So we have completed our studies on Van Til and Schaeffer with Dr Edgar and very good it has been. We began on the second day with Van Til's Why I believe in God. We discussed common grace and the gospel then looked at Schaeffer's life, as we had looked at Van Til's on the first day. We also looked at Schaeffer's diagrams and so on. On day 3 we looked at point of contact in Romans 1, stressed both in Van Til and Schaeffer. Barth taught that there is no POC until the gospel itself comes in (probably a reaction to liberalism where every man has a spark of goodness). For Van Til and Schaeffer there is something in man that is a point of contact – his sense of God. In many ways natural/general revelation parallels supernatural/special revelation. The whole matter of method in Van Til was also considered.
Towards the end we got on to Schaeffer on absolute limits and the problem of evil in both Van Til and Schaeffer. On the final day we looked at church and state in Van Til and Schaeffer including theonomy/reconstructionism (and the federal vision) and the moral majority.
Aldous Huxley, Ends and Means, p. 270, 273, 1946, cited in Can Man Live Without God by Ravi Zacharias
How was I to know you'd be the one
To show me I was blinded, to show me I was gone
How weak was the foundation I was standing upon?
Now there's spiritual warfare and flesh and blood breaking down.
Ya either got faith or ya got unbelief and there ain't no neutral ground.
The enemy is subtle, how be it we are so deceived
When the truth's in our hearts and we still don't believe?
Shine your light, shine your light on me
Shine your light, shine your light on me
Shine your light, shine your light on me
Ya know I just couldn't make it by myself.
I'm a little too blind to see.
My so-called friends have fallen under a spell.
They look me squarely in the eye and they say, "All is well."
Can they imagine the darkness that will fall from on high
When men will beg God to kill them and they won't be able to die?
I have said that in one respect my mind has changed during the last twenty or thirty years. Up to the age of thirty, or beyond it, poetry of many kinds, such as the works of Milton, Gray, Byron, Wordsworth, Coleridge, and Shelley, gave me great pleasure, and even as a schoolboy I took intense delight in Shakespeare, especially in the historical plays. I have also said that formerly pictures gave me considerable, and music very great delight. But now for many years I cannot endure to read a line of poetry: I have tried lately to read Shakespeare, and found it so intolerably dull that it nauseated me. I have also almost lost my taste for pictures or music. Music generally sets me thinking too energetically on what I have been at work on, instead of giving me pleasure. I retain some taste for fine scenery, but it does not cause me the exquisite delight which it formerly did. On the other hand, novels which are works of the imagination, though not of a very high order, have been for years a wonderful relief and pleasure to me, and I often bless all novelists. A surprising number have been read aloud to me, and I like all if moderately good, and if they do not end unhappily - against which a law ought to be passed. A novel, according to my taste, does not come into the first class unless it contains some person whom one can thoroughly love, and if a pretty woman all
This curious and lamentable loss of the higher aesthetic tastes is all the odder, as books on history, biographies, and travels (independently of any scientific facts which they may contain), and essays on all sorts of subjects interest me as much as ever they did. My mind seems to have become a kind of machine for
grinding general laws out of large collections of facts, but why this should have caused the atrophy of that part of the brain alone, on which the higher tastes depend, I cannot conceive. A man with a mind more highly organised or better constituted than mine, would not, I suppose, have thus suffered; and if I had to live my life again, I would have made a rule to read some poetry and listen to some music at least once every week; for perhaps the parts of my brain now atrophied would thus have been kept active through use. The loss of these tastes is a loss of happiness, and may possibly be injurious to the intellect, and more probably to the moral character, by enfeebling the emotional part of our nature.
I did not know the story of Le Chambon-sur-Lignon.
Apparently during the Holocaust in France, in a tiny mountain Huguenot village 350 miles from Paris called Le Chambon-sur-lignon, 5,000 Jews, mostly children, found shelter with 5,000 Christians, almost the entire population of the village.
Defying the French government which was collaborating with the Nazis, the villagers of Le Chambon hid Jews in their homes for years. They provided the refugees with forged identification, provided education for the children, ration cards, and sent them to safety in Switzerland.
The Chambonnaise were descendants of the Huguenots, the first Protestants in Catholic France. Having endured persecution in France they were able to understand the plight of the Jews.
Under the leadership of a young French pastor, Andre Trocme, the people of Le Chambon felt it their duty to help people in need, never considering their actions heroic or dangerous. ...
We began surprisingly with Schleiermacher (the father of liberalism), a giant figure who set the tone for 19C apologetics. Apologetics (rationalistic, anthropological, humanistic) became an academic discipline through his influence.
In 1799 he wrote The Essence of Christianity. His aim was to win over “cultured despisers” of Christianity. He tried to show Christianity is the best observable religion. He ended up re-inventing the Christian faith. His central argument was that there are feelings in all of us – a need for something transcendent. The Christian God is the one most worthy of this. He redefined the elements of Christianity. Sin is not transgression but selfishness, Jesus is just the best example, etc. He was uncomfortable with the Trinity.
By the time you came to Ritschl, etc, such redefinition is common. The trend can be identified as horizontalisation. It was not wholly anti-supernatural but it was horizontal. (He also mentioned the social gospel especially in USA 20C).
There was a general feeling of optimism by the beginning of the 20C. It was felt that “free examination” would be enough to lead people to maturity and social improvement. This was all unravelled by WWI and various revolutions.
Eventually Barthianism came to the fore. Barth emphasised the transcendence of God not the horizontal approach of Schleiermacher and his successors. He had no room for apologetics or for natural revelation (he famously disagreed with Brunner over this). He said God is his own apologist, his own point of contact. Some evangelicals thought in the same way. Eg Spurgeon's anti-apologetics remarks (just let the lion out). Lloyd-Jones too sometimes.
Dr Edgar then named three alternative approaches
1. Liberalism or neo-liberalism. Paul Tillich, etc. (Method of correlation – gospel fits needs). He recommended studying culture to identify these needs (Munch's Scream – where we are at). Basic problem alienation not sin. Return to the ground of being gives power to be. Quite unchristian by the end.
2. The mainly British movement led by C S Lewis and including other inklings. The myth come true.
3. Movement begun in the 19C and that crystallised in Kuyper, Orr, Hengstenberg and that is usually called presuppositionalist.
These are not the only strands. Evidentialist and classical apologetics has continued to grow stronger over the years. Eg the ID movement. Cf the way the resurrection is dealt with by J N D Anderson, etc. Also theistic proofs (cf Aquinas based on Aristotle, cosmological arguments). W C Lane, J P Moreland, R C Sproul, etc.
The good news today is that there is a lot of interest in apologetics again. The bad news is the confusion over ways of doing it and the need for clarity.
We then looked at the background and life of Cornelius Van Til including the dispute with Gordon Clark and Van Til's advocacy of analogical knowledge.
A stimulating day.
From whence this fear and unbelief?
Hath not the Father put to grief
His spotless Son for me?
And will the righteous Judge of men,
Condemn me for that debt of sin,
Which, Lord, was charged on Thee?
Complete atonement Thou hast made,
And to the utmost farthing paid
Whate'er Thy people owed:
Nor can His wrath on me take place,
If sheltered in Thy righteousness,
And sprinkled with Thy blood.
If Thou hast my discharge procured,
And freely in my room endured
The whole of wrath divine:
Payment God cannot twice demand,
First at my wounded Surety's hand,
And then again at mine.
Turn then, My soul, unto thy rest;
The merits of thy great High Priest
Have bought thy liberty:
Trust in His effective blood,
Nor fear thy banishment from God,
Since Jesus died for thee.
The next day we spent with Eleri's other sister, Catrin, in Trowbridge. She and Ian also looked after us well in the garden - where the boys helped Ian dig up his potatoes and played with a slow worm. We also went down to Bradford to the canal and then played in the park.
While we were with Fflur we went to see my dad in Panteg hospital. He was none too good and slept most of the time. I think we caught him on a bad day but at present they say his main problem is clinical depression. With no appetite he is not eating - another cause for concern. It is difficult to know what to do at this distance.
The first people out in the morning were an elderly couple who had listened very appreciatively. They turned out to be Mr and Mrs Ramsbottom from Luton. There was also a family from the Met Tab I've met before and a family from Sheffield (he originally from London, a man I'd met before).
I went to the Perrins for lunch. Retired minister Mike has not been good for some months. He doesn't seem to be coping too well with ill health. Both were very concerned about swine flu, especially as they have a vulnerable friend and some people don't seem to be too careful. Mike is always interesting, however, and it was fascinating to hear him describing researches into his family history that have revealed not only Huguenot roots but the actual Jean Perrin who came from France to Kent in the 17th Century. He also has a copy of a book belonging to Thomas Perrin a builder and clearly a Christian. He also mentioned an ancestor baptised by Spurgeon in the 19th Century! He has prepared articles for Grace Magazine - keep an eye out. He and Elaine recently dressed up and did a Huguenot evening featuring readings and music (Mike plays the recorder). He has also been busy with his coin collection afresh. I hope Mike felt encouraged by the fellowship - I certainly did.
Here's another Focus track with images. Jan Akkerman is on guitar with accompaniment from Thijs Van Leer. Le Clochard (Bread) is the second track on the first side of the second album, known best as Moving Waves. The pictures were found here.
Yesterday (Wednesday) I only heard Joel Beeke's second address as I was babysitting in the evening, when Richard Bewes spoke for a second time. People seemed to think he did less well this time, although many appreciated the three point structure. I also missed Ian Parry on Lloyd-Jones the evangelist where he spoke very well on a teacher who taught, a witness who testified, a doctor who diagnosed and an advocate who pleaded, among other things. We were visiting the missionary exhibition here instead and visiting the AP Christian bookshop. Joel Beeke spoke this time on blind Bartimaeus from Mark 10 and Luke 18:43, highlighting his needing, finding and following/glorifying Christ and the effect this had on others. It was quite evangelistic early on and very challenging to Christians from then on. We were all quite moved when he shared how his son had written an essay for school on him and said that despite his faults the son doesn't know a man who loves Jesus Christ more. This was said not to boast but in amazement. It is a paradox that the holier we become the less aware we are of it.
Joel came back to the manse in the evening and it was good to share fellowship with him informally as he talked about the seminary, his new hearing aids, books, selling books to Timothy Keller, his doctor who loves Rob Bell, etc. He plans to do Jacob at Peniel next.
So here we are in Aber for the conference. The tradition is that we go to hear Geoff on the Sunday. The services normally at AP are held in Bethel diagonally opposite. There are also services in Baker Street nearby. The preachers there this year were Jeremy Bailey (Aberavon) and Paul Gamston (Newport). Everyone spills out of the two buildings around the same time and stewards have to keep the road clear for passing cars. It's always great to see familiar faces and lots of others.
This year Geoff looked on Sunday morning at The Deity of Christ and why you must believe it. He showed it very thoroughly from Christ's words, actions, life and those who knew him best. The call was to confess him as such.
Then in the evening it was The death of Christ and why you need it. He spoke about the cross of Christ and - 1. Its origin in the love of God 2. The fact it should never have happened (not to such a one) 3. Its necessity because of our sin 4. The fact its necessity is highlighted everywhere in the Bible. Towards the close he quoted these helpful words
Then tonight in the first meeting in the Great Hall Jonathan Thomas (Ammanford) spoke on the Parable of the Prodigal Son. Excellent exegesis and good application. I'd not heard Jonathan before and so was pleased to see he was relaxed, evangelistic and more.
We went on to Cwmbran to see my sister and her children. It was nice to see them. William was in and out. He's just decided to leave the Croesy team to pray for Llany. Gail took a dim view of that being a good Croesy girl.
1. Green (Adventure)
The 39 Steps by John Buchan
Treasure Island by R L Stevenson
The Lost World by Arthur Conan Doyle
The Riddle of the Sands by Erskine Childers
(I missed Around the World in 80 Days by Jules Verne)
I've read the first two but not the second two. It would be nice to get round to them.
2. Pink (Romance)
The Lady with the Little Dog and other stories by Chekov
The Good Soldier by Ford Madox Ford
The Age of Innocence by Edith Wharton
Sons and Lovers by D H Lawrence
(I missed Madame Bovary by Faubert)
I don't think I've read any of these.
Will in the World: How Shakespeare became Shakepseare/Stephen Greenblatt
Text and Experience: Toward a Cultural Exegesis of the Bible/Ed Smith-Christopher