Apologetics to the Glory of God: An Introduction

By John M. Frame
Phillipsburg, NJ : Presbyterian and Reformed (1994). xiii + 265 Pages.

Reviewed by
7.2 (Fall 1996) : 264-266

John Frame is Professor of Apologetics and Systematic Theology at Westminster Theological Seminary in Escondido, California. He designed this book as an introductory textbook in apologetics for college-level readers (xi).

Though he thinks the apologetic of Cornelius Van Til is the best foundation, he departs from Van Til at some points (xi). His three reasons for adding to the already crowded list of introductory apologetics books are (1) to translate Van Til's difficult writings into popular language, (2) to eliminate the weaknesses in Van Til's apologetic, and (3) to develop an apologetic based on Scripture (xii).

 Frame's apologetic has a number of good points, many of which come in chapter 1. First, he is especially good on the issue of neutrality. He argues that Christ's authority is ultimate and is not legitimately subject to questioning. The unbeliever does not accept this authority because of the noetic effects of sin (7). In fact, the unbeliever already knows God but suppresses that knowledge (7-8). He concludes that neutrality for both believer and unbeliever, is epistemologically impossible and morally wrong (9). Second, Frame explains circular reasoning very well. He is correct that arguments about ultimate presuppositions, for believer and unbeliever, are necessarily circular. Otherwise, they would be inconsistent (10). Third, Frame understands that conversion of the unbeliever is possible in spite of the problems of non-neutrality and circularity. For one, the unbeliever knows God (Rom 1:21) and this affords common ground between believer and unbeliever (11). For another, the Holy Spirit may work in the heart of the unbeliever (11). Fourth, he writes that man has always needed a revelational epistemology, even before the Fall (22-23). Frame has other helpful contributions in the book, including his presuppositional reformulations of the classic theistic arguments that makes them consistent with Scripture (chap. 4). He shows how evidence for the gospel makes sense from within the Christian worldview (chap. 5). He offers a sound response to the problem of evil, including a critique of Jay Adams' approach to the issue (chaps. 6, 7). He allows Adams to respond in Appendix B. He does an internal critique of unbelief (chap. 8). He gives a sample apologetic encounter (chap. 9). He argues throughout that "all intelligibility and meaning, indeed all predication, depend on God" (91). In Appendix A he includes an essay that critiques the "Ligonier" apologetic of R. C. Sproul, John Gerstner, and Arthur Lindsley. He demonstrates that those scholars have fundamental flaws in their system and have attacked a straw man in their criticisms of Van Til.

A number problems weaken this book, however, most of them relating to Frame's objections in chapter 3 to Van Til's transcendental method. It is impossible to answer all the objections here, but a reply to the main one is feasible. Frame thinks that the transcendental argument is not really distinct from the classic arguments and he uses the argument from causality as an example (76). This is not correct, though, because the cosmological argument takes causality as something intelligible in itself and attempts to trace the chain of events back to the first cause, which is called God. A transcendental argument, on the other hand, is neither deductive nor inductive. It takes any fact of experience and inquires into the preconditions of intelligibility for that fact. With respect to causality, the transcendental argument assumes causality and asks what must be true in order to make sense of causality. In other words, it asks what makes causality possible. Frame apparently thinks that because the classic arguments are attempts to prove something transcendent, these arguments are transcendental (71, 73, 76-77). This is not the case. Additional problems occur with Frame's definition of proof as that which ought to persuade (63, 73), which leads to his affirmation of the classic arguments because they tend to persuade (71-72) and his denial of the certainty of the transcendental argument (77-82). Also problematic is his "blockhouse" approach to defending the Christian worldview (72).

Frame has helped to make Van Til's apologetic understandable to the average person. However, his method is weak when it departs from Van Til's transcendental method. Overall, though, he has been quite faithful to Scripture in developing his apologetic. Except for a few problems in his method, Frame's Apologetics to the Glory of God is a helpful introduction to Christian apologetics.