March 16, 2012 at 2:36 pm (Ethics, Ph-Science)
The panelists are Del Tackett, Michael Horton, Stephen Meyer, Sproul, Jr., and Sproul Sr.
Question 1: does teaching a variety of scientific theories injure students? Meyer says that it is extremely instructive and helpful to teach the variety of theories that are out there. The idea that there is a consensus among scientists is a myth. The fact is that many scientists are calling for a new Darwinian theory.
Question 2: what are the differences among the various methods of apologetics? Sproul, Sr. argues that the circular method of presuppositional gives too much to the unbeliever. He argues that the presuppositional method commits two fallacies: circularity and equivocation. The former because presuppositionalists assume what they need to prove. Equivocation in that the very definition of circularity changes in the midst of the argument. I would say (LK here) that presuppositionalism does not commit the fallacy of circularity. Rather, we argue from the impossibility of the contrary. But we are not trying to argue the existence of God per se. We are trying to say that Christian theism is the only worldview that is not inherently self-contradictory. Everyone has presuppositions. The question is whether one’s life based on those presuppositions is consistent with those presuppositions.
Question 3: what suggestions would you have to avoid secularist indoctrination for Christian students going to a secular university? Tackett says that the university is the most hostile environment for the Christian worldview. We must equip our young people for the battle. Doubt in the classroom feeds on the sexual impulses that make students want to get rid of guilt by getting rid of the Lawgiver.
Question 4: Where do we go from here in terms of education? Sproul, Jr. says that the power of the Word is paramount.
Question 5: What can the local church do to equip our young people? Horton says the home, the church, and the schools are a three-legged stool. But our churches are dumbing down Christians at an alarming rate. Were our children ever in the church? He is attacking an overly stratified approach to church, where our kids are actually never in church. We are not teaching our children the gospel or the Bible. Churches need to teach apologetics to the teens.
Question 6: does the expression “doctrine divides” come out of anti-intellectualism? Sproul, Sr. says “yes.” Truth divides. We don’t need to create hostilities, and yet truth still divides. This is a thinly veiled justification for tolerating the intolerable. We need to contend for the truth without being contentious.
Question 7: Is the difference between young earth and old earth a primary issue or a secondary issue? Sproul, Sr. says that the Bible doesn’t give us a date, though it strongly hints that the earth is young. We can learn from scientists. But something definitively taught in the Bible cannot be challenged by science. Meyer says that ID does not focus on the age of the earth. The age of the earth has become a strangely toxic issue in the church. He views it as a secondary issue. Tackett, however, believes that having lots of time diminishes the glory of God. Tackett believes that the second law of thermodynamics came into being at the Fall, not at creation. If that is true, then trying to determine what happened before the veil of the Fall can be distorted by the wall that separates the unfallen and the fallen world. Our observations must take the Fall into account. This is because if there is no Fall, there is no need for Jesus. Horton believes the Bible doesn’t speak to the issue. Sproul, Jr. believes in young earth creation.
July 23, 2011 at 10:43 am (Abortion, Church, Culture, Discipline, Ethics, Law)
The fourth tooth of the wolf is pragmatism, and it is a real doozy. I can’t tell how many times I’ve seen people make decisions on this basis, completely ignoring what the Bible might say. Here is Sittema’s excellent definition of pragmatism: “Pragmatism means first you determine whether an act seems practical, whether its consequences bring you pleasure or pain, and by that process you determine what is right or wrong” (p. 67). What is right is what will increase my pleasure. What is wrong is what will increase my pain. Have a difficult marriage? The pragmatic approach says get out, whether or not such a divorce has biblical grounds or not. Have an unwanted pregnancy that will cramp your style? Just get rid of the child in an abortion. We don’t need to worry about what the Bible says, do we? This is the approach of pragmatism, and it is part and parcel of the world’s philosophy of life. Everything is calculated down to a nicety on the scale of pleasure and pain, or convenience, or advantage. But have you noticed what happens in such a philosophy? The Bible gets thrown out the window. All of a sudden, it doesn’t matter anymore what the Bible says. What matters is what will work. Another example: if a church is getting low on men who are willing to lead, then since we have to have leaders, why not elect a woman to fill the spot? Pragmatism over-rides the Biblical mandates. This is a very insidious philosophy, since it overturns the law of God, thus constituting a direct attack on the authority of the Law-giver, God Himself.
Sittema makes the excellent point that pragmatism is NOT practical (p. 68). We must distinguish between “pragmatic” and “practical.” They are not the same thing. Being truly practical means putting into practice what the Bible says. Being pragmatic means throwing out what the Bible says. Hard to believe as it may seem, therefore, oftentimes “practical” and “pragmatic” are actually complete opposites.
Sittema’s suggestions for combating this philosophy: 1. Ask “why” a lot as the elder visits his flock. Pragmatism is not that difficult to detect. Most of the time, it is a simple “fly by the seat of the pants” approach without any biblical considerations coming into play whatsoever. 2. Teach God’s standards as eternal, unchangeable truths. God’s unchanging law determines what is right and wrong, not what brings worldly happiness. 3. Discuss case studies with the youth and enable them to see the radically different ways that people make choices, and make clear to them what God says. I would add 4. Keep the law in front of the people often, with all the caveats that needs (distinguishing among the three uses of the law, etc.).
July 11, 2011 at 9:24 am (Church, Culture, Ethics)
The second “tooth” of the wolf that Sittema talks about is materialism. Secularism is the idea that the here and now is all that’s important. Materialism says that stuff is all that’s important. So, secularism has more to do with time, whereas materialism has more to do with space (see p. 55). The problem here is that the church is incredibly wealthy in the West. Basically, if you have any discretionary income at all, you are wealthy, and that would describe most Americans. But stuff breeds greed for more stuff. It is intoxicating to have more and more. And yet, those who are honest with themselves would admit that it’s never enough. John D. Rockefeller, a very rich American, was asked how much is enough, and his answer was the classic statement of the problem of materialism: “Just a little bit more.” It will not fill the God-shaped hole in anyone’s life.
The advertising world banks on materialism, because it uses the classic hook of dissatisfaction with what you have in order to entice you to want more. The danger here, as Sittema points out, is that materialism denies the spiritual dangers inherent in wealth (p. 58). Sittema is not here saying that wealth is inherently evil. Rather, he is saying that with much comes much temptation, and he’s certainly correct in this assessment. In the rest of the chapter, Sittema outlines a biblical response. I think the most helpful point here that he mentions in combating materialism is the principle of biblical stewardship, which includes a view of one’s possessions as not one’s own, but merely entrusted to us by God to be used for His kingdom. This makes giving away possessions and wealth much easier: it’s not really ours to begin with. Phillip Ryken would put it this way: “What’s mine is God’s.”
And, secondly, we need to realize what a terrible idol wealth has become, and we need to identify it and repent of our own idolatry. Our idolatry may not be as blatant as Rockefeller’s: it may come in the form of desiring our own comfort at the expense of the kingdom of God. But comfort is often just another way of saying “a little bit more.” Comfort is one idol I see up here in the Midwest. And it is not hard to find out why: North Dakota is absolutely brutal in the winter-time. It is not exactly comfortable. But people usually build things in order to make them comfortable here. There are different ways this idol makes itself manifest elsewhere in the US, so I’m not singling out North Dakota, by any means. But that’s just where I am, and that’s what I see.
July 5, 2011 at 9:51 am (2 Kingdom, Church, Culture, Eschatology, Ethics)
John Sittema’s excellent book entitled With a Shepherd’s Heart has several good chapters on what he calls the “teeth of the wolves.” These are the ways in which Satan is generally attacking the church today. He lists five main attacks: secularism, materialism, relativism, pragmatism, and feminism (p. 49). I’d like to do a few blog posts on these “teeth.” It is crucial for us to recognize these enemies and not only be on guard ourselves, but also guard our flocks from these teeth.
So the first one is secularism. Sittema’s definition is quite excellent: “There is a timed-ness to God’s creation; and according to God’s own assessment, it is good! (par. break, LK) But when that timed-ness of creation, when the here and now of our creatureliness, gobbles up any sense of our eternity and occupies all of man’s heart and mind and attention, you have secularism” (p. 50). The upshot of it is that “Only if religion has value for the here and now is it of any real significance” (ibid.). The consequences for people’s thinking are several-fold: 1. instant gratification; 2. dualistic dichotomy (rather than a simple distinction) between secular and sacred, 3. obsession with relevance (pp. 51-52).
Sittema offers three suggestions for how to fight this enemy: 1. Point out the enemy of instant gratification (self-delusion and blindness are often key characteristics of secularism), 2. Teach the principles of biblical stewardship (especially equip the deacons to do this). 3. Ask people whether they have this rigid divide between secular and sacred, rather than a simple distinction. And a few more suggestions I would add: teach people the principle of pilgrimage. Noting the etymological connection of “secularism” to “this worldliness” or “this aged-ness,” I would strongly suggest pointing out the blessedness of the new heavens and the new earth, since this world is not our home. We are looking for a better country. Now, obviously, we should take care of this world as good stewards of what God has entrusted to us. Nevertheless, we are pilgrims, and that should color everything, and give us an eschatological perspective on life.
May 5, 2011 at 3:26 pm (Ethics)
D. A. Carson weighs in on theological controversies and the consequences of blowing the whistle, and why people are often wrong in positing a necessity to “follow Matthew 18″ before publishing. In the PCA’s Book of Church Order, we have clear distinctions between personal and general offences, and then a further distinction between public and private offences.
The first distinction is between personal and general offences. A personal offence is something that is committed against nameable people, whereas a general offence has no such reference (BCO 29). The distinction between public and private is equally important here. “Private” means an offence known only to a few, whereas “public” means an offence known to the public.
These distinctions are important when it comes to the accusations of Ninth Commandment violations that are constantly being thrown about in the PCA these days. It is often assumed that because person A didn’t go talk personally to person B about person B’s public teaching, that therefore person A violated the Ninth Commandment. As Carson says, this is a methodological question, not a question about Matthew 18. When Peter was violating the gospel by his practice in Galatians 2, Paul did not go to him privately, seeking to make sure he fully understood him. No, he rebuked Peter to his face without any sort of preamble whatsoever. I might also add here that if it were necessary to talk to a theologian to ensure that one understood him, then we could never understand dead theologians. One’s teaching is, as Carson notes, a general thing. It is not private, and it is not personal. Therefore Matthew 18 does not apply. One could, out of mere courtesy, go to the theologian to seek to make sure one understood him, but this is not required either by the Ninth Commandment, or by Matthew 18.
February 28, 2011 at 4:02 pm (2 Kingdom, Culture, Ethics, Ph-Politics, Ph-Science, Uncategorized)
Tags: 2 Kingdoms, 2K
This is the third of three of Dr. Darryl Hart’s affirmations and denials on the 2K topic. Remember, please read the other two (theological, vocation) before posting comments. Thanks.
Affirmations on Ethics
1) Affirmation: Christians have an obligation to submit to God’s laws as they are found in general and special revelation.
Denial: persons cannot obey God’s law truly apart from regeneration by the Holy Spirit.
Denial: non-Christians may not please God in their external observance of God’s law.
Denial: even if non-Christians may not please God, their civic virtue is crucial to a peaceful and orderly society.
2) Affirmation: Christians please God in their good works thanks to the sanctifying work of the Holy Spirit.
Denial: the good works of Christians are not free from pollution (i.e. they are filthy rags).
3) Affirmation: the state and families have the responsibility for establishing and maintaining social order.
Denial: the church does not have the responsibility for establishing and maintaining social order.
4) Affirmation: church members have a duty to obey the laws of civil magistrates.
Denial: church members may not rebel against or disobey the magistrate.
Denial: church members must not obey the magistrate rather than God.
5) Affirmation: God has established a pluriformity of institutions (e.g. civil society) for the sake of social order.
Denial: the church has no calling to establish social order but will have an indirect influence on peace and order by encouraging godliness in her members.
February 28, 2011 at 4:01 pm (2 Kingdom, Culture, Ethics, Ph-Politics, Ph-Science, Uncategorized)
Tags: 2 Kingdoms, 2K
This is the second of three of Dr. Darryl Hart’s affirmations and denials on the 2K topic. Remember, please read the other two (theological, ethics) before posting comments. Thanks.
Affirmations about Vocation
1) Affirmation: the church is called to gather and perfect saints through word, sacrament and discipline.
Denial: the church is not called to meddle in civil affairs.
2) Affirmation: the Christian family is called to nurture and oversee children in both religious and secular matters.
Denial: Christian families will not all look the same but have liberty to rear children according to Scripture and the light of nature.
Denial: non-Christian families do not rear children in godliness or holiness but still have legitimate responsibility for rearing their children.
3) Affirmation: the state is called to punish wickedness, reward goodness, and promote peace and order.
Denial: the state does not hold the keys of the kingdom.
4) Affirmation: A Christian is called to use his talents and gifts to serve God and assist his neighbor.
Denial: some Christians are not called to engage in civil affairs.
Denial: the responsibilities attending one Christian’s vocation may not be the standard for other Christians.
February 28, 2011 at 4:00 pm (2 Kingdom, Culture, Ethics, Ph-Government, Ph-Politics)
Tags: 2 Kingdoms, 2K
I thought it might be helpful in the 2K discussions if there were a list of principles with which we could interact. Since he has been such a prominent voice on this subject, I asked Dr. Darryl Hart if he might be willing to provide such a list. He graciously agreed to do so.
The list provides fifteen 2k principles in the form of Affirmations, coupled with corresponding denials. Following Dr. Hart’s formatting of these principles, this post contains the first six theologicalaffirmations. Two additional posts will include vocation affirmations (four) and ethics affirmations (five).
For the sake of the flow of Dr. Hart’s argument, please read all three posts first. Then post comments and questions where appropriate (corresponding to the affirmation(s) and/or denial(s) you’re commenting upon.)
I want to thank Dr. Hart for the work he put into this list and allowing us to post and discuss this here. Please remember to treat each other with the Christian civility that marks your profession of faith in Christ and your commitment to love your brother. Thanks!
1) Affirmation: Jesus is Lord
Denial: Jesus is not Lord over everyone in the same way; he rules the covenant community differently than those outside the covenant.
2) Affirmation: the visible church is the kingdom of the Lord Jesus Christ
Denial: Outside the visible church is not part of the redemptive rule of Christ (even though Christ is still sovereign).
3) Affirmation: the Bible is the only rule for the visible church (in matters of conscience).
Denial: Scripture does not reveal everything but only that which is necessary for salvation.
4) Affirmation: Christ alone is lord of conscience
Denial: Christians have liberty where Scripture is silent.
Denial: the pious advice and opinions of Christians is not binding.
5) Affirmation: the visible church has real power (spiritual and moral, ministerial and declarative, the keys of the kingdom) in ministering the word of God.
Denial: the church may not bind consciences apart from Scripture.
Denial: the church may not bind consciences on the basis of one minister’s or believer’s interpretation but must do so corporately through the deliberations of sessions, presbyterians, and assemblies.
6) Affirmation: Christ’s righteousness alone satisfies God’s holy demands for righteousness, and believers receive this righteousness through faith alone (i.e., justification).
Denial: believer’s good works, much less unbelievers’ external obedience to the law, do not satisfy God’s holiness but are filthy rags.
September 11, 2010 at 2:00 pm (Culture, Ethics, Law)
The Bayly’s have come out with some strong words against 2K theology, and Darryl Hart has responded to this.
On the one hand, I have no wish to sound like a whiner. Strong words are needed when one feels that some particular aspect of theology is being neglected. On the other hand, it seems to me that a few straw men were erected on both sides. The straw man that the Bayly brothers erected is their very broadbrush attack on 2K pastors. I would consider myself a mild 2K pastor at the present moment in time (still in process on the whole question, however). I have in the past and will in the future if the need arises, protest abortion in the strongest of terms. I would do so on the basis of being a good citizen of a secular government. I have picketed abortion clinics (only in a legal way on public property). I have supported crisis pregnancy centers, and would do so again, if I am in a situation where the need arises. Would no other 2K pastor do the same? I find that rather difficult to believe. The same is true of the issue of women in the military, which even Darryl (surely one of the strongest 2K advocates around today) acknowledges has some basis for judgment in the law of God.
On the other hand, I am not sure that Darryl has been fair in accusing the Bayly brothers in this way:
The Roman Church, like the Baylys, tried to bind consciences with their own extra-biblical requirements. In the Baylys’ case, we must not only refrain from certain actions but we must publicly oppose it the way Baylys do – otherwise, you’re not a true minister they way they are…They stray when they beat their breast and bray that only those ministers are worthy of hearing are the ones like the Baylys.
Surely we can agree that the Bayly brothers feel strongly about the two issues of abortion and women in the military (among many other issues, I’m sure), and feel that anyone who is not making a strong response is missing a way to be prophetic. Is it really due to self-importance that they are saying these things? I’m not sure we are justified in making a judgment on the motivation which drives them.
The modern debate between 2K theology and Neo-Calvinism is only beginning in the literature. I think we need to be careful here about how we describe other people’s positions. Comments are open on this post. I welcome both Darryl and the Bayly brothers to comment and respond.
April 17, 2010 at 11:54 am (Culture, Ethics)
A lot has happened in our country since the 1960′s in the area of racial justice. Many of these changes are salutary. And I wouldn’t want to claim that racial prejudice is completely a thing of the past. There are still those who seem to think that some races are inherently inferior to others. But if we really believe that all races come from Adam (and Noah!), and that all races are made in the image of God, and that all races are truly human, there can be no room for regarding one race as better or worse than another. So, many changes have been for the good of our nation. Segregation is much less common, and it has quite the social stigma attached to it.
However, as sometimes happens when a revolution occurs, the pendulum can swing too far. White people of today are sometimes held accountable for the sins of their fathers, sins which today’s generation may not be committing, but for which they are still being held accountable. A sense of entitlement can sometimes creep in, with the result being that, in order for reparation to be complete, we have to somehow “make it up to” African-American people. Instead of equal opportunity employment, for instance (which we should have), we have quotas for minorities (which I believe are racist in both directions). Take enrollment in colleges, for instance. If the standard for an SAT score is the standard by which any student should be admitted, that is an objective, non-racial-based standard (of course, there are many more criteria than this, but I use this for an example). No matter what race they come from, if they make that non-racial standard, they should be admitted. I can already hear the counter-argument: “African-Americans have been held back, and their test scores are not as good as white people. Therefore they need our help.” But does this argument not have a tacit assumption that one race is inferior to another? If a member of any race works hard, they can succeed in today’s world. That is the good thing that the civil rights movement has brought. But to say that any minority needs our help is to say that they cannot work hard enough to do it on their own. That is racist, in my opinion. And it also can prevent qualified white people from being admitted. Every college needs to have some standard of admittance. The standard needs to be fair and unprejudiced. SAT score are not prejudiced. People from any race can get good scores on SAT’s.
Regardless of any of this, why should white people of today be made to feel guilty about something that they haven’t done? I don’t believe I have ever been a racist. But I have been made to feel guilty about something I didn’t do, and not even my particular forbears did. Sometimes I am made to feel that I must be racist, because I am white. This, too, is racist.
What I am talking about now is racial discrimination in reverse, a pendulum swing. I have heard that the one thing that makes it really, really tough today to get a job is if you’re a middle-class white American male. A minority person may be chosen for the job over a middle-class white American male regardless of qualifications just so that the company can be seen to be an equal opportunity employer. Don’t get me wrong: there are plenty of non-qualified middle-class white American males, and plenty of qualified minority people. And I would not fault any company for hiring a minority person who is just as qualified as a white person. But what happens in a situation where a minority person might be less qualified than the white person? If companies are being made to feel that they are racist because they hired the more qualified white person, that is simply wrong. They are hiring on an objective standard: who is the most qualified for the job? This makes good business sense. They should take the most qualified person for the job, regardless of what race they are from. We need to make sure that we do not become racist in reverse.