Review of Corrupting the Word of God by Herman Hanko

Corrupting the Word of God, The History of the Well-Meant Offer by Herman Hanko and Mark H. Hoeksema, Jenison, MI: Reformed Free Publishing Association, 2016, 257 pp.

I generally agree with the views of Herman Hanko and Mark Hoeksema presented in this book. Therefore the only criticism that I have of the book is not of the doctrines presented but merely a minor comment on the style of the writing. While not poorly written, the book is somewhat quote-heavy; both in the quantity of quotes and in the size of the individual quotes. Because of this factor, I found following the flow of the argument difficult in places.

Even so, this is an extremely important book that will be a go-to reference for many years to come. Hanko is fair to the history; admitting when and where the church universal did not hold his view. While showing (conclusively, I believe) that Augustine, Fulgentius, and others definitely oppose what is now called the doctrine of the well-meant offer of the Gospel, Hanko shows that the church through the centuries often deviated from the correct view because of an early and persistent desire to defend a doctrine of free will. Some of the errors of the Pelagians and Semi-Pelagians are seen to be repeated by the Arminians, Amyraldians, the Marrowmen, and the theologians of the Christian Reformed Church.

Notable individuals covered who support the well-meant offer include Pelagius, Cassian, Prosper, Faustus, Moises Amyraut, John Davenant, John Cameron, Campegius Vitringa, Herman Venema, R. B. Kuiper, John Murray, Ned Stonehouse, Harold Dekker, Donald Macleod, Iain Murray, David Silversides, and Errol Hulse among others. Wilhelmus a Brakel, Charles Hodge, and A. A. Hodge are seen to be somewhat mixed on the question.

According to Hanko, those clearly opposed to the well-meant offer include Augustine, Fulgentius, Caesarius, Gottschalk, Anselm, Luther, Calvin, Turretin, Johannes Wollebius, Pierre du Moulin, John Owen, the official pronouncements of the Church of Scotland in 1720 and 1722, William Cunningham, John Kennedy, Robert Smith, Robert Candlish, Robert Haldane, Herman Hoeksema, Gordon Clark, and David Engelsma among others. While some of these are debatable, in most cases Hanko is clearly right. It must be admitted that the well-meant offer is opposed to the trend of the greatest theologians through the centuries.

While much of the material in this book was already known to me from David Engelsma’s excellent Hyper-Calvinism and the Call of the Gospel, I definitely learned some new things and was greatly benefitted in reading through the history. Hanko expertly connects the dots showing, for example, the impact of English Puritanism on the Dutch Reformed Church and the interaction in America between the followers of the Afscheiding and the Doleantie. His understanding of the history is deep. More importantly, his arguments from Scripture references are persuasive.

This book is a must-read and an important corrective to the widespread hypo-Calvinism in today’s Reformed and Presbyterian churches.

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Review of “The Infallible Word” ed. Ned Stonehouse and Paul Woolley

The Infallible Word, A Symposium by The Members of the Faculty of Westminster Theological Seminary, ed. N. B. Stonehouse and Paul Woolley, Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1946, 300 pp.

This is one of many books I have gratefully acquired from the library of Howard and Genevieve Long. The Longs were friends of Gordon Clark and a number of other prominent church figures in, at least, the CRC and OPC denominations. While Howard worked as an engineer, he apparently had a great love for theology as indicated from what I know of his books, letters, and life.

This volume itself is a collection of seven essays written by members of the early faculty of Westminster Theological Seminary. In order: John Murray, Edward J. Young, N. B. Stonehouse, John H. Skilton, Paul Woolley, R. B. Kuiper, and Cornelius Van Til.

The first essay, “The Attestation of Scripture,” is superb. Murray argues that we are to get our doctrine of the Scriptures from the Scriptures themselves. He defends the doctrines of inerrancy and infallibility against the claim that the sinful human authors necessarily polluted the pure Word of God in their instrumentality. And he shows that inerrancy is the Bible’s own judgment of its nature in each the Old Testament, the words of Jesus, and Paul and Peter’s letters. If one has not the time or patience to read Louis Gaussen’s Theopneustia, this essay of Murray’s may be an adequate substitute. But Murray does one better; he also addresses the views Karl Barth who Gaussen did not yet have the displeasure of reading. Murray shows that the Westminster Confession teaches that the authority of the Scripture comes from its objective nature as the Word of God, not from a Barthian “ever-recurring human crisis and divine decision.” Barth is thus seen to deviate from Reformed orthodoxy; a fact which I believe some but not all Barthians accept.

The second essay is “The Authority of the Old Testament.” Young argues that Jesus looked upon the Old Testament as an authoritative unit. “By his language Christ set the seal of his approval upon the books of the Old Testament which were in use among the Jews of his day.” (p. 59) In a footnote Young writes, “From statements in Josephus and the Talmud, it is possible to learn the extent of the Jewish canon of Christ’s day.” (p. 60n3) Most of the remaining material of this essay is a critique of the higher critical views of Robert H. Pfeiffer of Harvard University. Perhaps the most notable thing about this essay is in realizing that probably nobody is talking about Pfeiffer’s views today. The views of the critics of the Bible are constantly evolving while the Christian view remains constant because it is the view once and for all set down in the Scriptures.

The third essay is “The Authority of the New Testament.” Stonehouse contends, like Young did for the Old Testament, that the New Testament possess authority “inherently,” “from the very moment of their origin.” (p. 89) And it is authority based on being the revealed Word of God, and nothing else, that constitutes a writing being canonical. As such the canon was “ideally complete” upon the coming into being of the last of the twenty-seven writings, though though only collected into a single volume years later. Stonehouse, like Murray, opposes (activistic) Barthianism. He says, “The Reformed doctrine of God is then neither static nor activistic; it neither confines God in his past actions nor restricts his significant acts to the present moment. But God is honored as the God of history and of the present, who ‘was and is and is to come’.” (p. 97-98) The remainder of the essay notes the various comments of early Church Fathers regarding the canon of the New Testament.

The fourth essay is “The Transmission of the Scriptures.” Skilton makes a distinction between the inspiration of Scripture and the divine providence of preserving the Scriptures. His essay then focuses on the latter. Clearly it is a bit dated in that his reference to the Leningrad Codex as the oldest Hebrew text is prior to the discovery of the much older Dead Sea Scrolls. I found interesting his note that “the great majority of the variations between the Septuagint and the Masoretic text arise from the fact that the translators supplied different vowels to the consonantal text from those which the Masorets employed.” (p. 144) He notes also that the Popes of the Roman Catholic church have made various versions of the Vulgate the official text. I laughed at the thought of VO advocates being something like KJVO advocates. Whereas Oswald T. Allis was a supporter of the traditional or majority text, it might be Skilton that shifts WTS towards supporting an eclectic approach. That might be indicated when he writes, “we should seek to make use of all the important materials available as witnesses to the text of the Bible.” (p. 166-167) Skilton refers to the Greek behind the King James as “inferior but long dominant.” (p. 171) And he supports the work of Westcott and Hort. He calls Codex Vaticanus “the manuscript which contains the best text.” (p. 176) And he says that John William Burgon opposed Wescott and Hort “on unsatisfactory grounds.” (p. 183)

The fifth essay is “The Relevancy of Scripture.” One notable paragraph from this essay by Paul Woolley is a critique of continuationism. He writes, “God does not today guide people directly without using the Scriptures. There are no divinely given ‘hunches.’ God does not give people direct mental impressions to do this or that. People do not hear God’s voice speaking within them. There is no immediate and direct unwriting communication between God and the individual human being. If the Scriptures are actually sufficient, such communication is unnecessary.” (p. 192) He continues, “Many people have thought that God spoke to them directly. But when these supposed revelations are examined, what a strange mass of nonsense, contradiction and triviality this so-called Word of God proves to be.” (p. 192)

The sixth essay is “Scriptural Preaching.” Kuiper argues that Christian preaching is “proclamation of the Word.” It is not just any preaching, but of the Scriptures. “The Christian preacher must proclaim only the Word of God, and he must declare the whole Word of God.” (p. 209) He contends that preaching is to be from special revelation and only illustrations can be made from general revelation. (p. 212) Like nearly all of the other essays this one critiques the views of Karl Barth. It is clear that all of the professors at WTS (not just Van Til) opposed Barth.

The seventh and final essay is “Nature and Scripture.” Van Til’s purpose in this essay is to show that the Reformed Faith has a distinctive doctrine of natural revelation in addition to a distinctive doctrine of Scripture. He then wants to compare the Westminster Confession’s view of natural theology with the view of natural theology that has its origins in Greek thought. He contends that Special Revelation and General Revelation “must be seen as presupposing and supplementing one another.” (p. 259) As often the case with his writings, it is very hard to follow Van Til here. But considering that this book was published in the midst of the Clark – Van Til Controversy, there is something important to note for historical consideration. That is, Van Til gives some comments on “analogical” by which we might help better understand the way he uses the term:

“Created man may see clearly what is revealed clearly even if he cannot see exhaustively. Man does not need to know exhaustively in order to know truly and certainly. When on the created level of existence man think’s God’s thoughts after him, that is, when man thinks in self-conscious submission to the voluntary revelation of the self-sufficient God, eh has therewith the only possible ground of certainly for his knowledge. When man thinks thus he thinks as a covenant creature should wish to to think. That is to say, man normally thinks in analogical fashion. He realize that God’s thoughts are self-contained. He knows that his own interpretation of nature must therefore be a re-interpretation of what is already fully interpreted by God.” (p. 269-270)

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Review of “Seeing Christ in All of Scripture” ed. Peter A. Lillback

Seeing Christ in All of Scripture, Hermeneutics at Westminster Theological Seminary ed. Peter A. Lillback, Philadelphia: Westminster Seminary Press, 2016, 86 pp.

Before reaching the main content, the reader is presented with thirty-five (!) endorsements of the book by prominent Christian theologians. In these endorsements one learns that Seeing Christ in All of Scripture was written following some controversy at Westminster Theological Seminary between two competing views of Biblical interpretation called, respectively, “christocentric” and a “christotelic.” The large number of endorsements appears to be an effort to persuade (or overwhelm) the reader to believe that the christocentric view (whatever this is) is correct.

The introduction to the volume by Peter Lillback adds to the show of force of the endorsers in noting that the four essay contributors to the volume are “a witness to the hermeneutical unity at Westminster [Theological Seminary].” (p. 1) With additional descriptive (but essentially empty) terms for their view like “profound,” “organic,” and “radical,” the casual reader might be apt to agree with the view presented in the book without yet having any idea of what it actually is.

The first essay, “Biblical Hermeneutics,” by Vern Poythress is quite short. There are some scattered points on hermeneutics but little or no overall theme.

The second essay, “Old Testament Hermeneutics,” by Iain M. Duguid gives “four basic principles for interpreting the Old Testament that can be grasped and applied thoughtfully by almost anyone.” (p. 17) Unlike Poythress’ essay then, which would be marked “re-do” in an undergraduate class, Duguid’s essay has a structure. His first point is that the Old Testament is a “book about the promise of a coming Messiah through whose sufferings God will establish his glorious, eternal kingdom.” (p. 17) Duguid clarifies that this “does not mean that every verse taken by itself contains a hidden allusion to Christ, but that the central thrust of every passage leads us in some way to the central message of the gospel.” (p. 19) I’m very glad to see Duguid note this, as it was my main concern from the title “Seeing Christ in All of Scripture” that some overdone verse-by-verse allusion was going to be argued for. Moving on, his other points are “the Old Testament had a message for its original hearers, not just us”, “the Old Testament writers do not fully understand everything about which they were wrote,” and “the Old Testament writers truly understood some things they described.” This is a well-written essay with clear and important points.

The third essay, “New Testament Hermeneutics,” by G. K. Beale gives “an overview of the most essential guiding truths for biblical interpretation” (p. 25) with a focus on the New Testament. It is a decent essay, but not particularly notable.

The fourth essay, “Systematic Theology and Hermeneutics” is by the notorious Richard B. Gaffin Jr. Again here, there is nothing particularly notable.

Finally in Appendix C, written by Richard B. Gaffin, one finds comments on the recent controversy. It surrounds the “retirement” of Professor Douglas J. Green. Gaffin is responding to the former long-term WTS Professor D. Clair Davis who has written in Green’s defense. Davis, says Gaffin, sees there being a line of “christotelic” hermeneutics at WTS from Geerhardus Vos to Edmund Clowney and up to Green. Gaffin argues that the “christotelic” view goes beyond Vos and is not his actual view.

But coming to the end of the book, the reader still hasn’t been told what the christotelic view is or how it differs from the christocentric one. This seems like it should have been the top priority of this volume. The best I can figure is that the christotelic view seeks not only to interpret the Old Testament in light of the New Testament but to also ask what the Old Testament might have been understood to mean at the time of its own writing. This doesn’t mean that there are two competing interpretations. Reading in light of the New Testament is the correct interpretation. This controversy, from what little I know, seems unnecessary.

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Review of Reasonable Faith by William Lane Craig

Reasonable Faith, Christian Truth and Apologetics by William Lane Craig, Wheaton, IL: Crossway, 1984, Third Edition 2008, 415 pp.

William Lane Craig has had greater success in promoting his views than nearly any other contemporary Christian apologist. Many have benefitted from Craig’s work; some even having come to the faith through it as an instrument. Due at least in part to the wide availability of his writings and public debates, both atheists and Christians have raised criticisms of his views. Atheists who argue that Craig is unintelligent are surely mistaken. Christians who argue that he is wrong in his general approach or in some details can be taken more seriously. Regardless of one’s views, there is much to learn from Craig who has studied and written far deeper than most. As Reasonable Faith is Craig’s “signature book” it is a good place to begin consideration of his views.

In his first chapter “How do I Know Christianity Is True?”, Craig (I think rightly) emphasizes a distinction between “knowing that Christianity is true” and “showing that Christianity is true.” The former is “fundamentally by the self-authenticating witness of God’s Holy Spirit” (p. 43) with argument and evidence playing a “subsidiary role” (p. 47), while in the latter the roles are “somewhat reversed.” (p. 51) Craig’s (unfortunate) Arminianism is evident throughout the chapter in such ideas as that man has power over God to successfully resist “the drawing of God’s spirit on his heart.” (p. 47) It seems to me that the error of Arminianism commonly results from man’s seeking for an understanding of salvation satisfying to his own mind, against the predestinarian teaching of the Scriptures. The reader should carefully consider whether Craig extends the error of the Arminian method into his apologetics.

Chapter two, “The Absurdity of Life Without God” addresses a category of apologetic for Christianity based on “the human predicament.” Craig calls this “an extremely recent phenomenon, associated primarily with Francis Schaeffer” (p. 65), yet gives examples not only from Schaeffer but from thinkers of centuries past including Blaise Pascal, Fyodor Dostoyevsky, and Soren Kierkegaard. Apparently Craig has a broader idea of “extremely recent” than I do. The chapter is quite good (and right) in pressing the point that nihilism is the logical conclusion of atheism. The more consistent atheists even admit this point, but the majority of atheists delude themselves into thinking there is meaning in life despite having rejected the existence of the Godof the Bible. In line with this chapter, I’m convinced that today’s ever increasing suicide rates are due in some measure to the resulting nihilism and despair of the atheistic worldview. Craig rightly notes that while atheism is “insufficient to maintain a happy and consistent life,” in Christianity there is both “God and immortality” (p. 86) which provides meaning and value to life.

Chapter three, “The Existence of God,” summarizes the historical arguments of natural theology. Craig agrees with Leibniz that “nearly all the means which have been employed to prove the existence of God are good and might be of service, if we perfect them.” (p. 106) This seems an odd conclusion to me, as each argument should first be evaluated as to whether it is a proof, not whether it is “good” or “might be of service.” And whether “perfect” or not, I’m not persuaded that any of the arguments are proofs; certainly not for the full Christian God. These arguments seem to be Craig’s greatest interest as he spends not only this chapter on them, but the next as well. In the end Craig doesn’t seem to think the arguments are proofs either. Proof is “a bar set too high.” (p. 189) Instead he just claims they are “good arguments” by which he apparently means that “it’s more probable than not that God exists.” But what is the numerator and what is the denominator? Such a question apparently is too precise; Craig wants a more qualitative analysis. Ultimately, it seems to me, the judgment of the probability of God’s existence on these methods is probably (no pun intended) directly proportional to the degree of persuasion one already has for the conclusion.

Chapter five, “The Problem of Historical Knowledge,” is basically a response to post-modern or subjectivistic views of history. Craig argues that these views are impossible because self-contradictory. That is, they accept (and must accept) certain things as historically true all the while denying the possibility of historical truth. While I agree that such non-Christian views are incoherent, it is harder to follow when Craig argues in turn that the truth of Christianity can be verified by historical evidence. (p. 207) In his doing so, it is now apparent—if it wasn’t already—that Craig supports a “cumulative case” approach to apologetics. That is, he likes a little of the human predicament, some Kalaam Cosmological argument, a pinch of the moral argument, and adds a sprinkling of historical evidences. But do too many cooks spoil the broth? Perhaps the apologete has to pick which approach (or approaches) to use based on circumstances. Regardless, Craig moves on to historical evidences. I can certainly see value in this. Christianity is a historical religion. Jesus actually came to Earth in space-time, lived, and died on the cross. Such facts are essential to gospel proclamation. But while I can have confidence in these historical facts because they are recorded in the Bible, extra-biblical histories are not breathed-out by God. In all of Craig’s work it seems he is merely looking for good reasons to believe Christianity. But isn’t the best reason (if not the only reason) to believe something because it is true? I want to know what is true, not just what is potentially persuasive or rational to believe.

Chapter six is on “The Problem of Miracles.” Of course, miracles are not a problem on the Christian worldview; it is only a problem for modernists and others who presuppose the impossibility of miracles. Any “problem of miracles” seems to me to be the weakest argument of unbelievers. I can agree with Craig who concludes “the presupposition against miracles survives in theology only as a hangover from an earlier Deistic age and ought to be once for all abandoned.” (p. 278) He well says “Once the non-Christian understands who God is, then the problem of miracles should cease to be a problem for him.” (p. 281)

The seventh chapter is titled “The Self-Understanding of Jesus.” Like the modernists who denied miracles, the Jesus Movement (among others) took out all that is supernatural from the Gospels and ended up with Jesus made in the image of their own lacking theology. Various “theologians” sought for “the historical Jesus,” the supposed entirely-distinct-from-that “Jesus of history,” and “the real Jesus,” but never apparently were interested in the Jesus of the Bible. But Craig is not perhaps so focused on the Jesus of the Bible either. Rather than just going directly by the Bible it seems that Craig’s approach is indirect; he goes by the history of Jesus as informed by Bible and other sources. It is important to his apologetic that “within twenty years of the crucifixion a full-blown Christianity proclaiming Jesus as God incarnate existed.” (p. 300) Jesus’ self-conception was as the messiah, the Son of God, and the Son of Man. In the ways he is said to have acted in the Gospels it is clear that he believed himself to be God. All of this then is best explained by the fact that Jesus was God.

The eighth and final chapter on “The Resurrection of Jesus” is, like the arguments for the existence of God, an area of expertise for Craig. But, like his approach in all of the chapters of this book, he works not from the Bible but to the Bible.

Ultimately, Craig is an example of one that is more of a philosopher than a theologian. Large sections of Reasonable Faith are devoid of Scripture as Craig veers into discussions of modern physics and secular thought. There certainly is value in much of what he writes, but the overall idea of cumulative case apologetics too much brings me back to the mindset I had as a teenager when I had yet to read more substantial, Calvinistic, Biblical things.

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Review of Samuel Davies, Apostle to Virginia by Dewey Roberts

Samuel DaviesSamuel Davies, Apostle to Virginia by Dewey Roberts, Sole Fide Publications, 2017, 436 pp.

This is a thoroughly-researched and fascinating biography of Samuel Davies, a prominent but often overlooked 18th century American Presbyterian minister. In the preface, author Dewey Roberts lists ten “partial or brief” biographies of Davies that have been written through the years. His own biography, labored on as a passion for almost four decades, and taking advantage of modern data searching techniques, is certainly the most complete.

Davies (1723-1761) is often noted as an important Southern Presbyterian, but he was born in Delaware and was first a minister in the New York Synod of the New Side Presbyterian denomination. It was from the New Side ministers (particularly the Rev. Samuel Blair at Faggs Manor Academy in Pennsylvania) that Davies got his education.

Soon after his ordination though Davies does come South when he takes a call to Hanover, Virginia. There he is one of the first dissenter (i.e. non-Anglican) ministers in the colony. Pressing his case with the governor for the legal allowance of additional Presbyterian ministers in Virginia, the Act of Toleration is eventually ruled applicable to the colonies and freedom of religion is strengthened there.

The book makes it all too clear how the formalism and lack of gospel presentation in the established Anglican church led to poor morality and a considerable lack of true Christianity in Virginia. As Davies points out, the dissenting Christians were only secondarily concerned about matters of difference with the established church on such things as polity. The actual need for the existence of the dissenting churches, he argued, is because of a lack of adequate Gospel preaching in the established church.

One of the most interesting elements of Samuel Davies, Apostle to Virginia is the interactions described between Davies and a number of other prominent men of his time. First there was Gilbert Tennant who was God’s chosen instrument in converting Davies and with whom Davies later traveled to England to raise funds for the College of New Jersey. Also there was the prominent American minister Jonathan Edwards whom Davies wrote to and narrowly missed the opportunity to have join him in his labors for the Presbyterian church in Virginia. There was also Patrick Henry, who said he learned his renowned oratorical skills from listening to Davies preach. And Benjamin Rush, a student of Davies’ who later signed the Declaration of Independence and was the first Surgeon General. Davies also had connections with, among others, revival-preacher George Whitefield, Congregationalist minister Joseph Bellamy, and, on a trip to England, he met the Baptist theologian John Gill and the founders of Methodism, John and Charles Wesley.

Davies’ 18-month trip with Gilbert Tennant to England, Scotland, and Ireland is rightly given its own chapter. From the surprisingly large total of funds they were able to raise, one can see the care which the old world Christians had for the churches in the colonies. And, as the call for pastors to immigrate to the colonies remained a demand unfulfilled, it is interesting to learn of financial support willingly given to the College of New Jersey for the education of many who would become pastors.

From the town (and county) of Hanover Virginia, Davies helped organize the Presbytery of Hanover, which proves in history to be the parent presbytery of much of Southern Presbyterianism. In honor of this historically great presbytery, there is even a denomination today which goes by the name Reformed Presbyterian Church – Hanover Presbytery.

Other episodes in the book relate to Davies’ evangelistic labors with slaves, his efforts to recruit soldiers for the French and Indian War, a mission to the Cherokee tribes, and his stint as president of the College of New Jersey before his death at only thirty-eight years of age.

As for criticism, the book cannot be said to be a pure history as the author perhaps too frequently provides his own opinions on matters. This is particularly (but not exclusively) the case in the conclusion sections of each chapter which read like lessons learned from the respective chapter. Also, the author’s bias is strongly evident in his support for the New Side in the split of the Presbyterians in that period.

Nevertheless, the production of the book is considerably better than the vast majority of self-published titles. It is well-edited, nicely printed, and contains a detailed bibliography. Roberts should be credited with producing a fine work.

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My visit to the PCA GA 2018

For the second straight year I attended the Presbyterian Church in America’s General Assembly. This year it was in Atlanta, GA while last year it was in Greensboro, NC. While it is a national denomination, its history is largely Southern and the center of mass still resides in this region. Because of that, the GA is more often than not held somewhere in the South. Next year, I believe it is in Dallas.

My reason for attending the conference was not that I am a member of the denomination (for I am an ordained minister in the Reformed Presbyterian Church – Hanover denomination) but to again help my brother-in-law run his booth for his church website design business, Five More Talents. Because I was usually helping at the booth, I only sat in on a few hours of the proceedings at the assembly.

As for the votes of the assembly, surely someone more in the know could explain the results. On two of the more important of the overtures I do know that the request to lower the fees for Ruling Elder participation was voted down, and the overture on solemnization of marriage was approved after the minority report was sent back to the committee and reworked. The almost unanimous vote in its favor was encouraging, though it might not end similar discussions in the future.

The best part of the assembly for me is getting to talk with the people. I met up with old friends (Larry Wilkes, Tony Felich, Wayne Sparkman, Aaron Gould, Paddy Cook, Daniel Jarstfer, and Dominic Aquila) and talked with pastors and elders (including Tim McQuitty, Mike Graham, Michael Colvard, Mark Eberhard). But my favorite thing entirely is to meet up with authors.

Here are some authors I got to talk with and some notes about our discussions:

Chad van Dixhoorn  – professor at Reformed Theological seminary and editor of the five-volume The Minutes and Papers of the Westminster Assembly: 1643-1652. I gave Dr. Van Dixhoorn copies of both of my published books, The Presbyterian Philosopher and Clark and His Correspondents. He told me that he had planned on buying them from me and that I was out $50 for gifting them to him.

Scott Oliphint – professor of Apologetics and Systematic Theology at Westminster Theological Seminary and author of a number of books including “Covenantal Apologetics.” Dr. Oliphint seemed to have recognized either myself or my name (from my name tag) as I came over to shake his hand and give him a copy of Clark and His Correspondents. He mentioned that he had read my The Presbyterian Philosopher three months ago. I told him I was a bit embarrassed as I had not read his books, but I certainly know of his work nevertheless. Well-knowing the history of animosity between those influenced by Cornelius Van Til (like Dr. Oliphint) and those influenced by Gordon Clark (as I am), I sought to have as civil of a conversation as possible. I think we mostly succeeded on that though it did seem that theological arguments were always on the cusp of the conversation. I told Dr. Oliphint that I am working on an evaluation of the Transcendental Argument for the Existence of God. He recommended some good materials including an unpublished dissertation, and joked that I might just become a Van Tillian.

Dewey Roberts – PCA pastor in Florida and author of the brand-new Samuel Davies, Apostle to Virginia along with Historic Christianity and the Federal Vision. We swapped copies of his books for copies of my books.

Sean Michael Lucas – PCA pastor in Mississippi and author of a number of books including For a Continuing Church: The Roots of the Presbyterian Church in America. I gave Dr. Lucas only a copy of my Clark and His Correspondents, since I had given him The Presbyterian Philosopher at last year’s GA. I was glad to learn that Dr. Lucas is working on a biography of an African-American 19th century presbyterian pastor in Washington D. C.

All told, from free books that were given out, plus trades with authors, plus some purchases at the PCA bookstore, I came home with 14 new books and only spent about $50.

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Review of Christianity at the Crossroads by Michael J. Kruger

Christianity at the Crossroads, How the Second Century Shaped the Future of the Church by Michael J. Kruger, Downers Grove, IL: Intervarsity, 2018, 256 pp.

Christianity at the Crossroads is a well-written and interesting book; scholarly, but also accessible on a popular level. In it Michael Kruger explains important 2nd century church developments, proceeding topic-by-topic rather than chronologically. In so doing, he brings much to light in this relatively overlooked age of transitions; explaining what is known, often from just minor details in the writings of both Christians and their Roman, Jewish, and Gnostic opponents.

Though I’ve read many of the extant primary sources from the 2nd century church period, I still learned a lot from this book. While Kruger isn’t say anything groundbreakingly new, he has produced an expert summary and analysis of what is known today about that era. Against enemies both ancient (Marcion, Montanus, etc.) and modern (Pagels, Ehrman, etc.) he gives excellent arguments for the existence of a core orthodox, Jesus-worshipping, and originally plural-elder led 2nd century church using a core canon of New Testament books.

I particularly liked the section on the “rule of faith” (p. 136 ff.), a sort of informal creed based on a creation-fall-redemption paradigm in the writings of a number of early Christian writers.

This volume is worth recommending as an introduction to studies in the early church.

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