Frame: Theology in the Enlightenment

In this chapter Frame refocuses his argument and explains why he spends more time on modern, rather than ancient thought.

A biblical metaphysic dictates an epistemology and ethic in which divine “revelation is the supreme authority” (Frame 214).  The problem for the Greeks–and I suspect for most of autonomous thought– is “that the object of knowledge–the world–is irrational,” which means the goal of knowing is to impose (violence?) a rational order on irrational chaos.

Frame says the two worst heresies the church faced are Deism and Liberalism (220).  I…um…don’t know about that.  But it does explain much of the book.  He defines liberal as anyone who doesn’t submit to the authority of Scripture (216ff).

He notes that Pascal is one of the first thinkers “to take seriously the subjective or existential dimension of knowledge, not as a barrier to understanding, but as a necessary basis for it” (231).

Jonathan Edwards

Edwards held to biblical revelation but he did not react hysterically to the Enlightenment.  Edwards also allows us to examine some aspects of ontology:

Substance: God is the only true substance.  Hints and charges of pantheism.  I don’t think Edwards intended this but it is hard to escape the charge.  See Oliver Crisp’s works on Edwards.

understanding: faculty of the mind.  Arises as God supplies us with impressions and ideas.

Will: the seat of passions and affections.  (JBA: this is true but Edwards said MUCH MORE on the will).

Thomas Reid

Surprisingly good section on Reid.  Van Tillians as a whole have been very sloppy in their scholarship on Reid.  Frame summarizes Reid’s first principles (243):

  1. Consciousnesss is reliable in showing us what exists.
  2. Conscious thoughts reveal a self, mind, or person.
  3. Memory is generally reliable.
  4. Personal identity continues through time (Ship of Theseus).
  5. Sense perception is generally reliable.
  6. People intuit that they have free will.
  7. Natural faculties (reason) are generally reliable.
  8. Others have life and intelligence similar to ours.
  9. Physical expressions and actions of people reveal their minds.
  10. Human testimony is generally reliable.
  11. People’s actions are more or less regular.
  12. The future will be generally like the past.

Frame has a problem with (6).  But for the rest these can’t be proven.  Their are prior to proof.  They aren’t absolute and one can find exceptions to them, but they are generally the case for everyday life.  They “force assent.”


About J. B. Aitken

Interests include patristics, the role of the soul in the human person, analytic theology, Reformed Scholasticism, Medievalism, Substance Metaphysics
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