Reviewing Navigating Genesis [2]

 

creationChapter 1 – Personal Journey

Summary

I have taken up reviewing Hugh Ross’s book, Navigating Genesis. My introductory post explaining my reasoning can be found HERE.

Ross opens up his book recounting his personal journey as a young man putting the Bible to his rigorous scientific testing. As an apologist, he encounters many people these days who complain that the Bible is an ancient book full of scientific nonsense and blatant contradictions. When he asks folks for examples of that scientific nonsense, many of them cite Genesis 1-11.

Ross, however, sees their rejection of Genesis as an opportunity, because “the scientific discoveries of the past few decades…present some of the most persuasive evidences ever assembled for the supernatural authorship, accuracy, and authority of the Bible,” [9]. He goes on to explain how Genesis can withstand rigorous scientific and biblical testing, and because of that those first 11 chapters of Genesis present some of the most persuasive evidence of the divine authority of the Bible.

He tells how when he was a young man, his singular passion was science. He was particularly drawn to astronomy and he specifically believed the big bang model of cosmology was the best model ever conceived that fits the observational data, [11]. That led him further to be convinced that the big bang model implied that a creator existed.

When he turned his attention to studying the world’s religions, the one religious book that stood out above all the others as a reasonable explanation of that scientific data was the Bible. The “scientific method was clearly evident in Genesis chapter 1 as in a modern research paper,” [12]. After reading the entire Bible he failed to discover anything within its pages that could be label as a verifiable error. Once his study was completed, and he saw that the Bible lined up with everything he knew scientifically, he gave his life to Christ as his savior. The book, Navigating Genesis, is his attempt to navigate the record of Genesis with his reading audience, while answering challenges raised by skeptics, both inside and outside the church.

Review

With this introductory recounting of his personal faith journey, Ross announces that he will build the argument in his book upon a number of what are clearly faulty premises. Let me highlight a few important ones that will direct the trajectory of my forthcoming reviews.

To begin, he is going to treat the book of Genesis, a book that is a historical record of God’s creation and the events of the early earth that lead up to the call of Abraham, as if it is a scientific research paper. He writes, “As a scientist I would say these events beg to be tested,” [9]. But how exactly does one scientifically test events recorded in a historical document? Ross believes those events are a record of the past, but unless he has access to a special Delorean, he cannot possibly scientifically test them. All he can do, and what he will do throughout his book, is force upon the historical record of Scripture modern presuppositions from secular science he unquestionably accepts as valid. That is not doing science; that’s gaming the facts.

Additionally, he attempts to distinguish his scientific test for the events recorded in Genesis from miraculous events like the Virgin Birth and Jesus turning water into wine. He seems to think that the miraculous, divine interventions recorded in Genesis like the creation week, Noah’s flood, and the confusion of languages at Babel, are scientifically testable, but the resurrection of Lazarus is not. He assumes that verifying the miracle of creation according to the various scientific disciplines, will somehow verify those other miracles.

Yet all of those events, the creation, Noah’s flood, Christ feeding the 5,000, and His bodily resurrection, are all equally miraculous. For some reason, Ross believes we can scrutinize the miracles recorded in Genesis because they apparently fall into the realm of the scientific disciplines, whereas the other recorded miracles do not. (Why wouldn’t a Resurrection fall into the realm of medical science, for instance). What he fails to inform the reader is that he will evaluate those Genesis events according to the various presuppositions of secular science and the conclusions of secular science tend to deny the miraculous and explain it away.

Ross also notes three biblical tests he believes are important to his presentation. How exactly those biblical tests come together with the scientific tests just mentioned is not really explained. The reader is expected to roll with the disconnect.

First he notes what he calls the Berean test taken from Acts 17:11. Like the noble Bereans (who were unbelievers, by the way), who tested all the claims made by Paul about Jesus, all the biblical passages that parallel and overlap Genesis 1-11 must cohere with what ALL of Scripture teaches. That raises the question as to whether or not when those biblical passages contradict the scrutiny of the so-called scientific disciplines used to evaluate the events of Genesis, what gives way? The biblical testimony or the scientific discipline evaluating that testimony?

If Scripture cannot be broken as Ross asserts, can the scientific discipline in conflict with the point of Scripture be broken? He writes, “…understandings of Genesis 1-11 that contradict any other part of the Bible must be rejected,” [10]. But does that apply to any of the scientific disciplines?

Next is the spirit test that the apostle John writes of in his first epistle. Christians are to “test the spirits” to see if whether they come form God. But lots of the scientific scrutiny comes from “spirits” that are hostile and opposed to God. In fact, a number of modern practitioners of the scientific disciplines do not care for God at all. If they are religious, they tend toward synchronizing Darwinian evolution with what religious faith they may have to produce some weird, unbiblical theistic evolutionary hybrid. There certainly is a spirit behind such overt hostility to God.

Thirdly is the biblical language test. Ross writes, “A precise understanding of the text is crucial for interpreting the scientific and historical details as well as the theological context,” [10]. He goes on to explain that a precise understanding includes knowledge of the original language, the grammar, and its usage in various passages.

The problem, however, is that as one works his way through his book, nothing indicates that he has a working grasp of the original languages or the grammar. He is dependent upon secondary sources, which is understandable, because many writers and theologians may not have a full, working knowledge of the original languages. But his dependence, as I noted in my first review, relies almost exclusively upon the Theological Workbook of the OT. In fact, his appendix B, which is a breakdown of all the important Hebrew words in Genesis 1 is taken solely from the TWOT.

While I would certainly agree that the TWOT is a fine reference work, if you are an apologist who is writing a book length treatment advocating your unique apologetic of creation and the book of Genesis, and insisting to your readers you alone have the correct understanding of the text, it would behoove you to expand your sources beyond just one resource, albeit a good one. Moreover, the TWOT is limited in its scope in that it doesn’t cover grammatical and syntactical matter of the Hebrew texts under consideration. A number of Ross’s assertion about how the original language should be understood doesn’t even take into mind those grammatical and syntactical nuances.

And then one final, faulty premise is Ross’s “Nature is a 67th book of the Bible” argument. Ross, and the RTB apologists, believe that nature is a unique revelation all unto its own that is self-sufficient and self-authenticating. In one of his earliest books that sets forth his apologetic, Creation and Time, Ross writes that,

“the Bible teaches a dual, reliably consistent revelation. God has revealed Himself through the words of the Bible and the facts of nature…So, God’s revelation is not limited exclusively to the Bible’s words. The facts of nature may be likened to a sixty-seventh book of the Bible. Just as we rightfully expect interpretations of Isaiah to be consistent with those of Mark, so too we can expect interpretations of the facts of nature to be consistent with the message of Genesis and the rest of the canon.” [Creation and Time, 56-57]

He states that he is NOT putting nature on equal footing with the authority of the Scripture, but he does just that when he assigns nature, or better, secular interpretations of nature, the authority to correct and/or re-interpret Scripture so that it conforms to the scientific consensus.

Richard Mayhue takes apart Ross’s 67th book presupposition with a withering analysis in the book, Coming to Grips with Genesis, pages 105-129. He points out a number of flaws with Ross’s overreach with general revelation, but the one that is particularly problematic is that it presents an open canon. In other words, rather than the biblical canon closing at the writing of Revelation, it suggests the canon is still very much open and incomplete as new, and yet to be discovered, scientific discoveries present the possibility of reshaping our understanding of Genesis and creation.

God’s revelation is then not settled and fixed as the historic, Bible-believing church teaches, but is still in flux as modern science allegedly discovers new understandings of origins. Such a position leads one precariously close to heresy.

Gleanings from Judges [13]

vow

Jephthah’s Tarnished Victory (Judges 11:30-12:7)

The last time I began considering the judgeship of Jephthah. He served during a time when the tribes of Israel were engaged in apostasy on a mass scale. As a result, God specifically gave them to the Ammonites and Philistines in judgment. However, the LORD is gracious. After they confess their sin, cast away their idols, and returned to serving the LORD, Jephthah was raised up as a deliverer.

Because he was the son of a harlot, he was cast out of his family and joined with a band of pirates. The situation with the Ammonites caused his people to call him back to be their leader against their enemy, and after failed negotiations with the Ammonites, he rallies the Israelites in a spirit-led victory over them.

His victory, regrettably, became tarnished. Two events brought him to a downfall as a hero. His vow regarding his daughter and his brutalization of the Ephraimites.

– The Vow

In verse 30, before he goes to battle, he makes a vow. Vows were not necessarily unusual. For instance, Hannah’s vow of Samuel (1 Samuel 1:11), Israel’s vow of victory (Numbers 21:2), Jacob’s vow at Bethel (Genesis 28:20-21). In Jephthah’s case, he vowed to offer as a burnt offering the first thing that greeted him from the doors of his house if God delivered his enemies into his hands. The question I always had is what did he expect to come through the doors of his house? A goat? Moreover, did he really think He was going to make a burnt offering of a human being?

A burnt offering has the idea of “to cause to go through fire.” It normally refers to a sacrifice like a lamb. We see this idiom in a number of places through Scripture and never does it refer to a human sacrifice.

The question is: Did Jephthah kill his daughter or was there something else that happened to her?

The alternative to actually killing her is that he devoted her to a life of perpetual service to the Lord at the tabernacle. This interpretation is typically put forward by biblical interpreters who are uncomfortable with the idea of a man killing his only daughter as a sacrifice to God. They claim that Jephthah, being Jewish, would have abhorred the idea of human sacrifice to begin with. He was God fearing enough to respect what the law stated on the matter of murder.

Additionally, they further argue that a burnt offering can have the idea of tabernacle service. There is evidence of individuals being given in service like Hannah did for Samuel or possibly the Daughters of Shiloh mentioned in Judges 21. Also, Leviticus 27 has stipulations about committing a person to service, so perpetual service could be a real possibility. The text does say she was allowed to go bewail her virginity (11:37), meaning lamenting her inability to ever be married due to fulfilling the vow. That suggests she is going into perpetual service like a nun.

However, while this view is a commendable attempt to tone down the harshness of what happened, given Jephthah’s reputation as a horrible father, there are some problems with it.

– Jephthah’s life was one that was non-religious. It may be that he wasn’t even a practicing Jew, being half-Jewish himself. He lived away from the tabernacle and viewed God much in the same way the Canaanites viewed their gods, a being who occasionally needed to be placated or manipulated so he would favor the person.

– It is also significant that he lived among men who practiced human sacrifice. He was in a synchronized culture that was not a pure devotion to YHWH alone. Clear example is the Moabites he associated with who did practice human sacrifice to their gods Milkon and Chemonesh. In 2 Kings 3:27, the Moabite king sacrificed his oldest son in order to stay the Israelites moving against him in battle.

– It is true that Leviticus 27 allowed for perpetual service, however, the chapter explains that God provided an “out” for an individual who could not fulfill the vow because it was too difficult. Their was a shekel price Jephthah could have paid if he wanted to be released from his vow. All he needed to do was to make a trip to Shiloh where the tabernacle was located, paid the required offering, and then he would be released from his vow. He did not do this.

Given the nature of his vow, what he said, and the time and place where he lived, the only sad conclusion to draw is that he offered her up as a burnt offering. A rather sad and tragic example of the bizarre, ungodly times Israel was experiencing.

– Against Ephraim

We also find Jephthah embroiled in a civil war, a battle between the tribe of Gilead and Ephraim. The Ephraimites were  bothered that they weren’t called to join the battle against the Ammonites, and so they crossed the Jordan to pick a fight with Jephthah. They even threatened to burn his house down.

He tried to explain to them that he was involved with his people in a struggle against a mortal enemy that left him no choice to fight them. He apparently had called them, but they did not respond, so he had fight them with his people.

His words, however, did not placate the Ephraimites. They went to battle with Jephthah and Gileadites. They in turn soundly defeated the Ephraimites, but rather than just letting them return defeated to their homes, they prevented them from escaping across the river back to their home territory.

A couple of thoughts about the judgeship of Jephthah.

First, he demonstrates a Canaanizing influence within Israel. He attempted to manipulate God with the promise of a sacrifice, only to be mocked when his only daughter greets him at the door.

Secondly, there is no national unity, but only tribal squabbles that lead to battle. Rather than unifying the Gileadites with the Ephraimites, they are engage in a regional conflict with one another instead of finding unity in their identity as God’s people united around the worship of the one true covenant God, YHWH.

May I Exhort You, Dear Christian, to Invest in a Well Made Bible?

bibleI remember, after the Lord saved me, receiving my first official Bible as a brand new Christian. Sure, I had a stubby, little gift KJV Bible my mom bought me when I was in 6th grade after I completed my confirmation classes at my old United Methodist Church, but receiving a new Bible after I came to know the Lord was extra special.

It was a Ryrie Study Bible (I still have it), black, genuine leather in the King James. It is filled with my hand written notes and yellow marker hi-lights I made on verses as I began to fully understand biblical truth for the first time. I am sure readers may be familiar with what I am talking about because you probably have the same kind of Bible somewhere in your house.

A couple of years later, my mom asked me what I wanted for Christmas and I requested a KJV super wide margin Bible.  At the time, those Bibles were packaged in cheap, bonded leather, (the new versions come in Moroccan leather), but it was thin and carried nicely in my hand. The interior was awesome with the massive wide margins where I wrote copious study notes (and lots of KJVO apologetic stuff). That Bible looked sweet at first. It even had Authorized Version 1611 on the spine (though it was a 1769 text). However, within a few years of use, the edges began rubbing off and the backing starting coming loose. The bonded leather was slowly deteriorating and it started to look ugly. I still have that Bible as well.

By 1997, I was in California attending seminary and working at Grace to You. That was the year the John MacArthur study Bible, in the NKJV, was published. I secured a copy of it in a nice leather version, but within a few years, it too began to look worn. Later, I was able to get the ESV MacArthur study Bible, as well as find a slightly damaged NASB edition I rescued from a give-away bin. The Crossway ESV edition of the MSB is fantastic, by the way. Excellent craftsmanship for a mass produced Bible.

I have pretty much used those two Mac Study Bibles as my primary reading/studying/carrying to church Bibles for the last 5 years or so. Recently, I began taking up only the NASB edition and reading it. I like the translation of the NASB, even though the ESV is the go-to translation these days. Yet once again, that Bible is showing the signs of wearing out with use. It is only a matter of maybe a year before it begins to fall apart, too.

My first thought was to mail it into a place that specialized in rebinding old books and Bibles, like ACE Book Binding, to put on a new cover. They did my wife’s first edition MacArthur Study Bible, and they did a tremendous job. They even have a large selection of colored leathers and orange appeals to me.

Then, in the last year or so, I heard Mike Abendroth mention on his podcast about him getting a really good Bible from Evangelical Bibles. He said it was a handcrafted NASB Schuyler Quentel edition. I texted him for the details and he sent me the links. I was immediately overcome with awe of those Bibles. The 220 buck asking price, however, was steep. I fluctuated between weighing spending the money to do the rebinding on the old Bible, which would had been a bit cheaper, against adding an extra 50 dollars or so and getting a new Schulyer.  I finally landed on the Schuyler.  I began to save my money by selling off commentaries and books in my library that I now had on Logos. It took me a number of months, but I was finally able to secure one, and it is absolutely gorgeous.

As one can tell by the picture at the top, I picked up the firebrick red version. Everybody I know carries a black, tan, or burgundy leather Bible, so I wanted one that stood out. As soon as I unpacked it and breathed in that new Bible smell that came wafting up from the box, I knew I had a thing of elegance in my possession. Picking it up, I can just feel the quality in my hands: supple, natural grain goat leather, the stitching around the edges and the spine, the way it lays open on the table, it is a piece of art in Bible making.

While the exterior of the Bible is breath-taking, it is the interior that is truly amazing.

When I was weighing my options between getting my old MSB rebound and spending a bit more to purchase a Schuyler, I was telling an acquaintance of my choices. He told me that most folks only consider the exterior of a Bible, what it looks like and whether or not it is covered in a good leather. Rarely do folks think about the interior of the Bible, what kind of paper its printed on and the way the text looks and is laid out on the page.

We just so happened to be standing in the church’s book store when we were discussing Bibles and the guy grabs a cheap edition off the shelf and opened it up. He held a single page against the light of the store. “A Bible printed on cheap paper will have what are like little pin pricks all over the page, like this one here.” Sure enough, I saw the little pin pricks on the page. He went on to explain that the bulk of mass produced Bibles that folks pick up in their local bookstores are printed on that low quality paper. A really good Bible paper will not have any of those pricks or maybe just a few here and there on a page.

The first thing I did when I unpacked my new Bible was to hold a page up to the light. There wasn’t a prick one anywhere to be found.

But even more wonderful is the way the page actually looks.

biblepageThe font is 11 point, and the letters crisp and bold and easily read without my reading glasses. Also, each chapter is a red number matching the exterior color of the Bible itself. And it is not a “Words of Christ” red letter edition, another feature I insisted upon.

And the one fun perk is the edge of the Bible. If you close the Bible and look at the paper edge, there is the standard gold tinting. Once you open it and fan the pages, the edges turn firebrick red.

edgeI cannot be more thrilled with this Bible. I actually get excited anticipating studying the Scripture. That is why I would encourage all believers to consider making a worthy investment in a good, well-made Bible. Evangelical Bibles have more than just this version, though I couldn’t recommend it highly enough. Check out their page and look over their ESVs, KJVs, and the NKJVs. There are a number of excellent choices.

Men and women have bled and died to preserve God’s Word for us. We hear it preached every Sunday, and we are supposed to do our daily reading from one. While I am grateful for the mass production of relatively inexpensive Bibles of all shapes and sizes and editions because God’s Word is spread far and wide, if we really maintain a high view of Scripture, why not get a really good one that is worthy of the God who gave us His Word? It may take saving a little every couple of weeks from a year’s worth of paychecks, but I think it would only serve to elevate your love for God and Scripture.

Reviewing Navigating Genesis [1]

genesisPreliminary Remarks 

I want to embark on a new blogging project with this post.

For sometime now, I have been reading through the book Navigating Genesis: A Scientist’s Journey Through Genesis 1-11 by Hugh Ross, founder of Reasons to Believe ministries (RTB). My goal is to provide a review and critique on what he teaches regarding Genesis, creation, and deep time over the course of a series of blog articles. I am not entirely sure how long my series will be. I won’t commit to a chapter-by-chapter review, but I certainly will work through the major arguments presented in the book from beginning to end.

With this introductory post, I’ll explain why I want to go through it.

Those who are frequent readers of my blog know that I have published a lot on the topics of Genesis, creation, and evolution since I began writing in 2005. I have a number of articles that can be found HERE. Additionally, I have taught three series on matters of origins, Genesis, creation, and evolution (one that specifically interacts with Hugh Ross’s progressive creationism) that can be downloaded from my other website, Fred’s Bible Talk. I am convinced that what we as Christians believe regarding origins is foundational to our overall biblical worldview and our apologetic engagement with unbelievers

For a while now, I have noticed a heavy dependence upon Ross and RTB among a number of online apologetic web hubs and social media groups as the default, go to expert authority when defending Genesis and creationism against evolution and scientism.

If one were to scan over the reposted articles at such sites as The Poached Egg, Apologetics 315, or the Christian Apologetic Alliance, for instance, the overwhelming majority are written by Ross, or RTB staff, or bloggers sympathetic to his old earth views of Genesis. For example, search the category tag “creation” at The Poached Egg site. All the articles that pop up addressing the topic are written by RTB team members or surrogate bloggers and favor Ross’s deep time interpretation of the book of Genesis.

Moreover, Ross and members of his staff, like Kenneth Samples and Fuz Rana, are frequent commentators on apologetic radio programs and podcasts. They will be interviewed about the latest evolutionary/creation controversies on such programs like Stand to Reason and the Bible Answer Man. Often, their particular brand of progressive creationism and their views of Genesis is the only perspective many listeners are ever exposed to.

I personally think that is a troubling trend for a number of reasons which is why I wish to offer some reviews of this book. I’ll note three areas of concern,

First, the mishandling of Scripture on the part of RTB apologists is appalling, especially the book of Genesis and other texts that recount the creation event. I will demonstrate this as I move through my series. Suffice it to say, RTB and their associates are essentially training a generation of apologists in sloppy exegesis that takes passages out of context and violates any number of simple rules pertaining to hermeneutics. Ultimately, that diminishes the authority of God’s Word, not to mention making those apologists to appear foolish to anyone who actually does know how to handle God’s Word.

Secondly, RTB apologists allow the conclusions of mainstream science to govern their interpretation of Scripture. That is because they adhere to an erroneous hermeneutic about nature being a 67th book of the Bible that is an equal authority with Scripture. Because nature is God’s nature (He created it, after all), it is self-evident and sufficient as a source of truth in the same way Scripture is. Thus, when the consensus of scientific researchers make authoritative claims about the age of the universe or the formation of the oceans or whatever, if what Scripture states on the matter appears to be at odds with the scientific “truth,” it is Scripture that is often adjusted in order to fit around that so-called truth.

That apologetic talking point of RTB can be inconsistently applied at times. For instance, on the one hand, scientists will dogmatically insist that overwhelming evidence proves no global flood could ever have happened, the view held by the RTB apologists. Yet on the other hand, those same exact scientists will also insist the overwhelming genetic evidence proves modern man share a common evolutionary ancestor with chimpanzees, a view obviously rejected by RTB apologists. Why is the application of their “nature is a 67th book of the Bible” hermeneutic appropriate in the first example about a global flood, but rejected in the second example regarding men and chimps? That clearly comes across as cherry picking what fits your presuppositions and makes the whole idea of “all truth is God’s truth” to be subjected to the whims and fancies of men.

Thirdly, because of that “nature is a 67 book of the Bible” hermeneutic, they believe general, secular science, represents a fairly accurate understanding of events in earth’s historical past. Their commitment to those conclusions often times leaves them no other choice but to accommodate biblical revelation to that misplaced certainty in those so-called scientific authorities. Thus, the plain teaching of Scripture is typically adjusted to account for the “science.” That, however, results in their apologetics manufacturing troubling theology.

One significant illustration of their troubling theology is RTB’s views regarding what they call “soul-less hominids.”  Secular anthropologists have cataloged the remains of a number of man-like creatures that supposedly represent an ancient relation to modern human beings. Hence, according to their research, evolutionary theory is affirmed as true. Ross, and RTB, on the other hand, teach those so-called ape-men are to be understood as extinct, soul-less hominids that predate the creation of Adam and Eve by hundreds of thousands of years if not more. Neanderthals, then, would be one of those extinct soul-less hominids.

However, forensic anthropologists have shown what appears to be a genetic connection between Neanderthals and modern humans. That, in turn, creates a problem for the RTB view of soul-less hominids. Rather than recognizing that Neanderthals are more like an isolated ethnic group of people who went extinct after the dispersion from the events of the flood and the Tower of Babel incident, what young earth creationists believe, they developed a stunning apologetic talking point to explain that data. They basically state that humans and Neanderthals mated and the mating was sinful per Leviticus 18 and the prohibitions against bestiality. Their response, however, creates some terrifically bad theology regarding what the Scriptures teach about the sin of Adam and the imputed righteousness of Christ to all humanity as I document in this article HERE.

I’ll flesh these points out as I move along in my series, but it is those areas of concern where I see a need to address this book.

Overview

Now, just to give a quick overview so as to close out this introductory post. Navigating Genesis is an updated reprint of Ross’s The Genesis Question published in 2001. The book is a study of Genesis 1-11 in 23 chapters. Topics covered,

Chapters 1-2 – Ross’s personal testimony and the reasons why people resist Christian belief because of what Genesis says.
Chapters 3-9 – An overview of the creation week itself.
Chapter 10 – A spiritual perspective on creation from Genesis 2.
Chapter 11- The fall of man from Genesis 3.
Chapter 12 – The Cain and Abel events.
Chapter 13 – The genealogies from Genesis 5-6 and the possible explanations for their long lives.
Chapter 14 – A study on the Nephilim in Genesis 6.
Chapter 15 – The boundaries of God’s wrath and an introduction of the flood events.
Chapters 16-18 – Ross’s defense of a local flood and critique of a global flood.
Chapter 19 – The origins of the nations and races.
Chapters 20-23 – A discussion about higher criticism, “creation science” (in scare quotes), and new criticisms of creation.

Three appendices round out the book.

I have to admit that I was expecting way more from this book than what I found. The only original language work he seems to be familiar with is The Theological Workbook on the OT. He cites it frequently throughout his book for the definition of specific words. I would think if a person was going to insist upon a particular way to read the creation account, he would do much more than cite repeatedly from one lexical source for the background to the OT text.

However, the real let down was how he ignored the apologists and theologians who are young earth creationists. In fact, that was rather surprising. I believe if he would have engaged their arguments in greater depth it would have improved this book tremendously.

The original edition was published in 2001, and in the dozen years between the original and the new, updated version published in 2014, there has been a lot written in defense of the positions of young earth creationism. At least three major creationist apologetic ministries have come to the forefront of this discussion, Creation Ministries International, Answers in Genesis, and ICR.  All of them have published some excellent material in both print and media content providing a sound presentation of creation in 6 ordinary days. For instance Andrew Snelling’s massive two-volume work on the flood, Terry Mortenson’s work on the history of early earth geologists, and Jonathan Sarfati’s detailed critique of Hugh Ross himself and the RTB apologetics, Refuting Compromise.

Yet Ross seems to be oblivious to the existence of any of those works and others like them. Granted, he references some things in the footnotes; but he either never fully interacts with their objections to his position at all, or does so in a shallow fashion. And the objections to his apologetics is rather solid. I am not talking about simple, “Oh, we could look at creation this way” kind of arguments. Sarfati’s book, Refuting Compromise, is a devastating rebuttal to the RTB apologetic. Other than providing a general citation of the book, he doesn’t even attempt to offer anything close to a refutation to any of his arguments.

My desire with my reviews is not to needlessly bash Hugh Ross and RTB. I don’t question his salvation, or that of his co-workers at his ministry. I do, however, wish to raise alarms to what I see is an a-biblical approach to defending the Christian faith and the creation account. I maintain that the secular, deep time interpretations of earth’s history can never be synced with what Scripture tells us about creation. They are two entirely different worldviews at odds with each other. Ross’s apologetic that attempts to marry them ultimately has a  deleterious impact upon the Christian faith and evangelism. The RTB apologetic does much greater harm for the Church that Ross and his surrogates believe, and Christians should be warned away from it. That is what I hope to demonstrate with my reviews.

Jack Chick Goes to the Giant Drive-In Movie Screen In the Sky

lifeJack Chick has died.

The Independent Baptist cartoonist who created hundreds of amusingly bizarre Fundamentalist witnessing tracts and comic books. Such classics as The Death Cookie, Reverend Wonderful, Doom Town, and the Crusaders and Alberto comics.

As strangely entertaining as his tracts and comics were, they were written primarily to attack the bugbears shaping the hysterical, psycho-Fundamentalist worldview. They attacked contemporary Christian music, modern Bible versions, Dungeons and Dragons, Halloween, and of course the largest subject of his attention, Roman Catholicism. Chick blamed Roman Catholicism for every major ill the world has ever known, from the emergence of Islam, all the major historical wars, both secular and religious, and even the Holocaust.

vaticanOddly, some of his tracts were a bit prescient when it came to addressing issues within the church and culture. For instance, Reverend Wonderful, published in 1982, tells the story of a big Christian celebrity, conference speaking minister with the multiple degrees and the fawning fans going to judgment for his ecumenism. And Doom Town, published in 1991, with the raging flamboyant, S&M clad sodomites demanding their rights against a debonair Lot who looks a like Ricardo Montalban from Sombrero.

I first encountered Jack Chick comics when I was helping my dad do electric work. He had been called out to a trailer park to re-wire a window air conditioner that kept tripping a breaker. While he fiddled with the wiring, in between fetching him tools from the truck, I nosed around the living room. On the coffee table was a pile of Chick Comics. One of them was about the rapture and featured a screaming nurse running out of the nursery at a hospital shouting something like, “Doctor! All the babies are GONE!” As a kid who attended a squishy, compromised Methodist church, it freaked me out. Equally disturbing, looking back now upon that moment, were the collection of Playboy magazines sitting on another table nearby.

It wasn’t until the Lord was pleased to save me during my freshman year in college that I began to warm up to the messages of Chick tracts. A number of my new Christian acquaintances loved handing them out, even leaving them in the restrooms, and other public locations around campus. Still, I remained a bit ambivalent to using Chick’s tracts, primarily because of those folks I knew who used them.

The Chick tract users I encountered had staggeringly awkward interpersonal skills.  A particular Chick aficionado I knew in college was a “non-traditional” student who was in his mid to late 20s and lived down the hall from me in the freshman dorm. He had stacks of Chick tracts and comics in his room he handed out all the time. However, he was notorious for getting into angry shouting matches and the occasional fisticuffs with other students. Another guy I would see around handing out Chick tracts always wore his mall security uniform, even to church on Sunday. He had a fixation with spiritual warfare and fancied himself to be a Bob Larson-style demon hunter.

Even the world had a cultic fascination with Chick tracts given the many knock-off parody versions they produced, and one group of folks even made some live-action movies of their favorite Chick potboilers, for example, this version of Dark Dungeons, Chick’s anti-Dungeons and Dragons tract.

eatenRegrettably, Chick brought much more unnecessary scorn and ridicule upon the Christian faith than he did genuine converts with his tracts. A lot of that had to do with the fact that he was an odd, paranoid recluse who holed himself up at his Boyle Heights residence away from the public. Christianity Today ran their obit of him yesterday after the news broke of his death. They ran this picture from 2007 with the article:

chicktracksAssuming that is him, and the fellow looks similar to other elusive, Bigfoot like photos I’ve seen of the guy, you have to wonder what’s going on with a hyper-fundamentalist KJV onlyist with crazy old hippie hair. A person who willingly cloisters himself away from the world cannot be considered a reputable minister of the Lord.

[UPDATE: An astute reader pointed out that the long haired fellow in the picture is not Jack Chick at all, but author Robert Fowler, who wrote a book entitled, The World of Jack Chick that I need to put on my wish list now. Chick Tract ministries released a statement about Chick’s death and has a more recent picture of him. He was just a paranoid recluse, not a long-haired hippie paranoid recluse].

Conspiracy theories is the one truly disturbing element that shaped Chick’s worldview that was illustrated in his tracts. He was heavily influence by John Todd, a bizarre man who claimed he had been born into a witchcraft family and had risen to the ranks as a satanic priest. According to his wiki page, he was criminally investigated for having sex with under-aged girls in 1976. After his release from prison, he began making the circuit around fundamentalist churches telling his conspiracy stores about the Illuminati and satanic take overs of the world. Chick ate the stuff up and drew a number of tracts around his claims like the Dark Dungeons tract mentioned above and the Angel of Light comic.

Todd disappeared a for few years in 1979 when his stories came under scrutiny. He was later arrested in 1987 for the rape of a college graduate and molesting two girls at a karate school where he worked. He died in a mental institution in 2007.

A lot of Chick’s material arose from the insanity of conspiracy cranks who later were exposed as frauds. Along with Todd was a woman named Rebecca Brown who told elaborate tales of spiritual warfare that she alleged came from a woman named Elaine who had been a satanic high priestess in the same coven where Mike Warnke was said to have been. Warnke was never in a satanic coven. And of course there was also Alberto Rivera, the “ex-Jesuit Priest,” who gave Chick the bulk of his anti-Catholic conspiracies he presented in his tracts.

But in addition to being guided by spiritual con-artists (which should make you wonder about Chick’s discernment), it is the theology advocated in his work that is probably the most disastrous. Chick promoted the typical man-centered, fundamentalist Gospel in his tracts and comics. Salvation was never a work solely done in the hearts of rebellious sinners by the divine act of a gracious God, but it was a product of “decisional” regeneration on the part of the person making the “right choice” about Jesus just in the nick of time before he died. In one theologically terrible tract entitled Set Free, Chick presents the heretical ransom view of the atonement that makes Christ’s death a ransom paid to the devil in order to set hapless, otherwise innocent people, free from diabolical clutches.

While I can admit there is a unique Americana that exists with his tracts and cartoons and the cult following they have produced over the last 40 plus years or more, they represent a troubling corner of evangelicalism where a deformed Christianity has spawned that is energized by conspiracy hokum and historical revisionism. That generation of Christians who have fed upon Chick’s twisted work, if they are even saved to begin with, are biblically anemic and have no genuine discernment to fight off real, soul destroying error.

Chick is someone who should be warned against. I put him in the same category as Beth Moore, Benny Hinn, and Bart Ehrman.

Probably the best overview of his life and work is found at LA Magazine who did a big story on him in 2003 but have reworked it and republished it this week after his death.

Check it out HERE

David Daniels, his assistant, gives a eulogy for Chick in this video.

Jesus and Taxes

jesusconstitutionTime Traveling Kenny Loggins wants you to read this oversized document

I wanted to offer up a comment or two regarding a couple of articles from the Christian Libertarian Institute blog that an acquaintance passed along to me.

Taxation is Theft. Yes, Really

and

Taxation is Theft. (The Rest of the Story)

The articles are Jamin Hubner’s clumsy, hamfisted presentation for the notion that government taxation is theft and Jesus would never, ever approve of it.

Long time readers of my blog may recognize the name, Jamin Hubner. I tangled with Jamin a few years ago when he was flirting with Biologos-like ideas regarding the book of Genesis and what it tells us about creation. Those articles can be found HERE for those interested. He used to swirl about in my orbit of theological associates, blogging occasionally for James White and Alpha and Omega Ministries, as well as maintaining his own personal blog and doing a bit of podcasting.

His growing notoriety at the time, coupled with a sloppy handling of theological subjects, brought him under the scrutiny of additional critics other than myself and he eventually retreated from the internet blogging world. Since then, he started teaching at John Witherspoon College, received a doctorate from South Africa University (where, ironically, Ergun Caner received his), has become a shill for so-called feminist evangelicals, even being scheduled to speak at one of their navel gazing mugs and muffins conferences next year, and now quotes N.T. Wright liberally.

Somewhere along the line with all of that, he also started dabbling in economic theory and libertarian political philosophy and here we are with these two articles.

His first article quotes a bunch of academics on economics and dismisses any evangelical who cites Romans 13 as teaching that Paul taught taxation was entirely legit and Christians are required to pay taxes. Rather than even addressing what Paul argued in Romans 13, Jamin says he is gonna take it back to what Jesus actually said on the matter from the Gospels. That approach makes me wonder what he thinks about Paul. Seeing that Jesus inspired Paul to write Romans, what he wrote in chapter 13 about Christians and government and taxes would be Jesus’s thoughts on the matter, but oh well.

The second article is an attempt to explain why Jesus believed taxation is theft. According to Jamin, Jesus couldn’t just come out and condemn Roman taxation as theft because He and His disciples would be killed by the authorities. It is similar to how Jesus never came out and condemned slavery, because to do so was counter-cultural and would have the government powers putting a stop to Christianity before it could even get started.

He writes,

Naturally, Jesus’ life and teaching caused listeners to wonder if paying taxes was really necessary (Mt 22:15-22; Lk 20:19-26). Being a good Jew, taxation for him—especially enforced by the secular empire—was theft. But, to go out in the streets and simply decree “taxation is theft, so don’t do it,” would mean immediate death—just as declaring “slavery is wrong” would mean the collapse of the entire ancient economy, with nearly 20% of the populous being slaves. So he never acknowledged the money as being stolen property (i.e., “give unto Caesar what is yours”), as that would have (a) openly legitimized theft and (b) fanned yet more fire for the flames of violent revolution. But he had to fulfill many other conditions in this tight box: (a) don’t leave people thinking Caesar/the state is Lord, since he’s not; (b) diminish the empire and its importance; (b) say this without getting crushed; (c) don’t cause anyone else to get crushed. Good heavens, only God could pull this off!

He then cites and applies a Bible verse out of context, and closes with a friendly reminder that everyone pays taxes because they have no other choice, so don’t stupidly take on the IRS.

Oh boy. Where to begin.

Let me zero in on the key phrase in the title of these two posts: Taxation is theft. The word theft means “to steal.” Stealing is a violation of God’s law; it’s number 8 in the Ten Commandments. If Jesus is God and the Angel of YHWH who brought Israel out of Egypt (Exodus 15:19-20; Judges 2:1-5), I would think that He would be familiar with the 10 Commandments.

So, if He believed taxation is theft, then He believes taxation is a violation of God’s law. If we take Jamin’s view, what he is suggesting is that Jesus basically told the Jews to tolerate, and participate in, the violation of the 10 Commandments by begrudgingly paying taxes to the Roman authorities because they had no choice but to. It would be like Him telling the Jews it is alright to violate the Sabbath, commit adultery, or murder, because you really have no choice and any resistance would bring the Romans in to crush everybody.

reganNothing says lower taxes like Ronald Reagan shooting a gun from the back of a velociraptor

But let’s expand that thinking. If it is true Jesus believes taxation is theft, then any Christian who works for the IRS, or the local county tax offices, or runs a financial business that specializes in helping people with their taxes, like H&R Block, is in violation of the 8th Commandment. The Christians are unlawfully aiding in the stealing from their fellow citizens and the financial folks are helping their fellow citizens prevent the unlawful theft of their money.

Now, let’s move to the Bible and see a couple of significant examples of divinely ordained taxation.

First, during the time of the theocratic kingdom of Israel, the people were required to give a number of tithes from their personal property to the Lord. See for example Leviticus 27:30-33, Numbers 18:21ff., and Deuteronomy 14:18-29. The tithe was a divinely ordained system of taxation. Its primary purpose was to maintain the state government, which was overseen by a Levitical administration. They were in essence the government that ran the religious duties of Israel’s theocratic kingdom. Because they did not have an inheritance of their own, the other tribes supported them financially.

Second, coming to 1 Samuel 8, near the end of the time of the judges, Israel demanded a king like all the other nations. God grants their request, but institutes a number of taxes that would be required of the people to fund the new kingly administration, 1 Samuel 8:10-18.

If taxation is theft as Jamin and his Christian libertarian pals suggest, then God essentially set up a system of tithes that violate the 8th Commandment. Moreover, when Israel demanded a king, God caused them to sin by forcing them to participate in a system of theft that broke His law. Such is patently absurd.

Now, let’s turn our attention back to a NT passage Jamin highlights. He mentions the story of Jesus and Peter paying the temple tax from Matthew 17:24-27. He writes,

Jesus’ trivializing of earthly authorities and embodied ethical life (e.g., free of theft) led again to the question: “Does your teacher not pay the temple tax?” [Peter] said “Yes, he does.” And when he came home, Jesus spoke of it first, asking, “What do you think, Simon? From whom do kings of the earth take toll or tribute? From their children or from others?”  When Peter said, “From others,” Jesus said to him, “Then the children are free. However, so that we do not give offense to them, go to the sea and cast a hook; take the first fish that comes up; and when you open its mouth, you will find a coin; take that and give it to them for you and me.”

It goes without saying that this is a lot different than the popular, naïve mantra of “just pay your taxes, it’s the law; Romans 13.” And Jesus’ response is not anything close to contemporary justifications of taxation. The very fact that it was and remained a controversial talking point indicates the complex nature of the situation. What does seem clear is that Jesus was rolling his eyes the whole time; “Yeah, like they’re in a position to demand people’s possessions. Sigh, whatever. Just find a coin and give it to them.”

Maybe I’m mistaken, but Jamin seems to be thinking that Jesus is addressing non-Jewish, secular governmental authorities, such as the Romans. But the question about the temple tax again comes from the OT. Jewish men over the age of 20 were required to pay a sanctuary/temple tax on an annual basis. Exodus 30:13-14 reads,

13 This is what everyone who is numbered shall give: half a shekel according to the shekel of the sanctuary (the shekel is twenty gerahs), half a shekel as a contribution to the LORD.
 14 Everyone who is numbered, from twenty years old and over, shall give the contribution to the LORD.

That same tax is mentioned in 2 Chronicles 24:4-10 when king Joash decided to restore the house of the LORD. Described as a levy that had been fixed by Moses (vs.6), the tax was important to reinstate because the previous wicked queen, Athaliah, had raided the Levitical coffers and they had no funds to maintain the sanctuary.

Jesus’s response to Peter regarding the question of paying the temple tax is a Messianic affirmation, not a repudiation of paying taxes. He is God’s son. As the Son of the King whose temple it is, He is not required to pay the temple tax. But so that there is no offense and the law is upheld, he had Peter pay it. Nothing in Christ’s words to Peter suggests He believes taxation is theft or that he is rolling His eyes at the request of a temple tax.

While there is no where in Scripture when Jesus condemned taxation as theft, I think we could all agree that a case can be made that taxes can be unfair and excessively burdensome.

I live in California. Taxes, fines, and levies are placed on nearly everything the state government can get their greedy little hands on. A lot of that tax money is squandered on paying out golden parachute pensions and other retirement benefits for state employees, not to mention ridiculous programs like the green initiative nonsense.

However, the unfair and incompetent mismanagement of tax funds does not mean taxation is theft. Taxes are just a normal and necessary part of maintaining a functioning society. I know for myself, I do not have the skill set to be a fire fighter or a police officer or even a road construction guy. All of those duties are important to having livable townships. Paying for those goods and services are where taxes come into play. And while I may agree that many of those jobs could be given to the private sector, they still cost money to fund. You can call it taxation ,or paying a fee, but they still need to be paid for. I mean, the fire fighter needs to feed his family and pay off a mortgage just like I do.

Honestly, these articles are a tad worrisome. All I know is that Kent Hovind often argued in the same fashion that Jamin has. The feds wouldn’t let Dr. Dino get away thinking taxation is theft. I can tell you right now they won’t let Jamin, either.

Talking Halloween and Christians

booAndy Olson of Echo Zoe radio contacted me last week and wondered if I would be willing to visit with him for his monthly podcast. I said, “sure, would love to,” and when we got to exchanging messages about a particular topic, the subject of Halloween came up. We quickly discovered we had similar experiences growing up as Fundy Christians and being told Halloween was satanic and will steal your soul (if you weren’t murdered first in a ritual killing).

So this being October, and knowing Christian parents are probably struggling in their hearts about whether or not they should do something Trick or Treaty with the kids (and at the great risk of receiving a severe wedgie from some of my discernment blogging acquaintances), we landed on that subject. We spent about an hour discussing our take on Halloween. We talk about the Jack Chick Halloween menace worldview, the fact that Halloween marks the beginning of the Reformation, and how folks can actually benefit spiritually from Halloween without losing their soul to the roving covens of black hooded warlocks seeking out blonde virgins to sacrifice.

Give it a listen; and like I always so, listen at 1.5x speed because we sound much more smarterer.

On Halloween

Gleanings from Judges [12]

ammonitesJephthah and the Ammonites – Judges 10-11

The entire book of Judges is a record of man’s fickle unfaithfulness, yet a testimony to God’s steadfast faithfulness. He will not let His people go. He will certainly chastise them in judgment, but He won’t let them out of the covenant He made with them. He is faithful to uphold his promise of judgment when they disobey, drawing them back to covenant faithfulness.

Coming to Judges 10, the chapter opens with a description of a 40 year peace in the land of Israel. It followed after Abimelech died and Gideon had beaten the Midianites. For almost half a century, the country was quiet.

Two minor judges are mentioned in the opening verses. First is Tola, who judged Israel 23 years. After his death, another man by the name of Jair, judged for another 22 years. The text doesn’t tell us who they saved Israel from, or if there was even a foreign enemy to be dealt with. It could be that these men delivered Israel in the sense that they helped the tribes recoup their loses after the Midianite threat had been eradicated and Abimelech’s disastrous fake reign. Furthermore, they could have served concurrently with each other or had overlapping judgeships.

The Background

Whatever the case, however, Israel’s period of rest allowed the people’s heart to return to serving the false gods. Verse 6 names a few they followed: the Baals, the Ashtaroth, the gods of Aram, the gods of Sidon, the gods of Moab, the gods of the sons of Ammon, and the gods of the Philistines.

In response to their spiritual rebellion, God sold the people to the Ammonites and the Philistines. The text says God’s anger burned hot against Israel and it was the LORD giving the people over to their enemies. The giving over was all God’s doing in order to fulfill his covenant promises detailed in Deuteronomy 28.

It is also important to note that there are more than likely two oppressions going on simultaneously. The Ammonites on the east side of Israel and the Philistines on the west side of Israel. Hence, the events between Jephthah and the Ammonites that are recorded in 10-12 and those happening to Samson and the Philistines in 13-16. In essence, God is squeezing Israel on both sides that led to them being delivered.

The specific oppression of the Ammonites lasted 18 years. Who were these Ammonites? Recall the story of Lot and his daughters in Genesis 19. After the destruction of Sodom and Gomorrah, Lot lived with his two surviving children in a cave. In an act of sin, the daughters got Lot drunk and each one slept with him in turn. The result of the unions were his daughters delivering Moab and Ammon. Throughout Israel’s history, the descendants of both Moab and Ammon were a problem. In this instance, here in Judges 10 and 11, they were raised up to be the oppressors of the Trans-Jordan tribes for 18 years.

Change of Heart

Eventually, God gets Israel’s attention and the oppressed tribes are broken, confessing their sin. Notice their confession:

We’ve sinned. They stated what their sin was, a forsaking of God and pursuing the Baals. However, note God’s response in Judges 10:13-14, “I’m will no longer deliver you, go and cry after those false gods you now worship rather than me.”

Do whatever seems best. In response to God’s refusal to deliver, the people tell Him to do with them whatever He thinks is best. They accept their punishment and trust God’s dealings with them.

Put away the foreign gods. Continuing in their acts of genuine repentance, they then put away their idols and false religion and returned to serving the LORD.

The Coming of Jephthah

When the Ammonites gathered to do battle with the sons of Gilead, they needed someone to lead them. They turned to a man with a shady background – Jephthah. He was a son of a harlot, so Gilead’s true sons had run him off.

During his exile in the land of Tob, he had joined up with individuals described as “worthless fellows” (Judges 11:3). Those men gathered themselves around Jephthah and they became marauding pirate types who successfully raided the Ammonites.

The men of Gilead, knowing about his feats, called him back to his people to be their leader. Jephthah wonders why they would do such a thing calling him back. He even asks if they would be willing to make him their main kinglike figure. Eventually he makes them swear an oath to him and agrees to lead them.

He begins with negotiations with the Ammonites and does so with an appeal to history. What is interesting about his speech to them is that he doesn’t doubt that history he recounts and assumes the Ammonites are also familiar with what he is telling them.

First he asks them what it was Israel did to them that they would come and occupy their land. He reminds them further that they did not occupy the land where Israel lived, but that the Amorites had dwelt there. He then tells them they needed to be content with with the area their false god, Chemosh, had allegedly given them.

Rather than heeding his words to them, the Ammonites disregarded them and prepared to make terrible war against Israel. The Spirit of the LORD then came upon Jephthah and he lead Israel in battle against them and subdued them.

Knowing Stuff

gijoe

I wanted to offer some comments on an article over at Frank Turek’s Cross Examined website,

An Open Question to Presuppositionalists

There have already been some solid responses since it has been posted. James White gave his thoughts during his October 4th, 2016 Dividing Line podcast and Steve Hays posted one of his withering beat down blog articlesI imagine there may be other rebuttals forthcoming.

The author presents a lot things I’d love to touch on, but with my purposes here, I wanted to focus in upon some specific comments he makes regarding methodology, particularly how we know what we know as presuppositionalists. I believe he provides some important thoughts to ponder.

I consider myself a presuppositionalist in my apologetic methodology, though I wouldn’t necessarily be a pure and clean Van Tillian drawn from the veins of covenant theology. I think Van Til did much to set apologetic methodology aright, especially wresting apologetics from the hands of Roman Catholics and Arminians, and anchoring it in a historical, apostolic, and biblical approach. I know for myself, presuppositionalism caused my evangelistic efforts engaging unbelief to leap light years beyond the canned soul-winning presentations I was taught in my Baptist churches growing up.

I have written quite a bit on the topic of apologetics over the years (articles are cataloged HERE for folk’s convenience). Though the bulk of those articles are critical of classic apologetics, I do have my criticisms of the current expressions of presuppositionalism as it is presented online and in social media contexts. Mainly, I am concerned that presuppositional practitioners complicate the terminology and methods to the point no one knows what it is the person is talking about. That presents a real problem. When someone like myself wishes to teach others to think presuppositionally regarding apologetics, I want to make sure folks are not confused as to what it is I am telling them.

I think because presuppositionalists can speak in cryptic terms, the author of the article interacts with what really amounts to a strawman version of presuppositionalism, and that makes it difficult to respond to his phantom. However, I believe his article is none the less useful, because those misconceptions he presents are founded upon what could possibly be an inadequate definition given to him by presuppositionalists. If he received bad information from folks, we cannot fault him when he attempts to offer a rebuttal with bad arguments.

Here is where we can seize the opportunity to sharpen our apologetics. There are two misconceptions he notes in his article I think are important to consider and correct. That in turn will help presuppositionalists to articulate clearly their theology.

The first one concerns what he falsely believes presuppositionalists teach regarding human reasoning. He writes,

… It is my understanding that according to the Calvinistic interpretation of Scripture, human reasoning is so totally depraved that any effort to understand or believe the Gospel is futile. Unless and until the Holy Spirit regenerates the reprobate mind, a person will continue to suppress the truth regardless of how well it is articulated or argued for.

That is not at all what Calvinism believes about total depravity. Total depravity doesn’t mean utter depravity, in that human beings are as wicked as they could be and totter on the brink of savagery and descending into a Lord of the Flies existence (even though that is a real possibility). The idea of total depravity is that sin effects the whole person, the entirety of his being. Every aspect of who a person is, is tainted by sin.

That would certainly include man’s reasoning ability. In fact, Ephesians 4:18 states that men’s minds have a darkened understanding. In other words, their reasoning abilities are clouded, or are the opposite of illumination.

So how does that play out in their ability to reason? Presuppositionalists are not saying men have no ability to reason, nor that they can never understand the Gospel message. What they are saying is that the sinner’s so-called reasoning is at its core hostile to the faith, and will more than likely just lead him to make even more excuses why he should continue rejecting Christ. Thus, a sinners reasoning will never save him, and thus he cannot be reasoned to saving faith.

The author seems to conflate the idea of reasoning with the idea of believing or making a commitment that is efficacious for an unbeliever’s salvation. Certainly a sinner can understand the content of the Gospel. I have personally spoken with a number of hostile unbelievers about the proofs of the Resurrection, the claims of Jesus, and argued passionately for the existence of God. Those unbelievers clearly understood what I was saying, a few acknowledging I made a good case. However, they reasoned in themselves that I was an idiot and rejected my compelling presentations none the less.

While I personally am willing to entertain the unbeliever’s demand for “proof” or answers to his or her hard questions about the Bible, some in my presuppositional circles are not. They are of the conviction that doing so is putting God on trial and conceding to the unbeliever’s rebellion against God.

I, on the other hand, recognize what the Bible tells me about an unbeliever: his reasoning is darkened, and unless God regenerates his heart, he will only remain in that darkness. That doesn’t mean, however, that I never speak with him about the Gospel, answer his pointed questions, or present so-called evidence when asked for it. A lot of the time, the presentation of evidence merely shuts the mouth of the scoffer and exposes his intellectual folly.

carlSure. Whatever, Carl

Secondly is the author’s understanding regarding how it is that we know the interpretation of Scripture. In an imaginary conversation he makes up between a classical apologist and a presuppositional apologist, he states the following,

“In other words, you can REASON from the text. The words of Scripture clearly do not interpret themselves. If that were the case we wouldn’t be having this discussion. You and I disagree about what the implications of Scripture are and therefore you have to attempt to demonstrate that your view is true by engaging in reasoning. Didn’t you say that our reasoning capabilities are fallen and that we should never place human reasoning above God’s Divine Revelation?”

Here is where the author touches upon one of the cornerstone, foundational differences between classicists and presuppositionalists. That being, what is it exactly that informs our understanding of Scripture?

Now a person may ask, “How exactly is that foundational?” It has to do with with ultimate authorities that shape our ability to know. Anyone who gets into a discussion about epistemology and Scriptural authority with a classical apologist will eventually reach the place where the classicist will insist that no one can really know what the Bible is saying or interpret it correctly WITHOUT first having a philosophical grid in place through which we filter our reading of Scripture.

For instance, Richard Howe, at Southern Evangelical Seminary, says that he presents a three-fold formula that builds a cumulative case for the Christian faith. He begins with philosophy that defines our “reality,” that moves him to demonstrating general theism, and then eventually the viability of Christianity. The authority of Scripture in defining Christianity is essentially the caboose in his apologetic train. When I have interacted with graduates of SES, my most notable foil being Adam Tucker (folks can find my articles addressing our exchanges HERE), that is the exact same model they all employ.

The same basic approach is utilized when interpreting Scripture. For the classicist, the proper interpretation of Scripture cannot be determined by just reading the Bible. A system of hermeneutics must be established first before anyone can read the Bible properly. So, for the classicist, it is naive, and a bit dishonest, for the presuppositionalist to say he starts his apologetics with Scripture. The presuppositionalist has smuggled in an outside authority, that being his system of hermeneutics, which is the true ultimate starting point, not the Bible. That system is ultimately determined by philosophy that interprets reality. Again, see this article I wrote responding to this very argument made by Richard Howe against presuppositionalism.

The presuppositionalist, however, understands that God desires to communicate with mankind and has thus created man with the ability to communicate not only with Himself, but also other men. In other words, the hermeneutics needed to read and understand Scripture is hardwired in men.

Think about it: people don’t need to learn a separate, philosophical grid first before they can read cook books, or instructions for changing engine oil, or The Lord of the Rings trilogy. As long as they have the basics of reading, a person can instantaneously determine if what it is he is reading is history, or poetry, or a story, or even a recipe to make a pie. The same is with Bible. A Christian doesn’t need to have memorized Aristotle’s philosophy for reality to understand Scripture, especially the Gospel. It is how God made man to communicate.

Presuppositionalists need to recognize the importance of clarifying these two truths. If they are concise in explaining what is meant by the totality of human depravity and its impact upon man’s basic reasoning, along with how it is we know about God and what it means when we say Scripture is our starting point, they will be making great strides in helping Christians understand how to defend the faith in a biblical fashion.

Evangelical White Lies – A Book Review

whitelies

Evangelical White Lies
Mike Abendroth
146 p., paperback

Pastor Mike Abendroth has graced the Christian church with a new book. When he is not hosting his No Compromise podcast or preaching at Bethlehem Bible Church, he is writing and publishing insightful, cutting edge material addressing sloppy thinking among Red State, Evangelical Christians.

Unlike his previous book, Sexual Fidelity – (see my review HERE), that focused on a singular topic, biblical sexuality and ethics, Evangelical White Lies addresses and corrects a variety of shibboleths that have become pronounced among evangelical Christians because of bad teaching, or bad doctrine, or just an overall mishandling of Scripture. For example, the common myth that missionaries must suffer and live in near poverty conditions to really be missionaries, and the idea of making the OT stories simply illustrations of moral character in a flannel board fashion.

Other topics include the claim that Christians must tithe per Malachi 3:8 (I heard a sermon at least once a year about that when I attended an SBC church), addressing the imbalance of Christians focusing too much on marriage and family, and the silliness of churches pursuing environmentalism and so-called “green” initiatives.

Overall, there are 12 chapters covering specific white lies that have wormed their way in among the pews of American, evangelical Christians. Each subject is written in Pastor Mike’s signature NoCo style that is fun and conversational for the average believer. They are also mercifully short; a person can probably read this book through in a couple of sittings.

The chapters are,

  • You can live the Gospel
  • You just need more time
  • Christians must tithe
  • Missionaries must suffer to stay humble
  • Work is only a means to an end (work is strictly secular)
  • The focus is on the family
  • Bodily exercise does not profit
  • Green is God’s favorite color
  • God fits in a box
  • The weather is a thing
  • God speaks outside His revealed word
  • Bible characters make perfect models for morality

In a way, Evangelical White Lies is a specially unique apologetic work. Rather than presenting a defense of the historicity of Jesus, or the reliability of the Bible, or arguments against the existence of God from atheist critics like the standard apologetic books, Pastor Abendroth presents an offensive against the terrible application of bad teaching that has become the default conviction of many in evangelical circles. Instead of training Christians to defend the faith against hostility, he is training them to defend the faith against stupidity.

As I understand it, Pastor Abendroth has a list of several other evangelical white lies he can expose. I would certainly encourage him to pursue cataloging them with the hope that he will publish them in an ongoing series of books. They would be a fabulous blessing for the Church.

Beth Moore Loves Her Some Evangelical White Lies!

beth