Author: Poythress, Vern
Page Count: 272
Year: May 2012
ISBN#: 10: 1433523876
ISBN #: 13: 9781433523878
Publisher’s Description: Though the Bible presents a personal and relational God, popular modern worldviews portray an impersonal divine force in a purely material world. Readers influenced by this competing worldview hold assumptions about fundamental issues–like the nature of humanity, evil, and the purpose of life—that present profound obstacles to understanding the Bible.
In Inerrancy and Worldview, Dr. Vern Poythress offers the first worldview-based defense of scriptural inerrancy, showing how worldview differences create or aggravate most perceived difficulties with the Bible. His positive case for biblical inerrancy implicitly critiques the worldview of theologians like Enns, Sparks, Allert, and McGowan. Poythress, who has researched and published in a variety of fields—including science, linguistics, and sociology—deals skillfully with the challenges presented in each of these disciplines. By directly addressing key examples in each field, Poythress shows that many difficulties can be resolved simply by exposing the influence of modern materialism.
Inerrancy and Worldview’s positive response to current attempts to abandon or redefine inerrancy will enable Christians to respond well to modern challenges by employing a worldview that allows the Bible to speak on its own terms.
About the author: Vern Poythress is Professor of New Testament Interpretation at Westminster Theological Seminary, where he has taught for 33 years. He has six earned degrees, including a PhD from Harvard University and a ThD from the University of Stellenbosch. He is the author of numerous books on biblical interpretation, language, and science.
Endorsements: “I can think of no one in the world better qualified to write a defense of biblical inerrancy than my lifelong friend Vern Poythress. This book is no ordinary defense of inerrancy that merely focuses on proposed solutions to several difficult verses (though it does examine some of them). Rather, it is a wide-ranging analysis that exposes the faulty intellectual assumptions that underlie challenges to the Bible from every major academic discipline in the modern university world. I think every Christian student at every secular university should read and absorb the arguments in this book. It is profoundly wise, insightful, and clearly written, and it will surely strengthen every reader’s confidence in the trustworthiness of the Bible as the very words of God.” – Wayne Grudem, Research Professor of Bible and Theology, Phoenix Seminary
“Vern Poythress has written what I consider to be definitive books on many subjects, including biblical interpretation, language, science, and sociology. In Inerrancy and Worldview, he brings his insights from these disciplines and more together to address the relation of biblical inerrancy to worldview. He shows quite convincingly that the issue of inerrancy is not just a matter of asking whether this or that biblical passage is factual. Rather, our attitude toward the claim of biblical inerrancy depends on our general view of how God is related to the cosmos and to us as individuals and societies. And that general view, in turn, depends on our relationship to Jesus Christ. The book gets deeper into the question of inerrancy than any other book I know.” – John M. Frame, J. D. Trimble Chair of Systematic Theology and Philosophy, Reformed Theological Seminary, Orlando, FL
“Every new item that Vern Poythress writes is thoughtful, creative, and worth reading. This book is no exception. Among the many things I like about it is his emphasis on the personalist worldview of the Bible, as over against the impersonalism that dominates modern Western culture. Besides its crucial contribution to his own subject in clarifying how it is that God communicates to us through the Bible, I think this basic idea will be fruitful for a good number of other topics as well. Thanks, Dr. Poythress, and thanks, God, for giving him to the Church.” – C. John Collins, Professor of Old Testament, Covenant Theological Seminary; author, The God of Miracles
“Vern Poythress has provided both the church and the academy a remarkable service withInerrancy and Worldview. Recognizing that the modern objection to Scripture is neither univocal nor objective, but rather varied and religious, he helpfully reframes the discussion in terms of competing worldviews. By surveying the various options for the allegiance of the modern mind, Poythress shows that not only is an inerrant Bible a reasonable expectation of a personal God, but our rejection of it is rooted not in evidence, but in our sinful rebellion against that God. With clear logic and pastoral care, Poythress leads us through an amazing tour of both the ‘wisdom of our age’ and the follies of our hearts, bringing us at last to the God who speaks—humbling our pride and setting our hearts free.” – Michael Lawrence, Senior Pastor, Hinson Baptist Church, Portland, Oregon; author, Biblical Theology in the Life of the Church
“To our shame, the response of Christians to challenges to our faith can often be dismissive, shallow, defensive, or disrespectful. On the other hand, we can err too much on the side of tolerance for error when truth is under siege. In Inerrancy and Worldview, Vern Poythress shows us how to be neither fools nor cowards. Through intelligent, informed, insightful, and respectful engagement, key foundational faith defeaters taught in many disciplines at every secular university are explained and critiqued from a biblical perspective. Poythress challenges the challenges to biblical belief at the root of their assumptions. We are left with a solid basis and defense of the Christian way of thinking. Inerrancy and Worldview should be required reading for all who want to think more deeply about their faith and defend it within a skeptical culture.” – Erik Thoennes, Professor of Biblical Studies and Ttheology, Talbot School of Theology, Biola University; Pastor, Grace Evangelical Free Church, La Mirada, CA
Amazon Review by Adam Parker: “Inerrancy and Worldview is the latest book from Vern Poythress. It is meant to be part of a new trilogy of books centered around challenges to the inerrancy of the Bible (the next book in the series, Inerrancy and the Gospels, is due out in October).
Poythress’ book thoughtfully explores the numerous reasons why many people (Christians included) balk at the idea that the Bible is inerrant. Poythress defines inerrant as meaning “it is completely true in what it says, and makes no claims that are not true.” He points out that attacks are multi-faceted: “some of the voices directly attack inerrancy. Others redefine it” (13).
And so the book is aimed at those who would attack inerrancy. Obviously, a book which covered merely objections to inerrancy would be incredibly long, and so Poythress aims at something more modest – and unique. “We will concentrate here on difficulties that have ties with the differences in worldview” (14).
At a basic apologetic level, this work is wholly presuppositional in its approach. Poythress never deigns to pretend the Bible may or may not be the word of God. He acknowledges that it is, and then proceeds to diagnose what is wrong with the skeptic – not the Bible. “People come to the bible with expectations that do not fit the Bible, and this clash becomes one main reason, though not the only one, why people do not find the Bible’s claims acceptable.”
Poythress interacts with a range of challenges from a worldview perspective: challenges from materialism, history, language, sociology, anthropology, psychology, perceived contradictions, challenges from our attitudes, and also from our own corrupt spirituality. Some of the most helpful work is done when Poythress utilizes Van Til’s personalism vs. impersonalism distinction to answer the ‘problem’ of miracles. What Poythress does most skillfully is to demonstrate that each and every argument against inerrancy begins with precommitments which distort one’s evaluation of inerrancy. The skeptic, for example, perceives contradictions in the text because he does not believe that God speaks through the Scriptures with a unified voice. He has worldview commitments which preclude possible solutions to perceived contradictions in the text.
Modernists have issues with the exclusivity of the Christian faith, as well as complaining of the Bible being a sort of ‘moral straitjacket.’ Even liberal ‘Christians’ have issues with inerrancy related to a host of beliefs which Poythress demonstrates to be unbiblical. There’s something here for every branch of unbelief – Christian and non-Christian alike.
The author has no illusions that this book is a one-size-fits-all case for inerrancy. It is not meant to be. It is specifically targeted towards dealing with unbelief at its root, not at its branches. He acknowledges repeatedly that sin is the root of the problems people have with the Bible. In the footnotes he frequently points readers to more substantive books on different subjects where issues can be explored further while plainly refusing to follow rabbit trails (even very attractive ones that would enrich the chapter) – a type of restraint I hope to learn someday.
I admire this book as a specially focused apologetic tool. It is thoroughly presuppositional, uncompromising, and refreshingly plain to read. I would not hesitate to put it in the hands of a believer who is struggling through inerrancy, but I do think there are better books, generally speaking, for unbelievers trying to discern if the Bible is what it claims to be. It wouldn’t hurt for those peripherally interested to simply read the chapters related to their own bugaboos. Also, I think the appendix (discussing the human authors of the Bible and their place in an inerrant text) is worth the price of admission alone.”
Sample Pages: DOWNLOAD HERE
Recently Southern Evangelical Seminary put up a video on Vimeo from the 20th Annual National Conference on Christian Apologetics 2013 entitled “Young Earth Presuppositionalism”. It is a friendly debate featuring Richard Howe, Jason Lisle, and K.Scott Oliphint exploring how apologetic method effects (or if it does) our view of the age of the earth.
Btw, after you finish listening to the debate, I recommend reading the review of the debate over at Holloway Quarterly here: http://www.hollowayquarterly.com/2013/12/young-earthers-and-presuppositionalism.html
While we are on this subject, a few months ago, a person asked me through this blog the question: “Was Van Til a Six Day Creationist?”
To which I replied:
“Good question and thanks for the link. Before researching, my answer is yes, my reasoning is as follows:
1.) he was a minister in the Orthodox Presbyterian Church from 1936 until his death.
2.) “Officers in the Orthodox Presbyterian Church take a vow to “sincerely receive and adopt” these confessional documents “as containing the system of doctrine taught in the Holy Scriptures.” – OPC Confession standards
3.) from the Westminster Confession of Faith Chapter IV
I. “It pleased God the Father, Son, and Holy Ghost, for the manifestation of the glory of His eternal power, wisdom, and goodness, in the beginning, to create, or make of nothing, the world, and all things therein whether visible or invisible, in the space of six days; and all very good.
II. After God had made all other creatures, He created man, male and female, with reasonable and immortal souls, endued with knowledge, righteousness, and true holiness, after His own image; having the law of God written in their hearts, and power to fulfil it; and yet under a possibility of transgressing, being left to the liberty of their own will, which was subject unto change. Beside this law written in their hearts, they received a command, not to eat of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil; which while they kept, they were happy in their communion with God, and had dominion over the creatures.”
4. Now that I have researched, if you have access to his book “The Defense of the Faith” turn to Chapter 9 “Argument by Presupposition” from the subsection “Creation out of Nothing”
“On the question of creation I believe that it pleased God “for the manifestation of the glory of his eternal power, wisdom, and goodness, in the beginning, to create, or make of nothing, the world, and all things therein, whether visible or invisible, in the space of six days and all very good.” This doctrine of creation fits in with the doctrine of the ontological trinity. If God is fully self-contained then there was no sort of half existence and no sort of non-being that had any power over against him. There was therefore no impersonal law of logic that told God what he could do and there was no sort of stuff that had as much even as refractory power over against God when he decided to create the world.
I have not merely held but have also frequently defended this doctrine. I have defended it not merely against those who openly reject it or assert it to be impossible on the basis of logic as was the case with Parmenides. I have defended it against those who assumed the existence of some sort of limiting power next to God. I have in particular defended it against all forms of modern dialecticism, whether Hegelian or Barthian.” – Van Til, C., & Sigward, E. H. (1997). The works of Cornelius Van Til, 1895-1987 (electronic ed.). New York: Labels Army Co.
A few thoughts with a disclaimer, I do not know much about the theological beliefs of Richard Howe and Jason Lisle, but I do know Dr. Oliphint is a confessional Presbyterian, he holds to the Westminster Confession of Faith which entails holding to a six day creation. So there is agreement between Dr. Oliphint and Dr. Lisle on the number of days of creation. Please keep in mind, I have no desire to diminish either Dr. Oliphint or Dr. Lisle, however I have to disagree with a comment by Dr. Lisle regarding interpretation of Scripture (something along the lines of: a reader only needing to read a passage x amount of times before they ‘get it’). The reason I disagree is because the comment seemed to not take into account a Reformed anthropology. What I mean is, the imputed effects of sin on all of Adam’s descendants. I think Dr. Oliphint noticed the same crucial component missing from Dr. Lisle’s explanation, and came on strong addressing the issue. On the other hand, I also think Dr. Oliphint may struggle to an extent with presuppositional methodology applied to a biblical doctrine of creation. Overall, I think it is an interesting debate, and definitely worth listening to.
In 1969 P&R published a relatively short booklet by Cornelius Van Til entitled “The Sovereignty of Grace: An Appraisal of G. C. Berkhower’s View of Dordt”. For thought, the following quote is part of the conclusion:
“Berkouwer was therefore leading us forward when, in his earlier works, he constantly pointed out that the Reformed doctrine of Scripture and the Reformed doctrine of salvation by grace alone as involved in one another stand alone in their final opposition to those who start from human subject as though it were autonomous.
In his later works, however, Berkouwer is making an alliance with those whose theology is, in the last analysis, based on the assumption of human autonomy. Admitting that Barth’s “revised supralapsarianism blocks the way to ascribing decisive significance to history,” Berkouwer none-the-less insists that his “main concern is in speak of the all-conquering grace of God in Christ Jesus.” Barth denies, as basically destructive of the gospel of free grace, that which Berkouwer, in his earlier work, stressed as being foundational to all true theology, namely, the direct revelation of God in history through Scripture and the step-by-step redemptive work of Christ in history. Yet, Berkouwer now considers Barth as a fellow-defender of grace.
Not only this. Berkouwer now advocates principles similar to those of Barth and of neo-orthodoxy as though through them alone we can defend the teaching of free grace.
Yet Berkouwer appears not to be certain of himself in his advocacy of the neo-orthodox pattern of thought, as a new and better way. Committed as he is to the historic Christian position of salvation through the work of Christ in history, he halts and objects when Barth goes too far in rejecting this.
When Reformed Christians today read Berkouwer, they should realize that there are two mutually destructive principles operative in his theology. There is the position of the historic Reformed Faith and there is the position that would go beyond the first position by means of a modern existentialist pattern of thought. The first position is now gradually being snowed under. It is now said to be formalist and determinist.”
Please note, I take no credit for making these available, the original source of these ebooks is: GaryNorth.com
Let’s start the new year off with a bang! Check out the ebook section at frame-poythress.org: http://www.frame-poythress.org/ebooks/ for many free books in electronic formats.
Dear friends, Dr. Poythress (and Dr. Frame) and the respective publishers have been most generous making these available free of charge (which is rare with newer books), please consider also purchasing hard copies if possible.
Titles by Dr. Poythress in PDF format include:
Other titles are available in other formats. Anyone seeking a “God-Centered” approach should appreciate any and all of these titles. Praise God for these resources!
For those interested, an interview with Vern discussing his book “Inerrancy and Worldview”
“My book Inerrancy and Worldview focuses on the way in which assumptions due to a modern worldview affect people’s understanding of the Bible. A large number of modern criticisms of the Bible and modern claims to find “errors” arise from injecting erroneous assumptions belonging to modern worldviews. People see errors because they misconstrue the Bible’s claims or find them implausible when measured against their standard assumptions. They do not humbly endeavor to understand the Bible on its own terms.” – Vern Poythress
“It is in Van Til’s writings, as opposed to those of Aquinas and other apologists, that we are constantly referred to the self-attesting Christ of Scripture. You cannot read one book by Van Til that will not continually point your approach, and thus point the unbeliever, to Christ and his Word.
Van Til was once criticized for confusing apologetics with evangelism. His response was gracious but to the point. He simply said, “You are certainly right in saying that I did not … make any sharp distinction between witnessing to and defending the Christian faith. My defense of the truth of Christianity is, as I think of it, always, at the same time, a witness to Christ as the Way, the Truth, and the Life. I must then plead with [unbelievers] to accept Christ as their Savior from the sin of autonomy, and therewith, at the same time, to discover that they have been given, in Christ, the only foundation for intelligent predication.“To give a defense is to bear witness to Christ carefully and intelligently, but always and everywhere biblically! Sola Scriptura!” – Scott Oliphint from the article The Lost Art of Apologetics: http://www.opc.org/feature.html from New Horizons, December 1991.