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Hip and Thigh: Smiting Theological Philistines with a Great Slaughter. Judges 15:8

Tuesday, February 28, 2012

…And They Returned to Ekron

DagonMy last post addressing the use of evidence within the application of apologetics reminded me of a text I recently taught at our home Bible study.

We are working our way through 1 Samuel. I’ve taught Samuel a few years ago and I am currently reproducing my notes here at my blog, so I am familiar with the book .

One of my favorite portions of Scripture is found in 1 Samuel 5-6 when God allowed the Ark of the Covenant to be captured by the Philistines. God puts Himself on display among the heathen pagans by destroying the false god of their religious worldview and bringing judgment upon their nation.

Considering the presentations I have heard from classic, evidentialistic apologetics defending the Christian faith, I wanted to make some textual observations from these two chapters that I believe cuts against their overall approach.

- Note that God did not call the Philistines to consider the evidence for His existence. He proved His existence by bringing judgment, first upon their false gods and their religious system (5:1-5), and then upon the entire nation of people (5:6).

- God held the Philistines accountable for mishandling the Ark. The Philistines had no knowledge of the ceremonial process God prescribed in Exodus and Leviticus for handling the tabernacle furniture, yet they were judged for violating the protocol.

- The Philistines were aware of the historical events pertaining to the Exodus (6:6). At this point in Israel’s history, the Exodus was some 300 years previous. This is a significant point, because the Philistines were a non-indigenous people who migrated to Canaan and became a dominant presence there after 1200 B.C., a good 200 years after the arrival of Israel to the land. How exactly would they have knowledge of the events in Egypt pertaining to the Exodus? Yet they did not dispute the historicity of those events.

- The Philistines were aware they had sinned against God (6:4). In other words, they were aware they had trespassed against God because of their capture of the Ark. They hired “god-brokers”, alleged “religious experts” who were suppose to know something about every religion and its ceremonies, so as to recommend a course of action to manipulate the particular deity to favor them.

- In spite of what they knew was the truth, the Philistines “stacked the deck” against the fact God was judging them (6:9). The diviners recommended they get a new cart, put the Ark upon it along with some images, and hitch up two milking cows that had just calved to pull it. The circumstances seemed to be rigged to fail, so that they could write off the seven months of judgment as “just chance.” To excuse all that had so clearly happened to them as an unexplained coincidence that just appeared to be God judging, rather than owning up to the fact they had encountered the divine hand of God Almighty.

- The Philistines did not repent (6:16). There is no inquiry as to who this “God” of Israel is. They had their false god exposed as a fraud and their religious system as a sham. There was no clearer evidence as to the reality of who God was. He revealed Himself to them, and yet, they “returned to Ekron the same day.” Rather than seeking out the true God, their own Creator, they went back to their false god and their false worship.

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Sunday, February 26, 2012

CSI Apologetics

csiAdditional Thoughts on The Use of Evidence in Apologetic Methodology.

Recently, I wrote up a brief outline summarizing in bullet-point fashion the key components distinguishing presuppositionalism from evidentialistic apologetic methodology.

One of my points highlighted what I believe to be two foundational distinctions between the methodologies. That being, evidentialism believes in the self-authenticating nature of tangible evidence and proofs for the Christian faith, and men, though fallen in sin, retain in some fashion the ability to rationally evaluate the truthfulness of that evidence and make reasonable conclusions about spiritual matters.

To illustrate my point, I cited from the purpose statement of the campus apologetic para-church ministry, Ratio Christi. It says,

It is our belief, however, that the Scriptures testify to the fact that man, though corrupted by sin, is still made in the image of God and has been given reasoning faculties that can be used to gain important, though limited, data from nature about reality and theology.

A few days after I posted that article, I had a commenter stop by who is a campus director for a Ratio Christi chapter in N.C. He took friendly issue with my citing from that section of the purpose statement and offered some challenges to my overall thesis I presented.

Some of those challenges include,

- Ratio Christi utilizes the classic apologetic method, not merely "evidentialism."
- Both classic apologists and evidentialists would never say an unbeliever can be "reasoned" to the faith.
- Presuppositionalism tends towards fideism, because it begs the question on the trustworthiness of Scripture as an unique, holy book.
- The Holy Spirit can use evidence to clear away intellectual obstacles and thus give a person a reason to believe in Christ.

I thought his comments offered up some excellent challenges to my apologetic theology and they are worth a response on the front page of the blog rather than left unseen on the bottom shelf of an old post. Though he provides some good challenges, I still think those challenges demonstrate what I believe to be the inadequacy of his apologetic methodology. In order to spare the reader from having to slosh through a ten page paper, I'll break up my response into two, possibly three, posts.

By way of introduction, I will say that I am not opposed to utilizing evidence based arguments when I engage unbelievers with the Gospel. While I heartily agree that any so-called "evidence" for the existence of God or the integrity of Scripture is open to interpretation by the presuppositions the unbeliever brings to bear upon that "evidence," a discussion involving evidence can be used to reveal the folly of those presuppositions and the faulty, inconsistent worldview from where they originate.

A good example of what I mean can be found in the debate James White had with atheist Dan Barker back in 2009. During his presentation, Dr. White played a video of an animation showing the F1 ATPase structure in the mitochondria. He did not present this video as "neutral facts" that can be used to reason with an unbeliever about the reality of God's existence. He presented it as a fact that is incompatible with Dan Barker's materialistic atheist worldview. In short, the presentation of this video exposes the folly of the atheistic interpretation of the world.

Additionally, just so as to be clear, I don't depend upon evidence to be the persuading element in an evangelical encounter. Nor do I further believe the Holy Spirit "uses" evidence to clear intellectual obstacles as my commenter suggested in one of his comments. That is because a sinner's refusal to believe has nothing to do with his intellect being cleared, but has everything to do with his heart. He has a moral problem, not an intellect problem.

Let me draw our attention back to what I believe is the profoundest disagreement between our two methodologies, and that has to do with the nature of man. My commenter insists that no classic apologist he knows believes men can be “reasoned to faith apart from the Spirit.” Perhaps they may say this, but they don't teach it or practice it. Let me explain:

If one were to survey the writings, books, seminar lectures, and radio monologues of the various proponents of so-called “classic apologetics,” they frequently appeal to men being “reasoned with,” or having “free-will to choose God,” or they even speak of some innate ability in man to “make a choice for God.”

Moreover, their presentations are often times inconsistent with their apologetic methodology. On one hand, when they teach about the doctrine of man, they will say he's in rebellion against God and can do nothing good, yet on the other, when they engage the unbeliever, they seem to believe those exact same sinners, when presented with evidence for the Christian faith, can be convinced of it.

Take for example the apologetic ministry (aptly named) Please Convince Me that supposedly applies the perspective of a cold case detective to the Christian worldview. The very title of the ministry, “Please Convince Me” insists unbelievers can be convinced of evidence. In fact, when I have heard Jim Warner (Wallis), the founder of the Please Convince Me ministry speak, his main approach is treating the truth claims of Christianity as if they are on trial in a court room and he is the lead detective presenting the evidence to the jury. Even his bio tells us he takes an “evidentialist” approach to truth when he applies it to the Christian faith.

However, under their doctrinal section on the website, the article on the doctrine of man presents what I would consider an okay, biblical understanding of who man is in his fallen nature, even stating that men are so fallen they don't even understand spiritual things. I would agree.

Yet in spite of that clear statement about the nature of man, the apologetics advocated and practiced by the ministry team, contradicts what is stated in that article concerning the doctrine of man. How can a fallen sinner unable to understand spiritual things be convinced the evidence proves the truthfulness of the Christian truth claims? Would he not be a biased jury member to begin with?

My commenter says the Holy Spirit can use evidence to remove obstacles out of the way for sinners to believe. The reason the Holy Spirit does this, some would say, is so that the sinner can make a choice one way or another to believe or reject Christ. In the work of salvation, this is the Holy Spirit's use of common grace working with the general revelation of nature and conscience to compel a sinner to believe. Bruce Demarest, in his book on general revelation, describes it like this,

The crippling effects of sin in the human mind are overcome in part by a general illumination of the Logos (John 1:4, 9). God wills that man, the pinnacle of His creation, should use his reason to secure truth, including elementary truths about himself. Equipped with an intuitional knowledge of God, including the light of conscience, and enabled by common grace, man by rational reflection on the data of the natural and historical order draws inferences about God's character and operations [Demarest, 233].

So in other words, at least in the way I understand it, the “illuminating” Logos is equivalent to the “Holy Spirit using evidence to remove obstacles” and is one way He overcomes the crippling effects of sin in the human mind so as to draw men to Himself. The only problem I have with this classic, Wesleyan-Arminian view of the Spirit’s work of “prevenient” grace is that it isn't biblical.

When I discussed the subject of man's sin nature with my commenter, I had stated that the Bible tells us men are in need of having a divine work of regeneration happen to them first before they can savingly believe the Gospel. He responded by asking me a question, “how do I know the Bible says man needs to be regenerated?” I wasn't sure if he was asking that question because he sincerely didn't know what the Bible taught on the subject, or if it was his way of pointing out that my ability to understand what the Bible says about man, sin, and the Gospel proves I have the ability to understand the Gospel savingly apart from regeneration.

Whatever the case, he provides us with a starting point that allows me to briefly outline what I think the Bible teaches on man and his reason.

I agree with my commenter up to a point. I would be foolish to say men are so corrupted by sin that they are unable to rationally function in society, or in the case of his question, unable to understand what the Bible says about the sinfulness of men.

Of course I believe all men think “logically” (depending upon how they understand “logic”), communicate rationally with each other, react to instances of right and wrong, and have a sense of the divine, or what would be understood as a transcendent authority outside themselves. This would be what theologians understand as the “image of God” in man. God created men to be rational, logical, moral beings.

But when Adam fell into sin, sin not only separated man from God, but it also marred his ability to think rationally, logically, and morally. In the NT, the apostles often write about how man's ability is marred in these areas. See for example Paul's description of sinners in Romans 1:18 ff., 3:10-18, 8:6-8 and Ephesians 2:1-4, 4:17-19. It is what is termed “total depravity” because sin impacts the totality of the human being both his physical and spiritual dimensions.

I think my commenter would agree with my basic premise regarding man. Where we differ, or at least the area of disagreement between myself and what I see with the host of classic apologists with whom the majority of evangelicals in America are familiar, is with how they understand man's ability to know God and submit to Him as their Lord.

First, I believe the Bible is clear that sinful men know there is a God. That goes back to them being created in His image. Paul tells us this in Romans 1-3. Even though they may dispute God's existence like a number of the well-known atheists who publicly revile God and religion, they still live their lives as though He exists. They are outraged by acts of immorality (they always complain about God being a “moral” monster), they certainly insist upon being “logical” (faith and religion being “illogical”), and they appeal to a transcendent “authority” outside themselves (“Evolution is the driving force behind all reality”). In other words, they live life according to their divine image.

Second, I would agree with what my commenter implies with his question: That sinful men can understand biblical truth. I have encountered many unbelievers who know what the Bible says about the Resurrection, the atonement, and the basic Gospel message. In fact, I have met many who could articulate the Christian faith better than most Christians. Think Bart Ehrman. It is absolutely certain they know the “truth,” and in point of fact, they don't need to be convinced of it at all by any evidence. Even the devils believe God, writes James, and they have the sense to tremble before Him (James 2:19).

The issue really isn't unbelievers in need of being convinced of the truth claims of Christianity. The real issue is the implication those truth claims present to unbelievers. Let that last sentence soak in a moment (hence the reason I put it in italics, bold font, and colored it blue).

Remember, the Bible tells us their hearts are willfully in rebellion against God's authority. Like Paul writes in Romans 8:7, “the carnal mind is at enmity against God.” It is a picture of warfare; men stand in treasonous opposition to God's authority and willing reject it. Their opposition to God's authority has nothing to do with intellectual obstacles in need of being removed or having a reasonable answer supplied to their objections. It is in fallen man's nature to hate God's authority governing his life, and that innate rebellion can only be over come by God's regenerating power. As Paul wrote in 1 Cor. 12:3, “no one can say that Jesus is Lord except by the Holy Spirit.”

Just as the Thessalonians turned from their idols to serve the living and true God (1 Thess. 1:9), unbelievers have to relinquish their sinful autonomy and submit themselves to Christ's Lordship. They are in essence exchanging a worldview of foolishness (Psalm 14:1) for one grounded in wisdom that can only be found in the fear of the Lord (Prov. 1:7, 9:10). That kind of profound, life altering change can only come from the hand of God. It’s a divine miracle. True conversion, then, is God's victory over the sinful heart of a man at war with Him.

Now it may be my Ratio Christi commenter agrees with what I say here. Certainly those "classic apologists" who are Calvinistic in their theology would. But there is a significant disconnect between theology and practice. Because the means they employ to engage the unbeliever with the truth claims of Christ do not take into consideration those Scripturally revealed insights regarding man's nature. They also tend to shun the use of the Bible in apologetic encounters and put God on trial, as it were, so that the sinner can judge Him worthy of his loyalty. I find this approach not only problematic, but offensive. That's what I'll take up in my next post on this subject.

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Thursday, February 23, 2012

This is Why I Love Phil

I figure most of my readers are aware that John MacArthur has allowed his study Bible notes to be released with the NIV. The NIV is not necessarily the favorite Bible translation of the folks who run in my neck of the evangelical woods. We're more NKJV, NASB, and ESV people with some starting to take a shine to the HCSB. Real diehards I know carry around copies of the original languages.

At any rate, there are a few numbered among us who don't like this arrangement at all. They are disagreeing vehemently against it, even suggesting that John is off his rocker in some fashion. I guess that is okay as long as dissenters are clear about the facts.

I, however, was surprised to read the Bayly bros. explain in a blog post how this MSBNIV is all about money, and shoring up the funds for the fading MacArthur empire, and what not.

In this post, David Bayly writes,

But, like it or not, John is getting older. His ministry has handlers now. There are legacy issues to consider. The financial future of a MacArthur-less GTY, Master's College and Seminary, etc. is being weighed. And are we really to believe that finances play no role in such decisions at GTY? Really?

Wow. That's the kind of Gail Riplinger conspiratorial stuff I read over at the KJV-Only websites, just minus the seizure inducing flash animation of anamorphic Bibles.

Phil's reply was precious, and hence the reason we all love him around here:

David: "His ministry has handlers now. There are legacy issues to consider. The financial future of a MacArthur-less GTY, Master's College and Seminary, etc. is being weighed. And are we really to believe that finances play no role in such decisions at GTY? Really?"

Well, yes. Really.

You're trying too hard to justify a groundless judgment you have made.

I'm Executive Director of Grace to You. We're a donor-supported ministry, and we get zero royalties on sales of the MSB. We've given away freely, no strings attached whatsoever, at least 80,000 copies (NASB, NKJV, and ESV combined). John waives his author's royalty on all copies given away by the ministry. (He does that for all books given away by GTY, and we have literally given away millions of books). We DO sell additional copies of his books at a sizable discount, but our total sales numbers are a small fraction of what we have given away for free. Moreover, our income from book sales, when you subtract the cost of purchasing books from the publisher, is negligible.

Which is to say there is a sum total of zero financial incentive for GTY to want to see an NIV edition of the MSB published.

When the NIV-MSB was first proposed, John MacArthur said no. **I'm** the one who lobbied for it to be done--for all the reasons I listed in my blogpost about it. You may question my judgment or disagree with the decision. But given the fact that not one dime in royalties or reward will go to me personally or to the ministry I work for, you cannot righteously claim my motive was money.

But: "Handlers"? In everything you have written about this issue, that's what amuses me most of all. Next time you're in California, I'll take you to lunch and let you meet our management team. We've been called a lot of things. "Handlers" is a first, and while it's a lot nicer than we're accustomed to, I have to say: You give us way too much credit if you think we're savvy, profit-motivated "handlers."

We're basically a bunch of teachers and preachers and Sunday-school teachers--churchmen without MBAs and totally lacking in either experience or interest when it comes to marketing technique. We are stewards accountable to God for what we do with our ministry and with our gifts. And that's intimidating enough without posing as "handlers" of John MacArthur's "legacy issues."

One other thing to bear in mind: The Pyromaniacs blog is my hobby, not an extension of my job. The guys who write there, except for me, have no connection to John MacArthur or Grace Community Church. Your original accusations about this were as off-base as these revised comments.

I like you guys and I love that you are passionate about what you believe. But defending your ability to publish judgments of others' hearts and motives doesn't become you--especially when it's clear you made no real effort to investigate the facts.

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Tuesday, February 21, 2012

The Villages

I'm gonna build mine to look like Luke Skywalker's land speeder.

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Friday, February 17, 2012

Gleaning in 1 Samuel [6]

Judgment Brought Upon Israel (1 Samuel 4)

The last time we saw how God "affirmed" or "anointed" Samuel to be His prophet to the nation of Israel. He did that by revealing to Samuel His final judgment upon Eli, his sons, and their sin against the Lord.

In 1 Samuel 4, we see this prophecy come to fulfillment as the narrative is the confirmation of the destruction of Eli's house.

I. The Setting (4:1-2)

Some time after Samuel's pronouncement against Eli, Israel became involved with a battle with the Philistines. They were not indigenous to the land of Canaan, but were a people group who migrated to the area on the coast, south west of Israel. After their settlement, the swiftly became a serious military threat during the time of the Judges that plays through the records of Samuel.

The Philistines were near Aphek, and Israel went to meet them in battle, encamping 2 miles to the east, beside Ebenezer (which had yet to be named). When they joined battle, the Israelites were defeated with 4,000 soldiers dying.

II. The Total Defeat (4:4-11)

Israel regroups, and the people wonder why God would allow them to be defeated. It is obvious they hadn't reflected upon their sin. No one thinks to repent or that it was because Eli and his sons had led Israel as a whole to sin against God.

Instead, the send for the Ark of the Covenant.

Note how the author calls it the Ark of the Covenant of the LORD. His description reflected the fact that Israel had disobeyed the covenant by permitting sinful priests to lead worship.

Additionally, they had sin within their very midst. The two sons of Eli, Hophni and Phinehas, were there with the ark (vs. 4). The men who were bringing the hand of God against them stood right before them. They should have remembered Achan (Joshua 7).

Also, it should be pointed out that the people weren't necessarily trusting the ark to save them in battle. They were treating it like a talisman, an object that would force the hand of God to fight for them.

Israel rejoices when the Ark arrived. The cry was so loud that the Philistines believed Israel's "god" had come to fight for them. They react with fear. In their minds, these were the gods who defeated the Egyptians. Even some 300 years later, the nations were still mindful of Egypt's defeat during the Exodus. They determined, then, to defeat Israel and their "gods" (vs. 9).

That they accomplished. Not because their god was stronger, but because God gave Israel over to be judged by a foreign nation. He was faithful to fulfill the covenant curses found in Deut. 28:25, The LORD will cause you to be defeated before your enemies; you shall go out one way against them and flee seven ways before them.

Three things happened:

- Israel was defeated with 30,000 additional men killed.
- Hophni and Phinehas were killed.
- but more importantly, the Ark was taken.

The taking of the ark was a significant defeat. How will Israel now offer sacrifices and be able to accomplish their covenant duties? It was as if God was placing Himself in a self-imposed exile from the people.

III. The Judgment (4:12-22)

A man from Benjamin runs back to Shiloh to give the report of what happened. Eli hears how his family was judged: His sons were dead and the ark was captured. Upon hearing of the Ark captured, Eli falls over backwards off his chair - as if the LORD dethroned him - and dies.

Then lastly, Phinehas's wife dies in child birth. But before she dies, she names her son "Ichabod" which means, "The glory of the LORD has departed."

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Wednesday, February 15, 2012

The Apple-Orange Fallacy

Or,

The Reverse Ad Hominem Fallacy Fallacy

I found this post linked from Tim Challies place,

The Faithfulness Fallacy

In sum, the author attempts to draw a comparison between John MacArthur and James MacDonald. It breaks down like this:

When John was criticized last year for waving his cane at YRR, hoodie wearing hipsters, John's supporters argued that he should be listened to because he has a long, 40 plus year track record of faithful ministry.

Now that James MacDonald has come under criticism for embracing T.D. Jakes as a fellow brother in the Lord, his supporters argue he should be listened to because he has a long, 30 plus year track record of faithful ministry.

Our intrepid blogger notes something I guess everyone else overlooked: The supporters of both men are in essence merely defending the men, rather than defending their ideas. Hence, its a reverse Ad Hominem fallacy. In other words, rather than defending what either man is saying, the supporters have shifted the true nature of the arguments from the arguments themselves to the character of the men.

Then, bringing to bear all the sagely wisdom a new church planter can muster, he warmly reminds us that we must not pre-judge a man based solely upon his character alone, but prayerfully seek wisdom and weigh any opposing views faithfully before we offer our opinion.

Ah yes, thanks for providing us with that much needed balance.

This is what I consider to be the example of an Apple-Orange Fallacy. That is when a youngish blogger, who thinks he has some hidden nugget of wisdom that transcends the masses', attempts to straighten everyone out with an erroneous comparison that is utterly off the mark and out of touch with the facts.

Let's reminds ourselves of the details so I can show you what I mean.

Many folks will remember last year John MacArthur wrote up a series of blog posts critical of the Young, Restless, and Reformed movement, and contrary to the libelous tweets of Steve Camp who attributed those posts to a ghost writer, John was involved with writing them.

Most folks appreciated what John had to say, but the post that got him into trouble was the one on beer drinking. That's because there exists a contingency of YRR oriented church planters who still have issues with their legalistic, fundy past and who like to booze it up at their men's Bible studies. YRR folks love iconoclasm except when it is their icons getting smashed.

When YRR supporters were complaining against John during his series, and Steve Camp was making his stupid tweets, I was one of those individuals who played the "faithful minister card." That is because the bulk of the arguments against John were ad hominem. And including, in a snort of irony, a post from this same young blogger who didn't deal at all with anything substantive in John's various posts. He just pleaded for him to hear his generation and not treat him and his friends like an enemy.

The reason why I could play that "faithful minister card" was simply because John has a consistently steady track record of pastoral ministry that proves exactly why what he was saying to the YRR should be heeded. While all his YRR critics were "exegeting" John 2 in order to determine what vintage the wine was that Jesus made at Cana, none of them really responded to what John was saying about the propriety and wisdom of a pastor encouraging his congregation to drink alcohol. It went right over their heads.

James MacDonald, on the other hand, jump the theological rails to become the biggest enabler of a heretic who not only denies essential Christian doctrine concerning the Trinity, but also teaches a false, "Health N' Wealth" gospel. MacDonald has been on record condemning Jakes' "Health N' Wealth" gospel, but threw away "30 years of faithful ministry" when Jakes agreed to be on his ER2 love-fest.

He allowed Jakes to remain unchallenged as to his theological views regarding the Trinity, he didn't even bother touching his false "Health N' Wealth" gospel, and MacDonald continues to stick his fingers in his ears and ignore all reasonable criticism of his actions to the point he has done an "Ergun Caner" and is blocking people from following him on twitter. Any one who seriously appeals to his "30 years of faithful ministry" as an argument why we must give him a fair hearing is deluded.

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Tuesday, February 14, 2012

Apologetic Methodology in a Nut Shell

I have an opportunity in a month or so to teach on the subject of apologetics. I'll probably have a one evening shot for maybe 50 minutes to an hour, so I am having to whittle down my notes to fit the occasion. I figure someone will raise the questions: "Can you explain what presuppositional apologetics is, and how is it different from evidentialist apologetics?" Anticipating those questions, I sketched out a bullet point outline defining presuppositionalism and what I think are the key distinctions with evidentialism. I thought I would share to see what feedback I may get.

_______________________

Basically, presuppositionalism and evidentialism represent two apologetic methodologies that attempt to make a case for the Christian faith in light of unbelief. As Christians, we should strive to make our apologetic case for Christianity God honoring, biblically based, and theologically sound. Evidentialism is the apologetic methodology the average church going, "Red State" evangelical Christian is familiar with. In fact, I call evidentialism "popular apologetics" because it is the methodology presented in the popular apologetic books found in the typical Christian bookstore and is taught on Christian radio and in other media presentations.

As harsh as this may sound to some - perhaps even many - I think evidentialism is neither God honoring, nor biblically based, nor theologically sound. I say that because proponents who advocate evidentialism are merely attempting to prove the possibility of God's existence and the viability of the Christian worldview, rather than proclaim the reality of God and the truth of Christianity. Such an objective dishonors the Lord, because evidentialists typically keep the Bible out of the discussion (they believe you have to prove its dependability first), and thus, this makes their overall apologetic theologically unsound.

Presuppositionalism, I believe, reflects more accurately the apologetic utilized by Christians in the book of Acts, and hence, it is the model we need to employ in our evangelistic and apologetic endeavors.

Using presuppositionalism as the focus, let me contrast the two systems:

1) Presuppositionalism defends the totality of the Christian worldview when engaging unbelief.

*By unbelief I mean:

- Those opposed to the Christian faith by either apathy or outright hostility

- Those who may claim some Christian "affiliation" but inconsistently live out their "faith" or religious practice.

- Religious faith outside biblical Christianity.

2) The presuppositionalist defends the totality of the Christian worldview by beginning with a most certain and unquestioned commitment to,

- The inspiration and infallibility of Scripture as a Divine revelation.
- The reality and existence of our Divine Creator.
- The acknowledgement and submission to Christ's sovereign lordship over all areas of human existence.
- The supernatural work of God to convert the hearts of sinners.

3) A presuppositionalist seeks to engage the unbeliever by challenging the totality of his or her specific worldview. Such things as a person's truth claims, dogmatism, fundamental convictions; how the person lives, interacts with the world, what he or she believes about reality, why we are here, where we are going, etc.

4) Presuppositionalism is distinguished from the "evidentialist" approach, what I personally term, "popular apologetics," along two foundational disagreements:

- Evidentialists believe various lines of evidence are self-authenticating and sufficient within themselves as "proofs" for God's existence, the veracity of Scripture, and the truth claims of the Christian faith.

- Though evidentialists believe men are fallen and are sinners, they believe man still retains his reasoning faculties so that he can learn spiritual things about God. The Ratio Christi apologetic university network affirm this viewpoint under their basic belief statement under the heading, “Concerns about Apologetic Methodology:”

It is our belief, however, that the Scriptures testify to the fact that man, though corrupted by sin, is still made in the image of God and has been given reasoning faculties that can be used to gain important, though limited, data from nature about reality and theology.

5) Presuppositionalists, on the other hand, believe that men are created in the image of God, yet are completely fallen including their reasoning facilities. What is understood as the "noetic effects of the fall," (Rom. 8:6,7; 1 Cor. 2:14-16; Eph. 4:17, 18).

- This does not mean unbelievers are stupid and "unreasonable" and thus unable to function as people in a society. Rather, it means their reasoning cannot learn about spiritual things and biblical truth apart from a divine work of regeneration. Their unbelief and rejection of the Christian faith is not one lacking "evidence," or having it explained to them correctly, but is fundamentally a moral/spiritual problem.

- In fact, The Bible tells us all unbelievers intuitively know God exists, but due to their spiritual disconnect and heart rebellion against God, they suppress that knowledge of God and attempt to explain it away by the philosophical constructs of their personal worldview.

6) Therefore, presuppositionalists believe there is no "neutral" evidence. Meaning, evidence is NOT self-authenticating and sufficient within itself as "proofs" for the Christian faith. All evidence has to be understood and interpreted according to the "fear of the Lord." (Prov. 1:7, 9:10) In other words, all evidence is God's evidence and we seek to understand it according to a comprehensive, biblically informed framework.

7) Unbelievers, in spite of how smart they may be, or "open-minded" to consider the "evidence," interpret all evidence according to a set of unquestioned presuppositions (from whence "presuppositional apologetics" gets its name). Because unbelievers are unspiritual, and not submitted to God's authority, they interpret any "evidence" contrary to belief in the revealed God of Scripture.

8) The strategy of the apologist, then, as noted under #3, is to engage the worldview of the unbeliever. What Paul describes in 2 Corinthians 10:4, 5 as "pulling down strongholds" and "casting down arguments." The "pulling" and "casting" down involves challenging those unquestioned presuppositions that give shape to the unbeliever's fundamental convictions and overall faith commitments, thus forcing him to "justify" or "give a reason" why those presuppositions should be trusted.

9) The goal of the apologist then, is to:

- Challenge the validity of those presuppositions.
- Attempt to demonstrate, through personal interaction, how the unbeliever lives out his life inconsistently to what he knows in his "heart of hearts" is true about God and reality.
- Show him the sinful folly of trusting those presuppositions apart from the revealed God of Scripture.
- Trust that it is God's Spirit Who is the one Who convinces the person of spiritual truth, not evidence or correctly presented philosophical argumentation.

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Monday, February 13, 2012

The Moose Cam

The perils of living in Canada.
It gives an entirely new meaning to "moose tracks" ice cream.
It's almost like they are laser guided or something.

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Thursday, February 09, 2012

40 Reasons Revisited

A few weeks or so ago, I linked to a couple of blog articles by Paul Henebury on how we are not to re-read the OT according to the NT. I contacted him and asked if I could combine the two posts into one article and make a PDF. He graciously said yes. Those interested can see it here:

Forty Reasons NOT to Reinterpret the OT According to the New

And with that in mind, read Paul's follow-up post interacting with some rebuttals on the subject of NT/OT interpretation:

Is "Reinterpretation" the Right Term?

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Wednesday, February 08, 2012

The End of Infidelity

I am often times left gawking at the sheer volume of material Steve Hays and the Triablogue team can put out. And it is none of that lame tripe written up by preachers wearing hoodies presently being pushed upon us by the Gospel Coalition publishing machines. The Triablogue stuff is worth the investment to read, because a person will genuinely benefit from their material.

The most recent offering is another ebook responding to the on-line atheist epologists like John Loftus and his crew:

The End of Infidelity

I have only downloaded it and will transfer it to my Kindle later today, but not even having read it, I can tell you it will be worth your time studying. Especially if you are engaged with internet atheists and their style of "epologetics" they attempt to claim is intellectual and rational. Or perhaps that grouchy, smug aunt or brother-in-law you only see at Thanksgiving or Christmas who is always swaggering to pick a fight with you on religion.

By the way, the Triablogue team put out a first volume in this subject a year or so ago also worth the download:

The Infidel Delusion

Now if I can only get some frequent internet trolls who stop by here to read them.

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Monday, February 06, 2012

Anvil Shooting

Something tells me the nanny state here in CA wouldn't let us do this.

[I had to repost the video. Sorry for the environmental wacko commercial]

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Thursday, February 02, 2012

The “Literal” Hermeneutic and Dispensationalism

antichristDaniel 9, A Test Case

While doing a search on a non-related subject, I stumbled upon yet another typical negative comment pertaining to how Dispensationalists interpret Scripture.

The author implies that the Dispensational hermeneutic, which I understand to be the historical-grammatical approach to reading the Bible, is problematic when it comes to interpreting the biblical text. The "Dispensational" take on Daniel 9 is presented as an example.

The snippet is taken from a blog article written in 2006. Though that is nearly 6 years ago, seeing that it pertains to the use of hermeneutics, I thought it may be useful to visit. Let me cite the comment in full and then go back and dismantle it piece by piece.

As an aside, often the Dispensational interpretation of certain passages is hardly “literal,” but “literalistic.” That is, the application of the text is something terribly foreign to the historical context. Take Daniel 9, for instance. Daniel, in searching the Scriptures, realizes that the 70 years Jeremiah predicted were about to come to a close (9:2). And while he prays in response to this (his prayer, by the way, is permeated with covenantal references to God. Keep that in mind when you read that one whom Dispensationalists believe to be the antichrist will “confirm a covenant with many,” 9:27), Gabriel appears to him in a vision (9:21), and he tells him that “seventy sevens” and “sixty-two sevens” (references to sabbatical weeks, Lev 35:1-4[sic]) are decreed to follow (9:25). That is, a total of 490 years (an ultimate Jubilee, Lev 24:8), the messianic age. But the Dispensational interpretation of this text (the supposedly “literal” interpretation) forces an at least 2000 year break (or “an indeterminate gap of time”) between the end of the sixty-ninth and seventieth week, a disjunction which the text *no where* posits. This is directly contrary to the Dispensationalist’s professed “literal” hermeneutic! And this forcing of something into the text which is not present (something that used to be called “eisegesis”) has terrible consequences: confusing Christ with the antichrist!


...often the Dispensational interpretation of certain passages is hardly “literal,” but “literalistic.” That is, the application of the text is something terribly foreign to the historical context.

The complaint here is that Dispensationalists, of which I would count myself, interpret the Bible not “literally” but “literalistically.” I would be curious for a more concise definition that distinguishes those two words. Is there really a difference between "literal" and “literalistic”? How exactly would they be so different that to be “literal” is okay, but “literalistic” is flawed?

The basic web dictionary meaning of literal is, “adhering to fact or to the ordinary construction or primary meaning of a term or expression” or “free from exaggeration or embellishment.” Literalistic, according to various on-line dictionaries, is simply the means of interpreting words in the literal sense.

Perhaps the author has in mind the idea that when Dispensationalists interpret the Bible they do so in a wooden, literal fashion. In other words, they make the passage under consideration sound so absurd it creates theological error. In the case of Daniel 9, the Dispensationalist “literalistic” hermeneutic confuses Jesus with the antichrist.

Web dictionary definitions can only supply a basic sense of the word literal and it many not be especially helpful as it pertains to Bible study. So how do Dispensationalists truly understand the word?

Mal Couch, a Dispensationalist, explains that “literal” does not mean “letterism,” which would be equal to the assumed use of “literalistic” by our Dispensational critic. Instead, “literal” means “normal.” Couch explains,

A normal reading of Scripture is synonymous with a consistent literal, grammatical-historical hermeneutic. When a literal hermeneutic is applied to the interpretation of Scripture, every word written in Scripture is given the normal meaning it would have in its normal usage. ... A normal reading of Scripture recognizes figures of speech and symbolism used in eschatological literature and other books of the Bible." [Mal Couch, An Introduction to Classical Evangelical Hermeneutics, 33, 34].

Just so I am on the same page as the critic, when James White, who is definitely not a Dispensationalist, defines what he means by exegesis, he clearly implies Couch's understanding of “literal” when we study Scripture. White writes,

Exegesis can be defined with reference to its opposite: eisegesis. To exegete a passage is to lead the native meaning out from the words; To eisegete a passage is to insert a foreign meaning into the words. You are exegeting a passage when you are allowing it to say what its original author intended; you are eisegeting a passage when you are forcing the author to say what you want the author to say. True exegesis shows respect for the text and, by extension, for its author: eisegesis, even when based upon ignorance, shows disrespect for the text and its author. [James White, Scripture Alone, 81 (emphasis in original)].

Dr. White goes on to explain what constitutes sound exegesis of a biblical text, or the rules of exegetical hermeneutics. Such things as determining context, considering the author, the audience, and the historical setting of the passage, and the consideration of grammar, syntax, and lexical semantics. All of these points the Dispensationalist would heartily agree with, and in fact, practice when he studies the Bible. I take these points as reading the Bible in a literal fashion.

Our critic claims the Dispensational interpretation babyreadingbrings something “terribly foreign” to the text. In other words, Dispensationalists eisegete passages, they do not exegete them. Yet, is his claim valid? I can show you it is not, and in point of fact, it is he who brings something “terribly foreign” to this passage in Daniel and is the inconsistent eisegete. He demonstrates my point in this very paragraph in which he is supposedly shows us the hermeneutical errors of Dispensationalists.

Let me break down his “exegesis.”

Daniel, in searching the Scriptures, realizes that the 70 years Jeremiah predicted were about to come to a close (9:2).

Notice that Daniel expects that 70 years to be “literal.” In other words, Daniel reads Jeremiah 25:11, 12 and expects what Jeremiah to be saying in his prophecy to be fulfilled literally. He can mark his calendar, as it were, from the year Israel went into exile, count out 70 years to the very year the prophet Jeremiah says they will return from exile. Daniel doesn't “spiritualize” the number 70 as if Jeremiah originally meant it to be some number meaning “total completion” or “perfection” or other similar nonsense. Jeremiah means 70 calendar years, as in 7 decades, like from 1910-1980.

Hence, we see an important point noted: If Daniel read the numbers in Jeremiah in such a literal fashion that he understood those numbers to be 70 calendar years, would not the remainder of the numbers in chapter 9 be literal calendar years as well? Keep that thought with you as I move along.

And while he prays in response to this (his prayer, by the way, is permeated with covenantal references to God. Keep that in mind when you read that one whom Dispensationalists believe to be the antichrist will “confirm a covenant with many,” 9:27), Gabriel appears to him in a vision (9:21), and he tells him that “seventy sevens” and “sixty-two sevens” (references to sabbatical weeks, Lev 35:1-4[sic]) are decreed to follow (9:25). That is, a total of 490 years (an ultimate Jubilee, Lev 24:8), the messianic age.

Laying aside the comment about the antichrist for a moment, I would agree with his main understanding of Daniel's vision. As I outlined in my studies of Daniel, what I believe is in mind here is the Sabbatical year as written about in Leviticus 25. Israel failed with keeping the 7th year Sabbath that allowed the land to “rest” for a year. They did it multiple times, at least 70 times over the course of 800 years. Their exile to Babylon reflects that disobedience.

But our author goes on to say the decreed 490 more years are considered an ultimate Jubilee, a Messianic age. Where exactly is he getting that? Does he understand the 490 years to be literal years, just like the 70 years Israel spent in exile? Or is there some “deeper” meaning? Certainly the coming of Messiah is prophesied at the closing of the 69th week when he will be “cut off.” Is that where he is getting this notion of an “ultimate Jubilee” or “Messianic age?”

Keep that in mind as you read that one whom Dispensationalists believe to be the antichrist will “confirm a covenant with many,” 9:27

Let me return to that comment about the antichrist. I am going to venture a guess and say our author probably holds to the traditional, covenant Reformed view of Daniel 9:25-27. I'll quote myself when I outlined the Reformed position on Daniel 9 in a previous post:

Jesus Christ is understood to be both "the prince" or "Messiah" who is to be cut off as described in verse 26, and the "prince" mentioned in the next clause who is described as having a people who come to destroy the city. The point being that the Jews, or the people of the prince who is to come (Jesus Christ), bring their own destruction upon themselves by rejecting their Messiah and hence solidifying God's wrath against the nation as played out in 70 A.D. when the Romans destroyed Jerusalem. The destruction of the temple put an end to sacrifices for the OT sacrificial system just as Daniel states.

There may be some variation among theologians, but that is the basic view held by Reformed writers like Kim Riddlebarger, Gary Demar, E.J. Young, etc.

However, if we are going to take the text seriously by applying the principles of “exegesis” defined above, which includes the idea of “a literal reading of the text” I cannot see how the details of the text can bring one to that conclusion. I would even say the conflation of the “Messiah” and the “prince” is being read into the text eisegetically due to covenant Reformed traditions.

If the covenant Reformed proponent believes there is only one prince being spoken of at the end of Daniel 9, that being, Jesus Christ and His cross work, there are some problems that arise. Let me highlight four.

1) The nearest antecedent to the “he shall confirm a covenant for one week” in verse 27 is “the prince” of the people who will come in verse 26. If the “people” are the Jewish nation at 70 AD, the interpretation of many Reformed writers, how exactly does one draw the connection between “the people” of this prince who is to come and “Israel” at 70 AD with this text? Would not external factors outside of Daniel have to bring one to that conclusion? Of course, assuming that is the position of our author.

2) The “prince” mentioned in 9:27 is said to confirm a covenant for one week. If this “prince” is Jesus, what exactly is this “covenant for one week” that He confirmed? If it is Christ's death on the cross and making an end of sacrifices in the temple, what then is meant by Daniel's expression “for one week?” How are we to understand that “week” and how does that “week” factor into the previous 69 weeks that are mentioned?

3) The “prince” is said to put an end to sacrifices in the middle of the week. What does that mean? Again, is that “week” a “literal” 7 years in the 490 year prophetic cycle, or is it understood figuratively? Is this connected to 70 AD and the destruction of the temple? How is that connection made exegetically from this passage?

4) We know from previous revelation in Daniel 7:25 that a blasphemous horn persecutes Israel for a time and times and half a time, understood by practically every commentator I have encountered as meaning 3 1/2 years. Some may take those “years” in a figurative sense, but they are 3 1/2 years. That interpretation is affirmed in other passages of Scripture as well, like Revelation 13 where the beast, or antichrist, wages war against the people for 42 months, or 3 1/2 years. Considering that Daniel understood the 70 years of exile as a literal 70 years, why shouldn't we understand the 3 1/2 years as literal?

But the Dispensational interpretation of this text (the supposedly “literal” interpretation) forces an at least 2000 year break (or “an indeterminate gap of time”) between the end of the sixty-ninth and seventieth week, a disjunction which the text *no where* posits.

Our critic seems to think he has uncovered some previously unforeseen contradiction on the part of Dispensationalists that exposes why a “literal” hermeneutic must be avoided. Yet he ignores the main difficulty with his criticism in that he is forced to affirm at least a 40 year “gap” if he goes with 70 AD as the end to the 70 weeks. A gap is a gap, no matter how many years may exist between the 69th week and the 70th week.

He may think 2,000 years is an exceptionally long postponement, but 40 years is still a postponement, too. Now we are just haggling over which postponement makes sense when we interpret the text. Additionally, the idea of prophetic postponement or an apotelesmatic interpretation, in which a temporal interruption occurs within God’s redemptive program, is biblical. The postponement between the first coming of Christ and His second coming is a prime example, as Randall Price writes in his article, Prophetic Postponement

Considering how I believe the covenant Reformed position over looks many of the textual details I noted above, I don't think my critic has provided a satisfying interpretation of Daniel's vision, nor a compelling “debunking” of the Dispensational hermeneutic. In order to reach the conclusion he advocates, one has to re-interpret the text with a kind of theologically alchemy that makes the text affirm Covenant Theology. A person can call that “theological alchemy” a "Christological" or a “Historical Redemptive” hermeneutic, but it sounds to me like he’s eisegeting, not exegeting.

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