "correlativity." If, as we just stated, God is unique in terms of His aseity, then the concept of correlativity is alien to Him. But, if we are made in God's image, how can something so fundamental to our existence not be something we derive from our Creator? Where did it come from?
One solution to this problem is to deny God's aseity and insist that He does in fact need His creation. I have heard people express the view that God created us out of His need to express love, to provide an outlet for His love. The problem with denying God's aseity is that you create a situation where God becomes dependent upon His creation. He is then no longer able to rule sovereignly because His every decision will be contingent upon that relationship, opening Him up to manipulation. Indeed, His very existence would depend upon his creation: if heaven and earth passed away, so would God!
Van Til argued that the biblical answer to this problem lies in the Trinity. As we saw in the previous installment, God is a personal being consisting of three Persons, the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit. As such, God is able to express fully all that it means to be a person, that is to be "personal," and all the attributes of personality that we as humans possess derive from our being created in the image of a personal God--even down to the way we are able to express mutual love, and be dependent upon one another. How is this possible for a God who is self-sufficient? Christian theism holds that each Person of the Trinity is co-equal. While there is an economical hierarchy within the Trinity (in other words, the Son obeys the Father, and the Spirit is sent by the Father and the Son--see Jesus' discussion in John 14), each Person in the Trinity is equal: they are each the same God. This means that within the personal being of God, mutual love and dependency can be expressed between the Persons of the Trinity. It is this aspect of God's character that is passed on to His creation. Because there is correlativity between the Persons of the Trinity, there is correlativity within creation, while at the same time the aseity of God remains intact: he is still independent of His creation and totally self-sufficient.
God has all the attributes of personality, including, by virtue of Trinitarian correlativity, love, and hence is personal. Moreover, since God does not have to look outside His own being to express those attributes, or find fulfillment of those attributes, He can be regarded as absolutely personal. And because God is personal, so it follows that His creation reflects aspects of personality, the apex being man who, of all creation, most fully displays God's personal attributes.
In the Trinity there is completely personal relationship without residue. And for that reason it may be said that all man's actions are personal too. Man's surroundings are shot through with personality because all things are related to the infinitely personal God (Van Til, A Survey of Christian Epistemology (Philadelphia, Pa: Presbyterian and Reformed Publishing Co., 1969), pp. 78-79.)
The existence of logic, reason, and meaning in the universe hangs on the universe being created by an absolutely personal God. Impersonal forces can't make decisions, plan, purpose, and give meaning to things; but a personal God can. If God was dependent in any way on His creation, His sovereignty would be violated because He would be subject to something outside of Himself, becoming an extension of His own creation. Because of this, only the Christian triune God can truly be the creator and sovereign Lord of His creation, who is absolutely personal, who bears perfectly all aspects of personality, but remains separate from His creation. Therefore, if man is to truly understand the world in which he lives, he must do so through this revelation of the triune God. We will explore this some more next time, where we will start to see the force of this discussion in terms of the argument for the existence of the Christian God. Stay tuned!
Note: To read the paper from which this series is taken, go to the "Papers" section of my website: www.colindsmith.com.
I Did Say "Lord Willing"
11/28/2010 - James WhiteIronically, this afternoon, on Twitter, I said that Lord willing I would post the video of tonight's sermon on "True Incarnational Faith." Well, the Lord wasn't willing! Note to self: you only get about an hour out of brand new alkaline batteries in a Flip video camera! Batteries died three minutes into tonight's sermon, so, I'm very thankful PRBC is on Sermon Audio (www.sermonaudio.com). Here is tonight's sermon. I hope it will be useful to the saints:
Eucharistia: Thanksgiving, the Truly Christian Virtue
11/28/2010 - James White
Talk About Scholarly Hubris
11/27/2010 - James WhiteSome will remember that I invested some time responding to Michael Heiser, the academic editor for Logos Bible Software. Years ago one of Michael Heiser's supporters contacted us, promoting his views of Psalm 82. Rich Pierce had some brief interaction with him. In any case, since I had been asked a number of times about Heiser's views, I took some time to explain why I reject them. Here is my blog entry, and here is another by TurretinFan. You will notice that both entries are actually understandable to, well, plain ol' Christians. I wrote mine so that fellow believers would understand the issue, and could interact with Mormons and others who utilize this text. That's why I do what I do, and I'm sure that's why TurretinFan does what he does, too.
I have commented many times that after attending the ETS conference in 1998 in Orlando, I have never gone back. I had a good time there, in general, and the book deals are great, but I was badly turned off by the academic snobbery that pervaded the place. I'm sure there were plenty of fine servants of the church there, but they were vastly overwhelmed by the nose-in-the-air academics who would never dirty themselves with plain ol' ministry that would involve abandoning their specialized vocabulary and actually explaining things so as to edify the body. If knowledge puffed up physically, we never would have gotten anywhere because the doors would have been impassable. In any case, I made a commitment then that I would never allow myself that kind of hubris---Christian scholarship is a practice of SERVANTHOOD, period, end of discussion.
So this morning I was referred to this article posted by Michael Heiser. It is the quintessential example of scholastic hubris. He goes to lengths to make sure that everyone knows he does not take my criticisms seriously---which is why he presented a paper on the topic at ETS, of course. But, as he notes,
The Psalm 82 paper was also prompted by criticisms posted in 2009 by Alpha and Omega Ministries (AOM). That I really don’t consider these criticisms serious is indicated by the fact that they have existed on the web since 2009 with no online response on my part (though many have emailed me the link and asked me to respond). Rather than engage people on the internet on these matters, my choice was to submit my views to public peer review at an academic evangelical conference (and I’ve actually done that several times now at ETS in a piecemeal sort of way via other papers). Eventually, I will be merging the two papers to submit to a peer-reviewed journal, hopefully sometime in 2011.
See, "peer review" is the standard of orthodoxy in the rarified air of the academy. Never mind every journal pouring forth heresy and soul-destroying skepticism is "peer-reviewed," and never mind "peer reviewed" normally means "completely disconnected from the body of faith," this is the only standard by which truth is now known. Of course, just about every discredited, nutty theory of the past hundred years first appeared in a "peer-reviewed" journal, too. Too bad having a "church reviewed" journal doesn't seem to be a really big idea these days. But this clear statement of his priorities (and his disrespect of anyone who actually takes these matters to the believers as a whole rather than keeping them strictly in the academy) was not enough, he had to repeat himself for emphasis: ...
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Excellent Work Being Done by John Bugay and TurretinFan
11/27/2010 - James WhiteI am so thankful for brothers who are digging deep and exposing the new crop of Roman Catholic apologists, providing in-depth and historically accurate rebuttals of the vain attempts to substantiate the mythology of modern Rome's claims. Both John Bugay and Turretinfan are posting a series of blog articles that, if you deal with Rome's apologists regularly, you need to read. John is responding to Scott Windsor, one of the first of Rome's representatives I engaged, more than twenty years ago now. Here is his current installment. TurretinFan is addressing a topic I have commented on many times: to any honest reading of the facts, Rome's Papal claims hang suspended in mid-air, the foundation used to raise the edifice of papal power having been washed away by the facts of history long ago. This is true in so many ways, but in this article he addresses the myth of "apostolic succession." We constantly hear about the "2,000 year old church," and this is often equated with the Papacy. But there are so many holes in this "succession" that one is truly left wondering exactly what is being traced through history. From the non-monarchical episcopate at Rome for the century to Imperial and political interference in the choice of the bishop of Rome to the anti-popes to the Pornocracy to the Avignon Papacy---how can anyone seriously claim this is a divine succession, given by God to guarantee uninterrupted truth and transmission of tradition? Yet, men and women continue to show their true spiritual pedigree by falling under the sway of false religions, including that of Romanism. Here is TurretinFan's current article.
Today on a Special Pre-Thanksgiving Dividing Line
11/24/2010 - James WhiteStarted off responding to an e-mail about yesterday's Radio Free Geneva, and then moved into a quick review of the Mexico City debate featuring William Lane Craig and Richard Dawkins. Then we started taking calls on that topic, and finished with a call on particular redemption. Here's the program.
Today on a Special Radio Free Geneva
11/23/2010 - James WhiteSo what prompted me to do a Radio Free Geneva? Well, first, the clips from the Ankerberg Show with Norman Geisler and his dismissal of the utter refutation of his horrific "farmer and the boys in the swimming pond" illustration (and the misquotation of Matthew 23:37 as well). But after spending the first half hour on that topic, I moved into the material posted by TurretinFan here on the blog (link). I cannot think of any clearer condemnation of the biblical gospel on the part of Rome than Clement XI's Unigenitus, and I explained that by reading major portions of it. The parallels between the condemnations of Rome and the arguments of Arminians like Geisler, Hunt, etc., are striking. You might want to listen to this one sitting down! Here's the program.
Tomorrow we will have another DL at the regular Thursday evening time (4pm MST). I will be reviewing portions of the debate that took place in Mexico City including William Lane Craig and Richard Dawkins.
Ecclesiology, Spirituality, Creation, etc, etc
11/23/2010 - Jeff DownsToday I finished posting all Annual Spring Theology conferences that we are going to post online (for now), from Greenville Presbyterian Theological Seminary. The conferences include everything from Southern Presbyterianism (the beginning) to Eschatology (the end). :) There are a few sessions from 2009 & 2010 online but, for now, we will hold off posting the rest. Click here to listen in.
There were some controversial topics discussed and debated such as Exclusive Psalmody, Who is Israel? in Romans 11, Sonship Theology and Redemptive Historical Preaching. Also, the Q&A sessions is where some debate took place.
The theme for the 2011 conference is the Person and Work of the Holy Spirit and will be help March 8-10, 2011. Speakers, among others include Rev. Ian Hamilton, Dr. Morton Smith, Dr.George Knight.
ATP Synthase Video
11/22/2010 - James WhiteFor those who have watched my debate with Dan Barker at the University of Illinois (2009), you will be familiar with the ATP Synthase mechanism that I referred to in my opening presentation. Well here is a video illustrating that incredibly and obviously DESIGNED mechanism. For those with eyes to see and ears to hear, could it be any more obvious?
Misquoting Matthew 23:37---Even in Writing!
11/22/2010 - James WhiteLane Chaplin forwarded me another link to another Ankerberg Show clip, just as the previous entry. If you go about two minutes in (after a long section in praise of creaturely autonomy), you not only have Geisler misquoting Matthew 23:37 (nothing new about that, as we have documented on the part of many), but even the text slide which is put on the screen misquotes the text, leaving out the very distinction that utterly overthrows the eisegetical abuse of this text so rampant on the part of those who deny God's freedom in salvation. A truly amazing example, once again, of how rarely the Bible is handled with any care or depth on the part of those who promote a man-centered understanding of the gospel.
Yes, we need another Radio Free Geneva!
Looks Like it is Time for Another Radio Free Geneva!
11/21/2010 - James WhiteLane Chaplin sent me this link. Here Geisler comes as close as I've seen, on video, to referring to The Potter's Freedom (outside of the horrific, and now removed, appendix to the second edition, cobbled together by confused undergraduate students). But for anyone who has read TPF, this response is empty and vacuous, and illustrates why Norman Geisler, and his primary students and followers, refuse to debate this issue out front for the benefit of God's people: their answers cannot stand up to serious scrutiny. Check it out:
Covenant Theology Papers
11/21/2010 - Colin SmithBefore I get the reputation of being a Van Til controversialist, I have posted some new papers on my site pertaining to Covenant Theology. The first is a presentation of Covenant Theology from a credobaptist (i.e., believer's baptist) position. While I most certainly fly my Reformed Baptist colors on this paper, I hasten to add that our paedobaptist brethren would probably agree with upwards of 80% of this paper, so I think everyone can find something of use from it. As for our Dispensationalist brethren... well, okay, you can't please everyone! :) The second paper is a historical survey of Covenant Theology. This paper seeks to explore the historical roots of Covenant Theology, recognizing that while we believe the system of belief to be biblical, we acknowledge that, like many other biblical doctrines, it developed and underwent refining over a period of many years. There are probably many people out there that hold to Covenant Theology but have never considered when it was first systematized, or which, if any, ancient fathers of the church believed as they do. Hopefully this paper will answer questions and provide a springboard for further study.
To find these and other papers, go to the "Papers" section of my website: www.colindsmith.com.
Rejecting the Truth with Clement XI
11/21/2010 - Tur8infanSome of Rome's rejections of Scriptural truth are more clear than others. One particularly clear set of examples comes from the dogmatic Constitution, "Unigenitus,"dated Sept. 8, 1713, and authorized by Clement XI. I've previously posted a full list of the 101 "errors" condemned (link to full list).
There many alleged errors identified. I've taken the liberty to highlight a few of them. Remember, these are what the Roman church has officially proclaimed to be errors.
- 79. It is useful and necessary at all times, in all places, and for every kind of person, to study and to know the spirit, the piety, and the mysteries of Sacred Scripture.
- 80. The reading of Sacred Scripture is for all.
- 81. The sacred obscurity of the Word of God is no reason for the laity to dispense themselves from reading it.
- 82. The Lord's Day ought to be sanctified by Christians with readings of pious works and above all of the Holy Scriptures. It is harmful for a Christian to wish to withdraw from this reading.
- 83. It is an illusion to persuade oneself that knowledge of the mysteries of religion should not be communicated to women by the reading of Sacred Scriptures. Not from the simplicity of women, but from the proud knowledge of men has arisen the abuse of the Scriptures, and have heresies been born.
- 84. To snatch away from the hands of Christians the New Testament, or to hold it closed against them by taking away from them the means of understanding it, is to close for them the mouth of Christ.
- 85. To forbid Christians to read Sacred Scripture, especially the Gospels, is to forbid the use of light to the sons of light, and to cause them to suffer a kind of excommunication.
- 30. All whom God wishes to save through Christ, are infallibly saved.
- 31. The desires of Christ always have their effect; He brings peace to the depth of hearts when He desires it for them.
- 32. Jesus Christ surrendered Himself to death to free forever from the hand of the exterminating angel, by His blood, the first born, that is, the elect.
- 51. Faith justifies when it operates, but it does not operate except through charity.
- 69. Faith, practice of it, increase, and reward of faith, all are a gift of the pure liberality of God.
- 72. A mark of the Christian Church is that it is catholic, embracing all the angels of heaven, all the elect and the just on earth, and of all times.
- 73. What is the Church except an assembly of the sons of God abiding in His bosom, adopted in Christ, subsisting in His person, redeemed by His blood, living in His spirit, acting through His grace, and awaiting the grace of the future life?
- 74. The Church or the whole Christ has the Incarnate Word as head, but all the saints as members.
- 75. The Church is one single man composed of many members, of which Christ is the head, the life, the subsistence and the person; it is one single Christ composed of many saints, of whom He is the sanctifier.
- 38. Without the grace of the Liberator, the sinner is not free except to do evil.
- 39. The will, which grace does not anticipate, has no light except for straying, no eagerness except to put itself in danger, no strength except to wound itself, and is capable of all evil and incapable of all good.
- 40. Without grace we can love nothing except to our own condemnation.
- 41. All knowledge of God, even natural knowledge, even in the pagan philosophers, cannot come except from God; and without grace knowledge produces nothing but presumption, vanity, and opposition to God Himself, instead of the affections of adoration, gratitude, and love.
- 42. The grace of Christ alone renders a man fit for the sacrifice of faith; without this there is nothing but impurity, nothing but unworthiness.
- 48. What else can we be except darkness, except aberration, and except sin, without the light of faith, without Christ, and without charity?
- 1. What else remains for the soul that has lost God and His grace except sin and the consequences of sin, a proud poverty and a slothful indigence, that is, a general impotence for labor, for prayer, and for every good work?
- 2. The grace of Jesus Christ, which is the efficacious principle of every kind of good, is necessary for every good work; without it, not only is nothing done, but nothing can be done.
- 5. When God does not soften a heart by the interior unction of His grace, exterior exhortations and graces are of no service except to harden it the more.
- 9. The grace of Christ is a supreme grace, without which we can never confess Christ, and with which we never deny Him.
- 10. Grace is the working of the omnipotent hand of God, which nothing can hinder or retard.
- 11. Grace is nothing else than the omnipotent Will of God, ordering and doing what He orders.
- 12. When God wishes to save a soul, at whatever time and at whatever place, the undoubted effect follows the Will of God.
- 13. When God wishes to save a soul and touches it with the interior hand of His grace, no human will resists Him.
- 14. Howsoever remote from salvation an obstinate sinner is, when Jesus presents Himself to be seen by him in the salutary light of His grace, the sinner is forced to surrender himself, to have recourse to Him, and to humble himself, and to adore his Savior.
- 15. When God accompanies His commandment and His eternal exhortation by the unction of His Spirit and by the interior force of His grace, He works that obedience in the heart that He is seeking.
- 16. There are no attractions which do not yield to the attractions of grace, because nothing resists the Almighty.
- 17. Grace is that voice of the Father which teaches men interiorly and makes them come to Jesus Christ; whoever does not come to Him, after he has heard the exterior voice of the Son, is in no wise taught by the Father.
- 91. The fear of an unjust excommunication should never hinder us from fulfilling our duty; never are we separated from the Church, even when by the wickedness of men we seem to be expelled from it, as long as we are attached to God, to Jesus Christ, and to the Church herself by charity.
- 92. To suffer in peace an excommunication and an unjust anathema rather than betray truth, is to imitate St. Paul; far be it from rebelling against authority or of destroying unity.
DNF-W: A Cycling Story with a Spiritual Application
11/20/2010 - James WhiteIt looks like the complete route. To the right is the GPS map of my ride today. Those who have ridden El Tour de Tucson will recognize it as the full 109 mile race, the "big one." Since I got back on the bike in 2005 I have not done the full race, only the 80 mile portion. But this year was different. I have gone full-bore back into cycling as my primary means of getting "fit by fifty," and while I never dreamed I would ride long distances again when I climbed back on the bike in 2005 at 244 pounds, as of today I am down to 176, and that is definitely "long distance cycling" weight. So I signed up for the whole enchilada for the first time since the late 90s.
Now, let's go with the positives first. I rode the fastest 105 miles I have ever ridden in a race. Ever. My entire life. Now realize, back in the 90s I was a "hammer head." I once did a 24 mile ride at 25.64 mph average speed. I would regularly do metric centuries (62.1 miles/100km) at 22mph average speeds. And I weighed just a little less than I do now (about 172). So to clock the best time over 105 miles ever is really encouraging. El Tour has a decent amount of climbing (3255 ft. according to my cycling computer today) too, which makes keeping a good average speed difficult. And, of course, El Tour de Tucson has two dry river bed crossings, too, each of which takes a full 0.3 off your average speed. As a result, the nearly 19 mph average speed I managed (taking the river crossings out) is great news for someone soon to turn 48 years of age.
Next, I climbed like a madman today. I was almost never passed on the climbs, and passed entire groups on ascents. It was amazing, and I think my time in Flagstaff Monday and Tuesday had a lot to do with that.
Further, there was a major problem with today's ride: WIND. 20 mph right in our faces at the worst part of the race, the last 25 miles. It was really blowing. Flags were standing straight out, dust blowing, tumble weeds….tumbling, the whole nine yards. I got hit with a dust devil that made me feel like someone had hit me with a sand blaster. So, to post that great speed with that wind blowing in my face at the end of the race, was amazing. I was passing entire groups toward the end who were struggling badly with the wind.
My goal had been to finally finish El Tour de Tucson in less than six hours, and get a coveted gold medal. There are professionals who ride "platinum," who do it even faster than that, but I am a mere human being. I ride to live, not live to ride. But I have always wanted a gold medal. I got one in El Tour de Phoenix in 1995, when it was still over 100 miles (it is now 72 miles, and as was announced by the mayor of Mesa, Arizona today at the start of the race, it will now be called El Tour de Mesa, as of next April---same race, different name). But I have never gotten one in El Tour de Tucson, which is one of the largest races in the United States (well over 9,000 riders out there today). The one year I had the best shot at it (1996) I crashed along with about twenty other folks eight miles into the race (that's a very dangerous time in El Tour). And by my calculations, I would have crossed the finish line in just a shade under six hours today. If only…. ...
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Piper Lectures on Luther's Study Habits and the Original Languages
11/20/2010 - Alan KurschnerMy favorite biographical lecture from John Piper is "Martin Luther: Lessons from His Life and Labor." Piper hones in on Luther's intense study habits, making application for contemporary pastors. At one point in the lecture Piper explains that for Luther, the touchstone for serious Biblical study is (1) Prayer (2) Meditation, and (3) Trials. It is the latter that he emphasizes. Luther believed that a pastor must experience pain in his study of Scriptures, especially the necessary discipline of consistent immersion in the original languages. I agree.
Listen, and be challenged:
Today...And Yesterday, on the Dividing Line
11/18/2010 - James WhiteSorry about being so slow in getting these linked! Those who use iTunes get them a lot faster (hint, hint). Anyway, yesterday in a special Wednesday DL we discussed Frank Beckwith at the ETS meetings (we decided "E" now stands for Ecumenical, not Evangelical), and then looked at Jackie Alnor's take on debates and debating from "Rapture Ready Radio." Then we took some calls. Here's the program.
Today was all caller driven, or I guess, net driven. I answered a Twitter question on Acts 16:31ff first, then Rich read a number of e-mail questions, and then we started taking lots of Skype and regular calls on...well, a wide variety of topics. This is about as close as I'll ever get to doing my impersonation of a Bible answer guy type stint. Lots of topics, lots of information! Here's the program.
Van Til and the Trinity: A Quick Response to PuritanReformed
11/16/2010 - Colin Smith"PuritanReformed" has posted a critique of my article on Van Til and "God as a Person." First, I would like to say I appreciate that he took the time to read the article and to respond to it. Dialog and interaction is good and positive--iron sharpens iron, etc. Next, I note that this is a quick response, because I don't think much more than that kind of response is necessary. I agree with him that for most who have studied theology to any degree, the idea that God is personal is not a blinding revelation. However, for most occupying pews in evangelicalism, especially those outside the walls of academia--some of whom I know do tend to see God as an impersonal force that, with the right incantations and behavior, can be manipulated to do their will--this concept needs to receive attention.
I used the term "essence of God" to describe the divinity shared between the three Persons of the Trinity. The point is that this "divine essence" is not impersonal, but it is by virtue of this shared divinity that the Persons share attributes of the divine, and these attributes are personal. If I may spell it out, the being of God has divine attributes that are personal, and these attributes are shared between the three Persons of the Trinity. As far as I understand, there is nothing heretical about that. Perhaps this point may be a little obvious for a Westminster Seminary student (and I mean no disrespect by that), but I daresay this is not a thought that has occupied much attention in the thinking of most evangelicals.
I would also venture to say that one of the reasons Van Til is represented as being "wrong in his doctrine of the Trinity" is because he is being quoted in a context that has more to do with apologetic approach than formal teaching on the Trinity. The reason I quoted Van Til specifically on the Trinity (and there are further quotes in the original paper) was to show that when speaking of the Trinity, his view was in line with orthodox belief. In this context, however, Van Til was addressing the personality of God in His being, not just in His Persons, and how that can be used to apologetic effect. This will be covered more in the next installment of the series. Again, I don't think Van Til was trying to say something new about the Trinity (maybe I'm wrong, but that's how I read Van Til); I believe he was simply drawing attention to the fact that God is personal, not just in His Persons, but in His being, and he made that point for a purpose, which, again, will be the subject of the next part of the series. Those who were left at the end of the article scratching their heads saying "Well, if all Van Til was saying is that God is a personal being, then big woop!"--hold on! Read the rest of the series, or read the original paper. I'm not done yet! :)
I hope this helps to clarify things. If you still disagree with me, or Van Til, PuritanReformed, then that's fine. I would ask that you be sure you are being fair to Van Til and you are not reading his comments on the Trinity in the context of apologetics and assuming they are the sum total of his belief regarding the Trinity. Yes, there must be consistency in our beliefs, and what we believe about the Trinity in our systematic theology must be the same as in our apologetics. However, when speaking in an apologetic context, we might make statements not inconsistent with our theology as a whole, but certainly not representative of our entire belief. It is my contention that this is what has happened to Van Til on this topic, and hence the controversy. Van Til may have found the traditional Trinitarian formulations inadequate, but that doesn't mean he disagreed with them. He simply sought to make a point regarding the personality of the Godhead that may, in the view of some, be unnecessary, but to Van Til needed to be made, again, for apologetic reasons.
I do hope, however, that this doesn't detract from the point to be made in the next installment. If we can all agree that God is personal, in His being and in His Persons, then we are ready to move on. And I think that's a point that we all--Van Til included--can agree upon.
Remember: DL Has Been Moved to Wednesday
11/16/2010 - James WhiteToday's normal DL has been moved to tomorrow. We will be discussing Frank Beckwith's presentations at ETS (esp. since one of his presentations is on justification), and Rapture Ready Radio's criticism of debates along with the promotion of Jack Chick instead! Should be interesting. Wednesday at 11am MST.
Van Til and the Trinity: God as a Person
11/15/2010 - Colin SmithAs we have seen in the previous article, Van Til, and all apologists of the presuppositional camp, hold that Christian theism is the only theism worth defending. If, as Christians, we believe in the God who is revealed in the pages of the Old and New Testament, we are believing in a very specific God: one who creates, sustains, loves, judges, and, perhaps most distinctively, has revealed Himself as Trinity. To argue for the existence of any less of a God is to argue for a God that the Christian denies. Does that mean that every apologetic encounter needs to begin with a full presentation of the doctrine of the Trinity? Indeed, does this mean that every evangelistic discussion needs to incorporate every aspect of Christian theism? Van Til conceded that this is not the case, but it remains so that the Christian should not "water down" his presentation of God in an effort to find "reasonable common ground" with an atheist, agnostic, or even someone of another religion. We should not avoid speaking of God as Trinity for fear that we will lose our debate opponent/witnessing opportunity. Our God is a triune God, and not only is this the most distinctive aspect of Christian theism, but, according to Van Til, it is this fact that demonstrates the truth of Christian theism. Because God is Trinity, the world and all its laws and "facts" make sense.
In his Introduction to Systematic Theology, Van Til made the following statement:
… It is sometimes asserted that we can prove to men that we are not asserting anything that they ought to consider irrational, inasmuch as we say that God is one in essence and three in person. We therefore claim that we have not asserted unity and trinity of exactly the same thing.
Yet this is not the whole truth of the matter. We do assert that God, that is, the whole Godhead, is one person.
This quote has been used by critics of Van Til to proclaim him a heretic. The orthodox view of the Trinity is, simply stated, that within the one being who is God, there exists three Persons: the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit. In the quotation above, Van Til appears to be saying "Within the one Person who is God, there are three Persons..." Was Van Til's view of the Trinity orthodox? This is an important question, since if Van Til was guilty of heresy on this point, then we could rightly ignore whatever application he might make of the Trinity to apologetics, since he would not be sharing a view of the Trinity consistent with biblical Christianity. To answer that question we can review statements Van Til made elsewhere in his writings where he addresses the doctrine of the Trinity. I have provided a number of quotations in the original paper (see pages 10-11), but here is one of them for you:
God exists in himself as a triune self-consciously active being. The Father, the Son, and the Holy Ghost are each a personality and together constitute the exhaustively personal God… Each is as much God as are the other two.
This particular quote gives evidence that Van Til understood God to be a being consisting of three Persons: "The Father, the Son, and the Holy Ghost." But notice that this quotation also emphasizes the point that the being of God is personal. This is the point that Van Til was trying to make in the previous quote: not only are the three Persons of the Trinity persons, but God as a being in His essence is personal. In this sense, God can be said to be a "Person." If you are still struggling with this concept, stop and think about the orthodox statement of the Trinity given earlier: "Within the one being who is God, there exists three Persons: the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit." Note that I didn't say "Within the one being that is God..." I used a personal relative pronoun, "who." If you have no objection to personal pronouns of any kind ("he" "who") being used of the being of God, not impersonal pronouns ("it" "that"), then you would agree with Van Til that God in His essence, as a being, has personality, and in this sense can be said to be a "Person." If you equate the being of God with "the Force" in Star Wars--an impersonal energy source--then you will continue to have problems with Van Til, and, I would argue, orthodox Christian theology. And we can take that up another time... :-)
Van Til pointed out that God is often spoken of in personal terms, especially in the Old Testament. While it is true that we could assign some, or many, of these references to various Persons of the Trinity, that should not take away from the fact that God in His being is personal. Otherwise we would have to say that God is only personal when He is clearly spoken of as either Father, Son, or Holy Spirit; when the term "God" is used without reference to one of the three Persons, then we are talking about an impersonal "divine essence." When we speak of God, however, we are not talking about an impersonal abstraction. We are talking about a personal being. John Frame uses the illustration of "doghood," which is an impersonal abstraction. "Doghood" doesn't jump on your lap and lick your face, and you can't put a leash on "doghood" and take it for a walk. God, however, is loving, merciful, just, and righteous. And Scripture does not attribute these things to any one Person of the Trinity: they are part of God's essence, and they are personal attributes.
Van Til has also been accused of being irrational in his statement that God is one Person consisting of three Persons: how can God be one Person and three Persons? The answer to this, as you might already have seen, is that Van Til is using the term "Person" in a different way in this statement. We understand that "Person" as applied to each of the three Persons of the Trinity is used to denote the fact that they each have personality, and that they are each separate from each other. When applied to God as a being, Van Til clearly intends the former (personality) but not the latter (an independent Person along with the other three Persons of the Trinity). In this case, I think the worst that Van Til could be accused of is equivocation, by utilizing the same word to mean two different things in the same context.
Understood correctly, then, I think it is clear that Van Til was not trying to be unorthodox; he was simply attempting to bring out an aspect of our understanding of the Trinity that is often overlooked, and which is important to using the doctrine of the Trinity in our apologetic. How does the "Personhood" of God help us in demonstrating the necessity of Christian theism and the Christian worldview for comprehending reality? That will be the subject of the next part. Stay tuned!
Again, if you want to read the original paper from which this series is based, go to my website (colindsmith.com) and look in the "Papers" section.
William Tyndale Puts our Comforts into Perspective
11/14/2010 - Alan Kurschner
Tyndale was taken to the Vilvorde Prison near Brussels where he was kept in solitary confinement. From the sixteen months that Tyndale spent in prison, only one piece of his correspondence has survived: a letter asking for warmer clothing because of the cold and damp, a lamp so he could see in the dark and Hebrew books so he could continue his translation of the Old Testament. ("The English Bible and Its Translators," Herb Samworth, Glosses, The Bulletin of the Scriptorium, 1997 Fourth Quarter, Vol. II, No. 4).Soon afterward he was charged with being a heretic, and on October 6, 1536, was burned at the stake.
Innocent III vs. Benedict XVI -- Use Scripture as Your Standard Instead
11/13/2010 - Tur8infan"Here I wish to affirm once more that religion can never justify intolerance or war. We cannot kill in God's name!" (Benedict XVI, Verbum Domini, Post-Synodal Apostolic Exhortation, September 30, 2010, Part 3)
Desiring with an ardent desire to liberate the Holy Land from the hands of the ungodly, we decree with the advice of prudent men who are fully familiar with the circumstances of the times, and with the approval of the council, that all who have taken the cross and have decided to cross the sea, hold themselves so prepared that they may, on June 1 of the year after next (1217), come together in the Kingdom of Sicily, some at Brundusium and others at Messana, where, God willing, we [the Pope, Innocent III] will be present personally to order and to bestow on the Christian army the divine and Apostolic blessing.Holy Land Decrees of the Fourth Council of the Lateran (source for translation)
Everybody knows that popes only extremely rarely exercise their alleged power of infallibility. And, of course, any time a contradiction between popes is noted, it is simply alleged that one or the other or both of the popes is not exercising his infallibility.
But my point is a little different. My point is that papal teachings are not generally trustworthy, because they contradict one another. Innocent III justifies the crusades on religious grounds. Benedict XVI says, in effect, that Innocent III (and the fourth Lateran council in general) was wrong.
How can you know who is right? The answer is that you're going to have to exercise private judgment. You're going to have to look to a source that's more reliable than the Roman bishops. May I respectfully submit to you, dear reader, that the standard by which you should be judging the teachings of both Innocent III and Benedict XVI is Holy Scripture.
Doctrine of the Word of God
11/12/2010 - Jeff DownsThe fourth volume in John Frame series A Theology of Lordship is now available The Doctrine of the Word of God, coming in at 720 pages. Sample pages here. On Thursday of this week Kevin Boling interviewed John Frame on the Knowing the Truth radio program, discussing this particular publication.
Other books in this particular series include (in order of their publication): Doctrine of the Knowledge of God, The Doctrine of God and Doctrine of the Christian Life.
Some other (recent) biblical resources that might be of interests are the following two commentaries: The Gospel of John, by J. Ramsey Michaels (Eerdmans) Sample pages and in a series I really enjoy (BECNT) Ephesians, by Frank Thielman (Baker) sample pages.
Today on the Dividing Line: Mark 1:41 and Hebrews 2:9 in the SBLGNT Plus Calls
11/11/2010 - James WhiteI felt it would be helpful to many to comment on the inclusion of very minority readings in the new SBLGNT that was released recently. Specifically, I addressed Bart Ehrman's two favorite texts, Mark 1:41 and the "angry Jesus," and Hebrews 2:9, "apart from God." The SBLGNT includes both barely supported variants in the main text, going against pretty much all previous printed editions. I discussed the growing disconnection between modern scholarship and the text itself, and then took calls on a variety of subjects. Here's the program.
And a Canadian Muslim Responds....
11/10/2010 - James WhiteA radical Muslim who has been banned from our chat channel decided to provide a glowing example of the problems Islam has with its followers by sending in this e-mail:
Message: YOU WANT FATWA CONDEMNING IRAQI CHRISTIAN ATTACKS?
HERE IS A FATWA FROM ME.
- Murder all cross worshipers in Iraq and send the survivors to USA and let them stay with Bush. Hows that?
Well there you go! Thanks to this Canadian Muslim, who lives in the Toronto area (in a nice area of town from what I'm told by those up in that area), for showing us the love he has for "cross worshipers." Of course, we do not worship the cross, but we worship the one who gave His life upon the cross to redeem guilty sinners and bring us peace with the Father. And it is that One, the Incarnate Son, prophesied long before in the Scriptures, the eternal Son of God, fully God and fully Man, who is the only hope this man will ever have of standing before God without experiencing His wrath. I pray God will be merciful to him and open his eyes to the glory of Christ Jesus.
Meanwhile, another Muslim (I won't give his name unless he wants me to---I have interacted with him before) wrote and basically said my request was silly. In essence, he said you won't find such fatwas since that issue was settled long before, and Islam condemns the killing of innocent people. Well, that's wonderful---so why is it that men like Nidal Malik Hasan, the Fort Hood mass murderer (who not only killed adults, but shot and killed a pregnant woman), are treated as heroes in the Islamic world? I pointed out that in the thinking of men like the Canadian Muslim above, there are no innocent people! Since we are all born Muslims, and then are perverted into Christians or Jews or whatever, then none of us are innocent, in their thinking. That's how they get around these things. I am glad for all the Muslims who think this is a "done deal," but when I see my brothers and sisters dying daily around the world, I am left wondering why the word can't be gotten out just a bit better by Muslim leaders, you know?
A Request for My Muslim Friends
11/10/2010 - James WhiteFor those of the Muslim faith who abhor violence and murder, could you direct me, please, to the fatwas that are being pronounced from recognized Islamic centers of jurisprudence against the Muslims who are busily murdering the People of the Gospel in Iraq? Here is an example from today. I know there are Muslims who believe such actions are wrong, but I would like to see the official fatwas against this kind of activity. Please use the Contact link on the web page to provide the URLs to these statements. Thank you!
Formal Sufficiency of Scripture on Iron Sharpens Iron Today
11/10/2010 - Tur8infanLord willing, I (TurretinFan) will be appearing on Chris Arnzen's radio show, Iron Sharpens Iron, from 7-8 pm EST (4-5 pm PST). The topic will be the Formal Sufficiency of Scriptures. The show can be heard over the air in Long Island and Connecticut, and can be heard via live streaming anywhere there is Internet (www.Sharpens.org & www.AM1240WGBB.com). It is a call-in show, so feel free to call in at (631) 888-8811. This is a topic that divides Rome from the Reformed Churches, so calls from Roman Catholics are especially welcome.
Biologos and Doug Pagitt: an Interesting Comparison
11/09/2010 - James WhiteSo what do the folks at Biologos and Doug Pagitt have in common? A lot, it turns out, as we discovered on today's Dividing Line. Started off with a quick report from my teaching in Peru (and my fascinating observation that, as of this point in time on Tuesday afternoon, I have yet to hear a single car horn sounded in all of my time in traffic in Phoenix since I got home---something that would never happen in Lima Peru, where you cannot drive 15 seconds without hearing a horn), and then went into the Pagitt/Biologos discussion, based upon Al Mohler's article in response to the folks at Biologos. I played a number of clips from the Pagitt/Rosebrough debate as well, then we took two calls. Here's the program.
Don't Forget the DL at its NORMAL Time
11/09/2010 - James WhiteThe DL starts in less than fifteen minutes, and we can tell by the low number of listeners that you all have played with your clocks again. Remember, the DL is always at 11am MST. :-) Important stuff to discuss today!
Deity of Christ Debate, Pt. 2
11/08/2010 - Jeff DownsPart 2 of the debate that took place on the Jewish Voice Broadcast with James White, Michael Brown v. Joseph Good and Sir. Anthony Buzzard is now online.
Click here to watch and listen. Begins at 7 minutes.
Handel's Hallelujah Chorus: In Macy's
11/08/2010 - James WhiteThere are few pieces of music more stirring, more beautiful, more exalting than Handel's Hallelujah Chorus. So to have it sung, by surprise (at least for most shoppers) by chorus members mingling amongst them accompanied by a beautiful pipe organ---well, this is definitely special. Thanks to KG for the link:
Minneapolis Interview Posted
11/06/2010 - James WhiteI had the opportunity to do an interview on sola gratia and other Reformed themes when I arrived in Minneapolis a few weeks ago. That interview has been posted here.
Presuppositional Apologetics and the Trinity: A Review
11/05/2010 - Colin SmithBefore digging into Van Til's teaching on the Trinity and how it applies to his argumentation for the existence of God, it will do us well to review the fundamental principles of Presuppositional Apologetics. Okay, I know you have heard a lot about PA recently, but you know the old teaching addage: the more you hear something, the more likely you are to remember it. So, once again, ladies and gentlemen, let's take a look at what PA is about at its core.
The popular model of apologetics today is one where you present evidence, and use logic and reason to argue for the existence of God, the truthfulness of the Bible, the historicity of Christ and the resurrection, etc. This model assumes that everyone, no matter what their religious or philosophical viewpoint, agrees on principles of logic and reason, and can use these to evaluate evidence. In other words, on these principles we all share "common ground," since these are assumed to be neutral standards by which all claims can be weighed.
Van Til objected to this saying that to set anything above God and His Word, whether it be a man, a false god, or a set of principles, is a violation of Scripture and an undermining of the ultimate authority of God and His revelation. God's Word, if it is has supreme authority, cannot be held accountable to a higher authority. If we believe the Bible is "God-breathed," that it is God speaking to us, then to subject it to evidence, reason, and logic to validate it is to say that it really has no authority on its own, and requires an external authority to verify it. Not only this, but it is to say that it needs man to apply this external authority and use it to verify what God has said, whether or not it is true. Since when does man have the right to tell God whether He is speaking truth? How we know Scripture is true without engaging in circular reasoning is, perhaps, a subject for another time. But for now, suffice to say that the Christian can do no other than to hold Scripture in the highest regard. In fact, Van Til would argue that we need Scripture, God's special revelation to us, to be able to properly apply logic, reason, and evidence.
When God originally created man, He gave him natural revelation (the world around him, its complexity and order, etc.) as a demonstration of His existence, and special revelation (instructions, commands, etc.) so he would know how to properly live in the universe God had made with the rules that govern it, and know how to honor and serve his Creator in a way that most pleases Him. However, in Genesis 3 we are told that man disobeyed God and fell into sin (Romans 5:12-14). From that time on, man has been suppressing natural revelation (Romans 1:18-32), and unable to receive and accept special revelation due to his spiritual estrangement from his Creator. To this day, man is in a state of denial regarding God's existence and truth, and is trying to live in this world according to his own understanding. God, in His mercy, permits man to understand certain truths: morality, ethics, laws, justice, etc. that come from being made in His image. Without these, man would not survive long in this world; his life would be intolerable (as would life for those around him). Yet, given man's natural understanding, unaided by that understanding that comes from either natural or special revelation, these truths are not consistent with his understanding of the world. And it is his understanding of the world, or his presuppositions that will always ultimately lead him to the conclusions he makes, which will invariably be wrong or misguided.
If the unbeliever is looking at the world through different presuppositions than the believer, it stands to reason that, apart from the work of the Spirit giving him eyes to see, he will not come to the same conclusions as the believer regarding evidence, no matter how good and sound that evidence is. He does not share "common ground" with the believer, because the unbeliever and the believer are operating on diametrically opposed presuppositions. Knowing that the unbeliever is suppressing the knowledge of God, however, the Christian apologist can appeal to that knowledge of God to call the unbeliever to repentance so he can see the world as God intended it to be seen. The apologist could even take the approach of having the unbeliever assume Christian presuppositions (for the sake of argument), and he assume non-Christian presuppositions (again, for the sake of argument) to help the unbeliever see which is consistent with the universe as we know it--which of them makes the world around us and its laws intelligible.
That's PA in a nutshell. One point that Van Til was insistent on was that any defense of the Christian faith cannot simply be a defense of one aspect of it. In other words, it is not simply a defense of the fact of God's existence, or the fact of Christ's divinity, or the fact of the resurrection. Christian apologetics is a defense of the entire Christian worldview. Hopefully, from the foregoing it is clear why this is the case. Without a Christian worldview, the evidence is meaningless. The unbeliever can accept the bare evidence for the resurrection saying, "Okay, so something strange happened," without ever proclaiming saving faith in Christ as a result. That conclusion requires seeing the evidence for the resurrection with Christian presuppositions; only then can it have any meaning.
This is where Van Til's teaching on the Trinity comes in. He argues that we are not presenting mere theism, but we are presenting Christian theism, and we have to. To present any other kind of theism is to argue for a God that doesn't exist, and, in fact, undermines everything you then say to affirm the truth of the Christian worldview. We will explore this in the next installment.
Don't forget, if you want to read the entire article upon which this series is based, you can do so at my website, under the "Papers" section.
Deity of Christ Debate
11/05/2010 - Jeff DownsMost, if not all of you, are aware of the debate that took place on the Jewish Voice Broadcast with James White, Michael Brown v. Joseph Good and Sir. Anthony Buzzard.
If you do not remember, this week the JVB began with Pt. #1 of the debate. You can catch the program here, beginning at 7.36.
Two Video Clips from Lima
11/04/2010 - James WhiteI didn't know Brad White had posted these. Short, but they give you a flavor of the presentations:
What Was Recovered During the Reformation?
11/04/2010 - Jeff DownsYesterday I had the privilege of sitting under the preaching of Pastor Ian Hamilton (a Scotsman) pastor at Cambridge Presbyterian Church.
Hamilton is the author of two books The Erosion of Calvinist Orthodoxy: Drifting from the Truth in Confessional Scottish Churches and a commentary in the Let's Study series on The Letters of John. One of my favorite courses I've taken at Greenville Seminary was a summer course with Pastor Hamilton on Pastoral Leadership. I would highly recommend this to all shepherds or anyone interested in shepherding God's people.
In this chapel message (audio) he addresses the heart of
Here is a video of the chapel (Pt. 1):
Ministry in Lima, Peru
11/04/2010 - James WhiteHalf way through my time here in Lima. So far we have covered sola scriptura, the biblical form of the church (plurality of elders), the transmission of the text of the New Testament, and in the Q&A times---just about everything. Yes, speaking with translation is always a challenge, but so far so good. Surviving culture shock as best as a stodgy Scotsman can. Appreciate Brad White and the brothers who are helping me along. Here are a couple of pictures from the presentations.
The Nuisance of Biblical Logic
11/03/2010 - Alan Kurschner
If God knows every detail of the future with infallible certainty, then (by definition) the outcome of all things is already determined. And if things are predetermined but God did not ordain whatsoever comes to pass, then you have two choices:by Phil Johnson
1. A higher sovereignty belongs to some being (or beings) other than God. That is idolatry.
2. Some impersonal force did the determining. That is fatalism.
Therefore if the thinking Arminian wants to avoid both fatalism and idolatry, he or she must deny God's foreknowledge, thereby nullifying God's omnscience—in other words, they essentially undeify God. That is of course blasphemy. But that is precisely the road Open Theism takes.
On Sincerity = Salvation
11/03/2010 - Alan KurschnerChristian exclusivity is anathema to the natural religious Man. "If someone is sincere about their religious faith, who are you to judge?" Their dogma characterizes today's Christian inclusivism, but did you know that there were a few "sincerity=salvation" voices in the Reformation period:
The emphasis among [various humanist-rationalists during the Reformation] committed to the rational and ethical approach was upon sincerity rather than upon inerrancy as the condition for God's favor. Sincerity is an interior loyalty to that which at the moment appears to be true. Castellio went so far as to say that to tell the truth is to say what one believes to be true. On this basis he could declare that Servetus had been put to death for telling the truth inasmuch as by lying and denying his convictions he could have been saved. He perished because he would not recant. The reason why sincerity is so prized is because integrity is indispensable in the question for truth. There is no deposit of dogma equally valid whether professed by the sincere or the insincere. Rather there is a truth which can be seized only by those who pursue it with passion and utter transparency (The Reformation of the Sixteenth Century, Roland H. Bainton, 220).
Presuppositional Apologetics and the Trinity
11/02/2010 - Colin SmithIf you have been following the blog over the past month, you will have seen Jamin Hubner's series of posts on apologetic methodology and particularly on Presuppositional Apologetics. Hopefully, as a result of Jamin's sterling work, you are all now fully conversant with Presuppositional Apologetics (or the "Transcendental" argument as Van Til preferred to call it) such that you are freely discussing presuppositionalism vs. evidentialism with your neighbors, and you plan to give a copy of Van Til's Christian Apologetics to all your relatives for Christmas. Well done, Jamin!
One aspect of presuppositionalism that Van Til (and those that followed him) was quite insistent on was the fact that when arguing for the existence of God, it is insufficient to simply argue that there is such a thing as a divine being. Most apologists start here, and then have an uphill battle once this premise is assumed to then jump from deism or theism to the Christian God. For Van Til, it was pointless even beginning to discuss God, His existence, His nature, His works, etc. if you are not prepared to argue for the Christian God. In his famous debate against Gordon Stein, Greg Bahnsen in his opening statement made it plain that he was not there to discuss the existence of any other deity--it would be pointless because he would agree with Stein regarding their non-existence. Rather, the point of the argument begins with Christians on the Christian God.
Naturally, one of--if not the--key doctrines of Christian theism is that of the Trinity. It is the doctrine of the Trinity above all other doctrines pertaining to God that sets Christianity apart from other religions. It has often been said, and as far as I can tell this is generally true, that all heretical offsprings of Christianity share a denial or a perversion of this central teaching. For Van Til, however, the Trinity was also important to his apologetic argument. Over the next few blog articles, I plan to sketch what Van Til taught regarding the Trinity (which has often been misunderstood, opening him up to charges of heresy), and how he understood the Trinity to figure into the presuppositional argument for God's existence.
These blog articles are based on a paper I wrote a while back on the subject "Van Til and the Trinity: The Centrality of the Christian View of God in the Apologetics of Cornelius Van Til." If you want to read this paper as a pdf, you can do so by going to the "Papers" section on my website. What will follow in these blogs will not be a simple cut-and-paste of the paper. I will attempt to present the basic arguments in a blog-friendly format. For some people, that's as much as you want or need. For others who want more, read the paper, or check out Jamin's Van Til/Presuppositional Apologetics Reading Recommendations.
PS: If you have been hunting around for my blog articles on the Islamic concept of Predestination (Qadar), you can now find that as a single article in pdf format on my website, along with an overview of the Qur'an.
11/02/2010 - Jeff DownsDr. Joseph Pipa, president of Greenville Seminary recently spoke at the Oklahoma Conference on Reformed Theology on the topic of the "Golden Chain of Redemption (Romans 8:29-30)." I am currently taking Christ & Salvation with Dr. Pipa, some of the same things mentioned in class are presented in this lectures. The advantage you have is you is that he is not going to ask you questions about what you read. The disadvantage is that the lectures total only five hours (the class is 3 hrs. every Wednesday over a semester - certainly more intense).
I've listened to part of the lecture on Predestination and here is my favorite statement:
Some may say “because I am elect, it doesn’t really matter how I live or what I do. Well the one thing I can say for sure about you is that you might be elect, but you are not yet converted.”
To listen click here,