A conversation with John Frame

BENYOLA: Can you explain briefly, what is a presupposition? What is the difference between a Christian presupposition and any other type of presupposition?

FRAME: That’s what I’ve been exploring here. I’ve been talking about what it is when you talk to people in the marketplace. What is their presupposition? Do people believe that there’s truth, or do they not believe that there’s truth? Do they believe that reason is a pathway to truth, or do they think that it’s not a pathway to truth? These are fundamental questions that you have to agree on if you’re going to talk about ultimate things. I mean, you can talk about what the color of the book is, but if you’re going to talk about God, if you’re going to talk about the world, you have to tell me, what are the rational principles that we’re going to use in carrying on this argument? Each rational principle we believe because of another principle, and we believe that because of another principle, and we keep going back and back and back. We get to a point where we believe something without appealing to a higher principle. We believe something because it’s the foundation of everything else. That’s the presupposition. It may be a good presupposition or it may be a bad presupposition.

The Christian’s presupposition is the whole Bible, indeed, the whole of God’s revelation. The Bible doesn’t use the term “presupposition,” but it does say much about our responsibility to listen to what God says and to obey him [Deuteronomy 6:1]. See my Systematic Theology and my Doctrine of the Word of God for texts that emphasize the authority of God. Now Scripture applies this principle of obedience to our intellectual life as well as every other area of life. See Proverbs 3, “Trust in the LORD with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding,” the contrast between wisdom and foolishness in I Corinthians 1 and 2, etc.

BENYOLA: Well, you’ve said many times that everyone has presuppositions, Christians included. So would you agree that the foundation of the presuppositional approach to apologetics is to confess that we Christians have presuppositions just like everyone else, so we should as new creatures in Christ, be resolute in what we believe and build a case for God based on our presupposition of the truth of God?

FRAME: Yes. Everybody has presuppositions, now of course, that in itself doesn’t establish very much. I have my presuppositions, you have your presuppositions. I don’t agree with yours and you don’t agree with mine, so let’s just shake hands and go somewhere and bring this to an end. That’s the way some people think about presuppositionalism, that you just exchange presuppositions and that’s as far as you can go. I think you do have to exchange presuppositions. I think at some point in the argument, you need to agree that both sides are operating on the basis of presuppositions. Nobody is neutral. So get those presuppositions out on the table. One guy thinks that chance or randomness is the most fundamental thing about the world. Let’s talk about that. Is that any kind of way of explaining the way things happen? I believe that God is the foundation of everything that happens, the foundation of every fact. I put that out on the table. He may have some arguments against that, I may have some arguments against his, and we just keep going back and forth until somebody changes his mind.

previous | next

apologetics, epistemology, interviews, philosophy, systematic theology