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Tuesday, January 31, 2006

It's Not Vegas, but...(Part 3 of 3)


Maybe I'm the only person who thinks this is funny, but I had to chuckle to myself when I was standing in Westminster Seminary's bookstore and saw the Greek New Testaments for sale that you see in the above picture. On the sales sticker, it said "NOW WITH NEWLY PUBLISHED PAPYRI!" kinda like the kind of sticker you would expect to see on a cereal box advertising a free action figure at the bottom of the box that conned kids into buying the cereal. Only instead of an action figure, here you get an expanded textual apparatus. Theology geek heaven indeed.

Anywho, I did have one final thought about the Seminary that I thought was blogworthy. Actually, it was the one thing I found disappointing about the Seminary. I was thumbing through the school's catalogue, and found a mere two - TWO! - apologetics courses available. "What that about?" I thought to myself. OK, I know that Westminster in California has a reputation for being focused on training pastors and is not as focused on scholarship as Westminster in Philadelphia (where they have reams of systematics and apologetics courses). And, yes, this is a good thing, because we need more people to flock God's sheep than we need navel-gazing academics and ivory tower scholars. But two things about this: 1. we still need the latter, even if not as numerous as the former, especially here on the West Coast and 2. those training for the pastorate need grounding in Reformed apologetics in order to pastor the flock effectively.

This neglect is sad, because John Frame had faithfully and ably carried VanTil's torch there for almost two decades at Westminster West. I don't have any pictures of Frame, but if I did I'd probably have a poster of him hanging on my wall like a kid would hang a poster of his favorite rock band. He became this theology geek's hero after I read his writings that really opened up VanTil's thought to me, and after reading his "Doctrine of the Knowledge of God" cover to cover. Sadly, he left to teach at RTS. According to the people at the Seminary I talked to, and according to this interview with Frame, there were "personal issues and theological ones" that prompted this move.

So with the apologetics guru gone, what happened? Well, on paper Michael Horton is now the professor of apologetics. Now, don't get me wrong: Horton is a good guy, and he is indeed good at what he does. I read him with great profit, and enjoy listening to the White Horse Inn radio program. But he is good at critiquing the trends, theology, and practice of the professing church, not interacting with with unbelieving academia on matters of philosophy and epistemology. "The Modern Mind" is currently the only apologetics course he teaches.

Pastors need to be trained to give a reason for the hope that is within them, and to tell their flocks how to do likewise. I think there is a sad deficiency if a distinctly Reformed presuppositional apologetic is not made a higher priority in the training of pastors, whether at WTS-CA or anywhere else.

Category: Theoblogia

12 Comments:

  • David,

    I'm glad you enjoyed the bookstore. It's getting better every day, in every way.

    We're only stocking textbooks right now, but it will grow. The seminary only recently took over the bookstore after leasing it to private owners for the last 25 years.

    As to apologetics at WSC, let me set the record straight. It's ironic that you suggest that we're not academic enough! We're usually criticized for being too nerdy. I'm gratified to see that we've managed to shed some of that image!

    Have you read Mike Horton's Covenant and Eschatology? I guess not or you might take a slightly different view. You might follow that with Lord and Servant both from WJKP (not a radio station, but a publisher).

    You'll see that, in the first vol especially, Mike is trying to do in the 21st century what Kees Van Til did in the 1930's. He's starting with Reformed theology and setting out to defend, not mere theism, but Reformed theology as the fullest expression of Christianity.

    We're fully committed to Van Til's apologetic. We teach and we teach students to practice. I have taught our Christian Mind course, subbing for Mike, in recent years so I can say this with some authority.

    We do not simply repeat CVT, however just as he did not simply repeat his teachers.

    It's true that we're not following Frame's version of presuppositionalism. There is overlap, of course, between what Mike does and John did, but there are differences.

    Mike and I had John as a teacher and we're grateful for the good things he did for us and taught us. He gave us confidence in God's Word and he taught us to be gracious with others and many other things for which we're grateful. I have read widely and deeply in John's body of writing with benefit.

    There are principled differences, however. John is committed to a method of theological analysis that is not compatible with historic Reformed theology and certainly not with Van Til: tri-perspectivalism.

    We're not the first ones to diagnose the the differences. As John himself (who is quite biographical in his writing) has pointed out over the years (I think he says this in his Van Til volume, CVT was staunchly opposed to John's appointment to the WTS/P faculty.

    A blog response is not a good place to try to lay out all the issues, but the short story is that tri-perspectivalism leads to rather different results than the traditional Reformed method (which CVT followed), i.e., distinguishing between theologia archetypa and theologia ectypa, i.e., theology as God understands and theology as we understand it.

    There are not three co-equal perspectives in the world, by the use of which one may arrive at what becomes, in effect, archetypal truth. One illustration of this effect of John's method is found in the trialogue (if that's really a word) between John, Richard Muller and David Wells on biblicism -- which John advocates after saying that he doesn't! -- in the Westminster Theological Journal. It's a fascinating read and an excellent example of the clear differences between John's method of theology and other Reformed folk who are more connected with the historic practice of Reformed theology.

    As Mike elaborates in Covenant and Eschatology the biblical and Reformed method of thinking about God and man is to recognize that humans only approximate the divine understanding, that as creatures this is all we're meant to do. Now, to be sure, we must do it, we must learn, as CVT so often reminded us, to think God's thoughts after him, but we do so via analogy, not intersection.

    I've written on this problem and interacted with John (briefly) in an essay in the Van Drunen, ed., The Pattern of Sound Doctrine (P&R, 2004) in an essay called "Janus, the Well-Meant Offer of the Gospel and Westminster Theology."

    If you re-read Van Til's defense of the faith, I think that you'll see that what Mike (and the rest of us) is trying to do is quite faithful to the vision and pattern that Van Til gave us.

    I'm happy to talk any time. Email or call.

    Cheers,

    rsc

    R. Scott Clark, D.Phil.,
    Associate Professor of Historical and Systematic Theology
    Westminster Seminary California
    1725 Bear Valley Parkway
    Escondido CA 92027
    USA
    760 480 8474
    rsclark@wscal.edu
    http://www.wscal.edu
    http://public.csusm.edu/guests/rsclark/index.htm

    By Blogger R. Scott Clark, at 9:24 AM  

  • ps. We actually have two required apologetics courses just as when John was here. They are, in fact, the saem courses, Christian Mind and Modern Mind. I took both from John 1984-87.

    The Christian Mind course has a substantial apologetics section, as it did when John taught it.

    Student are also able to do directed study with Mike and other faculty in apologetics and other courses.

    As to John's departure, its a long story, as is any family matter. I don't suppose anyone could untangle their relations to an older sibling or parent in a blog. Despite our differences, we have much affection for him and believe that he feels the same way about us.

    rsc

    By Blogger R. Scott Clark, at 9:29 AM  

  • One other ps. I don't know that we've removed any apologetics courses from the catalogue. We might have done, but I don't recall John actually teaching a great number apologetics electives when he was here. Remember, those apologetics courses are almost certainly electives which most MDiv students will not likely take.

    70% of our student body is in the MDiv program and that curriculum is 107-109 hours with (depending on whether one tests out of the English Bible Survey) 4-6 hours of electives. That is 2-3 elective courses over 3-4 years. Even if we offered a panoply of apologetics electives, most MDiv students would likely be able to take only one during their career at WSC.

    By necessity, the MDiv curriculum is highly structured. Our students spend (typically) 20 credits learning Greek and Hebrew (unless they can test out, in which case the potential number of elective hours increases). The rest of the credits are divided among exegetical, systematic, and practical theology, not to mention the paltry 9 hours of church history courses required. We would all like to add this course or that, but we already demand rather more of our students than most other seminaries. As it is, our MDiv curriculum, scheduled for three years, is 87% of a typical BA which is scheduled for 4 years! Students already complain that the curriculum is sometimes like drinking from a fire hose.

    Presently, we offer a considerable number of electives (on the confessions, biblical studies, various historical and theological topics, and practical topics.

    For what it's worth, few of our graduates have complained to us in recent years that they did not have enough apologetics. They have asked us to think about adding certain courses or making them required, but I don't recall that apologetics was one of them. Why? Because our students (both MA and MDiv) learn how to defend the faith in the required courses.

    The influence and importance of apologetics in our curriculum cannot be judged by counting the number of apologetics electives listed. All of us in the theological studies dept are Van Tillian and we teach our courses with that commitment. I discuss the history of apologetics, as appropriate, in the medieval-Reformation history course. It comes up in my doctrine of God course and in the other ST courses as well. It's one of the threads running throughout the curriculum.

    If our students were clamoring for more apologetics electives, we would offer them. They don't because Dr Horton does an excellent job teaching it in the required classes. As I said, if someone wants to read more deeply, the theological studies dept offers directed study courses individually which we have done over the years. We're always happy to assign more work!

    Cheers,

    rsc

    By Blogger R. Scott Clark, at 2:18 PM  

  • Dr. Clark,

    Thanks for coming by again.

    My comments were not intended to imply that the faculty of WTS-CA were second-stringers or had not produced good scholarship. I was only commenting on what I perceived to be the emphasis in the curriculum (pastoral rather than scholastic). This comment was prompted by a RELATIVE emphasis I noticed in comparison to WTS-P's course catalog (which has 9 master's level, 14 thm/phd-level apologetics courses).
    You raise a good point, however, that MDiv students only have a handful of elective hours.

    But thanks for the tip about Horton's Covenant and Eschatology. I looked it up at amazon.com, and was interested enough to add it to my "wish list" cart :)

    Thank you for elaborating on the VanTilian emphasis of both the faculty and curriculum. That is indeed encouraging, and I'm glad I was wrong in thinking that Pressup was not emphasized.

    As for Horton, I have nothing bad to say in his approach from what I have seen. I just noted that his emphasis seemed to critique distortions within the professing church rather than secular philosophies. Maybe I have missed something, but I haven't seen him take on, say, atheists like Frame (vs. Martin), Bahnsen (vs. Stein, Tabash, etc.), or provide a more general defense of the faith (like, say, Plantinga's trilogy, whatever you think about Plantinga).

    As for Frame, your post prompted me to re-read his section on the Clark/Vantil contraversy in Doctrine of the Knowledge of God (p. 20-40), which I assume you were referring to, in essence, w/ the issue of theologia ectypa vs. archetypa. He lists both continuities and discontinuities between divine and human knowledge. So I didn't come away from the discussion believing that he thought humans could have archetypical knowledge. Nor could I find any place where he links his triperspectivalism to this sort of knowledge.

    I'll have to look up the frame/muller/wells discussion in WTSJ some time. Oh, and I'll have to add Pattern of Sound Doctrine to my wish list, too :)

    Cheers - Dave

    By Blogger David Gadbois, at 9:23 PM  

  • David,

    If you go back and look over Van Til's literary corpus, you will notice that his major published works were not apologetics, as some define it, i.e., the defense of Christian theism against atheisms of various sorts. His two largest works are critiques of a theological rival, Karl Barth, whom he deemed a serious threat to the Reformed faith. Most of CVT's apologetic work came in the form of syllabi. In fact, (but not brute fact!) he didn't distinguish between the two types of work as I have just done. They were all part of the same project as far as he was concerned. So, CVT would quite understand Horton's critiques of Modernity and Postmodernity/post-foundationalism as a continuation of his project.

    I can only think of one book where Frame has done what you define as apologetics, Apologetics to the Glory of God (which I remember enjoying) and even that is really more a manual on how Christians should do apologetics not an apologetic itself, i.e., addressing this unbelieving argument or that and refuting it. There is the essay or two from the 70's critiquing atheism (I can't recall what or where) and some earlier work critiquing the Toronto Doyeweerdians. There might be more, but they don't come to mind. This is after 30 years of full-time teaching. By comparison, though he's been writing Reformed theology since he was 15 (!), Mike's been only been teaching at WSC since 1998. The first few years were focused on ST and Historical Theology since John was doing apologetics. So, he's only had responsibility for apologetics since 2000/2001.

    One other reason why there is a relative difference between the two campuses is that we determined at the outset not to offer a PhD. This campus was established primarily to train pastors and Bob Strimple and Bob Den Dulk and Bob Godfrey (all of whom served at WTS/P for a number of years) believed that a PhD program could be a distraction from that goal.

    I think it's fair to say that Mike and I have a genuine appreciation for Plantinga's epistemology, though we are both quite critical of his doctrine of God which, as I understand it, is quite unconfessional). I think it's possible to synthesize CP's "properly basic" approach with CVT's presuppositionalism. I don't recall whether Mike comments on CP in Covenant and Eschatology but I would be surprised if he doesn't since he covers a lot of philosophical territory therein. Students report having to read it with a dictionary of modern philosophy nearby.

    Re the Clark/Van Til controversy, this is the major burden of my essay in the Strimple Festschrift so I'll leave you to read it, but here is the substance of some version or other of the footnote I mentioned earlier. It will give you some leads in John's writing.

    In his Doctrine of the Knowledge of God (Phillipsburg: P&R Publications, 1987), 21-40 (hereafter DKG) and Cornelius Van Til: An Analysis of His Thought (Phillipsburg: P&R Publishing, 1995), 97-113 (hereafter CVT) John Frame has commented on the Clark-Van Til controversy. His survey of the arguments is clearer in the later work, but his analysis of the issues is substantially the same in both. He discusses and approves of Van Til's doctrine of analogy, but also seeks a reconciliation of the two approaches via triperspectivalism. This approach raises more questions than can or should be addressed in a footnote, but some problems in his approach may be noted here. He both affirms and denies that we can know God's “essence” (DKG, 30-32) and that we know God “in se” (DKG, 32-35). From the perspective of classical Protestant theology this argument is incoherent for the reasons given in this essay. He suggests (DKG, 40; CVT 107-108) that the controversy was avoidable had the two sides bothered to understand each other better. In contrast, as I read the documents, it appears that both sides understood each other sufficiently well and were correct in thinking that they had a genuine disagreement. Frame affirms Van Til’s doctrine of analogy but also subverts it by suggesting that there are ways in which Clark’s denial of analogical theology is also true. In this respect, Frame seems to share Clark’s concern that unless we have direct contact with the divine mind, we fall into skepticism. In his triperspectivalism, this contact is reached in a different way than in Clark’s intellectualism, but the result seems similar. It appears that, because Frame’s own theological method differs sharply from the classical Reformed analogical (e.g. archetypal/ectypal distinction) method, which Van Til accepted and Clark rejected, he is not able to sympathize fully with either Clark’s or Van Til’s own concerns and therefore he fails to see the fundamental disagreement between Clark and Van Til. If one rejects Frame’s method, his proposed resolution is unsatisfactory.

    Cheers,

    rsc

    By Blogger R. Scott Clark, at 8:28 AM  

  • Just a few responses to Scott Clark's comments:

    1. Van Til was not "staunchly opposed to John's appointment to the WTS faculty." If VT had been staunchly opposed, I would not have been appointed. The actual relationship between VT and me was more complicated, and I have described it in my Cornelius Van Til book.

    2. I do not oppose the archetypal/ectypal distinction. In fact I endorse it. I don't use that language, because the Clark controversy has forced us to make additional distinctions. But the whole point of perspectivalism is that we cannot know everything as God does, and so we need to multiply finite perspectives in order to understand as best we can.

    3. So obviously I do not believe that the three perspectives are "three co-equal perspectives in the world, by the use of which one may arrive at what becomes, in effect, archetypal truth."

    4. It's cute to say that I affirm biblicism after saying that I don't. But to make that criticism requires you to ignore all the qualifications and disclaimers that I make. I think anyone who reads the tralogue fairly will see that I do not affirm what I have earlier criticized.

    5. The word "analogy" is ambiguous. I affirm analogical knowledge in Van Til's sense, which is thinking God's thoughts after him, thinking according to his revelation. I don't believe that all human knowledge is analogical in Aquinas's sense (a kind of non-literality) and Van Til didn't either. Again, Scott seizes on a term without making any effort to understand what can be meant or not meant by it.

    John Frame

    By Blogger John M. Frame, at 5:41 AM  

  • Let me also mention that my writings in apologetics are somewhat more extensive than Scott suggests. Of course, like Horton, I have also worked in other fields, so many of my writings deal with other subjects. But among the writings that deal substantially with apologetics, I would list three books:

    Doctrine of the Knowledge of God
    Apologetics to the Glory of God
    Cornelius Van Til

    Then,

    Six articles in Cowan, Five Views of Apologetics
    Probably about 33 of the articles currently posted at www.frame-poythress.org, with maybe 15 more to come.

    John Frame

    By Blogger John M. Frame, at 8:02 AM  

  • Prof. Frame,

    Thanks for clarifying your views some, and I'll be looking forward to any more apologetics goodies you have for us all on your web site.

    Also, your Intro to Systematic Theology is already pre-ordered in my amazon.com "wish list". Thanks for blessing the saints.

    By Blogger David Gadbois, at 11:57 AM  

  • Hi David and John,

    In the link below give some references to academic discussions (of which I know John is aware) but others may not be regarding the archetypal/ectypal distinction.

    http://triablogue.blogspot.com/2006/02/westminsters-westering-star.html

    In those places (as summaries of 16th and 17th century Reformed orthodoxy) the concept of "analogy" is discussed.

    There is a sharp distinction to be made, as the orthodox did, between analogy as Thomas used it and analogy as we used it.

    As I read him, Thomas cheated. When he said analogy, he meant "analogy right up to the point that ontology takes over." By "ontology" I mean "intersection with the divine intellect." Thomas was as neo-Platonic as he was anything else. He might be called a "bi-perspectivalist!" Some times he's an empiricist and sometimes he's a neo-Platonist. Brian Davies suggests as much. That tension is evident in his six-fold division of grace.

    When the Reformed orthodox said "analogy," they meant, like God and divine truth, in a creaturely way. Analogy is not intersection. That's the difference between G. Clark and the tradition.

    It's true that CVT didn't use the terms TA/TE very much (at least not as I'm able to see) but he was quite devoted to and consistent with the substance of the distinction.

    I don't see what's ambiguous about such a use of the term "analogy." It's this sort of analogy that CVT was defending and that G. Clark and Herman Hoeksema rejected.

    John, what seems ambiguous to me is your affirmation of the TA/TE distinction here in the light of your language that I cite in the footnote.

    When I say that triperspectivalism seems to lead to archetypal knowledge, I realize that it doesn't really, since that's a priori impossible, but as I read the discussion with Muller and Wells, it seems to me that the way you account for the differences suggests that you're the only one who has really achieved capital T truth, because you have reckoned with the situational, existential, and normative and Wells and Muller haven't.

    Thus, your theology can't be trumped. As I recall, Muller and Wells expressed a certain exasperation with your method. It is impenetrable, invincible.

    The rest of us have to reckon with Scripture in the light of the tradition and the confessions, and muddle through, but it seems to me that you operate with a different definition of theology (application).

    Having defined theology thus (for which there is precedent, Ockham, Ames - perhaps, Edwards) you seem to start "from below" even though (as I recall in the Doctrine of God volume) you deny doing so. I remember reading a draft of the 1st half of the God volume and thinking, "this seems like theology from below" and just then you wrote, "this is not theology from below"! It was amusing that you seemed to answer my thought, but you didn't say how it wasn't theology from below (I realize this expression is usually used in Christological discussion, but it seems to fit here).

    As I understand the tradition, only God has archetypal truth. This is the meaning of the slogan, finitum non capax infiniti. We have ectypal or analogical theology in Scripture, with which we reckon and wrestle. It's not that Scripture contains analogies or accommodation, but that all of it is analogical and accommodated. To the degree our theology is faithful to the ectype, it too is ectypal, but never anything more than that. It is always corrigible. It is never more than a reflection of the divine mind.

    As I recall you speak of knowing God "in se." This language suggests more than mere analogy. This is intersection. Thus you seem to have revised your analysis of the Clark/Van Til controversy over the years from DKG to the God volume. I recall that in class you said that we should start with the normative, but that theoretically we could start with any of the three. In more recent years, I'm given to understand that you've abandoned that distinction and teach that each of the perspectives is equally normative, that is each of them can norm the other.

    I'm happy to be corrected if I've misunderstood you.

    Anyway, in the God volume, you seem critical of CVT's conclusion in favor of purely analogical knowledge. You seem to agree with G. Clark that our understanding must intersect, at some point, with
    God's, in order to confirm the analogical understanding.

    Doesn't your definition of theology as application and your method (correlating the three perspectives; by the way, no one doubts that these exist and that one has to reckon with them; Scripture has to be read in a place, by a person, and applied, but is that when theology comes to existence?) lead necessarily to granting your conclusions a kind of privilege and status denied the rest of us?

    Well, it's good to talk. I have no interest in misunderstanding or misrepresenting your views, so I'm glad to be corrected.

    Blessings,

    Scott

    By Blogger R. Scott Clark, at 10:21 PM  

  • Wow! It's a good thing I regularly browse Steve Hays' blog. Here I get to see John Frame posting on a blog, and I also find out that it's David Gadbois's blog!

    Dave, I don't know if you remember me, but I'm Travis from the CGR days. :)

    Dave is one of the two or three main guys who got me into presuppositional apologetics (reading Van Til, Frame and Bahnsen), shortly after I converted to Christianity from atheism.

    By Blogger Travis White, at 12:42 AM  

  • One of my fondest memories of WSC (94-97) is the day (in Frame's the Modern Mind class) when prof. Frame pretended to be a skeptic, and invited us to refute his skepticism--using whatever arguments, strategies we've learned.

    I will never forget the various attempts at refutations offered by the various students, and the ingenious way in which Frame wiggled out of them all. Trying to pin him down and refute him was like trying to catch a slimy eel with bare hands.

    I especially cherish the "tag-team" effort by Lane Tipton and myself to finally corner Frame and to put the steak through his heart, so to speak. I think we nearly had him, but somehow he managed to escape our attempts at refutation, also. At the end of class prof. Frame offered an analysis of his strategy, and why we were never quite able to nail him down. I will never forget what he said. In short, it went something like this: "When Lane tried to refute my rationalism, I simply resorted to being an irrationalist. And when Sean tried to refute my irrationalism, I slid back over to being a rationalist. But neither of them were able to point out that I was engaged in an unstable dialectic."

    With all due respects to Mike Horton, had Lane and I had to contend with him on that occasion (instead of with Frame), I'm pretty sure that we'd have him trapped, slaughtered, stuffed and mounted (figuratively speaking) in under five minutes.

    In short, WSC lost one of the finest apologetic teachers of our time when they lost prof. Frame.

    By Blogger the metaphysician, at 9:36 PM  

  • 1. I agree, more or less, with what Scott says about Aquinas. He tried to accomplish the impossible task of synthesizing neo-Platonism, Aristotelianism, and Scripture.


    2. I agree that there is no "intersection" between the divine mind and the human. That is to say that the human mind is at no point divine and the divine mind is at no point human. However, I do agree with Gordon Clark that God and man can and often do believe the same propositions (e.g., "God created the heavens and the earth"). Van Til agreed also on that point (in his Intro to ST), though early in the controversy he wrote as if he didn't agree with it. I follow the Van Til of IST, not the Van Til who seemed to deny that God and man could believe the same propositions. This was a major issue in the Clark controversy, and it is not solved by talk of intersections.

    3. I defined in my previous comment the two concepts of analogy that I think are sometimes confused with one another, and I stated which one I believed in. I agree with Van Til. Clark and Hoeksema, in my judgment, misread Van Til and charged him with believing in analogy in the other sense.

    4. If in the trialogue with Muller and Wells I suggested that my method, and my method alone, could reach some sort of identity with the divine mind, I repudiate that suggestion here and now. But frankly, Scott, I think you have to be rather tendentious to read my article that way.

    5. As for the language you cite in your "footnote" (I'm not sure what footnote you're referring to, but I'm guessing it is on 151 of PSD), you don't actually cite any language of mine except the term "essence." You think, evidently, that the claim to know God's essence is also a claim to know God archetypally. That simply is not the case. "Essence" has various meanings, but one meaning is simply "what something really is, in distinction from other things." In that sense, God reveals his essence (though analogically of course) in Scripture. As for "in se," note that Bavinck himself accepts that formulation in one place and rejects it in another.

    6. As for the hit-and-run criticisms at the end of your footnote, I don't have time to deal with them, though in general I think they are due to misunderstandings and/or a refusal or inability on your part to think through these issues beyond the historical sloganizing.

    7. Nobody has ever complemented me before by saying that my method is impenetrable and invincible. Actually it is not, but thanks anyway. Perhaps it appears that way because critics have to do the work of thinking through my assertions from more than one perspective.

    8. "The rest of us have to reckon with Scripture in the light of the tradition and the confessions, and muddle through, but it seems to me that you operate with a different definition of theology (application)." I have never thought of myself doing anything other than reckoning with Scripture in the light of the confessions and muddling through, though I do think the confessions are corrigible to an extent that others may not. As for "application," that is simply an alternative way of thinking about theology that enables us to answer the question, "Why do we need theology when we already have Scripture?" And I'm quite happy to add "and the confessions" to that question.

    9. I made perfectly plain what I meant by theology "from below" and "from above," and how my method differs from theologians who boast of doing theology "from below." That method is, of course, one that presupposes the authority and sufficiency of Scripture. I don't see why Scott is unable to see this, unless he is reading with a view to find fault.

    10. By the way, if Scott thought this was some kind of grave error in the early draft of DG, shouldn't he have raised that issue with me? I had asked for feedback, and, as my Academic Dean, he was responsible for overseeing the work of faculty. But he has said nothing to me about that until now. I mention this, because this was a continuing problem at WSC. For example, Scott evidently told a number of people, but not me, that I held a heretical view of the Trinity.

    11. I agree that Scripture is ectypal. I have never said, in any context, or implied, that we have archetypal knowledge of God. And I certainly agree that our theology is corrigible. Most of my critics, like Darryl Hart, upbraid me for thinking, e.g., that the Reformed confessions should actually be corrected by Scripture. For someone to say that I think my theology or anyone else's is incorrigible strikes me as bizarre.

    12. I don't, of course, remember precisely what I said in class when Scott was a student (mid-eighties, as I recall). If I said we should "start with" the normative, I probably meant that as a pedagogical starting point, not an epistemological one. I have always believed that the three perspectives include one another and therefore that none is epistemologically basic. Within each perspective (not only the normative), there is the Bible. And the Bible is our true epistemological starting point.

    13. "Doesn't your definition of theology as application and your method (correlating the three perspectives; by the way, no one doubts that these exist and that one has to reckon with them; Scripture has to be read in a place, by a person, and applied, but is that when theology comes to existence?) lead necessarily to granting your conclusions a kind of privilege and status denied the rest of us?" (a) Yes, tri-perspectival application is the point at which a person's theology comes into existence. Of course, it can be bad theology or it can be good theology. (b) If my method is better than someone else's, then it is likely to bring about better results. If that happens consistently, people may judge eventually that my method deserves a higher "privilege and status." But I have never claimed such a thing. My ideas are in the process of being tested and developed. I welcome fair and thoughtful criticism.

    These interchanges are becoming longer and longer, and I'm afraid I will not be able to continue this conversation any further. Doctrine of the Word of God, my next project, beckons. I hope at least that readers have some better idea now of how I relate to WSC theology, even though there is much more to be said about that.

    John M. Frame

    By Blogger John M. Frame, at 6:36 AM  

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