Monthly Archives: February 2011

Muller on Surveys of Scripture

There are, of course, a large number of historical surveys of the doctrine and interpretation of Scripture and monographs emphasizing eras important to the development and alteration of the doctrine. Many of these treatises, from the older works of Pesch, Holzhey, Rohnert, and Farrar, to more recent efforts like the essays by Preus, Gerstner, or Rogers and McKim, fall into the category of theological treatises that offer a particular construction of the history as a basis for the formulation of doctrine in the present. None of these works ought to be overlooked–but all must be examined in the realization that they frequently miss the issues and problems of the past in their quest for or advocacy of present-day doctrinal and interpretive positions.

Richard A. Muller, Post-Reformation Reformed Dogmatics: The Rise and Development of Reformed Orthodoxy, ca. 1520 to ca. 1725: Volume 2: Holy Scripture The Cognitive Foundation 2nd ed., (Grand Rapids, Michigan: Baker Academic, 2003), 27.


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Filed under bible, church history, quotes, richard muller

Review: “Biblical Authority” (Woodbridge)

Here is my review of John D. Woodbridge’s excellent book Biblical Authority: A Critique of the Rogers/McKim Proposal (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 1982).

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Carson on Scripture

Here is a succinct quote by Alexander Carson (1776-1844) that well expresses his doctrine of Scripture: “I lay it down as an acknowledged truth, that the Bible is the word of God, or that the Scriptures were delivered by men inspired by God.”

Alexander Carson, “The Doctrine of the Atonement, set forth in an Address to the Public” in Works (London/Edinburgh: Hamilton, Adams/Wm. White, 1847), 1:7.

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Hearing God’s Voice in an Age of Idols

The Centre for Mentorship and Theological Reflection will be hosting its annual conference on Thursday June 9, 2011 at Tyndale University College and Seminary. The topic for this year’s series of lectures is “Hearing God’s Voice in an Age of Idols” and the guest speakers are Andrew Stirling, Joe Boot and the Centre’s founder, Dennis Ngien. For more information see here: Hearing God’s Voice in an Age of Idols.

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Princeton Journals Online

Princeton Theological Seminary has uploaded a collection of their journals including The Presbyterian Quarterly and Princeton Review, The Presbyterian and Reformed Review, The Princeton Theological Review and others to their website. Each issue can be downloaded according to individual articles by volume number and date. It also has a searchable database. An excellent resource.

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Hope’s Reason: A Journal of Apologetics 2.1

Well, now that the first issue of Hope’s Reason: A Journal of Apologetics has gone to print, we are now at work on the second. What’s neat about this journal is that you can follow each issue’s progress online. As new articles and reviews go through the peer-review and are accepted, they are posted on our website. Once we have a goodly-sized collection, they are sent off to the printers and, voila!, a new issue.

Thus far our second issue has an article on Deuteronomy as an apologetic source written by Mark Eckel, Professor of Old Testament at Crossroads Bible College in Indiana. We also have a couple of reviews written by Fred Zaspel, author of the recent study The Theology of B. B. Warfield. We have some pretty good articles lined up and a tonne of reviews, so check the website periodically for updates, or follow us on Facebook for news.

We are always open to submissions both for articles and reviews. If you have an article that you would like to publish, and it fits the criteria listed on our site, then email our editor Stephen Bedard at If you have a review(s) then send it to me, the book review editor, at

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The Loss of Faith

George Orwell’s A Clergyman’s Daughter is not one of his better known novels, nonetheless, it is a worthwhile read. Orwell offers a commentary of sorts on a variety of topics including the perception of women in the early twentieth-century, the nature of the established church, parochialism amongst England’s country-folk and education to name a few. There’s much to chew on having finished the book. As a Christian, I was particularly interested in Orwell’s fairly vivid portrayal of the loss of Christian faith.

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Carson’s Strong Words

As I’ve been working my way slowly through Alexander Carson’s (1776-1844) work on scripture, I’ve noticed that he uses very strong language against his opponents. To such a degree that I find it distracting. Here are some examples from chapter seven of Examination of the Principles of Biblical Interpretation of Ernesti, Ammon, Stuart, and Other Philologists (1863), entitled “Scripture Cannot Contradict Itself”:

The Neologists are bad interpreters as well as erroneous theologians. Does [Christoph Friedrich von] Ammon show any mark of a sound philologist? His principles of interpretation are false; and a greater number of blunders no man ever made in the same compass. What is it that entitles those men to the exalted seat to which common opinion has raised them? They are learned men, I admit; but they are not critics. They are universally acquainted with books, but not with the philosophy of language. Their interpretation is as destitute of science as their theology is of truth, and their audacious freedom with the Word of God is intolerable. This imperious man insults both the Scriptures and those who have dared to defend them from the imputation of contradiction…Ought such insolence to pass unchastised? Ought such infidelity  to be recognised as a dictator in the science of interpretation? Should a man be suffered with impunity to charge the Word of the Most High with innumerable contradictions, when in the very charge he discovers that he does not know what a contradiction is? Must the vindicators of the inspiration of Scripture be charged with offending against truth that they may defend and sustain a fiction?

Alexander Carson, “Examination of the Principles of Biblical Interpretation of Ernesti, Ammon, Stuart, and Other Philologists” in Works (Dublin/London/Edinburgh: William Carson/Houlston & Stoneman/Wm. Whyte, 1863), 5:324.

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The Next Story by Tim Challies

I know how easy it is to allow my time get eaten up by Facebook, Gmail, blogging and Twitter. In his upcoming book The Next Story:Life and Faith After the Digital Explosion blogger, author and conference speaker Tim Challies deals with the questions “Do you own technology or does technology own you?” I think this will prove to be both an informative and convicting book for the technological church. Here’s the ad from Zondervan:

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SBJT 14.4 (Winter 2010)

The latest issue of the Southern Baptist Journal of Theology is now available. This issue deals with the subject of Puritanism. Here is a list of the contents:

Editorial: Stephen J. Wellum
Learning from the Puritans 2

Carl R. Trueman
Reformed Orthodoxy in Britain 4

Joel R. Beeke
Reading the Puritans 20

Michael A. G. Haykin
Word and Space, Time and Act: The Shaping of English Puritan Piety 38

Stephen J. Nichols
More than Metaphors: Jonathan Edwards and the Beauty of Nature 48

Andrew David Naselli
John Owen’s Argument for Definite Atonement in The Death of Death in the Death of Christ: A Summary and Evaluation 60

Adam Embry
John Flavel’s Theology of the Holy Spirit 84

The SBJT Forum 100

Book Reviews 110

In the Forum discussion I have contributed a short piece on James Ussher’s ecclesiology.

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Filed under articles, church history, jonathan edwards, journals, puritans, sbjt, southern seminary

Carson’s Common Sense

Historian David Bebbington has said, “A specific inheritance from the Enlightenment was commonsense philosopohy” (Bebbington, “The Dominance of Evangelicalism,” 123). Commonsense realism, as it is often referred to, owes its popularity to the Scottish philosopher Thomas Reid who taught ethics at Glasgow University from 1764-1796. Incidentally, this is the same university that Irish Baptist Alexander Carson attended as an undergraduate. Indeed, Carson calls Reid “the first name in moral science” (p. 402).

Common sense philosophy was the principle opponent of the skepticism of David Hume, but as Bebbington observes, it was also used to defend against German  rationalism and the philosophy of Mill. As an apologist Carson wrote much against higher criticism, or Neologism, that came out of Germany and used the categories of common sense in his defense.

Here is a quote from Carson that situates him well within this tradition:

Philosophers have laboured much to rest all their knowledge on the foundations, not only of self-evident, but of necessary truth. They have esteemed it an affront to their art, not to be able to deduce all their doctrines from the intuitive light of their own reasoning faculty. Evidence has been supposed to consist in the perception of the agreement or disagreement of our ideas; and, consequently, to believe anything which is not the result of the operation of reason, is to believe without authority.

For this purpose, some of our greatest philosophers have renounced the empire of common sense, and commenced their career with universal scepticism (sic). Even their own existence, and the existence of the world, cannot be taken for granted. These truths must be proved by reason, or they must want a foundation. But they have laboured in vain. After all the exertions of the greatest human faculties, it cannot be proved even that there is a world, unless implicit credence is given to the testimony of the senses. Not only do men in general, but even philosophers themselves, continue to believe in their own existence, and in the existence of the world, not from the arguments alleged by Des Cartes (sic), Malebranche, Arnauld, and Locke, but from the testimony of consciousness and the senses.

The theologian who loves to strut in the philosopher’s steps, and to ape his sentiments and language, has, also, talked much of subjecting the contents of the Word of God to the control and determinations of reason. What cannot be comprehended or accounted for by the reasoning faculty, it is supposed irrational to believe. With this standard in his hands, he goes through the Scriptures, pruning, and retrenching, and refining, and supplying, that the dictates of the Spirit may be modelled (sic), so as to pass the review of human reason.

Alexander Carson, “Faith the Foundation of the Greater Part of Human Knowledge,” in Works (London/Edinburgh: Hamilton, Adams/Wm. White, 1847) 1:401-402.

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Affecting Figures of Speech

That the Holy Spirit sanctions the efforts of genuine eloquence is obvious, from his employing figures whose sole purpose is to affect the heart and the imagination, when the thing on which the figure bears needs no proof, but is clearer than demonstration itself. “As for man, his days are as grass: as a flower of the field, so he flourisheth. For the wind passeth over it, and it is gone; and the place thereof shall know it no more.” Of the truth here asserted no man needs proof. But how deeply is the mind affected with this beautiful figure! The impression is much stronger than would have been made by the naked assertion.

Alexander Carson, “Characteristics of the Style of Scripture as Evidential of Its Inspiration” in Works (Dublin/London/Edinburgh: William Carson/Houlston & Stoneman/Wm. Whyte, 1854), 3:86. Scripture quote from Psalm 103:15 (KJV).

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The Genuine Poet

“The genuine poet who makes a few verses to elevate the conceptions and excite the devotion of God’s people, does more than many a theologian who has written a folio” (Alexander Carson, “Characteristics of the Style of Scripture,” 55).

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A Winner Apostate

Lauren Winner, author of the wildly popular Girl Meets God, has penned a piece on apostasy at that’s worth reading: Apostasy Now {HT: Alan Jacobs}. She makes the thoughtful observation that squishy, liberal churches don’t have a concept of apostasy. If you leave the religion of a mainline denomination you are not considered an apostate; you just left, nothing more. She observes that more strictly defined religious communities thus have a practice of recognising the apostate. What she infers from this is interesting, that such groups are likely better at being a community than those with loose boundaries. She cites the recent case of Paul Haggis, whose leaving of Scientology has made him the world’s most famous apostate.

Winner is a Christian in the episcopal mainline, but she used to be a practicing Jew, here she is reflecting on her own apostasy:

Though I do not like to think of myself as such, I am technically an apostate, having long ago given up the Judaism of my childhood for the Episcopal Church. We do not readily associate the latter religion with shunning, and I must admit I feel envious, in some small way, of those groups in the American religious landscape that do call out their members. It is not the apostasy per se I envy, but the necessary preconditions: robust community; distinctive practices; and, indeed, some social consequences for leaving the faith. So while I appreciate that my church makes room for patchwork, for doubt, for moving in and out, some days I think: Would that America’s Protestant mainline could produce an apostate. For one might say that a group that lacks the necessary preconditions for making apostates can’t make disciples either.

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The Aristophrenium

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SSMI Blog: Lyrical Theology

Here is my latest blogspot at the Sola Scriptura Ministries blog called “Lyrical Theology.” It deals with what is sometimes called “holy hip-hop” or “Christian rap.” I mentioned in the post a spoken-word rap called “Faithfulness” by Stephen the Levite at YouTube which I’ve embedded below:


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Garrett’s “Baptist Theology”

I recently picked up James Leo Garrett Jr.’s tome (I use the word intentionally) Baptist Theology: A Four-Century Study (Georgia: Mercer University Press, 2009). Thus far I’ve only skimmed its over seven hundred pages, but it looks to be a treasure-trove of historical-theological material that runs the full course of Baptist history–there’s even a section on Don Carson. Founders Ministries Podcast interviewed Dr. Garrett about the book last April here.

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Presuppositionalism and Islam

A friend of mine, who is quite appreciative of the presuppositional approach to apologetics, nevertheless argues that it is only useful when dealing with unbelief. However, once a person is convinced of a “general theism,” for example Islam, then the transcendental argument (TAG) is no longer relevant. Because of this, I have long been intending to do some work on presuppositionalism and Islam. Until then, I am happy to recommend the following blogpost found at “Choosing Hats” on the subject.

TAG and Islam

In this Chris Bolt says, “If TAG only proves general theism then a great many of the objections raised against traditional proofs for God apply to TAG as well…Believing that TAG only establishes the existence or rational necessity of the classical theistic god or ‘general theism’ (if it even establishes that) carries with it a long list of implications that I believe result in serious enough inconsistencies as to be worth rejecting along with their source.”

He explains the transcendental approach–what he calls “covenantal apologetics”–with an eye towards Islam. I found this to be helpful and would love to see more work done on this area. Bolt says, “While we are not to answer the Muslim according to his or her ultimate anti-Christ presuppositions we are nevertheless to answer the Muslim. This time the Muslim must be answered in accordance with his or her false presuppositions. The Muslim believes things that are not true because they do not comport with what God tells us. Hence the Muslim view is absurd and we can demonstrate such by pointing out its inconsistencies when it is taken as a whole on its own terms and thought through carefully. Islam will not be implicitly accepted by the Christian in apologetic discussion, but Islam will be treated “fairly” according to its own presuppositions and the way that they work out in accordance with the Islamic variety of the denial of the Christian worldview.”

Of course, the key difference between Christianity and Islam is that the Christian God is Triune, that is, God is one in essence and three in person (Father, Son, Holy Spirit). Islam, on the otherhand, posits a god who is radically one with no distinction or plurality. He is a divine monad. This is distinction is important: “The ontological co-ultimacy of unity and plurality in God (as may be observed since finitely displayed on a derivative creaturely level) makes human epistemology possible as a result of God’s nature and knowing. The reason that we are able to make sense of the world is because the Triune God of Scripture exists. The Christian worldview is sufficient to account for human intelligibility at least with respect to unity and plurality.” The god of Islam, because of his monadic character, is not able to account for human intelligibility.

Why is this the case? According to Bolt, “If it is the case that ultimately everything is ontologically unity then the plurality assumed in the affirmation of the proposition ‘Allah exists’ as exhibited in the two words, their many letters, the distinction between existence and non-existence, Allah as distinct from other gods and God, etc. is principally unintelligible. The reason for this is that if reality is ultimately “one” then distinctions of any sort are impossible – which is absurd.”


Filed under apologetics, islam, presuppositionalism

Thoughts on “Biblical Authority”

I’m almost finished reading John D. Woodbridge’s Biblical Authority: A Critique of the Rogers/McKim Proposal (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 1982). This is an excellent book in many respects, but what I find most helpful is reading it as an aspiring historian. Woodbridge did his doctoral studies at the University of Tolouse in France and has taught church history at Trinity Evangelical Divinity School for quite some time. He is an expert in Reformation, post-Reformation and modern church history, in particular French evangelicalism.

Because Jack Rogers and Donald McKim argue historically that certain Christians denied the complete infallibility/inerrancy of Scripture, Woodbridge critiques them on the level of historical method. He points up common fallacies that the authors regularly make, highlights their misuse of sources whether through dependence only on secondary material or disingenuous quotations, and pokes holes in the logic of their historical interpretations. When I read a book like this I get a little fearful–it’d be horrible to have a book subjected to such exacting critique! Could Rogers and McKim sleep at night after this was published?

So, not only would I recommend this book for its value in setting the record straight historically about the doctrine of Scripture, but I would also suggest that historians read it and consider their own work and the potential that they too might be at the receiving end of such a review. It should cause historians to be assiduous in their use of primary sources, to be honest with the texts they study, and rigorous with the logic of their interpretations.


As it turns out, Woodbridge says as much regarding historians himself at the close of the book:

In a way that the authors [Rogers and McKim] probably did not envision, their study creates a call for those historians engaged in the current quest to discover the ancient attitudes of Christians toward Holy Writ. These historians should do their research in an even-handed manner, consider well the conceptual problems associated with their undertaking, and write technically competent analyses on delimited subjects before attempting the grand synthesis (p. 155).

For more of Woodbridge on historiography, see his introduction to Paul Kjoss Helseth’s new book “Right Reason” and the Princeton Mind: An Unorthodox Proposal (Phillipsburg, NJ: P&R Publishing, 2010), ix-xiv.

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Living the Gospel

Two good friends of mine had a brief interchange on their blogs about the cyclone-in-a-teacup “debate” going on in some Reformed circles about the phrase, “living the gospel.” Mark Nenadov, at All Things Expounded, posted his thoughts on the issue after hearing Al Martin use the phrase. He is right in his evaluation that the debate has brought a good warning (about precision in language) to “near absurdity.” Matt Fenn, at Pondering Christ, replies to Mark giving, what appears to me, further clarification of what Mark has said. Then the two of them have some friendly dialog at Matt’s blog about how clear we can really be with our language.

While both are in general agreement with each other, the nuances each brings offer food for thought. Mark is right: nobody actually thinks that the gospel has complete correspondence with life. But it is also true, and both would agree, that we don’t want to lend confusion to a clearly revealed truth. Matt’s final word, though intended for their interchange, concurs with what Mark said about the absurdity of the larger debate: it’s a silly discussion. Maybe the discussion is worth having, but the depths that this larger debate has come to is indeed silly.

Thanks guys!


Filed under debate, gospel, mark nenadov, matt fenn, sanctification