Shelves: , apologetics Presuppositional apologetics has had a difficult time breaking into the mainstream of Christian apologetics. It is easy to see why, when is largely the discovery of Cornelius Van Til, who though a brilliant thinker, is a difficult writer to grasp. He is intellectually challenging, and frankly, out of the intellectual range of most people. There have been many attempts to popularize him. The trouble with these two works is they are still geared toward the academy, and are very challenging works. There have been other attempts at popularizing presuppositional apologetics, but for one reason or another, none of them seem to have the far reaching effect that is needed to bring presuppositional apologetics into the mainstream.
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Stephen Myers September 25, K. Wheaton, IL: Crossway, , pp. In this ambitious endeavor, Oliphint succeeds commendably. As Oliphint reiterates throughout his work, apologetics ought to be understood foremost as persuasion; persuading men and women of the truth of the Gospel.
In chapter 4, Oliphint describes his notion of "persuasion" through what he terms the trivium of persuasion - a trivium a set of three subjects , comprised of ethos, pathos, and logos, that encapsulates what "persuasion" is. A holy God must be commended by a holy people, not a people exalting "relevance" over holiness or a people aggressive and combative in their commendation of the Prince of Peace.
While Oliphint is very clear that the ultimate work of persuasion is accomplished by the Holy Spirit alone rather than by the apologist, the ethos of the apologist matters and Oliphint highlights that importance brilliantly. Within a covenantal apologetic, where apologetics are seen as persuasion, this focus upon the idiosyncrasies of the "audience" is centrally important - "what will persuade this person? The first necessary principle in answering the pathos question is rooted in the character of God Himself.
If God alone is independent; if He is the One Who gives being to all other things Acts ; then God rightly can be understood as the Foundation of all Reality. But this "foundational God" does not stand at a distance from His creation; rather, He has condescended to reveal Himself to, and interact with, His creation in several ways.
First, God has revealed Himself within man, having formed man in His own image. As Oliphint very helpfully observes, this knowledge of God is "more psychological than epistemological" p.
Woven into the very fabric of who they are, men have a knowledge of God. Particularly in this climactic incarnational condescension, which Oliphint discusses at length in chapter 2, God retains His full divinity, yet He is able to relate to His creation. In multi-faceted and intelligible ways, the God upon Whom all things depend has revealed Himself to, and relates to, His creation. This principle is what Oliphint terms the "Quicksand Quotient", that is, if any notion of truth is not founded on the truth of God, at some point it will collapse under its own weight.
The pathos-centered task of the covenantal apologist is to identify what his audience believes; isolate where that belief system most visibly suppresses the truth of God; and then show his audience how, at that point of visible suppression, the belief system cannot sustain itself or explain reality.
With this task of pathos accomplished, a covenantal apologetic presses inexorably to the final component of the trivium, logos, in which the covenantal apologist presents the truth of the Gospel. In light of the instability revealed by the Quicksand Quotient, the apologist shows how the truth of God can sustain itself and how it is able to explain reality as we know it.
In this, the persuasive character of a covenantal apologetic emerges. Having seen the weaknesses of his own system, the non-believer is offered another system the Gospel! These general contours of a covenantal apologetic are well demonstrated in several "sample dialogues" that Oliphint includes in his work. These dialogues, in which Oliphint provides examples of how a discussion between a covenantal apologist and a non-believer might proceed, are a great strength of his work and often prove tremendously helpful.
For example, the sample dialogue between a covenantal apologist and Daniel Dennett, an accomplished proponent of evolution chapter 6 , sheds much light on how an engagement with evolutionary theory should proceed.
In this sample dialogue, Oliphint both provides suggestions on how to respond to evolutionary objections and gives one compelling example of how non-believers suppress the knowledge of God that is imbedded within them. Examples of this surface in the sample dialogue between a covenantal apologist and an atheist concerning whether the Christian God can be true in light of the evil-swollen world that we know chapter 5. After considerable discussion and refinement, the central issue between the dialogue partners is established as being the compatibility between God and creation.
God was able to bring them both together - to unify them - without violating any of the respective properties. God can unite them both into one without merging or changing either p. This argument for "compatibility" based on the hypostatic union strays into murky territory.
While Oliphint has explored such concepts in his other works, most particularly in God With Us, his use of these concepts in Covenantal Apologetics is only briefly explained e. Man, even in his innocence, has a limited knowledge Genesis Based on these Biblical facts concerning "properties that God has necessarily" and "the essential properties of This "incompatibility" is confirmed in Matthew , when the omniscient Son admits ignorance of the time of His return.
In that one vignette, it seems that the divine property omniscience and the human property limited knowledge are "incompatible". In short, it seems the key to the hypostatic union is not compatibility, but kenosis. If Covenantal Apologetics aspires to be broadly accessible, it would do well either to clarify such issues or to omit technical and unclear terminology that is only fully explained elsewhere.
The atheist concern, as framed in the dialogue, is the compatibility between the Christian God and a fallen creation. Through the incarnation, Jesus has both a divine and a human nature, but that human nature is sinless.
It would seem that the union between the divine nature and the sinless human nature of the Son does not address the material concern about the relationship between a holy God and a sinful creation.
Hopefully, the time it takes to explain these few suggestions will not be misleading - Covenantal Apologetics is a stimulating gift to the Church. It has distilled some of the best of Reformed apologetics and infused them with an evangelistic fervor that exalts both truth and the God of truth.
Covenantal Apologetics: Principles and Practice in Defense of Our Faith