Geertsema, J. Always Obedient: Essays on the Teachings of Dr. Klaas Schilder. P&R, 1995.
Klass Schilder (1890-1952) was a Dutch pastor and professor in the generation following Kuyper and Bavinck. He is notable for standing within the tradition developed by Kuyper and Bavinck while also dissenting from Kuyper at key points. He is also notable for his opposition to dialectical theology (Barthianism) and to the Nazi occupation of Holland. The book provides a brief biography of Schilder and includes essays on several aspects of his thought: Scripture, covenant, the church, culture, and heaven. Fundamentalists will appreciate Schilder’s resistance to Barthian approaches to Scripture and his resistance to ecumenical unity with Barthians and other unorthodox groups. At the same time he strongly held that Reformed Christians ought to be more united. Those from the free church tradition will disagree with the way he maps out this unity institutionally, but should appreciate his emphasis on both unity and purity. Baptists will also disagree on his thoughts regarding the covenant, since he includes children in the covenant. Yet we would appreciate his opposition to Kuyper’s views of presumptive regeneration and eternal justification. Regarding Christ and Culture, Schilder strongly believed in the importance of Christians participation in cultural pursuits. However, he saw dangers in Kuyper’s formulation of common grace. He placed greater emphasis on the antithesis, and he emphasized the needs for Christian cultural involvement to be truly Christian.
Oliphint, K. Scott. Covenantal Apologetics: Principles and Practice in Defense of Our Faith. Wheaton: Crossway, 2013.
Covenantal apologetics is Oliphint’s name for Van Tillian presuppositionalism. Oliphint chooses this name because he finds presuppositionalism an inadequate term (there are multiple kinds of presuppositionalism and the existence of presuppositions is hardly news in a post-modern context) and because a key part of Oliphint’s apologetic is that the transcendent God relates to mankind covenantally.
The book unpacks ten tenets:
- The faith that we are defending must begin with, and necessarily include, the triune God—Father, Son, and Holy Spirit—who, as God, condescends to create to redeem.
- God’s covenantal revelation is authoritative by virtue of what it is, and any covenantal, Christian apologetic will necessarily stand on and utilize that authority in order to defend Christianity.
- It is the truth of God’s revelation together with the work of the Holy Spirit, that brings about a covenantal change from one who is in Adam to one who is in Christ.
- Man (male and female) as image of God is in covenant with the triune God for eternity.
- All people know the true God, and that knowledge entails covenantal obligations.
- Those who are and remain in Adam suppress the truth that they know. Those who are in Christ see that truth for what it is.
- There is an absolute, covenantal antithesis between Christian theism and any other, opposing position. Thus, Christianity is true and anything opposing it is false.
- Suppression of the truth, like the depravity of sin, is total but not absolute. Thus, every unbelieving position will necessarily have within it ideas, concepts, notions, and the like that it has taken and wrenched from their true Christian context.
- The true, covenantal knowledge of God in man, together with God’s universal mercy allows for persuasion in apologetics.
- Every fact and experience is what it is by virtue of the covenantal, all-controlling plan and purpose of God.
In the course of the book Oliphint emphasizes the goal apologetics is not winning an argument but is persuasion. One of the strengths of this approach is the close connection made between apologetics and evangelism.
A second strength of Covenantal Apologetics is importance Oliphint places on Romans 1. He repeatedly emphasizes that in our apologetic and evangelistic encounters we are speaking to people who inescapably know the truth of our testimony to God, despite their suppression of that truth.
A third strength is Oliphint’s attempt to move from theory to practice. He does this by including apologetic dialogues. The opposing lines are based, at least initially, on the published arguments of opponents to Christianity, both atheist and Muslim.
Weeks, Noel. "The Hermeneutical Problem of Genesis 1-11." Themelios 4.1 (Sept. 1978): 12-19.
Weeks addresses such issues as the role of general revelation, the thought-world of the ANE and its effect on the opening chapters of Genesis, and the fact that literary structuring does not negate the historical accuracy of biblical accounts.
The article is insightful. A few examples:
"We are not the first Christians to be troubled by the teaching of Genesis. Simply because the Bible has a different view of origins to those put forth in human philosophy there is a period of conflict whenever the church comes under the influence of a human philosophical system. Thus any defender of neo-Platonism in Augustine’s day or of Aristotelianism in the late Middle Ages found himself in trouble with Genesis. It is a gross oversimplification to act as though we alone face a problem here. Nevertheless the problem for most Christians today is generated by a specific challenge, namely that of biological evolution and related theories." 14
" One must first reckon with the fact that certain ideas or stories may be shared by the Bible and surrounding cultures because they are both based on a historical event. For example it would be rather ridiculous to argue that God chose to convey certain theological truths in terms of the flood concepts already possessed by the Mesopotamians. Obviously both Bible and Sumerian traditions mention a flood because there was a flood." 14
"Was there ever a pure ‘three-storey universe’ idea in antiquity? For the pagan contemporaries of the Bible writers, cosmology was theology. The heavens expressed and were controlled by the various divinities. The sort of abstract spacial/mechanical interest involved in the idea of a three-storey universe is a product of the demythologization of Greek rationalism and Euclidian spacial concepts. One should not try to project a late idea back into biblical times in order to explain the Bible. In its rejection of polytheism biblical cosmology is of necessity radically different to its surroundings. It is not popular cosmology." 16
Weeks, Noel K. "The Ambiguity of Biblical Background," Westminster Theological Journal 72, no. 2 (Fall 2010): 219-36.
Weeks’s goal in this article is to evaluate the use of extra-biblical background material in the past to ascertain how it ought and ought not be used today. He begins by noting that many of the parallels between customs at Mari or Nuzi turned out to be false parallels. These parallels were built on the false assumption that these customs were not localized but consistent over the ANE. Weeks holds that conservatives were misguided to appeal to these alleged parallels to authenticate Scripture, especially since it required dating events later and claiming that the biblical authors "misunderstood the ‘real’ background" that scholars had uncovered.
Weeks then turns to Kline’s argument that the covenant structure of Deuteronomy demonstrates an early date for that book. Weeks holds to an early date for Deuteronomy based on the Bible’s own claims, but he notes that discoveries since the time of Kline undercut his argument. Features found in "second millennium treaties" were discovered in first millennium ones and vice versa. Weeks notes, "When one looks at the pattern of treaties, augmented by discoveries since the publications of Mendenhall and Kline, it becomes clear that the pattern those authors discerned was skewed by the fact that the then known second millennium treaties were predominately Hittite and the then known first millennium treaties were predominately Assyrian. What was seen as a difference between millennia looks much more like a difference between cultures" (222-23).
Weeks concludes from these examples that Christian scholars should be careful about the claims they make from extra-biblical background. They need to look at the assumptions that lie behind the claims of similarity and they need to assess the real significance of alleged similarities.
Weeks turns his attention from past failures in the deployment of extra-biblical background to present concerns. He notes that some use extra-biblical background to relativize that distinctiveness of Scripture. Others so embed the Bible in the ancient world that a kind of "historical determinism" limits what that biblical authors can be conceived as believing. The other effect of this view is that the "Bible is incomprehensible in the modern world" (227). Weeks notes that these views rest on an assumption of cultural uniformity that has already been disproven as well as a determinism that is undercut by historical change itself.
Weeks then turns to background to the creation narratives. He questions first whether many of these cultures even had creation myths. He comments, "The attempts to prove that, simply by changing what we understand by creation, we can classify the Ugaritic Baal stories as creation myths, illustrates the problem but not a convincing solution" (229). Secondly he notes that different scholars claim to have found the background to the OT creation story "in Mesopotamia, Ugarit, Egypt, or a complex mixture." The diversity of views here undercuts the credibility of the claims.
Weeks moves to the NT to evaluate the claim that the apostles used rabbinic or Qumranic exegesis in their interpretation of the Old Testament. Regarding the first he notes that recent research indicates that latter rabbinic exegesis was not necessarily the same as that practiced by the Pharisees of the first century. Regarding the claim that pesher exegesis from Qumran was utilized, Weeks notes that absence of Qumran in the Gospels tells against their pesher approach being a major influence on the apostles. Furthermore, he notes some significant differences between their view of the fulfllment of OT texts and the view inherent in the pesher method.
Finally Weeks turns to the claims of Bruce Winter that the background to the teaching about headcoverings in 1 Corinthians 11 was imperial concern about the way women dressed in the empire. Winter suggests that the "’angels’ of 1 Cor 11:10 are imperial inspectors, checking on the dress of women in church" (233). In addition to the argument of 1 Corinthians 11 being made from other premises, Weeks notes the existence of statues of "bare-headed imperial women." Winters suggests that these were to model appropriate hair styles for the populace. But Weeks notes, "Surely a requirement for covered female heads makes hair styles irrelevant" (233, n 54).
In conclusion Weeks notes two negative practical effects of uncritical dependence on extra-biblical background. First, an emphasis on the similarity of the Bible its ancient context can correlate with "a lack of distance of present Christian culture from the surrounding culture." Weeks asks, "might it be another manifestation of reaction to separationist Fundamentalism?" (235). Second, Weeks notes, "If the Bible speaks in the time-bound concepts and ideas of its time, which are not applicable to our time, and if the Bible is to play any role on the contemporary scene, then there must be a complex process of translation." He things the end result is that this approach will "undermine the effective authority of Scripture and the center of authority and certainty must shift to the church" (235).
Noel K. Weeks, "Cosmology in Historical Context," Westminster Theological Journal 68, no. 2 (Fall 2006), 283-93
Weeks notes that there are two problematic assumptions made by those who attempt to correlate the cosmology of Genesis with ANE cosmologies. The first is that the data exists for such a correlation to be made. The second is that ANE cultures shared common cosmological beliefs. The second assumption is flawed since the data indicates a diversity of cosmological views in the ANE, even within a culture. This makes the first assumption shaky since there is little to no written material from Palestine that reveals what the cosmology of the peoples there was.
Weeks notes a third major obstacle: the ANE cosmologies are theological and any attempt to divide the theological from the cosmological is a modern distinction at odds with how the people of the time actually thought.
In the latter half of the article Weeks interacts with claims often made by those who attempt to correlate the biblical cosmology with those of the ANE. The first is the claim that the earth floated on a sea that also surrounded it. Weeks notes, however, that maps from Babylon show islands beyond the circular sea that was said to surround the earth. Furthermore the texts vary about whether the earth floats on an ocean, whether the ocean rests upon the land, or whether the earth rests directly on the underworld.
Weeks examines the Enuma Elish in particular, since it is often claimed as background to the Genesis story. He notes that this claim is at odds with a conservative dating of Genesis, is faulty because the Enuma Elish is at odds with older Mesopotamian cosmologies, and is unhelpful because it is impossible for the description of the cosmos in the Enuma Elish to be physical.
Finally, Weeks looks at claims that the raqia or firmament was seen by the Biblical authors as a solid dome. But this will not work since it contradicts the way the Bible speaks of the heavens in other passages. In any case, The Mesopotamian texts indicate a variety of views existed about the nature of the firmament. There is no need to impose a solid dome theory on the text of Scripture.
Gonzales, Jr, Robert. "The Covenantal Context of the Fall: Did God Make a Primeval Covenant with Adam?" Reformed Baptist Theological Review 4, no. 2 (July 2007): 5-32
Gonzalez argues that God did indeed make a creation covenant or a covenant with Adam. He rejects the idea that a covenant is only made in a fallen world in which oaths and ceremonies are needed to stabilize relationships. Gonzalez notes to the contrary that marriage is a covenant relationship that existed before the Fall (he is willing to concede that oaths may be a post-fall addition to covenants, but this does not seem to be his position). Gozalez argues that God does not cut a new covenant with Noah. Genesis 6:18 refers to God upholding a covenant. This implies an earlier creation covenant. In the remainder of the article Gonzalez traces the similarities between God’s promises in creation and his promises in other covenants. He seems to take the blessings of Genesis 1:26-28 as the promises of the Creation covenant and the warnings associated with the trees in the garden as the sanctions.
Rogland, Max. "Ad Litteram: Some Dutch Reformed Theologians on the Creation Days," Westminster Theological Journal 63, no. 2 (Fall 2001): 212-233.
Rogland’s article is a response to claims by Morton Smith and Joesph Pipa that late nineteenth and early twentieth century Dutch Reformed theologians agreed that the days of Genesis 1 were "literal" and "ordinary." Rogland is able to demonstrate that while all agreed that the days were "literal" (though in later years some preferred "historical"), not all agreed that they were "ordinary" twenty-four hour days. American Dutch Reformed theologians Geerhardus Vos and Louis Berkhof both clearly believed the creation days to be "ordinary" twenty-four hour days. Theologians from the Netherlands, Kuyper, Bavinck, Aalders, and Schilder, held that at least the first three days (Kuyper), or even all six days, were not or might not be ordinary twenty-four hour days. However, they also clearly rejected the day-age theory (Bavinck earlier accepted the day-age theory and later rejected it). So while the days may have been longer that twenty-four hours, they were not millennia in length. In addition these men, especially Schilder (in the statements quoted by the article) strongly opposed evolution and attempts to harmonize Genesis 1 with evolutionary theory. The reasoning for broadening the days beyond strict twenty-four hour periods for Kuyper, et al. was twofold. First, the lack of sun in days 1-3 could mean that the earth orbited the light source in a different number of hours than it presently orbits the sun. Second, the Fall affected the world in many ways, and it could have affected the number of hours the earth orbits the sun. Rogland wrote this article in the context of whether the PCA was going to hold a definitive statement on the days of creation. He argues against such a statement on the basis of the positions of these earlier theologians. It must be said, however, given the evidence he presented in his article that these men clearly rejected the day-age view. The analogical day view, while likely wishing to claim these theologians, seems to hold a substantially different view of the days. It seems that there is small difference between holding strictly to twenty-four hour days in the creation week and holding that the days might be somewhat shorter or longer (but not ages longer) and a great difference between those positions and day-age, analogical day, and framework positions. Rogland seems to be correct in nuancing Smith and Pipa, but their overall conclusion is more than his given the evidence of his article.
Trumper, Tim J. R. "Covenant Theology And Constructive Calvinism," Westminster Theological Journal 64, no. 2 (Fall 2002): 387-403.
This article is a review of Jeong Koo Jeon, Covenant Theology: John Murray’s and Meredith Kline’s Response to the Historical Development of Federal Theology in Reformed Thought. It seems that Jeon is more sympathetic toward Kline and Trumper is more sympathetic toward Murray (though he wants to downplay the debate overall). In any event the article is a helpful for gaining some sense in the differing covenantal views of Murray and Kline.
Niehuas, Jeffrey J. "Covenant: An Idea in the Mind of God," Journal of the Evangelical Theological Society 52, no. 2 (June 2009): 225-46.
In this article Niehaus interacts with Williamson, Hafemann, and others on some covenant themes recently under discussion: the existence of a creation covenant (N. affirms), whether a covenant ratifies and existing relationship (N. says a previous relationship exists but a covenant alters it), whether all the covenants are unified in a single covenant (N, denies), whether the New Covenant is new or a renewal of the Mosaic Covenant (N. affirms the newness of the New Covenant).
Overall an insightful article. I was most interested in his discussion of a Creation Covenant. I found this line of reasoning persuasive: "But it should be clear that Gen 1:1-2:3 (and 2:17) and other data (e.g. Ps 47:2, Mal 1:14) display the following facts about God: he is the Creator and Great King over all in heaven and earth; he has provided good things in abundance for those he created; he made the man and woman royalty (“subdue,” “rule over”) and gave them commands; he blessed them; and he pronounced a curse on them should they disobey his commands. These facts are the essence of covenant: a Great King in authority over lesser rulers, with a historical background of doing good to them, with commands and with blessings, but also a curse in case of disobedience" (233)
Bolt, John. "Herman Bavinck on Natural Law and Two Kingdoms: Some Further Reflections," The Bavinck Review 4 (2013): 64–93.
In the two kingdoms debate Bolt largely, though not entirely, sides with David VanDrunen’s analysis. Bolt concludes his article with the following propositions:
"1. Bavinck fully affirms the natural law/two kingdoms tradition that was an integral part of Reformed theology from John Calvin onward.
"2. Christian discipleship requires a robust sense that Christ is Lord and King and a robust sense of responsibility to bring every thought and action captive to Christ.
"3. The content of our obedience as disciples of Jesus Christ within the structures and relationships that are an integral part of our created human condition as God’s image bearers must be normed by the laws, ordinances, and wisdom of general revelation and natural law, as the Scriptures of the Old and New Testament shed light on them and equip us to follow them. In other words, we are to be guided here by natural law rather than gospel.
"4. Acknowledging the need for Scriptural guidance to understand general revelation should not be used in such a way that it provides privileged knowledge for the followers of Christ that can trump public, natural knowledge. Our arguments in the public square include witness to the gospel and reasoned argument from common principles.
"5. Assessing the degree to which a people, a culture, a nation, a civilization has been "Christianized" should not be measured in distinctly Christian (or gospel) terms but by how natural and human markers such as the following are realized: protection of life, freedom and human dignity, equality of opportunity for betterment, equitable laws and justice applicable to all people, and possibility of peaceful voluntary association and cooperation among groups within a society" (92-93).
Personally, I find the insistence that life outside the church be governed by natural law and not by Scripture the least appealing and convincing aspect of VanDrunen’s two-kingdoms formulation. I can see how natural law and general revelation can result in pagans making civic laws consistent with God’s law. And I fully agree that the Mosaic law is not the covenant of the New Covenant era and is not to be applied to the nations of this era directly. But in my mind a Christianized society is one in which a vast majority of citizens have become citizens and in which they try to bring all of God’s Word to bear on all of life. Such societies are rare in history, won’t be realized until the millennium, and are not necessary for Christians to faithfully live in this world. A society that protects human dignity and provides equitable laws may be benefiting from God’s goodness, but it is not Christian unless its people are submissive to Christ and all His word.
Craig G. Bartholomew, "A Time for War, and a Time for Peace," in A Royal Priesthood? The Use of the Bible Ethically and Politically: A Dialogue with Oliver O’Donovan, eds. Craig Bartholomew, et al. (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 2002), 96-97.
Two insights I thought worth saving to think on:
On Proverbs 8:30: "If the translation of ‘āmôn as ‘craftsman’ or ‘artisan’ is correct [Murphy, WBC; Van Leeuwen, NIB], then wisdom is here ‘personified as the king’s architect-advisor, through whom the king puts all things in their proper order and whose decrees of cosmic justice are the standard for human kings and rulers (v. 15)’ [Van Leeuwen, NIB, 94]" (92).
"In Hebrew, Schmid connects this [creation] order with ṣedeq (=righteousness). He notes that the ancient Near Eastern law codes enact ‘the establishment of the order of creation in its juristic aspect." (96-97).
Harmless, William, ed. Augustine in His Own Words. Washington, DC: Catholic University of America Press, 2010. [pp. 122-55; Augustine the Preacher]
Harmless selects from Augustine’s On Christian Doctrine and from his various sermons to present the reader with both Augustine’s theory about preaching as well as examples of his preaching.
Various articles from Allan D. Fitzgerald, ed. Augustine through the Ages: An Encyclopedia. Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1999.
A top-notch encyclopedia about all things Augustine.