John Frame

Reforming Apologetics (Wrap-Up)

For completeness, here are all the entries in my series reviewing J. V. Fesko’s Reforming Apologetics:

If you’re pressed for time (and aren’t we all?) you can get the gist of things by reading the entries on “Introduction,” “The Light of Nature,” and “The Book of Nature and Apologetics.” If you’re especially interested in Dr. Fesko’s critiques of the Van Tilian emphasis on ‘worldview’ and Van Til’s advocacy of transcendental argumentation, along with my responses to those critiques, read the entries on chapter 5 and chapter 6.

Reforming ApologeticsMy overall assessment of the book can be summarized as follows: I think Dr. Fesko does a great job of defending the use of natural revelation (“the book of nature”) in apologetics and in showing how the mainstream Reformed tradition has consistently and enthusiastically affirmed such use (albeit with important qualifications related to the noetic effects of sin and the necessary interpretive role of special revelation). However, the major shortcomings of the book are its repeated misinterpretation and mischaracterization of Van Til’s position (and that of other presuppositionalists, such as John Frame and Scott Oliphint) and its failure to establish its thesis that Van Til’s views are significantly at odds with Calvin’s views or with confessional Reformed theology. In fact, given what Dr. Fesko affirms in chapter 8 about a “covenantal epistemology,” and his agreement with Calvin (and Van Til!) on the need to read “the book of nature” through the “corrective lenses of Scripture,” I believe he ought to be more hesitant about aligning himself with the Thomistic (“classical”) approach to natural theology and more sympathetic toward Van Til’s efforts to “reform apologetics” by bringing it more into line with a consistently Reformed epistemology and doctrine of revelation. In any event, it’s good that Reformed brethren are continuing to have these conversations. Let’s be thankful for the significant areas of common ground we affirm, while pursuing better understanding of one another and (by God’s grace) greater convergence over time.


A Selection of Presuppositional Arguments

One criticism of presuppositional apologetics is that its advocates rarely if ever offer serious arguments for their distinctive claims (e.g., the claim that our ability to reason presupposes the existence of God). The criticism is overstated, but there is a measure of truth to it. I count myself a presuppositionalist, but I’ve been frustrated in the past by presuppositionalists who seem to imagine that declaring what Van Til’s “transcendental argument” purports to demonstrate is tantamount to actually making that demonstration. Simply asserting that “without God you can’t prove anything at all” or that “your very ability to reason presupposes the existence of God” does nothing whatsoever to explain why those weighty assertions should be believed. Likewise for the failure of non-Christians to answer questions asking them to account for their ability to reason, to know truths about the world, to make meaningful moral judgments, etc., in terms of their own worldviews. Questions cannot substitute for arguments, no matter how pointed those questions may be.

So it’s important for presuppositionalists to present arguments in support of their claims, and to ensure their critics are aware of those arguments so that they can be critically evaluated. In that spirit, I thought it would be useful to gather in one place my own presuppositional arguments, as well as my attempts to explain or reconstruct the arguments of other presuppositionalists:

In addition, my book Why Should I Believe Christianity? offers a broadly presuppositional (and evidential!) case for the biblical Christian worldview.

Interview with Christ the Center

I was recently interviewed for the Christ the Center program by the good folk at Reformed Forum, and they’ve just posted the audio on their website. I’ve enjoyed and benefited from listening to a number of their podcasts over the last couple of years, so I was honored to be invited to contribute to one of them. Among other things we discussed presuppositional apologetics, John Frame’s perspectivalism, and my book on theological paradox.

Presuppositionalism and Frame’s Epistemology

P&R Publishing have kindly granted me permission to make available on my website the essay I contributed to the festschrift in honor of John Frame: “Presuppositionalism and Frame’s Epistemology,” in Speaking the Truth in Love: The Theology of John M. Frame, ed. John J. Hughes (P&R, 2009), 431-459.

The essay didn’t turn out quite the way I’d hoped — you know how ideas always seem better in your head before they make it onto paper — but after looking over it again I’ve concluded it’s not as bad as I thought when I submitted it! It’s basically a defense of Frame’s epistemology and presuppositionalism, with some concrete apologetic application.

Anyway, the festschrift is packed full of insightful and stimulating material, both from Dr. Frame and from the other 36 (count ’em) contributors. If you don’t have a copy, get one. P&R Publishing have generously offered a 50% discount (yes, really) on the price of the book for any readers of this blog who order before March 31, either via their website or by telephone (1-800-631-0094), and use the discount code ANATH. (If you post this info elsewhere, please link back to here.)

How to Write a Theological Paper

John Frame and P&R Publishing have kindly granted me permission to post Professor Frame’s ‘How to Write a Theological Paper’ on my website. This short article appears as Appendix F in The Doctrine of the Knowledge of God (P&R, 1987). It should be required reading for every seminary student!

The article makes a few references to other sections of DKG, and is best read in the context of the whole book, but it can still be read as a standalone article to great profit.

The Collected Works of John M. Frame, Volume 1

“The Collected Works of John M. Frame, Volume 1: Theology” is as descriptive and accurate a title as one could want for an electronic library. The first of three volumes to be released, it contains all six of Frame’s books on theological topics:

  • The Doctrine of the Knowledge of God is the first book in Frame’s ‘Theology of Lordship’ series. It’s essentially a detailed exploration of what Scripture has to say on the subject of epistemology: what knowledge is, what we can and do know, and how we know it.
  • The Doctrine of God, the second in the ‘Lordship’ series, is an exposition of the attributes and character of the God of Scripture, centred on His self-designation as ‘Lord’ (Yahweh). Among other things, it contains lengthy discussions of the problem of evil and the relationship between divine sovereignty and human responsibility.
  • Salvation Belongs to the Lord is an introductory systematic theology, based on a survey course Frame was invited to teach in 2004. As modern evangelical STs go, it isn’t a competitor to the weighty volumes by, e.g., Wayne Grudem and Robert Reymond, but neither is it intended to be. In keeping with Frame’s other writings, it’s clear, concise, reliable, readable, and edifying.
  • No Other God is Frame’s critique of Open Theism, the revisionist view of God promoted by Clark Pinnock, John Sanders, Greg Boyd, and others. One of the features that distinguishes it from other classical theist responses to openness theology is that it is explicitly and unashamedly Reformed. A large part of the book is devoted to refuting one of the driving presuppositions of Open Theism, namely, libertarian human freedom.
  • The Amsterdam Philosophy is one of Frame’s earliest publications: a short but penetrating critical assessment of the philosophy of Herman Dooyeweerd and his followers. It isn’t as relevant today as it was in 1972, but it remains instructive as a critique of an influential movement that tended to put philosophy rather than Scripture in the driving seat.
  • Perspectives on the Word of God contains the text of three lectures delivered at Trinity Evangelical Divinity School in 1988, applying (with relative brevity) Frame’s triperspectivalism to the subjects of divine revelation and ethics. As such, it offers a preview of the final two volumes in the ‘Lordship’ series: The Doctrine of the Word of God and The Doctrine of the Christian Life.