Book Plunge: We Are All Philosophers

What do I think of John Frame’s book published by Lexham Press? Let’s plunge into the Deeper Waters and find out.

I really have a hard time reading some books that are heavily Calvinistic. I have friends that are very much Calvinist and we get along just fine, but overall, I find presuppositional thinking to be an epistemological train wreck. Still, I was sent the book by Frame and decided to give it a shot.

The book aims to answer seven questions ultimately. What is everything made of? Do I have free will? Can I know the world? Does God exist? How shall I live? What are my rights? How can I be saved? The last question I think should be seen as a question of more theology than of philosophy.

The advantage is that the book is written for a layman and there can be some good history in there such as learning about pre-Socratics like Thales and Anaximander and others. Aristotle will be mentioned and sometimes some moderns, but beyond that, not many others. I don’t remember Aquinas and Augustine being mentioned, for instance.

The questions are unfortunately all answered from a presuppositional position. If you do not hold to that position and do not find it persuasive, which is true of me definitely, then you will not be persuaded and if anything will just be frustrated. No Christian philosopher would say the text of the Scripture is not data, but let’s not just do Bible study and call it philosophy.

Most troubling though to me is the dealing of the problem of evil. Frame does agree that in some way God is the cause of evil. Why? Who knows, but it will work out for His glory. I do not doubt that all evil will work for God’s glory, but I also do not doubt that God is not the cause of it. God is not the cause of an innocent woman being raped or a child being aborted in the womb or of a family living in poverty.

On the section on the existence of God, I sadly saw no arguments for the existence of God. This could be a good thing because if it would have been anything like my reading of Greg Bahnsen’s Van Til’s Apologetic, I would have been more frustrated as Bahnsen treated Aquinas’s five ways in a way even worse than Dawkins did. I didn’t think that was possible until I read it, but it happened.

In the back is an appendix where Frame answers questions that have been sent to him on topics related to the book. The problem is sometimes you can read an answer and you’re not even clear on what the question is. None of the questions were also from people who were critical of Frame’s approach. If Frame is sure of his approach, I would have liked to have seen how he would have handled a question from a real critic.

Those wanting to learn philosophy have better sources I think available. Even though I disagree with Nash’s rationalism, his Life’s Ultimate Questions would be a good read. You can’t go wrong with Peter Kreeft’s Socratic Logic or his Philosophy 101. I don’t care for his work, but even Norman Geisler’s introduction to philosophy would be prepared.

Not all Calvinists are presuppositionalists, but if you are one, you’ll probably love this. Those of us on the outside just aren’t convinced.

In Christ,
Nick Peters

Glorious Circles?

Hello everyone and welcome back to Deeper Waters where we are diving into the ocean of truth. We’ve lately been looking into the topic of presuppositionalism. Tonight, I’d like to look at the idea of circular reasoning. I think that those of us who are classical and evidentialists do rightly charge the presuppositional camp with circular reasoning. The problem I see however is that the presuppositional camp freely admits this.

Don’t believe it? Consider what Greg Bahnsen says in “Van Til’s Apologetic” on page 518. In stating the way that he answers the charge of circular reasoning, Bahnsen says:

Our answer to this is briefly that we prefer to reason in a circle to not reasoning at all.

He later states on the same page that:

Reasoning in a vicious circle is the only alternative to reasoning in a circle as discussed above…

John Frame says on page 305 of “Cornelius Van Til: An Analysis of his Thought” that:

Such circularity is unavoidable, and it exists on both sides of the debate.

Indeed, presuppositionalists seem to revel in the circularity. For instance, on the Unbelievable broadcast, through Premier Christian Radio, Sye Tenbruggencate in round 2 of a debate with Paul Baird was told that his reasoning was circular to which he answered, “What’s wrong with that?”

Only everything.

To begin with, circular reasoning does not cease to be circular reasoning just because it’s about God and fallacies do not cease to become fallacies ever just because the subject matter one is thinking about is God. A fallacy is a fallacy is a fallacy. God is not glorified when we misuse our logic in his service.

Second, it does no good to say that the argument is not viciously circular. This is a distinction without a difference. In other places, a presuppositionalist would be very quick to point out when an unbeliever was engaging in circular reasoning, and they should rightfully do so. The problem is that the rules seem to change for them. I have long deplored how atheists can often make Christians have to prove every claim they have but when it comes to some theories like a multiverse, all of a sudden we don’t have to have proof for that. All sides should agree on the ground rules for debate and follow accordingly, and those ground rules are the proper use of reasoning first off.

Now it could be said that we are circular in assuming reason. The reply to this is to say that we do no such thing. Reason is what we have to start with. To assume it would be to take it for granted. However, if I am told that I should question reason at the start and see if it’s a valid starting point, how am I to do that? Do I do see reasonably or unreasonably? If I am told to go to Scripture first, am I to conclude that that is what I should do reasonably or unreasonably?

If we said “Begin with revelation” then we have to ask “Which one?” Should I begin with the Hindu or the Buddhist or the Christian or the Muslim or the Mormon revelation? (I do realize that in pantheistic faiths and some Eastern thought that the idea of revelation is a problem, but for now let us approach each faith as if we were uninformed.) If we believe God’s Word can stand any test, then we should not hesitate to bring any test to it and we should not believe that we have to assume it in order to see its truth.

We conclude then that any system that engages in circular reasoning is faulty and to be avoided. This does get us into epistemological issues and I plan to address those more next time.

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