An accidental blog

"If God is sovereign, then his lordship must extend over all of life, and it cannot be restricted to the walls of the church or within the Christian orbit." Abraham Kuyper Common Grace 1.1.

Monday, 24 November 2008

The outrageous idea of academic faithfulness - a review

The Outrageous Idea of Academic Faithfulness
Donald Opiz and Derek Melleby
Brazos Press, Grand Rapids, 2007
ISBN 978-1-58743-210-1
144pp, pbk

This is another great little book. A law should be passed to make it compulsory reading for all Christians starting university.

The sad thing is the title; that academic faithfulness is viewed as being outrageous shows how much we as Christians have become secularised. However, this book will enable students to see the necessity of bringing the lordship of Christ to their studies and give them some tools to do so. It will help Christians start to think Christianly about their studies.

It is an engaging read and only takes a few hours to read; it will however, takes more than a few years or even decades to engage with tools and turn back the tide of secularisation in Christian thinking.

The book comprises eight short chapters each of which concludes with a set of questions which make it ideal for small group study and a list of recommended reading.

Ortiz and Melleby develop the idea of a worldview and outline the Christian worldview through the story of creation, fall, redemption and consummation. I particularly liked the notion of 4 i-eyed learning: integration, idolatry, investment, imagination and how they linked these to the four part Christian story.

This is no 'mere' theological or philosophical tomb, though it does contain theology and philosophy, both authors have much experience working with students and this comes out in the book. It is practical and laced with biblical and contemporary examples as well as useful advice and wisdom. A nice touch is the brief interviews with students who have come to see the need for academic faithfulness.

If you are wondering what a Christian approach to study might look like - get this book. If you are a pastor - get several of these books and give them to students in your congregation. It will help equip them to be robust and faithful Christians in their studies.

There is a companion website that accompanies the book here.

Available from
Book depository
Eden books
Amazon uk

Sunday, 23 November 2008

The real Jesus

Opening from the Real Jesus DVD:

The program the measure of all things?

Images are related to idols. We are commanded not to make idols in the decalogue. One reason for this is that humans are already God's image. One contemporary idol is technology, or rather technicism. The God-given gift of technology has become distorted and consequently idolised. Technology is seen to be the saviour of all our ills. Given enough time and money technical advances will solve all the problems that confront us.

The nature of idolatry is that we are shaped into the idols image: we become like what we worship (Ps 115:8). Humans are becoming like computers and computers like humans. A graphic illustration of this is provided by the Daily Mirror headline some years ago:


This was no Sunday Sport style article. But actually reflected the thoughts of a computer hacker's mother. What we worship we become like.

The research sociologist Sherry Turkle has shown how young children's thinking has been affected by computers. Computers shape their whole development: their personal identity, their personalities and even their sexuality. It is now the computer program that is the measure of all things.

Computers and artificial intelligence (AI) are reshaping psychology and how humanity is perceived. One such example is the work of Marvin Minsky. He argues that human minds are complicated machines. Is the mind merely a complex computer program? Or is this a case of reshaping ourselves in the image of our gods?

Strong artificial intelligence (SAI) goes even further: it suggests that we can create computers that will be able in turn to replicate the human mind.

The biblical picture of humans as imagers of God shows the fallacy of the strong AI programme. Computers will not become like humans.

The prevalent research paradigm in the brain sciences is that the brain is a biological computer. Yet nothing can be further from the truth. Here again idolatry distorts reality. For a computer to work it needs to be programmed to process information: "garbage in; garbage out". Creation does not confront us with labelled, ordered, categorised information; we have to interpret it before we can understand it. As Sir John Polkinghorne, rightly, notes: "Information and its processing are not the same as thought". We create our own labels; those labels are determined by our worldview. Computers do not interpret they do not have a worldview. But ultimately they are not image bearers of God. It is unthinkable that we can create co-bearers of God's image. It is because of this that the strong AI programme will fail.

The SAI advocates have a materialist worldview. For them all things are made up of matter: there is no mind/ matter duality; mind is matter. This is a basic presupposition in their work. They would echo Carl Sagan's oft quoted "the cosmos is all that is or ever will be". Attributing pre-existence to matter in this way is bestowing upon it the status of divinity. SAI is thus a pagan philosophy.


It is seeing humanity in its totality as the image of God that provides important correctives to a Greek/ Gnostic "trinitarian" or dualistic views of humanity and exposes the fallacy of the SAI programme. It is the redemptive message of humans as the image of God, that we are not comparmentalised persons, that needs to be proclaimed in the pews, the streets, homes , offices and academic ivory-towers.

Saturday, 22 November 2008

What does it mean to be human?

What does it mean to be human? This question has perplexed philosophers, theologians and all those on the "Clapham omnibus" for centuries. It is a deceptively complex question. There are as many answers – probably more – than there are worldviews.

For Protagoras we are ‘the measure of all things’; for Socrates we are the centre, the pivot of all that is worth thinking about; for Plato we are immortal souls locked in the prisons of the body and the world; for the Gnostic we are strangers living in a flawed world; for Darwin we are civilised animals driven by survival instincts, trousered apes; for Marx, we are an alienated working self-creation; for Nietzsche, a ‘rope fastened between animal and superman – a rope over an abyss’; for Freud we are sex-obsessed bipeds, victims of heredity; for Dawkins we are gene survival machines; for strong artificial intelligence we are trousered computers; for Satre and existentialism, we just exist, we have no meaning, we have to decide what to make of ourselves; for new agers, we are part and parcel of the divine cosmos, potentially divine. For most people we are a product of matter plus time plus chance.

We can break down the composition of our body into:
65% Oxygen 18% Carbon 10% Hydrogen 3% Nitrogen 1.5% Calcium 1% Phosphorous 0.35% Potassium 0.25% Sulphur 0.15% Sodium 0.15% Chlorine 0.05% Magnesium 0.0004% Iron 0.00004% Iodine
and also a few trace elements. These cost less than £2. But our most valuable asset is our skin at almost £2. Though perhaps we could get more for our working organs as transplant materials.

As Christians, how do we respond to the question?

The first thing to note that all the above are reductionistic and inevitably pagan. They reduce humanity to one (or two) aspect(s) of reality. This aspect of reality they then deem self-existent; thus attributing to it the status of divinity: paganism divinises aspects of creation (cf Clouser 1991).

One common (mis)understanding is that ‘we are a spirit, with a soul in a body’. One proof text that does seemingly being support such a view is 1 Thess 5:23

May the God of peace himself sanctify you entirely; and may your spirit and soul and body be kept sound and blameless at the coming of our lord Jesus Christ.
Watcham Nee is a well-known advocate of this position. For him the body is world consciousness; the soul is self-consciousness – here we have thinking, willing and feeling (hence the negative term soulish); and the spirit is God consciousness – this includes conscience, intuition and communion.

However, one text such as 1 Thess 5:23, does not make a doctrine. What about Mark 12:30?
… you shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength.
Does this mean we should adopt a quadrite view? But notice here that soul and mind are both included as if they were different – not what the Watchman-Nee-view advocates.

This view owes more to Jung and Plato than the scriptures. It may be a useful model but it is not biblical. The scriptures never split us up – we are a unity, not a set of different compartments. Nee is not the first to platonise Christianity. Justin Martyer did much to synthesise biblical Christianity with Greek thought; he described Plato as a Christian before Christ. At root is an untenable matter/ spirit dualism. Spirit is placed over matter; spirit over body. Scripture continually affirms the goodness of creation. Nothing in creation is intrinsically evil; it was created good although it was distorted and tainted by the fall. Dualism is a pagan Greek heresy and is incompatible with a thorough-going biblical Christianity. Seeing humanity as the image of God is the antidote. Scripture does not cut humanity into parts: it deals with whole persons.

This view is that it plays down the body and mind. At the resurrection we are not disembodied spirits! Jesus’ resurrection was a resurrection with a physical body.

Another common view among Christians is a dualistic view – we are body and soul. There are two parts of us. Again this view serves to split up humanity. We are not schizophrenic!

As Berkouwer puts it: ‘we can never gain a clear understanding of the mystery of man, if in one way or another, we abstract mere components of the whole man’. (1962, p 194). We are many faceted.

Many terms are used in the scriptures to describe humanity. However, as Berkouwer (1962: 31) notes there is not a biblical "anthropology" as such, only biblical teaching regarding humanity. The Bible is not a textbook or encyclopaedia, it is a confessional book (cf Olthius 1987). It is in this light that we must read the scriptures.

Humanity is a whole person; we are not the sum of our parts: we are a unity. The absence of any unifying theme or concept is markedly absent.

Old Testament terms
The emphasis in the OT is of humanity as a creature, the creation of God, and their dependence upon him.

Heart (lebab; LXX Kardia) This term appears over 800 times. It designates the religious centre of humanity (Little Kittell 1985: 415). In the NT it is seen as the seat of "physical vitality".

Nephesh (soul) Occurs around 80 times. It is used as a synonym for life. It is never used to distinguish one part of a human from another (Berkouwer 1962: ch 6). We do not have a soul, we are a soul. Animals are also referred to as having the "breath of life" in them (Gen 1:30), the very thing that made humans become a "living being/ soul" (Gen 2:7).

Body parts A range of body parts are used to describe humanity: kidneys, bowels, liver, blood, belly, womb, loins. Each term it seems denotes an activity of the whole person.

New Testament terms

Body, soul, spirit, mind, strength, flesh, body are all used in the NT to denote aspects of humanity.

Flesh (sarx) reflects the whole physical existence particularly focussing on human weakness (Rom 6:19). It does not denote an inherently evil part of humanity; Jesus became flesh! It becomes sinful only with orientation (Little Kittel 1985: 1005).

S(s)pirit, focuses on the whole person energised by God and living in communion with him; hence to be spiritual means to be led of the spirit.

Ridderbos makes a useful comment:

Flesh (body) and Spirit do not stand over against one another here as two "parts" in the human existence or in the existence of Christ (1977: 66)

Body (soma) refers to our creaturliness, the place where we live and breathe. It is our bodies that will be resurrected. There is no hint of Platonic or Gnostic ideas of the body being a prison of the soul (cf Cullmann 1958).

Soul (psyche) is the whole person focussing primarily on feelings and emotions, liveliness (hence death is its absence) and appetites.

From the foregoing we can conclude with Berkouwer that each of the varied terms refer to the whole person viewed from a particular perspective. They do not denote separate parts, but each refers to the whole person from a specific viewpoint in relation to God.

Body – this is humanity in visible embodiment, as seen from the ‘outside in’.

Soul – this is humanity as a living, breathing being. It points to the inner person.

Spirit – this is the guiding and motivating power of existence, as seen from the inside out.

Flesh – this is humanity as weak, fragile and mortal.

Heart – humanity in the deepest core of existence, the religious concentration point of our selfhood.


C G Berkouwer 1962. Man: The Image of God (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans)
Oscar Cullman 1958. Immortality of the Soul or Resurrection of the Dead? (London: Epworth press)
Roy Clouser 1991 The Myth of Religious Neutrality (Notre Dame: University of Notre Dame Press)
James H. Olthuis 1987. A Hermeneutics of Ultimacy: Peril or Promise? (Lanham: University Press of America)
Herman Ridderbos 1977. Paul: An Outline of His Theology (London: SPCK)

See also the bibliography here.

Friday, 21 November 2008

Resources for a biblical anthropology

C G Berkouwer 1962. Man: The Image of God. Grand Rapids: Eerdmans.

Philip Blosser. 1993. ‘Reconnoitering Dooyeweerd’s theory of man’ Philosophia Reformata 58 (2) 192-209 (a revised version of ‘Soul and body in the philosophy of Herman Dooyeweerd’ Tydskrif vir Christelike Wetenskap 27 (1) (1991) 57-82)

A H De Graaff. 1979. Toward a new anthropological model. In Hearing and Doing: Philosophical Essays Dedicated to H. Evan Runner. Ed. John Kraay. Toronto: Wedge.

A H De Graaf and J H Olthuis (eds) 1978. Toward a Biblical View of Man: Some Readings (Toronto: ICS)

H. Dooyeweerd. The Theory of Man: Thirty two Propositions on Anthropology

H Dooyeweerd. 1960 'What is Man?' In In The Twilight of Western Thought. Craig Press.

H Fernhout 1978, 1979 Man, Faith and Religion in Bavinck, Kuyper and Dooyeweerd parts I, II and II Tydskrif vir Christelike Wetenskap

Stuart Fowler 2005. On Being Human. Melbourne : Amani.

Chris Gousmett 'Shall the Body Strive and Not be Crowned? Unitary and instrumentalist anthropological models as keys to interpreting the structure of Patristic eschatology'. PhD Thesis.

Tory Hoff 1978. Nephesh and fulfilment it receives as psuche. In De Graaf and Olthuis (eds) 1978.

James Olthuis. 1993. Be(com)ing: Humankind as Gift and Call. In Philosophia Reformata 58 (2).

W J Ouweneel. 1993. ‘Supratemporality in the Transcendental Anthropology of Herman Dooyeweerd’ Philosophia Reformata 58: 210-220.

Willem Ouweneel. 2008. Heart and Soul a Christian View of Psychology. Grand Rapids: Paidea Press.

Seerveld, Calvin. 2000. A Christian Tin-Can Theory of the Human Creature. In In the Fields of the Lord. Ed. Craig Bartholomew. Carlisle: Piquant Press, and Toronto: Tuppence Press.

Marinus Dirk Stafleu “Being Human in the Cosmos.” Philosophia Reformata 56.

D F M Strauss 2004. Anthropology at the Intersection of Medicine, Psychology and Culture Tydskrif vir Christelike Wetenskap

John C Vander Stelt 2005. ‘“Faulty Psychology” and theology’. In J. H. Kok (ed) Ways of Knowing: In Concert. Dordt: Dordt College Press, ch 3.

B. J. van der Walt. 1988. On Being Human and Being a Christian in Africa: Communalism, Socialism, and Communism in a Struggle for an African Anthropology. Potchefstroom University for Christian Higher Education,

B. J. van der Walt. 1990. Being Human: A Gift and a Duty on the Way to a Christian View of Man for Africa. Potchefstroom University for Christian Higher Education

B. J. van der Walt. 1994. Man and God: A Reformational Philosophy of Religion. Potchefstroomse Universiteit vir Christelike Hoer Onderwys

B. J. van der Walt. 1997. Being Human in a Christian Perspective. Potchefstroomse Universiteit vir Christelike Hoer Onderwys

B. J. van der Walt. 1975. ‘Radical biblical anthropology: remedy for the crisis of contemporary contemporary society’. Koers 40 (4-6): 380-401.

B. J. van der Walt 2002. The Liberating Message: A Christian Worldview for Africa Potchefstroom: ICCA.

William Young. ‘The nature of man in the Amsterdam philosophy’ Westminster Theological Journal 22: 1-12.

Hendrik Hart. 1963-64. Anthropology: some questions and remarks Christian Vanguard

Tuesday, 11 November 2008

Gordon Spykman on AoLR

I've recently added the Gordon Spykman (1926-1993) pages to all ofliferedeemed. Including an excellent book by him: Spectacles: Biblical Perspectives on Christian Scholarship (IRS, Potchefstroom, 1985). This was originally a series of lectures delivered at the Potchefstroom University in South Africa. Bennie van der Walt describes the book thus:

This book contains the papers delivered by Dr. G. Spykman during his stay in Potchefstroom as a guest lecturer at the Potchefstroom University for Christian Higher Education in August-September 1983. It was first published in 1985. I am delighted with this long-awaited reprint, because I regard it to be a small jewel. In a few chapters Spykman discusses the essentials of a reformational worldview and a Christian approach to scholarship. It is furthermore written lucidly in a semi-popular scholarly style, making it accessible to a wide readership. May Spectacles help many Christians to polish their lenses to see their God-given calling with greater clarity. May our Lord richly bless this small book. with its great message!

Friday, 7 November 2008

Does God exist? Lennox vs Shermer

Here is a debate between Michael Shermer and John Lennox: Does God exist? Below are the opening addresses:

Tuesday, 4 November 2008

A bibliography of bibliographies

Over the last six months I have been compiling bibliographies for a "Christian approach to ..." . Here's a bibliography of those bibliographies:

A Christian approach to ...

... mathematics
... technology
... geography
... psychology
... language and linguistics
... worldview books

Update here are some more:

... biology
... sport
... politics
... economics
... art and aesthetics
... biblical view of what it means to be human
... sphere sovereignty
... education
... law

Monday, 3 November 2008

Sunday, 2 November 2008

Books on a Christian worldview

2008. Craig G. Bartholomew and Mike W. Goheen. 2008. Living at the Crossroads: An Introduction to Christian Worldview. Grand Rapids: Baker Academic.
There are a number of excellent resources to accompany this book - due for release in the UK on 18th December - here.

J. Mark Bertrand. 2007. (Re)Thinking Worldviews: Learning to Think, Live, and Speak in This World. Wheaton: Crossway Books.

Steven Garber.2007. The Fabric of Faithfulness: Weaving Together Belief and Behavior. Downers Grove: IVP. 2nd edn.

Julian Hardyman. 2006. Glory Days: Living the Whole of your Life for Jesus. Leicester: IVP.

Arthur F. Holmes. 1983. Contours of a World View. Grand Rapids: Eerdmans.

David Naugle. 2002. Worldview: The History of a Concept. Grand Rapids: Eerdmans.

Paul A. Marshall, et al eds. 1989. Stained Glass: Worldview and Social Science. Lanham MD: University Press of America.

Paul Marshall and Lela Gilbert. 1998. Heaven is not my Home: Living in the Now of God's Creation. Nashville: Word.

Nancy Pearcey. 2004. Total Truth: Liberating Christianity from its Cultural Captivity.
Wheaton: Crossway Books.

John Peck and Charles Strohmer. 2001. Uncommon Sense: God's Wisdom for our Complex and Changing World. London: SPCK.

James W. Sire. 1976. The Universe Next Door: A Basic Worldview Catalog. Downers Grove: IVP. 4th revised edn 2004.

James W. Sire. 2004. Naming the Elephant: Worldview as a Concept. Downers Grove: IVP.

Brian J. Walsh and J. Richard Middleton The Transforming Vision: Shaping a Christian Worldview. Downers Grove: IVP.

B. J. van der Walt. 1991. Anatomy of Reformation: Flashes and Fragments of a Reformational Worldview. Potchefstroom: Potchefstroom University for Christian Higher Education.

B. J. van der Walt. 1994. The Liberating Message: A Christian Worldview for Africa. (Potchefstroom: Potchefstroom University for Christian Higher Education, Institute for Reformational Studies).

B. J. van der Walt. 2001. Transformed by the Renewing of Your Mind: Shaping a Biblical Worldview and a Christian Perspective on Scholarship. Potchefstroom: Institute for Contemporary Christianity in Africa.

B. J. van der Walt. 2008. The Eye is the Lamp of the Body:Worldviews and their Impact. Potchefstroom: Institute for Contemporary Christianity in Africa.

Michael E. Wittmer.2004. Heaven Is a Place on Earth: Why Everything You Do Matters to God. Grand Rapids: Zondervan.

Al Wolters. 1985. Creation Regained: Biblical Basics for a Reformational Worldview. Grand Rapids: Eerdmans. Second edition 1988. Revised and expanded 2005 (with Mike Goheen)