Friday, December 12, 2014

Book Review: For the Healing of the Nations, by W. Bradford Littlejohn

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Good introduction by Escalante. The first two essays by Bratt were very insightful, using Kuyper as a principled model of christian activism. The third essay by Hutchinson was tediously arranged with copious amounts of Latin, but insightful. Perhaps it's best to summarize Escalante's introduction as witty, Bratt's essays as ennobling, and Hutchinson's essay as brain candy for christian literature nerds and ethicists.

Moving on to other contributors in the book, Dr. Tuininga wrote a good, but somewhat "soft" essay about John Calvin's eschatology. Fulford's essay about Calvin's views pertaining to resistance against tyrants was outstanding.

O'Donnell's essay about Scott Oliphant's critique of Bavinck--particularly Bavinck's cognitive foundation for philosophy--was really disappointing, actually. I was particularly bothered by some cheap shots at Van Til's epistemology (Oliphant being a defender of Van Til) because even if Oliphant's semantics are not as precisely delineated as O'Donnell prefers them to be, Van Til did, in fact, address O'Donnell's concerns. See Van Til's Apologetic (by Greg Bahnsen) for further clarification about the way in which Van Til intentionally did not adopt classical epistemological distinctions to limit what he believed to be a better and more Scripturally justified epistemology. (That is not to say that Van Til didn't utilize classical philosophical distinctions at all either; he just didn't limit his own explanation of scriptural language and concepts by those classical distinctions.) So O'Donnell makes some simple mistakes concerning charges against Van Til, especially as he (O'Donnell) claims Van Til related the principle of "Sola Scriptura" with epistemology [e.g. O'Donnell, p. 151, implies this about Van Til's apologetic: that "Sola Scriptura is ...the principium unicum for all knowledge theological or otherwise." However, Van Til's apologetic was that Scripture alone is sufficient in and of itself to justify--at a foundational level--any and all necessary pre-existing conditions for rational human thought and discourse. That is to say, without the rational God of history revealed in Scripture, apologetics would not be possible epistemologically. Sola Scripura--not SOLO Scriptura--is, according to Van Til, the principium unicum for all foundations of knowledge, not "knowledge" generally, "theological or otherwise."] All of this made me suspicious about what O'Donnell overlooked or presumed concerning Oliphant's point.

In the end by beef with O'Donnell was this: He attributes to Oliphant's allegedly poor epistemology a problem of "Van Tilian hypochondria" which seemed to me to be a misunderstanding of Van Til (even if O'Donnell's assessment of Oliphant is correct).

On a more positive note, Miller's essay about the exegetical roots of VanDrunen's R2k project is absolutely outstanding. I actually consider that essay to be immensely helpful, both for its christological arguments against R2k, but also for its exegetical refutation of Kline's contribution to the R2k problem.

Auten's essay about the Rushdooney's influence upon American Christian Reconstructionist movements (in religion and politics) is also very well done. And finally, Minich's essay on infant baptism in relation to a "nature and grace" scheme was also helpful. I was not entirely convinced of Minich's arguments, myself holding a very different perspective of sacramental efficacy than him. However, considering that his Reformed-Calvinist distinctions regarding the "visible and invisible" church are very clear and minutely detailed, I'm sure they will be considered immensely valuable to future generations within that school of thought.

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