Van Til Tool

Using the Van Til Perspective as the tool to discover what life means and how it ought to be lived.

Friday, April 24, 2009

FALSE CONCEPTIONS OF SCRIPTURAL INERRANCY IN CONTEMPORARY EVANGELICALISM

False Conceptions Of Scriptural Inerrancy In Contemporary Evangelicalism


By Forrest Wayne Schultz


A Review of G. K. Beale, The Erosion of Inerrancy in Evangelicalism (Wheaton, IL: Crossway Books, 2008)
ISBN-13: 978-1-4335-0203-3 300 pp $20.00


The book under review is not a study of the entire picture of the many departures from inerrancy in evangelicalism; it is limited to an in depth study of only a few cases. It is of especial use for those readers interested in these particular cases and for those who wish to read a few detailed studies rather than shorter analyses of many different cases or broad generalizations.

The cases examined here do involve the erosion of inerrancy, as the book's title indicates. BUT, these men do not attack inerrancy as such or divine inspiration as such, at least not in the usual ways. Rather their views involve false conceptions of inerrancy and of inspiration. They do not attack inerrancy head-on, but they attack the definition of inerrancy.

The first case examined is that of Dr. Peter Enns, a former Professor at Westminster Theological Seminary. His case is indeed a complex one that requires special handling but the gist of his fallacious conception is easily stated. Like many people today Enns believes there are errors in Scripture but is unwilling to admit this. First of all, he claims that the Scriptural authors did not know these were errors, and that God did not care because He was only interested in the theology He was teaching in these Scriptures. In other words, Enns believes in the limited inerrancy view, i.e. the view that the inerrancy of Scripture is limited to its theological assertions. According to this limited inerrancy view Scripture may contain errors in matters such as geography or history or science, but these are considered to be of no importance because Scripture supposedly is only dealing with "spiritual" matters, which are in a different realm from "secular" matters. Secondly, Enns further muddies the waters by claiming that the ancient man had a different concept of "error" than the modern man. The point here is that Enns does not believe in inerrancy but does not want to admit it, so he resorts to the various strategems noted to escape being called a disbeliever in inerrancy. And he summarizes his view by claiming that the question is not "whether" the Bible is inerrant, but "how" the Bible is inerrant. This is a different and more subtle way of expressing the limited inerrancy notion, i.e. the "how" of the Bible's inerrancy is supposedly that it is only inerrant in theology. Beale discusses and critiques two cases where Enns makes his fallacious claims, namely in regard to the Genesis Creation Account and to the New Testament's interpretations of Old Testament passages. Surprisingly, though, Beale does not label Enns a limited inerrantist.

Beale's critique of Enns is far too lengthy and complex to discuss here except to say that Beale has shown that Enns is wrong. There is one statement, however, which Beale makes which is radically false and which is so important that I cannot refrain from comment about it. Beale (on page 40) claims that we cannot compare Christ with the Bible because the Bible, unlike Christ, does NOT have two natures, divine and human, but only ONE nature!!! Perhaps the most elementary principle of Bibliology is that the Bible is the Word of God expressed in the words of men writing under the inspiration of God the Holy Spirit. Therefore it is crystal clear that the Bible has two natures -- divine and human, just as Christ has two natures -- divine and human. Just as Christ is The Word of God Incarnate, so the Bible is The Word of God Inscripturate!

The second case Beale discusses is somewhat surprising because this is not something new but has been around for a long time. This is the case in which it was shown long ago that one cannot believe in Scriptural inerrancy if he asserts a multiple authorship of the book of Isaiah.

The third case suprisingly is placed in Appendix I instead of in the main text. This is Steven Moyise's postmodernist notion which does not attack inerrancy in the usual way but which claims that we cannot know what the texts of Scripture are really saying because they only have whatever meaning the reader attributes to them. Strictly speaking this is not really claiming these texts are errant; it is actually claiming they cannot communicate their meaning to us (if they even have a meaning). This preposterous notion actually takes the whole subject out of the realm of truth and error altogether. In one sense it clearly denies that the Bible is the Word of God, but it does not do so in the usual way but does so by claiming the words of the Bible have no meaning at all.

The fact that there are supposed evangelicals around denying or doubting Biblical inerrancy shows how decadent modern evangelicalism is because this matter was clearly settled in 1978 when the International Council on Biblical Inerrancy (ICBI) issued its famous statement which clearly sets forth the truth of this matter in what is known as "The Chicago Statement On Biblical Inerrancy". The publisher is to be commended for printing this statement in its entirety (plus the ICBI's expostion of it) in Appendix II (pp. 267 - 279).

The third and final Appendix (pp. 281-283) contains quotations setting forth Karl Barth's belief that the Scripture is errant and fallible taken from his Church Dogmatics.

A bibliography and an author index and scripture index is provided on pages 285 - 300.

Monday, April 13, 2009

CALVIN'S CENTRAL CONCERN WAS THE MAJESTY OF GOD

Calvin's Central Concern: The Majesty Of God


A Review of John Piper, John Calvin and His Passion for the Majesty of God (Wheaton, Ill.: Crossway Books, 2009)
ISBN: 978-1-4335-0182-1 59 pp. $7.99


Reviewer: Forrest W. Schultz





There have been many well-meaning Calvinists who have given an enormous emphasis to the sovereignty of God with apparently little thought to the question of "What kind of God is it Who is sovereign?". They very often propound the doctrine of election in such a way as to make it appear that God is foolish or malevolent or unrighteous or irrational (or some combination of these). They make it appear that they are only concerned with the sovereignty of God and have no concern for the character of God. Such a man may think that he is following Calvin in regarding the sovereignty of God as the central fact about God. Is such a man correct?
In a recently published book John Piper propounds the thesis that John Calvin's chief concern was the glory and majesty of God. His book is entitled John Calvin and His Passion for the Majesty of God. Piper has also adopted this concern -- this passion -- of Calvin as his own concern, and it is the very reason he has written the book, namely to persuade others adopt it also.

He says right from the start (p. 13) that this passion of Calvin's -- this concern for the majesty of God -- is missing from today's Christians. He quotes this alarming observation made by David Wells: "It is this God, majestic and holy in his being...who has disappeared from the modern evangelical world". He follows this with a quote from Lesslie Newbigen: "I suddenly saw that someone could use all the language of evangelical Christianity, and yet the center was fundamentally the self, my need of salvation. And God is auxiliary to that...I also saw that quite a lot of evangelical Christianity can easily slip, and become centered in me and my need of salvation, and not in the glory of God." Piper concludes the first chapter with this wish: "May God restore a passion for his majesty in our day."

The first example Piper uses to support his thesis is Calvin's response in 1539 to the letter written the previous year to the leaders of Geneva by Cardinal Sadolet attempting to win them back to the Roman Catholic Church. In this response Calvin says to Sadolet: "Your zeal for heavenly life is a zeal which keeps a man entirely devoted to himself, and does not, even by one expression, arouse him to sanctify the name of God." (p. 16, italics his) Piper comments that "even precious truths about eternal life can be so skewed as to displace God as the center and goal." He concludes the discussion by quoting from another remark by Calvin where he avows that his aim in life is to "set before man, as the prime motive of his existence, zeal to illustrate the glory of God." ( p. 16, italics his)

Piper quotes B. B. Warfield saying this about Calvin: "No man ever had a profounder sense of God than he." (p. 16, 17) After quoting from G. Vos the Reformed insight that Scripture's root idea is the pre-eminence of God's glory, Piper goes on to conclude that "It is this relentless orientation to the glory of God that gives coherence to John Calvin's life and to the Reformed tradition that followed. Vos said that the 'all-embracing slogan of the Reformed faith is this: the work of grace in the sinner is a mirror for the glory of God.' Mirroring the glory of God is the meaning of John Calvin's life and ministry." (p. 17, italics his)

Returning to his reply to Sadolet, when Calvin came to the doctrine of justification by faith it is very significant to see what most concerns him about the attacks upon it: "Wherever the knowledge of it is taken away, the glory of Christ is extinguished." (p. 17, italics his) Calvin in his other writings elaborates upon his concern for Rome's extinguishing the glory of Christ in other false Romish doctrines: Rome had "destroyed the glory of Christ in many ways -- by calling upon saints to interecede, when Christ is the one mediator between God and man; by adoring the Blessed Virgin, when Christ alone shall be adored; by offering a continual sacrifice of the Mass, when the sacrifice of Christ upon the cross is complete and sufficient; by elevating tradition to the level of Scripture and even making the word of Christ dependent upon the word of man," (p. 18) Finally, hear Calvin's answer to why it is that we are carried about with so many strange doctrines: "Because the excellence of Christ is not perceived by us." (p. 18)
Believing Calvin to be correct in his estimation, i.e. that the guardian of Biblical truth is a vital concern for the excellence and glory of God in Christ, Piper is concerned about the shift away from doctrinal fidelity that is bound to occur in today's man centered Christians. Surprisingly he does not mention the great departures from sound doctrines that HAVE been occurring in evangelicalism for at least a half-century, and which is most notable today among the so-called "emerging" church.

Finally, let us look at Calvin's conception of Holy Scripture. It is noteworthy that ALL of Calvin's writings -- letters, tracts, sermons, books, commentaries, lectures -- are EXPOSITIONS of Scripture! (p. 46) And the reason for this was the very high view Calvin had of Scripture. And, this high view is once again explicable by the centrality of his concern for the majesty of God. Piper says that, for Calvin, the relationship beween the majesty of God and the Word of God is to be explained in this way: "The Word mediated the majesty; and the majesty vindicated the Word." (p. 27) "Calvin saw the majesty of God in His Word." (p. 49) He also exhorted other pastors to see as their goal enjoining the hearers "to obey the divine majesty of this word." (p. 49) The final section of the last chapter of Piper's book is entitled "The Divine Majesty of the Word", which begins with these words: "The key phrase here is 'the divine majesty of this word'. This was always the root issue for Calvin. How might he best show forth for all of Geneva and all of Europe and all of history the majesty of God." What a great way to end a book!

I am convinced that Piper is right. I urge everyone to read this book, which will not be difficult or time-consuming because it is both very well written and very short -- only 59 pages. The only criticism I have of it is that when Piper italicizes words, he does not tell us if they are his italics or Calvin's italics or the italics of a source he quotes who is referring to Calvin. For this reason, in this review the only thing I could do is just to say "his" italics just to show you that they are not mine but I am sorry I cannot tell you whose they are because Piper does not say.

Piper tells us what needs to be done. Now what we need is someone to tell us how to make it happen -- how do we get today's man-centered and self-centered christians to repent and become vitally concerned about the majesty of God.

Saturday, April 11, 2009

A CRITIQUE OF THE SO-CALLED "EMERGING" CHURCH

A CRITIQUE OF THE SO-CALLED "EMERGING" CHURCH

By Forrest W. Schultz


I have been wanting to read up on the so-called "Emerging" church for a LONG time. I finally got the opportunity via reading the book below. My critique is in the form of a review of this book. Reading about this stuff is sad, but, as always, it is loads of fun to critique when you are a Van Tillian. I can do this not because I am brilliant, because I got the right tool from the thinking of Cornelius Van Til. And, of course, it is God Himself Who deserves to be praised, because without His providence, I would not have encountered the Van Til Perspective and without His providence Van Til would not have seen the principles of the VTP.

Sincerely,

Forrest




AN EXAMINATION OF THE "EMERGING CHURCH":

THE POST-CONSERVATIVE EVANGELICAL COMPROMISE WITH POSTMODERNISM

A Review of G.L.W. Johnson & R.N. Gleason, eds. Reforming or Conforming?: Post-Conservative Evangelicals and
the Emerging Church ((Wheaton, IL: Crossway Books, 2008)
ISBN-13: 978-1-4335-0118-0 300 pp $20.00


Reviewer: Forrest W. Schultz


When I became a christian (in 1960) the term "Evangelical" had a positive meaning among most of my christian friends although there were a few who warned me that the word no longer had that good meaning but now meant christians who were compromisers, both in belief and in practice, and that these were now being called "new evangelicals" or "neo-evangelicals". Soon thereafter, when I became a creationist (1963), I learned that compromising by evangelicals was NOT a new thing -- it was not something that began with Billy Graham -- but had been going on since the 19th century in regard to compromises with evolutionary theory. Still later, when I became Reformed (1969), I learned of the decadence in evangelicalism produced by such influences as pietism and Arminianism, which also had been going on for a very long time, at least since the early part of the 19th century. Also, during the early 1960s, I learned that there were even some men who referred to themselves as "liberal evangelicals", which was the reason why Christianity Today, under Carl Henry's editorship, used the term "conservative evangelicalism" to distinguish what his magazine promoted. Although this "conservative evangelicalism" was compromising in the sense meant by the derogatory term "neo-evangelicalism", it was not nearly as bad as the decadence that followed it, which the book under review here aptly designates as "post-conservative evangelicalism". I believe that the critiques of this decadence, found in this book, would be enhanced if they paid greater attention to this historical background. Some attention is paid to it, but not enough.

Although there are now a lot of books and articles being written promoting this "post-conservative evangelicalism", which is generally regarded as something new and "emerging", almost all of it, except for some of the terminology, is really not new. I remember, again from all the way back in the early 1960s, when I was a new christian, being shocked at hearing people who supposedly were christians having a lackadaisical (or even hostile) attitude toward doctrine, and that a lot of group Bible studies were conducted in such a way that everybody's ideas were supposed to be accepted, a notion that a friend of mine with some sense scoffed at as "pooling our mutual ignorance". There were also a lot of evangelicals who had the notion that in personal evangelism you were not supposed to "preach" to people but just "share" with them "what Jesus means to you". Also all the way back in the 1960s Francis Schaeffer was warning about subjectivistic conceptions of truth, which were influencing many christians. Now, we hear the same subjectivistic notions promoted using fancy, but not always clearly understood, terms such as "post-modernism" and "anti-foundationalism". The best term, though, for this long practiced but now "emerging" (into prominence) false epistemology is "theological incognoscibilism" which says EXACTLY what it is these men believe, which, in plain English, is that nobody really knows what is true in theology. (The prefix "in" means "not"; and "cognoscible" means "knowable".)
Reforming or Conforming? is a collection of twelve essays plus an Introduction plus a Foreward, each by a different scholar, examining and refuting the "post-conservative evangelicalism" and warning of its dangers. Some of these essays also repudiate the allegations made against orthodoxy by some of these postmodern compromisers. Such a book is clearly needed to refute the very widespread and very outrageous and heretical notions now being propounded under the banner of evangelicalism. It also needs to be stressed that these notions are not limited to those claiming to be evangelicals but is also found among those claiming to be Reformed. Dooyweerd's preposterous notion that theology is a study of the faith-function is but one example we can cite, and the neo-Dooyeweerdians are very similar to the post-conservative evangelicals although they are more influenced by existentialists than by postmodernists, which actually are quite similar with respect to incognoscibilism, which is the main and underlying fallacy of both. (One similar influence upon the Reformed which is discussed in one of the essays is the Federal Vision notion.) Although most of the emphasis in the book is on what is being said now, there is one treatment of a man who started down this road a long time ago -- back in the sixties -- and that is Clark Pinnock: I remember when I first heard about what he was saying and how shocked I was because prior to that he was a good man and a good thinker. I guess the point I am trying to make, which is not emphasized sufficiently by the writers of this book, is that what is happening now is really just an old idea made worse and believed in by more people now. It is also coming more out into the open now. This is noted in this book, but not stressed enough.

Lack of space here forbids any detailed critiques of the individual essays, but there is one essay I do need to note, namely the one claiming that Cornelius Van Til was not a foundationalist (pp.154-165). If one defines "foundationalism" to mean the sorts of foundations that humanistic thinkers use, then, of course Van Til is not a foundationalist. But he is a foundationalist in the sense that he builds his philosophy upon God, Who is the (one and only) self-verifying principle of verification, and therefore the only sure epistemological foundation! Jesus Christ is the solid rock foundation; the humanistic foundations are sinking sands.

This leads me to note a very important weakness in the polemics against the "emerging" church fellows found in all the essays here. What is needed, which they do not supply, is a polemic against the whole idea of foundationalism versus contextualism. This is a false antithesis. God is not only the ultimate foundation, He is also the ultimate context. The so-called contextualizers are not to be criticized for being contextual but for not being contextual enough. They fail to see that the immediate context in which a person lives is part of a broader context, which in turn is part of a still broader context until finally we reach the ultimate context, God, who is self-contextualizing. First of all, since God is intra-harmonius there is no conflict between His being the ultimate fondation and His being the ultimate context, which means that the there is no inherent conflict between foundation per se and context per se. There are possible conflicts between humanistic concepts of foundations and humanistic concepts of context, but there is no conflict between the true meaning of foundation and the true meaning of context because God is the definer of both and because God is both the self-foundationalizing ultimate foundation as well as the self-contextualizing ultimate context. The point here is that an individual does not just happen to be in a particular context but he is in that context because God put him there and, furthermore, God is this man's ultimate context. Since all men have the same ultimate context and since all their immediate contexts are controlled by God, people need to see contextuality in this way instead of the myopic view of context held by the "emerging" fellows. We MUST not say they put too much emphasis on context or that they should stop being contextualists and start being foundationalists. We need to get them to understand the real meaning of context and foundation! This meaning or perspective, which is the Van Til Pespective on this, needs to to shown to be the true perspective they need and in terms of which they need to repudiate the false perspective of foundation and context they have thus far held.

There are other false antitheses held by the emergers that need to be rejected and replaced with the truth. Perhaps the next most important false antithesis is that between God as Lawgiver and God as Dramatist. God is both and there is no disharmony between them because God is intraharmonious. These emergers do not like laws but they do like stories. Well, if they like stories they need to realize that God is not only the supreme author, He is also the supreme lawgiver, and there is in no way a conflict between those two because God is intraharmnious. The reason for this is that God's Laws are the Manufacturer's Instructions which we need to live in all aspects of life, so they are helpful for us to know; God does not tell them to us to "boss us around". When God establishes boundaries, it is to keep us from harming ourselves. God also is the supreme teacher, who sometimes uses stories to teach us and who sometimes uses propositions, and there is no conflict here either. The Bible is not all propositions nor is it devoid of propositions. The emergers also need to be shown this all important principle. Because they have acquired a distorted concept of God from the defective churches in which they were raised, they end up rebelling against things that are good because they see them as bad. God's laws and God's proposition are desperately needed for our very lives! They are not bad things to shun!
This leads me to my final point. Several of the article writers note emerger Brian McLaren's rebellion against his theologically conservative upbringing. There was little discussion of this, which is unfortunate because this is crucial. It is not just that the emergers have all kinds of bad ideas, but that a lot of doctrinally sound churches have also left a lot to be desired! One thing that has been going on for a LONG time is young men and women growing up in these churches rebelling against the bad features in these churches but, instead of doing something to correct these deficiencies, they end up doing something even worse. All kinds of examples come to mind: Chuck Templeton rebelling by becoming a humanist; Tom Howard rebelling by becoming a Roman Catholic; and on and on. To be really effective in dealing with the emergers requires us not only to attack their deficiencies but to straighten out the allegedly evangelical and Reformed churches to get them to be what they should! One thing I learned a LONG time ago is this: the problem with dead orthodoxy is not the orthodoxy but the deadness!! In rebelling against dead orthodoxy, rebel against the deadness, not against the orthodoxy!! The orthodoxy does not need to be jettisoned; it needs to be lived! And we need to know that the term was originally defined by Irenaeus to mean "straight thinking", which is desperately needed in the crooked and confused age in which we live! Orthodoxy does NOT mean what is customary, conventional or traditional. It means straight thinking, i.e thinking aligned with the truth, thinking which propounds the truth, which is needed for life. (If you know Greek, this is clear: orthos means "straight" and doxa means "thinking".)

In conclusion, there is a wealth of information in this book about the emerging church and some good criticisms of some things, but the critiques offered here suffer from the lack of depth indicated by their failures to see the points I noted above due to a failure to examine these matters from the Van Til Perspective.