Apologetics

Repost: Should ‘Presuppositional’ Apologetics Be Rebranded As ‘Covenant’ Apologetics?

Recently K. Scott Oliphint of Westminster Seminary, Philadelphia has published a book which he has called Covenantal Apologetics.   I reviewed the book here and recommend it.  But I expressed reservations about the writer’s agenda of rebranding Van Til’s apologetic teaching in line with the book’s title.  Coming as it does from one of the foremost representatives of Van Til’s presuppositional approach around the thesis deserves attention.  As I said in my review, by “Covenantal” Oliphint means the ‘covenants’ of covenant theology.

Now nobody is going to disagree that Van Til often spoke about fallen man as a covenant-breaker.  And no one will dispute that by that designation he had in mind the theological covenants of Reformed Covenant Theology.  You cannot read Van Til very far before running into statements he makes about ‘the Reformed apologetic.’  For example,

All men are either in covenant with Satan or in covenant with God. – Cornelius Van Til, The Defense of the Faith, 4th edition, edited by K. Scott Oliphint, 300.

This is the kind of thing covenant theologians say (or used to say).  Van Til did not refer to his approach as ‘Covenantal Apologetics’, but I think he might not have minded too much.  Still, is it right?

Van Til’s argument for allying his apologetics with the resources of covenant theology should be seen against the backdrop of his conflating covenant theology with Reformed Calvinistic theology.  But any reader of the Jacob Arminius is well aware that he too was a covenant theologian.  This needs to be noted because Van Til’s point is mainly anthropological and soteriological.  He memorably observes,

We should add that according to Scripture, God spoke to man at the outset of history.  In addition to revealing himself in the facts of the created universe, God revealed himself in Words, telling man about what he should do with the facts of the universe.  Since the fall, all men, as fallen in Adam (Rom. 5:12), continue to be responsible for this twofold revelation of God given to man at the beginning of history. – Cornelius Van Til, A Survey of Christian Epistemology, 19

This is a point which can be made from the Bible through exposition of Romans 1:18-32 or Psalm 19.  Among his other contributions to theology Van Til stressed this revelatory nature of knowledge before and after the Fall:

For Adam in paradise God-consciousness could not come in at the end of a syllogistic process of reasoning.  God-consciousness was for him the presupposition of the significance of his reasoning on anything. – The Defense of the Faith, 113

But he did not always appeal to the Bible for his authority.  Like so many covenant theologians of the past and present he counted on the Westminster Standards to support his contentions.  So right after the above statement we read this one:

To the doctrine of creation must be added the conception of the covenant.  Man was created an historical being.  God placed upon him from the outset of history the responsibility and task of reinterpreting the counsel of God as expressed in creation to himself individually and collectively.  Man’s creature consciousness may therefore be more particularly signalized as covenant consciousness.  But the revelation of the covenant to man in paradise was supernaturally mediated…Thus, the sense of obedience or disobedience was immediately involved in Adam’s consciousness of himself.  Covenant consciousness envelops creature consciousness. In paradise Adam knew that as a creature of God it was natural and proper that he should keep the the covenant that God made with him. – Ibid.

Here, as Oliphint explains in a footnote in this edition, Van Til is appealing to the WCF 7.1.  The “covenant” to which Van Til is referring in this quotation is not any covenant found in the description of paradise in the first chapters of Genesis.  The “covenant” is the ‘covenant of works’ invented, along with the ‘covenant of grace’, by covenant theologians as a theological explanatory device to describe our relationship with our Creator.  No Scripture is provided to show the presence of this covenant, and for good reason: there is none.

In arguing for the name covenantal apologetics, Oliphint uses the same method.  In all his argumentation for the idea there is a noticeable dearth of scriptural appeal.  For instance, for his definition and understanding of the term “covenant” he does not go to the Bible but to the Westminster Confession (See K. Scott Oliphint, Covenantal Apologetics, 39, 49, 61-62, 93).  The Confession does indeed refer to God’s condescension in relating to us as “covenantal.”  But is that the way the Bible itself uses the idea of covenant?  I think not.

For one thing, it begs the question to have the Westminster Confession authorize the name-change from presuppositional apologetics to covenantal apologetics.  Without reinventing the wheel, I have tried to show in other places (e.g. here), that covenant theologians have misread biblical covenants, like the New Covenant, in fitting them into their extra-biblical inferential scheme.  Oliphint himself does this on page 59 of his book when confusingly quoting Hebrews 6:17-18, which refers back to the Abrahamic covenant (6:13), and forwards to the New covenant, of which Christ is the Mediator (Hebrews 8 and 9 go on to explain this).  But Oliphint’s quotation is not in reference to either of these biblical covenants, but (as we saw with Van Til) in service of a supposed covenantal relationship enacted at the outset of creation.

Covenant theology has often been criticized for making their theological covenants ride roughshod over the clear covenants of the Bible, effectively stripping them of any specifications not required by their approach.  The example just given is quite typical.

Like Van Til Oliphint wants man’s knowing to be covenantal (44, 82, 152).  But this is neither necessary nor particularly relevant.  It is not necessary because our relationship to God need not be viewed within the terms of covenant.  We would do better and would stay within the boundaries of the biblical text to speak of “creaturely obligations” or “image-accountability” than introducing covenant language.  Although covenants in the Bible do establish relationships and commitments, no one is free to read and then define the terms of a covenant for which there is scarcely any warrant.  And interpreting our knowing as covenantal is not relevant  for two reasons.  First because Arminians have often been adherents of covenant theology and Van Til was often at pains to try to show that only Calvinism could support his position (see, e.g. A Survey of Christian Epistemology, 81ff.).  Therefore, his real emphasis while using the Westminster Confession should more often than not be understood to be Calvinistic.  Second, because nowhere in the Bible is our knowing depicted this way.  While all assent that the new birth brings with it new outlooks (cf. Rom. 12:1-2; Eph. 4:17-5:17), such things were hardly necessary in Eden.  Divine covenants obligate God to do something.  But in paradise we read of no such Divine obligation; still less do we read of a covenant oath!  In Scripture, all the covenants which are plainly discoverable come after the Fall: indeed, they come after the Flood!  Covenants are not required where the relationship is not sundered and in need of reconciliation.

In truth, while the genius of covenant theology may be brought to bear on Van Til’s apologetic, the real issue is whether his approach is supportable from the text of Holy Writ.  And the answer to that question is certainly Yes!  As Greg Bahnsen showed in his Always Ready, there is plenty of biblical justification for presuppositional apologetics, without the need to appeal to covenant theology.  While Bahnsen was a proponent of covenant theology, he wisely sought to establish his apologetics on a different and firmer foundation.  What we want to know is whether Van Til’s apologetic is biblical, and indeed it is.  Because that is so the question of nomenclature might be easily solved by calling it, as a recent fine exposition does, simply Biblical Apologetics.

The question of whether covenant theology is biblical is much harder to prove.                

It is my opinion that even Van Til’s insistence that his apologetics demands allegiance Calvinistic Reformed theology is also unpersuasive, and for many of the same reasons.  Van Til was rightly concerned with the “absoluteness” of God to be the ultimate environment of thought.  He did not think Arminianism allowed such a thing because of its idea of free choice.  Although I am not an Arminian I do think that Arminius has a very strong conception of God’s primacy in choosing.  Not all Arminians do.  But then again, many Calvinists have deferred to concepts akin to natural theology in their writings.  This opens the door to viewing men and women as operating in a revelatory and so accountable realm, and a (functionally) non-revelatory realm where they are free to decide upon matters of truth independently of special revelation.

What it all comes down to in the end is not whether or not Van Til or Oliphint would prefer it if their apologetics was referred to as “covenantal,” but whether it would be right to insist on the connection.  If we base our apologetics on the clear statements of Scripture, including the covenants of the Bible, our base will never crumble.  but if we seek to base our apologetics upon ‘covenants’ which we are unable to prove from the Bible, we expose that apologetic approach to the same heavy biblical criticism with which covenant theology has been assailed.  Presuppositional Apologetics might not be the best label, but it is far more satisfactory than an attenuated name like Covenantal Apologetics; especially when ‘covenantal’ refers, not to the biblical concept of covenant, but to the strained idea of covenant within covenant theology.     

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Now Complete: Twelve Videos on Apologetics & Worldview

Here are the 12 video presentations on Apologetics & Worldview: An Introduction I recorded last year before a group of lay Christians who ranged from ages 15 to 70+.  I cite quite a few authorities, and I hope to place these in readable form in the future.  The average running time for each video is around one hour and thirty minutes.  

  1. The Field of Vision
  2. The Background of Creation
  3. The Creator – Creature Distinction
  4. Dependent Reasoning
  5. Stressing the Antithesis
  6. Science and Personal Knowledge
  7. The Myth of Naturalistic Science
  8. Scientism and Circularity
  9. Faith, Reason and Truth
  10. Preconditions, Facts, and the Historical Christ
  11. Evidence in Real Time
  12. Concluding Thoughts – A Cohesive Worldview

I pray that this teaching is a help to many.

“Leaving Mormonism” – A Review

I was sent this book (and another that I must review soon) before Christmas and the publisher, quite understandably wishes me to review it.  I am very happy to do so since this is a fine resource

A Review of Leaving Mormonism: Why Four Scholars Changed Their Minds, edited by Corey Miller & Lynn K. Wilder, Grand Rapids: Kregel Publications, 311 pages, paperback, 2017

This book is an great idea.  Four former Mormons with academic credentials and a passion for the truth write about why they left Mormonism and add a critique of it from their own perspectives.  Each writer communicates clearly.  None is mean spirited in their criticism of their former belief, though all are keen to inform readers not only of the errors of the Latter-Day Saints; errors which lead to a particular worldview, but also of the chameleonic nature of Mormon teaching as it seeks to adapt to criticism and exposure.

Corey Miller’s chapter, “In Search of the Good Life” asks whether experiencing the good is objectively possible under Mormon teaching.  His answer begins with his personal testimony of being a Mormon with descendants reaching all the way back to acquaintances of Joseph Smith himself.  His essay deals with the nature of Mormon testimony and the difficulty of achieving “salvation.”  Miller is a philosopher and has provided excellent notes to go with his essay, even briefly outlining Alvin Plantinga’s response to de jure objections to Christian faith in his Warranted Christian Belief (70 n.41).

The next chapter is by LaTayne Scott, “I Was There, I Believed.”  She has been given enough room to write a long but interesting chapter consisting, as all the contributions do, of her testimony and an analysis.  Scott’s testimony is eloquently written and of real help for someone trying to understand the grip that Mormon culture exerts upon its members.  Of particular help in this chapter is the way the author persuades the reader to look upon Mormonism as a worldview with its distinctive (and false) approach to truth.

Lynn Wilder’s piece includes her discomfort at encountering many contradictions concerning things like racism and polygamy.  There is also her son’s story, wherein he was challenged while on mission to read the New Testament.  Upon returning to testify he got up and confessed that a person needed Jesus and Him alone (163).  This son, Micah, begged his parents to simply read the NT like a child would.  Wilder read John’s Gospel and her eyes began to be opened, though not for some time did she and her husband leave the fold (in 2008).  The “reasons” part of her article details numerous social problems with Mormonism, again focusing on racism and polygamy, but expanding on each.

The last of the four writers is the scientist Vince Eccles.  He became a rebel against religion after learning about his divorced mother’s being judged for some of her choices.  He writes about his fascination with parts of the Bible (e.g. Matthew and Exodus) and his investigations into the reliability of the Scriptures, but he does hold to a non-literal reading of the early chapters of Genesis, and to theistic evolution, and there are certainly one or two liberal-critical influences upon him.  He records crises of faith which even had him contemplating becoming an orthodox Jew.  He also seems to have universalist leanings.  Of the four authors in the book I felt Eccles was the least satisfying.  In fact, even though his essay is of interest, I think it was a mistake to include him in the book.

Miller and Wilder complete the book with a chapter on the New Atheism.  They inserted this chapter because many ex-Mormons become disillusioned and fall pray to the arguments of these people.  It’s a nice bonus at the end of the book.

This is an absorbing book, written with head and heart.  I liked the first two contributions to be the most helpful; the one by Eccles was a disappointment.  I think the book, Eccles’ chapter apart, is a very good buy.

Three Videos on Science & Christianity

I have been putting my introductory lectures for Telos on Apologetics & Worldview up on YouTube.  There are several more to come, but I thought it would be useful to place the three classes dealing with Science together in a post.  Throughout the classes I quote from quite a number of authorities.  I hope this is more helpful than it is distracting.

The first, “Science and Personal Knowledge” includes a study of Michael Polanyi’s theory of knowledge, which is important for dispelling the false notion of dispassionate objectivity in science.

The second lesson, “The Myth of Naturalistic Science” tries to demonstrate how belief in scientific materialism or naturalism is unsustainable:

The last video is entitled “Scientism and Circularity” and attempts to show that the facts are stacking up to overwhelm the classic rhetoric of naturalistic evolutionary ‘science’, although adherence to scientism and its circular reasoning (based on the dogma that ‘naturalism must be true’) still makes it impervious to the facts:

Review – Darwin’s House of Cards

A review of Tom Bethell, Darwin’s House of Cards: A Journalist’s Odyssey Through The Creation Debates, Seattle: Discovery Press International, 2017, 293 pages, pbk.

The widespread public acceptance of biological evolution in Darwin’s day was probably a product of the simultaneous faith in Progress.  Darwin’s theory was accepted as readily as it was because it shared in the general belief that things were getting better.  It’s not that the organisms themselves were being swept along, but that European and then American intellectuals believed that everything was improving. – 256

This is the way Tom Bethell ends his entertaining book attacking the reigning scientistic consensus of evolution.  Darwin’s House of Cards is a fully up-to-date survey of the mechanics and effects of evolutionary theory; a theory which Karl Popper concluded was “not a testable scientific theory, but a metaphysical research program” (14).

As to the general optimism which provided the conditions for the enthusiastic acceptance of Darwinism in the middle of the nineteenth century, Bethell writes,

[A]s I hope to show in the following chapters, the science of neo-Darwinism was poor all along, and supported by very few facts.  I have become ever more convinced that, although Darwinism has been promoted as science, its unstated role has been to prop up a philosophy – the philosophy of materialism – and atheism along with it. (20).

In the nineteen chapters which follow the author reports on and dismantles numerous evolutionary claims and “evidences”, showing among other things that common descent, natural selection, and random mutations are either pure fiction, tautological, or terribly over-plugged.  He challenges the dogma of the tree of life, noticing along the way biochemist Craig Venter’s denial of it (53-54), and paleontologist Colin Patterson’s frank admission that the nodes in the tree of life diagrams are always empty (55-56).  Why?  Because there is no real evidence for it.

Speaking of Patterson, who was chief paleontologist at the Natural History Museum in London until his death in 1998, Bethell interviewed him several times, and chapter 12 reviews those conversations.  Although Patterson remained a thoroughgoing evolutionist, he came to the opinion that it conveyed no scientific information at all.  As Bethell reports it, he said that scientists could do very well without it (149).

In the same chapter we are told about two world-renowned experts in their fields who admit that the funding for their respective fields is minimal compared with digging up fossils.  Nevertheless, both said that “you don’t find out much from fossils”, and that they could find out much more by studying living things (146-148).

This book’s short chapters are so well written that the author is able to cover a great deal of territory in a relatively short space.  This means that along with the usual problematical areas for evolution; natural selection (chapters 5 & 6), the fossil record (chapter 11), homology (chapter 9), DNA and Epigenetics (chapter 15), etc., he also tackles less well documented issues like extinction (chapter 7), and convergence (chapter 10).  There is also a useful chapter about Richard Lenski’s long-term experiments with E-coli (chapter 16).

As to homology, for example, he notes, the propensity of naturalists to invoke design while supposedly trying to explain it away.  Homologists, or those who rely on them, often write of the relative similarities in structures from different organisms without being forthright enough to declare that these similar features often are derived from different sets of genes! (109-112).

To take a few more examples, despite the recent demonizing of humanity and our deleterious influence on nature by many progressives on the left, no one knows why extinctions happen (86-92).  As for “convergence”, the belief that differing species evolve similar traits due to their experiencing the same kinds of environmental and ecological pressures, evolutionists again beg the question.  Evolutionists have tended to substitute their imaginations for proof, and nearly always simplify extremely difficult matters in the process.  So on page 119 Stephen Jay Gould is quoted as saying that in certain flying creatures, “highly adaptive forms that are easy to evolve arise again and again.”  Bethell responds that if flight is so easy to evolve, “Someone should tell Boeing engineers how that was achieved.”

As we’re on the subject of engineering, chapter 13 is given over to “Intelligent Design and Information Theory.”  At the start of the chapter Bethell mentions the work of Michael Behe, William Dembski, and Douglas Axe (155-161).  He deftly dispatches theistic evolutionist Kenneth Brown’s attempt to oppose Michael Behe’s “irreducible complexity” findings (155-156), and then states the obvious truth that, contrary to creationism, “Intelligent design theory… does not identify a designer, any more than we can identify the designer of Stonehenge.” (157).  Why then the resistance to ID?  For instance, citing Wikipedia’s slanted presentation:

Numerous attempts have been made to change…derogatory comments, but all such changes are promptly reversed on Wikipedia – sometimes within minutes. (161)

The thought-police are very active.  But of course the reason has already been given.  The reigning view of the intellectuals is naturalistic atheism.  Therefore, the facts will always be made to comport with the theory, however vicious the contortions have to be.  Chapter 14 describes the link between “Darwinism and the Philosophy of Naturalism.”  This chapter includes a good discussion of freewill, or the denial thereof by many of these “Freethinkers”, although the irony of their calling themselves by this term seems to be totally lost on most of them!  Bethell’s responses to this are effectively structured around the work of Michael Egnor and Thomas Nagel.

(more…)

Lectures on Apologetics & Worldview

I am going to release a series of introductory video lectures on Apologetics and Worldview.  The lectures were given earlier this year to people whose ages ranged from about 15 to 70.  I tried to be quite low-key and to strike a balance between a full-on presuppositional apologetics presentation and Christian worldview course.  That means that I was not focused so much on just one or the other, but a blend of the two.  I think it worked well sometimes and other times it just worked.

I shall post (DV) one video per week at my TELOS channel.

Anyway, I hope these lectures will be used to edify saints and perhaps even evangelize non-believers.  May God be glorified through them.

Book Review: Douglas Axe’s ‘Undeniable’

A review of Douglas Axe, Undeniable: How Biology Confirms Our Intuition That Life Is Designed, New York: HarperOne, 2016, 304 pages, hdbk.

Readers of Stephen Meyer’s two important books, Signature in the Cell and Darwin’s Doubt, will know the name of Douglas Axe.  Axe’s work on probability theory and gene folding feature quite prominently in those works.  This book is a compliment to Meyer, but it is also a companion to William Dembski’s books like The Design Inference and No Free Lunch.  I suppose the nearest thing to it is Dembski’s book Intelligent Design.

But Undeniable is not simply a repetition of the type of arguments one will find in those books.  In the first place, Axe’s main concern is to provide Joe Public with an assuring and accessible guide on his own ability to detect invention no matter what the Science pundits tell them.

This book tries to get behind the sane intuition all of us have that incredibly complex functionality is not and can never be a result of any kind of unguided randomization.  It never is in our day to day experience of living.  Only in the imaginings of those who cannot see the difference between a scientific pronouncement and a metaphysical one does the idea gain currency and the power to veto competing ideas.  But this so characterizes the furtiveness of the spokespeople who try to shove evolutionist just-so stories down the throats of the populace, without facing the arguments brought against them.  The author thinks evolution is wrong; that it “can’t possibly be defended as clearly and convincingly as it can be refuted.” (59).  I’m on board.  I’m also totally fine believing that “Atheists have a pronounced leaning toward scientism” (7), which explains why they slide so easily from science-talk into bad philosophizing.

Axe engages the reader with what he calls “common science”.  Common science is the sort of enterprise we all do to get along in life.  And we do it by following a “design intuition”, and by inventing stuff.  The author believes that “everyone validates their design intuition through firsthand experience”, and he thinks this validation is of a scientific nature (60).  He sounds like Thomas Kuhn when drawing attention to pressures among the scientific class to conform to an institutionalized agenda (54); like Michael Polanyi when he says that prior understanding is essential for deeper knowledge (61), and gets a little Aristotelian (in the right way) when he quips that little actions are meaningful when “they produce a significant end”, one that clearly looks intended (67).

Axe is good at giving analogies to help his reader grasp his thesis.  He speaks about the discovery of “a revolutionary new soup” (16).  This “oracle soup” when cooled reveals instructions for constructing a helpful new gadget, and it does it every time it cools down!  Skeptical?, the author asks, that’s because this fabled soup goes right against our design intuition.  We will just not accept that physical laws plus chance as explanations for the miraculous qualities of oracle soup (18).  Common science stops us from settling for clearly obvious nonsensical answers – if we heed it. But just here problems arise.  What if nonsense is what you need in order for the world to be the way you would like it?

We should by all means trust the scientific community to tell us how many moons orbit Neptune or how many protons are packed into the nucleus of a cobalt atom.  Why would anyone distort facts of that kind? Matters where everyone wants to see things a certain way, however, are a completely different story. With those we should always apply a healthy dose of skepticism. (38)

In chapter 6, “Life is Good”, the writer refers to what he calls “Busy Wholes” and “Whole Projects”.  Whole Projects are the result of bringing many smaller things together in just the right way.  “Busy wholes” are the things which, when properly combined, make up a “whole project.” (69).  “Busy wholes tackle their projects by breaking them down into smaller projects in an organized way.” (70).  This means that we intuit complex wholes as “projects”, and such things “ought to be so” (76).  He gives the example of the pandas thumb, a favorite target of evolutionists of dysteleology, or bad design.  But Axe observes simply that,

I find myself evaluating the people rather than the panda.  None of these people, however earnest they may be, have any deep grasp of the principles of design and development underlying sesamond bones or thumbs, to say nothing of pandas. (78).

Because they eschew teleology, and are often not skilled engineers, those who complain about the pandas thumb are not saying anything of value.  (This same attitude holds true when it comes to information theory).  To sum up,

When we see working things that came about only by bringing many parts together in the right way, we find it impossible not to ascribe these inventions to purposeful action, and this pits our intuition against the evolutionary account. (87)

He poses a central question: “whether evolutionary theory is more in touch with our observations than our design intuition is” (88).  The book argues strongly that the answer is No.  The evidence is stacking up in favor of an agreement between the evidence and our design intuitions. (more…)

‘The Case for Jesus’ by Brant Pitre – A Review

Book Review: The Case For Jesus: The Biblical and Historical Evidence for Christ, by Brant Pitre, New York: Image, 2016, 242 pages, hdbk.

I suppose that the first thing I ought to say is that this is not The Case for Christ by Lee Strobel, nor is it related to the set of books spawned by it. This is a new work by a Professor at Notre Dame Seminary in New Orleans.

Coming from the desk of a Roman Catholic readers may want to question what I am doing even bothering to read it. My defense is that some Roman Catholic writers are well worth being acquainted with, and, in fact, ought to be read – though with the caveat that they are Roman Catholics. To name just a few, I think Jay Budziszewski is one of the best writers and speakers to recommend to a college student. Anthony Esolen and Benjamin Wiker are good guides on what to read and what not to read. Robert Barron, who coincidentally wrote the Afterword for the book under review, is worth your time on practically anything, creation and church doctrine apart. And a man who cannot find any benefit from G. K. Chesterton is a reflective sluggard indeed. Alongside of these Brant Pitre deserves a hearing, and especially this book.

The Case For Jesus is, I think, the very best book on its subject for a general audience. It is wonderfully written, very informative, conservative in its conclusions, and is a great faith-builder. Its thirteen compact chapters, which even with Barron’s contribution bring the book in at a mere 242 pages, including endnotes, comprise a consistent push-back against the slippery arguments of Bart Ehrman (Pitre’s main foil) and others like him.

The opening chapter sets the context for the discussions which follow. Of major concern to Pitre is the Telephone Game illustration of Gospel transmission used so effectively by the run of unbelieving scholarship. Anyone who has heard Erhman will be familiar with his mantra that the Gospels are anonymous, the titles we have being added much later. Actually, I have come across this belief even in evangelical authors. But Pitre dispatches this fiction very effectively – by a straightforward appeal to the facts. He points out in chapter two,

The first and perhaps the biggest problem for the theory of the anonymous Gospels is this: no anonymous copies of Matthew, Mark, Luke, or John have ever been found. They do not exist. As far as we know, they never have. (15. Author’s emphasis).

The edifice which Erhman leans upon so heavily is made of air. All of the available manuscript and Patristic evidence points in the other direction. Erhman, a textual critic, is surely close to committing the unpardonable sin of his discipline – of ignoring all the textual evidence in favor of his preferences.

Pitre also asks how such well known and cherished writings managed to be copied and handled without their authors being identified. And how come there is complete unanimity in the ascription of the authors? (19).  Related to this is the question of the both internal (within the Gospels themselves) and external (writers outside the Gospels) evidence for whether we know who wrote the Gospels. These issues are covered in chapters three and four. Again, the evidence is “completely unambiguous and totally unanimous.” (39).

The fifth chapter ably handles the inaccurately called “Lost Gospels” while chapter six inquires whether the Gospels fit within the genre of ancient biographies. This impressive chapter closes with a short discussion about whether the Gospels should be viewed as verbatim transcripts. The author decides in favor of the position that word-for-word accuracy is not always present but,

On the other hand, the historical character of the Gospels does mean that the authors intend to record the substance of what Jesus really said and did. (81. Author’s emphasis).

Chapter seven examines the dating of the Gospels. Pitre deals with reasons for fixing the Gospels with a late date and finds them to be seriously flawed (89). This excellent chapter finishes off what I might call the first part of the book. From then on the next six chapters focus on who Jesus is.  They continue the high standards set by “part one”. Along the way Pitre works with several prophetic chapters from the Book of Daniel (Dan. 2, 7, and 9).  On the whole he addresses himself to these chapters with real competence, and always conservatively. The ninth and tenth chapters are concerned with Jesus’ divinity, while chapters eleven and twelve deal with the crucifixion and resurrection respectively. The resurrection in particular is skillfully handled, with a fine exposition of “the Sign of Jonah”(185-190).

Fittingly, the final chapter is a brief meditation on the identity of Jesus Christ utilizing His question at Caesarea Philippi, “who do you say that I am?” We are left in no doubt about the answer:

In light of everything we’ve seen in this book, one thing is clear: if you are going to hold a theory that Jesus never claimed to be God, you had better be committed to eliminating a lot of historical evidence. (193. Author’s emphasis).

Indeed. Dr Pitre makes his case. And he is helped by a whole company of scholars, from Craig Keener, Richard Bauckham and Martin Hengel to John Meier and Joseph Fitzmyer, whose appearances are most felt in the endnotes.

So buy and read The Case For Jesus, digest its arguments, teach them to others. Do not commit the logical error of shooting the messenger because he is not a Protestant. The author has written a clever rebuttal to the croaking arguments of the skeptics, and I for one am very glad that he did.

TELOS shorts: Questions & Answers

What with pastoring a church, teaching a weekly theology course at another church, dealing with the joys of a new baby girl, and working on the new house I am finding myself with too little time on me hands.  One of the things that is having to “give” is my beloved Telos Ministries.  The present website needs an overhaul and the newsletters aren’t getting our as they should.  Well, that’s life!

To keep something going I have been releasing some short videos on YouTube.  These address some questions that I have been asked.  They are mostly apologetic ones.  My aim has not to be detailed but to give a little guidance.

Here are the links:

“If Christianity is true why don’t many intellectuals believe it?”

“Isn’t Science more objective than Religion?”

“Is Christianity compatible with other religious worldviews?”

“Can Atheists be moral?”

“Why are so many Christians hypocritical?”

“Isn’t Christianity responsible for a great deal of bloodshed?”

“Hasn’t the Bible been changed?”

“What about those people who claim to have died and gone to heaven?”

 

None of these answers brims with philosophical profundity, but they point in the right direction nonetheless.

 

TELOS Videos on Christian Apologetics

The Telos YouTube Channel has 12 short videos about subjects to do with Christian Apologetics.  These are casual informal introductions at about the college level.   I do not enter into many details about the pros and cons of each position.  My objective is much more humble.  I just want to give a little food for thought about each of the topics covered.  I hope you enjoy viewing.

 

 

More Videos in the Series:

11. What is Reason?

10. What is Biblical Faith?

9. True Presuppositionalism

8. Axiomatic Suppositionalism

7. Reformed Epistemology

6. Verificationalism

5. Evidentialism

4. Classical Apologetics

3. The Importance of Truth

2. Why Apologetics is Necessary?

1. What is Apologetics?