Advertisements

Christian Doctrine

This tag is associated with 65 posts

Book Review: “Exile: A Conversation with N.T. Wright” edited by James M. Scott

Exile: A Conversation with N.T. Wright seeks to explore N.T. Wright’s thesis about the notion of continuing exile being a controlling belief for the theology of second-temple Judaism and, by extension, early Christianity. The essays come from a variety of perspectives and are led with one by N.T. Wright himself introducing his thesis. Essay topics range from analysis of the Hebrew word(s) for “Exile” to seeing the Exile as positive rather than negative or providing a sacramental interpretation of Exile.

Any collection of essays will have highs and lows. I felt this collection was fairly even in high quality essays. Across the board, it delivered on interesting topics (even if it was not always clear why the topic is important–more on that below). Highlights for me were the inclusion of Walter Brueggemann- a phenomenally interesting OT scholar, a rather deep essay on the terminology on restoration and exile in the New Testament and LXX (Septuagint), and Robert Kugler’s “nuance” of N.T. Wright’s thesis which made it more clear what Wright was saying and highlighted some of his thesis’ importance. The book bears reading and re-reading as one considers specific theological questions about Exile–surely a pervasive theme in biblical theology–and restoration.

I was surprised, however, by how even-toned even the detractors of Wright’s thesis were in this collection. Wright’s discussion of Justification has  caused serious controversy–and often shed more heat than light in some circles–and his discussion of Exile has seemed to me just as contentious. Yet the negative essays included here only touched on the areas of disagreement. Though essays like Jörn Kiefer’s “Not All Gloom and Doom” strike at the heart of Wright’s thesis by, in this case, undercutting the sheer horror of exile to the authors of the Bible, few seem to critically engage Wright on a truly broad level.

Indeed, if there’s any serious shortcoming in the book, it is that at no point is the importance of the debate truly outlined and expanded upon. Indeed, readers may be forgiven for wondering, at times, what is so contentious about some of these points–and why they matter. At one point, as I read about the positive interpretations of Exile in Judaism, I wondered- “So what?” If Wright is right, then Exile is a pervasive theme and key to understanding the entire Bible. That seems like a big deal. But most of the essays here seem to make it sound like minutiae. Having read the book, and a few chapters twice, I am left wondering about the big picture and what, exactly, is at stake in some of it.

Exile: A Conversation with N.T. Wright is an interesting collection of valuable essays. Though it doesn’t always highlight the practical importance of its topic, it does engage with some heady subjects of interpretation on many levels that readers interested in this debate would surely benefit from. As I’ve often found to be the case, though, I was left at times wondering why Wright is found to be so contentious, and

The Good 

+Variety of perspectives offered
+Wide swath of engagement with Wright

The Bad

-Doesn’t explain enough of why the debate is important

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!

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.

Advertisements

Problems with the “Slippery Slope” argument for Inerrancy

question-week2I believe the Bible is true in all that it teaches, and that this is what is meant by inerrancy. The Bible teaches no error. There is much debate over the meaning of inerrancy, and I’m not going to enter into that debate now (though I have written on it, if you’d like to see my opinion). What is important is that I want to start by saying that I affirm inerrancy, but I think one common argument in favor of the doctrine is mistaken.

The Slippery Slope Argument for Inerrancy

The argument I’m referring to is what I shall dub the “Slippery Slope” argument. Basically, it asserts that if someone doubts that one part of the Bible is true, doubt about the rest of the Bible unerringly follows [see what I did there?]. One example of this can be found in a recent webcomic from Adam Ford. We might write out the argument in syllogistic form as something like:

1. If one part of the Bible is in thought to be an error, other parts are thrown into doubt
2. Person A believes the Bible has an error.
3. Therefore, person A has reason to believe other parts are thrown into doubt.

The syllogism as I have written it is surely not the only way to put this argument. I am providing it largely as an illustration of how the argument might be stated. The core of the argument, however, is that if one thinks part of the Bible is an error, the rest of it is made at least possibly dubious.

Analyzing the Argument

There are several difficulties that immediately come up, ranging from concrete to obscure. On the obscure end, we might question what is meant by “an error” and whether that error is said to be theological, scientific, medical, or something else. We could then debate whether an alleged scientific error in the Bible is grounds for stating that there is “an error” in the Bible to begin with, by debating different views Christians hold about the Bible’s relationship with science (or medicine, or whatever). I’m not going to delve into obscurities here, however interesting they may be (and, in my opinion, they are very interesting).

Instead, I want to focus on some major difficulties with the argument. For one, it assumes that the interlocutor, person A, views the entirety of the Bible as on the same evidential plain. That is, for the argument to hold any weight, person A would have to believe that the Bible is linked together so intricately that a belief that Genesis 34:17 [I arbitrarily chose this verse] is an error (however defined) would entail that John 3:16 is possibly an error as well. Clearly, for the argument to be sound, Premise 1 must be correct, and it seems to be obviously false.

The reason I say this is because the possible errancy of John 3:16 does not follow from belief that there is an error in Genesis 34:17. Suppose you are reading a history textbook and you see that it states the date of General Lee’s surrender at Appomattox to be April 9, 1864. You, being a proud history buff, know that the date was actually April 9, 1865. However, the year is only off by one. You may proceed more carefully through the rest of the book, but you would not have any reason to think that the book was mistaken when it said that General Patton was a United States general in World War II.

The argument therefore assumes a unity of the text such that the entire Bible stands or falls together. Now, that might be a perfectly correct position to hold–and I do hold to the unity of Scripture myself–but that is not an obligatory or necessary view. That is, someone might deny that the Bible is a unified text and therefore need not ascribe to the view that if one part is in error, another must be.

But this is not the only difficulty with the argument. Another problem is that it assumes person A has no more reason to believe the portions of the Bible they believe are true than they do for the portions they believe might be errors. Yet this is mistaken, and demonstrably so. Person A may believe there is overwhelming evidence for the truth of the resurrection of Jesus Christ, such that they affirm that without question, while also thinking that the evidence against Israel having been in Egypt is quite weighty as well. Thus, they believe the Bible is perhaps mistaken on the status of Israel in relation to Egypt in Exodus, but they also affirm that it is clearly correct on Jesus’ resurrection. But the slippery slope argument presumes that they cannot hold these beliefs together without at least significant tension. But why? Again, the reason appears to be because the slippery slope argument relies on the assumption that the evidence for one part of the Bible must be exactly on par with the evidence for another. However, that in itself is clearly wrong.

 

Conclusion

Again, I affirm the doctrine of inerrancy. I just think we should not rely on this as one of our arguments. I have used the slippery slope argument myself in the past, but I believe the above analysis shows I was mistaken to do so. I think that others should avoid the argument as well so that we can present the best possible arguments for the truth of the Bible without error.

I suspect many will take issue with the analysis above. I’m not saying that I believe any portion of the Bible is an error. Nor am I denying the unity of Scripture. What I am saying is that it is not logically fallacious to deny that unity. I’m saying that I believe it is logically consistent to believe that the Bible may have an error while still affirming, for example, the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ. Is that something I would recommend? No, but neither is it something I would say is necessarily contradictory. Those who do want to take issue with my analysis must demonstrate how it is mistaken, and thus provide reason to think that the assumptions the slippery slope argument is based upon are sound.

Again, a final note is that I have taken the place of the interlocutor in several instances in this post. My point is simply that someone who did deny these things could come up with effective counters to the slippery-slope argument for inerrancy. Therefore, it seems to me that the argument is ineffective at best and faulty or fallacious at worst. It relies on presupposing that the opponent operates in the same sphere of presuppositions as the one offering the argument, but they need not do so.

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!

On the “Fuzzification” of Inerrancy– I argue that we have qualified the term “inerrancy” unnecessarily and to the extent that it has become difficult to pin down its actual meaning. I advocate a return to a simple definition of the term.

SDG.

——

The preceding post is the property of J.W. Wartick (apart from citations, which are the property of their respective owners, and works of art as credited) 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.

What is the relationship between Christianity and science? – An Overview of 4 Views

sc4v-carlson

There are several different ways that Christians perceive the relationship between science and religion. Science & Christianity: Four Views edited by Richard Carlson provides some insight into the major positions Christians hold regarding this relationship. Here, I will outline these major positions and then provide a few of my own thoughts on the relationship between science and Christianity.

Concordism

The Bible is more Authoritative than Science

The book’s taxonomy files this under “creationism,” but I file it under Concordism because there are different views of how this interplay between science and the Bible play out on these perspectives. The first example is that often exhibited by creationists of both young- and old-earth perspectives. On this view, the Bible is the ultimate authority for all truth, including scientific truth. Thus, in any place where science is thought to conflict with what the Bible is purported to teach, so much the worse for science. Wayne Frair and Gary Patterson, arguing for this perspective, note that “Science is a human activity” and “Science is motivated by the full range of human emotions and ambitions, and the history of science is replete with examples of human greed…” (20-21, cited below).

Thus, on this perspective there is often an understood–whether inherent or spoken–distrust of the findings of scientists. Science is a human activity and so can be seen as full of errors and “replete” with examples of human motivation driving conclusions. On the other hand, the Bible is of divine origin, and so it may be trusted absolutely. Any conflict must be decided in favor of the Bible.

Qualified Agreement 

Creationists of all varieties might also hold to a kind of “qualified agreement” regarding science and Christianity. Those who affirm this position argue that science provides support for biblical Christianity. Stephen C. Meyer writes, in his essay, “when correctly interpreted, scientific evidence and biblical teaching can and do support each other” (130). This model holds that scientific theories do have wider metaphysical impact, but that this impact will be seen, ultimately, to support a biblical worldview.

Meyer doesn’t explicitly state this, but most forms of this model also hold that science and theology can mutually benefit from correctives to each other. Scientific discoveries might force us to rethink the extent of the Flood, for example, while a teaching of creation out of nothing in the Bible can serve as a corrective for metaphysical speculation alongside multiverse and other theories. Many different interpretations of this model are possible, and some would not allow for much mutual correcting.

Independence

The independence model ultimately views science and Christianity as operating in largely different spheres. Commonly known as non-overlapping magisteria (or NOMA, for short), those who hold to this model argue that we must “not make blanket claims about the supposed religious implications of scientific theory” (83) and that models which see science and Christianity as trying to answer the same questions ultimately lead to conflict. Science and religion are viewed as “different models of knowing” which do not overlap, and so they offer little threat whatsoever to each other (71-72).

Thus, the Bible is seen as a book which teaches us theological truths, while science teaches us about the natural world. Jean Pond argues that we must live as non-bifurcated people. It is not that we live compartmentalized lives with science and Christianity in different compartments. Rather, it is just the acknowledgement that different methods govern different aspects of reality. She uses a metaphor of interlocking fingers—each finger is different and independent but locked together they are stronger (90-92).

Partnership

Here I use the terminology found in the book once more, because I think it is a helpful way to envision this final model. The Partnership model envisions science and Christianity as working side by side and explaining the same sets of data. However, they explain them in different ways and are able to offer correctives to each other. Howard J. Van Till argues that this view allows for a view of creation that we can constantly learn more about and see as constantly changing.

However, where this model differs from concordism (the qualified agreement model) is those who hold it argue we should fully accept scientific consensus as telling us about the history of the natural world and that this consensus simply corrects theological views whenever there is conflict. Thus, in a way, this model gives priority to the findings of science over theological views about origins. However, Van Till argues that this is not a kind of science trumps religion model, but rather than we should view creation as “fully gifted” with a function economy that means God made creation itself self-sustaining.

Analysis

Each position has its own set of difficulties, though I think some are more plausible than others.

Regarding concordism, one of the biggest issues can be found in the first position: that of the comparison between the human origin of science and divine origin of the Bible. While it is true that the Bible is divinely inspired, any reading of the Bible is a human act of interpretation. Thus, to claim that science has human motivations possibly leading it astray while ignoring that very same possibility in reading and interpreting the Bible is misguided. Often, those holding this position tend to reduce the Bible to their specific interpretation of the Bible, and then anything which conflicts with that is rejected. The title I gave to this view, “The Bible is more Authoritative than Science” reflects the truth: ultimately, the Bible has God’s authority. But as people use titles like this, we find that often the “Bible” means “my interpretation thereof.” I conclude that this position holds to a view of science and Christianity which is too naive to be affirmed consistently.

The Qualified Agreement model avoids this inconsistency, but it does so at the cost of being ambiguous at points. In what way, exactly, is there qualified agreement? How does theology inform science and vice-versa? Who ultimately decides if there does seem to be a simple contradiction between the two? These questions are left largely unresolved by this model. There is much that turns upon how we take the clause of Meyer’s that “when correctly interpreted” theology and science support each other.

The independence model provides the easiest solution to conflicts perceived between science and Christianity. It simply states that there can be no conflict because the two aren’t even discussing the same realms of truth. What it gains in simplicity, it loses in clarity, however. We are left wondering how we are to take it that matters of faith simply have nothing to say about, for example, the bare existence of the universe. If it is true that science and Christianity do not overlap and speak of entirely different realms of knowledge, what do we do with the Christian claim that the universe was created? Is it not actually about the material universe but rather some kind of spiritual truth that we don’t yet know? Moreover, the independence model seems to assume a view of the world in which there are two buckets: spiritual and material, and those buckets are entirely independent of each other. That is, if I am considering something, it is either spiritual or material, but it cannot be both. This seems to be an overly simplistic view of the universe and one which is difficult to square with the apparent unity between the spiritual and physical within much of the Judeo-Christian worldview.

The Partnership model is appealing in its language, but difficult to understand. It has most of the same problems as the “qualified agreement” model: how do we decide which one is correct when science and theology come into apparent conflict? Why does the partnership model give priority to science in most of these matters? What does it mean to claim that creation has functional economy, and how do we square that with miracles found in the Bible and the doctrine of creation?

Ultimately, I think we still have much work to do in finding an adequate model of science and Christianity. Each of the models surveyed here have aspects that are useful but they each have some difficulties to resolve. I recommend reading Science & Christianity: Four Views to provide a deeper look at these models if you are interested in the topic.

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!

What options are there in the origins debate? – A Taxonomy of Christian Origins Positions– I clarify the breadth of options available for Christians who want to interact on various levels with models of origins. I think this post is extremely important because it gives readers a chance to see the various positions explained briefly.

Origins Debate– Here is a collection of many of my posts on Christianity and science.

Source

Science and Christianity: Four Views edited by Richard F. Carlson (Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity, 2000).

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: “Rediscovering Jesus” by David B. Capes, Rodney Reeves, and E. Randolph Richards

rj-crrRediscovering Jesus is part project of unearthing aspects of Jesus which are often ignored, part recovery of the biblical portrait of Jesus, and all intriguing.

The book is structured such that each chapter presents a specific portrait of Jesus. Each chapter has a brief introductory section that gives an overview of that specific Jesus, an exposition of how the specific work presents Jesus, how that Jesus is different or unique, and what we would believe about Jesus if that were the only information about Jesus we had.

The first part focuses on biblical images of Jesus, but does so by looking at individual books of the Bible (though a few writings are lumped together). Thus, rather than seeing a composite Jesus made up of all four Gospels put together–not itself a bad thing, necessarily–the chapters provide a deeper look at the individual focus of each Gospel or book. Thus, readers are confronted by a Jesus who is a man of action in Mark, a priest in Hebrews, and an apocalyptic judge in Revelation.

The second part examines pictures of Jesus outside the Bible: the ones examined are the Gnostic, Muslim, Historical, Mormon, American, and Cinematic Jesus.

The primary value of the work is how it challenges readers to rethink how they have viewed Jesus. If their Jesus has been shaped predominantly by cultural and non-biblical portraits, the book serves as a call to return to the biblical portrayal. But it does not do so at the expense of all extrabiblical imagery. The authors carefully outline how there might be truth found in various images of Jesus. If our Jesus has been shaped by biblical imagery, the authors challenge us to see how we might have glossed over specific emphases of the different authors of the New Testament.

Each chapter is filled with insights and things to explore. Readers will be continually challenged in how they may have a deficient or composite view of Jesus that does not match the Jesus of the Bible. It is a book which calls us, primarily, to learn about our Lord Jesus Christ. It does so in a way that is constantly exciting and invigorating.

I recommend Rediscovering Jesus wholeheartedly. It was a phenomenally interesting read, and one which will challenge you to rethink how you have conceived of Jesus, while calling readers back to biblical portrayals. I can’t really recommend it highly enough.

The Good

+Illuminates a number of aspects of the biblical Jesus that we often miss
+Great chapter organization
+Excellent information found throughout the book

The Bad

-Very brief on several points

Disclaimer: I received a review copy of the book from the publisher. I was not required to leave 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!)

Source

David B. Capes, Rodney Reeves, and E. Randolph Richards, Rediscovering Jesus (Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity, 2015).

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.

Sunday Quote!- Making a Composite Jesus

rj-crrEvery Sunday, I will share a quote from something I’ve been reading. The hope is for you, dear reader, to share your thoughts on the quote and related issues and perhaps pick up some reading material along the way!

Making a Composite Jesus

I finished reading through Rediscovering Jesus not too long ago and I was struck by something fairly early on: the authors challenged readers to come to the realization that we are often operating under a kind of composite portrait of Jesus:

My Jesus is often a smorgasbord Jesus, a Jesus who doesn’t look like the one in the Bible. Just like a buffet in the cafeteria, where I go through the line and pick out what I want, I read through the Gospels, pulling out stories I like. (17, cited below)

The authors go on to note that our view of Jesus is not only formed buffet-like from imagery found in the Bible, but also through various ways the culture has influenced us to think about Jesus. What are some of the ways that your picture of Jesus may have been shaped by extra-biblical imagery? How might we find the composite Jesus we have created that often stands alongside us as we try to read about Jesus in the scriptures?

Rediscovering Jesus is full of insights like this, and I highly commend it to you, dear readers.

Source

David B. Capes, Rodney Reeves, and E. Randolph Richards, Rediscovering Jesus (Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity, 2015).

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!

Sunday Quote– If you want to read more Sunday Quotes and join the discussion, check them out! (Scroll down for more)

SDG.

Book Review: “Rescuing the Gospel from the Cowboys” by Richard Twiss

rgfc-twiss

Rescuing the Gospel from the Cowboys by Richard Twiss presents a broad, far-reaching analysis of the contact and sometimes conflict between Christianity and Native cultures.

Conflict is a major theme of the book, as Twiss traces the history of interactions between Western Christians and Native peoples. This history involves much wrongdoing, from wanton destruction of Native peoples through disease (which was at some points compared to the plagues on Egypt attacking the Native peoples), to continued missiology that refuses to adapt to new insights from anthropology.

A central question asked time and again through the book is why, in order to be Christian, people must give up all their cultural background and embrace a Eurocentric version of religious practice. The example often used is that of drums in worship. Many argue that this is an example of potentially dangerous syncretism–the incorporation of anti-Christian ideology into allegedly Christian worship. They allege that because drums have been used in spiritual fashions that are non-Christian, they must be tied to non-Christian beliefs. Twiss argues that, instead, it is an example of critical contextualization–integrating the Christian faith by means of cultural expressions. He notes that this is allowed in all kinds of ideas and expressions in Western cultures. He mentions the integration of Platonic and Aristotelian thought into Creedal expressions as one example. Another example could be the general allowance for Christmas trees–themselves once expressions of pagan practices.

Thus, a major aspect of Twiss’ project is to demonstrate that Native peoples must be allowed to develop their own understanding of how to follow the Jesus way. Just as in Western churches, incense, organs, Christmas trees, specific candle lightings, and the like are allowed and even endorsed; so too should Native expressions and critical incorporation of their own practices be allowed in worship. Only then, argues Twiss, can the Gospel be truly integrated into Native life and communities.

Twiss also outlines various ways missions have been done to Native peoples and notes that these have largely changed and adapted in response to new insights from anthropology, but these adaptations have been adapted abroad, not in Native mission fields. This means a continued colonializing is taking place as Native peoples are expected to change everything, without being allowed to keep their own religious expressions. He summons much data to support these claims.

A major chapter in the book features his amalgamation of stories into a fictional sweat lodge ceremony in which nine different Native men are talking about their struggles with following Christ in a Native culture. These provide great insights into the ways in which Native people have worked to integrate their culture and faith together and met enormous resistance.

By the time I finished the book, I realized that I’d had to be fairly introspective and consider my own faults along with all that I had learned. I had, at least in my head, thought of various practices like integrating Native dancing into worship as being some kind of syncretism. I hadn’t thought about how plenty of the things I do (Christmas trees, for example) had sprung from a cultural milieu and come to be accepted in Western Christianity. I had been convicted by Twiss, but also enlightened.

The few critiques I have to offer of the book pale in comparison to its insight, but I’ll note them here. First, there are a couple times in which it seems to repeat the same point more than once–sometimes even with the same quote or citation. I’m sure this is due to it having been finished posthumously, and so the editors drew together works from Twiss’ other materials, but it remains disconcerting at points. Another issue is that there are several points at which Twiss lists a whole slew of relevant scholars and a major work or two from each. It’s the kind of thing that could have been more easily relegated to endnotes in order to clean up the text a bit, but this is a minor nitpick.

The appendices are quite useful, including a list of various words or phrases used to refer to Native American peoples, as well as when they were first used and how they’ve come to be used now.

I recommend Rescuing the Gospel from the Cowboys as highly as possible. It is filled with excellent information, convicting insights, and hope. Pick it up and read it.

The Good

+Touches on a number of important topics
+Deep insights with convicting but guiding words
+Awesome cover
+Excellent use of stories to illustrate important points
+Provides hope and applicable insights
+Useful appendices

The Bad

-Occasionally repetitive
-Large lists of scholars at points with little context

Disclaimer: I received a review copy of this book from the publisher. They did not require 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!)

Source

Richard Twiss, Rescuing the Gospel from the Cowboys (Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity, 2015).

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: “Bavinck on the Christian Life” by John Bolt

bavinck-bolt

Bavinck on the Christian Life is another entry in the “Theologians on the Christian Life” series from Crossway. Check out my other reviews in the series.

The chapter on union with Christ is particularly insightful. Bolt draws out Bavinck’s insights into Christology, which include going beyond redemption and looking to eschatology and creation as important aspects of Christology as well. Union with Christ is explored from various angles, including penetrating looks at deism and pantheism alongside an examination of the Orthodox doctrine of theosis. This latter portion is particularly interesting both because it allows for some evangelical-Orthodox dialogue and because it clarifies some important distinctions Orthodox distinctions make that allow them to avoid pantheism or panentheism in regards to divinization.

I also appreciated the extensive biographical background to set the stage for Bavinck’s theology by showing how he interacted with the controversies of his time. The overview provided herein of Bavinck’s thought is also insightful. He was thoroughly Calvinist. His view of the world was tied up in Trinitarianism, and he grounded not only his view of reality but also of various aspects of reality in the Trinity. An important insight from Bavinck is the way in which work is part of the human vocation and living out of the image of God. As a Lutheran I particularly enjoyed the emphasis on work as being part of God’s plan for humanity.

One criticism I have is that the author seemed to have a bit of a political axe to grind. In chapter 3, for example, welfare is mentioned at least twice and referenced off hand a third time. Bolt seems keen to point out that Christians can differ on this subject, writing at one point “The Bible is quite clear about the responsibility of God’s children to help those who are poor and needy. Whether or not this commitment to the poor demands support for higher taxes and greater government welfare is quite another matter” (Kindle location 1211-1221). The 10th chapter of the book returns to this issue and places it in Bavinck’s own context with debates over the social gospel and the meaning of the Kingdom (see especially Kindle location 4300 and following). This at least places the whole discussion in Bavinck’s own day.

Yet, remarkably, Bavinck’s response to social inequality seems, according to Bolt, to simply shift the problem elsewhere. Bavinck casts inequality and social injustice squarely into the realm of divine sovereignty: “God’s preordaining was the final, most profound cause of all differences among creatures… It is neither the free will of man, nor merit and worth, nor culture or even nature that is the source… but God’s almighty and all-powerful will…” (4540). I’m not saying this is inherently mistaken. What I’m saying is this doesn’t even begin to answer the question raised: how should we deal with injustice? Sure, a Calvinist would argue that all that happens is sovereingly decreed by God, but how does just saying that in any way answer the preceding question? It just moves it up a (or several) level(s).

Bavinck was also someone who “ascribe[d] to women a primary calling in the home, and he point[ed] to human history, as well as the narratives and laws of the Old Testament, as evidence for a patriarchal structure of human society” (Kindle location 3001). Yet, he also argued that no man is complete without some aspects of femininity and no woman is complete without some aspects of masculinity. How that plays out is largely left up for interpretation, though Bolt argues that this demonstrates that although Bavinck would align with “complementarianism”–the view that men and women have different roles in church and home–he would not ascribe to some of the “will-to-power, macho masculinity and eroticized or subservient, passive femininity” (Kindle loc 3076). Bavinck also challenged some of the patriarchal views of his own society. One way he did this was supporting women’s suffrage. These are admirable qualities He emphasized the role of children and family as the calling of humanity, but one wonders what this might say to those who remain single or childless.

A final, though minor, critique is that there are many portions of the book in which the overall outline of the book is walked back through, or references are made to previous chapters alongside a brief description of why such a reference is relevant in context. It’s a minor thing to point out, but it was distracting at points and gave an impression that the book wasn’t always organized logically.

Bavinck on the Christian Life provides perspective on Bavinck’s thought, life, and context. It isn’t quite as polished as the other books in the series, but it remains a worthy read.

The Good

+Interesting insight into the theological context of Bavinck’s day
+Good cautionary words on worldview analysis

The Bad

-At some points too concerned with modern controversies
-Too many words spent explaining why the book was organized in the fashion it was
-Expresses commitment to “patriarchy”

Disclaimer: I was provided with a review copy of the book from the publisher. I was not asked 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!)

Source

John Bolt, Bavinck on the Christian Life (Wheaton, IL: Crossway, 2015).

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.

“Never use an argument that you don’t find convincing”?

Rock_Strata

Not an argument, but a pretty picture nonetheless.

I was contemplating a post I was working on not too long ago and realized I didn’t find one of the arguments I put forward very convincing.

I think that there may be situations in which it is permissible and perhaps even wise to use arguments that you don’t personally find convincing. I want to start this with the caveat that as Christians in no way should you use arguments in this fashion without honestly prefacing them by saying something like “I don’t find this convincing necessarily” or “This is not my view, but some think…” We must be honest in our argumentation, but that doesn’t mean we have to be limited in it.

The Impossibility of Knowing Everything

One reason to use arguments that you don’t personally find convincing is because it is impossible for us to know everything. For example, for a long time I thought Pascal’s Wager was an okay, but not ultimately convincing argument. However, I then read a book on the argument, Pascal’s Wager: Pragmatic Arguments and Belief in God by Jeff Jordan (review linked), which convinced me that the argument is actually fairly powerful. Indeed, after reading the book I even started to use the argument myself.

Thus, what this means is that there was an argument I did not find convincing at one point, but which I later found to be quite convincing indeed. I didn’t have a complete picture of the Wager type argument, and I still don’t. It’s possible that one day I might discover a strong counter-argument which undermines my confidence in the argument.

Effectively any argument that we consider is in a situation like this. We cannot possibly have read every single angle on most (any?) arguments, and so it is possible that any number of arguments we find convincing are really not; or vice versa.

Thus, it might not be a bad idea in some situations to offer something like this: “I haven’t studied X argument much, but as of now I don’t find it very convincing. However, I do think the position it ultimately argues for is true. Perhaps you’d find X argument convincing, and we can talk about it. [Offer X argument.]”

Opening Up New Avenues for Discussion

The closing example above offers another insight into why mentioning or “using” arguments that we don’t personally find convincing could be effective- they might open up avenues for more discussion. For example, when one is doing apologetics, I could see a conversation happening in which an opening could be found by saying something like “I agree! I don’t find X to be a convincing reason to believe in God. Here’s why. Can we talk about Y, though, which I do find convincing?”

Moreover, we are called to pursue the truth and hold fast to what is good. In discussing an argument we might not find convincing, there might be new points raised which cause us to reevaluate the rejected argument in a different light.

The Pragmatic Use of Arguments 

Finally, another reason it might be even wise to utilize arguments that we don’t personally find convincing would be pragmatic. For the sake of the following example, just assume that the positions presented are thought be the apologist to be acceptable biblically, though they favor one over the other. Suppose one is talking to an atheist whose only objection left to Christianity is the doctrine of eternal conscious punishment. In that case, the apologist might mention the alternative Christian doctrine of annihilationism/conditionalism, pointing out that although they don’t personally hold the view, it is a view that is established within the Christian tradition and offers an alternative to the eternal conscious punishment view.

In this case, the atheist’s final objection is at least possibly answered–they are confronted with the reality that their final objection is possibly mistaken. And, the apologist with whom they are having this discussion was honest enough to point out they don’t hold to the view, merely that it is a view which answers their objection.

This pragmatic use of argument must be done carefully, and again very openly and honestly. I have found that if one does use this method in a conversation, it generally goes to more fruitful discussions and drawing out more areas of agreement.

Conclusion

Thus, I am of the opinion that it is at least permissible to use arguments that you do not personally find convincing, with the caveat that you do so honestly.

What do you think? Should you only use arguments you personally find convincing? Is it permissible to use arguments you don’t find convincing? Are there circumstances in which this is different?

By the way, I did take that argument out of the post I was working on.

SDG.

——

The preceding post is the property of J.W. Wartick (apart from citations, which are the property of their respective owners, and works of art as credited) 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.

Sunday Quote!- Genesis 1-11 is Fiction?

3vgen-1-11Every Sunday, I will share a quote from something I’ve been reading. The hope is for you, dear reader, to share your thoughts on the quote and related issues and perhaps pick up some reading material along the way!

Genesis 1-11 is Fiction?

Kenton Sparks argues in his chapter of Genesis: History, Fiction, or Neither? that Genesis 1-11 is “ancient historiography,” which is to say, largely mythic fiction. Why does he argue this, and what are the implications? He sums up his position nicely:

[I]t is no longer possible for informed readers to interpret the book of Genesis as straightforward history. There was no Edenic garden, nor trees of life and knowledge, nor a serpent that spoke, nor a worldwide flood in which all living things, save those on a giant boat, were killed by God. Whatever the first chapters of Genesis offer, there is one thing that they certainly do not offer, namely, a literal account of events that actually happened prior to and during the early history of humanity. If Genesis is the word of God, as I and other Christians believe, then we must try to understand how God speaks through a narrative that is no longer the literal history that our Christian forebears often assumed it to be… (111, cited below)

I’m sure some of this statement was for rhetorical flourish, but it is clear that Sparks has chosen to contrast his position with the staunchest literalist position. He references the Flood as global; despite many conservative scholars arguing that it is local; in the same essay he sets his position against 6-day creationism, but does nothing to hint at how his position might contrast with those who do not adhere to that perspective. As I said, I’m sure a lot of this is rhetorical flourish rather than ignorance, but his essay could have been stronger if he’d interacted with more nuanced positions.

That said, it is difficult to reconcile his statement that effectively nothing in Genesis 1-11 refers to a “literal account of events that actually happened…” with his statement that Genesis is the “word of God.” However, he does try to demonstrate this throughout his essay. I remain unconvinced that Genesis 1-11 is largely fiction, though I would find myself in agreement with Sparks at a few points in his exegesis.

What do you think? Would arguing that Genesis 1-11 is effectively fiction–theological fiction, but fiction nonetheless–undermine its viability as the word of God? What might this mean for interpretation of these early chapters?

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!

Sunday Quote– If you want to read more Sunday Quotes and join the discussion, check them out! (Scroll down for more)

Source

Kenton Sparks, “Genesis 1-11 as Ancient Historiography” in Genesis: History, Fiction, or Neither? Charles Halton and Stanley Gundry, eds. (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 2015).

SDG.

Sunday Quote!- Genre and Genesis 1-11, does it matter?

3vgen-1-11

Every Sunday, I will share a quote from something I’ve been reading. The hope is for you, dear reader, to share your thoughts on the quote and related issues and perhaps pick up some reading material along the way!

Genre and Genesis 1-11, does it matter?

The central question of Genesis: History, Fiction, or Neither? is the question of the genre of Genesis 1-11. But does this question really even matter? Gordon Wenham argues that shouldn’t trump interpretation:

[U]ltimately we must recognize that how we define the genre of Gen[esis] 1-11 is a secondary issue: our primary concern must be the interpretation of the stories and their application today. The definition of genre refines and clarifies the message of Genesis, but disagreements about genre should not obscure our substantial agreement about the theological teaching of these stories. Whether one calls Gen[esis] 1-11 doctrine, history, fiction, or myth, it is clear that these chapters are making profound statements about the character of God and his relationship to mankind. Elucidating these truths must be the goal of every interpreter. (74,cited below)

Later in the book, Sparks argues that Wenham is mistaken and genre does determine much more about the text–even what might be considered binding to believe. What are your thoughts? How important is it to determine the genre of Genesis 1-11 in order to properly interpret it? Can we focus instead on the texts themselves?

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!

Sunday Quote– If you want to read more Sunday Quotes and join the discussion, check them out! (Scroll down for more)

Source

Gordon Wenham, “Genesis 1-11 as Protohistory”  in Genesis: History, Fiction, or Neither? Charles Halton and Stanley Gundry, eds. (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 2015).

SDG.

Advertisements

Enter your email address to follow this blog and receive notifications of new posts by email.

Join 2,540 other followers

Archives

Like me on Facebook: Always Have a Reason
Advertisements