Check out the new and improved Trinity Foundation website! Tom over at the foundation did an outstanding job updating the site and also added some new lectures and features, including a lecture on The Inerrancy of the Bible by Gordon Clark along with assorted lectures by John Robbins all for free. Download them all and fill up your Ipods (or, if you’re like me your Sansa Clip).
Archive for May 2010
If the human words of Scripture are not also God’s own divine words, then the Bible is a merely human book. If the truths revealed in Scripture are not what God really thinks, then we have no knowledge of God whatsoever, which is, of course, exactly what Herman Bavinck teaches in his systematic theology. If man does not and cannot know what God knows, if there is and can be no identity of content between God’s knowledge and man’s, then man can know nothing, and we are all lost. On Van Til’s view, Christianity must be a cruel hoax, for it claims to be a revelation of divine truth in human words. — Can the Orthodox Presbyerian Church be Saved?
An interesting thing happened to me over at Scott Clark’s Heidleblog today. I had listened to an interview Scott had with OPC historian and myth-maker, John Muether, dealing with his biography of Cornelius Van Til. In the interview Muether repeated his slander that the Clark/Van Til controversy (which he repeatedly called the “so-called controversy”) was due to Clark’s desire to move the OPC away from a distinctly Reformed perspective. According to Muether, “Clark was a pawn in the agenda of a faction of the church that was discontent with its Reformed identity. Ultimately what was at stake was the question of whether the church’s ecclesiology would be evangelical or Reformed.”
Muether also repeated his outrageous claim that Van Til’s scurrilous and unprovoked attack on Clark was one of Van Til’s finest moments, rather than the low point many of Van Til’s most ardent supporters have heretofore agreed that it was. So I briefly commented on Scott’s blog saying that I was disappointed that he did not challenge any of Muether’s claims. I said he should have at least asked Muether about the charges John Robbins made against him in his booklet, Can the OPC be Saved?, specifically the claim that
Muether’s allegation that what was at stake in the controversy was whether the OPC’s ecclesiology would be Evangelical or Reformed is also unsupported by any documentary evidence Muether cited. The ecclesiological issue in the controversy was whether the parachurch institution, Westminster Seminary, would be subject to Church oversight. It was the WTS faction that opposed such ecclesiastical oversight, making them, not Dr. Clark, the advocates of an un-Reformed ecclesiology.
At first Scott replied asking me if I had read Muether’s book. I replied asking him if he read John’s booklet. When I checked his site later in the evening my comments were deleted and I was prevented from posting any further comments. Interestingly, the exact same thing happened to me on Lane Keister’s blog some time ago when I dared to question the accuracy of Muether’s claims. After all, and as I mentioned to Scott, John’s claims above are certainly more plausible given Westminster Theological Seminary’s instrumental role in the rise of the Federal Vision theology and their long and shameful history protecting Federal Visionist Norm Shepherd (even before the Federal Vision had a name) meticulously documented by O. Palmer Robertson in, The Current Justification Controversy.
It makes you wonder, what are these men afraid of?
I was thinking more on this and despite being on completely other ends of the epistemic pool, Scott Clark has generally been, at least in his dealings with me, a very fair and reasonable man. Admittedly, Scott being a committed Van Tilian and me being an equally committed Scripturalist, we’re not going to be best of friends which is why I keep any criticisms of Van Til to a minimum on his blog. Up until now I honestly thought, and regardless of our profound differences, that we had a somewhat agreeable relationship perhaps due to our mutual opposition to the Federal Vision and so-called New Perspectives movements. However, you would think that John Robbins’ observations and objections concerning Muether above would be received as fair and reasonable by any fair and reasonable person. I was clearly mistaken.
Then it dawned on me (interestingly it dawned on me at dawn this morning while laying in bed where I generally do some of my best thinking), that Scott Clark too has a vested interest in keeping WTS & WSC autonomous and independent of church oversight and control. (more…)
James Anderson is the Assistant Professor of Theology and Philosophy at Reformed Theological Seminary and his book, Paradox in Christian Theology, is his ode to biblical paradox, not in the sense that such paradoxes present us with theological puzzles or problems to be solved, but rather are tokens the ineffable God and creator has given us in order to induce religious passion and worship as we leap headfirst into the absurd. Fittingly, Paradox in Christian Philosophy opens and closes with a favorable quote and a final reverential bow to Søren Kierkegaard. That’s because according to Anderson:
. . . theological paradox reminds us of our creaturely limitations and of the transcendence of God. It confronts us with divine incomprehensibility and fosters reverent awe and epistemic humility.
Furthermore, in keeping with a central thread in the Christian narrative, paradox (with its attendant notion of divine mystery) invites *faith,* requiring us to trust God’s self-revelation despite the fact that it disaccords at points with our rational intuitions (about identity, unity, personhood, etc.) . . . Just as Abraham trusted God’s self-revelation in the face of seeming absurdity — the pregnancy of a pensioner and the sacrifice of a son — and was commended for his faith, so it is possible that God means us to trust the self-revelation of this triunity and his incarnation in the face of seeming illogicality, as opposed to leaning on our own understanding. (282 – 283)
Of course there is nothing illogical about God telling Abraham that his ninety year old wife will bear him a son or that he should sacrifice this same child. Some things may be hard to believe perhaps, which is why Abraham laughed when God told him that Sarah would bear him a son (see Genesis 17:17), but miracles and difficult commands are hardly the equivalent of square circles. Unlike the late Christian philosopher Gordon Clark (who gets only a passing if not deprecating mention in the book), Anderson does not believe that logical paradox in Scripture function, as Clark famously said, as “a charley-horse between the ears that can be eliminated by rational massage.” For Anderson the presence of logical paradoxes in Scripture act as intellectual fetishes or spiritual markers designed to invoke a sense of awe and devotion that call us to submit our minds to absurdity and incoherence. That’s not to say that Anderson believes that any and all claim to “biblical paradox” is justified, rather it is the recognition that at certain points in our theology logic needs to be curbed, which is a nice way to say abandoned.
For example, when explaining why he believes Christians are rational for believing apparent contradictions in Scripture, what he calls his “RAPT model” or the “Rational Affirmation of Paradoxical Theology,” Anderson remarks:
It is crucial to recognise that the RAPT model does not rule out the use of deduction and inference in theology, but merely implies certain constraints on the application of logical principles . . . But if we grant that some elements of divine revelation *could* strike us as paradoxical on account of limitations in our noetic apparatus, then we can permit any valid inference from revelational data *provided its conclusion does not explicitly negate other revelational data.*(276)
Of course, the problem here is one in which all Van Tilians fall into and which is why Van Tilianism is positively un-Reformed, is the failure to recognize that truth is, by definition, non-contradictory and biblical teaching is therefore similarly non contradictory. Valid inference from true premises cannot contradict any other true proposition. Reformed believers hold that the Christian faith is a rigorously deductive system (see Westminster Confession 1.6) and that the Scriptures presents to the mind a system of logically harmonious propositions. This is, after all, one of the central evidences that the Scriptures are indeed the Word of God (see Westminster Confession 1.5) . If Van Tilians like Anderson actually believed the Westminster Confession they would know that in Scripture there is a logical harmony or “consent of all” and not just some of the parts, and that the meaning of Scripture is “not manifold, but one.” Consequently, if an inference from revelational data were to “negate other revelational data” then we would know that the inference was invalid. Yet, Anderson maintains that valid inferences from Scripture can and will, at certain points, “negate other revelational data.” This is a complete departure from Reformed orthodoxy. For Van Tilians like Anderson the true mark of the Reformed faith is the recognition and embrace of impenetrable and hopelessly irreconcilable paradoxes or “apparent contradictions.” (more…)