I have been following the following plan to read through the Old Testament once every year and the New Testament 5 times each year. I’ve been following this plan over the past 12 years or so and it has served me well as it tends to keep in sync OT and NT readings where appropriate. It was taken from Matthew McMahon’s, “A Puritans Mind” website, so all the credit goes to him. I think this format will serve readers better as the one in its current form is someone cumbersome due to each months readings being broken down in to different web pages.Continue reading
In the sixth chapter the focus is on the practical antithesis between the worldviews discussed up to this point. As was the case in previous posts, I’m going to be documenting notes from the chapter that I think are worthy of attention.
Presuppositional Apologetics requires that you recognize the antithesis (there’s that word again, make note of it) between Christianity and all variations of the non-Christian worldview, whether religious or secular.
Faith is the the necessary framework for rationality and understanding.
Unresolvable conflicts exist between the two outlooks on:
Redemptive Historic Examples
- Adam in Eden – After our first parents sin, the antithesis began
- Cain & Abel
- Days of Noah
- The Exodus from Egypt
- Satan vs. Christ & Christians
Hell is the final and eternal antithesis.
The unbeliever must be made to realize the stark difference between his worldview and the Christian faith so that he can be made to see the utter meaningless in his own outlook.
Van Til’s Apologetic
Apologetics in Practice
Christianity and the birth of Science
Does God Love the Sinner and Hate Only His Sin
What’s In a Name?
Birth and Death of an Atheist
The Biblical Doctrine of Hell Examined
The fifth chapter of the book focuses on comparing and contrasting various worldviews outside of the Biblical worldview of Scripture. The purpose for doing this is to demonstrate different characteristics that some of the more popular worldviews hold to and how they contrast to the Christian one.
There are two central tenets that are the focus of this chapter:
- Examples of several worldview options.
- The presuppositional cores sustaining those worldviews
The author expounds that Hinduism is a family of merged religions arising out of a thoroughly pagan backdrop. One source describes Hinduism as, “Scholars regard Hinduism as a fusion or synthesis of various Indian cultures and traditions, with diverse roots and no founder.” Another key attribute of this worldview is the belief in millions of deities that are typically derived from objects found in nature. Hinduism aligns well with the New Age movement and mysticism and views all reality as relative since Hinduism believes that reality is an illusion.
Behaviorism is school of psychological thought developed by B.F. Skinner. The key concept in this school of thought that all human behavior can be attributed to the concept of “operant conditioning”. This basically says that human behavior is the result of of response to pure environmental factors such as our experiences and our senses. The material world is the ultimate endgame and all our motivations revolve around getting the most fulfillment from the material world. Since man is simply the result of his conditioned environment, there is no responsibility for actions taken since there is no moral code attached to this system of thought.
The next world view is the infamous worldview of Marxism. Marxism is an atheistic, socio-political belief system that teaches the material world is the ultimate reality and that religion is an illusion. The author quotes the American Heritage Dictionary’s definition of dialectical materialism on which Marxism is based as,
“The Marxian interpretation of reality that views matter as the sole subject of change and all change as the product of a constant conflict between opposites arising from the internal contradictions inherent in all events, ideas, and movements.”
Adam Schaff summarizes the maxim of Marxism as, “Mans is a product of society…it is society that makes him what he is.”
The last worldview system that the author examines in this chapter is existentialism. Existentialism is concerned above all else with freedom and self-expression. This system essentially boils down to feeling over thought, experience over logic, and the like. The author leaves some valuable quotes:
- “To kill God is to become god oneself: it is to realize on this earth the eternal life of which the gospel speaks.” –Albert Camus
- “If God exists man cannot be free. But man is free, therefore God cannot exist. Since God does not exist all things are morally permissible.” –Jean Paul-Satre
The author is trying to get the Christian apologist to think through the foundational beliefs of these various systems to understand how they oppose Christianity and how they are internally inconsistent.
Bahnsen, Greg, “Prolegomena To Apologetics“, https://www.cmfnow.com/articles/PA002.htm
Ravi, N.S.R.K, “Hinduism“, https://www.namb.net/apologetics-blog/hinduism/
Proverbs 22:6: Train up a child in the way he should go: and when he is old, he will not depart from it.
Our youngest son was diagnosed on the Autism spectrum when he was 3 years old. There were various signs leading up to this that were giving myself and my wife concern that something was not on the same development path as our older son was on. First there was the delayed reaction to physical stimuli; he would get his finger pinched and wouldn’t react to it until a good 30 seconds later. His speech was severely delayed when compared to his brother and the “normal” developmental cycle. Then there was the traditional patterns associated with children on the spectrum; for him it was stacking objects in perfect symmetrical patterns. When we finally had him diagnosed by a professional, he was diagnosed as PDD-NOS – Pervasive Developmental Disorder – Not Otherwise Specified. This is basically a category that doesn’t fit into any of the other autistic classifications.
The focus of this blog is specifically around raising a child on the autism spectrum in relation to the Reformed Christian faith; for us it would specifically the Reformed Presbyterian faith. The reason for calling this out is that there are some specific distinctions around the faith that determined how we ended up training our son in the faith. In traditional Protestant Christian worship, young children are typically kept in a nursery or children’s Sunday school class that is kept segregated from the adult worship. With Reformed Presbyterian worship this is not the case typically; the model of worship is that the whole family is part of the same worship service as we do not believe there is a biblical warrant for separating children into their own form of worship. This presents a challenge for any parent with young children be trained in this model, but more so for autistic children.
The key to having success with this is consistency and getting the child into the habit of following an orderly pattern. Patterns are vitally important for those on the spectrum as they use these patterns to build dependable working models in their heads giving the chaos that their brains are constantly being flooded with. For us the first few months were a challenge, but after that the pattern or habit was established and our son became perfectly content going through all of the elements of the worship service. Not to say there were not challenges at times, there were and will always be in one way or the other, but the once you get the habit formed and *remain* consistent your well on your way.
The journey doesn’t stop there though as the next step is educating the child in the core tenants of the faith. Since our son has always struggled with language and speech this presented a unique set of challenges around his Christian education. We had to start off very basic as to who God was and who Jesus was, what the Gospel is, what Sin is, etc. What was most interesting at least in our case was that our son understood a lot more than what he was able to communicate at the time. One time I asked him, “What happens when you die?”, to which he responded, “We go to Heaven if we love Jesus.”.
One of the long held practices of Reformed Presbyterians for teaching the doctrines of the faith is through catechisms, which is simply teaching through question and answer format. The core documents that encompass this came out of the Protestant Reformation in the form of the Westminster Standards, which include the Shorter & Larger catechisms. Even focusing on the shorter catechism for our son would not be sustainable, because though it takes in form a less detailed approach in content than the larger catechism, it’s still pretty much non-viable for a child with language challenges. This is when I ran across what would turn out to be a huge blessing called, “Special Catechisms for Special Kids: Teaching Autistic Children About God“. In this work the author condenses the language used in the Westminster Shorter Catechism into a language that is more suited for children on the spectrum. So I ordered the book and spent every night with our son doing a page of question and answer on the various core doctrines of the Reformed Christian faith when he was around 5.
It’s now 9 years later and what is the result of those labors? This Sunday (Lord’s Day) our son became a communicant member of the PCA church we attend. To be honest I wasn’t sure this day would ever come let alone when he was 14 given all of the challenges he has faced. Another key factor in this success was the support of our church session, which is comprised of the Pastor (Teaching Elder) and one or more ruling elders. Their support is key as they need to make the decision around setting the minimal requirements around granting communicant membership to anyone who wants to become a member of the church.
My motivation for writing this was to share the process for other parents that have children on the spectrum that there is hope and that if you are faithful to leverage resources that are available to you to train your child through non-conventional means that can give them a successful framework for growing up in the fear and admonition of the Lord. It was also intended to help the Reformed Churches address the ever increasing number of children diagnosed with Autism.
Sola Dei Gloria
Ed Stetzer has a new blog entry in which he describes the five necessary characteristics that are needed to be an effective church revitalizer. Now on the surface there doesn’t seem to be anything wrong with the characteristics that he lays out in his article. The big question I have is: Why is church revitalization even necessary?
The main theme in this article if you read it is the church should be treated the same way you treat a fortune 500 business that is losing its edge. You need to focus on leadership, organizational ability, and relational patience to name a few that he mentions.
He states, “At one church I served at, the leadership team had been elected to their positions and many were business leaders.”
So the first question I’m going to raise is: Is such a position warranted in Scripture? To answer this question we goto the Scripture
itself and the well known, ‘Great Commission’ verse in Matthew 28:16-20 [KJV]:
“Then the eleven disciples went away into Galilee, into a mountain where Jesus had appointed them. And when they saw him, they worshipped him: but some doubted.
And Jesus came and spake unto them, saying, All power is given unto me in heaven and in earth. Go ye therefore, and teach all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost:
Teaching them to observe all things whatsoever I have commanded you: and, lo, I am with you alway, even unto the end of the world. Amen.”
So we can see from this section of Scripture that the role of the Church is to teach the nations, baptize them in the name of the Trinity, and ensuring the observance of said teaching and all of Christ’s teaching. What you see is Stetzer’s Arminianism coming out that silently asserts that Scripture and God’s providence and grace is not enough and that in order for the Church to be successful man’s ingenuity and efforts are needed to ensure that the church continues to be revitalized and not to grow stagnant.
When most Christians think of Arminianism they usually think of it just in terms of of the doctrines of grace and not in terms of how you define what the Church is and what it’s role is within the bounds of Scripture. Like Calvinism it permeates all facets of the Christian life, so if the root is corrupt, so will its branches be.
The fourth chapter of the book focuses on the different components that comprise a worldview. They are the building blocks of a worldview and without any one of them you can not have a complete worldview and this is why it’s so important to define each one and to expand upon each level to under the questions that they need to answer.
Another key factor that each of these worldview building blocks serve to show how utterly non-sensical the Atheist worldview is in that since it cannot accept order in the Universe and therefore is left to attribute every event to chance he cannot justify in what he observes.
The study on what is the nature of reality. Beyond the physical as in laws of logic & science.
Metaphysics seeks to address three core questions:
- What does it mean to exist?
- What is the nature of man? Is he free? Good? An animal?
- What is the nature of the universe? Is it objectively real? Or is it simply appearance?
Metaphysicians seek to understand the world as a whole.
What Metaphysicians study is actually Christian theology in secular dress.
God is the ultimate ground of all reality. – Gen 1:1, Exodus 20:11, Neh 9:6, Rev 4:11
The study of the nature and limits of human knowledge.
Epistemological inquiry focuses on four class of questions:
- What is the nature of truth & objectivity?
- What is the nature of belief and of knowledge? What are their relationships? Can we know and yet not believe?
- What are the standards that justify belief?
- What are the proper procedures for science & discovery? How can they be trusted?
The unbeliever will not be able to rationally to account for the order of the universe which he experiences, since he is committed to the fate of chance.
There is no way to account for reason in the non-Christian system.
Studies right & wrong attitudes, judgments, and actions, as well as moral responsibility and obligation.
Focuses on four main areas of concern:
- What is the nature of good and evil?
- What are the standards for ethical evaluation?
- What about guilt and personal peace?
- How do we attain or produce moral character?
For the non-Christian there is no sure basis for ethics.
The chapter can be best summed up in this Atheist Creed crafted by Christian scholar Steve Kumar:
There is no God.
There is no objective Truth.
There is no ground for Reason.
There are no absolute Morals.
There is no ultimate Value.
There is no ultimate Meaning.
There is no eternal Hope.
Bahnsen, Greg, “The Concept and Importance of Canonicity”
Butler, Michael R., “A Truly Reformed Epistemology”
Series: Emory University Studies in Law and Religion
Publisher: Wm. B. Eerdsmans Publishing Co.
Natural Law and the Two Kingdoms can be summarized as a survey of the historically reformed Christians position on the two key concepts of the Two Kingdoms and Natural Law. Those two terms in the title are the key to understanding this book both in how the data the author uses to interpret the reformed position on these two concepts along with how they work themselves out in both the civil and ecclesiastical realms.
The book is an excellent work of collating the historical position on these two concepts going all the way back to Pre-Reformation area with Augustine all the way down to Greg Bahnsen and R.J. Rushdooney. One of the main reasons that I picked up this book is that I could not find a book that has attempted such a large venture and the author should be commended for such a work. The author does a good job of defining what he means when he interprets what Natural Law means from the historical sources he cites.
In regards to the term, “Natural Law” the book essentially defines it as the decalogue applied to unregenerate man being made in the image of God. It is vital to understand that this term has nothing to do with the Ecclesiastical part of the book (this is covered in the Two Kingdoms term), but purely in the civil realm in regards to how un-generate man can rule the civil realm in righteousness and justice. This presents a problem from the Christian Reformed position in that the assertion has always been that although man has been created in the image of God, man is dead in trespasses and sins. This is no problem when it comes to the doctrine of the church, but with this book the position is negated when it comes to the civil realm and the “Natural Law” of man. The author claims early in the book that he’s not trying to defend the position in the book, but merely to express what the historical Reformed Christian position has been on the subject. If you do read this book you will begin to see that the author holds to the actual premise that he’s attempting to demonstrate: that the Reformed position is providing chapter by chapter is the correct one and deviations from this are wrong and heretical.
The second motif in the book has to do with the Two Kingdoms. This is where the role of the church and the role of the state is expounded from the historical Reformed Christian sources he documents. The author seems to handle this in a more consistent way until towards the end of the book when he discusses Cornelius Van Til and Greg Bahnsen. It’s the classic position where the church operates in it’s own sphere of church doctrine and discipline and the state (civil polity) operates in its own realm in governing and legislating according to it’s own doctrines and precepts. The author essentially puts Christ Kingdom into two domains: Christ as Creator and Christ as Redeemer. The domain of Christ as creator is argued to mean that Christ governs the civil realm as Creator along with the providence he gives to unregenerate man through natural law and the other domain being Christ as Redeemer where he rules and governs his church by His Word. Natural Law is the link in the authors chain as to how he justifies these two kingdoms.
A key and problematic theme that is recognized in the book is an appeal to pagan authors and authorities more so on the Natural Law side than the Two Kingdom side, but one that is most disturbing. There’s even a section in the book where the author appears to be passively mocking those that would have God’s law as the standard in the civil realm as ‘Biblicists’. This seems to me to be most disturbing given his Reformed Christian presuppositions.
I did find it interesting on his response to Bahnsen’s theonomic position, but then again it aligns with the whole argument of leaving sinful man to rule the civil realm and only expecting the regenerate in Christ to rule the ecclesiastical realm. You will also find in this book that when it came to the Reformed tradition actually executing their presuppositions that the author articulates various consistencies come to light. He highlights some of this in Calvin’s Geneva with the execution of Servetus being the best use case against the authors position since he was executed for an ecclesiastical charge and not one bound in the law of the civil realm at that time.
Concluding the book is a good survey of the historical Reformed position on the two areas of Natural Law and the Two Kingdoms, but the premise that this position is correct or even consistent for that matter is questionable. As a Reformed Christian, I believe the Reformers were spot on in regards to the various doctrines of the church that they expounded and fought for, I just don’t think their position in the civil realm has been consistent for biblically driven enough to warrant the position that the author assumes. If the Scriptures are to be the only rule for faith in life, this includes the civil as well as the ecclesiastical realm.
The third part of the series has to do with as the title suggests, defining worldviews. The actual definition for what a worldview is plays a critical role in understanding the presuppositions one brings to the table for interpreting reality, knowledge, and ethics.
One of the reoccurring themes you will notice through this blog series is Bahnsen’s emphasis on the myth of neutrality. This becomes even more apparent when defining what a worldview actually is. In each of the major domains of a worldview you must assert truth’s in each area and this itself removes the option of neutrality. An assertion has only a binary conclusion; true or false.
Bahnsen defines a worldview as:
“A worldview is a network of presuppositions(which are not verified by the procedures of natural science) regarding reality(metaphysics), knowing(epistemology), and conduct(ethics) in terms of which every element of human experience is related and interpreted.”
Another quote worth providing is viewing the Christian faith as a complex system:
“We must recognize that the Christian faith is a complex system of mutually-supported, interwined beliefs filling out a broader interdependent worldview.”
Like in Systems Engineering each component affects the overall health of the whole system, so each element of a worldview affects that worldview as a whole. Each subcomponent functions as a link in the chain and if one link is inconsistent with the others the system will break down. The Christian faith is no different, which is why the Bible must be the only rule for faith, life, and apologetics, otherwise Christianity will self-destruct on the sand of human autonomy.
Bahnsen, Greg, “Worshipping the Creature Rather Than the Creator”
Hurd, Wesley, “Me and my Worldview”
Nickel, James, “Mathematics: Is God Silent?”
Stump, James, “Science, Metaphysics, and Worldviews”
The second part of the series has to do with taking down philosophical fortresses. Although we have not covered chapter 3 on worldviews you may consider this prep work as a number of principles will nicely lead into the next series.
Try to understand why the unbelieving mind is hostile to the Christian worldview; understand why no one can be neutral and still remain philosophically consistent; what is meant by the “noetic” effects of sin.
The main points to be observed from this chapter are:
- Factually we must recognize that the unbeliever is not neutral.
- Morally, we must understand that the believer should not be neutral.
- Any claim to neturality is a pretense, and it is philosophically impossible.
- “Noetic” is derived from the Greek word, nous, which means “mind”.
- This is one aspect of the doctrine of “total depravity”, which declares that the fall reaches deep down into a man’s very being, even to his mind, and his reasoning faculties.
- The world and the universe do not operate randomly by blind chance or under their own inherent power.
- In fact, you will even give account for every “idle word” that you speak (Matt 12:36).
- None of your words is neutral; each one is subject to God’s evaluative judgement.
- We are not saying unbelievers “know nothing.” We are saying that they do not know anything “truly,” because they do not recognize the most fundamental reality: All facts are God-created facts, not brute facts.
Flashing, Sarah J., “The Myth of Secular Neutrality: Unbiased Bioethics?”
Kruger, Michael J., “The Sufficiency of Scripture in Apologetics”
Oliphant, Scott, “The Noetic Effects of Sin”
Woodward, Thomas E., “Staring Down Darwinism: A Book Review”
I had acquired through a friend on Twitter, a copy of Greg Bahnsen’s, “Pushing the Antithesis“. As such I have decided to publish a blog post for each chapter. This is the first of twelve blog posts. Each post will consist of some key bullet points along with some recommend reading links where available.
As the chapter title suggests, Dr. Bahnsen puts to bed the supposed “neutrality” that anyone has let along the Christian.
The main points to be observed from this chapter are:
- This “neutral” approach is neither biblical nor effective.
- Christians must not set aside their faith commitment even temporarily in an attempt to approach the unbeliever on “neutral ground”.
- If you don’t start with God as your basic assumption, you can’t prove anything./
- The assumption of God’s existence required to all reasoning.
- Evolution theory is taken for granted throughout the college curriculum, just as it is in all aspects of modern though and experience.
- Modern education is effectively subliminal advertising for atheism.
- The university and the media supposedly encourage neutrality by urging tolerance of all views.
- But we are all aware that the Christian view is seldom given equal tolerance.
- The Christian who strives for neutrality unwittingly endorses assumptions which are hostile to his faith.
- Simply put, you cannot adopt a position of neutrality toward God if you are to remain faithful to Christ.
- The Bible claims infallible and obligatory authority which demands commitment to its truth claims.
- Such neutrality actually amounts to skepticism regarding the existence of God and the authority of His Word.
- He (Satan) suggested that she must remain neutral in order to decide who was right, God or Satan. She did not accept God’s word as authoritative and conclusive, but as a true neutralist, determined for herself which option to take. (Gen 3:4-6)
- Robert South (1634-1716) said, “He who would fight the devil with his own weapons, must not wonder if he finds himself over matched.”
- Van Til – “there simply is no presupposition-free and neutral way to approach reasoning.”
- A true biblical apologetic does not set aside Christ from our hearts, but sets apart Christ in our hearts.
Bahnsen, Greg L., Always Ready: Directions for Defending the Faith
Gentry, Kenneth L., Jr., Defending the Faith: An Introduction to Biblical Apologetics