Archive for the ‘Multiperspectivalism’ Category

One of the men that have been influential in shaping my Christian thought life is John Frame.  Reading his work has been a delight and an experience of worship of God for His wisdom, glory and splendor.  His writings has helped me to think more clearly, biblically, and logically.  Since this is God’s World that we live in I think what I got the most from John Frame than other theologians is the hunger to see the beauty of the inter-relationship of…everything.  Doctrines relate to other doctrines.  Areas of philosophies need and presuppose other areas of philosophy.  There’s inter-relationships of academic disciplines.  There’s a relationship between theology and life.  Its like a symphony; they all go together in harmony because of God’s Wisdom.  There’s an apologetic there with the beautiful coherence of the Christian worldview, of God’s revelation between the Word and World.  Which is one of the aesthetically pleasing aspect of a robust Presuppositional apologetics.  But its more than an apologetics, it has made me live my life seeing living colors of God’s World.

What follows below are all four volumes of John Frame’s Theology of Lordship with links to my reviews that explains further why I recommend them.  I bought one volume at a time as a young seminarian without a lot of money, with the goal that after graduating I would be able to read them.  Then I slowly read 5-10 pages a day every morning and finished it.  They are doctrinal yet devotional, deep but “do-able,” deals with difficult topics but also demonstrate the deep dive of doctrines we see as more simple.

Review: The Doctrine of the Knowledge of God by John M. Frame


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john frame


I thought this was a quote from John Frame on the problem of Libertarian Freewill.  What makes it interesting is that it was in the footnote of the book rather than the main body.  Here John Frame writes:

Many have argued that this kind of freedom is the ground of moral responsibility.  But is that at all likely?  Imagine that an atom swerved randomly somewhere in your head and made you steal $500.  Would you feel guilty?  More likely you would feel like the victim of a random event–like being struck by lightning.  You didn’t do anything to make the atom swerve.  How can a human being be blamed for a mental accident?  If libertarian freedom exists, it is not the ground of moral responsibility.  Rather, it destroys responsibility.”

(John Frame, The Doctrine of the Christian Life, 93 footnote 1)

It is a wonderful little illustration to describe the problem of LFW.

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I. Introduction

a. Covenants were not given in a vacuum that is in the absence of other covenants.

b. The beauty of Christianity is the coherence of the multifaceted aspect of Christian theology.

c. Although not exhaustive, the ramification of Biblical Covenant in relations to other aspects of Christianity is explored here.

II. Hermeneutics

a. Hermeneutics concerns the rule and method of interpretation in general and the Bible in particular.

b. Relationship

i.      Hermeneutics in light of the Covenants

1. Covenants are the thread that goes through the entire Bible.

2. An understanding of the Covenants allow fuller contextual background in making sense of the passages.

3. Understanding elements of the Covenant illuminates Biblical passages:

a. How does God’s promise in the Covenants illuminate this text?

b. Does the passage reveal God’s covenantal blessings and curses taking place?

c. What is God’s Covenantal requirement here in this passage?

ii.      The Covenants in light of hermeneutics

1. How one properly understand the Covenants is the result of proper hermeneutics.

2. Understanding the Covenants begin with the basic hermeneutical principles used in beginning to interpret any passage of Scripture.

3. Historical-Grammatical approach still applies to passages that discuss about Biblical Covenants.

III. Apologetics

a. Apologetics is the art and science of defending the Christian faith as true and refuting error contrary to the faith.

b. Relationship

i.      Apologetics in light of the Covenants

1. There are Covenantal promises given which have been fulfilled.

2. There is an evidential value to these Covenantal promises that have been “prophesied” and “fulfilled”.

a. Example: Jesus Christ is the Messiah in light of the promise of the Davidic Covenant.

b. Example: Uniformity of Nature such as set days, months and season is accounted for within the Christian worldview because of the Noahic Covenant (Genesis 8:22).

ii.      The Covenants in light of Apologetics

1. Future Covenantal promises will be fulfilled because the Word of God is true.

2. The truthfulness of the Word of God is the domain of apologetics.

IV. Soteriology

a. Soteriology is the area of theology pertaining to Salvation.

b. Relationship

i.      Soteriology in light of the Covenants

1. Details of Salvation is slowly revealed in the Covenants.

Example: Salvation for the Gentiles is revealed in incipient form through the Abrahamic Covenant (Genesis 12:3)

2. The fullest expression of Soteriology in the Covenants is found in the New Covenant.

ii.      The Covenants in light of Soteriology

1.  Any proper assessment of the relationship between the Mosaic Covenant to the Abrahamic Covenant must take into account Scripture’s clear testimony of salvation by grace alone through faith alone in Christ alone (Romans 3:27-4:25; Galatians 3).

2. In light of progressive revelation, New Testament understanding of soteriology gives us a fuller perspective of one of the ways that Gentiles has been blessed through the promise found in the Abrahamic Covenant (cf. Romans 1:16).

V. Israelology

a. This is the area of theology that pertains to the doctrine of Israel.

b. Relationship

i.      Israelology in light of the Covenants

1. God is a Covenant keeping God who does what He promise.

2. Biblical Covenants proves that God still has a place for Israel in the future.

ii.      The Covenants in light of Israelology

1. Outside the passages mentioning the Covenants, what does the data of Scripture shows concerning the truth of the promises God covenantally made to Israel?

VI. Eschatology

a. Eschatology is the area of theology that pertains to last things and end times.

b. Relationship

i.      Eschatology in light of the Covenants

1. What are the Covenantal promise of God and concepts from the Covenant that will be fulfilled eschatologically?

Example: There is no unfolding of heaven without the “root of David” (Revelation 5:5)

2. In light of the Biblical Covenants, does Israel as a nation have a role in the future?

ii.      The Covenants in light of Eschatology

Can a Bible-centered eschatology provide any further insight as to when certain Covenantal promises be fulfilled?

VII. Sanctification

a. Sanctification is the initial act of God and the progressive work of God of setting believers apart for Him.

b. Relationship

i.      Sanctification in light of the Covenants

Believers can be sanctified in their hearts and obey God’s law because the New Covenant has promised God’s law written in their hearts (Jeremiah 31:31).

ii.      The Covenants in light of Israelology

Fulfilling God’s Covenantal requirement can only be possible because of God’s sanctification of believers.

VIII. Glory of God

a. The fame of God.

b. Relationship

i.      The glory of God in light of the Covenants

1. Worship- All the great truths about God’s Covenants should lead believers to worship God even more deeply!

a. Give glory to God for the revelation of His Covenants!

b. Give glory to God for what His Covenants promises!

c. Give glory to God for the great and deep truths of the inter-relationship of the Covenants!

d. Give glory to God for how majestically wise He is, to have the Covenants be tied in inter-relationship with other aspects of Christian theology!

e. Give glory to God for how majestically wise He is, to have the Covenants bear implications for the Christian life!

f. Give glory to God for how majestically wise He is, to have the Covenants bear implications for Christian thought!

g. Give glory to God for the beauty of the coherence of the Covenants and other aspects of theology!  The beauty of the great design He has in the intricate inter-relationship and implications of Covenantal truths with other spheres of study!

2. Hope- The Covenants should give believers hope

a. Because as part of the Word of God, the Word of God by design gives hope (Romans 15:4)!

b. Because God has given His promise!

c. Because God is Covenantally faithful!

d. Because the truth of God’s Covenantal promises is a part of the “defense to everyone who asks you to give an account for the hope that is in you” (1st Peter 3:15)

ii.      The Covenants in light of the glory of God

1. No matter what the requirements might be in each respective covenant, “Whether, then, you eat or drink or whatever you do, do all to the glory of God” (1st Corinthians 10:31).

2. “Whatever you do,” including studying the Biblical Covenants, “do all to the glory of God!”

3. Studying the Covenants itself, no matter how trivial, boring and unimportant some non-Christians and even Christians might think it is, is totally relevant if it glorifies God since all we do should glorify God!  Glorifying God is also relevant!

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As 2010 comes to a close, it’s a good time to reflect on the last year’s worth of blogging.

This last year, I’ve attempted to write some essays concerning theological method and the inter-relationship of doctrines and theological disciplines, while adopting the framework and using the tools/insight of Cornelius Van Til’s Presuppositional Apologetics and John Frame’s Multiperspectivalism.  The inter-relationship and the coherence of how all things come together has made me have a deeper desire to stand at awe at God for the coherence of His truth.

I hope to continue further exploration and writing in this vein unto next year, as this is a growing interests of mine and I have much to grow and know in the Lord.

Here are the essays that I’ve attempted to go further indepth than my usual blogging posts, in my exploration for 2010 thus far:

1.) ‘Doing’ Christian Theology in the 21st Century Defining theology, doctrine.  The goal of theology and why Pastors need to “do” theology.

2.) Book Review: Vern Poythress’ “Symphonic Theology- Thought it was important to review an important introductory work to Frame’s type of Perspectivalism written by a capable colleague.

3.) The Son’s Economic Subordination to the Father and it’s practical implication in the Gender Role Debate– How a Biblical understanding of the Trinity has implication for the issue concerning Complementarianism.

4.) A Critique of Process Theology’s Epistemology and Doctrine of Revelation- The relationship between one’s epistemology and doctrine of revelation provides an avenue to critique the foundation for Process Theology’s theological positive statements.

5.) A Swift Refutation of Sander’s Open Theism: Eternal Security in Heaven in light of Libertarian Free Will and Epistemic justification of future events- Refuting John Sander’s Open Theism by exploring his perspective on Libertarian Free Will, God’s knowledge of the future and his view of the believer’s eternal security.

6.) The Inter-relationship between eschatology and Apologetics: Implications for Apologetics and Eschatology- The relationship between the two are explored.

7.) The Basis for Religious Language in light of the Holy Spirit- Exploring philosophy of religious language in light of biblical pneumatology.

8.) A Critical Evaluation of Peter Enns’ Theological Method in his formulation of the Incarnational Model of Scripture- Taking account Enns’ theological method such as his model of coherence and relevance, his goal for the construction of his bibliology and other precommitments is a fruitful to explore the faults of Enns at a foundational level.

9.) Enns and Ancient Near East Literature: A Case study in his interaction with the Egyptian Tale of Sinuhe- Exploring a specific case study of Enns use of ANE record, discussing ‘genre-calibration’ that is built from the foundation of the previous essay on Enns theological method, and applies the earlier critique to a specific example of what Enns sought as ‘evidence’.

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symphonic theology

Purchase: Westminster | Amazon

This is a short interesting book by Vern Poythress, the professor of New Testament interpretation at the Westminister Theological Seminary (WTS).  An initial glance at the title might lead one to ask the question of what is symphonic theology.  What is symphonic theology?  It would have been great to have Poythress provide a concise definition earlier in the book.  About a third way into his work, Poythress states what it is: “We use what we have gained from one perspective to reinforce, correct, or improve what we understood through another.  I called this procedure symphonic theology because it is analogous to the blending of various musical instruments to express the variations of a symphonic theme” (43).

Though Poythress coins the term “symphonic” theology, what he articulates here is better known as Perspectivalism.  It does not seem to be anyone else who subscribe to Perspectivalism that calls it symphonic theology, and for the purpose of this review, symphonic theology will be called perspectivalism instead.  According to Poythress, he attributes perspectivalism as a theological method that was spawned from the teaching “of Cornelius Van Til, John M. Frame, and Kenneth L. Pike” (121).  In assessing Poythress claim of the three influence of Poythress’ perspectivalism, only Frame (which by the way, is Poythress’ mentor and colleague) would explicitly subscribe to perspectivalism, while Van Til’s thought of apologetics and theology in the opinion of this reviewer laid the incipient form of perspectivalism along with the work of linguist Pike.

What is perspectivalism?  It has much to do with perspective, and aspects.  Chapter one offered various illustrations of how perspectives are a part of daily life.  It is amazing to even think of how common one is not aware of perspectives in our daily life, and yet it is assumed though not necessarily consciously.  Poythress introductory chapter is a helpful opening to illustrate from the physical to the spiritual.

In the next chapter, Poythress gets more specific on defining what he means by perspective.  He notes how the term “perspective” is often used in four ways: analogies, models, selective interests and one’s worldview.  He states that concerning “the first three senses, we frequently dealt with complementary truths and ways of looking at something”, but with perspective as a worldview “here, we have an exclusive category: one view is right, while the others are wrong” (20).  It is important to understand that Poythress’ perspectivalism is not a denial of absolute truth in the common understanding of the term, since Poythress believes that there can only be one right worldview.  The rest of the book focus on the other three meaning of perspective: analogies, models and selective interests.  He believes that perspectives in the latter three senses will be beneficial in the task of theology.

Of course in justifying whether or not multiple perspectives are valid in theology, Christians would have to ask whether the Bible in any way address the topic, whether directly or indirectly.  Concerning selective interests, Poythress writes, “We can see a similar kind of selectivity in the Bible.  The Gospel of Mark and the Gospel of John are different partly because they tell about different events.  John concentrates on Christ’s ministry in the area of Jerusalem, while of Mark concentrates on the Galilean ministry.  Mark includes an account of the Last Supper, while John includes the Upper Room Discourse” (17-18).  And “the Gospel of Mark presents us mostly with the theme of the kingdom of God, while the Gospel of John dwells on the themes of truth, light, glory, love, indwelling and faith” (17).  Christians should appreciate how the written gospels present one unified truth with diversity of perspectives.  While most Christians would agree with the observation that the four gospels are written from different perspectives, and all four gospel remain true, it is important to realize that perspectives in of itself does not imply relativism or a denial of the existence of objective truth.

There is a sense of perspective when we read the Bible, “we use a multitude of perspective on a passage, we do not expect a conflict or contradiction between perspectives.  Rather, we use each perspective to reinforce and enhance our total understanding” (24).  As an illustration that this reviewer can think of, the passage of Zechariah 12:10 can be mined for it’s truth as Messianic prophecy, while it can also be mined for it’s truth concerning eschatology.  However, this task is not together a subjective relativistic endeavor, since the historical-grammatical-literary hermeneutic provides an objective control of knowing first off the authorial intent.  In fact, Poythress points out that perspective is also important in solid hermenutics.  Any interpretation of a passage must take into account how it fits into the book’s larger theme: “Once a book has exhibited a clear-cut theme, the book invites us to see all its contents as somehow fitting in with the theme, sometimes loosely and indirectly, sometimes directly” (30).  This theme is a particular selected interests, or “perspective”.

If one’s theology is informed by Scripture, and Scripture is perspectival, then it should be surprising to find that a solid systematic theology should be perspectival as well.  For instance, Jesus as Prophet, Priest and King are traditional categories of the roles of Christ.  In a way, these traditional offices of Jesus are also perspectives of Jesus, which Poythress points out.  While one can see distinct functions in the three offices of Christ, Poythress reminds us that “we cannot ultimately isolate one piece from another” (40).  Each of the offices presupposes and need each other: “Christ’s prophetic proclamation of the kingdom of God in words goes together with and reinforces his kingly demonstration of the presence of the kingdom of God by casting out demons and working miracles” (40).  Again, in theology, various focuses on theology should reinforce and further our total theological understanding.  Rather than a threat, if one’s theology is true, one should expect that the various analogies and interests of theological aspect is complementary of other parts of theology.

It is important to understand that though theological perspective are inter-related, there is not one singular doctrine that is foundational to all other doctrine: “No one attribute is the ‘last thing back,’ from which all the others are derived.  Rather, any attribute can be seen as related to any other” (83).  Rather, there is an inter-dependence of doctrines, other doctrines require other doctrines.

Perspectivalism spans beyond the sphere of systematic theology.  There is also a sense in which there is a relationship between systematic theology and biblical theology.  Even in an area that most might not commonly think as having any relationship, a closer inspection reveal otherwise.  For instance, Poythress explores the relationship of systematic theology to Christian ethics.  He finds that there is in some sense, all of the biblically based systematic theology is ethically imperative:  “The whole of systematic theology can be viewed as a description of what we ought to believe on the basis of the Bible.  Thus all of systematic theology—all of doctrines—is simultaneously ethics” (25)! The above suggests that theology (in the example of systematic theology) share a relationship with philosophy (in this example, the area of ethics). Those familiar with the works of Van Til would realize that there is a sense in which philosophy and theology share an interesting relationship, and Van Til is quite insightful when he points out that philosophy is really doing theology in another language.  Though Poythress does not state so here, there is a sense also that important parts of philosophy is an attempt to engage in the task of theology but from another worldview perspective.  This truth should lead the Christian philosopher to realize that philosophy itself can never be autonomous from the Word of God, just as systematic theology can never be separated from the authority of Scripture.  Even in an area like apologetics and eschatology, there is an inter-dependent relationship, which is the subject of an essay by this reviewer.

Perspectivalism is a legitimate way of thinking in light of the truth that we are limited, and our knowledge of truth can at times be partial.  An important illustration is that of the jewel: there are various facets to the diamond of a pristine theology, but there is one diamond of true religion/worldview/faith.

Poythress discussion about error is also helpful, since not all perspective is legitimate.  Even then, “Error is parasitic on the truth,” that is “to be at all plausible, errors and lies must somehow look like the truth” (89).  He gave the example of how Jehovah’s Witnesses theology is false, and yet it parallel closely to the truth when it comes to the doctrine of the second coming, etc, and the elements of Watchtower theology which parallel the truth of Scripture will be an attractive bait to attract followers.  This truth should also imply that a Christian should always be discerning of error, because error often times is disguised so closely to the truth than one realize.

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