Monday, March 31, 2008

Cornelius Van Til: The Man and His Influence

John Muether answers questions about his new biography, Cornelius Van Til: Reformed Apologist and Churchman at Westminster Bookstore's blog. You can read the book's introduction here.

Another interesting interview with a presuppositionalist is this one with Tim Keller and Monergism about Keller's The Reason for God. In it Keller recommends the writings of John Frame (one of Van Til's students) on apologetics and theology "for giving somebody the basic framework for what I do in my book."

Friday, March 28, 2008

Not Your Father's L'Abri

Earlier this month I pointed to a letter Doug Groothuis wrote to Christianity Today in response to their article on how L'Abri's philosophy and methodology have changed to accommodate the postmodern ethos. The article is now available online.

Friday, March 21, 2008

Goldsworthy on a Whole Bible Theology

Graeme Goldsworthy recently delivered the following Gheens Lectures at Southern Seminary entitled "And Beginning with Moses and All the Prophets: Biblical Theology in the Church, the Academy, and the Home." (HT: The Road to Emmaus)

"The Necessity and Viability of Biblical Theology" (MP3) (PDF)

"Biblical Theology in the Seminary and Bible College" (MP3) (PDF)

"Biblical Theology and Its Pastoral Application" (MP3) (PDF)

A friend in Christian education recently used an illustration that highlights the necessity of helping people grasp the Bible's big picture. "Too often," he said, "we're dropping students in the middle of the desert and having them analyze grains of sand but they have no idea where they are."

Breakfast Links

Thabiti Anyabwile, author of The Decline of African American Theology, talks with Christianity Today's Collin Hansen about Jeremiah Wright, black theology, and the African American church.

Speaking of CT, they recently announced the winners of their 2008 Book Awards.

Good thoughts from John Mark Reynolds on the difficulty of married love.

Kyle Vaughn at Resurgence asks whether considers whether the digital age is in fact a new Dark Age and suggests how the church can minister to those burdened and heavy laden with information:
As Christians, we need to deeply understand how the gospel impacts and gives us a responsibility concerning knowledge as well as understand how a lost world around us is drowning in a storm of information that they don't know what to do with. We live in a unique time in terms of knowledge. Never before in the history of mankind have so many people had the ability to learn (literacy) and had the access to such a vast array of information and even other cultures. With a vast network of libraries and information systems, particularly the internet, one only needs to travel one block over or click a button to access just about everything mankind has ever known or experienced. But mankind is adrift in its thinking. This boom of knowledge it would seem has led to only more despair.
Daniel J. Solove, associate professor of law at the George Washington University Law School, examines another facet of information technology's societal impact in his book The Future of Reputation: Gossip, Rumor, and Privacy on the Internet (Yale University Press, 2007). Its full text is available online for free. (HT: Question Technology)

Thursday, March 13, 2008

The Decline of African American Theology

Boundless Webzine features an excerpt from Thabiti Anyawile's book by that title. Here's a sample:
There is a place in Christian theology — stemming from a deep reflection on the Person and work of Christ — for radical jeremiads against bigotry, injustice, and oppression of all kinds. The earliest African Americans understood this and, consequently, were able to hold both a conventional Christology and an active political praxis. The two are not mutually exclusive, and yet, the theological trajectory followed in the last seventy-five years seems to treat them as such.

To the extent that African American thinkers obfuscated the centrality of Jesus' spiritual mission to purchase a special people for Himself, then they participated in that grand lie of the serpent in the garden that promised knowledge beyond imagination but only ended in the destruction of souls.

This is no victimless crime. Materialism and black nationalism masquerading as Christology overthrow the faith of many — shrouding the cross of Jesus in the temporal affairs of this world, which in turn choke the seeds of the Gospel.
Thabiti's article is a poignant reminder of how our cultural-historical contexts can serve to both sensitize and blind us to biblical truths, thus making it imperative that we humbly listen to saints from ethnic groups and times beyond our own.

Snow on What's So Great About Christianity

Tony Snow reviews Dinesh D'Souza's latest book and concludes:
D'Souza calls atheists cowards. Not quite: They're like the man who perishes in a fire because he refuses to believe the net below will hold. What's So Great About Christianity performs a wonderful and overdue service. It engages atheists exhaustively and carefully, exposing atheism more as a bundle of sentiments than a coherent doctrine.
You can see Dinesh in action debating Christopher Hitchens on "Is Christianity the Problem?" at his website.

Tuesday, March 11, 2008

Indifferent Theologians

In his introduction to Don Benedetto's On the Benefit of Jesus Christ Crucified, Leon Morris praises the Italian Reformer for stressing joy as a result of justification and sounds a necessary caution:

Joy runs through and through the New Testament but theologians for the most part have muted this happy note...Theologians as a race tend to be solemn folk, and it is good to see this emphasis on the sheer merriment of being a Christian. We are indifferent theologians if we have lost the song in the heart. (Because of Christ: Living Out the Gift of God Through Faith, pp. 28,29)
You can read Benedetto's work here thanks to Shane Rosenthal who offers this introduction:

The following treatise was arguably the most popular book of the short lived Italian Reformation. It is estimated that 40,000 - 80,000 copies were printed between 1541-1548, of which very few remain today due to the fact that most were burned once the title was placed on the list of prohibited books during the Inquisition. The treatise was originally published anonymously under the title Trattato Ultilissimo Del Beneficio Di Geisu Christo Crocifisso, and was for a few hundred years mistakenly attributed to Aonio Paleario (1503-1570), a martyr for the Reformation cause in Italy. But most scholars now agree, based on records from the Inquisition itself, that the "Trattato" was written by Don Benedetto, a student of the Spanish Reformer Juan de Valdes (1498?-1541) and friend of Peter Martyr Vermigli (1499-1562).

Thursday, March 06, 2008

Clearer Vision Through Tear-Filled Eyes

Mark Lauterbach on how the recent loss of loved ones has aided him in gaining clarity on the meaning of the resurrection:
You see, many people, knowing that my Mom and my wife's Dad died, offered prayer and comfort and words of hope. Most often we heard, "they are in a better place." But as I listened I thought, "that is not the last word on this." Jesus did not die and rise again so when we die we go to a better place. He died and rose again so that death will be swallowed up, this mortal shall be clothed in immortality, and our parents (and all who fall asleep in Christ) will be re-embodied.
It is surprising how very little the New Testament talks about life after death -- and how much it talks about (to borrow a phrase) "life after life after death."  I have changed my words now -- when people ask me about Mom, I tell them that she has died and is waiting the resurrection of her body. I want to point to the real hope we have -- death swallowed up, being re-embodied and without sin, forever.
He is risen! He is risen indeed!

Wednesday, March 05, 2008

Two Roads

Matthias Media has produced a new evangelistic booklet adapted from their popular Two ways to live gospel outline. "It explains the Christian gospel in simple, easy-to-read language." Read the full text of the new tract here.

Tuesday, March 04, 2008

Schaeffer - Guinness Exchange

Frank Schaeffer responds to Os Guinness's less than favorable review of his book Crazy for God, followed by a brief reply from Guinness that concludes as follows:
I replied to his book for one reason only: His portrait of his parents was wrong and destructive. It left me alternately grieved and outraged,and I wanted to witness to the truth as I see it before God. I hope one day we can sit down and talk it over amicably.

Unlimiting Calvin

My friend Flynn (aka David) has devoted many years to researching what John Calvin believed and taught concerning the extent of Christ's expiatory work. This has led him to conclude that much Calvin scholarship and many who identify their theology as Calvinistic, unknowingly diverge from the Swiss reformer's thought on this point. Of course, nothing is to be believed on the grounds that Calvin, or any other theologian for that matter, taught it. The Scriptures are the ultimate standard as Flynn would be the first to confess. However, he believes that Calvin, properly interpreted, echoes God's revelation concerning this matter.

Flynn has posted some of the fruit of his labor in what he believes "will be the most comprehensive list regarding Calvin’s view on the extent of the expiation and redemption that is available either online or in hard-print," at
Calvin and Calvinism. Thanks to another friend, Tony Byrne for bringing this to my attention.

Monday, March 03, 2008

Saturday, March 01, 2008

Tim Keller on Implicit Religion

Some say [religion] is a form of belief in God. But that would not fit Zen Buddhism, which does not really believe in God at all. Some say it is belief in the supernatural. But that does not fit Hinduism, which does not believe in a supernatural realm beyond the material world, but only a spiritual reality within the empirical. What is religion then? It is a set of beliefs that explain what life is all about, who we are, and the most important things that human beings should spend their time doing. For example, some think that this material world is all there is, that we are here by accident and when we die we just rot, and therefore the important thing is to choose to do what makes you happy and not let others impose their beliefs on you. Notice that though this is not an explicit, "organized" religion, it contains a master narrative, an account about the meaning of life along with a recommendation for how to live based on that account of things.

Some call this a "worldview" while others call it a "narrative identity." In either case it is a set of faith-assumptions about the nature of things. It is an implicit religion. Broadly understood, faith in some view of the world and human nature informs everyone's life. Everyone lives and operates out of some narrative identity, whether it is thought out and reflected upon or not. All who say "You ought to do this" or "You shouldn't do that" reason out of such an implicit moral and religious position. Pragmatists say that we should leave our deeper worldviews behind and find consensus about "what works"-- but our view of what works is determined by (to use a Wendell Berry title) what we think people are for. Any picture of happy human life that "works" is necessarily informed by deep-seated beliefs about the purpose of human life. Even the most secular pragmatists come to the table with deep commitments and narrative accounts of what it means to be human (The Reason for God: Belief in an Age of Skepticism, 15,16).
Related Posts:
Tim Keller on Leading the Secular to Christ

I Believe in Matter Almighty

Stem Cells and the Myth of Religious Neutrality

Forcing My Religion

Groothuis on "Not Your Father's L'Abri"

Yesterday I read an article in the print version of the latest issue of Christianity Today called "Not Your Father's L'Abri." It looks at shifts in emphasis and methodology that have taken place since Francis Schaeffer's death and portrays Schaeffer's thought as largely obsolete for the contemporary scene.

Knowing of his indebtedness to and great respect for Schaeffer, and having recently read his review of Frank Schaeffer's Crazy for God, I wondered how Doug Groothuis would respond to to the article (though I thought I had a pretty good idea). My wondering is over. Dr. G. wrote a letter to the editor. I was right and so is he.

Apologetics From the Pulpit

Well, not so much apologetics as in the defense of the faith as apologizing. Peter Mead has a great post about the false though prevalent dichotomy between practical and doctrinal preaching (HT: Milton Stanley). Peter relates the lament of a well-known seminary professor over visiting speakers who introduce their messages with comments about leaving theology to the faculty and wanting to be practical.

This has been a pet peeve of mine for some time. I can't count the number of pastors I've heard on the radio and in person who've timidly prefaced doctrinal expositions with an apology to the congregation as though the explanation of biblical theology is, at best, bitter medicine and, at worst, a necessary evil. Preachers don't regularly apologize for telling jokes and stories. Why, then, do we frequently feel compelled to beg our hearers' pardon for fulfilling the God-given mandate to "give instruction in sound doctrine" (Titus 1:9)?

Peter closes with this much-needed counsel to his peers:

Don’t give the impression that some sermons are biblical, exegetical, theological, doctrinal, while others are practical, pastoral, relevant and helpful. Strive to demonstrate that both sides are really on the same side - there really is no contest.