A conversation with John Frame

BENYOLA: Now shifting a bit to what we say in evangelism. When calling people to repent and believe in the gospel, before they produce a credible profession of faith, is it appropriate to tell people, “God loves you?”

FRAME: Well, love is a very broad expression. There are many kinds of divine love. Jesus says in Matthew 5 about how God loves his enemies, and sends the rain and the sunshine on everybody. So there are some senses in which God loves everybody, and there are cases in the Bible where God addresses a large group, which most likely consisted of both faithful and unfaithful people. In Deuteronomy, God speaks to Israel as a nation, and says, “I chose you from all the other nations, and you are my holy people” [Deuteronomy 7:6]. Obviously, there are some people in that group who did not wind up in heaven [Matthew 8:12, Romans 9:6]. But God was talking to them as a group, and speaking of his love for the whole group. So I think it’s possible to do that. It’s possible to say God loves everybody in the sense that he creates everybody, everybody belongs to him, everybody is in covenant with him in one way in another. Everybody has received good benefits from God, the rain and the sunshine.

BENYOLA: So when speaking to unbelievers for the purpose of stimulating them to repentance and faith, is it appropriate to say “God loves you” only with great qualification?

FRAME: Well, I don’t know. I’d say, “God is a good God. God loves you.” Think of what Paul did when he went to Lystra and then to Athens. He talked about how God gave them rain and sunshine and fruitful seasons [Acts 14:17]. He was trying to tell them that they shouldn’t be worshiping idols, but they should worship the true God. God gives you true gifts. So I’d say, “Look, God has done so many good things for you. Are you going to just take those back and throw them in his face? God has been good to you. He’s given you every bit of good health, every bit of strength that you’ve had to make your money and take care of your family. That all comes from God. Are you going to say, ‘God, I hate you, I don’t want any of these things, I’m set on rebellion’? Well, no.” Eventually, you can get into a conversation about how there are different kinds of love, which is to say, there are different kinds of gifts.

BENYOLA: Let’s talk for a moment about the noetic effects of sin. Clearly, God has made his existence and power known to everyone through the created order, such that the knowledge of God is inescapable [Psalm 19:1-6, Romans 1:18-20]. Do you think it’s possible for a person to so “suppress the truth in unrighteousness” that they’ve actually convinced themselves that there is no God?

FRAME: Well, “convinced.” You get into all these levels of psychology, where people can repress something so that even under intense psychological conversation, they won’t give any evidence that they have that memory, that they have that knowledge. When you look at Romans 1 carefully, it’s very paradoxical, because it says that God has revealed clearly to everybody, everybody knows God. They don’t just know about God, they know God. So they know God but they exchange the truth for the lie, they suppress the truth. They go off and worship idols. How can anybody do that? That’s a very clear example of irrationalism. You know, here, you have this God who’s good to you, and yet, you turn away, and you worship Satan, who is the embodiment of everything that is against God. How can you do that? There’s some kind of a strange — how do you analyze that psychologically, that people should be so averse to what they know is true? So I can’t make that seem rational. I can’t give a clear example of what happens to that clear knowledge when it comes into the mind and gets suppressed. It may be that psychological repression is the idea that it goes into the unconscious, whatever that is, so that people are not actually aware of what they believe. But I think there are unbelievers who are rebels against God, who are very much aware, and in fact would even claim that they believe in God. The Pharisees would be an example of that.

BENYOLA: It’s not that they don’t believe in God, they hate the God they know.

FRAME: They hate the God they know.

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apologetics, epistemology, interviews, philosophy, systematic theology