Response to Steve Hays

Steve Hays has critiqued my critique of John Frame’s book here. I will respond to his points in order.

Firstly, Steve wonders what my disclaimer was intended to accomplish. My disclaimer was that I was not a WSC toadie. He doesn’t assume I am a toady. But he thinks the disclaimer is superfluous. My purpose in stating what I said was simple: I do not have a vested interest in defending WSC. Now, of course people may not believe that. I’d like to think that my readers wouldn’t have to be so cynical as not to believe that disclaimer. It would only be a superfluous comment (in my opinion) if all my readers were cynical.

As to discrediting whistleblowers, he may have a point. However, the last time I checked, I wasn’t an organization. I was simply stating what my impression of the book was. Secondly, as I think I made fairly plain (in stating that I agree with some of Frame’s critiques), I don’t discredit Frame’s opinions on this basis. I would rather state that I think the nature of the book has warped his recounting of WSC professors’ views.

Thirdly, he thinks I am being a bit one-sided as to whether people on WSC’s side are being gracious and fair. At this point, I must admit that I have not read enough of Darryl Hart’s work to get an idea of whether he is fair, gracious, irenic, etc. I have, however, read a fair bit of Frame, enough to know that he is normally gracious, irenic, and fair, but he isn’t in this book (and this is a bit more striking, in that the book is claimed to be gracious, irenic and fair). And maybe Hart (I will let him speak for himself) doesn’t wish to claim to be irenic and gracious. Maybe he wants to be a pugilist. My problem would not so much be with the lack of graciousness per se, but rather with the fact that the book is claimed (by George Grant, of course, but Frame allowed that part of the book to be published, so he most likely agrees with Grant’s assertions) to be gracious, and is not.

Fourthly, why would a “gentleman’s agreement” have morally invidious connotations? I’m afraid Steve lost me there.

Fifthly, I am not oblivious to the possibility of Frame being slandered by someone, even by Hart and others. If he has indeed been slandered by such, I would certainly not condone such behavior. Point me to such an instance, and I will research it. Even if that were true, however, one slander doesn’t justify another.

Sixthly, as to Meredith Kline, I was not offended nearly as much by what Frame said about him as what he said about Horton and Clark. I think what Frame said about Kline is a largely accurate statement of what Kline believes. Whether his critique of Kline is on target is a different story. But it is obvious that Frame respects Kline, even where he disagrees with him. I would certainly not want to claim a better knowledge of Kline than Frame has.

Seventhly, insider accounts can indeed be revealing. However, if personal bitterness gets in the way, cloudiness covers over everything. Bitterness tends to result in a narrow focus.

Eighthly, loss of respect is indeed a two-way street. The fact is, however, no matter what one might say about Frame, one would lose respect in some quarters. Is that why I am writing this? To gain respect? No, I am writing this because I feel that WSC has been unjustly attacked by Frame (I don’t believe that WSC is above criticism), and I wouldn’t want people to get their understanding of WSC from Frame’s account of it.

Ninethly, he worries about my use of time. I could ask the same question of Frame’s book. Was it the best use of his time to write this book? But he has written it. And despite its no-name publisher status, people will still read it. I am not going to defend what I write about. I am glad that Steve is concerned about how I spend my time. If he believes I am wasting my time (and I’m sure he is not alone in thinking that!), then it will surely be a waste of his time to either read my critique, or respond to it.

As to his questions: what would I say about these issues? In brief, I will respond.

1. The duties of the civil magistrate are primarily related to upholding justice, punishing criminals and praising upstanding citizens. I believe his purpose is to uphold the second table of the law, and that he should not force people to believe in Christianity, although he certainly should not shackle Christianity. This is brief, I know, and all my answers will be brief. However, I want to say something about each of these (definitely important!) issues.

2. The civic duties of American citizens are to obey the laws up until the point where they are forced to disobey God’s law. I believe that citizens should participate in the political process, and should seek to uphold natural law in the political arena. This will involve activism in such areas as abortion and marriage protection.

3. Should pastors preach on social ethics when such becomes politicized? I don’t know what Steve means by social ethics in this context. I believe the preacher should preach what is in the Bible and only what is in the Bible. He should not preach politics from the pulpit.

Then Steve raises some excellent questions about what I might say to people who have some issues regarding various things. I haven’t researched all the sermons I have on this blog with regard to these particular questions, but I think I have addressed some of these things in the Genesis and Ephesians sermons.

1. If a young man decides he wants to be in the military, I would tell him that he desires an honorable profession. I would certainly not seek to discourage him. However, I would tell him about some of the temptations that often come to people in the military.

2. I would counsel a young woman not to join the military, at the very least not to join in such a way that they might possibly be in the line of fire. Call me a chauvinist, but I firmly believe men should defend women, not vice versa. So, if she is bent on being in the military, and I could not dissuade her, I would tell her to join in such a way that she would not be in the line of fire, and I would also counsel her concerning the many temptations to which she would be exposed.

3. Reproductive technologies is a very broad term. I would probably want to get a bit more specific about that. I think some are unobjectionable (drugs to increase the number of eggs that a woman might drop cannot be objectionable), others are (I have a big problem with the morning after pill, as it can cause the death of a human being).

4. Sterilization I would definitely counsel against, because God may want a couple to have a child that has a disease. Why would that be the worst thing that could happen to a couple?

5. I think it is not permissible to lie ever. We need to tell the truth, and trust God for the consequences. What about someone in Holland hiding Jews when a German soldier comes knocking? I would hide the Jew (well!), and then tell the Germans to look, since they wouldn’t believe me whatever I said. I wouldn’t necessarily believe that everyone should be told all the truth all the time. But I think it is wrong to lie.

6. Regarding mothers working outside the home, I would suggest that their children need them, and that financially it is actually easier to have the mother at home (given all the hidden costs of two-income families). I would encourage mothers to be at home, although I would not go so far as to say that a mother is living in sin because she works outside the home.

Regarding education, parents are responsible for the schooling of their children. That is a decision they need to make. I think public schools are in general pretty awful. Their standards are generally very low. John Gatto’s book The Underground History of Public Education is a very eye-opening book. That being said, I don’t think that homeschooling is the answer for everyone.

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Horton’s Address

The title is “The Fear Factor.”

Secularism is different from secularity. Everyday callings do not fall under the rubric of the church. But secularism is different. It is an ideology that pushes God out of the universe. The mall, not the church, is now the center of town.

Relativism comes from secularism. A religion becomes privatized, and therefore becomes pluralistic. Relativism follows. Rationalism leads to irrationalism. Islamization is also happening.

At its heart, Christianity is particular in time and space. The gospel is about what happened at a particular place and a particular time. Instead, today we have a moralistic, therapeutic deism.

One of the main problems we have is that we will tend to squander the biblical capital that our forefathers have whenever we feel the need to satisfy the cultured despisers.

Four reasons why we shouldn’t be afraid. The first reason we shouldn’t be afraid is that this is our Father’s world. We can know God because God has revealed Himself to us. The second reason we shouldn’t be afraid is that this is our Father’s story. The story climaxes in the gospel. It’s not about something that happens in our hearts. The gospel itself is not about us. Thirdly, it is our Father’s work. Fourthly, this is our Father’s kingdom. And it is a kingdom that we receive.

Question and Answer Session 2

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.

Stephen Meyer’s Address

The title of this address is “Rock of Ages and the Ages of Rocks.”

His purpose is to put his work on intelligent design into the larger perspective of theistic design.

The new atheists have been keen to put science at odds with Christianity. The biblical view is that the scientific study of nature directs us back to the Creator. The new atheists are opposed to the early modern scientists (Boyle, Kepler, Newton, and Galileo). Their position was that nature was intelligible because of the Designer. He quotes from the General Scholia to the Principium (the introduction to what Meyer says is quite probably the greatest work on physics ever written). The quotation is quite firmly intelligent design.

So how did we get from Newton to Dawkins? Pierre LaPlace said, defending his Nebula Hypothesis (to Napoleon) “Sire, I have no need of that hypothesis,” referring to LaPlace’s rejection of the idea of God.

Douglas Futuyma, in his book Evolutionary Biology, writes “by coupling the undirected purposeless variations to the blind, uncaring process of natural selection, Darwin made the theological or spiritual explanations of the life processes superfluous.”

Materialism has God in its system only as an illusion. What is fundamentally real is matter and energy. This worldview became very popular in the 19th century, and became the way in which people tried to explain the origin of the world without God. In materialism, there is no objective standard of morality. And there is no freedom of choice. Many things have happened in recent science that undermine the materialistic worldview.

Hubble, in addition to discovering how many more galaxies there are in the universe, also discovered red shift, an indication that galaxies are moving away from us. An expanding universe therefore implies a beginning, finite universe. Einstein believed that a force (which he called the cosmological constant) existed to counteract the expansion, such that the universe could be eternal. But this is “dry-lab,” a scientific term meaning “fudge.” Einstein later admitted (after Hubble gets him to look at the universe through his telescope) that this was the greatest mistake of his career. The expansion was thus later explained in a materialistic way by the big bang theory (Hawking and Penrose believed that not only did time have a beginning, but so did space). But how much stuff can you put into zero space? This puts the cosmological argument for the existence of God back on the table.

If the universe was expanding much slower, then gravity would collapse everything into nothing, and if it was anything faster, we would have universal heat death. This rate is extremely fine-tuned. There are many such finely tuned numbers.

In biology, with a new function in the cell, new code has to be inputted. Information is part of the cell. But where did this information originate? Explaining the origin of life means also that we must explain the origin of information in the cell. But the creation of new information is something that we associate with conscious activity. Even Darwin believed that we should use an explanation that involves processes that we currently know about. If we use Darwin’s own argument on the origin of information, we come to the conclusion that the most likely origin of information in the cell is conscious activity.

Ferguson’s Address

This address is entitled “Losing My Religion.” The text is Psalm 119:97-100. The goal of this address is two-fold: to increase our desire to read the Word of God, and then to read good books.

Christianity today is definitely a mile wide and possibly less than an inch deep. We need to be delivered from the notion that we have got it right in our churches. The real work of the church is to worship God, and seek His glory and majesty. We need to devote ourselves to intercessory prayer. We need to devote ourselves to the Word. At the end of Hebrews 5 (which deals with a very high Christology), it becomes evident that we have become hard of hearing.

Three reasons why we should pursue a greater knowledge of God. 1. This (the pursuit of a greater knowledge of God) is the reason for which God regenerated us. 2. Christ has specifically taught us about this. See Mark 12:28-34. Jesus adds to the Shema the phrase “with all your mind.” We are not in a culture that associates “love” with the mind. We will not have any affection for God without love of God in the mind. Psalm 119 emphasizes that we love the Word of God. In John 13-17, while the disciples need help because they are frightened and beleaguered, what does Jesus do but teach them about the Trinity? Jesus is saying that if they are going to get through this hardship and other hardships in the future, then they need to know who God is on a much deeper level. Far from being speculative and irrelevant, the doctrine of the Trinity is one of the most unspeculative, and one of the most relevant. But we won’t know this unless we dig into the Word of God. 3. Because this has life-transforming power. See especially Romans 12:1-2. John Stott said that the secret of holy living lies in the mind. Colossians 3:1 is important here as well. What do you think about when you have nothing else to think about? This question has a tendency to reveal our utterly carnality. It is always a challenge to fill our minds with the things of Philippians 4:8.

There are three strategies for pursuing a greater knowledge of God. 1. We need to place our lives under the living ministry of the Word of God in a church. This is God’s central instrument that He uses to shape our lives. This is an argument for the regular means of grace. Some might say “But the preacher is no better than I am.” Calvin’s Institutes, however, would say that this is precisely the point. We sit under Christ. The minister is just an instrument. The Word does its own work. See Acts 6:7. The question should not be “What are we doing?” It should rather be, “What is the Word doing?” 1 Thess. 2:13 is also important. 2. We dig deeply into the Word for ourselves. Bible studies are not the same thing as digging for ourselves. 3. Learn together with all the saints (reading good books). There are great central books of Christian literature. Two great books is Calvin’s Institutes, and John Owen’s On Communion with God. Calvin taught Ferguson how to think Trinitarianly, and Owen taught Ferguson how to live Trinitarianly.

Sproul, Jr.’s Address

This address is entitled “The (True) Scandal of the Evangelical Mind.”

The text for consideration is 1 Corinthians 1:18ff. The story of Jesus is our story. His life, death, resurrection, ascension, and second coming is our story, for we are one people, His body. This story is foolishness to those outside the church.

The first great scandal is that the scandal of the cross scandalizes us. We complain when other people complain about Christianity. We try to insist that non-believers regard us well. But Paul tells us that the world sees us as stupid. This is, quite simply, the way it is. But we start to reshape ourselves and our story to remove the scandal and diminish the stumbling-block. The emergents try to emphasize narrative, but they do it in a postmodern way. The seeker-sensitive approach sets aside the scandalous part of the story. Theological liberalism doesn’t believe our story. As confessional people, we don’t change our story, but rather we preach the cross.

The second great scandal of the evangelical mind is that we are not really evangelical. Of course, we believe the gospel. But do we have a passion for lost souls? We critique supposedly bad ways of evangelism, while we don’t do it at all. We are not evangelically minded. We like to bring that little island of our own genius to the table. This is actually semi-Pelagianism. The idea of education is not to join the great conversation, but rather the great confrontation. We should not add the wisdom of the world to the Bible, like Aquinas did in the Summa Theologica. The Bible does not need human cooperation, or anything added to it. To think so is again semi-Pelagianism. Boethius (like Philo) tried to add the wisdom of Plato to the Bible. Nowadays, it is the idea of getting psychology or Madison Avenue to the Bible. He asserts (I would disagree here) that Warfield tried to add the wisdom of science to the Bible (LK, this is highly disputed in Warfield scholarship). Are we willing to trust God and believe what He tells us.

Another scandal is not that we are not smart enough, but that we are not good enough. And then, when God tells us something, we wind up looking at our circumstances, and then twist what God says to fit our experience. We then use our brains for rationalization. How do we know when we are really putting our mind into submission to the Bible. Are we willing to accept these accusations from the world? We were rescued from foolishness. We didn’t “smart” our way out of it. Are you willing to be thought a fool for Christ’s sake? We always lie to ourselves. We are not repentant about our minds.