Covenantal Apologetics. Study Key Issues in Apologetics and Its Relationship with Christian Doctrine. Curated from a lecture series by K. Scott Oliphint. In his latest work, Covenantal Apologetics, K. Scott Oliphint seeks to recast Cornelius Van Til’s presuppositional apologetics as “covenantal apologetics” – a . Covenantal Apologetics has ratings and 59 reviews. Andrew said: This book was good in more carefully defining presuppositional apologetics as covenan.
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Home Blog Articles Contributors Reviews. Through the Westminster Confession. Apoloetics Oliphint, Covenantal Apologetics: Principles covenantak Practice in Defense of Our Faith.
In his latest work, Covenantal ApologeticsK. Scott Oliphint seeks to recast Cornelius Van Til’s presuppositional apologetics as “covenantal apologetics” – a Reformed apologetic that is both broadly accessible and easily practiced. In this ambitious endeavor, Oliphint succeeds commendably. One of the greatest strengths of Oliphint’s project is that, in a covenantal apologetic, there is no clear boundary between apologetics and evangelism.
Covenantal Apologetics : Principles and Practice in Defense of Our Faith
As Oliphint reiterates throughout his work, apologetics ought to be understood foremost as persuasion; persuading men and women of the truth of the Gospel. In chapter 4, Oliphint describes his notion of “persuasion” through what he terms the trivium of persuasion – a trivium a set of three subjectscomprised of ethospathosapologeticw logosthat encapsulates what “persuasion” is.
Given persuasion’s centrality to a covenantal apologetic, this trivium of persuasion is practically a trivium of covenantal apologetics and therefore apologetisc a covenantwl way to compress the whole of Oliphint’s project. Covenantal apologetics’s trivium begins with ethosa subject focused upon the character of the apologist.
If the covenantal apologist’s goal is to magnify Christ and His Gospel, the apologist simultaneously must be commending Christ and his Gospel with his life, or else all of the arguments and persuasions that he offers will be eviscerated.
Covenantal Apologetics: Principles and Practice in Defense of Our Faith by K. Scott Oliphint
A holy God must be commended by a holy people, not a people exalting “relevance” over holiness or a people aggressive and combative in their commendation of the Prince of Peace.
While Oliphint is very clear that the ultimate work of persuasion is accomplished by the Holy Spirit alone rather than by the apologist, the ethos of the apologist matters and Oliphint highlights that importance brilliantly. Within a covenantal apologetic, where apologetics are seen as persuasion, this focus upon the idiosyncrasies of the “audience” is centrally important – “what will persuade this person?
The first necessary principle in answering coveenantal pathos question is rooted in the character of God Himself. In chapter 2, Oliphint explores the doctrine of God’s aseity God’s quality of absolute independence, being dependent on nothing for His being or existence.
But this “foundational God” does not stand at a distance from His creation; rather, He has condescended to reveal Himself to, and interact with, His creation in several ways. First, Covenantsl has revealed Himself within man, having formed man in His own image.
As God’s image bearer, each individual inescapably has covwnantal knowledge of God. As Oliphint very helpfully observes, this knowledge of God is “more psychological than epistemological” p. Woven into the very fabric of who they are, men have a knowledge of God. Yet even this internal knowledge of God is overwhelmed by God’s condescension to reveal Himself in His covfnantal Word and, most covvenantal, in His incarnate Son.
Particularly in this climactic incarnational condescension, which Oliphint discusses at length in chapter 2, God retains His full divinity, apooogetics He is able to relate to His creation.
In multi-faceted and intelligible ways, the God upon Whom all coveantal depend has revealed Himself to, and relates to, His creation. Tragically, in his rebellion, sinful man suppresses this revelation of God in unrighteousness, constructing myriad systems – intellectual, philosophical, moral, religious – to obscure the inescapable divine image that he bears; to reject God’s revelation in His Word and in His Son; and to answer the existential questions left when the God Who establishes Reality is denied.
However, when any philosophical or intellectual system attempts to answer these questions and to understand truth by suppressing the truth of God’s revelation, it ultimately will collapse upon itself precisely because it denies the Foundation of all Reality. This principle is what Oliphint terms the “Quicksand Quotient”, that is, if any notion of truth apoolgetics not founded on the truth of God, at some point it will collapse under its own weight.
The pathos -centered task of the covenantal apologist is to identify what his audience believes; isolate where that belief system most visibly suppresses the truth of God; and then show his audience how, at that point of visible covenajtal, the belief system cannot sustain itself or explain apologeics. With this task of pathos accomplished, a covenantal apologetic presses inexorably to the final component of the triviumlogosin which the covenantal apologist presents the truth of the Gospel.
In light of the instability revealed by the Quicksand Quotient, the apologist shows how the truth of God can sustain itself and how it is able to explain reality as we know it. In this, the ckvenantal character of a covenantal apologetic emerges. Having seen the weaknesses of his own system, the non-believer is offered another system the Gospel!
These general apologettics of a covenantal apologetic are well demonstrated in several “sample dialogues” that Oliphint includes in his work. These dialogues, in which Oliphint provides examples of how a discussion between a covenantal apologist and a non-believer might proceed, are a great strength of his work and often prove tremendously helpful.
Covenantal Apologetics – Reformation21
For example, the sample dialogue between a covenantal apologist and Daniel Dennett, an accomplished proponent of evolution apologetifs 6sheds much light on how an engagement with evolutionary theory should proceed. Particularly helpful is the covenantal apologist’s shifting of the discussion from the continuities between mankind and other species continuities that the covenantal apologist freely recognizes and attributes to the simple fact that Covenanyal created mankind from the creation itself and thus there are bound to be continuities between the two to the discontinuities between mankind and other species discontinuities attributable to man’s unique status as Covebantal image bearer, yet discontinuities that proponents of evolution seldom discuss.
In this sample dialogue, Oliphint both provides suggestions on how to respond to evolutionary objections and gives one compelling example of how non-believers suppress the knowledge of God that is imbedded within covenantall. If there is a shortcoming in Oliphint’s work, it is a periodic lack of completeness and clarity in some of his arguments.
Examples of this surface in the sample dialogue between a covenantal apologist and an atheist concerning whether the Christian God can be true in light of the evil-swollen world that we know chapter 5.
After considerable discussion and refinement, the central issue between the dialogue partners is established as being the compatibility between God and creation. In addressing this issue, Oliphint’s covenantal apologist adopts Mario Bunge’s definition of compatibility “Two statements e and h are compatible if and only if neither of them logically implies the negation of the other”, quoted on p. So, at a minimum, we have to recognize that there is no intrinsic or essential incompatibility between properties that God has necessarily and the essential properties of creation, even of human beings God was able to bring them both together – to unify them – without violating any of the respective properties.
Any notion of compatibility will have to allow that if this is true, then there is no incompatibility between God’s character and the character of human beings. God can unite them both into one without merging or changing either p. This argument for “compatibility” based on the hypostatic union strays into murky territory. While Oliphint has explored such concepts in his other works, most particularly in God With Ushis use of these concepts in Covenantal Apologetics is only briefly explained e.
If the compatibility “between God’s character and the character of human beings” is sought cocenantal Bunge’s definitional test imposed on the two statements “Jesus Christ is God” and “Jesus Christ is Man”, then certainly, the only acceptable Christian response is to affirm that these two statements are compatible – neither “logically implies the negation of the other. However, if the question is a bit more focused, matters become more complex.
apoloogetics For example, the Scriptures are covenaantal that God is omniscient Psalm Man, even in his innocence, has a limited knowledge Genesis 2: Based on these Biblical facts concerning “properties that God has necessarily” and “the essential properties of In apologetids of Oliphint’s working definition of compatibility, these two statements are incompatible, for each “logically implies the negation of the other”.
This “incompatibility” is confirmed in Matthew In that one vignette, it seems that the divine apologefics omniscience and the human property limited knowledge are “incompatible”. Indeed, it appears that that “incompatibility” is what suffuses the kenosis of Philippians 2 with its glory – while remaining fully divine and unaltered in His essence, the Son consented to restrain the exercise of some of His glory in the incarnation; restraining that which was “incompatible” with His full and true humanity Oliphint’s brief references to Philippians 2 focus on the humiliation of Christ as it relates to the atonement rather than focusing on the humiliation as it relates to the incarnation itself [e.
In short, it seems the key to the hypostatic union is not compatibility, but kenosis. If Covenantal Apologetics aspires to be broadly accessible, it would do well either to clarify such issues or to omit technical and unclear terminology that is covenantxl fully explained elsewhere. To sum up this one critique, the covenantal apologist’s argument for compatibility based on the hypostatic union seemingly fails to address the specific atheist objection under discussion.
The atheist concern, as framed in the dialogue, is the compatibility between the Christian God and a fallen creation. Through the incarnation, Jesus has covenantao a divine and a human nature, but that human nature is sinless.
It would seem that the union between the divine nature and the sinless human nature of the Son does not address the material concern about the relationship between a holy God and a sinful creation. Finally, at several points – most importantly in his explanations of such central ideas as man as God’s image bearer, mankind’s inescapable knowledge of God, and the sinful suppression of apologgetics knowledge – Oliphint seems to leave the reader without a firm, easily articulated grasp of the pillars of his system.
Certainly, such concepts defy pithy descriptions, but a bit more clarity on them would make Oliphint’s work exponentially more accessible and useful to most readers. One almost is left with the vovenantal that those readers who understand Oliphint’s explanations did not need his explanations, while those readers who would benefit from apologeticcs explanation will not be helped by the explanations that he provides. Hopefully, the time it takes to explain these few suggestions will not be misleading – Covenantal Apologetics is a stimulating apologerics to the Church.
It has distilled some of the best of Reformed apologetics and infused them with an evangelistic fervor that exalts both truth and the God of truth. There can be no greater reason to recommend Oliphint’s work and to thank God for the labors of His servant.
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