Aug 04

A History of Western Philosophy and Theology, by John Frame ★★★★

Habe nun, ach! Philosophie,
Juristerei und Medizin,
Und leider auch Theologie
Durchaus studiert, mit heißem Bemühn.
Da steh ich nun, ich armer Tor!
Und bin so klug als wie zuvor…

from Faust, Johann Wolfgang von Goethe

Goethe perhaps best summarizes my feeble investigations into philosophy, law, medicine, and theology, all studied with great zeal, and yet still left feeling like a fool. I thoroughly appreciate Frame’s approach to the history of western philosophy and his merger with theology, as they both breech similar questions and topics of thought. Oftentimes Frame is verbose, oftentimes terse on a subject in discussion. It is impossible to provide a thorough single-volume text to match the magisterial works of Copleston or Windelband. Frame is a philosopher in the school of Kuyper/van Til, though he makes it clear that he is not a rigid vanTilian. For that reason, I have a deep respect for Frame. Frame offers a fly-over view of western philosophy, starting a usual with the Milesians of ancient Greece and ending with modern deconstruction. Frame is always most kind, sometimes too kind when someone deserves to be attacked, such as the modern deconstructionists. Yet, perhaps Frame feels (as I do) that modern philosophy is more a passing fad than a system of thought to be taken seriously.

Frame takes and runs with the vanTil notion that all thought ultimately is defended by circular reasoning, and thus a defense of Christianity demands a position of Scripture as a presupposition and not as a possibility to be explored and argued as true simply through the use of reason. Yet, all belief systems are circular. The rationalists will use reason to defend their case. Like vanTil, the creator/creature distinction must constantly be held, and that the idea of God speaking to man (through Scripture) is a starting point and a given, and not something that you reason into.

More than 40% of the book is added on at the end in the form of multiple appendices, essays that Frame has written over time and now waiting to be published in a philosophical context. Frame might have served the reader better by offering an explanation before each essay as to setting in which the paper was written.

Frame is very kind. As an example, Frame has many disagreements with Gordon Clark, yet emphasizes what Clark truly got right, and how Clark was perhaps misjudged in the vanTil/Clark controversy. After each chapter of text, there is a review of terms and names, as well as questions to stimulate thought; these questions would be invaluable if one were reading the text for a course. I happen to have read it mostly for my own enjoyment and pleasure, and thus did not constipate myself with deeper philosophical ruminations. I also have this book given as a set of lectures in a course given by Dr. Frame. I will soon be applying myself to listening to Frame philosophize. So far, I find that he is easier to listen to than to read.

Do I recommend this book? Yes of course! John Frame has a brilliant mind and thinks well. I appreciate Frame’s perspectives on philosophy and theology. I would hope that the reader interested in philosophy will also find this text thought-provoking and a delight to read.

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Mar 23

Schaeffer on the Christian Life: Countercultural Spirituality, by William Edgar ★★★★

My dear friend Robert Case recommended that I read some William Edgar, and I’m most happy that I followed his advice, as I’ve thoroughly enjoyed this book. I not only learned much about Francis Schaeffer, but also a bit about Bill Edgar. I had no idea that Bill became a Christian under the ministry of Schaeffer. Dr. Edgar documents his encounters with Francis Schaeffer through the years, including his work at L’Abri.

The book is divided up into three segments. The first segment is a very brief and truncated biography of Francis and Edith Schaeffer, noting only some of the most important events in Schaeffer’s life. Edgar interestingly provides insights on how Francis’s image is as much that of Edith as him. I’ve not met Francis but have met his wife and spent a moderate amount of time with her when she came to Tacoma as an invited speaker at a Pierce County Crisis Pregnancy center when I was chairman of the board. Her personality is unforgettable, and precisely what I previously considered to be that of Francis, save that I presume him to be a bit more brooding and her more vivacious. It was great to get Edgar’s view of their life and personalities.

The second section is on true spirituality. In this, Edgar mostly summarizes several books of Schaeffer, most notably True Spirituality, and showed how what Schaeffer said and how he acted were very consistent. He was genuine to the core in his speech and behavior.

The third second was about trusting God for all of life. This segment mostly closely reflected on how the Schaeffers thought and how they lived. Edgar details in a chapter how Francis and Edith spent much time in prayer. This chapter was most convicting to me, a lesson on prayer tends to be the first thing neglected in our lives. Those that truly believe that God exists and is a personal God who listens to our prayers surely would wish to spend much time speaking with Him, yet we tend to ignore this admonition. Through affliction, God forms us into the people that He wishes us to be, and Edgar shows how affliction and the Schaeffers were constant companions. Schaeffer’s view of the church in light of the problems occurring in the Presbyterian church is discussed. There is then a lengthy chapter on Schaeffer’s thoughts and behavior regarding the cultural mandate, to be citizens of the world, and to react lovingly and as a testimony with all whom we encounter.

Anyone who has read my Memoirs will realize that Schaeffer and his writings has had a major impact on my life, as few others have had (my parents, Dr. DasGupta, Pastor Rob Rayburn, and JI Packer being the others that most quickly come to mind, though many many others also had a HUGE impact on my life—in case I just happened to not mention your name!). I had read and reread all of Schaeffer’s works many times. He more definitely than anybody else is why I am here writing as a Christian person. So, I am delighted to see what an impact Dr. Schaeffer has had on so many other people in this world. In this book, you get a small taste of the remarkable character of this man and his wife. Edgar creates a highly readable picture of the man, the legend, and the giant, of whom many owe their very faith to him. This is a delightful book to read, and I can soundly recommend this book as a quick image of why Schaeffer stands so strongly in so many people’s hearts and minds.

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Jan 01

The New Year is a good time to reflect on life, including the past, present and future. This New Year brings particular note, in that it is the first year I enter as a retired person soon to be on Medicare and social security, and making the transitions in life that are ultimately an end to a long journey. It remains a mystery as to how long the ending will be. I could die as I write this piece (okay, I’ve finished this piece, and remain alive), or I could live to be past 100. If I had my choice, I’d live for a full but short life, rather than a long life.

In the past month, Betsy (my wife) and I have purchased our funeral arrangements, caskets (the cheapest wood casket on the market!) and burial plot with stone—the only absence from the headstone is the dates of our death, and that’s something that only God knows. Funeral preparations remind one how fleeting life is. As I look back on life, I cannot help but think that it is but for the grace of God that Betsy and I are still here, more madly in love than ever, and yet so different from each other. We’ve had some very difficult times in life, though the blessings have been so much greater, and it overwhelms any of the trials we may have had to bear. I know of a certain that I could not have made it without her, and I don’t think any other person in the world could have filled her shoes.

This coming year offers some exciting times for us. 1. We have to figure out how to do Medicare. We’ve already applied for social security, which will start in March. 2. I am very busy making preparations, including planning, packaging resupply mailers and doing training hikes, for my 2650 mile walk on the Pacific Crest Trail (PCT) which runs in the mountains, through desert, and follows the Sierra Nevada and Cascade ranges from Mexico to Canada. I face it realistically, and realize that it may end up being nothing but a section hike, but it is a dream that I will pursue until circumstances possibly prove otherwise. 3. Betsy begins a year of babysitting our youngest grandchild Rachel, daughter of Sarah. This little Fleischklopps is cuter than cute, and a precious little kiddo. 4. Our youngest daughter Diane graduates from Nurse Practitioner school with a doctorate in nursing. We are so proud of her. I call her a “noctor” (not a doctor), but I feel comfortable that Diane is brighter than many of the doctors that I know. She will do well. 5. We celebrate our 40th wedding anniversary on 20OCT. I’m not sure what we will do. Betsy and I love to go to Jamaica to vacation, but this year is something special that I will leave undecided for now. 6. Reading… I have a veritable stack of books that need to be read by me. I love reading history, and have large volumes awaiting on the founding fathers and civil war era. I really want to get back into Herman Bavinck’s magisterial four volume work in systematic theology, titled Reformed Dogmatics. Ever since I took a systematic theology class from JI Packer, I have had a love for reading through systematic theology texts. Bavinck’s is the most challenging one I’ve encountered. 7. Getting back into long-distance cycling. I’ve taken a short pause from cycling in order to be prepared for the PCT, but have an endearing love for cycle touring. 8. Refreshing my language studies. I have taken German, Russian, French, and Chinese in my life. I no longer have an interest in Russian, and Chinese is interesting but maybe a little too challenging to pick up. I’m reasonably good at German but would like to become semi-fluent. I’m passable in French, but would like to be better. Some day, I’d like to hike the Camino de Santiago with Betsy, and so would maybe want to learn passable Spanish. 9. Trying to spend a little time a day practicing my trumpet. 10. Possibly start writing a Memoirs. My father wrote a short book on the history of his life, at the behest of us children of his. It was awesome. It may be perhaps time to do the same, before my memory fails me too badly. 11. Last, but definitely the most important, I would like to have this year as more consecrated to my Lord Jesus Christ, more devoted to His word, more diligent to walk in His ways, and more eager to have entire being, thought, word, and deed centered around Scripture and obedience to Him. Soli Deo Gloria

The things that we love tend to be our motivation for doing things in life, and there are three things that I identify that seem to be my loves, and motivation for still living. They are listed in order of my priorities.

1. Scriptures —I’d offer a lengthy quote or perhaps wax eloquent here, but perhaps the best statement is to encourage the dear reader to just go over Psalm 119. May I also regard God’s word as more important than silver and gold and everything else most precious to me.

2. Family and friends. First and foremost is my wife Betsy. We have been together nearly forty years now. We’ve had our hard times and good times. We’ve had fights, but most overwhelmingly, we’ve had cherished moments of loving each other, ravishing each other, enjoying each other, and pleasing each other. I could not think of another person who could better fit me as a lover, friend, helpmate, advisor, companion, support, wife, mother, grandmother or human being. She truly has been a gift from God to me. My children, all four of them, have been the joy of my life. The grief and trials they have brought us pales in the light of all the joy they have given us. I am grateful that they all are Christian, and have been very successful in life. Plus, they have given us the most adorable grandchildren. It is now Opa’s (grandpa’s) duty to teach them to walk rightly and to help them enjoy life. I wish to have special time taking each one separately backpacking and on outings. My siblings also have been a delight. Now with retirement, I am able to make better contact with them, and it is wonderful to be able to enjoy their fellowship once again. I think long about many of my current and past friends and the change of year causes one to focus particularly on past friends. One would love to be in perpetual contact with them, yet it is humanly impossible. Sadly, I have many past friends, all of which are cherished by me, and often thought of. The words from a wonderful song “Blest be the ties that binds” come to mind “When we asunder part, it gives us inward pain; but we shall still be joined in heart, and hope to meet again.” My pastor has been a source of strength and encouragement, a soul coach, but also a good friend. On a slightly darker note, I also think of what I would call false-friends—those friends who were friends in appearance only, but then revealed their true self, who used you, who gained your trust, only to mislead and betray your trust. They are the Judas’s in one’s life. Even King David had such experiences, and reflects on it in Psalms 55,

For it is not an enemy who taunts me—
then I could bear it;
it is not an adversary who deals insolently with me—
then I could hide from him.
But it is you, a man, my equal,
my companion, my familiar friend.
We used to take sweet counsel together;
within God’s house we walked in the throng.

Memory of these false-friends sometimes bring deep grief and sleepless nights, wondering why a person would act and behave the way they did. I’m thankful that there have been few of these in my life. I truly pray that I have not been a false friend to anybody else.

3. Nature. This is my Father’s world! The heaven’s declare the glory of God, and the firmament His handiwork. God has given me the strength and capability to delight in his world, and I will do that to the fullest possible. From the seashore to the desert to the mountains, all are wonderful. My favorite spot is in the mountains. I will lift up my eyes to the hills, from where my help comes. My help comes from the Lord, who made heaven and earth. Whether on a bicycle, on foot, or in a car, I love adventuring into wilderness. It is my best chance to reflect, meditate, and wonder over the goodness of our God. soli deo gloria! 

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Jan 21

SchaefferDuriez
Francis Schaeffer, An Authentic Life, by Colin Duriez ★★★★
I haven’t thought much about Francis Schaeffer recently, but realized through conversations with younger Christians that Francis Schaeffer is no longer a recognizable name. This is to the shame of the church that he and his thinking aren’t occasionally brought back to mind. For many of us that became Christians in the 60’s and 70’s, especially during the era of the Jesus movement, he was quite influential at shaping our thinking and world view. I have read or listened to other biographies of Francis Schaeffer and his work, including the Tapestry and L’Abri, written by Edith Schaeffer, listened to the Covenant Seminary course on Francis Schaeffer, by Jerram Barrs, and have met and spoke at length with Edith Schaeffer and Francis’ son-in-law Udo Middelman, have read his complete works at least twice and watched both of his film series several times, but have never met Francis Schaeffer personally. I also have many friends who have spent time at L’Abri, all of whom would say that their contact with Dr. Schaeffer was heavily influential at affecting the remainder of their life course. My own pastor had spent many hours as a child with Francis, being that his father was president of Covenant Seminary. With that in mind, I review this book.
Colin Duriez, who has spent a number of years at L’Abri and much time with the Schaeffers, is a most capable person to be writing Schaeffer’s biography, and can include personal anecdotes, as well as the result of an interview with Schaeffer toward the end of Schaeffer’s life, in 1980, and this interview is contained in the appendix of the book. The biography is short, and thus is going to be missing in some important details. Specifically, other biographies suggest that Schaeffer was more of a churchman than is presented in this book. He was quite involved up to the end with his Presbyterian denomination, which eventually became the Presbyterian Church in America. His books such as The Church before the Watching World and others witness Schaeffer’s true concern for the Christian church as found in denominations, even though Schaeffer felt as much at home in a Baptist, Methodist, Catholic, Orthodox or Pentecostal church as he did in his native Presbyterian church environment.  Duriez speaks often and peripherally about Schaeffer’s philosophy, yet doesn’t develop it systematically. True, Schaeffer would identify himself as an eclectic mix of evidentialist, presuppositionalist, etc., and yet there is meaning to Schaeffer’s madness over and above trying to create a philosophy that was primarily evangelical in it’s intent. Words and thinkers (like Dooyeweerd) are thrown out without offering the reader at least some explanation as to why these people are being mentioned in the context of Schaeffer’s life. I loved the story of Schaeffer visiting Karl Barth, and wish that could have been further elaborated.
Duriez mentions frequently Schaeffer’s love for art museums, with an affection for modern art. Schaeffer appreciated some of the contemporary filmography, but tended to be highly selective in what he considered worthy of review. Duriez also mentions Schaeffer’s love for contemporary rock music, and knowing the words to many songs for the big rock groups of the 60’s and 70’s. Oddly, Schaeffer had a particular distaste for much music such as that of Wagner, and many 20th century musicians. Schaeffer rarely ever mentions Bach’s music as formative of a broader Reformed Christian community. This selection of particular appreciation for the arts has permeated Schaeffer’s disciples, almost to the point that they view Schaeffer as their cultural pope. I find that to be a touch disingenuous.
Outside of my criticisms, the book was an enjoyable read. Schaeffer is sadly being forgotten by the Christian world, and it is to our detriment. Nobody within Christianity has yet risen that was as capable as Schaeffer at providing both a philosophical justification for Christianity while demonstrating the need for Christians to be obedient to the word of God. His was not an ethereal philosophy, but very practical, since it emphasized the need to never divorce religion from experience or history.
 
SchaefferLittle
Francis Schaeffer, A Mind and Heart for God, edited by Bruce Little ★★★★
This short book was taken from a conference given in 2008 in Wake Forest, NC, which included five talks. I’ll briefly mention each talk.
Francis A. Schaeffer: The Man, by Udo Middelmann. This is a very brief but delightful summary of the life and thinking of Schaeffer.
Francis A. Schaeffer: His Apologetics, by Jerram Barrs. Jerram surveys the apologetic methodology of Schaeffer, concluding that Schaeffer was most interested in evangelism, and never ever thought of himself as an apologist for the faith. Thus, Schaeffer avoided debates, and avoided fixing himself within any apologetic category.
Francis Schaeffer in the Twenty-first Century, by Ronald Macaulay. This talk addresses the question as to whether Schaeffer was a prophet in foreseeing future troubles in the world. Schaeffer would have vigorously denied being a prophet, yet his cultural predictions have essentially become true. Schaeffer was particularly sensitive to a culture that advocated freedom without a Christian basis for it, or a Christian church based on religious sentiment rather than a dynamic belief in the word of God. Macaulay hits hard on Schaeffer’s war against contemporary pietism, which I appreciated. This was a delightful chapter to read, but am left wondering what Schaeffer would have been saying in today’s world. It is different than 50 years ago, in that, now that truth is universally accepted as unknowable, people no longer ask questions. The solution to any crisis in life is now resolved not by seeking philosophical consistency, but by seeking a hedonistic resolution for the moment without concern for future consequences. I would wonder regarding Schaeffer’s approach to the current political scene, now in a truly post-Christian scenario. “Speaking the truth in love” is going to take a different form than Schaeffer manifested throughout his life, perhaps being more pointed such as found in Christ’s, or perhaps Jeremiah’s ministry. What would Schaeffer say to a culture now overrun by the anti-Christian culture of the Muslim faith? I don’t believe that we could predict his response, and even if we could would still wish to defer to guidance from Scripture. Again, Schaeffer should not be treated as the political-cultural pope of our age, and he would agree with that if he could speak from the dead.
Francis Schaeffer: His Legacy and His Influence on Evangelicalism, by Jerram Barrs. Much of this talk focused on Schaeffer’s evangelistic method as it affected Jerram Barrs himself, as he became a Christian under the influence of Schaeffer. Barrs offers 8 points that characterize the nature and style of Schaeffer’s evangelistic methodology.
Sentimentality: Significance for Apologetics, by Dick Keyes. This talk has come under criticism from Amazon.com reviewers as being only peripherally related to Schaeffer, and not directly about him. Yet, I really enjoyed this talk, and felt that because it so heavily reflected Schaeffer’s thinking, that it was a worthy inclusion in this text. Sentimentality is displaced emotion that is directed toward the self. It denies a world that is not fallen, and does not result in appropriate responses. Though not mentioned in this chapter, my first thought was the outpouring of emotion when one watched Mel Gibson’s The Passion, yet I’ve to hear of even one life changed from this emotional Sintflut. Keyes discusses the result of Christians controlled by sentimentality, and how to deal with the sentimental person, by bringing them back to reality through some point of contact with reality.
I wonder how many more Francis Schaeffer conferences will be seen in the future, especially as those who lived in the 60’s and 70’s and were influenced by Schaeffer now are becoming a dying breed. Hopefully, his thinking will live on through such institutions such as Jerram Barr’s Francis Schaeffer Institute at Covenant Seminary. The history of institutions devoted to a good cause seem to be rather sad. Just look at such institutions as the YMCA, which is now neither young, doesn’t know the difference between a man or woman, is definitely not Christian, but sadly remains an Association. Schaeffer’s books will live on, and hopefully will be read by our children’s children for many more generations. I pray that someone in a future generation will rise and capably question the culture, and be able to confront the culture as Schaeffer was able to do a half century ago.

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Oct 17

space-trilogy
The Space Trilogy (Out of the Silent Planet, Perelandra, and That Hideous Strength) by C. S. Lewis ★★★
This set of books was read on my iPad. Each book stands distinct from the other two, but need to be read in the order noted in order to make sense. Generally, I tend to give C. S. Lewis a 5-star rating for everything he writes. There is also a 5-star quality to much of what is contained within these stories, but the quality just doesn’t approximate what C.S. Lewis does elsewhere. In brief, Out of the Silent Planet is the most enjoyable read, and contains the most story telling. In this book, the lead character who is found in all three stories, Ransom, is kidnapped by two academic types who figure out how to make a spaceship to fly to Mars. On Mars, Ransom escapes the grasp of the two kidnappers, and encounter many alien types until he finally encounters the answer as to why he was brought to Mars. Mars is a world where the creatures have not experienced the “fall” as Adam and Eve did on earth. Perelandra is the story of Ransom now traveling to Venus, only to encounter one of the two kidnappers from Mars. he also encounters a very distinctly different female, in what amounts to be an pre-fall Adam and Eve story, with the kidnapper as the satanic tempter. In the end, Ransom kills the professorial colleague, and saves the planet. Throughout the first two books, Lewis would make lengthy divergences from the story to allow dialogue of a philosophical nature to transpire. Oftentimes, it is just not fitting, such as at the end of Perelandra. That Hideous Strength is over twice as long as the other two books, and is a story about an academic center in England which sells itself out to outside concerns (N.I.C.E.) and eventually degenerates into auto-destruct mode. This is probably the story closest to reality, in that it seems to be exactly what is occurring today in academia. I’m sure Lewis was writing from personal experience, but turning the experience into a science fiction tale in order point fingers at academia while not directing the criticism to any particular person or institution. This book was also the hardest to read, as it starts very slowly, and if you haven’t read it before, have a hard time determining where the story is leading you.
The philosophic statements in the three books are profound and make this trilogy a worthy read.  Lewis is especially hard on academia, but rightfully so, as he was able to predict where academia was heading and identify the driving factors that cause academia to fail in its mission.

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Apr 16


Modern Intellectual History: From Descartes to Derrida, by Lawrence Cahoone (Teaching Company) ????
I’ve been a bit disappointed recently at the quality of Teaching Company lectures and have backed off on purchase of some of the latest productions from that company. My feeling was that the lecturers were too biased in their discussions without giving credence to opposing views. In this lecture series, Cahoone maintains a very compelling discussion of the major philosophers from Descartes to those still alive today, holding ones’ interest while giving an in depth review of the main philosophical contributions of the person under discussion. He ends a touch weak, with a discussion arguing against the death of philosophy. It seems as though philosophy has gone full circle, with philosophy realizing that a crisis created by Derrida and other post-modernists have left no discussion since the claim is that all truth is either un-knowable or un-communicateable. Cahoone shows how modern philosophers have tended to return to the classics to resolve this muddle, creating a spiral (not a circle). Thankfully, he doesn’t discuss whether philosophy is spiraling downwards or upwards, as I tend to feel that it’s taking a downward spiral. After all, without an infinite reference frame, there should be no way of knowing whether one is spiraling up or down! This is a lecture series worth listening to, and will probably be heard again by me.

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Aug 15

Brother Dennis opened up some thought processes when he made some comments regarding a book that I reviewed by Dempski called The End of Christianity. In particular, he comments on God sticking His fingers into the process of Creation/Evolution by saying “This is a key issue between intelligent-design theorists and evolutionary creationists. Why God should have to tinker with the creation after he establishes the laws of the universe along with initial conditions is unclear. Has he not gotten it right from the start?”.
Simultaneous with Dennis’ comments, I receive an e-mail from NH, a physician and Christian thinker whom I respect dearly. His note is as follows…
“I would commend to you a careful reading of these two items:
http://www.modernreformation.org/default.php?page=articledisplay&var1=ArtRead&var2=1137&var3=issuedisplay&var4=IssRead&var5=112
in which 8 geologists appeal to the PCA to accept the “old earth view.”  It is a pitiful piece when looked at from a theological perspective, and actually quite poor from a scientific perspective (the analogies in particular are often invalid). Hopefully when you read it you will anticipate the arguments made in this point-by-point rebuttal by another geologist:
http://www.reasonablehope.com/node/117
Both the links are worth reading, the second article being a rebuttal of the first. You may determine for yourself the strength of his rebuttal, though I consider it as standard classical argument of young-earthers.  Clearly, NH is a 7-literal day creationist. I am very reluctant to trash either Dennis’ or NH’s comments, yet offer a slightly different approach.  The first difficulty is in creating a discussion. The 7-day creationist (if you wish, young-earth folk) consider their stand as a litmus-test of orthodoxy, and any disagreement is considered either an inability of believe the Scriptures or inability to hold Scripture as the infallible word of God. The old-earthers look at disdain at young-earthers as somewhat scientifically naive and guilty of the sins that possesses many medieval theologians that fought against Kepler and Galileo. Neither side is right.
I proffer several foundational statements.
1. The word “day” in Genesis 1-3 does not necessarily denote 24 hour spans. This argument is ably developed by both Hebrew scholars and biblical scholars that look at the use of the word “day” throughout Scripture.
2. The genre of Genesis 1-3 is neither strictly poetic nor strictly literal-historical. Those who develop the construct of Genesis 1 as simply being an apologetic against the Egyptian gods are wrong, though an apologetic is implied by the structure of how Moses constructs Gen. 1. Nor does it utilize language and terms that suggest an accurate detailed historical approach to creation.
3. The implication that God commands events to happen in each of the days of creation suggest a divine interference on a “daily” basis. Dennis’ comments, of which I’ve heard many times before, suggests that there is a “anthropomorphism” in the very substance of the atomic structure of the universe, that demanded that this is the sort of universe only that could have come out of the “big bang”. This seems to lean dangerously to Deism, if not Animism, whereby Nature itself is offered the source of personality, and that the universe, once wound up, can take care of itself.
Thus, there remain a few questions of relevance…
1. What is the level of involvement of God in the process of creation/evolution? At what stage, or, at what time in history, did God decide to cease active interventional work in the universe outside of the laws of nature, and thus work through the “laws of the universe” in his actions in the world, including his miracles as described in Scripture? This is simply an unanswerable question. Scriptures give us no clues, and science could never answer such questions.
2. Is it morally deceptive of God to create things that are aged? To what extent would he have done that? In my opinion, it is neither right nor proper to ask such questions.
3. Do the questions of creation/evolution really need to recruit discussions of a universal flood? Are these not ultimately separate questions?
4. Can we ultimately claim an exegetical basis for establishing the genre-type of Gen 1-3? I bring this up, because young earthers wail long and hard about the abandonment of a strictly literal interpretation of the Scripture. Yet, John Gerstner, in Wrongly Dividing the Word of Truth, waxes long and hard against dispensationalists who force literal interpretations when the genre doesn’t permit a literal interpretation.
My own personal stance leaves me neither a strictly young nor old earth creationist. I feel that we assume too much when we attempt to engage in the creation argument. I feel that discussions have not allowed for a plastic middle position, and focused on how far from that middle one needs to go before one falls off the edge. It could happen both ways. I feel that Dempski falls off the edge, when he removes God from the much of the processes of creation. Morris from the Creation Research Institute falls off the other edge by pushing his agenda so hard he simply does poor science. It would be better for Morris to simply be a fideist than an apologist. Yet, I also accept that much of science will eventually be proven wrong, that our standard tools such as carbon dating will be replaced, and that new paradigms will replace old. Like Hugh Ross, and others of the conservative old-earth school, I see how we may use science as an apologetic for a Christian worldview, even though the science may evolve with time. As an example, the red-shift observation in the stars led to the “big-bang” theory, which is entirely consistent with Christian thinking that there was a time when the universe was not, and then came instantly (almost) into being. The intelligent design argument wonderfully argues against a laissez-faire universe explained entirely by random events. God clearly interfered with natural processes at all stages throughout the development of this world, though we will never know the balance of interference/natural process nor the speed/acceleration by which he had natural processes occur. To me, the arguments sit around trying to tell God how He did things. I’m sure He’s not so amused at our undertakings.
Since we are on the topic of God interfering with nature, there is one more thing that bothers me. I just wish to know why Jesus didn’t turn the water into beer rather than wine.

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Jun 15


The Providence of God, by Paul Helm ?????
This was a hard book to rate, in that it was not an easy book to read. A few sections had to be re-read a number of times, and still pretty much passed me by. I have reviewed other books in the past by Paul Helm. Dr. Helm is noted as one of the premier conservative Christian philosophers alive today, and currently teaches at Regent College in Vancouver, B.C. In this text, Helm tackles the hardest of all possible problems, the issue of God’s providence. This book, as I understand from other sources, was written as the philosophical response to Openness theology. What does “providence” mean? How does providence fit philosophically with the thought of human freedom, with the idea of petitionary or intercessory prayer, with the idea of human responsibility, or with the idea of the existence of evil. Helm efficiently shows how all of these concepts relate to the same issue. He shows that if one believes in a situation where God is not knowledgeable of the precise future, or has not determined all future decisions that one will make (God taking “risks”), it does not lend to easier solutions to the problem of evil, the problem of freedom, etc., than if one believes in a God who ordains all that will come to pass (God in a no-risk situation). So, Helm concludes with a strong “Calvinistic” approach to free-will and providence, though remaining very gracious to disagreement. In the end, Helm does a laudable job at showing the consistency of one’s free will and a God who has determined all that is, was, and will be. Helm shows that not only is a no-risk God the most logical (as well as Scriptural) conclusion, but also the conclusion that offers the Christian the greatest comfort, knowing that the future is not in our hands, but in His. Thus, he provides a rational basis for life and obedience as a Christian person, not in “immobility” of feeling that there is no point in acting, since the fates will be what they will be, but, since we remain ignorant of the future, living out our lives as responsible moral agents under a God who will make all things, evil or good, work out for our best. This is not a book for everybody. Perhaps one needs to possess a certain insanity to even think about the philosophical implications of providence. If your are one of those tormented souls that troubles over philosophical details of good, evil, determinism, and the fates in a theistic context, this is a must read book.

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Jun 08


Telling the Truth, edited by DA Carson ???
This book is written as a compendium of a series of talks given as conference held at Trinity Theological Seminary in Chicagoland. The subtitle suggests that the focus in on addressing the gospel to the post-modern world. The first few talks help to define in a very cursory fashion the nature of post-modernism, with a focus on the writings of Richard Rorty and Michel Fouchalt. Subsequent chapters deal with the issues of evangelism in the community. The book does a poor job of developing the thought structures of post-modernism. The development of evangelism specifically to the post-modern mindset was really not discussed well. The use of various post-modern terms, such as “metanarrative” was used in just about every chapter to make it post-modern oriented, though dealing with a post-modernist seemed similar to dealing the pre-modernist or modernist, i.e., speaking and living the truth. The book is written almost entirely by either academic or college evangelists, such as Campus Crusade or Inter-varsity personnel, with emphasis on how to reach students. It leaves the assumption that students and academics are the only post-modernists, and not necessarily the man on the street. The book thrives on the discussion of techniques, failing a Reformed perspective of God’s work in evangelism. Several chapters simply should have been omitted completely, such as a chapter emphasizing Christ-centeredness in all Biblical reading which does violence to best Biblical hermeneutic. Worst, as mentioned before, the lengthy advice given for evangelism is true regardless of whether one is witnessing Christ to a post-modern, modern, pre-modern or normal person. There was no connect on how to specifically engage a person devoid of truth concepts, outside of the normal engagement of the person. I don’t wish to be too hard on this book. There was much good thought and discussion about engaging the culture which I found relevant to my own personal life. I think that Francis Schaeffer, though writing 30-40 years ago but definitely not dated, offers still the best advice about the engagement of culture. A Teaching Company series by Louis Markos is excellent at exploring (in the last three lectures) the modernist and post-modernist mindset from a Christian perspective.With Markos, the Modernist is a person who rejects the ability to communicate or know truth but will never deny the existence of truth. With post-modernism, communication may occur, though you are communicating nothing relevant, since truth simply does not exist. Yet, as Schaeffer insists, the modernist (and post-modernist) cannot live by his own assumptions. Penetrating those inconsistencies in a clear and loving way was not discussed in this book. We live in a society which one would love to escape. The moral turpitude, the despair and mindlessness of even the academic elites, the wonton materialism and narcissistic hedonism which governs our culture makes it challenging to survive let alone thrive. Yet, God calls us, and this book challenges each of us to creativity at the task of preaching the gospel in an intelligent yet winsome fashion. Lord help us.

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Oct 17


10 Books that Screwed Up the World, by Benjamin Wiker ????
This was more an entertaining read, rather than deeply informative. Wiker writes well, and steps through the books and lives of 15 people (he actually reviews 15 books) that have brought humans to the worse rather than the better. Included are Machiavelli, Rousseau, Hobbes, Marx, Nietsche, Hitler, Sanger, Mead, and Kinsey, as well as six other authors. Wiker adeptly points out the destructive philosophy and character of each of these texts. He does not do any in-depth analysis, but provides brief summaries of the characters of the authors, their writings, and philosophical implications of their works. It is a nice work in the “gutter” authorship of the last half of the last millennium. It is not uncommon to see the “top ten” books, but now we have a first review of the “bottom 10” (actually 15) texts since the Renaissance. This is a fun read for idle moments, and worth getting.

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