Book Review: Searching For Adam

Searching for Adam: Genesis & the Truth About Man's OriginSearching for Adam: Genesis & the Truth About Man’s Origin by Terry Mortenson

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

A long and difficult, but excellent book on the case for a historical Adam. It begins with Scripture, moves through some various theological and philosophical arguments, and then moves on to science. The exegetical part was interesting, though I find any exegetical argument against a historical Adam similar to the Cleveland Browns. They keep trying but always come up short. The Bible does not allow you to get rid of historical Adam. And by that I mean a man specially created as the first human to be the federal head of the entire human race.

But the sections most fascinating to me were the scientific sections where DNA, Neanderthals, human over design, comparison of humans to apes, and several other things were discussed.

As I continue to read young earth creationists as well as the old-earth guys and theistic evolutionists here is what I am noticing. For a long time YEC men have had a leg up in theology, Scripture/exegesis, philosophy, and church history. In other words, in each of these areas the YEC interpretation was more probable than the OEC interpretation or theistic evolution. The one area where OEC and theistic evolutionists had a leg up was science. This has led to some embarrassing YEC scientific conclusions, especially early on. (Though in fairness it is not as if evolution has been one long string of uninterrupted successes. They are constantly modifying as well.) But YEC is catching up. Men are getting advanced degrees in key areas from schools with secular pedigree and are using their knowledge to prove YEC instead of OEC/TE. The other thing I notice is that many YEC scientists interact regularly not just with Christian OEC men, but with secular evolutionists. They read their papers and books. This makes them sharper, clearer, and more precise in what they are arguing.

I do not see this same effort from secular evolutionists and even many Christian OEC men dismiss YEC scientists. This is a mistake. In the long run, taking your opponents seriously is a sign of respect and will help you grow. YECers do this better than OECers, though of course they are not perfect.

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Genuine Submission

Here is a wonderful quote from Stephen Clark’s book Man and Woman in Christ: 

Christians are often tempted by a selective submission [to God’s Word]. Some scriptural teaching is very attractive to them, and they find in themselves an admiration and a willingness to submit to it. Modern Christians usually  find it easier to be enthusiastic about Christian teaching on God’s fatherhood [you can tell this was written in the 80’s] or about love of others. Some scriptural teaching, however, contradicts their desires. Some may even repulse them. To be sure, often the difficulty is genuine uncertainty about how to respond to some part of scripture. Often a person may know that the scripture is saying something on a given subject, but can be uncertain how to understand or apply what is said. Despite some uncertainties, for most Christians there remains much scriptural teaching that is sufficiently clear, or could become sufficiently clear with more investigation, but which they find themselves unwilling to submit to. The genuineness of submission is tested precisely at these points. They prove their submission is genuine, and not a mere pretense, when they submit to the Lord in something which is personally difficult and which may lose them the respect of the world around him. (Emphasis mine)

Berkhof on Knowing God Through Scripture

Here is a short quote from Berkhof’s Systematic Theology on how we learn about God.

The only proper way to obtain perfectly reliable knowledge of the divine attributes is by the study of God’s self-revelation in Scripture. It is true that we can acquire some knowledge of the greatness and power, the wisdom and goodness of God through the study of nature, but for an adequate conception of even these attributes it will be necessary to turn to the Word of God. In the theology of revelation we seek to learn from the Word of God which are the attributes of the Divine Being. Man does not elicit knowledge from God as he does from other objects of study, but God conveys knowledge of Himself to man, a knowledge which man can only accept and appropriate. For the appropriation and understanding of this revealed knowledge it is, of course, of the greatest importance that man is created in the image of God, and therefore finds helpful analogies in his own life. In distinction from the a priori method of the Scholastics, who deduced the attributes from the idea of a perfect Being, this method may be called a posteriori, since it takes its starting point, not in an abstract perfect Being, but in the fulness of the divine self-revelation, and in the light of this seeks to know the Divine Being.

 

Freedom of Religion & the Clarity of Scripture

Over against Rome, the churches of the Reformation indeed have no more powerful weapon than Scripture. It delivers the deadliest of blows to ecclesiastical tradition and hierarchy. The teaching of the perspicuity [clarity] of Scripture is one of the strongest bulwarks of the Reformation. It also most certainly brings with it its own serious perils. Protestantism has been hopelessly divided by it, and individualism has developed at the expense of the people’s sense of community. The freedom to read and examine Scripture has been and is grossly abused by all sorts of groups and schools of thought. On the balance, however, the disadvantages do not outweigh the advantages. For the denial of the clarity of Scripture carries with it the subjection of the layperson to the priest, of a person’s conscience to the church. The freedom of religion and the human conscience, of the church and theology, stands and falls with the perspicuity of Scripture. It alone is able to maintain the freedom of the Christian; it is the origin and guarantee of religious liberty as well as of our political freedom. Even a freedom that cannot be obtained and enjoyed aside from the danger of licentiousness and caprice is still always to be preferred over a tyranny that suppresses liberty. Herman Bavinck, Reformed Dogmatics, Vol. 1, p. 479. Also quoted in K. DeYoung’s Taking God at His Word

Book Review: The Inerrant Word

The Inerrant Word: Biblical, Historical, Theological, and Pastoral PerspectivesThe Inerrant Word: Biblical, Historical, Theological, and Pastoral Perspectives by John F. MacArthur Jr.

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I am beginning a long term study of the doctrine of Scripture. I wanted to prime the pump a bit and chose this book to do so. It was an excellent choice. None of the articles discuss an issue comprehensively. Each chapter could have been a book. But what the book does do is give you a good orientation to the major issues, such as the character of God, textual criticism, the Spirit’s work, inspiration, illumination, apparent contradictions, pastoral implications of inerrancy, and numerous footnotes directing you to other sources.

This book is not an all in one comprehensive guide to the doctrine of Scripture or even to inerrancy. But it does give a good lay of the land from high up that will allow a student or pastor to explore other areas more in depth.

My Rating System
1 Star-Terrible book and dangerous. Burn it in the streets.

2 Stars-Really bad book, would not recommend, probably has some dangerous ideas in it or could just be so poorly written/researched that it is not worth reading. Few books I read are 1 or 2 stars because I am careful about what I read.

3 Stars-Either I disagree with it at too many points to recommend it or it is just not a good book on the subject or for the genre. Would not read it again, reference it, or recommend it. But it is not necessarily dangerous except as a time waster.

4 Stars-Solid book on the subject or for the genre. This does not mean I agree with everything in it. I would recommend this book to others and would probably read it again or reference it. Most books fall in this category because I try not to read books I don’t think will be good. There is a quite a variety here. 3.6 is pretty far from 4.5.

5 Stars-Excellent book. Classic in the genre or top of the line for the subject. I might also put a book in here that impacted me personally at the time I read it. I would highly recommend this book, even if I do not agree with all that it says. Few books fall in this category. Over time I have put less in this category.

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Second Helvetic Confession: The Bible and Tradition

Here is the third post (post 1, post 2) on the Second Helvetic Confession. In chapter 2, Bullinger dives into the the relationship between Scripture and tradition. I have put some key phrases in bold.

THE TRUE INTERPRETATION OF SCRIPTURE. The apostle peter has said that the Holy Scriptures are not of private interpretation (2 Pet. 1:20), and thus we do not allow all possible interpretations. Nor consequently do we acknowledge as the true or genuine interpretation of the Scriptures what is called the conception of the Roman Church, that is, what the defenders of the Roman Church plainly maintain should be thrust upon all for acceptance. But we hold that the interpretation of the Scripture to be orthodox and genuine which is gleaned from the Scriptures themselves (from the nature of the language in which they were written, likewise according to the circumstances in which they were set down, and expounded in the light of and unlike passages and of many and clearer passages) and which agree with the rule of faith and love, and contributes much to the glory of God and man’s salvation.

INTERPRETATIONS OF THE HOLY FATHERS. Wherefore we do not despise the interpretations of the holy Greek and Latin fathers, nor reject their disputations and treatises concerning sacred matters as far as they agree with the Scriptures; but we modestly dissent from them when they are found to set down things differing from, or altogether contrary to the Scriptures. Neither do we think that we do them any wrong in this matter; seeing that they all, with one consent, will not have their writings equated with the canonical Scriptures, but command us to prove how far they agree or disagree with them, and to accept what is in agreement and to reject what is in disagreement.

COUNCILS. And in the same order also we place the decrees and canons of councils.

Wherefore we do not permit ourselves, in controversies about religion or matters of faith, to urge our case with only the opinions of the fathers or decrees of councils; much less by received customs, or by the large number of those who share the same opinion, or by the prescription of a long time. Who Is The Judge? Therefore, we do not admit any other judge than God himself, who proclaims by the Holy Scriptures what is true, what is false, what is to be followed, or what to be avoided. So we do assent to the judgments of spiritual men which are drawn from the Word of God. Certainly Jeremiah and other prophets vehemently condemned the assemblies of priests which were set up against the law of God; and diligently admonished us that we should not listen to the fathers, or tread in their path who, walking in their own inventions, swerved from the law of God.

TRADITIONS OF MEN. Likewise we reject human traditions, even if they be adorned with high-sounding titles, as though they were divine and apostolical, delivered to the Church by the living voice of the apostles, and, as it were, through the hands of apostolical men to succeeding bishops which, when compared with the Scriptures, disagree with them; and by their disagreement show that they are not Apostolic at all. For as the apostles did not contradict themselves in doctrine, so the apostolic men did not set forth things contrary to the apostles. On the contrary, it would be wicked to assert that the apostles by a living voice delivered anything contrary to their writings. Paul affirms expressly that he taught the same things in all churches (I Cor. 4:17). And, again, “For we write you nothing but what you can read and understand.” (II Cor. 1:13). Also, in another place, he testifies that he and his disciples – that is, apostolic men – walked in the same way, and jointly by the same Spirit did all things (II Cor. 12:18). Moreover, the Jews in former times had the traditions of their elders; but these traditions were severely rejected by the Lord, indicating that the keeping of them hinders God’s law, and that God is worshipped in vain by such traditions (Matt. 15:1 ff.; Mark 7:1 ff).

There is nothing really surprising here. The reformed church has always held that Scripture is the final authority and that all doctrines of men, councils, and traditions are to be held up to Scripture to see if they agree. If they do not agree they are to be rejected.

Likewise the reformed church has always held tradition in high regard while keeping it subordinate to the Bible.

Finally, notice in the very first paragraph the key doctrine that Scripture is supposed to interpret Scripture.

Second Helvetic Confession: The Preaching of the Word of God

pulpit-1

This is the continuation of the section on God’s Word from the Second Helvetic Confession, Chapter 1.

THE PREACHING OF THE WORD OF GOD IS THE WORD OF GOD. Wherefore when this Word of God is now preached in the church by preachers lawfully called, we believe that the very Word of God is proclaimed, and received by the faithful; and that neither any other Word of God is to be invented nor is to be expected from heaven: and that now the Word itself which is preached is to be regarded, not the minister that preaches; for even if he be evil and a sinner, nevertheless the Word of God remains still true and good.

Neither do we think that therefore the outward preaching is to be thought as fruitless because the instruction in true religion depends on the inward illumination of the Spirit, or because it is written “And no longer shall each man teach his neighbor…, for they shall all know me” (Jer. 31:34), And “Neither he who plants nor he that waters is anything, but only God who gives the growth” (I Cor. 3:7). For although “No one can come to Christ unless he be drawn by the Father” (John 6:44), And unless the Holy Spirit inwardly illumines him, yet we know that it is surely the will of God that his Word should be preached outwardly also. God could indeed, by his Holy Spirit, or by the ministry of an angel, without the ministry of St. Peter, have taught Cornelius in the Acts; but, nevertheless, he refers him to Peter, of whom the angel speaking says, “He shall tell you what you ought to do.”

INWARD ILLUMINATION DOES NOT ELIMINATE EXTERNAL PREACHING. For he that illuminates inwardly by giving men the Holy Spirit, the same one, by way of commandment, said unto his disciples, “Go into all the world, and preach the gospel to the whole creation” (Mark 16:15). And so in Phillippi, Paul preached the word outwardly to Lydia, a seller of purple goods; but the Lord inwardly opened the woman’s heart (Acts 16:14). And the same Paul, after a beautiful development of his thought, in Romans 10:17 at length comes to the conclusion, “So faith comes from hearing and hearing from the Word of God by the preaching of Christ.”

At the same time we recognize that God can illuminate whom and when he will, Even without the external ministry, for that is in his power; but we speak of the usual way of instructing men, delivered unto us from God, both by commandment and examples.

HERESIES. We therefore detest all the heresies of Artemon, the Manichaeans, the Valentinians, of Cerdon, and the Marcionites, who deny that the Scriptures proceeded from the Holy Spirit; or did not accept some parts of them, or interpolated and corrupted them.

This section of the confession does a good job of balancing the need for inward illumination with the normal means of grace, the preaching of the Word. The preaching of the Word does not eliminate the need for the Spirit and vice versa. Also the confession elevates the preaching of the Word to its proper place. Really a wonderful and unique part of this confession.