Apologetics – A Justification of Christian Belief by John Frame, 2015 P&R Publishing


Puritan Board Freshman
This is the best apologetics book I’ve read, aside perhaps from Greg Bahnsen’s Always Ready. It’s an updated edition of Frame’s earlier book, Apologetics to the Glory of God, but with a lot of added material and additional appendices. Here is a listing of some of the main points in the book as well as various points I thought were particularly helpful:

Neutrality/Lordship of Christ:
  • The unbeliever suppresses the truth in unrighteousness, per Romans 1, and already knows that God exists, and it’s critical that Christians argue in such a way with the nonbeliever so as to have that innate knowledge of God come to the surface. Frame adamantly rejects intellectual neutrality with nonbelievers.
  • Frame emphasizes the Lordship of Christ over the mind and over all apologetics endeavors. We cannot grant autonomy to the unbeliever or pretend that there is neutrality with the unbeliever. God rules all areas of life, including the intellect, and we must have Christ as Lord in the area of apologetics.
  • Frame had a good illustration of this point. A person is paranoid and believes everyone is out to destroy him. If we were to try and disavow him of this false notion, we would not grant him neutrality in the argumentation and argue on his terms. Rather, we’d presuppose the true nature of reality and try to demonstrate to him the absurdity of his position.
  • Frame emphasized the need for “intellectual repentance”, which is a great phrase to summarize the obligation of all nonbelievers.
  • There are inherent dangers in apologetics: the apologist can become arrogant, descend into heresy, and/or seek to win the approval of accomplished intellectuals.
  • Frame made a great point when discussing general revelation. As important as general revelation is, we need – as Calvin stated – the “spectacles” of special revelation to properly understand and interpret general revelation.
  • According to Frame, the Transcendental Argument for the existence of God (“TAG”) has some limitations. This is an area where Frame differs from Van Till and other presuppositionalists. Specifically, as a discussion with a nonbeliever develops, the Christian will often need to get into more detail regarding the rationale for TAG or the defense of TAG. At that point we end up making various subsidiary arguments to back up TAG (for example, arguments regarding the impossibility of things like objective moral obligations, causality, and laws of logic without God) and those arguments will often sound a lot like the traditional arguments for the existence of God that are made by classical apologists. As a result, Frame is a lot more sympathetic to the classical arguments for the existence of God than most other presuppositionalist apologists.
  • Frame discussed the two kinds of circularity: vicious and virtuous. The former is illegitimate, while the latter is not. Everyone argues in a circle when it comes to ultimate authorities or ultimate presuppositions. He thereby refuted the typical “circular argument” criticism levied against presuppositionalists by nonbelievers or classical apologists.
  • The God of the Bible exemplifies Trinitiarian love, solving the one and the many problem. God could not love Himself if He was unitarian. Since God is Trinitarian, God the Father, God the Son, and God the Holy Ghost perfectly love each other.
  • There are differences between proof and persuasion. Proof can be overwhelming or irrefutable, but because of sin, some may still reject the proposition, and thereby not be persuaded.
  • God loves a child-like faith – we aren’t required to have an intellectual justification for Christianity. Nevertheless, God has given us intellectual reasons for believing His truth.
TAG (cont'd):
  • Getting back to the issue of TAG and arguments with Classical apologists, the traditional arguments for the existence of God may in fact be legitimate arguments. According to Frame, it’s more of a heart issue – that is, whether or not the classical apologist is granting autonomy and neutrality to the non-believer may not be reflected in the arguments per se, but rather, in that apologist’s heart and intentions. [I’m not sure I agree with this. From what I’ve seen of classical and evidential apologists, it is typically rather obvious in many cases they are arguing on neutral ground with the non-believer.]
  • Frame doesn’t agree with Van Till and other presuppositional apologists that we can have one argument (TAG) that can prove all of Christianity. Similarly, the traditional arguments for the existence of God do not “prove another God” - they are just proving certain aspects or characteristics of God. God is, of course, much more than Aquinas’s Prime Mover, but God isn’t less than the Prime Mover. Similarly, Van Till was wrong to restrict the use of arguments to only the indirect.
Certainty/Classical Arguments:
  • Frame discussed different kinds of certainty. He noted that our arguments, even if we think they are immaculate and logically sound and valid, can still be flawed – as a result of our sinful nature. Thus, probabilistic reasoning is justified when arguing for God. [Something about this seems wrong to me, although I cannot put my finger on it. It seems to me that any argument for God, if it’s based on the Scripture, should not be couched in a probabilistic manner.]
  • The evidence for Christianity is certain and justification for Christian belief is certain – but the particular argument we are making may not be certain. [I’m not sure I agree with this, at least if the argument itself is based on and consistent with the Bible.]
  • Our goal must be to bring someone to Christ, not a search for the “truth”.
  • Frame had a couple of excellent chapters discussing moral arguments, cosmological arguments, and teleological arguments for the existence of God. Frame is surprisingly dismissive of the ontological argument for God’s existence, claiming that concepts of “perfection” and “existence” can be defined differently depending on one’s religion or worldview.
  • In a chapter refuting higher Biblical criticism, Frame had a great line regarding someone basing their worldview or rejecting Christianity based on the “frail reed of Biblical scholarship”.
  • Frame made an outstanding point that the argument from prophecy is really an argument from all of the Old Testament. He then went on to summarize the Old Testament as a whole pointing to, typifying, and predicting Christ.
Problem of Evil/Problems with Unbelieving Worldviews:
  • The two chapters on the problem of evil – or what I like to call the “issue of evil” since I don’t view it as a problem at all – were the apex of the book. Frame explains the differences between natural and moral evil. He skillfully exposes the problems with the standard free-will defense. He emphasized Romans 9, Habakkuk, and Job in the discussion and briefly refutes incompatibilism and libertarian free will.
  • I didn’t agree with Frame’s dismissal of Jay Adams’ argument, which focuses on God demonstrating His glory as the main reason for the existence of evil. I also don’t agree with Frame’s brief dismissal of the argument that the unbeliever has a bigger problem in that he cannot justify good or evil on an unbelieving worldview. Frame claims this is just an ad hominem argument, but I think there is more to it than that.
  • Frame makes a great point that just as the incarnation of Christ was the ultimate reconciliation of God’s justice and mercy, God will reveal to us in Heaven His ultimate reasons for the existence of evil. Until then, we need to trust God.
  • Frame discusses non-believers going back and forth between rationalism vs. irrationalism (for example, someone claiming that there is no objective truth but then claiming racism and slavery are always wrong).
  • The appendices were great and a key part of the book. Appendix A, which is Frame’s response from many years ago to the Sproul/Gerstner book criticizing presuppositional apologetics, is an outstanding summary of Frame’s views. This essay makes the critical distinction that we can start with ourselves from a metaphysical standpoint, but we have to start with God from an epistemological standpoint. Reason must always choose its standards and that choice – which is a religious and worldview decision – is and has to be the Bible as the standard. He emphasized the importance of 1 Corinthians 10:31. He also makes the incisive observation that Sproul and Gerstner were not consistent Calvinists – they essentially threw out the doctrine of total depravity when arguing with the non-believer.
  • Appendix B is a short but excellent article by Jay Adams defending his argument that the primary reason evil exists is to demonstrate the glory of God.
  • Appendix C discusses the unbeliever’s confusion of epistemology regarding ethics vs. metaphysical questions on those ethical issues, as well as a discussion of the failure of unbelieving worldviews to provide a justification for the uniformity of nature.
  • Appendix D refutes the notion that Van Till was an advocate of fideism. This false allegation is dependent on particular definitions of faith and reason that most Christians have traditionally rejected.
  • Appendix E discusses the aseity of God and the Bible being the self-contained, self-attesting and highest authority of knowledge, since it’s from that same God.
  • Appendix F discusses the problems with rationalism, empiricism, and subjectivism, and the fact that Scripture resolves these problems and reconciles these epistemological challenges. We must incorporate elements of all three into our epistemology but at all times we must be governed by the Scriptures.
  • A glossary of apologetic terms is included in the back of the book. Interestingly, I found the most insightful point of the book buried in the Glossary: Frame defines “philosophy” in part as a “subdivision” of “theology”. I thought this was a fascinating point and demonstrates Frame’s commitment to Scripture. I suspect that most Christian philosophers today would not at all consider philosophy to be a subdivision of theology.