Book Review: The Fracture of Faith, by Douglas Vickers
The Fracture of Faith, by Douglas Vickers, is a book written in response to the manner in which â€œthe testimony of the church has been tarnished by the devaluation of its doctrine and the uncertainty that clouds its statement of the gospelâ€ (from the preface). It is therefore, by immediate admission, a book concerned with critiquing contemporary Christianity, a goal which it does in fact incisively accomplish at certain key points along the way. But the way in which it does this is just by laying out in a very compelling manner the doctrinal foundations and ethical implications of the gospel, and superimposing the modern teaching and practice of the church upon this carefully formulated paradigm. The end result is a product that is helpful on a variety of fronts â€“ its contributions to ethical theory and Christian apologetics no less than its critique of contemporary confusion within the Western church.
Of the several things that stand out about this book, I would suggest that the foremost is its penchant for showing the interconnectedness of certain theological disciplines that are not customarily discussed together, or at least not in so full-orbed a fashion. Typically, a critique of the modern church would spend most of its time discussing the state of the modern church and the difference between its doctrines and those of historic orthodoxy. This book actually devotes only a relatively minor percentage of its pages to a direct discussion of the decline of Christianity. Similarly, a book on apologetics would confine its discussion to those realms of ontology, epistemology, and so on, that pertain more or less directly to the subject. The same could be said for ethics, soteriological formulations, etc.
The Fracture of Faith is structured by three â€œtriadsâ€: Christian Doctrine â€“ Creation, Sin and Fall, Redemption; Christian Apologetics â€“ Being and reality [metaphysics], knowledge [epistemology], behavior [ethics]; and Christian Life â€“ Effectual calling [Regeneration], Benefits of effectual calling [Justification, Adoption, Sanctification], The eschatological hope. These tripartite themes are not, however, discussed in a strict progression, but rather serve as the overarching grid through which Christian theology and life, both as it is and as it should be, are discussed poignantly and often convictingly. The way in which the subject matter moves gives the impression that the whole of Christian thought cannot be cut apart and filed away like so many bits of information, but as one unified and multi-faceted whole it must be turned and examined from various complementary angles. One salubrious effect of this manner of proceeding is the realization of an interconnectedness and irreducible complexity to the gospel. My understanding of epistemology has a necessary impact on my understanding, not just of apologetics, but also of sin and redemption, ethics and eschatology, regeneration and union with Christ. It is impossible to understand anything in a vacuum â€“ somewhere down the road, errors in one domain will have an impact elsewhere.
Especially in his treatment of the second triad of â€œChristian Apologetics,â€ Vickers has been decidedly influenced by Van Tillian presuppositionalism. As he clearly models, however, Van Til's legacy cannot be restricted merely to the apologetic domain. The very nature of Van Tillian epistemology, denying the existence of any â€œbruteâ€ facts which may be apprehended or interpreted in anything but a christological manner, has implications for doctrine and ethics as well as apologetics. In this regard, Vickers contributes in a formidable way to authentically Van Tillian thought.
Particularly helpful were the emphases on the centrality of the inter-triune Covenant of Redemption to the gospel work and its necessary effects, and the corollary truth of divine monergism in the conception, accomplishment, and application of redemption. Here, Vickers is not only solidly and capably Reformed, but also at his most lucid in exposing the deep-seated troubles of contemporary Christianity.
This is a thought-provoking exposition of the gospel message as it exists within a variety of realms â€“ ontological, doctrinal, ethical, etc. â€“ that manages at the same time to be a chilling indictment of modern Christianity, which in beginning to forsake the gospel truth in some of these realms has ended up losing the gospel in every realm. Engaging and stimulating.
The Fracture of Faith: Available at Monergism Books.