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, 16 February 2009

Popma's Battle for Righteousness

I'm pleased to announce the addition of K J Popma's excellent book The Battle for Righteousness: The Message of the Book of Job (translated by Jack Van Meggelen) is now on-line on the Popma pages at allofliferedeemed.

My thanks to Jack Van Meggelen for making this available.

Klaas Jan Popma was born in The Hague, The Netherlands, in 1903. He studied classical languages and received his doctorate in this field at the University of Leiden in 1931. From 1928 to 1955 he taught classical languages in a Gymnasium or classical high school, but this was combined in 1948 with an academic appointment in philosophy. At first in a part-time capacity but later full-time, he occupied the chair for Christian reformational philosophy at the universities of Groningen and Utrecht, from which he retired in 1973. He was a prolific writer; publishing not only in his primary fields of classics and philosophy, but also in theology and literary studies. His most extensive publication is the seven-volume work entitled Levensbeschouwing, a series of philosophical and theological reflections in the form of a commentary on the Heidelberg Catechism. One of his greatest loves was the study and exposition of Scripture, which led to a wide range of popular and semi-popular publications. His study of the biblical writings was grounded in a solid knowledge of Hebrew and Greek, and was informed by a comprehensive grasp of Western intellectual and cultural history. His writings on the Bible are marked by exceptional originality, combined with a love for the reformed confessional tradition. He died in 1986.
Al Wolters from The Battle for Righteousness

Tuesday, 10 February 2009

Can we be sure of our faith?

Two nuns were driving along in their car when they ran out of petrol. They didn’t have a jerry can, all they could find was a potty. So, they walked a mile down the road to the nearest petrol station and filled the potty with petrol and walked back to the jeep.

As they were pouring the petrol into the car a lorry driver passed, he stopped and opened the window and said I don’t share your religion, but I sure do admire your faith!

Faith has a lot of meanings. There are different faiths - Hinduism, Buddhism, Islam, Judaism, paganism. And there is the Christian faith. All other faiths are us trying to get to God or god(s), they are to use a technical term ‘auto-soteric’. How can we be sure of our faith if it depends upon us being good enough or doing certain things? We can't. But Christianity claims to be different: it is the only religion where God comes to us.

As Christians we can be sure of our faith not because of who we are, but because of what God has done. Being sure is not being presumptuous, it is not arrogance, because it doesn't depend on what we do or who we are. It not what we know but who we know!

Richard Dawkins writes:
“Faith is the great cop-out, the great excuse to evade the need to think and evaluate evidence. Faith is belief in spite of, even perhaps because of, the lack of evidence.”

Faith it seems is belief without reason, belief without evidence. But what is Dawkins’s evidence for believing that? His is a faith position! G K Chesterton puts it well:

“It is idle to talk always of the alternative of reason and faith. Reason is itself a matter of faith. It is an act of faith to assert that our thoughts have any relation to reality at all.”
(Orthodoxy p 27).

Is it possible to know anything let alone be sure of anything?

• If humans are the product of time plus chance plus matter then no, we can’t be.
• If we are merely selfish genes then no.
• If we are merely the product of natural selection then no.

As C S Lewis explains:

If the solar system was brought about by an accidental collision, then the appearance of organic life on this planet was also an accident, and the whole evolution of Man was an accident too. If so, then all our present thoughts are mere accidents — the accidental by-product of the movement of atoms. ... I see no reason for believing that one accident should be able to give me a correct account of all the other accidents. It’s like expecting that the accidental shape taken by the splash when you upset a milk-jug should give you a correct account of how the jug was made and why it was upset.

God in the Dock pp 52-53.

But if there is a God then yes! We can know things. There are absolutes.

As Mike Wittmer points our, for the postmodern “You can’t prove it so you can’t know it”; for the conservative “If you can prove it you can know it”. But there is a third way – “We might not be able to prove it but we can know it”.

Belief in God can be properly basic, it is rational without being held on the basis of other beliefs.

Monday, 9 February 2009

Michael E. Wittmer's Don't Stop Believing - a review

Don't Stop Believing:
Why living like Jesus is not enough
Michael E. Wittmer
Zondervan 2008
ISBN-13: 9780310281160
240pp pbk

The search for a third way has almost become a cliche - but a third way is what Grand Rapid Theological Seminary's Mike Wittmer has provided. To every action there is an equal but opposite reaction. The emergence of emergent is in part a reaction to conservatism. Wittmer has provided us with an irenic book, that provides a third way between the extremes of fundamentalism and the liberalising influence of emergent.

Many controversial topics are addressed; these include: must we believe something to be saved? Are we generally good or bad? homosexuality; penal substitution; does the kingdom of God include non-Christians? hell, can we know anything at all? The inerrancy of the Bible.

Each chapter utilises the diagram of a pendulum illustrating the postmodern and conservative extremes and the third way that Wittmer proposes. He sees strengths in both sides and incorporates them into his triangulated third way.

Particularly helpful was his chapter on penal substitution. Something that is rapidly becominga shibboleth among conservative evangelicals. This chapter examines the question: Is the cross divine child abuse? He looks at some of the problems advanced with penal substitution: it is too individualistic, it is too limited and too soft on sin. He assesses strengths in the penal substitution view, but maintains that it does not explain everything (p 93). He then combines the penal view with the Christus Victor model, which alleviates the problems of a 'business transaction' view of the cross: Jesus purchases our life with his death. 'Penal substitution is the heart of the Christus Victor, for it explains how Jesus accomplished his misson' (p. 94). Both views are required to do understand the atonement.

Not all postmoderns or conservatives will agree with Wittmer's approach - he will either be too postmodern or too conservative for the extremes - but for the open-minded he has produced an excellent resource. It is well written and accessible.

Wittmer is a professor of systemtaic and historical theology this comes through in the copious footnotes (they account for almost 20 per cent of the book). Here Wittmer shows us how the debates are not new but have echoes in the past. He is able to draw upon Calvin, Kuyper, Augustine, Luther, Aquinas as well as contemporaries such as McLaren, Padgitt, Rollins, Plantinga and Warren.

A set of study questions and brief case studies make the book ideal for small group discussion. This is one of my books of the year for 2008; it deserves to be read widely.

Publisher's website

Available in the UK from:
Book depository
Wesley Owen

Sunday, 8 February 2009

Thursday, 5 February 2009

J H Diemer pages

I've now set up the Johnan Diemer pages. Diemer was a contemporary of Dooyeweerd and Vollenhoven and wrote on the nature of miracles. He died in 1945 in a Nazi concentration camp.

The site has translations of some of his papers by Chris Gousmett and an article and a dissertation by Chris on Gousmett. There is also a bibliography compiled by Chris.