I am now blogging at a new blog: erdman31.com

If you post comments here at Theos Project, please know that I will respond and engage your thoughts in a timely manner.

Saturday, July 28, 2007


Still furiously blogging in a Starbucks in Davenport....

The B-I-B-L-E. Yes, that's the book for me!

Jesus loves me. This I know. For the Bible tells me so.

I was eavesdropping on some relatives over lunch conversating on the Bible. It seems my sis was taking a class on the Bible with a Prof. whose premise was something of the following: The Bible was written by humans, humans are fallible, ergo the Bible is fallible.

That's not the interesting part. (It is, after all, the classic Liberal position, and goes back even farther than the 20th century.) What was interesting was that the general consensus of this conversating was that philosophical speculation was enjoyable and profitable, however, there are certain areas closed to speculation, i.e. speculation on to the nature of Scripture.

Question/s: What does the Bible itself say about its own nature? And is it possible that much of our untouchable dogma regarding the nature of Scripture is artificial and is not, after all, organically grown from the soil of the Bible?

If one were to organically produce a doctrine about Scripture based on what Scripture, itself, says, what might one say? What might one not say?


Melody said...

Well...what kind of untouchable dogma are we talking about?

And, a lot of what we hold essential to the Christian faith is implicit rather than explicit (like the trinity or Jesus being fully God but fully man), so would you feel that it would only be ok to have a concrete thought about the nature of scripture if it specifically listed every book in the canon as divinely inspired and infallible or how would you propose that one would go about figuring such a thing out?

Jonathan Erdman said...

I'm the only one allowed to ask questions around here.

Melody said...

=p You just don't want to waste your precious internet time answering my questions. Well, that's what happens to people when they go to South Dakota.

chris van allsburg said...

...on organically producing a doctrine of the nature of Scripture, and what to say and what not to say...

In your sister's classroom, I would go into Van Til's idea of Christ's self-attesting authority in Scripture. We'd then have to get into arguments about circular logic and so forth, amd we
d end up w/ the transcendental argument for Christian theism: without Him, you cannot prove anything.

What I wouldn't do is just keep quoting Scripture at the prof w/o calling into question his presuppositions: how do you know that man is fallible? He appeals to observation. Well, how do you know your observation is the correct interpretation? Furthermore, where does your concept of fallibility come from? Also, how do you know the Bible was written solely by men? How do you know they weren't inspired by the Holy Spirit? and so forth. His anti-christian presuppositions would come to light, and hopefully his mouth would be stopped, being the foolish, truth suppressing unrighteous man that he is.

Call it biblicist. That's ok. There's a big difference between, "God said, that settles it," and arguing from the impossibility of the contrary (that xtianity isn't true).


Jonathan Erdman said...

Chris: In your sister's classroom, I would go into Van Til's idea of Christ's self-attesting authority in Scripture.


How do you understand the Bible to be "self-attesting authority"? If find this term used in various ways and wonder how you understand it.

chris van allsburg said...

you mean, you're not going to let me go with spitting out theological jargon, and I actually have to develop it? Great.

chris van allsburg said...

Ok. I mean using Christ's testimony about the Old Testament and his own testimony about the authority of his words.

chris van allsburg said...

Van Til has a good section on this in "A Christian Theory of Knowledge," chapter 2. "Chef reccommends."

Jonathan Erdman said...

So "self-attesting" basically means that the same person attests to his own credibility?

chris van allsburg said...

Yes. Jesus' words are to be taken at face value. The scripture has perpescuity. the basic rules of hermeneutics apply: historical/cultural context, literary genre, laws of logic, use of reason, all based upon faith in the christian worldview taken as a whole from the complete canon of scripture. it's circular reasoning--but then again all reasoning is circular. my circle starts with God and ends with God. the sinner's circle starts with himself and ends with himself.

the scripture must have autonomy over our own autonomy and use of reason and the other laws of hermeneutics. like adam in the garden before the fall, we understand what Yahweh says, and what he means, such as in the cultural mandate and in naming the animals. it's an epistemological question, and that's where I see the strength in the reformed, presuppositional apologetic.


Jonathan Erdman said...

But on my reading of Reformed, presuppositional apologetics I perceive an inconsistent application of the principle of Biblical authority as the starting and ending of the circle.

Recall that Van Til's apologetic approach (particularly in its restatement by Bahnsen) is to say: The Bible must be presupposed as true in order to make rational sense of anything in the world. Without God and the truth of Scripture one is left with an irrational worldview.

But then, which is it? Do I take God and the Bible as true on the basis of its authority? Or do I take the Bible as true because I want to be rational?

If I go for the first one, then where does the authority come from? And if I take the second route, then am I merely a Rationalist who is accepting the Bible on the foundation of reason without regard to authority?

From my readings of Bahnsen & Co. I find that "authority" and "rationality" are often conflated. I get the sense that the "authority" is actually "rationality" in disguise.

Van Til's keen perception of "presuppositions" has always made me notice a connection with other early 20th century philosophers (the early "postmoderns" one might say) who understood there was no autonomous point of view. I applaud Van Til for this, and it was my early draw to him. (Crf. my previous post on the issue) But he then develops his actual apologetic in the direction of a very rationalistic way via his "transcendental" proof for the existence of God. I believe this move undercuts his most positive contribution, which is his recognition of the impossibility of a presuppositionless point of view and the role that "authority" and "autonomy" play in the reasoning process.

I see Van Til as the 20th century apologist who was the closest to being on to something and having the most potential to speak to a postmodern generation. Now, of course, we simply deal with an empty void...

chris van allsburg said...

I'll have to get back to you on that one, Joh. I was just listening to Bahnsen's Michael Martin Under the Microscope where he talks about the very thing you mentioned. I relisten and regurgitate.

chris van allsburg said...

Ok. Bahnsen was saying that he often receives telling looks when he says he means to presuppose the entire canon of Scripture as epistemologically necessary. A "Sunday school answer" he says, is the accusation against him. He reports, "People ask me, 'You don't really intend to say that the story of Gideon is absolutely necessary to your argument, do you?' To which I reply, 'Yes I do.'"

I was thinking about this. In apologetic thinking, do I intend to say that Christian theism in the abstract as a worldview is epistemological necessary? If so, then do I fall into the trap of clinging to an abstraction, and if yes, then is the abstraction meaningless because it is concrete? Bahnsen sees this as a real problem and accuses other presuppositionalist of this (Schaeffer--in Van Til's Apologetic).
So, the way I see it is--one must not only presuppose something in the abract and compare worldviews to see which one makes sense out of knowledge, science and ethics, but one must have something concrete to which to point. If I point to Christian theism as the best explanation and leave it there, then I still have nothing concrete, e.g., "Ok sir, Christian theism explains the aforementioned the best possible way, but maybe there's a better way that we haven't found." Moreover, we might say propositional revelation is epistemologically and ethically necessary, but if I don't actually point to something, then it's left in the abstract as some idea "out there," and not a real thing I can use as the standard.
So, I see Bahnsen's point that the complete canon of Scripture is necessary for these things. Now, why is that? Can't I construct a Christian worldview without the geneologies in Chronicles, for example? Well, I think again it is not just a worldview that we are showing as superior--although that is fundamental to the task in apologetics. I think since Christianity is historical, we do need the completed canon. We need the completed canon for developing God's character, his promises, and his action in history.

I'm still left wondering, however, if we could extract just a smidgen out of the canon (such as a brief geneology, or some obscure Levitical law or what have you), and still preach the major and necessary themes of the gospel? In other words, my human body can still be recognized as such and fully functional, even if I am missing a part of a finger, or my appendix.

Then again, we have then ask questions of wholeness and authenticity. Maybe Bahnen's right.

About rationality and authority being conflated, and about your desire to be rational, I'll try the latter 1st.

I would say that because of sin, your desire to be rational is never pure until you are regenerated by Christ. The unbeliever's desire for 'pure rationality' is really a desire for irrationality. Van Til mentions the rational-irrational contradiction within the heart of the unbeliever.

Now if your desire as a believer is to be rational, I think it's both. You choose to believe the Bible on it's own authority and because you want to be rational. That is, you want to make sense of this world.

Your 2nd paragraph of questions will come later. I'm off to watch The Bourne Ultimatum. I've got a mandate. A man-date. My wife lets me do this once in a while.

Have a nice day,