- Paperback: 288 pages
- Publisher: Crossway; 1 edition (July 31, 2013)
- Language: English
- ISBN-10: 1433528177
- ISBN-13: 978-1433528170
- Product Dimensions: 6 x 0.7 x 9 inches
- Shipping Weight: 14.1 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
- Average Customer Review: 63 customer reviews
- Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #244,735 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
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Covenantal Apologetics: Principles and Practice in Defense of Our Faith 1st Edition
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“A major undertaking in Christian apologetics, this volume makes a most timely and welcome contribution. By labeling the apologetic task ‘covenantal,’ Scott Oliphint highlights throughout that the presuppositions of ‘presuppositional apologetics’ are the clear and indubitable teachings of Scripture and not a postmodern understanding of presuppositions. Comprehensive in its scope, this balanced mix of principles and practice provides valuable instruction to a broad range of readers. I commend it most highly, especially to those concerned with responding to the challenges of unbelief, both present and perennial, in growing fidelity to Scripture as God’s Word.”
—Richard B. Gaffin Jr., Professor of Biblical and Systematic Theology, Emeritus, Westminster Theological Seminary
“In a day marked by shallow thinking, weak reasoning, and arguments lacking in both theological and biblical depth, Oliphint offers an arsenal of apologetic insight. His affirmation and exposition of a covenantal apologetic brings a vital biblical and theological dimension to the apologetic task. Believers seeking to give an answer for the hope that is in us will enthusiastically receive this book.”
—R. Albert Mohler Jr., President and Joseph Emerson Brown Professor of Christian Theology, The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary
“K. Scott Oliphint has done a service for the church in wonderfully translating the venerable Van Tillian apologetic approach into more accessible categories. By laying out the principles and practice of covenantal apologetics, Oliphint moves beyond mere description to the actual practice of apologetics in the contemporary world. Grounded in Scripture and Reformed theology, upholding the lordship of Christ in all of life, eschewing neutrality in our thinking, and tackling the hard cases of the problem of evil, naturalistic evolution, and Islam, Oliphint in a step-by-step way teaches us how to defend Christianity in a biblically faithful and persuasive manner. I highly recommend this work for anyone who is serious about engaging people with the truth of the gospel.”
—Stephen J. Wellum, Professor of Christian Theology, The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary; Editor, The Southern Baptist Journal of Theology
“Whatever your view and practice of defending your faith, Covenantal Apologetics will both motivate and equip you for the task in a way that is persuasive, winsome, clearly structured, thoroughly biblical, and most importantly, Christ-exalting. Dr. Oliphint explains how much we lose by seeking to engage unbelievers on their own turf of rational skepticism. He compares it to trying to get out of Oz by simply following the ‘Yellow Brick Road’ of unbelief. Rather than giving a ‘one-size-fits-all’ approach to apologetics, he roots us in the unequivocal authority of God’s existence and his self-revelation, and brings principles down to earth by providing potential conversations with a humanist, an atheist, an evolutionist, and a Muslim. If you want to grow in your confidence in Scripture, your evangelistic fruitfulness, and your love for the Savior, read this book.”
—Bob Kauflin, Director of Worship, Sovereign Grace Ministries; elder, Sovereign Grace Church, Louisville; author, Worship Matters and True Worshipers
“Engaging unbelief is the work of every believer in a post-Christian culture. In everyday conversations (offline and online) pluralism demands we give equal value to all religious beliefs. To stabilize us in this culture, we turn to God’s revelation in Scripture. Drawing from his own experience and offering concrete dialogues, apologist Scott Oliphint models a Christian response to unbelief and has delivered the type of book we desperately need—biblically grounded, God-centered, jargon-pruned, and clearly written. Covenantal Apologetics is an essential tool to meet unbelief with the hope inside us—the hope of the gospel.”
—Tony Reinke, staff writer and researcher, desiringGod.org; author, Lit! A Christian Guide to Reading Books and 12 Ways Your Phone Is Changing You
“With seismic changes in our society’s perception of life—and especially of human rights—the need for Christians to give reason for their faith is even greater today. Scott Oliphint comes to our aid by bringing what is often food that only giraffes can eat (the field technically called apologetics) right down to the grasp of Christ’s lambs. Here is a book that will enable you to argue intelligently from Scripture, in the midst of a plethora of false philosophies and religions, as to why the world needs Jesus Christ as Savior and Lord. So come to the table, O lambs of Christ, and enjoy a culinary experience you once only wistfully watched at a distance!”
—Conrad Mbewe, pastor, Kabwata Baptist Church, Lusaka, Zambia; chancellor, African Christian University, Lusaka, Zambia
“Covenantal Apologetics places the defense of the Christian faith where it belongs: in a rich texture of appropriate contexts, beginning with the self-revelation of the triune God in the Bible and his created universe, and the covenantal relationship of all people (rebellious and redeemed) with their personal Creator. Instead of offering formulaic arguments to win debating points, Oliphint urges Christians to bring a full-orbed theology of God and humanity, of creation and redemption, along with dependence on the sovereign Spirit of God, as we winsomely and forthrightly engage proponents of unbelief and other beliefs. Especially helpful is the opportunity to hear principles translated into practice by listening in on sample dialogues with spokespersons for humanism, atheism, and Islam.”
—Dennis E. Johnson, Professor of Practical Theology, Westminster Seminary California
“Few people have thought as deeply and carefully as Scott Oliphint about the relationship between confessional Reformed theology and Christian apologetics. There has been much talk in recent years about ‘covenantal apologetics,’ but it has consisted mainly of informal discussions scattered across the blogosphere. What has been sorely needed is a definitive book-length exposition by a well-regarded scholarly advocate. No one is better qualified than Dr. Oliphint to take on that task, and he has not disappointed. This book clearly explains the theological foundations of covenantal apologetics and illustrates its application in real-world conversations with unbelievers.”
—James N. Anderson, associate professor of theology and philosophy, Reformed Theological Seminary, Charlotte; author, What’s Your Worldview?
“Oliphint’s refreshingly Christ-centered approach to persuasively engaging unbelievers with the truth of God equips readers not merely for an intellectual contest of demolishing arguments, but also for a spiritual battle against the suppression of truth in the human heart.”
—Nancy Guthrie, Bible teacher; author, Hearing Jesus Speak into Your Sorrow
“I am grateful to see Oliphint taking Reformed apologetics in a more accessible, less technical, and richly biblical-theological direction. His approach to apologetics is uniquely centered on God’s revelation in Christ and emphasizes persuasion aimed at the heart over argumentation targeting the head alone. The book goes beyond merely discussing principles to presenting thorough case studies demonstrating how the principles of covenantal apologetics can be put into practice. As a professor and pastor, I will recommend this to many people and assign it in my apologetics courses.”
—Justin S. Holcomb, Episcopal Priest; Professor of Christian Thought, Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary; coauthor, Rid of My Disgrace and Is It My Fault?
“Scripturally based, historically informed, theologically astute, and contemporarily relevant, Covenantal Apologetics equips one intellectually and spiritually.”
—Adriaan Neele, Editor, The Works of Jonathan Edwards; Director, The Jonathan Edwards Center, Yale University
“Dr. Oliphint’s new book elegantly displays the theological consistency of covenantal apologetics while demonstrating the practical usefulness of this apologetic method in addressing a variety of contemporary challenges to Christian faith. Perhaps most importantly, this book provides sturdy motivation for engaging nonbelievers, directing us to place our confidence not in our own apologetic prowess, but in the gospel’s power, Scripture’s authority, and the Holy Spirit’s activity.”
—Jeff Purswell, Dean, Sovereign Grace Ministries Pastors College
“I appreciate the way Oliphint deals with the necessity of the lordship of Christ. He is Lord of all, which means that while truth is not relative, as God’s truth it has relational implications and applications. Oliphint’s emphasis regarding covenantal apologetics standing on the truth of Christ’s lordship is critical to the task, especially in our postmodern culture.”
—Charles H. Dunahoo, Editor, Equip to Disciple Magazine; Former Coordinator, PCA CEP; Chairman, Westminster Theological Seminary Board of Directors; author, Making Kingdom Disciples: A New Framework
“As a teacher I have been crying out for an apologetic primer that would help to demystify a presuppositional method, demonstrate the exegetical and biblical-theological basis for this method, and give some idea as to what this might look like in the real world with real people. Oliphint’s Covenantal Apologetics fills this need. It is not only principled and practical, but pastoral. For those looking to give reasons for hope, I recommend it.”
—Daniel Strange, Academic Vice Principal and Tutor in Culture, Religion and Public Theology, Oak Hill Theological College, London
“Covenantal Apologetics is carefully written, with close attention to detail. It is clear, compelling and cogent. I recommend it to every careful student of this important subject.”
—Douglas Wilson, Senior Fellow of Theology, New St. Andrews College; Pastor, Christ Church, Moscow, Idaho
“Every pastor and preacher is a persuader, and this book provides not only the theological rationale but also practical help in that task of persuasion. Those who are committed to a gospel-centered ministry will be both inspired and instructed by Scott Oliphint’s insights. Ministries will be strengthened and made more effective by adopting this biblically based and God-honoring paradigm of covenantal apologetics.”
—Stafford Carson, Minister, First Presbyterian Church, Portadown, Northern Ireland; former Moderator of the General Assembly, The Presbyterian Church in Ireland
“Too often books on Christian apologetics get lost in a labyrinth of complications. Such is not the case with Scott Oliphint’s book. It establishes the biblical basis for apologetics by showing how Scripture and the lordship of Christ are vital for the communication of Christian truth. With its accent on apologetics as covenantal, it is clear, practical, coherent, and persuasive—which is, after all, what one wants when looking for reasons for believing something. Oliphint’s approach does not remain in a theoretical comfort zone, but tackles problems of unbelief that confront us every time we access the media. If you have never read a book on apologetics, this is it!”
—Paul Wells, Dean, Faculté Jean Calvin, Aix-en-Provence, France; author, Taking the Bible at Its Word and Cross Words
“This book will become known as helpful among students and campus ministries. Oliphint effectively persuades the reader to defend the faith by his clear explanation of the loving covenantal relationship between God and his people, the redemptive work of Jesus, and the encouragement of the Holy Spirit.”
—Rod Mays, Adjunct Professor of Counseling, Reformed Theological Seminary; Executive Pastor, Mitchell Road Presbyterian Church, Greenville, South Carolina
“In attempting to put to rest the term ‘presuppositional,’ Oliphint integrates the best insights from his philosophical expertise in the Westminster Seminary tradition with the best insights from the Westminster Assembly theological tradition. The result: a book that aims at both the mind and the heart. As a pastor, I welcome books that offer a consistently Reformed approach to a defense of Christianity, for they are few and far between. This may be the best one yet.”
—Mark Jones, Senior Minister, Faith Vancouver Presbyterian Church; coauthor, A Puritan Theology
“What sets this book apart is Oliphint’s insistence that the person and work of Jesus Christ take center stage in every apologetic discussion. Following Van Til, he relentlessly rallies us around the banner of the self-attesting Christ of Scripture. Although Oliphint’s apologetic approach is theologically and philosophically sophisticated, he makes it understandable and practical for ordinary Christians. Covenantal Apologetics is a great starting point for thinking about the gospel in the contemporary world of ideas.”
—Nathan Sasser, Assistant Director of Academic Affairs, Sovereign Grace Ministries Pastors College
“Dr. Oliphint has given us a very important presentation of Christian apologetics for our day. His discussions draw heavily from Scripture in ways that are accessible to a wide range of Christian readers. He stands in the stream of presuppositional apologetics, and he makes great strides toward dealing with contemporary challenges to the faith. Followers of Christ who want to reach the lost will find this book invaluable.”
—Richard L. Pratt Jr., President, Third Millennium Ministries
“Covenantal Apologetics succeeds in proving the biblical-covenantal terms for the framework of an unashamed Reformed apologetic. I heartily recommend it, especially those seeking a thorough introduction to this vital discipline. But let the reader be warned: this book will only repay careful and meditative reflection. It requires patient investment of time and mental energy. Those in or aspiring to pastoral ministry will find help to prepare God’s people for works of service, providing reasons to a dying generation for our hope in our Savior. Those tasked with teaching in seminaries will find both academic stimulus and exegetical broadening. All of us already persuaded by Van Til will do well to recast our ‘presuppositionalism’ into this readily defensible and covenant-biblical frame.”
—Jim Wright, Principal, John Wycliffe Theological College, Johannesburg, South Africa
“Even those who do not embrace Reformed theology or presuppositional apologetics will realize that Covenantal Apologetics offers a consistent apologetic approach. It is internally coherent, but also in line with the scriptural message and with Van Til’s heritage. The latter has often been discussed in highly academic terms, but until now I am unaware of a practical and fairly popular presentation of this approach. This text helps fill this gap, as it presents covenantal apologetics in an accessible way to church members, pastors, and others who may not have formal theological training. The book offers precious examples of apologetic practice and is therefore useful to equip every Christian to tackle concrete situations where a defense of the faith is needed. The more academically inclined, however, will enjoy the fact that the principles behind the concrete examples remain clearly visible and solid.”
—Renato Coletto, Professor, Philosophy of Science, North-West University, Potchefstroom, South Africa
“Scott Oliphint’s Covenantal Apologetics is an important contribution to the literature on Van Til’s application of Reformed theology to the discipline of apologetics. Judicious, well written, and refreshingly accessible, Oliphint’s analysis is a compelling ‘translation’ of an approach to defending the faith that insists, among other things, that because human beings are covenant creatures who live and move and have their being in the world created and providentially sustained by the covenant-keeping God, ‘The only way properly to see yourself, the world, or anything else, is through the spectacles of Scripture.’ Highly recommended.”
—Paul K. Helseth, Associate Professor of Christian Thought, Northwestern College; author, Right Reason and the Princeton Mind: An Unorthodox Proposal
“In a pluralistic world, Covenantal Apologetics expertly equips pastors, teachers, parents, and students with a superior biblical and theological framework for defending the faith in the public square. For Christians who seek to have a credible voice at the ‘Areopagus’ of our day, this book will help them to dismantle unbelieving worldviews with razor-sharp precision while honoring God’s redemptive mission. Oliphint reminds readers that any form of Christian apologetics divorced from the Triune God’s covenant realities will send the church on a fool’s errand. Covenantal Apologetics is faithful to the Bible, the gospel, and redemptive history. This book should be read widely.”
—Anthony B. Bradley, Associate Professor of Theology and Ethics, The King's College
About the Author
K. Scott Oliphint (PhD, Westminster Theological Seminary) is professor of apologetics and systematic theology at Westminster Theological Seminary in Philadelphia and has written numerous scholarly articles and books, including God With Us. He is also the co-editor of the two-volume Christian Apologetics Past and Present: A Primary Source Reader and Revelation and Reason: New Essays in Reformed Apologetics.
William Edgar (DTheol, University of Geneva) is professor of apologetics and John Boyer Chair of Evangelism and Culture at Westminster Theological Seminary. William lives in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, with his wife, Barbara. They have two children and three grandchildren.
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The title can be a bit confusing, so if you want to understand what is commonly called presuppositional apologetics, this is the book for you. The title refers to God's covenant with Adam, and how every person is still held to that covenant with the difference being that you either honor that covenant through salvation in Christ, or you disobey it by the suppression of truth as defined in Romans 1. Either way, that covenant stands to this day and those who deny the Gospel are rightly condemned because of it.
This shouldn't be a book that should be read by anything looking for an introduction to presuppositional apologetics (that honor goes to Jason Lisle's "The Ultimate Proof For Creation", but it isn't terrible. This book didn't add anything knew to the overall system of PA, but it doesn't point out some very good conversation roads PA need to be aware of and have and to make sure they are committing themselves to the Scriptures. Final Grade - C+
I still remember at a church where I was on staff that I found out through the grapevine that I believed only 144,000 people would ever be saved. It seemed that because I had been labeled a "Calvinist" and thus believed in "election" then it was the case that I believed in only the salvation of the 144,000. While I am sure it shocked many in the church that I would believe such, none were as shocked as I was. Labels. They can be helpful. They can be confusing. They can be downright harmful.
Scott Oliphint makes the case in Covental Apologetics that this might just be the case with the label of "Presuppostional Apologetics". Oliphint feels it is time to move away from the terminology "presuppositional" and move towards a label more representative of the method itself, and one without the negative connotations that "presuppostional" enjoys.
Although, for that matter, "apologetics" itself is a word that is a bit loaded in our common vernacular. Oliphint does well to define "apologetics" and then offer an apologetic for its use. While many, from Barth to Kuyper to Spurgeon, have expressed reservations in regards to the discipline of apologetics, Oliphint shows that it is a discipline that is shown in Scripture to be allowable and beneficial, while also being directly commanded.(and one in which all these men engaged, even if they did not do so in a way that they would label as "apologetics")
"Christian apologetics is the application of biblical truth to unbelief. Really it is no more complicated than that. But it is complicated by the fact that there are so many theological permutations of biblical truth and almost no end to the variations and contours of unbelief. Not only so, but there have been, are, and will continue to be attacks of every sort that seek to destroy the truth of the Christian faith. So as one thinks about and commences to defend the Christian faith, things can become complex."
Oliphint makes the case that the Christian apologetic is one that is distinctly covenantal, one that is based on the fact that all humans are in a covenant relationship with God and are either in Adam, as covenant head, or in Christ, as covenant head.
"(B)asic to everything else we will say, we should recognize that every person on the face of the earth is defined, in part, by his relationship to a covenant head. That is, there are two, and only two, postions that are possible for humanity, and only one of which can be actual for each person at a given time. A person is either, by nature (after the fall into sin), in Adam, in which case he is opposed to and in rebellion against God, or he is in Christ, in which case by grace a person is not guilty before God but is an heir of eternal life. This is the covenantal status of humanity, and it assumes in each case, a relationship to God."
This is the crux of a covenantal (presuppostional) apologetic. Using Paul's argument from Romans 1, Oliphint shows that God has made Himself known to all men and men either receive this and acknowledge Him, or they rebel against Him and suppress this knowledge. As covenantal creatures we enjoy a sensus divinitatus, a "sense of the divine". This "sense of the divine" influences how we form our arguments with unbelievers and how we approach the discipline of apologetics.
Oliphint offer ten tenets to guide the Covenantal approach to apologetics. These tenets are:
"1. The faith we are defending must begin with, and necessarily include, the triune God--Father, Son, and Holy Spirit--who, as God, condescends to create and to redeem.
2. God's covenantal revelation is authoritative by virtue of what it is, and any covenantal, Christian apologetic will necessarily stand on and utilize that authority in order to defend Christianity.
3. It is the truth of God's revelation, together with the Holy Spirit, that brings about a covenantal change from one who is in Adam to one who is in Christ.
4. Man(male and female) as image of God is in covenant with the triune God for eternity.
5. All people know the true God, and that knowledge entails covenantal obligations.
6. Those who are and remain in Adam suppress the truth that they know. Those who are in Christ see the truth for what it is.
7. There is an absolute covenantal antithesis between Christian theism and any other, opposing position. Thus, Christianity is true and anything opposing it is false.
8. Suppression of the truth, like the depravity of sin, is total but not absolute. Thus, every unbelieving position will necessarily have within it ideas, concepts, notions, and the like that it has taken and wrenched from their true, Christian context.
9. The true, covenantal knowledge of God in man, together with God's universal mercy, allows for persuasion in apologetics.
10. Every fact and experience is what it is by virtue of the covenantal, all-controlling plan and purpose of God."
These tenets are fleshed out beautifully throughout the remainder of the book.
There were many outstanding moments in this book. One of the more memorable for me was Oliphint's chapter on the role of persuasion in apologetics and how he moved from the classical, educational Trivium (grammar, logic, and rhetoric) to the theological trivium (the principial nature of Scripture, the sensus divinitatus, and God's universal mercy) to the trivium of persuasion (ethos, pathos, and logos). The mixture of theology, philosophy, history, and Scripture applied so beautifully to the discipline of apologetics, specifically persuasion, and showing how critical the pathos of the apologist is, was wonderful. Chapter 4 alone is worth the price of the book.
And if chapter 4 alone is worth the price of the book then the reader should be ready to receive much more than they have paid for. This book is a great book. Oliphint deals with a broad range of subjects and he does so in a manner that will not easily lose his audience. There are a few spots where it feels like the current may sweep the reader away, but Oliphint does a fine job helping the reader find solid, familiar ground pretty quickly in these cases. The discussion on probability as it relates to a naturalistic worldview get pretty heady pretty quickly, but it is definitely worth looking at and was especially edifying to me.
Oliphint includes three model-discussions to see how a "Covenant Apologist" would deal with different worldviews. These discussions are informative and challenging, and frankly, just fun to read.
If you have any interest in knowing what Van Tillian, or presuppositonal, apologetics proposes, this is the book for you. I have to be honest, I get lost in Van Til quotes and have never been able to convince myself to dive into his work. Frame and Bahnsen are good, but for as far as clarity and an engaging style, Oliphint, to me at least, is head and shoulders above his peers. This is a book that the reader will enjoy and learn from, regardless of whether or not you end up embracing this particular apologetic.