Andreas Kostenberger, Kevin J. Vanhoozer, R. Albert Mohler, Jr. and J. P. Moreland
Reviewed by: Rick Quinn
Date posted: 10/07/2007
Whatever Happened to Truth? by Andreas Kostenberger, Kevin J. Vanhoozer, R. Albert Mohler, Jr., and J. P. Moreland. Published by Crossway Books, 2005. Paperback, 173 pages, list price $15.99. Reviewed by Rick Quinn, member of First OPC in Baltimore, Md.
Francis Schaeffer argued for the "true truth" of the Bible against relativism and subjectivism. In this tradition, the authors of this book (which consists of four essays presented at a recent Evangelical Theological Society meeting) argue that the inerrant Scriptures proclaim that knowable truth exists.
In the first essay, Kostenberger uses Pilate's question, "What is truth?" (John 18:38), to frame John's presentation of Jesus Christ as truth and of faith in him as the only way to know truth. Kostenberger defends the historicity of John's narrative of Jesus' trials and insightfully analyzes the characters involved. Finally, contrasting Christian truth to Pilate's skepticism, he calls Christians to robust faith in the truth of Christ.
As editor, Kostenberger also writes an introduction and a conclusion. Each of his essays is well written and clear, exhibiting an awareness of contemporary exegesis and theology.
In the second essay, Mohler traces the demise of the concept of truth in contemporary culture. Then he discusses some salient features of postmodernism: deconstruction of truth, death of metanarrative, demise of text, decline of authority, etc. Finally, he critiques "post-conservative" evangelicals who incorporate postmodern thinking into their theology (especially the claim that Christian faith does not require a theory of truth), answering that the orthodox doctrine of divine revelation meets their concerns.
Much of Mohler's analysis is seminal and interesting. His critique of post-conservative evangelicalism shows bravery and steadfastness. Yet his cursory analysis of postmodernism, coupled with some breathtaking generalizations, will give pause to some readers.
In the third essay, Moreland presents a defense of the correspondence theory of truth (i.e., that a proposition is true when it corresponds to reality). Then he develops five ways in which postmodernists are confused about this theory. Finally, he argues that postmodernism amounts to intellectual pacifism—immoral cowardice unfit for soldiers in Christ's army.
Moreland's essay is clear, coherent, and accurate. His presentation of the postmodernist denial of the correspondence theory of truth is fair, and I found his critique persuasive. It would have been rewarding to see Moreland set his commitment to correspondence theory in the covenant-historical context of Van Til's A Christian Theory of Knowledge. Still, this is a very useful piece.
In the final essay, Vanhoozer discusses the role of interpretation in formulating theological doctrine from the biblical text. He opens by discussing the relationship between truth and hermeneutics in biblical interpretation. Then he describes how interpretive context creates hermeneutical problems for biblical interpretation. Against contemporary relativism, evangelical solipsism, and Roman Catholic fideism, he develops a theory of biblical interpretation consistent with the biblical text from within the theory that there is a "theodramatic correspondence between our words and deeds and God's words and deeds." (This is similar to how Van Til redefines correspondence theory.)
Buy this book, if only for Vanhoozer's essay. He is a rare and gifted theologian who writes with keen awareness of the contemporary situation, genuine pastoral sensitivity, and orthodox conviction. He succeeds in his effort to "challenge the hermeneutically complacent and comfort the hermeneutically perplexed."
All of the essays are valuable. Every OP minister and discerning layperson will be edified by them.