Friday, June 22, 2012

Book Review: Inerrancy and Worldview by Vern S. Poythress

Inerrancy and Worldview is the latest book from Vern Poythress. It is meant to be part of a new trilogy of books centered around challenges to the inerrancy of the Bible (the next book in the series, Inerrancy and the Gospels, is due out in October).

Poythress' book thoughtfully explores the numerous reasons why many people (Christians included) balk at the idea that the Bible is inerrant. Poythress defines inerrant as meaning "it is completely true in what it says, and makes no claims that are not true." He points out that attacks are multi-faceted: "some of the voices directly attack inerrancy. Others redefine it" (13).

And so the book is aimed at those who would attack inerrancy. Obviously, a book which covered merely objections to inerrancy would be incredibly long, and so Poythress aims at something more modest - and unique. "We will concentrate here on difficulties that have ties with the differences in worldview" (14). 

At a basic apologetic level, this work is wholly presuppositional in its approach. Poythress never deigns to pretend the Bible may or may not be the word of God. He acknowledges that it is, and then proceeds to diagnose what is wrong with the skeptic - not the Bible. "People come to the bible with expectations that do not fit the Bible, and this clash becomes one main reason, though not the only one, why people do not find the Bible's claims acceptable."

Poythress interacts with a range of challenges from a worldview perspective: challenges from materialism, history, language, sociology, anthropology, psychology, perceived contradictions, challenges from our attitudes, and also from our own corrupt spirituality. Some of the most helpful work is done when Poythress utilizes Van Til's personalism vs. impersonalism distinction to answer the 'problem' of miracles.  What Poythress does most skillfully is to demonstrate that each and every argument against inerrancy begins with precommitments which distort one's evaluation of inerrancy. The skeptic, for example, perceives contradictions in the text because he does not believe that God speaks through the Scriptures with a unified voice. He has worldview commitments which preclude possible solutions to perceived contradictions in the text. 

Modernists have issues with the exclusivity of the Christian faith, as well as complaining of the Bible being a sort of 'moral straitjacket.' Even liberal 'Christians' have issues with inerrancy related to a host of beliefs which Poythress demonstrates to be unbiblical. There's something here for every branch of unbelief - Christian and non-Christian alike. 

The author has no illusions that this book is a one-size-fits-all case for inerrancy. It is not meant to be. It is specifically targeted towards dealing with unbelief at its root, not at its branches. He acknowledges repeatedly that sin is the root of the problems people have with the Bible. In the footnotes he frequently points readers to more substantive books on different subjects where issues can be explored further while plainly refusing to follow rabbit trails (even very attractive ones that would enrich the chapter) - a type of restraint I hope to learn someday.

I admire this book as a specially focused apologetic tool. It is thoroughly presuppositional, uncompromising, and refreshingly plain to read. I would not hesitate to put it in the hands of a believer who is struggling through inerrancy, but I do think there are better books, generally speaking, for unbelievers trying to discern if the Bible is what it claims to be. It wouldn't hurt for those peripherally interested to simply read the chapters related to their own bugaboos. Also, I think the appendix (discussing the human authors of the Bible and their place in an inerrant text) is worth the price of admission alone.

You can get the book at Westminster Books, or you can read it online for free in PDF format.  (Poythress is cool like that - which is why you should just buy the book anyway.)

Wednesday, June 20, 2012

New Romans Commentary!

A new volume in the Pillar New Testament Commentary is available.  Evidently, Leon Morris' fantastic volume on Romans is being retired and replaced by this new addition to the series.  Doug Moo, who has a pretty fantastic volume on Romans himself, says that this new version is a good combination of "academic depth and accessibility."  One of the great advantages of this new volume, of course, is that it deals with contemporary debates on justification that were not quite as prominent or mainstream as it was when Morris wrote the original Pillar Commentary on Romans.

Right now, Westminster Books is selling the book alone for 40% off, which is lower than Amazon's current price.  However, if you buy the entire 14-book set, you can get all of the books for 50% off - a deal that can't be beat.  Great deals abound.

While I'm at it, I want to remind our readers that they can get Fred Zaspel's book Warfield on the Christian Life: Living in Light of the Gospel for only $7.  It's a crazy price for a great book.  Also, I know I recommended this book a month or so ago, but the price on it is still fantastic.  If you want a solid book on the life of Herman Bavinck, Ron Gleason's biography of him is being sold at Westminster for 60% off.

Saturday, June 2, 2012

Why It Is a Blessed Thing That The Fall Happened

In one of his sermons ("East of Eden"), Jonathan Edwards spends time briefly reflecting upon the blessedness of Adam (if he had obeyed God and been confirmed in righteousness).  He then spends some time talking about why we, as fallen creatures, experience greater joy and blessedness than if Adam had never fallen.  "But there are many things that greatly contribute to the happiness of those that are saved that Adam, if he had stood, would not have had."  I'll bullet-point Edwards' seven things:

1. Saints have union with Christ to enjoy, which they would not have enjoyed if Adam had not fallen.
2. Because of their union with Christ, "they also enjoy nearer relation to God the Father, and are partakers of a greater love of the Father."
3. Christ's obedience, Edwards argues, is a more glorious obedience than Adam's would have been, and therefore was "rewarded with a better reward."
4. Because of their redemption, Christians also share in Christ's exaltation on his throne, "which was the reward of his mediatorial righteousness."
5. Edwards argues that Christians have a more intimate knowledge and enjoyment of God, since Christ was incarnated: "he has taken upon him the human nature and so is nearer to them."
6. We experience a higher manifestation of God's love in Christ.  "This will make all their enjoyments and blessedness the sweeter, the consideration of their being the fruits of such a wonderful love and grace."
7. Finally, Edwards says that as a consequence of the Fall, the redeemed "will have a greater manifestation of the glory of God, God having taken occasion from the fall of man to make a more wonderful display of his glory in the work of redemption. And the more is seen of the glory of God, the greater advantage is there for happiness in the contemplation of it."

Notice the decidedly God-centered character of these answers.  It's just another thing which makes Edwards such an admirable thinker, worthy of emulation.

Friday, June 1, 2012

Gaffin Translation of Ridderbos Now Available for Free

If yesterday's post on Romans 11 held any interest for you then you will be delighted to know that Dr. Gaffin has made the translation of Ridderbos which I referenced available for us to distribute. This hard-to-find document can be downloaded by following this link. I have created a zip file with it in various formats (PDF, DOC, Kindle, and ePub). Enjoy! Here is the link.

Now you no longer have to dig through the oversized section at the RTS Jackson library if you want to read this document.