Articles by Scott Oliphint

Persuasion: Beyond the "Burp Effect"

Article by   February 2016
I am not at all sure exactly when or why the topic of persuasion began to preoccupy my thoughts. I am sure that there must be a number of influences in my past that, cumulatively though somewhat subconsciously, were catalysts in my own thinking. The one event that I do remember was an illustration that Os Guiness gave in a lecture that I attended many years ago. He illustrated the difference between "just telling the truth" in our communication of the gospel, on the one hand, and persuasion, on the other. A concern for "just telling the truth," Guiness said, produced what he called "The Burp Effect." "The Burp Effect" is demonstrated when we are content simply to "burp" the gospel on someone. The result is that, like a burp, we might feel much better, but our audience is inevitably offended! continue

How Should We Then Defend?

Article by   January 2016
I suspect that 2015, from a Christian perspective, will go down in history as one of the darkest and gloomiest centuries of human history. The cavalier destruction of human life, in the name of religion, is on the rise worldwide. No matter how much we protest that terrorists will not change our way of life, gun sales are rising sharply, as more and more people wonder whether shopping at a mall, or going to a movie, or having a Christmas party, will be the occasion for another random act of violence. continue

The End of Christmas

Article by   December 2015
One Christmas season our family went to see the "Christmas Spectacular" at Radio City Music Hall in New York City. It was an enjoyable show, in spite of all the secular trappings and symbols that have come to characterize Christmas. The most fascinating part of the program, however, comes at the end. For some reason, I had never heard of this scene. It was completely unexpected. At the end of all the standard, secular Christmas fare, men dressed as shepherds began to emerge on the stage; others dressed as "wise men" led their camels into the scene. The scene was focused on a man and a woman, both dressed in first century middle eastern garb, looking down onto a manger, with a baby in it. Every person coming onto the stage merged together to bow down to this child. Then, a man with an appropriately deep voice, narrated the following sermon excerpt entitled, "One Solitary Life": continue

Swimming in the Glorious Deep Blue Sea

Article by   November 2015
Over the past months, we have been looking at some specific, recent objections to a Covenantal (presuppositional) approach to apologetics. In this article, we reach the end of this series on "responses" to objections. There is one final objection to Covenantal apologetics that is offered and that needs to be addressed. In order to address it, it will be necessary to quote it at length. Under the title, "The Insufficiency of the Transcendental Argument," there are two primary objections. The first objection is this: Presuppositionalists do a good job in showing the need for some kind of transcendental move. However, their reasoning (or lack thereof) that the entire Christian theology is a necessary part of the transcendental condition leaves one unconvinced continue

Recalcitrant Reason Requires a Firm Foundation

Article by   September 2015
In the past three articles, I tried to respond to one particular objection to a Reformed approach to apologetics. That objection centers on a supposed confusion in Covenantal Apologetics between epistemological and ontological principles. There is much more that can be said about that objection, but it's best that we move on now to the next objection. The next objection to a Covenantal (presuppositional) approach to apologetics is stated this way: Presuppositionalists claim that the Word of God is self-authenticating. It needs no proof. It is the basis for all other conclusions, but it has no basis beyond itself. But what they fail to see is that while all of this is true of the Word of God, nonetheless, it is not thereby true of the Bible. For there must be some evidence or good reasons for believing that the Bible is the Word of God, as opposed to contrary views continue

A Hamster Wheel Floating

Article by   June 2015
We have been dealing with a well-worn objection to Covenantal apologetics. As we have seen, the objection goes back, at least, to the time of the Reformation. It is an objection that Roman Catholics used against those who would hold to the Reformed view of Sola Scriptura. In modern discussions, it has become an objection of Arminian theology against a Reformed view of God's (special and general) revelation. Thus, it is an objection that presupposes a neutral notion of reason, such that reason is thought to supply the universal foundation for any and every rational theory of knowledge. Such a presupposition, we have attempted to show, is at home only within an Arminian or Romanist theology; Reformed theology cannot affirm it. continue

More Spalled Concrete

Article by   May 2015
In our last two articles, we've been dealing with various objections that continue to be offered against a Covenantal approach to apologetics. The objection that we considered last time needs more explanation and discussion that we were able to give it in one article. We will continue that discussion in this article (and the next) in order to try more fully to address the objection itself. The hope is that these responses will be taken into account if the objection continues to be offered, rather than, as is often the case, simply repeating the objection as if nothing has been offered in response. continue

God of the "Whats" and the "Hows"

Article by   April 2015
In our last article, we saw that the objection of circular reasoning in a Covenantal approach to apologetics has actually been a standard objection to Reformed thinking for centuries. Objections like this one are understandable, given that the ones offering them are, for the most part, outside the pale of Reformed theology. Whether we want to recognize it or not, our theology dictates our apologetic methodology. Responses to a "Classical" approach to apologetics, given its home in Arminian theology, need, first of all, to find their home in Reformed theology. Any disagreement on apologetic approaches is, first of all, a disagreement of theology. The debate, therefore, should be of a biblical and theological nature, and not primarily philosophical. continue

Around and Around We Go

Article by   February 2015
Since we completed our discussion of the "Ten Tenets" last month, I thought it might be useful to comment on some of the common objections to a Covenantal approach to apologetics. One of the most common objections against a "Covenantal" (or presuppositional) approach to apologetics is that it reasons in a circle, and thus provides no real argument for its position. Reasoning in a circle is a fallacious endeavor, so the objection goes; it cannot provide reasons for what it claims. Examples of this objection could be almost endlessly multiplied, but we will be content with just a couple. In a recent exchange between Covenantal and Classical apologists, one of the latter complains continue

The Accident of Two Legs

Article by   December 2014
Part of what it means to love the Lord our God with our minds is that we are meant to interpret the world around us, the people we meet and see, ourselves and our relationships, in light of the sovereign plan and purpose of God. In other words, we are to interpret these things as they really are, and not as somehow irrelevant or inapplicable to Christianity. continue
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