Posted in Apologetics, Book Review, Christian ethics, Christianity, Cornelius Van Til, John Frame, Presuppositional Apologetics, presuppositionalism, Reformed, theological method, Theology, Theology of Lordship Series, Triperspectivalism, Van Til, tagged John Frame on September 10, 2014 |
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Note: You can purchase this work at a discounted price over at Westminster Bookstore by clicking HERE.
A massive volume on the important subject of Christian ethics by one of the most sophisticated Biblicist today. This volume by Dr. John Frame in his theology of Lordship series was a wonderful read and was intellectually stimulating and doxological—what I expect from John Frame’s work and something I hope to be able to emulate in my own teaching ministry. This work is different than most Christian text book on ethics in that it applies John Frame’s Triperspectivalism (looking at things with the consciousness of the normative, situational and existential perspective) and a robust Reformed and Biblical theology to the area of Christian ethics and living. I also think Frame’s Van Tillian side is also a big a plus since I appreciate how the beginning of the book John Frame goes about refuting non-Christian philosophy, religion and worldview that are competitors against the Christian worldview of ethics. This section is excellent and can be a small book that is worth buying alone. Frame also wasn’t just into refutation but a positive presentation of the Christian position on ethics as well. In fact the bulk of the book was his exposition on the ten commandments and he did a good job of showing how other parts of the Scripture illuminates the Decalogue with more specific application or nuances. Even if one might not agree with Frame in the particular, he nevertheless will provide great food for thought and challenge the reader to think more biblically and rigorously on ethical matters.
Frame was able to strike my interests and simulated my thought throughout the thousand page book which I think is quite a feat. In what follows I can only share some of the highlights:
- Frame had a good discussion in the book about the danger of exclusively preaching redemptive-history especially without the intention of application. If one reads his collection of shorter works, Frame expands on this concern he has.
- The chapter on motive and virtue was saturated with the Gospel and how it motivates a believer’s sanctification; this same chapter also had a good discussion trying to reconcile imprecatory prayers with loving one’s enemy with Frame noting the distinction between wanting God to pour out His wrath while we not doing this ourselves.
- Another highlight in the book was John Frame’s discussion about racial equalities. I think what he has to say is probably the closest position to mine that I have seen in print. In particular, I find it helpful his discussion of various ways people use the term “racism.” I also liked his discussion about race within the context of the church such as his quote: “Churches do not have to seek a quota of every ethnic or national group in their vicinity. But they must welcome everyone” (John Frame, Doctrine of Christian Life, 674).
- The discussion on war is a good one; Frame is conscious of what the Scripture say and does not say and he brings this to bear in his observation and criticism of Just War theory. As a Marine myself, I have had some questions about various aspect of Just War theory that seems problematic such as what is proportional force, etc. I appreciate Frame saying that Just War Theory isn’t so much a theory as it is a series of good questions we must ask concerning war.
- I really appreciate the section of the book on culture. He does a good job working towards a theological definition of culture and from there explain the various model of the relationship between Christ and culture along with his criticism of each respective views’ strength and weaknesses. Frame’s discussion about culture also led to the topic of Christians and film; he gives some good principles of what to ask when one watches movies as a Christian and also a defense that movies are not wrong in of itself.
- For anyone who has read Frame before, there are many points he makes that makes one think not only with the doctrine or position at hand, but also the theological method that is driving Frame as well. I feel Frame is great to read to think about theological method more consciously.
- In terms of the appendix, I really appreciated Frame’s review of RJ Rushdoony’s book, The Institute of Biblical Law. I thought Frame did a good job of noting Rushdoony’s contribution to Christian study of the law while also being critical in a helpful way that can help push the Christian Reconstructionist movement forward. His review noted some good problems in Rushdoony’s book while Frame was also able to address Theonomy’s critics that they must not knee-jerk emotionally reject God’s Law out of hand just because we don’t like it, because afterall it was at one time God’s Law.
With the positive I must add a few constructive criticism of the book but I hope this is not misconstrued to mean that I thought Frame did a poor job. On the contrary, I think it speaks to the quality of the book that my criticisms are few for such a lengthy book:
- The book is weaker theologically concerning eschatology and especially the millennial positions. Frame doesn’t get into much of eschatology although I think its worth pursuing by others more systematically the relationship between eschatology and Christian ethics.
- The book gave a short treatment on the topic of spiritual growth and I wished he talked more about sanctification but for such a lengthy book that already covered so many areas one can’t really fault John Frame.
- A lot of the appendixes were book reviews of works in the 1980s or earlier. Since the book was published in 2008, I thought it would have been nice to see reviews of books that are more recent in publication.
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Here’s an extended quote from John Frame on defining culture. He begins first with two definitions of cultures given by others and work on a more nuance definition. It is important to make a good definition for culture if one is engage in cultural apologetics, Christian ethics and engage in the thinking of the Christian Worldview.
The Lausanne Committee on World Evangelism defined culture as “an intergrated system of beliefs, values, customs, and institutions which binds a society together and gives it a sense of identity, dignity, security, and continuity.” Ken Myers writes that culture is “a dynamic pattern, an ever-changing marix of objects, artifacts, sounds, institutions, philosophies, fashions, enthusiasms, myths, all embodied in individual people, in groups and collectives and associations of people (many of whom do not know they are associated), in books, in buildings, in the use of time and space, in wars, in jokes, and in food.”
From definition and descriptions of this sort, you might come away thinking that culture is everything. But that would be a mistake. We should make an important distinction between creation and culture. Creation is what God makes; culture is what we make. We should make an important distinction between creation and culture. Creation is what God makes; culture is what we make. Now of course God is sovereign, so everything we make is also his in one sense. Or, somewhat better: creation is what God makes by Himself, and culture is what he makes through us.“
(John Frame, Doctrine of Christian Life, 854)
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We have been posting daily quotes from John Frame’s Doctrine of the Christian Life on our facebook and twitter account. This morning I want to share an extended lengthy quote from John Frame on the relationship of the intellect, will and emotions. John Frame is at his best when he explores the inter-relationships and/or inter-dependence of things and here is no exception. People often have a wrong conception of the relationship between will and the intellect so the following is helpful.
Traditionally, will is contrasted with intellect (reason) and emotions. In some accounts, it almost seems as though will, intellect, and emotions are little beings up in our heads who vie for supremacy. Arguments have been made both about which of these three faculties is superior to the others and about which one ought to be superior. Philosophical movements have been identified by views on this alleged conflict: Aquinaas has been called an intellectualist, Scotus a voluntarist, and Kierkegaard an emotionalist.
My own view, however, is that we make decisions as whole persons, and that intellect, will and emotions are perspectives on the whole persons, not subsistent entities. The intellect is the person’s ability to think, the will his his capacity to decide, and the emotionsa re his capacity to feel. We are talking about three abilities that people have, not three independent entities within them. That I think is a more biblical perspective, for Scripture never distinguishes these three capacities or make any general statements about the superiority of one or the other.
In my view, the three abilities are interdependent. You cannot make a decision (will) unless you judge (intellect) that it is the right thing to do. On the other hand, you cannot make the right judgment (intellect) unless you choose (will) to make it. The will is certainly involved in our intellectual judgments. As Paul teaches in Romans 1, certain people choose to disbelieve in God, despite the sufficiency of the evidence of his existence. Other people choose otherwise. In both cases, belief is a choice. The intellectual judgment is a decision of the will. That is one reason why I have emphasized that the intellectual realm has a moral dimension, that there is an ethics of knowledge.
So will and intellect are dependent upon one another, and so are choice and reason. They are not independent entities, but perspectives on the mental acts of human beings. In everything we do, there is thought and choice. And we think about what to choose, and we choose what to think. And we choose what to think about what to choose. We accept reasons because we choose them, and we choose them because we find them reasonable.
(John Frame, Doctrine of the Christian Life, 368).
I find the above helpful. I would add that not one of the above faculty is morally superior to another. Our sinfulness has corrupted all our faculty. So we sin with our mind, our choices, and have sinful emotions, etc. This has implication for apologetics that we have unpacked on our blog elsewhere; certainly the most obvious is that our mind is not a neutral arbiter of facts, nor does appealing to our intellect alone would necessarily lead someone to Christ if the sinful will chooses not to do so. How much more do we need the grace of God.
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Posted in Apologetic Links, Apologetics, Christianity, Cornelius Van Til, John Frame, Paul Helm, Presuppositional Apologetics, presuppositionalism, Reformed, Van Til on July 8, 2014 |
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Here are links on the subject of Presuppositional apologetics gathered from the World Wide Web between July 1st-7th, 2014. Which ones did you enjoyed?
1.) Mars Hill: A case for friendship evangelism or antithesis?
2.) Word Faith worldview: An Inexhaustive Internal Critique
3.) Theological Memeology: Infinite Punishment for Finite Crimes
4.) Keep A Record Of God’s Providence In Your Life
5.) The motivation of Frame
6.) Life is but a dream–Great point about the paradox of atheistic materialism being similiar to Idealism and a fading dream!
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Posted in Book Review, christian apologetics, Christianity, Greg Bahnsen, John Frame, Perspectivalism, Presuppositional Apologetics, presuppositionalism, Reformed, Reformed Theology, Theology, tagged John Frame on July 3, 2014 |
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For those who want to get this book at a discounted price go over to WTS Bookstore online by clicking HERE.
This is a collection of various essays and articles written by John Frame over the years that hasn’t been published, with some being articles on his website and others being shared for the first time. For anyone who is a fan of Frame this is a great supplement to the many works that Frame has written over the years. Ideally those who have a little exposure to John Frame’s writings (say a book or two or some journal articles by him) will benefit the most from this book. John Frame can write very lengthy books so I appreciate the format of shorter essays in this book. In particular I found the first chapter that serves as a great introduction and summary of his perspectivalism. This essay is very important in light of how some within the Reformed camp have misunderstood his position as relativism. If some of his opponents have known about this essay it might have deterred some of the unhelpful criticisms of John Frame out there (or then again it might not).
I also found the various articles in part one of the book that focus on theological method to be a wonderful feast for the mind—in fact it’s probably the best part of the book. Specifically I enjoyed his discussion about contrast and exegesis, with his call for preachers and theologians to properly extract what exactly the Scripture is saying and then correctly noting what the contrast of the idea is; this is important when we say that the Bible prohibit or refute something and people often err in saying what the Bible is against when in actuality the Scripture didn’t prohibit or contradict it.
In part two of the book on theological meditation I appreciated his review of N.T Wright’s bibliology in which Frame showed how Wright overstretched his rhetoric when he claimed in the subtitle of a recent book that he has gone beyond the “Bible Wars” by offering another alternative. In reality Wright didn’t really offer anything new and it turns out instead that at times he is unhelpful because he isn’t clear or too ready with the cliché. At times Wright turns out to be still quite conservative in his view of the Bible despite how he rags on conservatives. Frame also did a good job of showing Wright’s complaint to move beyond the concept of infallibility is inconsistent with his job of being a Bible historian is still dedicated to defending the historicity of the Bible.
Surprisingly the shortest part of the book was the section on apologetics. Here I have to level a criticism of Frame’s review of Greg Bahnsen’s Presuppositional Apologetics: Stated and Defended. After going through carefully what Frame has to say, I thought the essay really was not a review of the book but more of a celebration and recollection of Greg Bahnsen the apologist. Frame criticized Bahnsen for being unfair to Gordon Clark, Carnell and Schaeffer but Frame doesn’t really demonstrate that Bahnsen really was unfair in his critique of these men. It was more of a comment made in passing rather than actual documentation it was so.
The last section was more personal and had several assorted pieces that reveal more of John Frame the man. If you are a big fan of Frame you would love this section and Frame is pretty funny. I recommend this work to those who want to understand more of Frame’s contribution to theology and apologetics and those who want to get every work by Frame. These two types of readers will benefit most from this book.
NOTE: This book was provided to me free by P&R Publishing and Net Galley without any obligation for a positive review. All opinions offered above are mine unless otherwise stated or implied.
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Posted in bibliology, Christianity, Cornelius Van Til, doctrine of revelation, General Revelation, hermeneutics, John Frame, Presuppositional Apologetics, presuppositionalism, Reformed, Special Revelation, Sufficiency of Scripture, Theology, Van Til on June 10, 2014 |
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What is the role of Scripture and extrabiblical data in light of the sufficiency of Scripture?
I appreciate John Frame’s definition of the sufficiency of Scripture not as “sufficiency of specific information but sufficiency of divine words” with the note that “Scripture contains divine words sufficient for all of life.” (John Frame, Doctrine of Christian Life, 157). I think this definition is helpful because it allows us to delineates the use of Biblical and extra-biblical data in knowing and doing things as Frame explained in this extended quote:
If you remember that the sufficiency of Scripture is a sufficiency of divine words, that will help us to understand the role of extrabiblical data, both in ethics and theology. People sometimes misunderstand the doctrine of sufficiency by thinking that it excludes the use of any extrabiblical information in reaching ethical conclusions. But if we exclude the use of extrabiblical information, then ethical reflection is next to impossible.
Scripture itself recognizes this point. As I said earlier, the inscriptional curses does not forbid seeking extrabiblical information. Rather, they forbid us to equate extrabiblical information with divine words. Scripture itself requires us to correlate what it says with general revelation. When God told Adam to abstain from the forbidden fruit, he assumed that Adam already had general knowledge, sufficient to apply that command to the trees that he could see and touch. God didn’t need to tell Adam what a tree was, how to distinguish fruits from leaves, or what it meant to eat. These these were natural knowledge. So God expected Adam to correlate the specific divine prohibition concerning one tree to his natural knowledge of the trees in the garden. This is theology as application: applying God’s word to our circumstances.
The same is true for all divine commands in Scripture. When God tells Israel to honor their fathers and mothers, he does not bother to define ‘father’ and ‘mother’ and to set forth an exhaustive list of things that may honor or dishonor them. Rather, God assumed that Israel have some general knowledge of family life, and he expects them to apply his commands to that knowledge.”
(John Frame, Doctrine of Christian Life, 163).
Some of the highlights I put in bold font.
I think Frame is building upon the observation that I first read from the apologist Cornelius Van Til of the need of general and special revelation being inter-dependent. God’s Special Revelation always interpret His General Revelation and extrabiblical information; but note here that Special Revelation assumes that there are extrabiblical information out there; moreover, it will never contradict God’s special revelation.
For more quotes from John Frame, I invite you to “like” our blog’s face book page which will be featuring daily morning quotes from Frame’s book, The Doctrine of the Christian Life.
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Posted in Apologetic Links, apologetics methodology, BackPack Radio, Bart Ehrman, Chris Bolt, Christianity, Cornelius Van Til, John Frame, Michael Robinson, Presuppositional Apologetics, presuppositionalism, Reformed, Van Til, tagged presuppositional apologetics on May 1, 2014 |
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