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A conversation with John Frame

BENYOLA: Right. What’s your favorite hymn?

FRAME: Oh, it varies, but I suppose over the years, the constant would be “A Mighty Fortress Is Our God” is pretty high on my level.

BENYOLA: Are you going to sing that tomorrow?

FRAME: Tomorrow? Tomorrow is Saturday.

BENYOLA: Tomorrow is Reformation Day! What are you doing for Reformation Day?

FRAME: I don’t know if we’re doing anything. I’m sure we’ll celebrate the Reformation on Sunday in church. But we’re not planning on going to any special Reformation services on Saturday. Oh, there’s a fall festival. You know, you can’t celebrate Halloween, but you have to do something so the kids won’t lose out on their candy. So our church has a fall festival every year from 3 to 5 on Saturday. I don’t know if that has anything much to do with the Reformation. One year, a lady dressed up as Martin Luther and took the children off to some other place and told them something about Luther’s insights. But probably I will just stay home with my wife and whoever else shows up.

BENYOLA: How do you respond to the criticism that Van Til started calling everyone Pelagians because they wouldn’t subscribe to presuppositional apologetics?

FRAME: Oh, he did strange things like that. I mean, he threw chalk at people. He had a very informal teaching style. He would go in and draw diagrams on the board and write names of good people and bad people, and he conducted the class very informally by asking questions.

BENYOLA: Sounds like he was eccentric.

FRAME: Yeah, he was kind of eccentric. But you know, John¬†Gerstner was a student of Van Til, and Gerstner used to say that his teaching style, which was very Socratic, was patterned after Van Til. Van Til was a pretty good pedagogue. Of course, I never had him at the beginning of his teaching career, but I guess he started like all of us by lecturing to the class. After a while, he published all his lecture material. We would read the assignment and he would come in and discuss it with us. I thought it was very effective the way he taught. The problem was his students who had no philosophical background. They would come into these classes and they would think that they were learning a lot about Van Til because Van Til would tell them these stories and use illustrations, and they would think that they understood Van Til’s epistemological position, and they had no idea really. Having majored in philosophy, I knew something of the background of someone who’s coming out of a Hegelian idealist tradition. There’s a lot of references to Kant and various Dutch divines and so on. There’s all that background to Van Til, and you don’t really understand what’s going on with him unless you have some knowledge of that.

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