Archive for February 2012

Is It A Duck?

February 17, 2012

Thinking about the title to of my last piece on Peter Enns, “The Contours of a Reprobate Mind,” I thought I would clarify a couple of things since I’m sure some people reading that piece will conclude that I think Enns is a reprobate, although I have no doubt that he may be.  But, do I know that he is?  Of course not, although he does write like an unbeliever (sorry to all you Carpenter Ants and those of his ilk).  For example, Enns makes it clear that he does not believe Paul was telling the truth when spoke of Adam as the historically real first man who disobeyed God and by his actions plunged all men into sin and death.  He even rejects the overwhelming biblical evidence that Moses was the primary human author of the Pentateuch (even despite the Lord’s claim that he was).  He believes Genesis, in particular, was written during the Babylonian captivity and was adapted from surrounding pagan ANE (Ancient Near East) myths dealing with creation and the flood. He even rejects the biblical account of Israel’s Egyptian captivity instead arguing:

 There is no positive, direct evidence for Israelite presence in Egypt or a massive departure of 600,000 men. … It stretches the imagination to think that a group that large, which then spent forty years wandering around the wilderness, would leave Egypt without a trace in either Egyptian literature or the archaeological record (174).

Reading Enns reminds me of an observation Gordon Clark made years ago concerning the assumptions made by liberal scholars during the late nineteenth century who rejected the historicity of the first five books of the bible for similar reasons including the long held belief by liberals that the Hittites never existed.  Clark writes:

 In the latter quarter of the nineteenth century two men, who may be designated by their initials G and W, made a violent attack on the Bible. They assumed that what the Bible says must be false unless other evidence proved it true. By this principle they concluded that the Hittite nation never existed. For years the students of G and W kept asserting that there never were any Hittites, and that the Bible was myth and fairy tale. They also said that Moses did not write the Pentateuch, that Abraham did not fight the battle of Genesis 14, and that seven-stemmed lamps were never made until late Persian times. Today the disciples of G and W do not dare make such statements. They still attack the Bible; they still deny its truth; they still twist Hebrew history out of shape. But they do not dare deny the existence of the Hittites; and seven-stemmed lamps are known to have been made long before Moses mentioned them in the book of Exodus. – An Introduction to the Bible.   See also Fifty Years of Infidelity

Further, it is clear from just the handful of quotes I provided from Enns that he rejects any notion that the Bible has anything close to a monopoly on truth, but rather science, specifically “evolutionary” science, is not only a competing source of truth, but in fact trumps Scripture at almost every turn.  For Enns science, even the most speculative kind, is cognitive and a source of knowledge about the world that can and should challenge any notions we may have that the Scriptures are inerrant specifically when making historic claims that some (secular or otherwise) scientist might reject.  This is why given Enns exceeding low view of Scripture his arguments mirror those reprobates have made consistently against  God’s authority and His word since the creation of,  well, Adam.   And, as the saying goes, if it looks like a duck, swims like a duck, and quacks like a duck, then it probably is a duck.  But, thankfully, even for a man as hostile to the Christian faith as Enns, the form of a conclusion of any inductive argument, including the classic argument about ducks, is not the same as its premises.  So even though Enns might look like a Mallard, he might not be a duck even though we find him swimming in the same pond.

However, even more damning besides looking, swimming, and quaking like a duck, Enns, as the Miller piece demonstrates, has not only adopted a new perspective on Genesis and the Pentateuch, but he also holds to the neo-liberal New Perspective on Paul which rejects the idea that what separates first century Jews from their Christian Gentile contemporaries is the idea of salvation by works, or even works done by faith,  as opposed to salvation by faith alone.  As Miller explains:

 Dr. Enns goes on to add that the historic Reformed understanding of the theology of Romans (i.e., saved by works versus saved by grace) ought to be rethought. He gives an explanation of the New Perspective on Paul which sees Romans as a treatise on how Jew and Gentile can live together as the people of God. In other words, how could Gentiles be included in Israel? (140). This reworked view of Paul’s theology in Romans fits with Dr. Enns’ view of Paul’s purpose in his use of the Adam story:

“Paul’s goal is to show that what binds these two utterly distinct groups together is their equal participation in a universal humanity marked by sin and death and their shared need of the same universally offered redemption. Paul’s Adam serves that goal (141).”

Of course, even if one were willing, if only as a matter of charity, to question Enns’ duckiness, that does nothing to bolster or strengthen any of Enns’ arguments.  As Phillip Climer argued over a decade ago in the pages of The Standard Bearer and in a piece that was later reprinted in Trinity Review:

Scientifically, we do not know if the Bible is true, and we never will. That, of course, does not derogate from the truth or authority of Scripture, for two reasons: Scripture is self-authenticating; and science cannot prove anything true.

… David had to battle the enemies of Israel militarily. Our war with the enemies of Christ is spiritual and intellectual in nature, but it is just as real, and even more deadly. As Christians our posture should be one of righteous indignation against the giant of skeptical archaeology that slurs the truth of the Word of Almighty God. Who are these archaeologists who think they can disprove Scripture with a piece of broken pottery dug out of the mud? Who are the “moderate majority” who dare tell us what parts of the Bible are “reasonable” to believe? Let us be as eager to confront the giant of archeology as David was to confront the Philistine champion. In the struggle between the eternal Word of God and secular theories, we know by revelation that God will crush all anti-Christian arguments and imaginations under our feet. “Is not my word like fire?” says the Lord, and like a hammer that breaks the rock in pieces?    Archeology and The Bible.

The Contours of a Reprobate Mind

February 15, 2012

Peter Enns is a controversial man.  He was first embroiled in controversy in 2005 after publishing Inspiration and Incarnation: Evangelicals and the Problem of the Old Testament while a professor of Old Testament and Biblical Hermeneutic at Westminster Theological Seminary.  In 2008 the WTS Board of Trustees voted to suspend him from teaching because of issues raised in that book.  Yet, in spite of this the WTS faculty voted 12–8 proclaiming Enns’ views fall within “the parameters of the Westminster Confession of Faith.”  Big surprise.  So instead of being given the boot up the rear this man so rightly deserves, Enns along with the faculty and administration at Westminster decided instead to simply part ways.  As one commentator wrote:

One good thing to come out of this unedifying episode was some clarification of how the term “evangelical” is commonly used by scholars and seminary administrators today. In a joint statement issued by the WTS administration and Enns, announcing his departure in July 2008, we find that with regards to Enns “the administration wishes to acknowledge … that his teaching and writings fall within the purview of Evangelical thought.” If now the word “Evangelical” (with a capital “E”) has become so debased that it must be applied even to such things as this, then the usefulness of the word has come to an end.

Needless to say, the handling of the Enns controversy at Westminster follows in the tradition of their handling of another former controversial figure on their payroll; Norman Shepherd.  I suppose the fact that it only took three years to get rid of Enns is a major improvement over the seven years it took to finally get rid of Shepherd (who ended up leaving both WTS and the OPC as a “pastor in good standing”).

Now that Enns is free from the “ridged” and “conservative” confines of WTS (yes, that’s a joke), this former Senior Fellow at the “theistic evolutionary” BioLogos Foundation (“theistic evolution” is an oxymoron if there ever was one) is now even freer to reveal his true colors and his disdain for the Scriptures as the inerrant and infallible word of God.

To that end Rachel Miller has provided an excellent review of Enns latest attack on the Christian faith; The Evolution of Adam: What the Bible Does and Doesn’t Say about Human Origins .  I say it’s an excellent review because Miller simply lets Enns own words speak for themselves.  She offers no critique and very little commentary, but instead simply allows Enns to provide the rope to hang himself.

Here are some gems from Enns:

“. . . sin and death are universal realities, the Christian tradition has generally attributed the cause to Adam. But evolution removes that cause as Paul understood it . . . death is not the unnatural state introduced by a disobedient couple in a primordial garden.”

The arrogance of this man is impressive.  Would any Christian in his right mind place his own thinking above the infallible and inspired thoughts of the Apostle Paul?  That certainly didn’t stop Enns.

I was also impressed by this statement from Enns:

“We are fully warranted in concluding that Paul shared with his contemporaries certain assumptions about the nature of physical reality, assumptions that we now know are no longer accurate (110).”

Really? How does Enns know this? Has he arrived at some epistemic framework where science has somehow overcome the underlying fallacies that riddle its methods; fallacies identified and explicated by philosophers of science such as Karl Popper and Bertrand Russell, not to mention Christian philosophers like Gordon Clark? Like other unbelievers, Enns simply begs the question.

Finally, I was floored by this from Enns:

Jesus seems to attribute authorship of the Pentateuch to Moses (e.g. John 5:46-47). … I do not think that Jesus’s status as the incarnate Son of God requires that statements such as John 5:46-47 be understood as binding historical judgments of authorship. Rather, Jesus here reflects the tradition that he himself inherited as a first-century Jew and that his hearers assumed to be the case (168-169).”

According Enns, not only were we wrong to believe Moses was the author of Genesis and that Paul was telling the truth when it comes to the historicity of Adam and the fall, but Jesus too is a liar who was merely advancing myths (i.e., fanciful stories) he had inherited  “as a first-century Jew.”

You can read Miller’s entire summary of Enns’ views here.

See also Wayne Grudem’s 2008 letter regarding Enns here.

Still On The Fence?

February 12, 2012

Still on the fence about Ron Paul?  Then read this piece from Dr. Voddie Baucham.  Below is just one of the reasons he gives and since I think the monetary issue is “THE” issue I’ve highlighted his comments here.  I know, I know, some will say, “Well, what about abortion”?   Yes, abortion is a great evil, but last I checked the federal government does not compel or coerce any woman to kill her own child.   On the other hand, the federal government does compel and coerce us to accept their paper as legal tender.  Besides, had abortions continued to be regulated at the state level, which they were prior to 1973, and despite the bloviating of that theocratic fascistic boob in Moscow,  there is no telling the countless lives that could have been saved (but then having abortions legalized by the federal  judiciary has provided a vehicle for all sorts of statist faux-Conservatives, including the current crop of Republicans running for the nomination, to wrap themselves in an issue in order to get votes without ever having to do anything).  Or, maybe your concern with Paul is his foreign policy, which in some ersatz-Christian circles means “support for Israel.”  Well, Voddie’s got your answer to those questions too.  So here is just a taste:

I support Ron Paul because he has a constitutional view of money. He is the only candidate consistently to confront the Federal Reserve Bank (which is not federal, has no reserves, and is not a bank), and address the issue of fiat currency (a.k.a. unjust weights and measures; Lev 19:36; Prov 16:11), which debases the dollar, manipulates business cycles, creates inflation, and always benefits the rich at the expense of the poor and disenfranchised. And he talks about the issue in just those terms.

Congressman Paul is also the only candidate who has a budget that will cut a TRILLION DOLLARS in spending in year one.[7] He is the only candidate who has committed to defund and eliminate expensive, unconstitutional agencies. This is crucial for a country headed for an economic cliff. Our debt is larger than our GDP and we simply must address it NOW (Luke 14:28)! This is arguably the most important issue we face, and while others want to tinker with the status quo, Dr. Paul wants to do the hard thing; the right thing; the biblical thing; the constitutional thing.

The Insidiousness of Keynesian Economics

February 11, 2012

I came across something interesting in the latest issue of Reason in a review of a book that sounds like a throwaway dealing with the battle between John Maynard Keynes verses Austrian economist Friedrich von Hayek in the 1930’s.  Frankly, it is something I had never even considered and that is the intentional inflating of the currency (which is in reality a devaluation of the dollar) in order to keep real wages low while creating the illusion of giving workers higher wages.  Interesting too, that this scheme advocated by Keynes was a means to undercut the power of labor unions, which is normally a good thing.   I mean, I understand that our monetary system is inherently evil and that the printing of dollars out of thin air is, as Ron Paul famously says, a “hidden tax” that destroys the middle class and robs widows and those on fixed incomes of their wealth in terms of buying power, but I never really thought of it as actually aiding large corporations by allowing them to pay workers less while seemingly paying them more.  Here’s the quote:

In a 1930s context of very powerful unions, Keynes thought it was politically impossible to achieve the nominal wage reductions necessary to clear the market for labor—that is, to let wages fall so that hiring would be cheaper and unemployment thereby reduced. He instead promoted inflation as a means to trick labor into taking lower real wages. – From Brian Doherty’s review of Keynes/Hayek: The Clash That Defined Modern Economies by Nickholas Wapshott.

As I’ve said, this is an angle I hadn’t considered before but is something I’m certainly interested in learning more about.  In the meantime, Keynes vs. Hayek Round 2 . . .

Clark Not-So-Quick-Quote

February 4, 2012

This past week I read a piece over at the Aquila Report concerning Mark Driscoll’s rejection of the doctrine of the eternal generation of the Son. That lead me to reread Gordon Clark’s discussion of eternal generation in his monograph on the Trinity.  And, that lead me to today’s Clark “Not-So-Quick-Quote” which has absolutely nothing to do with the eternal generation of the Son.  What really tweaked my interest, and what will probably drop this blog’s readership to zero,  is Clark’s brief “philosophical elucidations” which undergirds his entire discussion of the Trinity.

Years ago (and I do mean years) when I was a first year college student, I was very interested in taking every philosophy course my small university had to offer.  My goal was to see if my new found Christian faith, as fragile as it was, could stand the withering attack of the “philosophers,” or, more precisely,  the philosophy professors.  I even had one professor in a 300 level history of philosophy course announce on the first day of class that his goal was to shake us all from any remaining belief in God.  Pretty bold.  Interestingly, and as an aside, his main tool in that effort was David Hume, which, interestingly enough, is a central figure Clark uses, at least negatively, in support of Scripturalism.   Go figure.

Admittedly, not all my philosophy profs were quite that militant, but I remember early on being immediately attracted to Plato as I saw in his philosophic Realism an interesting, albeit warped, Pagan resemblance to Christianity; far more so than anything I ever saw in Aristotle (despite Thomas Aquinas affectionately referring to Aristotle as “The Philosopher”).   Even Socrates’ allegory of the cave has some parallels to Christianity.  Consider for example Peter’s description of Scripture as “the prophetic word made more sure, to which you do well to pay attention as to a lamp shining in a dark place, until the day dawns and the morning star arises in your hearts” (2 Peter 1:9).   As some might recall, for Socrates only the philosopher can, and after much strain and struggle, ascend from the cave in order to peer into the true light of Ideas and be freed, if only momentarily, from the world of shadows.  In Christianity every Christian can and is freed from the darkness and the shadows of this fallen word by coming to the true light of Christ revealed in Scripture.

With that brief introduction out of the way, here is a selection from Clark’s “Philosophic Elucidations”:

The philosophy used here is first of all a form of Realism.  There are several kinds.  In the 1930’s there was a sort of materialistic realism. But whatever the variety, realism is such because it asserts a knowledge of the “real” object, and not a sensory or other type of representation of it.

Nearly all empiricists assert or imply that the real object never enters the mind and cannot be known [think too of Kant’s Ding an sich – SG].  Berkely was an exception. The usual notion is that the human mind takes a photograph of what is “out there,” with the obvious result that the object itself is unknowable.

Realists claim that the mind grasps, gets, has, knows the real object, though of course the real objects are not spatial or physical.  Plato called them Ideas, eternal and immutable. Although the present treatise is as realistic as it could be made, it differs from Plato in that Ideas are replaced by propositions.

The reason is that a single X can neither be known nor expressed.  The best we do with human beings is to use proper names: John Doe, Bill Smith, and George Washington.  But there are not enough proper nouns to supply each person with a unique name.  My wife and I knew three girls named Helen Andrews.  For this reason computer-minded bureaucrats give us numbers: Good morning, Mr. 376-598024.  But there is nothing in the number, nor in the name either, that describes the person to us.  The name George Washington tells us nothing about anybody.

This is also true of an isolated Aristotelian concept and of an allegedly physical thing.  Suppose I meet a friend on the street and greet him with the single word “cat.” My astonished listener is likely to reply, “What?”  A single noun, all by itself, and a single Platonic Idea as well in isolation, has no meaning. But if one should say, “the cat is black,” the proposition conveys a meaning.  It may be true, or it may be false, but it is not meaningless.

Now, the Bible is largely a series of propositions.  There are of course some interrogatory sentences, and a few exclamations.  But the Bible is largely propositional.  One or two of my critics have suggested that God does not think in propositions.  Where in the Bible, one may ask, is such a suggestion hinted at?  If God does not think in propositions, where did all the Biblical propositions come from? If God does not think in propositions, how could he ever know that “David was king of Israel”? The Bible teaches that God is truth; and a single word, without unexpressed connotations, can never be true.  A single word has no meaning. Truth is always a matter of the relationship between a subject and a predicate.

Scripture says that God is a God of knowledge.  That God is truth is one of Augustine’s most fundamental theses.  The opposing view gives us only a photograph taken by a defective lens, and to make it worse it gives us no method of judging the accuracy of the photograph.

But if anyone assert that it is completely wrong to begin with realistic epistemology, one need only recall that nominalism provides no basis for federal headship and the imputation of righteousness and justification by faith.  It provides no basis for talk about the human race.  In nominalism there is no human race.  In order to have any Christian doctrine at all, universal propositions are necessary and indispensable. (The Trinty 126-129)

CVMT No. 4: Ch. 1 Introduction, The Unity of Truth

February 2, 2012

CVMT No. 4: Ch. 1 Introduction, The Unity of Truth.

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