Archive for the ‘ Basic Biblical Training ’ Category

There are a significant number of newly “converted” (to presup, at least) folks that are quite zealous for the defense of the faith. This, I consider good. On the other hand, Scripture warns us against “zeal for God, but not in accordance with knowledge”, in Rom 10:2. This is especially important for us to consider. All too often, we have a tendency to “jump right in,” whether we are prepared to do so, or not. Zealousness leads us, with inadequate preparation, all too often to imbalance, and from or along with imbalance, to a sub-Biblical defense. Additionally, there is the problem of not knowing what it is you are to be defending! As putative apologists, we must not overestimate our own abilities, knowledge, or proficiency. This isn’t to say that I consider myself to be “perfect” – or that anyone else should, this side of glory; What I am saying is, we must be very watchful that our desire doesn’t outrun our wisdom.

When we have something we desire to do, we often run ahead, to the detriment of our preparation for doing so. Similarly, we often dismiss preparation for either pragmatic or pietistic aims, at the expense of doctrinal orthodoxy. Part of an adequate apologetic is the ability to teach. If you aren’t convinced of that, I would point you to the instances of apologetic encounters in Scripture. If you are defending the faith, there are certain preconditions for doing so. Principally, there is the precondition of knowing what you are defending. Secondarily, there is the precondition of an ability to teach what Christian doctrine is, so that it may be clear to your audience what in fact it is to be defended. Thirdly, it must be clearly said that there is the precondition of grace; and that graciousness is the product of sanctification, not of formal study. None of these aspects can be overlooked or dismissed; and they must not be dismissed, because Scripture clearly commands them of us. In fact, dismissal of these requirements is tantamount to rebellion. To overlook these requirements is a function of ignorance – but the intent of this post is to render you, the apologist, without excuse – and hence, repentant. We cannot afford ignorance in the cause of Christ.

So, let us look at what we are called to do. Those who are called to apologetic ministry must be within, and under the authority of, the local church. They cannot be “lone rangers,” and they cannot be “loose cannons”, or “independents”. If we are of those who believe, we must be within the fellowship, and be in fellowship (Acts 4:32). If we are of those who believe, we must be under the authority of elders (Acts 14:23). Apollos, we know, was a powerful advocate for the cause of Christ. Yet, he was amenable to being instructed by those who were older and wiser than himself. In addition, he was willing to be sent, and not to send himself. It was the brethren that sent him, and encouraged him – and in that fellowshipped sending, he in turn encouraged the elect, and refuted their opponents. (Acts 18)

Next, we must see that only those with adequate preparation should be engaging unbelievers. Apollos had been instructed in the way of the Lord. Paul, of course, had intensive training as a Pharisaical student – but even that did not suffice, did it? He spent 3 years being “taught of God” before he began his ministry – interestingly, roughly the same amount of time the other Apostles spent with Christ. I’m not trying to say we should all go be desert dwellers of some sort – or that we are all called to be seminarians, either. What I am saying, however, is that we cannot neglect an intensive, intentional course of study in the foundations of our faith, if we are to be apologists. This is not negotiable. In order to defend the faith, we must know what we believe, and be unshakably convinced of the truth of what we know before we are involved in ministry of this sort. Apologetics is no ministry for neophytes. The Christian life is likened to warfare, in Ephesians and elsewhere. Front-line troops are experienced, well-trained soldiers. They know precisely where they fit into the ranks, what their duties are, and have undergone systematic training in the art of war. No soldier learns his trade by osmosis. His trade is soldiery. Soldiers are trained; so must we be. This training is primarily not in the assemblage of arguments, philosophical justifications, or evidenciary studies. Those of you who are in the military; where did your training start? It started with the discipline a soldier required. Next, it moved to the care and operation of your equipment. Then, training moves to the proper movements of troops, of which you are a part.

The disciplines required of the apologist are both mental and spiritual. The primary discipline is the systematic study of the Word of God, and the doctrines therein. We must also be as fervent and constant in prayer and the confession of sin as we are fervent and constant in study. We must systematically practice the spiritual disciplines along with the mental disciplines we work to cultivate.

We must also be able to teach. In a Biblical apologetic, we are responding to the anti-Christian from, and with, Christian doctrine. As I have said for some time, it seems to be the case that the vast majority of objections stem from a fundamental ignorance of Christian doctrine. As Christians, we must admit that this is often the fault of those whom we have championed; and those champions themselves are either unable, or unwilling, to defend the Christian faith as a system of doctrine, rather than a philosophical abstraction. The defense of “a god” flies directly in the face of the Scriptural testimony. Keeping the doctrines of Christianity at “arms length” in their putative defense is nothing more than folly, if that is what we are truly defending. We cannot make an arbitrary distinction between what we believe and what we defend. We can do only damage to the doctrines we love by defending an abstraction rather than the reality. If you do not know, love, and cherish the doctrines of Scripture, you are simply fighting for yourself, not the fellowship of Christ. If what you defend is unrecognizable in comparison to the God you claim to know – it is readily apparent, and worse than useless. The knowledge of the Holy is understanding, and the fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom. Do not forget it for an instant.

When we as apologists engage in the defense of the faith we must be able to both recognize and correct the misconceptions that are foundational to, and undergird the objections raised to that faith. When we hear an objection, we must compare it to what it is we know. We waste an enormous amount of time responding to things that we know are inapplicable, or false. We waste so much energy that could be better used in teaching these objectors what it is they need to know about the God they reject. Objections should be filtered through the matrix of sound doctrine – and responded to as they warrant, not as the unbeliever assumes. We all too often consider the unbeliever’s conception of God to be “plausible”, or “possible” – while in reality, they are objecting to a man of straw. Instead of letting this pass unchallenged, take the opportunity to correct their misapprehensions. This is helpful to your fellow believers, as well! It is quite a redemption of the time (that unbelievers waste for themselves in their ignorance) to grasp that opportunity to teach what it is they should be addressing, and to outline for your fellows (and for other unbelievers) where it is they went wrong in their approach. Granted, we know that unbelievers both applaud and prefer their ignorance – but in responding in such a way, we leave them without an excuse, don’t we?

Lastly, we are to answer with gentleness and reverence. This does not mean that we do not step up boldly to answer; it does, however, mean that we are not to savage our opponent on a personal level, or to respond in kind when we are personally attacked. This does not proscribe a righteous zealousness for the doctrines of God; it does, however, proscribe an unrighteousness zealousness for personal vengeance and returning offense when it is given. It is often the case that unbelievers act like fools. We are to answer a fool according to *their* folly – as it deserves – but NOT to become like them. This is a trap many fall into – myself included. We are to be reverent of God, and mild in our responses.

We must also see that the Lord’s slave must NOT be quarrelsome; must be able to teach; must be patient when wronged; and must gently correct those in opposition. They must not engage in foolish or ignorant speculations – they produce the quarrels warned against.(2 Tim 2) Be mindful of your limits. Be watchful of your temper. Be wise concerning where and when you engage with unbelievers. Be discerning in your responses, and teach whenever and wherever it is appropriate. Be patient when you are attacked, or offended, or wronged. Do not engage in endless quarrels; know when and where to enter, and when and where to leave a discussion.

All of this I have given above is the product of the work of God, friends, not of your own efforts. It is the work of God; sanctifying and preparing you for His own work, not your own. We are bought and paid for – we are not our own possession, but His. Whatever you think you might be, you are either His, or you are your own – and God surely knows His own. You think you’re a presuppositionalist? Let me tell you what a presuppositionalist is.

We are to be those who have a deep, abiding love for the Scriptures, and the God whose revelation they are. We are to have a healthy, humble assessment of where we are in our relationship to God, and a deep understanding of whose we are. We are to immerse ourselves in the doctrines of Scripture; We are to flee speculation, and embrace the certainty Scripture provides us. We are to teach patiently, correct patiently, and learn patiently. We are not to be self-serving, not arrogant, and always mindful of the grace which we ourselves have received. We are to understand that what we have, is ours by the grace of God, and by no other means. We are not to coddle doubt, but to destroy it by the means God has provided. We are to know, to the depths of our soul, that what we defend is that which God has given – and how we are to defend it is also given by that same grace. Does all of this humble you? Does all of this make you feel inadequate? Does it remind you that we are, indeed, bought with a price, and not our won, and must thus work to the benefit of His church? If so, you might be a presuppositionalist – but be wary, lest you fall. We are all warned, and we must heed those warnings.

I’ve mentioned before that Presup is Sola Scriptura in an apologetic context. If you study Ephesians 6, the only weapon we have is Scripture. Hence, that is the only weapon we use. All of defenses are also God-wrought, so we have nothing to fear. Fear not – and stand.

Divided – Wow.

A short review of “Divided”, with some questions for the folks watching or the folks who created it:

1) Is it honest to present this film as a young man trying to “find answers” – to say it “shocked” him – that this was somehow a “journey”? Is it truly the case that Phillip was not an FIC proponent when he made this movie?

2) The first section talks about his father already having questions about the youth ministry – is this a “neutral” perspective, as seemingly presented to begin with? In fact, his parents pulled him out of the youth program, and later on it is revealed that Scott Brown was influential in his parent’s move. Scott Brown is presented as an “author and pastor”, when he is the director of the organization putting out this film. The manager of operations for that same organization is listed as the writer for the movie, in fact. So, are we to believe this is some “exploratory” film?

3) Instead of directing his look at Reformed churches, as the FIC movement is generally Reformed, his first stop is a massive youth gathering, at what looks like a carnival atmosphere.

4) After several fairly typical answers, from evangelical young people, he goes into his own experience with youth ministry, and “dropout rate” of teens. Hardly a “neutral” perspective, is it?

5) A “Christian concert” (in his words) is flatly called ‘music of the world’. He sees “no distinction between worldliness and Christianity”. He gives NO argument for this, whatsoever. None.

6) “Young Earth or Old Earth” is unaccountably segued to, with no explanation, other than a very short Ken Ham spot about bible teaching. First, “young earth” is not a biblical position, that I can see, not that “old earth” is either. That terminology is a modern novelty, and hardly the test of “bible teaching”. More importantly, I’d make the test to be concerning ex nihilo, 6 calendar day creation. This precludes “Old Earth”, “Theistic Evolution”, and other nonsensical positions of the sort, while not diverging into speculation, as many modern “creationist” groups tend to do. Second, we are *never told what Christian denomination he is interviewing, at any time that I can see*. My position on the subject of creation is very clear, as you can see if you read elsewhere on this blog, and because I’m confessionally Reformed, but the way that “young earth or old earth” is made a doctrinal test, without the *context* of who is being asked even defined is troubling.

7) These kids are being asked, in the context of general evangelicalism, questions their elders fail just as spectacularly on in general evangelicalism. In what sense is this an indictment of youth groups in particular? It’s a non-sequitur.

8) Reformed churches, I’d imagine, would be the target audience of this video, given who it’s seemingly directed at, and the *actual* presuppositional commitment of the makers of the video. What would induce a typical evangelical church to abandon a practice in line with it’s stated doctrinal path? This video? Hardly. If it’s targeting Reformed church practice, why aren’t they addressing Reformed youth pastors or Sunday School teachers?

9) By this point, 17 minutes in, WHO is being addressed is still unclear. Who is your audience, director?

10) My one question remains – did the film maker *really* just set out to “find answers” here? As it seems to me, he has an actual goal he is setting out to demonstrate, and is not merely being an “objective journalist”. This is a persuasive film, not merely a documentary.

11) The complaint has been made about “worldliness” earlier – is this same standard being applied to filmmaking? Are we making a persuasive film under the guise of “neutral” reporting, or investigative journalism? As a presuppositionalist, I teach about pretended neutrality. That seems to be precisely what is going on in this film.

12) The amazing leaps of logic made by Scott Brown to link Plato and Rousseau to the Sunday School movement are truly something to behold. The ahistorical conspiracy theories made by the people they interview concerning Sunday Schools and link to a rogue’s gallery of “bad guys” is truly remarkable. If you do a bit of digging, you can find most of the same ideas in Rushdoony, and the modern theonomist movement. Would you care to tell some Reformed elders about this?

13) RC Sproul Jr and Doug Phillips are used as proponents, without, again, any examination of their background, or the “axe to grind” that we all know they have. The *producer* of the movie is interviewed, and not “For 1800 years the assumption was, children are with their parents in the meeting of the church, and parents disciple their children” – Here’s a few questions – where did you go to read? Where did you learn to read the Bible, in particular? Who had all the books? How did apprenticeship work, for instance? When did that start, historically?

14) In what sense does the wholesale abdication of the authority of the elders to teach children apart from parental guidance have a historical basis?

15) Age segregation is “borrowing from an evolutionary platform” – can you demonstrate this, instead of asserting it? Would it be your assertion that, say, Phoenix Reformed Baptist Church, is “borrowing from an evolutionary platform” by teaching church history or teaching through books of the Bible, in Sunday Schools? Would you like to tell the OPC, for instance, how “evolutionary” their Sunday Schools are? We’re waiting to hear the response to that, with bated breath. Further, if age-segregation is intrinsically evolutionary, is there a reason that Baptists, along with other Reformed denominations, have historically had a separate catechism for younger children? (Our church does as well.) Can Mr. Phillips demonstrate this breathtakingly daring assertion in any way, shape, or form?

16) Again, for a Reformed group, they aren’t exactly open about who and what they are, or who, exactly, they’re critiquing. Why is this? Why aren’t we hearing some specific critiques of *Reformed* denominations, or interviews of *Reformed* young people and adults in the making of this video? My modest proposal would be that, quite honestly, it wouldn’t make these practices look very bad. It’s much easier to go to an evanjellyfish “Christian rock” concert, call it “worldly”, then spend the rest of the video having “experts” making assertions.

17) There is a concerted effort to be “presuppositional” in this video, in one respect; however, it is founded on a false neutrality. There is no statement of a *presuppositional commitment* – you are drawn into that commitment *by* the video – but whatever good things they have to say are poisoned by the deceptive manner in which it is presented.

18) To be truly presuppositional, there would need to be a presentation of the commitments of the proponents making the video, a critique of the other position, which attacks the *strongest* proponents of the position, not the *weakest*, and the antithesis would need to be clearly and unabashedly presented. It has done none of the above. Instead of dealing with who would have necessarily have the *strongest*, and most *Biblical* approaches to the movements they are decrying, they pick off low-hanging fruit, without any identification of what SORT of fruit it is. If they’re interested in a GOOD answer, why didn’t they ask Ligon Duncan, James White, or R.C. Sproul why they have Sunday School in their churches? Youth ministry, I’ll grant, but if they’d read their Van Til, and paid attention to Church History, they’d know that MANY things with worldly beginnings were adopted and transformed by the Church. Take the use of “transcendental”, as an example. Why aren’t the people who could give them SOME sort of answer to their questions being asked? Why not ask R.C. Sproul what is meant by “not a program-driven church but an ordinary-means-of-grace-driven church”?

In short, while I do appreciate the look into “general evangelicalism”, and it’s problems, we already knew it had problems. That’s why most of us are Reformed. If you’re going to take a position with the implication that folks like R.C. Sproul are “borrowing from an evolutionary platform”, it would serve your position well to interact with something other than low-hanging fruit, and deal with the ones most likely to be able to critique your position after the fact. That would be the Reformed proponents of at least Sunday School. I’d invite you to take a gander at James White’s Church History series *he taught in Sunday School* and say that it’s “borrowing from an evolutionary platform” with a straight face. Making an argument after that should be easy.

For full disclosure, I attend a family-integrated church. I’m quite comfortable with the way they do things, and critiquing their practices is not, I repeat, NOT the intent of this review. What I’m not comfortable with is the manipulative, at very least, direction of this particular film; nor am I impressed with their commitment to a Reformed defense of doctrine, given the pretense to neutrality it bases itself around, and the utter disregard for dealing with the opposition’s stronger champions. I’m sure I could set up some great strawmen out of their general doctrinal context too; but that does not a valid argument make. Even if everything it said is true, which I’m by no means convinced of, they poisoned the well by dipping into methods we would call, again, at the very least manipulative. There’s my take. (Incidentally, while Challies’ now-infamous review might have been a bit more nuanced, and been researched a bit better, it was by no means empty of real content, or of valid critique. Another can be found here. A ready respondent to the FIC movement, as well, can be found in Sam Waldron, whom I wish the makers of this movie had interviewed.)

Apologetics Class Links

Don’t have all the links, files, etc ready yet, but it will be coming, and available here. I’ll update this post when it is.


Week 1
– Introduction and Definitions
Week 2 – The Sufficiency of Scripture
Week 3 – The Reliability of the New Testament Text
Week 4 – “Theology and Apologetics”
Week 5 – “The Myth of Neutrality”
Week 6 – “Common Ground”
Week 7 – “How to Defend the Faith”
Week 8 – “A Biblical Exposition of Acts 17”
Week 9 – “The Law of Eternal Progression – Mormonism”
Weeks 10-14 10: Intro to Islam; 11: Answering The Watchtower; 12: Atheism; 13: Naturalism; 14: Evolution
Week 15 – The Shack
Week 16 – How to Answer Objections

Update: all the files are up, but weeks 15 and 16 have some audio problems I need to fix. Week 15 cut off early, and week 16 has quite a bit of noise.

Week 10, here is a video playlist:

Week 11, you can find the audio here.
Week 12, we used Dr. White’s first debate with Dan Barker, which is under copyright. You may purchase it here. Preview below:

Week 13 can be found here.
Week 14 can be found here.

This week, I went through Dr. James White’s video on the “LDS Law of Eternal Progression”, as a short intro to Mormonism.

Same video I used, but unedited for time. I took out several stories, since I only had 1 hour. This video is around 1.5 hours.

This week’s topic was “A Biblical Exposition of Acts 17”.

Here’s the audio.

This week’s topic was “How to Defend the Faith” – it included many sub-topics, which will be of interest to the student of apologetics, and came almost exclusively from Greg Bahnsen’s “Always Ready”, as did the previous class.

Here’s the audio.

Week 6 of the class covered “Common Ground” – where and how we have a point of contact with the men to whom we give an answer. It came almost exclusively from Greg Bahnsen’s work “Always Ready”, which I am using as a primer on methodology.

Here’s the audio.

Week 5 of the class covered “The Myth of Neutrality” and the immorality of adopting a neutral position when arguing for the truth of God and His revelation to men.

Here’s the audio

Week 4’s topic was “Theology and Apologetics”

Here’s the audio!

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