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Major Ministry Project Needs

About a decade ago we started the Ministry Resource List.  At first it was just an Amazon Wishlist, but eventually, to make sure Caesar was happy, we had to go a different way so as to cross all the demanded t’s and dot all the demanded i’s.  In any case, the MRL has been a vital part of my research and work, and, I’ll be honest, a massive source of encouragement.  Some folks just like to be able to do something “tangible” in assisting with projects and ministry outreaches.  We have found that often those who give through the MRL do not give otherwise.

For a while the MRL has been a hit-and-miss project due to the things I have been working on, debates I have been doing, etc.  Back when I first started studying Islam the MRL was vital in building the library that has allowed me to pursue that work for a decade now.


P45 at Acts 13:48

Today we are placing nine resources on the MRL, all associated with my new project in the field of textual criticism.  I have not been able to be nearly as specific in discussing the project as I would like, but it involves the in-depth study of one particular early papyri manuscript, 𝔓45.

[At this point I learned something to take to heart: never, ever, ever write in the WordPress edit window.  Write in a text program, then insert and edit as needed.  I wrote this entire article, hit “publish,” and from this point onward, since I had gotten all nice and fancy and had inserted the proper Fraktur “𝔓” for the papyri symbol, and super-scripted the number 45, WordPress deleted everything from that point onward—totally unrecoverable.  So I am trying to pretend that I am thankful to once again learn this rather obvious lesson for the 4,000th time!]  𝔓45 is an early third century manuscript containing fragmentary portions from the Gospels and Acts.  What is very important is that the sources from which the scribe drew differ in portions of the manuscript.  This opens a window into the available text types around the year AD 220.

I well know that the materials we are placing on the MRL are quite expensive.  Most are not available in libraries in the Phoenix area.  I could, of course, obtain their use for brief periods of time through other means, but this raises the issue we are facing: I do not believe I have the freedom to materially curtail the work Alpha and Omega is doing through the DL and conferences and debates and the like.  I need to keep the DL going, need to keep addressing a wide variety of issues, and so I need to have these resources at hand so that, when I can invest time in the project, they are there, ready to go.  Further, even once the project is completed, these resources will be vital for the continued work in defending the veracity of the NT against both secular and religious opposition.

I can only promise to seek under God’s guidance to be a good steward of these resources.  Given how the list is set up now, you can give even a small amount toward the cost of these materials, and every bit truly helps.  Thank you for considering being a part of this ministry in a very material and tangible fashion!

New Books on Apologetics

Three new apologetic books (there are probably many others) are now available for you:

1. The Absurdity of Unbelief: A Worldview Apologetic of the Christian Faith, by Jeffrey D. Johnson. This one has an endorsement from James White, “In The Absurdity of Unbelief, Jeffrey Johnson provides a clear and compelling case for the Christian faith, readable and usable for believer and unbeliever alike.”

Here is a short description:
Because all non-Christian worldviews are indefensible, it is not sufficient for skeptics to attack Christianity without also defending the foundation for their own unbelief. Everyone has a worldview, even atheists and skeptics, but only the Christian worldview is not self-contradictory. The Absurdity of Unbelief demonstrates why every possible reason for unbelief is irrational and ultimately meaningless by exposing the various self-refuting systems of thought in which these objections are rooted.

2. In Defense of the Eschaton: Essays in Reformed Apologetics, by William Dennison. Of this work Lane Tipton states, “The essays in this volume are not mere restatements of Vos or Van Til. Rather, you will find here creative and constructive applications of their basic insights to topics that advance Reformed theology and apologetics. Dr. Dennison’s work as a whole represents a high-level synthesis of the methodologies of Vos and Van Til. He seeks to apply a radically non-speculative, revelationally regulated methodology to a host of issues that neither Vos nor Van Til had opportunity to address. I enthusiastically commend to the reader the work of Dr. Dennison. His insights are penetrating, and his interests are wide-ranging. He has taken up the mantle of Vos and Van Til in both the polemical defense and constructive extension of the Reformed faith. I pray this volume finds a wide and appreciative readership.” Click here to read a sample.

3. Christian Theistic Evidences (2nd Edition), by Van Til, Edited by K. Scott Oliphint. William Edgar says, “Christian Theistic Evidences represents Cornelius Van Til’s first, revolutionary statement of presuppositional (or covenantal) apologetics. It contains all his major statements against the pretended neutrality of fact, of reason, and of foundations. Dr. Oliphint’s masterful annotations clarify and enhance the beauty of the text. His introduction is pure gold. This is must reading for anyone who wishes apologetic method to be consistent with sound theology.” Click here to read a sample. Scott Oliphint was recently interviewed on the Reformed Forum podcast discussing this latest edition. Click here to listen.

On another note: “We should trust our salvation on Jesus Christ, not only on Him who alone can save and who is able to save perfectly, but on Him who has more good will to save than we can have willingness to be saved by Him.” Robert Traill

2016 Bible Reading Plan — Read the Gospels Deeply

It is about that time of the year when we are introduced to creative ways to read our Bible for the next calendar year. Did you do it this year?

This is my eighth year encouraging others to take each day of the year to read and reflect on a single unit in the Gospels. Did you know there are basically 365 units in the Gospels?

In the past, I cited five good reasons to own a Gospel Synopsis. The fifth reason is:

Read a synopsis in one year by reading one pericope [a gospel unit] every day. By coincidence, the synopsis contains 367 pericopes. That is, all four Gospels combined contain 367 units.

Get the following edition by the first of year so you are ready to go: Synopsis of the Four Gospels.


The Trinity and the Vindication of Christian Paradox

I was made aware last night of Brant Bosserman’s new book on Van Til and the doctrine of the Trinity. It appears to be one you should purchase (if not for you, I’ll take one). The title is The Trinity and the Vindication of Christian Paradox: An Interpretation and Refinement of the Theological Apologetic of Cornelius Van Til Brant is one of the pastors at Trinitas Presbytery Church, Mill Creek, WA. The forward was written by Scott Oliphint (see below) and is endorsed by James Anderson, and John Frame. The book has not made it to Amazon yet, but will be in about 6-8 weeks. You can purchase it through Wipf and Stock here

Books description:
The Trinity and the Vindication of Christian Paradox grapples with the question of how one may hold together the ideals of systematic theology, apologetic proof, and theological paradox by building on the insights of Cornelius Van Til. Van Til developed an apologetic where one presupposes that the triune God exists, and then proves this Christian presupposition by demonstrating that philosophies that deny it are self-defeating in the specific sense that they rely on principles that only the Trinity, as the ultimate harmony of unity and diversity, can furnish. A question raised by Van Til’s trademark procedure is how he can evade the charge that the apparent contradictions of the Christian faith render it equally self-defeating as non-Christian alternatives. This text argues that for Van Til, Christian paradoxes can be differentiated from genuine contradictions by the way that their apparently opposing elements discernibly require one another, even as they present our minds with an irresolvable conflict. And yet, Van Til failed to sufficiently vindicate the central Christian paradox—the doctrine of the Trinity—along the lines required by his system. Hence, the present text offers a unique proof that God can only exist as the pinnacle of unity-in-diversity, and as the ground of a coherent Christian system, if He exists as three, and only three, divine Persons.

Table of Contents
Part I. Origins of Van Til’s Theological Apologetic
Ch. 1 Old Princeton
Ch. 2 Old Amsterdam
Ch. 3 Absolute Idealist Philosophy

Part II. Van Til’s Orthodox Trinitarian System
Ch. 4 Transcendental Argument
Ch. 5 Trinitarian Theory of Knowledge
Ch. 6 Trinitarian Logic
Ch. 7 Coherent Trinitarian Theology

Part III. Critique of Van Til
Ch. 8 The Looming Problem of Paradox

Part IV. Trinitarian Vindication of Christian Paradox
Ch. 9 God
Ch. 10 Reality
Ch. 11 Man
Ch. 12 Sin and Salvation


Forward by Scott Oliphint:
As one who has labored for decades to understand, articulate and re-articulate Cornelius Van Til’s Reformed approach to the discipline of apologetics, I have normally been aware of other scholars in the field whose concerns have been coincident with mine. One day, I received an email from Brant Bosserman, with his doctoral dissertation attached, from which this work is taken. I had never heard of Dr. Bosserman, so my instinct was to do (unfortunately) what I do with virtually all emails of this nature — consign it to the digital trash bin. I rarely have time to read what is required of me, much less what comes to me “out of the blue.” But, since this work was focused on Van Til’s thought, I decided that I should at least skim it.

My attempt to skim Dr. Bosserman’s dissertation turned to serious and concentrated reading. I read every page, some more than once. By the time I had finished this work, I recognized that Dr. Bosserman had successfully focused his energies on a topic that is not only central to the Christian faith, but that is central to all of Van Til’s thought. I set this work aside and thought, “Why hasn’t this been done before?”

There are a number of responses to that question. One response would be that, though Van Til’s apologetic method has its genesis in an affirmation of the ontological Trinity, many of the criticisms of Van Til’s thought have, historically, focused on other things. For example, there has been, and continues to be, serious misunderstandings about what, exactly, Van Til means by the notion of “presupposition.” There have been those who have seen Van Til’s rejection of the standard formulations of the “theistic proofs” as a concession to fideism. There have been, in other words, pressing matters of clarity that needed, and still need, to be addressed. Whatever the reasons, however, the topic that is given its due herein is not by any means tangential to Van Til’s thinking; it is the warp and woof of everything that he believed, taught and wrote.

Without question, the most radical, revolutionary, requisite and Reformed aspect of the apologetic set forth by Van Til was his insistence that one’s defense of Christianity must begin with the ontological Trinity. No apologist prior to him had argued such a thing, in part because it meant that the discipline of apologetics must self-consciously begin with Scripture. So, says Van Til:

“…a consistently Christian method of apologetic argument, in agreement with its own basic conception of the starting point, must be by presupposition. To argue by presupposition is to indicate what are the epistemological and metaphysical principles that underlie and control one’s method. The Reformed apologist will frankly admit that his own methodology presupposes the truth of Christian theism. Basic to all the doctrines of Christian theism is that of the self-contained God, or, if we wish, that of the ontological trinity. It is this notion of the ontological trinity that ultimately controls a truly Christian methodology. Based upon this notion of the ontological trinity and consistent with it, is the concept of the counsel of God according to which all things in the created world are regulated.”

Everything that Van Til wrote and taught has its center in the distinctly Christian, biblical truth of God’s Triunity. The fact that God is One in Three must take its rightful place in the theology of any Christian, and especially any Reformed Christian. Not only so, but as goes one’s theology, so ought to go one’s apologetic; a Trinitarian theology demands a Trinitarian apologetic as well.

But, in spite of Van Til’s consistent emphasis throughout his career and his writings, the fact of God’s Triunity has not yet ascended to its rightful place, especially in the area of a Christian defense of the faith, and the theology that must undergird that defense. Generally speaking, when mention is made of Van Til’s emphasis on the Trinity, the discussion usually turns to the philosophical problem of the “one and the many.” Aside from that, little is said, and even less is elaborated.

One can peruse the books and writings of authors who follow in Van Til’s line (including mine!) and there will not be a primary and focused articulation of the Trinity, and the implications of that doctrine, in virtually any of them. There is “honorable mention” made in most works, and some have wanted to move from that doctrine to possible implications, but none of us has, in my opinion, drawn out the deep and rich entailments that a rich, robust, Reformed doctrine of the Trinity requires for the way that we think about the world, about our theology, and about apologetics. This is not as it should be.

We owe Dr. Bosserman a debt of deep gratitude for mounting the difficulties of Van Til’s Trinitarian thought, grabbing the reins, spurring it in the side, and moving it forward, as he guides us through the trail of the rich and radical contours that have otherwise been lying pent up and dormant, virtually hidden from view.

With the pathway now clearer because of Dr. Bosserman’s work, those of us who seek to follow in Van Til’s line can better recognize its direction, as well as its boundaries. There will be more brush to clear along the way; a work of this depth and breadth is bound to have a few briars and brambles still remaining in the path. But the Trinitarian trail, mapped out by Van Til, has now been extensively trod. Its end has not been reached, and we may want to sidestep it in places in order to mark off a better side-path, but wisdom points to the trail Dr. Bosserman has blazed as the best place to begin.

K. Scott Oliphint
Professor of Apologetics and Systematic Theology,
Westminster Theological Seminary