On a lark, as soon as the DFW Reformation Conference kicked off on Friday night, October 28, 2016, I figured I’d see how this new-fangled Facebook Live thing works. It works so well, it killed my phone battery the first night, filled my storage and shut off during the first Saturday morning lecture, but if I recall correctly, I may have gotten all of the second Saturday lecture. I know this is old news, but those of you who were not in attendace will still benefit greatly from Dr. Bill Dennison’s detailed interaction with classical apologetics and philosophers ancient and modern in these three lectures on our most common natural worldviews: Reason, experience, opinion and naturalism.
Lecture 1: “My Mind is Absolute; My Experience is Absolute.”
Lecture 2: “Nature is Absolute.”
Lecture 3: “My Opinion is Absolute.”
Engaging Worldviews: DFW Reformation Conference 2016 | Register Today!
Friday, October 28 and Saturday, October 29 at Mid-Cities Presbyterian Church (OPC)
Join us this year as we engage the worldviews which compete for the position of absolute authority in our lives. Human reason, personal experience, nature itself and subjective opinion all claim supremacy over what we believe.
- Human reason has placed the Christian God and his revelation on trial.
- “Unless I experience something for myself, it cannot be necessarily true for me.”
- If God is removed from the creation, then where do humans turn? By using their reason and experience often they will turn to Nature as their absolute guide in life.
- “That’s just your opinion!” Opinion has become the sign of relativism in our society since everyone’s opinion has equal value.
How do Christians respond to such pervasive subjective authorities surrounding us each day? How do Christians respond to the sovereign status of Nature and its confusing message in our day? In this world of relativism, do Christians have a basis for the truth of their assertions?
Reform your worldview as we commemorate the 499th anniversary of the Protestant Reformation.
Friday 7:00 PM–“My Mind is Absolute; my Experience is Absolute”
Saturday 9:30 AM–“Nature is Absolute”
Saturday 11:00 AM–“My Opinion is Absolute”
Speaker: Dr. William D. Dennison, Ph.D.
Dr. Bill Dennison is an ordained minister in the OPC’s Presbytery of the Southeast, Professor of Interdisciplinary Studies atCovenant College, author of In Defense of the Eschaton: Essays in Reformed Apologetics (Wipf and Stock, 2015), A Christian Approach to Interdisciplinary Studies (Wipf and Stock, 1985) and other books, contributor to still other books, not to mention numerous journal articles.
At that time the Feast of Dedication took place at Jerusalem. It was winter, and Jesus was walking in the temple, hin the colonnade of Solomon. So the Jews gathered around him and said to him, “How long will you keep us in suspense? If you are ithe Christ, jtell us plainly.” Jesus answered them, “I told you, and you do not believe. The works that I do lin my Father’s name bear witness about me, but myou do not believe because you are not among my sheep. My sheep hear my voice, and I know them, and they follow me. I give them eternal life, and pthey will never perish, and no one will snatch them out of my hand. My Father, who has given them to me, is greater than all, and no one is able to snatch them out of tthe Father’s hand. I and the Father are one.” (John 10:22-30)
Jesus Christ is of one substance with the Father but who became a man; he is the Good Shepherd out of whose hands no one may snatch those who believe in him.
1. Insufficiency of Evidence–The miraculous signs of Jesus reveal him as the Son of God and the Messiah; however, though we point to evidence of his divinity, his miracles and the historical fact of his resurrection, and many will refuse to believe in the face of overwhelming evidence because evidences alone are unable to generate the faith sinners need to be born again.
2. Faith Comes from Hearing–Jesus’ sheep hear his voice because they’ve been enabled to hear by the Holy Spirit. Those who never hear it, neither want to, nor are they able to hear his voice.
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“Heart knowledge” of Scripture’s Self-Attesting Evidences Persuades of Its Divine Inspiration and Authority
The following continues a series of excerpts from “An Introduction to the Right Understanding of the Oracles of God,” by the Rev. John Brown of Haddington, as published in his Self-Intepreting Bible (1859 edition).
X. Though the above arguments are sufficient to silence gainsayers, and to produce a rational conviction that the Scriptures are of divine original and authority, it is only the effectual application of them to our mind, conscience, and heart, in their SELF-EVIDENCEING DIVINE LIGHT and POWER, which can produce a cordial and saving persuasion that they are indeed the word of God. But, when thus applied, this word brings along with it such light, such authority, and such sanctifying and comforting power, that there is no shutting our eyes nor hardening our hearts against it; no possibility of continuing stupid and concerned under it: but the whole faculties of our soul are necessarily affected with it, as indeed marked with divine evidence, and attended with almighty power; 1 Thes. 1:5; 2:13; John 6:63.
I am of two opinions regarding Patterns of Evidence: The Exodus by Evangelical filmmaker Timothy Mahoney. A product of his crisis of faith upon learning of the lack of archaeological evidence for the biblical Exodus event, I see Mahoney’s documentary as popularizing the contrarian view of two British scholars regarding the standard chronology of Egypt’s history. I also see it as demonstrating the weakness of what is known as evidential apologetics. On the other hand, there is a place for giving the consensus of skeptical scholarship a run for its money.
That’s exactly what this film tries to do. It was promoted on politically conservative talk shows, like that of my personal favorite, the Roman Catholic Bill Bennett (listen here), and two Jewish conservative pundits are featured in Mahoney’s work: Michael Medved debates a Rabbi who denies the historicity of the Exodus account in the documentary, and Dennis Prager steals the show on a typical Fox News panel lead by Fox personality Gretchen Carlson. Fox religion analyst Father Jonathan Morris, female evangelist Anne Graham Lotz and pop-scholar and humorist Eric Metaxas round out the panel. This panel seems stacked specifically for the purpose of briefing the viewers on the apologetic virtues of challenging the consensus, while admitting the lack of conclusiveness in the alternative view presented. Supportive statements by evidentialist apologist Norman Geisler and Archaeological Study Bible editor Walter Kaiser further embolden the apologetic appeal of the documentary.
John Bimson and David Rohl have been challenging the status quo on the chronology of Egypt for years. Bimson’s work reaches as far back as 1978, when his book Redating the Exodus “proposed that the end of the Middle Bronze Age provides the best matching evidence for the biblical Conquest and that the dates assigned to this period should be substantially revised.” His day job is that of Old Testament Ph.D. Tutor at Trinity College in Bristol, England.
Egyptologist and Author David Rohl’s work is much more recent. His books contain disputed claims that counter the consensus on the chronology of ancient Egypt and Palestine. He’s also produced a TV documentary called Pharaohs and Kings: A Biblical Quest. Much is made of Rohl’s agnosticism, intended to lend credibility to his controversial work.
In his documentary, Timothy Mahoney first of all appeals to the notion that real science looks for patterns of evidence, hence the title, and portrays six stages of Israel’s time in Egypt as the pattern which must be watched for in the Egyptian chronology. If I recall correctly, these stages are Arrival, Multiplication, Slavery, Judgment, Exodus and Conquest (I’m a terrible note-taker!). The consensus view is that Israel resided in Egypt during the era known as the New Kingdom (circa 1550-1069 BC—comprising the 18th-20th Egyptian dynasties). A primary reason for this era being supported by the consensus is the fact that Raamses reigned during this era, and one of the store cities Scripture says the Israelites built is called by his name. “Therefore they set taskmasters over them to afflict them with heavy burdens. They built for Pharaoh store cities, Pithom and Raamses” (Exodus 1:11b). The problem is, this pattern of events in the biblical account of Israel in Egypt has not been uncovered in the New Kingdom excavations.
Bimson and Rohl counter that the Scriptural name for the city is an anachronism because it was the name of the city at the time of the writing of the book of Exodus, rather than the actual name of the city the Israelites in fact built. The later name, they assert, would have been given to help the original readers of Exodus to locate the city. Plausible enough. They also look to impressive findings which date back to the Middle Kingdom (circa 2125-1773 BC). The ancient city of Avaris is chief among these findings. The site where the city of Raamses was excavated, which Scripture states the Israelites built, contains no evidence of Semitic peoples living there. However, the Middle Kingdom city of Avaris was dug up under the New Kingdom city of Raamses. In this lower site, artifacts and structures reflecting Syro-Palestinian culture are found. There is even a tomb which Bimson and Rohl and others suggest may have been the tomb of Joseph for various compelling and dramatic reasons.
Appeal is made to a document called the Ipuwer Papyrus, which contains writings which Egyptologists conclude is referring to the destruction of Memphis during the Old Kingdom, but wishful thinking Bible believers want to believe is an account of the plagues which preceded the Exodus. A number of other similar finds which predate the New Kingdom which most skeptical and believing scholars believe is the legitimate time of the biblical Exodus are pointed to as being consistent with each of the six stages of Israel’s Egyptian residency.
Don’t get me wrong. I do believe the biblical account of Israel’s stay in Egypt is historical. I do believe they were enslaved, that there were plagues which judged the gods of Egypt and that the Israelites indeed engaged in an exodus, a forty year sojourn in the wilderness and the conquest of Canaan. I am simply suspicious of efforts like this to popularize contrarian views which attempt to find positive evidence of every major event in Scripture. While it is true that much evidence consistent with the Old Testament’s historical narratives has been found, not everything has. I am persuaded that what has been found is sufficient to make a legitimate case for the historicity of the Bible in general, and even sufficient enough that we can trust that events like the Exodus truly happened despite the lack of tangible evidence. Such may indeed surface one day, but we must not rush to judgment about every superficial similarity and make more out of the evidence than may legitimately be made. The point is, our faith in the historicity of the Bible should not rest finally on the ground of sufficient archaeological evidence. It should rest on the self-attesting unity of the books of the Bible as an anthology of writings by various authors writing centuries apart from each other, which yet brought together reveal the history of God’s covenantal relationship with and redemption of his chosen people, those who share the faith of their father Abraham, a unity and consistency of which the Holy Spirit bears witness in our hearts (1 Corinthians 2).
To be sure, scholarly consensus deserves to be questioned. That’s what keeps the experts accountable and honest. But I’m not so sure the best means of doing so is by following every contrarian position that comes down the pike just for the sake of having a reason to dispute the status quo of scholarship. Scripture is sufficient to demonstrate its historicity and its inspiration. Evidence is nice, but insufficient and unnecessary. Like scientific theories, interpretations of archaeological evidence are subject to change, and one is wise to not put his faith in the sufficiency of evidence, but rather receive by faith the Scriptures for what they are, the Word of God. This is what the apostle Paul affirms in 1 Thessalonians 2:13 when he writes, “And we also thank God constantly for this, that when you received the word of God, which you heard from us, you accepted it not as the word of men but as what it really is, the word of God, which is at work in you believers.”
The contemporary spirit of the Evangelical movement is to lower the historic bar on the differences between Protestantism and Roman Catholicism. Since the 1994 statement Evangelicals and Catholics Together, things have gone from bad to worse. Enter R. C. Sproul, probably the premier Reformed and Protestant apologist of the 20th and early 21st century to stem the tide, and remind us all that not only are the historic distinctions between Protestantism and Roman Catholicism still there, but many more issues have further complicated the matter. Get informed on all the issues so that you may retain the courage to be Protestant (with apologies to David F. Wells)
In recent years, some evangelical Protestant leaders have signed statements pledging themselves to joint social action with Roman Catholics. Others have refused to participate, declaring that, in their view, the statements went too far, touching on the gospel, which remains a point of disagreement between Protestants and Roman Catholics. Many evangelical Christians have found themselves confused by the different directions taken by their leaders.
In Are We Together? A Protestant Analyzes Roman Catholicism, Dr. R.C. Sproul takes his stand for the cardinal doctrines of Protestantism in opposition to the errors of the Roman Catholic Church. Sproul, a passionate defender of the gospel of justification by grace alone through faith alone in Christ alone, cites the historic statements of the Protestant Reformers and the Roman Catholic authorities, then references modern doctrinal statements to show that the Roman Catholic Church has not altered its official positions. In light of this continuing gap, he writes, efforts by some in the evangelical camp to find common ground with Rome on matters at the heart of the gospel are nothing short of untrue to biblical teaching. In Sproul’s estimation, the Reformation remains relevant.
Are We Together? is a clarion call to evangelicals to stand firm for the gospel, the precious good news of salvation as it is set forth in Scripture alone.
HT: Ligonier Store
I just thought I’d share the video of one of my favorite podcasts, if you’ve got the time.
Reformed Forum is a reformed theology media network, which seeks to serve the church by providing content dedicated to issues in reformed theology. (Link)
The flagship podcast of the Reformed Forum media network is the weekly program, Christ the Center. Hosted by Camden Bucey, a doctoral student at Westminster Theological Seminary in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, who is often joined by a panel of other students, Christ the Center features interviews of authors and theologians, as well as discussions among the panelists themselves. While accessible and engaging, these guys are not afraid of dealing with the technical and academic aspects of Reformed theology, but I know everyone will find something that will benefit them.
The most recent episode posted at the Reformed Forum YouTube channel deals with the issue of “Nature and Scripture”:
In 1946, the faculty of Westminster Theological Seminary published a symposium on the doctrine of Scipture titled The Infallible Word. Cornelius Van Til’s contribution, an essay titled “Nature and Scripture,” is an important work describing the relationship of general and special revelation. In this episode, Dr. K. Scott Oliphint, Professor of Apologetics and Systematic Theology at Westminster, expounds on this essay and connects it to contemporary issues in philosophy and theological methodology. (Link)
Last week on “Renewing Your Mind with R. C. Sproul,” three lectures on Postmodernism were featured which provide introductions to how this contemporary approach to reality affects philosophy, society and Christianity. These were originally delivered at the 2007 Ligonier Ministries conference called “Contending for the Truth.” You can purchase this conference on DVD, CD or mp3 downloads at this link.
I have an unbelieving friend with whom I’ve discussed much about the Christian faith. I admit that, having thoroughly proclaimed the fact of God’s holiness, my friend’s personal sinfulness for which he is accountable to that holy God, and the good news that God’s Son has volunteered to represent sinners like him on the cross so that those who would believe in him would have eternal life, and my friend’s subsequent and persistent resistance of that message in favor of his own relativistic and pluralistic form of non-Christian universalism, I have taken the liberty to go on discussing other matters of “religion and politics,” knowing that many of you would advise against such a practice. I’ve even discussed this point with him as well.
Perhaps I ought to wipe the dust from my feet, but for good or ill, in all the discussions in which we engage on the Bible, occasionally I’ll use the word “interpretation” in a sentence, to which my friend will object in so many words: “You’re not supposed to have to interpret the Bible!” I don’t know if this statement is based on some skeptical school of thought. My Googling has not helped me discover if the current trends in anti-Christian philosophizing and rhetoric, a la Hitchens, Dawkins, Maher, etc., make assertions like this (if any of you know, please comment!), but here are a couple of findings related to this question.
About five years ago, the blog Reformation Theology posted on the distinctive method of interpreting the Bible. In a post called “The Reformers’ Hermeneutic,” we read:
The exegesis and interpretation of the bible was the one great means by which the war against Roman corruption was waged; which is almost the same thing as saying that the battle was basically a hermeneutical struggle. In light of these observations, one could say that the key event marking the beginning of the Reformation occurred, not in 1517, when Martin Luther nailed his theses to the church door in Wittenberg; but two years prior to that, when he rejected Origin’s four-layered hermeneutic in favor of what he called the grammatical-historical sense. This one interpretive decision was the seed-idea from which would soon spring up all the fruits of the most massive recovery of doctrinal purity in the history of the Church. (read more)
Then the Lord, through Google, directed me to this Power Point presentation on “Exegetical Skepticism.” Here’s a bit of what it has to say:
There are so many different ways of interpreting the Bible, how can we be confident that our interpretation is correct?Skeptical Answer: We cannot be confident of our ability to interpret. There probably is one correct interpretation, but we won’t know it even if we have it. . . .So, if we can’t be for sure regarding interpretation, we must deal with probabilities rather than certainty.What kind of interpretation is more likely to represent the text’s original meaning?Answer: The most probable interpretation is the one that is consistent with language and literary genre similar to the ways that people typically used and understood them at the time the texts were written. . . .What are some ways to ‘break-out’ of our own cultural and psychological restraints?a.Ways to ‘breakout’ of our limitationsi.Discussion with other Christiansii.Church Historyiii.Approach the scriptures with humility.iv.Learn more about the history surrounding the Biblical texts.Conclusion:Although interpreting the Bible can be, at times, difficult (just as math, psychology, etc. can be difficult), this doesn’t mean we need to be skeptical about interpretation as a whole. Rather, interpretative difficulties should simply encourage humility and hard work.
The following video by Reformed Baptist apologist, Dr. James White of Alpha and Omega Ministries, applies some critical thinking skills, and with a small amount of research, shows how inaccurate and naive Rob Bell is to perpetuate the common skeptical theories about how many aspects of the gospel of Christ are based on pagan mystery religions. He makes several very helpful remarks that will fortify your defense of the reliability and historicity of the New Testament accounts of Christ. Dr. White posted this video here. You may also benefit greatly by any of his other 512 videos uploaded to his YouTube channel, DrOakley1689.
Pirate Christian Radio podcaster Chris Rosebrough treated this same Nooma video by Rob Bell back in July of 2009. His Fighting for the Faith podcast episode was called, “Deconstructing Rob Bell’s False Gospel.” Rosebrough goes into a lot more detail, but both provide fascinating presentations of the sloppy scholarship of the skeptics, and the fact that answers are out there which support the authenticity of the New Testament. Every Christian who interacts with unbelievers needs to prepare himself with these answers so that he might give a sound defense of the hope that is within him with gentleness and respect (1 Peter 3:15).
Perhaps one day I’ll write something on how King James Onlyism opened my mind and heart to Reformed theology. It had a little to do with this book, The King James Version Defended, by Edward F. Hills.
In an attempt to bring the work of John William Burgon into the twentieth century, Hills, a Westminster Theological Seminary graduate (along with Yale, Harvard, Columbia Theological Seminary and the University of Chicago) made probably the most interesting case in favor of retaining the Textus Receptus as it has been translated in the KJV as the Protestant New Testament, applying the presuppositional apologetic of Cornelius Van Til who developed and taught it at Westminster Theological Seminary in order to arm confessional Reformed Presbyterians, among others, with a consistently Reformed, confessional and covenantal method for defending the faith.
I just got the 2006 edition of it in the mail today. It was updated in conjunction with the Encylcopedia Puritannica Project. Boy, I hope they didn’t screw it up! Hills deserves better than that! Here’s something I posted about this book in the past.
For those of us who missed the debate live (though not for a lack of trying–my computer is a mess!), the live London debate on the exclusive use of the King James Version between Dr. James White and Dr. Jack Moorman has been posted on YouTube by one viewer. Here it is for your (and my) viewing pleasure:
Be sure to visit this page to watch live the debate between Dr. James White and Dr. Jack Moorman of London, England debating the question “Should We Exclusively Use the King James Version?”
How appropriate that during the year of the quadricentennial of the King James Version of the Bible, a debate on the question of King James Onlyism should be held. Reformed Baptist apologist Dr. James White of Alpha and Omega Ministries is just on his way to London, England. RevelationTV in London is hosting a debate Wednesday night at 9pm GMT (if I’m not mistaken, that should be 3 pm CST), between Dr. White and Dr. Jack Moorman, an American fundamentalist Independent Baptist missionary in England, pastoring Bethel Baptist Church, Wimbeldon, London. The subject of the debate is, “Should we exclusively use the King James Version?” To my knowledge, it has been quite a while since a KJV Onlyist has stepped forward willing to debate Dr. White, author of The King James Only Controversy: Can You Trust Modern Translations?
This should be good. Dr. White never disappoints.
There’s a growing trend in the realm of skepticism to claim that there is no historical proof that Jesus ever existed in the first place. They believe the contents of the canonical Gospel narratives to have developed during the century following whatever may have actually happened in the first century that caused a group of men to scatter across the Roman Empire and start claiming that the Jewish Messiah had arrived, bringing the kind of Kingdom no one expected–one that would encompass all nations. Technically, the eyewitness accounts that initially testified of his life, ministry, death, resurrection and ascension are sufficient. But usually, only Christian believers and honest historians accept the four Gospels as historically reliable. Others demand supplementary evidence. There’s plenty. Until the late twentieth century, the evidence that currently stands satisfied the demands of historical scholarship. Now, some radical skeptics have imposed a double standard on Jesus and raised the bar, just so they can feel their arguments have more merit. When one’s argument is weak, sometimes the only way it can survive is by putting down the other side.
Anyway, I found an awesome series of YouTube videos presenting some of the major extra-biblical historical references that have provided the evidence for the existence of Jesus of Nazareth. It also defends these citations against common “skeptical interjections.” I think the man who made these did a terrific job. These videos were apparently produced by the folks who run a website called “The Divine Evidence.” I know little about them other than the good job they did in this video presentation, but you can read their “About Us” on the homepage for more info.
On with the show…