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John Frame

John Frame

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John M. Frame is an American
United States
The United States of America is a federal constitutional republic comprising fifty states and a federal district...

 philosopher and Calvinist theologian
Theology
Theology is the systematic and rational study of religion and its influences and of the nature of religious truths, or the learned profession acquired by completing specialized training in religious studies, usually at a university or school of divinity or seminary.-Definition:Augustine of Hippo...

 especially noted for his work in epistemology and presuppositional apologetics
Presuppositional apologetics
In Christian theology, presuppositionalism is a school of apologetics that presumes Christian faith is the only basis for rational thought. It presupposes that the Bible is divine revelation and claims to expose flaws in other worldviews...

, systematic theology
Systematic theology
In the context of Christianity, systematic theology is a discipline of Christian theology that attempts to formulate an orderly, rational, and coherent account of the Christian faith and beliefs...

, and ethics
Ethics
Ethics, also known as moral philosophy, is a branch of philosophy that addresses questions about morality—that is, concepts such as good and evil, right and wrong, virtue and vice, justice and crime, etc.Major branches of ethics include:...

. He is one of the foremost interpreters and critics of the thought of Cornelius Van Til
Cornelius Van Til
Cornelius Van Til , born in Grootegast, the Netherlands, was a Christian philosopher, Reformed theologian, and presuppositional apologist.-Biography:...

.

Biography


Frame received degrees from Princeton University
Princeton University
Princeton University is a private research university located in Princeton, New Jersey, United States. The school is one of the eight universities of the Ivy League, and is one of the nine Colonial Colleges founded before the American Revolution....

 (A.B.
Bachelor of Arts
A Bachelor of Arts , from the Latin artium baccalaureus, is a bachelor's degree awarded for an undergraduate course or program in either the liberal arts, the sciences, or both...

), Westminster Theological Seminary
Westminster Theological Seminary
Westminster Theological Seminary is a Presbyterian and Reformed Christian graduate educational institution located in Glenside, Pennsylvania, with a satellite location in London.-History:...

 (B.D.
Bachelor's degree
A bachelor's degree is usually an academic degree awarded for an undergraduate course or major that generally lasts for three or four years, but can range anywhere from two to six years depending on the region of the world...

), Yale University
Yale University
Yale University is a private, Ivy League university located in New Haven, Connecticut, United States. Founded in 1701 in the Colony of Connecticut, the university is the third-oldest institution of higher education in the United States...

 (A.M.
Master's degree
A master's is an academic degree granted to individuals who have undergone study demonstrating a mastery or high-order overview of a specific field of study or area of professional practice...

 and M.Phil., though he was working on a doctorate
Doctorate
A doctorate is an academic degree or professional degree that in most countries refers to a class of degrees which qualify the holder to teach in a specific field, A doctorate is an academic degree or professional degree that in most countries refers to a class of degrees which qualify the holder...

 and admits his own failure to complete his dissertation),http://thirdmill.org/answers/answer.asp/file/99718.qna/category/th/page/questions/site/iiim and Belhaven College
Belhaven College
Belhaven University is a private Christian liberal arts university located in Jackson, Mississippi. Founded by Dr. Lewis Fitzhugh and later donated to the now defunct Presbyterian Church in the United States, the school has been independently run by a Board of Trustees since 1972...

  (honorary D.D.
Doctor of Divinity
Doctor of Divinity is an advanced academic degree in divinity. Historically, it identified one who had been licensed by a university to teach Christian theology or related religious subjects....

)http://www.belhaven.edu/news/200304/FrameDoctorate.pdf. He has served on the faculty of Westminster Theological Seminary and was a founding faculty member of their California
California
California is a state located on the West Coast of the United States. It is by far the most populous U.S. state, and the third-largest by land area...

 campus, and he holds the J. D. Trimble Chair of Systematic Theology and Philosophy at Reformed Theological Seminary
Reformed Theological Seminary
Reformed Theological Seminary is a non-denominational, evangelical Protestant seminary. RTS's first campus remains in Jackson, Mississippi, United States though the school has expanded to include several additional campuses.-Founding:...

 in Orlando, Florida
Orlando, Florida
Orlando is a city in the central region of the U.S. state of Florida. It is the county seat of Orange County, and the center of the Greater Orlando metropolitan area. According to the 2010 US Census, the city had a population of 238,300, making Orlando the 79th largest city in the United States...

.http://www.rts.edu/faculty/StaffDetails.aspx?id=19

Frame married Mary Grace Cummings in 1984, and has two sons, Justin M. Frame and John A. Frame. He also has three stepchildren: Deborah, Doreen, and "Skip".
Frame is well known in Reformed circles for his many books, chapters, and articles. He is also a classically trained musician and a critic of film
Film
A film, also called a movie or motion picture, is a series of still or moving images. It is produced by recording photographic images with cameras, or by creating images using animation techniques or visual effects...

, music
Music
Music is an art form whose medium is sound and silence. Its common elements are pitch , rhythm , dynamics, and the sonic qualities of timbre and texture...

, and other media
Mass media
Mass media refers collectively to all media technologies which are intended to reach a large audience via mass communication. Broadcast media transmit their information electronically and comprise of television, film and radio, movies, CDs, DVDs and some other gadgets like cameras or video consoles...

.

Relations to other scholars


Frame is known for his critical view of historical modes of theology, including his criticism of scholars such as David F. Wells
David F. Wells
David Falconer Wells is Distinguished Senior Research Professor at Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary. He is the author of several books in which his evangelical theology engages with the modern world....

, Donald Bloesch, Mark Noll
Mark Noll
Mark A. Noll is a historian specializing in the history of Christianity in the United States. He holds the position of Francis A. McAnaney Professor of History at the University of Notre Dame...

, George Marsden
George Marsden
George M. Marsden is an historian who has written extensively on the interaction between Christianity and American culture, particularly on Christianity in American higher education and on American Evangelicalism...

, D.G. Hart, Richard Muller
Richard Muller (theologian)
Richard A. Muller is an American historical theologian.-Life:Muller obtained his B.A. in History from Queens College, City University of New York in 1969, his M.Div. from Union Theological Seminary, New York in 1972, and his Ph.D. in Reformation studies from Duke University in 1976...

, and Michael Horton. One of his most well-known articles in this vein is titled "Machen's Warrior Children", which was originally published in Alister E. McGrath and Evangelical Theology: a Dynamic Engagement (Paternoster Press, 2003). A more recent example is his review of Michael Horton's book Christless Christianity. In 1998 Frame engaged in a student-organized debate with then librarian D.G. Hart concerning the regulative principle of worship
Regulative principle of worship
The regulative principle of worship is a teaching shared by some Calvinists and Anabaptists on how the Bible orders public worship. The substance of the doctrine regarding worship is that God institutes in the Scriptures everything he requires for worship in the Church and that everything else is...

. Frame has used Doug Wilson
Douglas Wilson (theologian)
Douglas James Wilson is a conservative Reformed and evangelical theologian, pastor at Christ Church in Moscow, Idaho, faculty member at New Saint Andrews College, and prolific author and speaker...

's home-schooling materials with his own sons.

Multiperspectival epistemology


Frame has elaborated a Christian epistemology in his 1987 work The Doctrine of the Knowledge of God. In this work, he develops what he calls triperspectivalism or multiperspectivalism
Multiperspectivalism
Multiperspectivalism is an approach to knowledge advocated by Calvinist philosophers John Frame and Vern Poythress....

which says that in every act of knowing, the knower is in constant contact with three things (or "perspectives") – the knowing subject himself, the object of knowledge
Knowledge
Knowledge is a familiarity with someone or something unknown, which can include information, facts, descriptions, or skills acquired through experience or education. It can refer to the theoretical or practical understanding of a subject...

, and the standard or criteria by which knowledge is attained. He argues that each perspective is interrelated to the others in such a fashion that, in knowing one of these, one actually knows the other two, also. His student and collaborator Vern Poythress
Vern Poythress
Vern Sheridan Poythress is a Calvinist philosopher and theologian and New Testament scholar.-Biography:Poythress lived on his family farm in Madera, California until he was five years old and later moved with his family to Fresno, California...

 has further developed this idea with respect to science
Science
Science is a systematic enterprise that builds and organizes knowledge in the form of testable explanations and predictions about the universe...

 and theology
Theology
Theology is the systematic and rational study of religion and its influences and of the nature of religious truths, or the learned profession acquired by completing specialized training in religious studies, usually at a university or school of divinity or seminary.-Definition:Augustine of Hippo...

. Reformed theologian Meredith Kline wrote a critique of this view, explaining that Poythress and Frame had used multiperspectivalism in ways that had led to seriously incorrect conclusions in regards to the relation of Kline's position and Greg L. Bahnsen's on covenant theology
Covenant Theology
Covenant theology is a conceptual overview and interpretive framework for understanding the overall flow of the Bible...

 (more specifically theonomy
Theonomy
Theonomy is a theory in Christian theology that God is the sole source of human ethics. The word theonomy derives from the Greek words “theos” God, and “nomos” law. Cornelius Van Til argued that there "is no alternative but that of theonomy or autonomy"...

).

Presuppositions


As a former student of Van Til, Frame is supporter of the presuppositionalist
Presuppositional apologetics
In Christian theology, presuppositionalism is a school of apologetics that presumes Christian faith is the only basis for rational thought. It presupposes that the Bible is divine revelation and claims to expose flaws in other worldviews...

 school of Christian apologetics
Apologetics
Apologetics is the discipline of defending a position through the systematic use of reason. Early Christian writers Apologetics (from Greek ἀπολογία, "speaking in defense") is the discipline of defending a position (often religious) through the systematic use of reason. Early Christian writers...

. He defines a presupposition as follows:
A presupposition is a belief that takes precedence over another and therefore serves as a criterion for another. An ultimate presupposition is a belief over which no other takes precedence. For a Christian, the content of Scripture must serve as his ultimate presupposition.... This doctrine is merely the outworking of the lordship of God in the area of human thought. It merely applies the doctrine of scriptural infallibility to the realm of knowing. (Doctrine of Knowledge of God, 45)

Rationalism and irrationalism in non-Christian thought


Frame, developing the thought of his mentor Cornelius Van Til, has asserted in both his Apologetics to the Glory of God and his Cornelius Van Til: An Analysis of His Thought that all non-Christian thought can be categorized as the ebb and flow of rationalism
Rationalism
In epistemology and in its modern sense, rationalism is "any view appealing to reason as a source of knowledge or justification" . In more technical terms, it is a method or a theory "in which the criterion of the truth is not sensory but intellectual and deductive"...

 and irrationalism.

Rationalism


In this context Frame defines rationalism as any attempt to establish the finite human mind as the ultimate standard of truth and falsity. This establishing of the autonomous intellect occurs within the context of rejecting God’s revelation
Revelation
In religion and theology, revelation is the revealing or disclosing, through active or passive communication with a supernatural or a divine entity...

 of himself in both nature
Nature
Nature, in the broadest sense, is equivalent to the natural world, physical world, or material world. "Nature" refers to the phenomena of the physical world, and also to life in general...

 and the Bible. A rationalist, in this sense, states that the human mind is able to fully and exhaustively explain reality.

Yet, when Frame speaks of "exhaustive explanations" he does not mean these systems seek omniscience. Rather, He means that the history of non-Christian thought (though, admittedly, his focus is Western philosophy
Western philosophy
Western philosophy is the philosophical thought and work of the Western or Occidental world, as distinct from Eastern or Oriental philosophies and the varieties of indigenous philosophies....

) is the history of various attempts to construct systems that account for everything (a distinctive metaphysic, epistemology and value theory).

According to Frame, examples of attempts to explain reality are found in Plato
Plato
Plato , was a Classical Greek philosopher, mathematician, student of Socrates, writer of philosophical dialogues, and founder of the Academy in Athens, the first institution of higher learning in the Western world. Along with his mentor, Socrates, and his student, Aristotle, Plato helped to lay the...

 and Aristotle
Aristotle
Aristotle was a Greek philosopher and polymath, a student of Plato and teacher of Alexander the Great. His writings cover many subjects, including physics, metaphysics, poetry, theater, music, logic, rhetoric, linguistics, politics, government, ethics, biology, and zoology...

's Form/Matter dualism
Dualism
Dualism denotes a state of two parts. The term 'dualism' was originally coined to denote co-eternal binary opposition, a meaning that is preserved in metaphysical and philosophical duality discourse but has been diluted in general or common usages. Dualism can refer to moral dualism, Dualism (from...

; the debate between the nominalists
Nominalism
Nominalism is a metaphysical view in philosophy according to which general or abstract terms and predicates exist, while universals or abstract objects, which are sometimes thought to correspond to these terms, do not exist. Thus, there are at least two main versions of nominalism...

 and the realists
Philosophical realism
Contemporary philosophical realism is the belief that our reality, or some aspect of it, is ontologically independent of our conceptual schemes, linguistic practices, beliefs, etc....

 over the status of universals and particulars, and the "all is... [fire, water, atoms,etc]" of the pre-Socratics
Pre-Socratic philosophy
Pre-Socratic philosophy is Greek philosophy before Socrates . In Classical antiquity, the Presocratic philosophers were called physiologoi...

. More examples would include Descartes' Mind/Body dualism, Spinoza's God or nature, and Leibniz's monadology
Monadology
The Monadology is one of Gottfried Leibniz’s best known works representing his later philosophy. It is a short text which sketches in some 90 paragraphs a metaphysics of simple substances, or monads.- Text :...

, Plotinus
Plotinus
Plotinus was a major philosopher of the ancient world. In his system of theory there are the three principles: the One, the Intellect, and the Soul. His teacher was Ammonius Saccas and he is of the Platonic tradition...

' "The One" and his teaching on emanation
Emanationism
Emanationism is an idea in the cosmology or cosmogony of certain religious or philosophical systems. Emanation, from the Latin emanare meaning "to flow from" or "to pour forth or out of", is the mode by which all things are derived from the First Reality, or Principle...

, the British
United Kingdom
The United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern IrelandIn the United Kingdom and Dependencies, other languages have been officially recognised as legitimate autochthonous languages under the European Charter for Regional or Minority Languages...

 empiricists
Empiricism
Empiricism is a theory of knowledge that asserts that knowledge comes only or primarily via sensory experience. One of several views of epistemology, the study of human knowledge, along with rationalism, idealism and historicism, empiricism emphasizes the role of experience and evidence,...

' attempts to limit knowledge and possibility to that which can be empirically verified, Kant
KANT
KANT is a computer algebra system for mathematicians interested in algebraic number theory, performing sophisticated computations in algebraic number fields, in global function fields, and in local fields. KASH is the associated command line interface...

's worlds of the noumena
Noumenon
The noumenon is a posited object or event that is known without the use of the senses.The term is generally used in contrast with, or in relation to "phenomenon", which refers to anything that appears to, or is an object of, the senses...

 and the phenomena
Phenomenon
A phenomenon , plural phenomena, is any observable occurrence. Phenomena are often, but not always, understood as 'appearances' or 'experiences'...

, and Hegel's dialectic
Dialectic
Dialectic is a method of argument for resolving disagreement that has been central to Indic and European philosophy since antiquity. The word dialectic originated in Ancient Greece, and was made popular by Plato in the Socratic dialogues...

.

Frame has stated that Intelligent Design
Intelligent design
Intelligent design is the proposition that "certain features of the universe and of living things are best explained by an intelligent cause, not an undirected process such as natural selection." It is a form of creationism and a contemporary adaptation of the traditional teleological argument for...

 is "as scientific, and just as religious, as" neo-Darwinism
Neo-Darwinism
Neo-Darwinism is the 'modern synthesis' of Darwinian evolution through natural selection with Mendelian genetics, the latter being a set of primary tenets specifying that evolution involves the transmission of characteristics from parent to child through the mechanism of genetic transfer, rather...

.

Irrationalism


Non-Christian thought, in Frame's view, also is characterized by irrationalism because inevitably the finite and fallen human mind cannot fully capture all of reality into a man-made system. On this position, at the point in which the non-Christian rationalist realizes that they cannot account for everything, they engage in what Francis Schaeffer
Francis Schaeffer
Francis August Schaeffer was an American Evangelical Christian theologian, philosopher, and Presbyterian pastor. He is most famous for his writings and his establishment of the L'Abri community in Switzerland...

 called an "upper story leap."

As a brief example, Frame uses the epistemology of Kant, who taught that the categories of thought that are necessary for our understanding the world around us, such as causality
Causality
Causality is the relationship between an event and a second event , where the second event is understood as a consequence of the first....

, logic
Logic
In philosophy, Logic is the formal systematic study of the principles of valid inference and correct reasoning. Logic is used in most intellectual activities, but is studied primarily in the disciplines of philosophy, mathematics, semantics, and computer science...

, time
Time
Time is a part of the measuring system used to sequence events, to compare the durations of events and the intervals between them, and to quantify rates of change such as the motions of objects....

, space
Space
Space is the boundless, three-dimensional extent in which objects and events occur and have relative position and direction. Physical space is often conceived in three linear dimensions, although modern physicists usually consider it, with time, to be part of a boundless four-dimensional continuum...

, and order, are structured by our minds and imposed upon the things we experience. In order to be rational and make sense out of life we must assume, or presuppose, these notions. Because we cannot empirically verify these categories by touch, smell, sight, etc. they must be thought of as created by and arising from our minds, thus ordering and providing the criterion for those things that we can empirically verify. This led Kant to conclude that if we are to think of anything at all we must think in terms of everything being caused by something logically and temporally prior to it. This led to a fairly deterministic
Determinism
Determinism is the general philosophical thesis that states that for everything that happens there are conditions such that, given them, nothing else could happen. There are many versions of this thesis. Each of them rests upon various alleged connections, and interdependencies of things and...

 view of mankind.

Frame asks where we can find moral responsibility and freedom in Kant's scheme. He argues that Kant believed that while we couldn't prove that man was a responsible moral agent we must nevertheless act as though this were the case. Philosophers have described these as Kant’s "two worlds" – the world of nature (which leads to determinism), and the world of freedom (where responsibility is found). Kant himself spoke of the "starry skies above" and the "moral law within", and although Kant did not deny the regularity of the natural world and the reality of humanity’s "moral motions," his philosophy could not bring these two worlds together. Frame concludes that Kant made the "upper story leap" to irrationalism by asserting the truth of something with no rational justification. Thus, in Immanuel Kant, Frame finds both rationalism and irrationalism.

Likewise, according to both Frame and Van Til, every non-Christian system contains what Jacques Derrida
Jacques Derrida
Jacques Derrida was a French philosopher, born in French Algeria. He developed the critical theory known as deconstruction and his work has been labeled as post-structuralism and associated with postmodern philosophy...

 calls "alterity
Alterity
Alterity is a philosophical term meaning "otherness", strictly being in the sense of the other of two . In the phenomenological tradition it is usually understood as the entity in contrast to which an identity is constructed, and it implies the ability to distinguish between self and not-self, and...

", that is each system contains the very principles for its downfall. They all "auto-deconstruct."

Worship and music


Frame has written two books on worship and music. These have provoked controversy as Frame interprets the regulative principle of worship
Regulative principle of worship
The regulative principle of worship is a teaching shared by some Calvinists and Anabaptists on how the Bible orders public worship. The substance of the doctrine regarding worship is that God institutes in the Scriptures everything he requires for worship in the Church and that everything else is...

 (which he subscribes to) in a non-conventional manner. Frame regards contemporary worship music, musical instruments and liturgical dance
Liturgical dance
Liturgical dance is dance that is incorporated into liturgies or worship services. It is an expression of worship. It can be in Christian services as well as other religions and faith traditions. Such dances can be accompanied by many different types of music...

 as permissible, which has brought him into conflict with some Reformed theologians who regard them as forbidden in worship.

Selected works

  • Introduction to Presuppositional Apologetics Part 1
  • Introduction to Presuppositional Apologetics Part 2
  • Van Til: The Theologian, 1976 (available online) ISBN 0-916034-02-X
  • Medical Ethics, 1988 ISBN 0-87552-261-0
  • Perspectives on the Word of God: An Introduction to Christian Ethics, 1990 ISBN 0-8010-3557-0
  • Evangelical Reunion, 1991 (available online) ISBN 0-8010-3560-0
  • Apologetics to the Glory of God, 1994 ISBN 0-87552-243-2
  • Cornelius Van Til: An Analysis of his Thought, 1995 ISBN 0-87552-245-9
  • Worship in Spirit and Truth, 1996 ISBN 0-87552-242-4
  • Contemporary Worship Music: A Biblical Defense, 1997 ISBN 0-87552-212-2
  • No Other God: A Response to Open Theism, 2001 ISBN 0-87552-185-1
  • Salvation Belongs To The Lord: An Introduction To Systematic Theology, 2006 ISBN 1-59638-018-7

Theology of Lordship series

  • The Doctrine of the Knowledge of God, 1987 ISBN 0-87552-262-9
  • The Doctrine of God, 2002 ISBN 0-87552-263-7
  • The Doctrine of the Christian Life, 2008 ISBN 978-087552-796-3; portions available online
  • The Doctrine of the Word of God, 2010 ISBN 978-087552-264-7, outline available online Outline

External links

  • Frame-Poythress.org - the writings of Frame and Vern Poythress
    Vern Poythress
    Vern Sheridan Poythress is a Calvinist philosopher and theologian and New Testament scholar.-Biography:Poythress lived on his family farm in Madera, California until he was five years old and later moved with his family to Fresno, California...

    .
  • Biography at Monergism.com
  • Third Millennium Ministries offers audio, books, articles, essays, and lecture outlines by Frame, his like-minded colleagues, and his students.
  • Going to Seminary Interview - A video interview with John Frame about the benefits and deficiencies of seminary training.