Van Til Tool

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

Tuesday, September 22, 2009


God Deals With Some Super-Dysfunctional Parents

A Review of

Mary DeMuth A Slow Burn (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 2009)
368 pp $14.99 ISBN-10: 0310278376 ISBN-13: 978-0310278375

Reviewed by: Forrest W. Schultz

The theme of Mary DeMuth's Defiance Texas trilogy is, I believe, best described by the title I have chosen for this review: "God Deals With Some Super-Dysfunctional Parents". In the first volume, Daisy Chain, the focus at first is on two fourteen-year-old friends -- Daisy Chance and Jed Pepper, especially Daisy's mysterious disappearance and its impact upon Jed. As the story unfolds, the focus becomes shifted to underlying spiritual factors in the drama, especially their dysfunctional parents.

The second volume, A Slow Burn, explores the loathsome features of this dysfunctionality, especially in Daisy's mother, Emory Chance, who, as the story progresses, sees ever more clearly her many sins and her need for God's salvation from them. Her efforts in this direction, however, are at first quite feeble and are countered by her extreme stubborness, so that it becomes quite exasperating after a while to be continually encountering her rebellion against God's work of drawing her to Himself. Consequently, her conversion is a long drawn-out process which is very different from any "easy believist" notions! As the second volume draws to a close, Emory finally yields to God's grace and it appears that Ouisie Pepper (Jed's mother) is on the verge of repentance, thus suggesting that her conversion may be the theme of the third volume.

God uses various people in His work in Emory's life, including Daisy, Daisy's father David (whom Emory did not marry), her boss Big Earl, her drug supplier Angus, the Defiance policeman Officer Spelman, and especially Hixson Jones. In a manner remarkably similar to the experience of the prophet Hosea, Hixson is commanded by God to marry Emory! A good bit of the story is taken up with the suffering Hixson undergoes as he strives to obey God, which finally leads to a a very dramatic denouement.

The great importance of Hixson's suffering is clear not only from the story itself but
also from the quotation in the preface to the story which is taken from Henri Nouwen's book Wounded Healer. This quotation makes this very important point in the form of a rhetorical question: "Who can take away suffering without entering it?". Thus, the healer in the process of healing becomes wounded. This is reminiscent of the provocative Section IV of the second poem in T. S. Eliot's Four Quartets, which emphatically proclaims that healing can only be provided by the "wounded surgeon", the "dying nurse". In short, God's gracious salvation involves the radical surgical removal of the cancer of sin.

Another way of expressing this comes from the pen of another great writer and thinker, Chuck Colson, "Mary DeMuth has a true gift for showing how God’s light can penetrate even the darkest of situations.”

Thursday, September 10, 2009


Wednesday, September 09, 2009


A Tribute To Rookmaaker

For Launching Today's Christian Appreciation Of Art

A Review Of:

Laurel Gasque Art and the Christian Mind: The Life and Work of H. R. Rookmaaker
(Wheaton, IL: Crossway Books, 2005)
$16.99 192 pp ISBN: 1-58134-694-8

Reviewer: Forrest W. Schultz

Back in the 1960s perhaps the main thing that young educated christians were concerned about was demolishing the sacred/secular dichotomy and promoting the conception that christians were supposed to care about and be involved in all areas of life because God Himself cares about all areas of life and wants us to do likewise. One of our biggest heroes back then promoting this manifesto was Dr. Francis Schaeffer, so that it was not long before we began hearing about his associate, Dr. Hans R. Rookmaaker, who was then the Professor of Art History at the Free University of Amsterdam and who influenced Schaeffer's own view of art and who, at the same time Schaeffer began publishing books, published his own landmark book in 1970 Modern Art and The Death of a Culture. Wow, those were exciting days and Rookmaaker soon became added to the list along with Schaeffer as one of our heroes.

Laurel Gasque's book documents the great influence which Rookmaaker had, which was far more than I realized -- most of it was unknown to me prior to reading her book. It is well worth the read and is needed to assess the importance of Rookmaaker in promoting Christian concern for the arts in Reformed and in evangelical circles. I have noticed in a prominent Reformed email discussion group to which I belong that Reformed concern for the arts is now taken for granted and some of the younger people there are not even aware of the prior hostility to or indifference to the arts that once was very strong in many Reformed circles down to around the time of Rookmaaker had his famous work published. So, Gasque's book is also needed to correct that myopic view and to put matters into historical perspective.

The book also indicates the important point, which some still do not realize, that Rookmaaker's contribution, great though it was, should be regarded as of an elementary and introductory nature. There are huge questions that still need to be answered before we can develop the Biblical philosophy of art beyond the elementary stage at which it currently exists. For instance, Gasque's historical information discusses the debates which Rookmaaker had with other Christian intellectuals about art, including arguments even over such fundamental matters as the exact definition of the aesthetic modal aspect.
(He had that one with Calvin Seerveld.)

In this respect, our philosophy of art today is at about the same stage as our policitcal and economic philosophy. Today almost all educated Christians agree that we should be involved in and care about political and economics because God cares about politics and economics, but we still cannot agree on what the Biblical political and economic philosophy is.

To return to Schaeffer, Gasque's book has a copious amount of information on Schaeffer's relationship with Rookmaaker, again far more than what I had hithero known. In fact there is almost as much info in this book on Schaeffer as there is on Rookmaaker, which is understandable because their friendship was very important to both of them.

One final word, the publisher, Crossway Books, regards Rookmaaker's
Modern Art and The Death of a Culture as so important that they have republished it in 1994. (Inter-Varsity Press was the original publisher.)


Science From The Van Til Perspective:

A Good Start

A Review of

Vern S. Poythress Redeeming Science: A God-Centered Approach (Crowssway, 2006)
381 pp $20.00 ISBN-13: 978-1-58134-731-9
ISBN-10: 1-58134-731-6

Reviewer: Forrest W. Schultz

I first met Vern Poythress when he became a student at Westminster Seminary around 40 years ago. In our conversation, after learning that he had just received his doctorate in mathematics from Harvard, I asked him a Biblical philosophy of mathematics question: "Which is the true view of math: the rationalist view, the empiricist view or the linguistic conventionalist view?". He said he did not know. I replied, "Well, after you learn some Van Til here, you will figure it out!". Well, I was right. He did learn some Van Til at WTS and as a result he did figure it out. The result can be found in his essay on mathemnatics in the essay collection entitled Foundations of Christian Scholarship: Eassys In The Van Til Perspective edited by Gary North.

And over the years he has devoted his great mind to studying other things, including matters in the philosophy of science. Like me, he believes that the Van Til Perspective is a tool which should be used to figure out things like this. Also, like me, he had John Frame as a teacher at WTS and has continued to learn from him since then by reading his
published books. (I regard Frame as the best theology teacher I ever had, although I do not agree with him in everything.)

The latest results of the thinking of Poythress in philosophy of science are found in the book under review here, which is a very thought provoking work, well deserving of serious study and full of great insights into all kinds of things too numerous to even list, let along discuss here. From the text itself and the footnotes one can see the ongoing influence of Van Til and Frame, who are repeatedly quoted and referred to. And Frame provides a very adulatory recommendation: " far the most important book on the subject. I recommend it without reservation."

I also recommend reading it but I am sorry that I cannot say "without reservation." I will say, though, that this book takes creationism seriously and is much closer to it than Frame was when I knew him at WTS, when he, as my thesis advisor, was not happy with my full creationist position and my quoting from Morris & Whitcomb's The Genesis Flood. But Frame has learned a lot since then: for example, moving away from Westminster's hostility to Christian Reconstruction to his present position in which he now calls himself, "not quite a reconstructionist". In like manner, since then he and Poythress have moved closer to creationism and hopefully will continue to do so until they, in similar fashion, will be at the position of "not quite a creationist" and then, a few years later still, (maybe by the time of the Dort Quadricentennial), they will be full creationists and reconstructionists.

Poythress does discuss, usually with intelligence, all the various views on Genesis One but he seems to be unaware of the fact that all except the full creationist postion were developed by those christians who wanted to have an excuse for effecting a compromise with evolutionary theory. He also never mentions the interesting fact that all the creation/evolution debates on college campuses are being won by the creationists. Now he is quite correct in noting that the creationist position is in need of development, but he appears to be unaware that it is the only one which sets forth the teaching of Genesis. And he continually tries to find ways of avoiding the conclusion of literal 24 hour days. And it is very interesting to note that when he does so, he departs from his usual careful thinking! For instance, the reason God decided to take 6 days to create the world was that He was thereby setting an example for man to follow -- work 6 days and then rest on the seventh. Now this paradigm ONLY works if these are real days -- not long periods of time. It is noteworthy that Poythress does not use the word "paradigm" and instead actually wants to put it into a totally different category, which he calls the Analogical Day Theory!

Poythress has become known ( as has Frame) for what is sometimes called perspectivalism, and good examples of that are provided here, which show what he means and are helpful in clearing up confuison about various matters. He also has some interesting discussions of analogies between intra-Trinitarian relationships among the Three Persons and various matters in mathematics and science. His discussion of scientific laws is about the best I have ever seen. His book is also excellent in showing God's great concern for nature and for science. And for His concern for beauty, including beauty in matters which are not usually thought of as beautiful, such as mathematics and scientific laws. And, finally, the book is God-centered in principle and is a good start at developing philosophy of science from the Van Til Perspective.