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J.W. Wartick

J.W. Wartick has an MA in Christian Apologetics from Biola University. His interests include theology, philosophy of religion--particularly the existence of God--astronomy, biology, archaeology, and sci-fi and fantasy novels.
J.W. Wartick has written 1160 posts for J.W. Wartick -"Always Have a Reason"

Presuppositionalism vs. Evidentialism – A case study on apologetic method featuring Cornelius Van Til and John Warwick Montgomery

Cornelius Van Til

Cornelius Van Til and John Warwick Montgomery are two of the most prominent defenders of opposing views of apologetics. Van Til defends presuppositionalism, an apologetic method that is founded on the notion that God’s existence must be presupposed–it is the beginning of the reasoning process rather than the end. Evidentialism is a school of apologetics that seeks to show that evidences–often historical evidence for the Resurrection–yield the conclusion that God exists and that Christianity is true. One of these views (presuppositionalism), in other words, argues top down by assuming God exists and showing how the world cannot be understood without that posited fact; the other (evidentialism) goes bottom up, showing how beliefs that are, purportedly [1], shared by Christians and non-Christians may demonstrate the truth of Christianity.

What makes these two particularly interesting is that they each offer a kind of parable for their position. These parables each, individually, reveal much about how the apologist thinks apologetics ought–and ought not–to be done. Though their parables are too long to post in their entirety, we will here examine some key aspects of both Van Til’s and Montgomery’s picture imagery about how apologetics should work.

Cornelius Van Til’s Misters White, Grey, and Black

Cornelius Van Til’s apologetic approach is illustrated in an extended section of his work The Defense of the Faith. Here, he utilizes three men: Mr. White (standing in for the presuppositional apologist), Mr. Grey (standing in for the evidential–he calls “Romanist-evangelical”–apologist), and Mr. Black (standing in for the non-Christian) in dialogue with each other to illustrate how he believes apologetics should work, as well as what he sees as fatal objections to his opposition.

The section in question is found in p. 312-340 of the aforementioned work. Van Til argues that Mr. Black will be more comfortable with Mr. Grey because Mr. Grey concedes some ground to him: “Mr. Grey uses the Bible, experience, reason, or logic as equally independent sources of information about his own and therefore about Mr. Black’s predicament” (313). Though he concedes that Mr. Grey may see the Bible as “by far the most important” of these sources, the problem is that he sees these sources of knowledge independently. A problem that develops over this dialogue as Van Til develops it is that Mr. Black refuses to see himself as a lost person in need of repentance, and so Mr. Grey’s position cannot challenge the foundation of his view: a rejection of the authority of the Bible.

Mr. Grey can stand on “common ground” with Mr. Black (320) and this allows for a quicker response from Mr. Black to Mr. Grey than to Mr. White. Here, of course, we begin to see Van Til’s explicitly Calvinist/Reformed position come through. It is simply the case that Van Til believed that his position was such that it would offer an absolute refutation of all but the Calvinist/Reformed position, in addition to being used with non-Christians. This limits the applicability of his argument a bit for those who do not accept that position, but we’ll press on.

The crux of the argument comes when the question of proofs of the existence of God and Christianity come up. Here, Van Til notes that “If one reasons for the existence of God and for the truth of Christianity on the assumption that Mr. Black’s principles of explanation are valid, then one must witness on the same assumption” (339). Thus, in the dialogue, we see Mr. Grey attempting to witness to Mr. Black, having come to an agreement that Mr. White is wrong on a number of levels. But Mr. Grey is taken aback when Mr. Black fails to concede the argument. Here, we see Mr. Black speaking to Mr. Grey:

“[Y]ou are now witnessing to Christ as well as to God, to Christianity as well as to theism. I suppose your argument… would be similar in nature… You would argue that the Jesus of the New Testament is probably the Son of God and that he quite probably died for the sins of men…. by witnessing instead of reasoning you seem to admit that there is no objective claim for the truth of what you hold with respect to Christ. Am I right in all this?” (337-338)

This, for Van Til, is where the evidentialist argument completely collapses. Because they fail to have an objective basis for believing in God/Christ, they ultimately concede the position to the non-Christian, allowing only for subjective witness to the truth of Christianity. Because Mr. Grey concedes that Mr. Black can reason independently of the truth of the Bible, he allows Mr. Black to use his independent reason to utterly reject the same. This concession is seen when Mr. Grey “nods approval” to Mr. Black’s argument that “unconditional surrender to the authority of Scripture is irrational” (332). He does the same when Mr. Black objects that it is rationalistic (ibid). Further, because Mr. Grey admits of “possibility” rather than certainty when it comes to arguments about the existence of God, he allows the non-Christian Mr. Black to reject God based on “possibility” as well. Probability does not yield certainty, so certainty is what is required. Only Mr. White’s position which argues from absolute certainty by presupposing the truth of the Bible is capable of granting an objective basis for affirming God’s existence and Jesus Christ as God, in addition to many other Christian doctrines.

Thus, for Van Til, the necessity of his position is proved by the argument that, without such a presupposition, the non-Christian may be perfectly comfortable rejecting Christianity through means of “probability” already present in his or her view of the world.

John Warwick Montgomery’s “Once Upon an A Priori

John Warwick Montgomery, a prominent evidential apologist, felt the weight of Van Til’s argument and offered his own parable in response. Montgomery’s parable may be found in his work Faith Founded on Fact: Essays in Evidential Apologetics. There, he writes of the people of Shadok and Gibi, who each refuse to concede any “brute” or “neutral” ground regarding facts. For each, it is his or her own God who is the one, single, true God that must be presupposed (God-Sh for Shadok and God-G for Gibi). A brief excerpt gets at the heart of John Warwick Montgomery’s argument:

Shadok: You will never discover the truth, for instead of subordinating yourself to revelation truth (Bible-SH), you sinfully insist on maintaining the autonomy of your fallen intellect.
Gibi: Quite the contrary! [He repeats exactly the same asseriton, substituting (Bible-G) for (Bible-Sh)]… (114)

The conversation goes on, referencing Van Til’s insistence on the notion that the non-Christian wears colored glasses that make it impossible for them to see anything outside of their single-hued world. Montgomery concludes “The hopelessness of this encounter should be painfully evident. Neither viewpoint can prevail, since by definition all appeal  to neutral evidence is eliminated” (115, emphasis his). Thus, John Warwick Montgomery’s own parable is a counter to Van Til’s, one which argues instead that neutral evidence–evidence that Mr. Grey, Mr. White, and Mr. Black all have access to–must exist, for otherwise they would have nothing to which they could appeal to determine who is right.

A Critical Comparison

The conversation between these competing parables does not, of course, stop with the original authors. The late Greg Bahnsen, a defender of Van Til’s apologetic, wrote an article responding to John Warwick Montgomery’s critique. There, Bahnsen argues that Montgomery misunderstands presuppositionalism on a number of accounts, but primarily because “Montgomery fails to see that Van Til’s apologetic claims that use of facts and logic is not simply directed in a different direction on non-Christian presuppositions, but is in principle impossible” (see link, emphasis his). In contrast, Greg Habermas, another evidentialist, argued that it was Bahnsen who failed to get at the critique Montgomery offered. In his own article, he replies to Bahnsen by arguing that:

the often contradictory interpretations of facts must be taken, in the sense of the
creative intermix between induction and deduction that Piercean abduction or “inference
to the best explanation” typifies, to the facts themselves. (see link)

These hint at a much broader debate, largely centered around the nature of facts. The presuppositionalist argues there is no neutral ground (a position that appealed to me enough at one point [almost 10 years ago! ah!] to write a post on it). The evidentialist argues that, quite contrary, there must be neutral facts because otherwise no one could determine whether their own view is correct. The presuppositionalist responds by arguing that it is only by presupposing the one true worldview (eg. Christianity) that one may correctly analyze facts. Indeed, it is perfectly possible to appeal to facts, not because they are “brute” or “neutral,” but because worldviews other than Christianity are necessarily inconsistent. That is, it is certainly possible for any non-Christian to know truth, but only because they have inconsistently turned from their worldview to adopt presuppositions of Christianity on certain points. The extent to which the non-Christian has true knowledge, then, is the extent to which their own worldview is inconsistent.

Conclusions

At this point, readers may wonder how these two contrary positions could ever meet. I honestly begin to despair myself, trying to draw this to a close. Rather than attempting to offer decisive conclusions in this debate that has gone on for years and thousands upon thousands of words, I want to offer a few of my own observations.

First, it seems to me that, supposing presuppostionalists are correct and there is no neutral ground, it is impossible to engage with other worldviews without making a practical, working assumption that there is such neutral ground. Though the presuppositionalist may be correct in that the non-Christian is inconsistent at every point they can agree on facts, they must come to some facts that they do agree on. At that point, the presuppositionalist may point out the non-Christian is inconsistent, and thus build their case from there, but it is only at that point that the methods truly diverge. Indeed, when one observes someone like Greg Bahnsen in debate (a review that is probably more favorable than I would be now), one sees the vast difference in method from someone who uses a more evidential or classical approach. But my point is that, on a practical level, there isn’t actually a huge difference between the evidentialist and the presuppositionalist when it comes to utilizing facts. They may both object to this, but the presuppositionalist would point to a fact (which they would, yes, hold may only be properly understood or believed from a Christian perspective) that Jesus was in fact crucified and died in order to show the truth of the Resurrection, and the evidentialist would point to that same fact, though their overall cases may differ. It is only when the presuppositionalist moves to the overarching, so-named transcendetal argument that the methods would radically differ. Now, plenty of presuppositionalists would use the TAG (transcendental argument for God) immediately, so their method will be quite different.

It does seem to me that the above comments yield the notion that presuppositionalism may be a bit too strong in its utter denial of any possibility of contact with the unbeliever. On an objective, totally abstract level one may concede that. But given that human language works for communication, there must be points of contact. Sure, that may mean the non-Christian is inconsistent on that high, abstract level, but it also means that the presuppositionalist can operate around the same when it comes to offering evidence–which itself falsifies the accusation that presuppositionalists don’t utilize evidence.

Another possible negative of the presuppositional view is that it is unfalsifiable, because at every point on which there is disagreement, the presuppositionalist may simply appeal to a misunderstanding. Like John Warwick Montgomery’s parable, they may simply assert the non-Christian is not understanding or suppressing the truth, and that’s why they don’t acknowledge it. Of course, some presuppositionalists may see this unfalsifiability as a strength of their position, which, they might argue, yields certainty of belief. But then, we come full circle into the notion that any other unfalsifiable view could appeal to the same reasoning.

I hardly think I’ve solved these problems, but it is a worthy exercise for those interested in apologetics to engage with these two divergent methods and try to learn from them. For myself, I think an integration of various methods works best.

All quotations used are from the works cited and used under fair use for purposes such as criticism. 

Works Cited

Cornelius Van Til, The Defense of the Faith (Phillipsburg, NJ: P&R Publishing, 2008).

Gary Habermas, “Greg Bahnsen, John Warwick Montgomery, and Evidential Apologetics.” https://digitalcommons.liberty.edu/cgi/viewcontent.cgi?referer=https://www.bing.com/&httpsredir=1&article=1108&context=lts_fac_pubs. Accessed January 2019.

Greg Bahnsen, “A Critique of the Evidentialist Apologetical Method of John Warwick Montgomery.” http://www.cmfnow.com/articles/pa016.htm. Accessed January 2019.

John Warwick Montgomery, Faith Founded on Fact (Edmonton, AB Canada: Canadian Institute for Law, Theology, and Public Policy, Inc., 2001).

Links

Be sure to check out the page for this site on Facebook and Twitter for discussion of posts, links to other pages of interest, random talk about theology/philosophy/apologetics/movies and more!

SDG.

——

The preceding post is the property of J.W. Wartick (apart from quotations, which are the property of their respective owners, and works of art as credited; images are often freely available to the public and J.W. Wartick makes no claims of owning rights to the images unless he makes that explicit) and should not be reproduced in part or in whole without the expressed consent of the author. All content on this site is the property of J.W. Wartick and is made available for individual and personal usage. If you cite from these documents, whether for personal or professional purposes, please give appropriate citation with both the name of the author (J.W. Wartick) and a link to the original URL. If you’d like to repost a post, you may do so, provided you show less than half of the original post on your own site and link to the original post for the rest. You must also appropriately cite the post as noted above. This blog is protected by Creative Commons licensing. By viewing any part of this site, you are agreeing to this usage policy.

[1] I say “purportedly” because presuppositionalists would deny that non-Christians may share any beliefs with Christians. By not having the same starting point–God–all other facts come into question.

 

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Book Review: “Dietrich Bonhoeffer: Theologian of Reality” by André Dumas

André Dumas’ Dietrich Bonhoeffer: Theologian of Reality is a deep look at the theology and philosophy of Dietrich Bonhoeffer, offering the thesis that Bonhoeffer’s primary aim was to show that God is reality and really interacts with the world. Though this may seem a rather mundane claim, Dumas’s point is that “reality” is rather strictly defined for Bonhoeffer, and, as he argues, this leads to some intriguing insights into Christian theology and philosophy.

One side note before reviewing the work: this book was originally published in French in 1968 and in English in 1971. Dumas is, in part, responding to the “death of God” movement that turned Bonhoeffer into a kind of secular saint Nevertheless, this work is highly relevant to today’s theological and philosophical inquiry as well, particularly due to the keen interest in Bonhoeffer’s life and work.

Central to Bonhoeffer’s thought, argues Dumas, is the struggle between objective revelation and existential interpretation. Alongside this is the question of reality, which, for Bonhoeffer, was this-worldly. Christianity is not to be reduced to a religion, in this case meant to denote a faith that points to the other-world or beyond this world to a different and disconnected reality. Instead, it is about this world, the very one we are in. Dumas notes that “Bonhoeffer was… drawn to the Old Testament, because the living God within it becomes known only in the here-and-now of human life. The absence in the Bible of any speculation about the beyond, about the abode of the dead, about inner feelings, or about the world of the soul, strongly differentiates the faith and anthropology of Israel from the various religions that surround it. For Israel [and Bonhoeffer], God can only be encountered in the reality of this world. To withdraw from it is to find oneself beyond his reach” (144). Alongside this is the need to avoid either total subjectivism about the word of God while also not falling into the danger of objectification.

In order to combat these difficulties, Dumas argues that Bonhoeffer sees Christ as the structure of the world, God entering reality to structure it around himself. Thus, for Bonhoeffer, Christ is “the one who structures the world by representing its true reality before God until the end” (32). This is important, because this means that Bonhoeffer is not encouraging a Christianity that sees the ultimate goal as “salvation” from the world. “When biblical words like ‘redemption’ and ‘salvation’… are used today, they imply that God saves us by extricating us from reality, blissfully removing us from any contact with it. This is both gnostic and anti-biblical” (ibid). Christ is the true center of all things, and the structure which upholds the true reality, one with Christ at the center.

These central aspects of Bonhoeffer’s thought are then the main force of Dumas’s arguments when it comes to “religionless Christianity” and the questions of realism and idealism. Regarding the latter, Nietzsche remains a major force in philosophy as one who also argued for a kind of realism. But Nietzsche and Bonhoeffer, though having similar influences, came to utterly different conclusions and interpretations of that “realism.” Nietzsche “cannot get beyond the terrible ambiguity of loneliness in the world, against which Bonhoeffer rightly affirms the reality of co-humanity, willed by God in his structuring of the world, and embodied by Christ in his life and death for others” (161). Thus, “Bonhoeffer… agrees with Nietzsche on the primacy of reality… But Bonhoeffer disagrees with Nietzsche about the nature of that reality” (ibid). And Bonhoeffer’s vision of reality is concrete as well, but one which avoids the stunning loneliness and hopelessness of Nietzsche.

The non-religious church is a major question in Bonhoeffer’s later thought, but one which must be viewed holistically with the rest of Bonhoeffer’s ideas, as Dumas argues. Thus, the non-religious church is not an atheistic one or a “secular Christian” one. Instead, it is one which “will then rediscover a langauge in speaking of God [that] will not release one from the earth… The resurrection will not re-establish the distance between God and man that was overcome by the cross… Instead, [the community of the church] will be nourished by its participation here on earth in the task of restructuring everyday life, just as Jesus Christ did earlier on its behalf” (209). This cannot be interpreted as a call to go against faith in Christ but rather as a radical call to make Christ the center once again. This is the linchpin of Bonhoeffer’s Ethics as well, for it calls to make Christ the center, a re-structuring and ordering of the world which will change everything, and an order which Bonhoeffer died following.

Dumas is an able interpreter of Bonhoeffer, and one who avoids entirely the danger of separating Bonhoeffer’s work into distinct eras or prioritizing some works over others. Dumas argues instead that Bonhoeffer’s thought is unified, though of course it does develop over time. Therefore, Dumas finds Sanctorum Communio just as important as Letters and Papers from Prison for understanding Bonhoeffer’s thought. His book demonstrates the ability of Bonhoeffer not simply as theologian or martyr but also as philosopher, drawing from Hegel and others to create a systematic view of the world with Christ as the center, as the structure of reality. Dietrich Bonhoeffer: Theologian of Reality is a fascinating work that ought to be read by any looking to understand the works of Bonhoeffer.

Disclaimer: I was provided with a copy of the book for review by the publisher. I was not required to give any specific kind of feedback whatsoever.

Links

Be sure to check out the page for this site on Facebook and Twitter for discussion of posts, links to other pages of interest, random talk about theology/philosophy/apologetics/movies and more!

Book Reviews– There are plenty more book reviews to read! Read like crazy! (Scroll down for more, and click at bottom for even more!)

SDG.

——

The preceding post is the property of J.W. Wartick (apart from quotations, which are the property of their respective owners, and works of art as credited; images are often freely available to the public and J.W. Wartick makes no claims of owning rights to the images unless he makes that explicit) and should not be reproduced in part or in whole without the expressed consent of the author. All content on this site is the property of J.W. Wartick and is made available for individual and personal usage. If you cite from these documents, whether for personal or professional purposes, please give appropriate citation with both the name of the author (J.W. Wartick) and a link to the original URL. If you’d like to repost a post, you may do so, provided you show less than half of the original post on your own site and link to the original post for the rest. You must also appropriately cite the post as noted above. This blog is protected by Creative Commons licensing. By viewing any part of this site, you are agreeing to this usage policy.

I’m a Christian and I (still) Read Books by Men

Tim Challies, author of the post this one parodies. Image Source: https://s3.amazonaws.com/bg3-blog/blog/wp-content/uploads/2016/04/18092519/TimChallies.jpg

[Note: this post is a close parody of Tim Challies’s article, “I’m a Complementarian and I Read Books By Women.” Challies’s self-congratulatory attitude towards himself for deigning to read books by 50% of the human species touched a nerve, and that kind of nonsense needs to be called out.]

I wonder if you have ever noticed that heresies in Christianity have tended to be authored by men and spread by men, while very few historical heresies are named after women. Heresies tend to be invented by men, while women have tended to be the first preachers of the Gospel (like Mary). In general, heresies have tended to be from the voices and pens of men, while women’s voices have tended to be silenced by those men.

I am Christian. I believe God created the world and made man and woman in the image of God, like the Bible says. I also believe that the historical heresies have been rightly condemned, and these are almost entirely the inventions of men. Yet I gladly read books written by men. This is true whether the books are written specifically for Christians, or whether they are for a general audience. In every case, I am glad to read the and to learn from them.

For some Christians, this is obvious and unremarkable. Yet it probably should come as something of a shock. After all, historically, so many heresies have come from men, while women’s voices were silenced or ignored. Someone, looking in from the outside, might say it may be worth just telling men to stop writing about doctrine for a while. To the contrary, I believe we can and must encourage men to write non-heretical books and that all Christians can gladly and confidently read them for the benefit of their own souls.

As far as I can tell, there are few heresies exclusively reserved for men or women. Though it is true that men throughout the history of Christianity have worked to silence women, despite the biblical call for sons and daughters to prophesy (Acts 2:17), the appearance of women in roles of leadership (eg. Junia in Romans 16:7), and the clear biblical teaching that in the body of Christ there is “no male and female” (Galatians 3:28), men still can have good things to say.

Men and women are equal in gifts and equal in ability. They are also equal in wisdom. Both men and women are able to learn, to understand, to interpret, to apply. Both men and women can know the facts of the Christian faith, both can have a deep knowledge of Scripture, both can have insight that allows them to apply this knowledge to life’s circumstances. Women can be theologians in the same sense that men can be theologians—they can have a deep knowledge of God, his Word, his will, his ways. In fact, when the book of Proverbs personifies wisdom it does so in the character of Lady Wisdom, not Sir Wisdom. [Block quoted- direct quote from Challies’s article.]

Men have taught, capably spread, and filled others’ minds with heresy. Despite this, God is able to overcome these heresies with the Truth of Christ. God gifts women to teach, makes them capable, and fills them with wisdom. Though this is all true, we should not reject reading books by men entirely, because God has called both men and women to spread the Good News of Jesus Christ. There is no indication that God goes against God’s own words about men and women prophesying together, or that writers in the Bible thought God was wrong when God made both men and women in God’s image, or when God revealed that there is no male and female in Christ.

So I encourage Christian men to write and to do so with confidence that this is an affirmation, not a denial, of Christianity, so long as they avoid the heresies made by men. I encourage Christian men and their publishers not to restrict themselves to men’s versions of books on important subjects. They can write to all of us. We don’t need to let historic fear of heresy silence  voices of men in the church.

Links

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This post is a parody of Tim Challies’s original, subtly misogynist, self-congratulatory post about how he actually reads books by women which I have linked here. I parody it under fair use.

SDG.

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The preceding post is the property of J.W. Wartick (apart from quotations, which are the property of their respective owners, and works of art as credited; images are often freely available to the public and J.W. Wartick makes no claims of owning rights to the images unless he makes that explicit) and should not be reproduced in part or in whole without the expressed consent of the author. All content on this site is the property of J.W. Wartick and is made available for individual and personal usage. If you cite from these documents, whether for personal or professional purposes, please give appropriate citation with both the name of the author (J.W. Wartick) and a link to the original URL. If you’d like to repost a post, you may do so, provided you show less than half of the original post on your own site and link to the original post for the rest. You must also appropriately cite the post as noted above. This blog is protected by Creative Commons licensing. By viewing any part of this site, you are agreeing to this usage policy.

Apologetics Guided Reading: George Park Fisher “Manual of Christian Evidences” Chapter 10

I am leading a guided reading of the Manual of Christian Evidences by George Park Fisher. It is freely available online and will serve as a base for discussing Christian apologetics throughout this series. The chapters are short and readable. I encourage you to join in by reading the chapters and commenting with your thoughts. When I discuss the book, I will be citing page numbers from the edition linked above

Chapter 10

Fisher here builds upon his arguments from chapter 8 and chapter 9 regarding the trustworthiness of the Gospels and the apostles, building a case for the resurrection once we have found the Gospels to be trustworthy.

First, Fisher notes that the detail that Jesus actually died needs little defense. The idea that Jesus could have survived crucifixion seems impossible. Moreover, that Jesus began appearing on the third day doesn’t give enough time for expectations or development of theology to occur such that the disciples could have imagined fulfillment for it. The most powerful evidence, argues Fisher, for the resurrection of Jesus comes from the appearances to the apostles and their accounting of them. These show that Jesus was physically present and unexpected.

Study Questions

1. What kind of things occurred during crucifixion? Could someone have survived them? What kind of responsibility did Roman guards have for those whose executions they were guarding?

2. Write down aspects of Jesus’s appearance to the apostles found in the Gospels. What things do we know about Jesus from these accounts? Include physical details.

Links

Be sure to check out the page for this site on Facebook and Twitter for discussion of posts, links to other pages of interest, random talk about theology/philosophy/apologetics/movies and more!

Apologetics Read-Through: Historical Apologetics Read-Along– Here are links for the collected posts in this series and other read-throughs of apologetics books (forthcoming).

Dead Apologists Society– A page for Christians interested in the works of historical apologetics. There is also a Facebook group for it.

SDG.

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The preceding post is the property of J.W. Wartick (apart from quotations, which are the property of their respective owners, and works of art as credited; images are often freely available to the public and J.W. Wartick makes no claims of owning rights to the images unless he makes that explicit) and should not be reproduced in part or in whole without the expressed consent of the author. All content on this site is the property of J.W. Wartick and is made available for individual and personal usage. If you cite from these documents, whether for personal or professional purposes, please give appropriate citation with both the name of the author (J.W. Wartick) and a link to the original URL. If you’d like to repost a post, you may do so, provided you show less than half of the original post on your own site and link to the original post for the rest. You must also appropriately cite the post as noted above. This blog is protected by Creative Commons licensing. By viewing any part of this site, you are agreeing to this usage policy.

Book Review: “Conformed to the Image of His Son” by Haley Goranson Jacob

Haley Goranson Jacob’s Conformed to the Image of His Son is a deep, detailed look at the meaning of “conformity with Christ,” specifically in Romans 8:29. Her primary thesis is that this “conformity” is the participation on Christ’s rule over creation as renewed humanity (266).

First, Haley Goranson Jacob outlines the many positions authors have taken on the meaning of Romans 8:29 (“For those God foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the image of his Son, that he might be the firstborn among many brothers and sisters” [NIV].) These positions are no attempt to explain the meaning, a combination of other meanings, physical conformity to Christ (having the same physical form), spiritual or moral conformity, conformity to the Sons’ eschatological glory (here glory means something like radiance), and a sacrificial conformity in which the believer suffers like Christ (3). After brief engagement with these views–and a longer rebuttal to several of them later in the book–she dives into an analysis of Jewish meanings of glory and glorification. Then, she looks broadly at Romans and what glory and glorification means therein.

Participation in Christ’s glory in several passages is analyzed next, alongside images of who the Son is. The purposing of conformity rounds out the discussion on Romans 8:29 specifically.

From my own perspective, Garonson Jacob’s position seems to be quite correct. There is a kind of unity between her arguments about the conformity to Christ and the meaning of being the image of God in Genesis. If we take that image to mean, as John Walton argues, a kind of surrogate for God in creation, then it makes sense that post-fall, part of God’s plan would be to restore that image through conformity. I must admit to being no expert on this topic, and I found it honestly a little surprising to see how controversial this reading apparently is. Goranson Jacob’s analysis of rival views was particularly helpful here, and it helped me see how some of these other positions would be tied into, as mine is, wider theological commitments.

I recommend Conformed to the Image of His Son to those looking for an in-depth treatment of the meaning of being one with Christ. The study is applicable to a broader view of what it means to be Christian and who Christ is.

Disclaimer: I was provided with a copy of the book for review by the publisher. I was not required to give any specific kind of feedback whatsoever.

Links

Be sure to check out the page for this site on Facebook and Twitter for discussion of posts, links to other pages of interest, random talk about theology/philosophy/apologetics/movies and more!

Book Reviews– There are plenty more book reviews to read! Read like crazy! (Scroll down for more, and click at bottom for even more!)

SDG.

——

The preceding post is the property of J.W. Wartick (apart from quotations, which are the property of their respective owners, and works of art as credited; images are often freely available to the public and J.W. Wartick makes no claims of owning rights to the images unless he makes that explicit) and should not be reproduced in part or in whole without the expressed consent of the author. All content on this site is the property of J.W. Wartick and is made available for individual and personal usage. If you cite from these documents, whether for personal or professional purposes, please give appropriate citation with both the name of the author (J.W. Wartick) and a link to the original URL. If you’d like to repost a post, you may do so, provided you show less than half of the original post on your own site and link to the original post for the rest. You must also appropriately cite the post as noted above. This blog is protected by Creative Commons licensing. By viewing any part of this site, you are agreeing to this usage policy.

“The Changeling” by Victor LaValle – Seeing the Humanity in the Other… or not

I don’t think it is a secret to say that I love books. Part of loving books as much as I do means joining book clubs, and places like Goodreads allow for networking about books around the globe. I am somewhat active in the Science Fiction and Fantasy Book Club on Goodreads, and in August, we read The Changeling by Victor LaValle. I found it to be deeply moving, at times disturbing, and, on reflection, ingenious. LaValle seems particularly interested in the notion of seeing humanity in those we consider “other.” There will be SPOILERS in what follows.

The Changeling

Amal El-Mohtar at NPR had an intriguing post on the book as well, which gives a summary, with a caveat:

Here is more or less what most synopses I’ve seen of The Changeling say: Apollo Kagwa is a rare book dealer and new father, in love with his wife, Emma, and their infant son Brian, named after the vanished father who haunts Apollo’s dreams. But when Emma commits an unspeakable act of violence and disappears, Apollo’s left grasping at the threads of his unravelled life, following them through a labyrinth of strange characters, mysterious islands and haunted forests, all occupying the same space as the five boroughs of New York City.

This is accurate — but the experience of reading the book is something else. The storytelling gets compressed and decompressed at various points like the air in a bellows, stoking the fire under the story, burning away its disguises and sending it shrieking up the chimney.

When I finished reading the book, I initially thought it was a bit odd. Like El-Mohtar, I could summarize the book, but the more I thought about it, the more it felt the various threads in the plot needed to be stripped away and removed, so that I could see what was underneath. What his plot summary leaves out is that Emma is ultimately found vindicated because their son was replaced with a changeling by a man whose family has been working to steal children to feed to a troll for an extraordinary length of time. But all of this is tied, in a way, back into a discussion of racism. The main characters are almost all people of color, while the two characters who work to feed the trolls the children of people of color are white.

As I thought about the plot of the book, I realized that it could be a kind of metaphor for talking about race relations in the United States. The idea of whites taking away black children to give to a “troll” is a poignant way to think about slavery. The heartless attitude of those who take the children away is also similar to the comments made about various “political” issues like immigration or shootings.

I asked the author on Twitter a bit about the interpretation of the book. He replied that the idea of seeing it as a commentary on race relations was on track, but also that one of the white characters had the motivation that he simply couldn’t imagine a correspondence between how much he loved the children and how much their own parents did. There’s a kind of disconnect in understanding the “other” that leads to heinous acts. It is this disconnect that is perhaps most alarming and heart-rending in the book. LaValle draws readers in with a truly beautiful story of falling in love, loving books (I have to admit the used book seller aspect of the plot gave me much joy) and then hammers home a point about the brutality of our world so suddenly that it shocks the reader.

Sin has that same effect. It breaks into a peaceful picture, most violently when we see it in Genesis 3. Into God’s very good creation comes sin, and it changes everything. The serpent offers a substitute–a changeling–for reality, pushing a vision of the future to Adam and Eve that they accept instead of trusting God. Racism is sinful, and LaValle’s work highlights the intensity of violence and the person-destroying nature of that sin.

Near the end of the book, there is this brief aside at the end of Chapter 102:

Apollo lingered. He approached the stones, skirting around until he found the largest one, what had been the troll’s head. He could still make out the soft depression of those great blind eyes. He brushed each one with a finger. He leaned close to the stone and pressed his forehead to it. He felt as if he was finally burying what had been haunting him since he was a child. A funeral not for his father but his fatherlessness. Let that monster rest.

A funeral for his fatherlessness. I was deeply moved by this line and have been thinking about it ever since. I don’t really know how or why it made me think so much about it, but it has stuck with me. Just another aspect of a book that forces its readers to reflect.

The Changeling by Victor LaValle is a moving, disturbing work. I recommend it highly, and would love to discuss it with you.

Links

Be sure to check out the page for this site on Facebook and Twitter for discussion of posts, links to other pages of interest, random talk about theology/philosophy/apologetics/movies and more!

Book Reviews– There are plenty more book reviews to read! Read like crazy! (Scroll down for more, and click at bottom for even more!)

SDG.

——

The preceding post is the property of J.W. Wartick (apart from quotations, which are the property of their respective owners, and works of art as credited; images are often freely available to the public and J.W. Wartick makes no claims of owning rights to the images unless he makes that explicit) and should not be reproduced in part or in whole without the expressed consent of the author. All content on this site is the property of J.W. Wartick and is made available for individual and personal usage. If you cite from these documents, whether for personal or professional purposes, please give appropriate citation with both the name of the author (J.W. Wartick) and a link to the original URL. If you’d like to repost a post, you may do so, provided you show less than half of the original post on your own site and link to the original post for the rest. You must also appropriately cite the post as noted above. This blog is protected by Creative Commons licensing. By viewing any part of this site, you are agreeing to this usage policy.

Book Review: “Healing our Broken Humanity: Practices for Revitalizing the Church and Renewing the World” by Grace Ji-Sun Kim and Graham Hill

Healing our Broken Humanity: Practices for Revitalizing the Church and Renewing the World is a practical look at how to bring about change through a commitment to action in the community of Christ. The authors have created a practical work that lets readers immediately make applications to their lives, particularly if they are able to do so with a small group of other committed individuals.

The authors begin with a brief look at the brokenness of humanity. This brokenness shows that we have created false barriers between each other that are often put into structures that keep us apart. The authors propose 9 practices that are designed to heal broken humanity, and these are the subjects of the next nine chapters. These practices are: reimagine church; renew lament; repent together; relinquish power; restore justice; reactivate hospitality; reinforce agency; reconcile relationships; and recover life together.

The individual chapters on each of these practices do three primary things: 1) elucidate the meaning of the practice; 2) show how this practice can engage the “other” to restore humanity and relationships; and 3) demonstrate how to engage in the practice in a group setting. For example, the chapter on “repent together” goes over, briefly, why we need to repent, including choosing nationalism over others; worshiping freedom and choice, and the like. Then, it expands on the things we need to repent of. Finally, it gives an outline for how to practice repentance in small groups, including praying for God to convict us of our sin, going into the community to speak with those who are marginalized or to whom we ought to repent; practicing lament from the previous chapter; make personal commitments to repentance; and more.

If there is a downside to the book, it is that it almost demands being done in a small group setting. As an individual reading it, I came away with a desire to do so again with a group. This is, of course, one of the goals, but it means that its applicability is largely geared towards group settings.

Churches that truly wish to commit to making real, lasting change in their communities and healing through reconciliation ought to consider Healing our Broken Humanity necessary reading. I recommend it, particularly for use in a group setting.

Disclaimer: I was provided with a copy of the book for review by the publisher. I was not required to give any specific kind of feedback whatsoever.

Links

Be sure to check out the page for this site on Facebook and Twitter for discussion of posts, links to other pages of interest, random talk about theology/philosophy/apologetics/movies and more!

Book Reviews– There are plenty more book reviews to read! Read like crazy! (Scroll down for more, and click at bottom for even more!)

SDG.

——

The preceding post is the property of J.W. Wartick (apart from quotations, which are the property of their respective owners, and works of art as credited; images are often freely available to the public and J.W. Wartick makes no claims of owning rights to the images unless he makes that explicit) and should not be reproduced in part or in whole without the expressed consent of the author. All content on this site is the property of J.W. Wartick and is made available for individual and personal usage. If you cite from these documents, whether for personal or professional purposes, please give appropriate citation with both the name of the author (J.W. Wartick) and a link to the original URL. If you’d like to repost a post, you may do so, provided you show less than half of the original post on your own site and link to the original post for the rest. You must also appropriately cite the post as noted above. This blog is protected by Creative Commons licensing. By viewing any part of this site, you are agreeing to this usage policy.

“Ordained Proclaimers or Quiet Learners? Women in Worship in Light of 1 Timothy 2” by Charles A. Gieschen in “Women Pastors?” edited by Matthew C. Harrison and John T. Pless

I grew up as a member of the Lutheran Church-Missouri Synod, a church body which rejects the ordination of women to the role of pastor. The publishing branch of that denomination, Concordia Publishing House, put out a book entitled Women Pastors? The Ordination of Women in Biblical Lutheran Perspective edited by Matthew C. Harrison (who is the current President of the LCMS) and John T. Pless. I have decided to take the book on, chapter-by-chapter, for two reasons. 1) I am frequently asked why I support women pastors by friends, family, and people online who do not share my position, and I hope to show that the best arguments my former denomination can bring forward against women pastors fail. 2) I believe the position of the LCMS and other groups like it is deeply mistaken on this, and so it warrants interaction to show that they are wrong. I will, as I said, be tackling this book chapter-by-chapter, sometimes dividing chapters into multiple posts. Finally, I should note I am reviewing the first edition published in 2008. I have been informed that at least some changes were made shortly thereafter, including in particular the section on the Trinity which is, in the edition I own, disturbingly mistaken. I will continue with the edition I have at hand because, frankly, I don’t have a lot of money to use to get another edition. Yes, I’m aware the picture I used is for the third edition.

“Ordained Proclaimers or Quiet Listeners? Women in Worship in Light of 1 Timothy 2” by Charles A. Gieschen

Gieschen starts by noting that 1 Timothy 2 is a “battleground” text, often taken into account even so far as on issues of whether we should let women serve as lectors (people who read the texts) or vote in meetings (69). This chapter purports to settle the issue regarding exegesis of the text.

Before delving into exegesis, though, the question arises of how the text ought to be translated. The author translates the text himself, specifically 1 Timothy 2:12, as follows: “I do not permit a woman to teach or to exercise authority over a man, but [I want her] to keep quiet” (69, brackets are from Gieschen). Needless to say, this translation is highly controversial to begin with, particularly since the author decides to add in his own preferred way to read “keep quiet” by bracketing in his presumed meaning. Indeed, Gieschen’s translation differs markedly from the translation offered by Peter Kriewaldt and Geelong North in their own chapter on 1 Corinthians 14 and 1 Timothy 2. Their translation, instead of stating that “I want her” to keep quiet, as Gieschen suggests, has this clause as a continuation, simply saying “she must be silent” (52). Such a difference may not seem like much initially, but when one is going to go so far as to ask whether women ought to be kept from reading the Bible in worship based on this text, the importance of what is being said here multiplies dramatically. Moreover, given that Gieschen is providing his own translation, one might expect some defense of the meaning of authentein as “exercise authority.” As Marg Mowczko shows from a brief survey, however, the word’s meaning as simply “exercise authority” is highly contested, even from other Greek sources. Nevertheless, Gieschen offers no defense of this translation, and simply uses this translation for his exegesis. If one finds questions in his translation of the meaning of authentein, then much of what follows is also thrown into question.

Gieschen then goes into three alleged reasons why people are “overrun[ning]” this “biblical command” (69-70). First, he alleges that it is because “biblical authority has eroded… to the point where the demands of biblical texts simply are not heeded.” Second, some argue the command is “culturally conditioned.” Third, “feminism had a profound impact on the Western world.” These three allegations amount to poisoning the well from the start, a technique that, unfortunately, has been repeated throughout the book. It is simply assumed that if a reader does not come to the same conclusions as the authors, they must “not heed” biblical texts, they must dismiss them, or they have given into some bogeyman, whether Gnosticism (in the next chapter, this is the argument), some form of feminism their readers ought, apparently, to fear, or some kind of historical heresy. This does nothing to advance the argument and indeed seems to show just how little regard the authors have for those with whom they disagree.

Background is important, and Gieschen provides his own basic assumptions about 1 Timothy before delving into more exegesis. First, he holds that Paul did write this letter. Second, he argues it is the word of God. Third, he argues the “implied reader” of the text is churches across Asia Minor (73). Next, Gieschen goes into the context of 1 Timothy 2, stating that the context is “after addressing false teaching and before discussing congregational offices” (74-75). Oddly, when offering a translation of 1 Timothy 2:8-15, his translation of 2:12 is actually different from that offered at the beginning of the chapter. Here, it is “I [also] neither permit a woman to teach, nor [do I permit a woman] to exercise authority over a man, but [I want her] to keep quiet” (75). Again, this is a different translation by the author than he offered just pages before. This translation has additional brackets putting words into the text, presumably for clarity. These brackets, though, offer miles of intepretation inserted into the text, particularly when one looks at the brackets he inserts into verse 15, which he adds “[God-ordained role of]” in front of childbearing (itself a somewhat atypical translation). These brackets are, in fact, adding the author’s interpretative framework into the text, moving it in the directions the author prefers, and allowing him to state that women are to occupy certain roles, simply by adding it to the text of Scripture through brackets. The number of bracketed words added into the text here is alarming, but what many of them tend to do is shift the meaning towards a patriarchal understanding that is stronger than what seems to be in the text itself. It is alarming to see the author, who just a few paragraphs before was attacking his opponents for not taking Scripture seriously enough, seriously just add entire clauses with meaning (like “God-ordained role of”) into that very Word of God.

Finally, Gieschen moves into the exegesis of the text. Immediately, however, we encounter the problem we’ve encountered several times before: Gieschen prefers a reading of the text that selectively makes words literal or not based upon his preferred meaning. For example, he asserts that the quietness or silence of women is not to be understood as women having to be completely silent in worship. The text says quiet/silence, but it doesn’t mean that; what it means, according to Gieschen, is that women “are not to be in a verbal teaching mode during the service but to be in a ‘quiet’ learning mode” (78, emphasis his). So now, we have the author being selectively literal with this text, and then moving beyond selecting which parts to take literally into saying that what the text actually means to say is this longer text, that women are not to be in a “verbal teaching mode.” Well, one may wonder, why doesn’t Paul just say that, then?

Regarding public teaching, Gieschen goes on to argue that what is meant is that “I do not permit a woman to engage in the authoritative and public transmission of tradition about Christ and the Scriptures to men” (80). Again, one wonders why Paul didn’t simply state this rather clear exortation, relying instead upon his exegetes to do so for him. But smuggled in alongside this argument is the shift in meaning from “teach” to “authoritative and public transmission of tradition about Christ and the Scriptures.” This lengthy meaning derived from a single Greek word is simply placed into the text, once more moving the meaning of the text into Gieschen’s reading without argument. And, of course, because this lengthy reading of didaskein is taken to mean “authoritative and public transmission of tradition about Christ and the Scriptures,” Gieschen then feels comfortable to state that it “clearly prohibits woman [sic] from holding the pastoral office…” (81). Of course it does, when one imports a lengthy prohibition into a single word!

Here, though, we finally see Gieschen address the meaning of “exercise authority.” But rather than delving into the rather lengthy modern discussions of the meaning of this phrase in Greek, Gieschen cites a single article in his favor in order to state that it means exercise authority. Remarkably, however, Gieschen goes on to acknowledge the word’s meaning is generally “in the sense of ruling, controlling, or dominating without inherently possessing the authority to do so” (81). But this is exactly what many egalitarians have argued–that the word is a usurped authority or one wielded in such a way as to harm others. And if that is the proper translation, then the meaning of the text shifts: “I do not permit a woman to… (domineer/harm/hold authority wrongly over) a man.” And this is a reading that hardly undermines the egalitarian case. Indeed, if we agree with Gieschen here that the authority is exercised in a way of controlling/dominating, then we have moved into an egalitarian reading of the text–one that Gieschen himself apparently endorses partially only to undermine it by, apparently, holding that women inherently are unequal in authority (despite his earlier insistence that women are equal “before God” (71).

Next, Gieschen surveys various responses to his argument, some of which we’ve dealt with already in this series. But of interest is his argument against those who note that women did indeed teach men or apparently hold various offices. He shifts the goal posts. He simply states that these women cannot be proved to have held the “pastoral office” (83), however he chooses to define it (he doesn’t). Yet when we have looked at others in the same volume who have defined pastoral roles, we’ve seen they can’t even show that anyone held such an office in the NT. So Gieschen’s saying that it is “very difficult to defend” that women held the “pastoral office,” it should not be surprising. (See discussion of ordination and its definition in this book here.)

Order of creation is a major buzz-theme for complementarians, and we see Gieschen wield it here. He argues that there is a “created order” that grounds his interpretation of this passage. What is that created order? He simply appeals to verse 13 in which Paul says Adam was created first, then Eve. But, as many, many have pointed out, this bald-faced appeal is extremely inconsistent, because any number of creatures, dirt, skies, and clouds were all created before Adam. So if “created order” is simply the order in which things were created, this argument turns into an absurdity. Now, many complementarians will insist this misrepresents their argument, but Gieschen, like so many others, fails to go beyond this simple reading of “first Adam, then Eve” as if it solves everything for them. One might as easily say “first cats, then Adam.” Gieschen is concerned, though, with proving that this “order of creation” (however defined) is not “nullified” or undone. Rather than acknowledging that Galatains 3:28 presents a massive problem with his reading, however, Gieschen enlists that text by saying that “differences in genders and roles do not imply that women are inferior to men…” How not? Just because Galatians 3:28 says so? But Galatians 3:28 actually says “There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free, there is no male and female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus” (ESV). Once again, Gieschen is using a text that seemingly says the opposite of what he wants it to–“there is no male and female”–in order to say what he does want it to: male and female genders have different roles which are put into creation order for all time and are in no way contradicted by saying “no male and female.” But this the height of eisegesis rather than exegesis–Gieschen is reading into Galatians 3:28 that which is not there. Indeed, Gieschen’s ultimate defense of his position is to punt it to the Lutheran Church–Missouri Synod’s theological statements, rather than defending his readings from the text. The quote he offers doesn’t cite Scripture to back up its twisted reading of orders of creation and redemption; it simply asserts their position.

Finally, Gieschen looks at the “saved through child-bearing” in verse 15 briefly, arguing that it must mean some kind of role for women. Why? It seems because it most closely matches Gieschen’s own reading of the context.

This chapter on 1 Timothy 2 is problematic in several ways, as we’ve seen. There’s no need to rehearse all the errors Gieschen makes in his translation or exegesis. What is important is to note that Gieschen’s own understanding of one of the key clauses in the text–the meaning of “authority” is one that egalitarians can–and do–argue for themselves. Ultimately, it seems that it is Gieschen’s theological presuppositions that guide his reading of the text, locking in words to specific meanings, selectively being literal when needed, adding words where needed, and expanding words to mean entire sentences. Once again we see that the complementarian reading of the text is far from a plain-sense reading of Scripture as is so often argued.

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Be sure to check out the page for this site on Facebook and Twitter for discussion of posts, links to other pages of interest, random talk about theology/philosophy/apologetics/movies and more!

Book Reviews– There are plenty more book reviews to read! Read like crazy! (Scroll down for more, and click at bottom for even more!)

Interpretations and Applications of 1 Corinthians 14:34-35– Those wondering about egalitarian interpretations of this same passage can check out this post for brief looks at some of the major interpretations of the passage from an Egalitarian viewpoint.

SDG.

——

The preceding post is the property of J.W. Wartick (apart from quotations, which are the property of their respective owners, and works of art as credited; images are often freely available to the public and J.W. Wartick makes no claims of owning rights to the images unless he makes that explicit) and should not be reproduced in part or in whole without the expressed consent of the author. All content on this site is the property of J.W. Wartick and is made available for individual and personal usage. If you cite from these documents, whether for personal or professional purposes, please give appropriate citation with both the name of the author (J.W. Wartick) and a link to the original URL. If you’d like to repost a post, you may do so, provided you show less than half of the original post on your own site and link to the original post for the rest. You must also appropriately cite the post as noted above. This blog is protected by Creative Commons licensing. By viewing any part of this site, you are agreeing to this usage policy.

Book Review: “Reading Mark’s Christology Under Caesar” by Adam Winn

Reading Mark’s Christology Under Caesar by Adam Winn makes the convincing argument that Mark’s Christology is largely a counter to the cult that grew up around Emperor worship in Rome. Accompanying this argument is a fantastic array of contextual evidence both from the text and from references to other ancient works about Rome and her emperors.

After an informative introduction, Winn begins his argument with a look at the cultural context of Mark and an extended analysis of the cultic practices and beliefs centered around Caesar. Emperor Vespasian was pushing his victory over Jerusalem and destruction of the temple in theological motifs, and these were seen as a major challenge, particularly to Roman Christians, to the Messiahship of Jesus Christ. Winn then argues that Mark, therefore, with his use of Christological titles, prophecies of Christ, and discussions of the Temple acts as a direct counter to Vespasian’s claims.

For Mark, Jesus is both powerful and suffering, and this shows Christians that not only is he triumphant and victorious, but also one who is willing to humble himself and lay down his life for his Kingdom. This is a direct contrast and attack on the Vespasian propaganda that made the Emperor into the ideal citizen and conqueror. By being willing to suffer and die, Jesus demonstrates his superiority over Caesar as leader and shepherd of his people.

I am personally no expert in the subject material, so it is difficult for me to judge exactly how on target Winn may be in the book. So far as I can tell, his argument is quite compelling. The appendix included at the end was welcome, noting that those who argue that Mark has a high Christology are not thwarted by the argument in the book. The thesis that Mark is writing against the Caesar cult is an independent question from how high his Christology truly is. I found Winn’s analysis fascinating and convincing, though I’d be interested in seeing what those who are less amenable to his thesis may have to say. It’s the kind of work that is sure to spur further discussion and research.

Reading Mark’s Christology Under Caesar was a book that surprised me. I had seen some making comparisons between Caesar and Christ before, but never had I seen it integrated so fully into the reading of a book of the Bible. It is a fascinating book and I recommend it.

Disclaimer: I was provided with a copy of the book for review by the publisher. I was not required to give any specific kind of feedback whatsoever.

Links

Be sure to check out the page for this site on Facebook and Twitter for discussion of posts, links to other pages of interest, random talk about theology/philosophy/apologetics/movies and more!

Book Reviews– There are plenty more book reviews to read! Read like crazy! (Scroll down for more, and click at bottom for even more!)

SDG.

——

The preceding post is the property of J.W. Wartick (apart from quotations, which are the property of their respective owners, and works of art as credited; images are often freely available to the public and J.W. Wartick makes no claims of owning rights to the images unless he makes that explicit) and should not be reproduced in part or in whole without the expressed consent of the author. All content on this site is the property of J.W. Wartick and is made available for individual and personal usage. If you cite from these documents, whether for personal or professional purposes, please give appropriate citation with both the name of the author (J.W. Wartick) and a link to the original URL. If you’d like to repost a post, you may do so, provided you show less than half of the original post on your own site and link to the original post for the rest. You must also appropriately cite the post as noted above. This blog is protected by Creative Commons licensing. By viewing any part of this site, you are agreeing to this usage policy.

Book Review: “Early Christian Readings of Genesis One” by Craig D. Allert

The Christian church has an interesting relationship with the earliest Christians. In the United States, at least, there is a kind of distrust at times of these early Christians, who seemingly got so much wrong. But alongside that there is an attempt to appeal to them, when convenient, to make theological points, claiming that one’s own belief stretches back to the earliest Christian era. Craig D. Allert, in Early Christian Readings of Genesis One: Patristic Exegesis and Literal Interpretation, shares insights into what these early Christians believed and taught about Genesis chapter 1 and literal readings of the same.

Allert begins the book by providing some context. First, he argues for why Christians today should care about what the early Christian writers (Church Fathers) thought about anything. Second, he argues that Christians have tended to distort or appropriate the Fathers into their own view, often without warrant. He explores this through several “real world” examples, including demonstrating that Ken Ham (a young earth creationist and founder of “Answers in Genesis”) and Hugh Ross (an old earth creationist and founder of “Reasons to Believe”) are mistaken in their reading of the Fathers in aligning with their positions. Then, he goes into the meaning of “literal” in the early church and shows how the term cannot easily be unilaterally applied even to individuals.

Next, Allert surveys a few specific Fathers and topics to show how they read Genesis one. Basil of Caesarea (329-379) is one who is often taken to be a literalist, but Allert demonstrates that Basil’s reading of Genesis one, despite his argument about needing to read it as the “common reading” cannot be taken to insist upon a “literal” or young-earth reading of the text. Origen and Augustine are also prominent Fathers in the text, as the former is taken to be a prime example of an analogous or spiritualizing of the text (not always the case) and the latter is taken as an ally for both sides. There is an extended discussion on the “days” of Genesis one, which the fathers read quite differently than most anyone does today.

Early Christian Readings of Genesis One is an excellent look at the way Christians read Genesis one in the earliest periods. It helps dispel a number of incorrect views of the same, and lets readers read large portions of these early writings for themselves. It is a valuable resource.

Disclaimer: I was provided with a copy of the book for review by the publisher. I was not required to give any specific kind of feedback whatsoever.

Links

Be sure to check out the page for this site on Facebook and Twitter for discussion of posts, links to other pages of interest, random talk about theology/philosophy/apologetics/movies and more!

Book Reviews– There are plenty more book reviews to read! Read like crazy! (Scroll down for more, and click at bottom for even more!)

SDG.

——

The preceding post is the property of J.W. Wartick (apart from quotations, which are the property of their respective owners, and works of art as credited; images are often freely available to the public and J.W. Wartick makes no claims of owning rights to the images unless he makes that explicit) and should not be reproduced in part or in whole without the expressed consent of the author. All content on this site is the property of J.W. Wartick and is made available for individual and personal usage. If you cite from these documents, whether for personal or professional purposes, please give appropriate citation with both the name of the author (J.W. Wartick) and a link to the original URL. If you’d like to repost a post, you may do so, provided you show less than half of the original post on your own site and link to the original post for the rest. You must also appropriately cite the post as noted above. This blog is protected by Creative Commons licensing. By viewing any part of this site, you are agreeing to this usage policy.

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