Wednesday, November 18, 2009

John Frame's Festschrift


Speaking the Truth in Love: the Theology of John M. Frame is now available. I must say that it is a true blessing to participate by contributing a chapter to this volume. My contribution is titled, "John Frame's Theology in the Present Cultural Context."

One reason why my involvement is meaningful to me is because there are three people who have influenced my ministry the most over the past 25 years. When I mention the three names, many people are stunned that one of them is John Frame. The other two, by the way, are the late Jack Miller, and Henry Krabbendam.

Now here's a real secret that I rarely tell anyone. Behind all three of these men is yet another figure who has influenced me even more than these; in fact, he did much to guide the thought of the three men mentioned above. He is Cornelius Van Til.

But focusing on the three, I would say that it is John Frame who did the most to fashion the way in which I think about ministry (Dr. Miller helped to put in me a zeal for evangelism and missions, and Dr. Krabbendam shaped the way in which I look for truth in the Bible).

John is not even aware of how he influenced me (of course, if he reads my chapter he may get a hint). It all started when he walked up to a group of us students who were sitting around getting to know each other, and asked, "What are you guys talking about?" One fellow responded, "We're discussing Cornelius Van Til." John said, "Everything Van Til ever said can be boiled down to two ideas: that all men undeniably know the truth. And that the only way to approach them is to pull the rug right out from under them."

I'll never forget that moment. Suddenly, everything came together. Graduating college with a music degree, and with no formal training in theology, made me quite nervous about attending Westminster Theological Seminary. It all seemed so overwhelming. But John's words were the perfect "hat rack" if you will, that helped me to place everything I was being exposed to, and rapidly, in its place.

From that moment, I began to see everything in my theological education in the light of his distilled interpretation of Van Til. Once I graduated seminary, and to this day, everything I have ever done in the ministry--whether preaching, teaching, evangelism, radio broadcasting, and writing, has been guided by the facts that all men know the truth but suppress it in their hearts (Romans 1).

Is it not amazing how just a few words meant in passing can have a lifelong impact on the life of a student? So it is with this recollection that I am more than glad to have participated in the "Fest."


Traditional Wordview Categories

“A biblical Worldview is seeing the world the way God sees it. It is thinking God’s thoughts after him in all areas of life” (Earth Restored, 2002).


As those of you who have read my book Earth Restored know, I do not typically treat the topic of Christian worldview according to philosophical categories, as is typically the case in many Christian colleges. However, this is not to say that we cannot learn a great deal from the traditional categories. The following offers a list of the traditional worldview elements and their implications for our cultural debate, much of which follows the thinking of Ronald Nash.

Epistemology
: “The branch of philosophy that studies the nature of knowledge, its presuppositions and foundations, and its extent and validity.”

Secular humanism claims that the basis for knowledge is autonomous reason.

The God Christians believe in is the God who has revealed himself in the Old and New Testaments. The Christian faith is a revealed-religion. Ronald Nash says that Christianity’s “touchstone proposition” is that “Human beings and the universe in which they reside are the creation of the God who has revealed himself in Scripture. The basic presupposition of the Christian world-view is the existence of the God revealed in Scripture.” The foundation of the Christian faith is the authority than the living God, not human speculation and vain autonomy. Carl Henry correctly observes, “All merely human affirmations about God curl into a question mark. We cannot spy out the secrets of God by obtrusive curiosity. …Apart from God's initiative, God’s act, God's revelation, no confident basis exists for God-talk. …If we are authorized to say anything at all about the living God, it is only because of God's initiative and revelation. God's disclosure alone can transform our wavering questions concerning ultimate reality into confident exclamations!”

Metaphysics: “The branch of philosophy that examines the nature of reality, including the relationship between mind and matter, substance and attribute, fact and value.”

Metaphysics deals with ultimate reality and questions such as “What is the meaning of existence? Of life? Is the existence of the universe a brute fact? Is the universe eternal? Secularism holds there is no ultimate meaning to life beyond the grave.

The Christian response is that God did create the whole universe out of nothing (ex nihilo) and that God is a free and eternal being. Christians affirm that the universe and all that is in it finds its ultimate meaning and purpose in God.

Secular humanism posits evolutionary theory or the earth as a “brute fact.”

Christian worldview understands that God is and that He is the source of all existence. The Westminster Confession of Faith states, “There is but one only, living, and true God, who is infinite in being and perfection, a most pure spirit, invisible, without body, parts, or passions; immutable, immense, eternal, incomprehensible, almighty, most wise, most holy, most free, most absolute; working all things according to the counsel of His own immutable and most righteous will, for His own glory most loving gracious, merciful, long-suffering, abundant in goodness and truth, forgiving iniquity, transgression, and sin; the rewarder of them that diligently seek Him; and withal, most just, and terrible in His judgments, hating all sin, and who will by no means clear the guilty.”

Anthropology: “The scientific study of the origin, the behavior, and the physical, social, and cultural development of humans.”

The Christian worldview should include a number of important beliefs about human beings. “Are human beings free? Are human beings only bodies or material beings? Do they have a soul? What is the soul and how is it related to the body? Is death the end of personal existence?” Humanism says that man is a “cunning animal.” A product of the lower species.

Quoting William J. Abraham, Nash considers what the Christian worldview believes about human beings. Abraham states: “Human beings are made in the image of God, and their fate depends on their relationship with God...and they will be judged in accordance with how they respond to him. This judgment begins now but finally takes place beyond death in a life to come. Christians furthermore offer a diagnosis of what is wrong with the world. Fundamentally, they say our problems are spiritual: we need to be made anew by God. Human beings have misused their freedom; they are in a state of rebellion against God; they are sinners. These conclusions lead to a set of solutions to this ill. As one might expect, the fundamental solution is again spiritual… [I]n Jesus of Nazareth God has intervened to save and remake mankind. Each individual needs to respond to this and to become part of Christ's body, the church, where they are to grow in grace and become more like Christ. This in turn generates a certain vision of the future. In the coming of Jesus, God has inaugurated his kingdom, but it will be consummated at some unspecified time in the future when Christ returns.” Christianity answers the questions of human origin, purpose and destiny from the Bible. It offers a realistic analysis of human suffering and how man’s fallen condition can be restored.

Ethics: “The study of the general nature of morals and of the specific moral choices to be made by a person; moral philosophy.”

Christian ethics addresses the questions posed by Francis Shaeffer, “How then shall we live?” Everyday unbelievers appear to live moral lives. But ethics as a worldview factor is more concerned with the basis of our actions and their relationship to God. Further, Christian ethics asks “Are moral laws the same for all human beings? Is morality totally subjective or is there an objective dimension to moral laws that means their truth is independent of our preferences and desires?” Secular humanism bases moral choice in situational ethics or communal deference. We defer our choice to the well-being of others, saying, “If it doesn’t hurt anyone, it’s OK.”

The Christian worldview claims why and how one “ought” to live; what conduct is permissible or impermissible. Christians claim that it is God’s good, righteous and holy character revealed in his laws, rules and principles that are the ground for our behavior and even our thoughts. The unbeliever, regardless of how ethical he or she may appear, lives by personal preference, autonomous reason, and cultural convention. It is important to note that everyone has a worldview: some foundation for his or her view of things. Not every worldview, however, reflects God’s truth.

Friday, November 13, 2009

Substitutionary Atonement

"We are drifted so far that some 'evangelicals' can call penal substitution divine child abuse."--William Mackenzie, Director, Christian Focus Publications.

See Full Speech at Desiring God

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

The Plight of East African Children

I have written a short piece titled, "The Plight of East African Children in the Light of 2 Kings 2:1-7." It appears on my website, www.roadfromeden.com which you can link to on this site.

The piece interacts with several articles in a major Ugandan newspaper called The New Vision, as well as some statistics relevant to the children of Uganda. I read the newspaper while flying from Entebbe to Amsterdam on my way home to the States.

I freely admit that the article does not do justice to the whole of the problem facing the children of East Africa, but it may offer you a brief bit of insight into a root cause of the problem.

I plan on several more such articles dealing with East African culture and society.

Please read it when you get a chance and feel free to offer some feedback.

Wednesday, November 4, 2009

Have Christians Lost the Culture War on ESPA


The Evangelical Political Scholars Association homepage is this month highlighting my recent presentation at Coral Ridge Presbyterian Church: "Have Christians Lost the Culture War?"

EPSA exists to facilitate a professional network of evangelical scholars interested in exploring the questions that underlie political life. You can share your thoughts on my speech by visiting the ESPA website at http://epsa.tkc.edu/

In case you are interested, above is a rendering of John Locke, a bit of a political thinker himself.