Friday, August 5, 2011

Triperspectivalism and the Heretical Fringe

I decided to inform myself about John Frame's triperspectivalism using his own primer found here.

The impression that I got is that his method seeks to find a Trinitarian imprint to everything in reality. I would certainly agree with the premise that all of creation is indelibly marked with Trinitarianism in that the One-and-the-Many, evidenced in the universal-particulars relationship found in every created object, is a creaturely analogization of the mystery of God as being One and Three Persons. However, the aspect of Frame's take on this that rubs me wrong is that (based on my understanding of his proposition) if the complete picture view of truth (exhaustive) is only available to God, then the ectypal truth available to the creature (man) must consist in "perspectives" that cannot claim to be the single body of ectypal truth delivered to man, but that the various perspectives contribute to the apprehension of this true ectypal corpus.

In other words, my particular take on truth is always incomplete and necessitates that I engage the truth perspectives of others in order to progressively arrive at complete ectypal veracity. The implications on the Reformed creeds and confessions cannot be missed. Frame states,

"So I think that perspectivalism is an encouragement to the unity of the church. Sometimes our divisions of theology and practice are differences of perspective, of balance, rather than differences over the essentials of faith. So perspectivalism will help us better to appreciate one another, and to appreciate the diversity of God's work among us."

What I hear him saying is that the Reformed consensus is just a perspective among others, and that we would do well perhaps to hearken to the likes of Joel Osteen, Rick Warren, Rob Bell, etc. in order to progressively arrive at unified Christian truth. But then how would error be spotted? The determination of heterodoxy must necessarily be predicated on a perspective as being the only perspective. If he claims this as "the essentials," then by what overarching perspectival standard did he arrive at this delimiting conclusion?

His threefold division of normative (God's revelation), situational (objects, the created order), and existential (man in interaction with the former two) is well and good, in my opinion, but then the permutation of this triperspectivalism, as applied by him, into multiperspectives that are each given credence does give rise to a pluralism that is dangerous and precisely what the Reformed creeds and confessions were meant to curb.


  1. I agree that the act of contribution from perspectives to a truth may bring to pluralism. Perspectivalism actually doesn't work that way. It derived from Trinitarian principle, so it has unity-diversity character. We can use the term contribution if we want to, but we have to define the clarity about this term. If 'contribute' means perspective may give anything into the body of truth, it may lead to pluralism. But I think that the term 'contribute' should be realized along with 'coherence', because we can't separate them in the trinitarian principle. Everything that a perspective contribute presupposed the other perspective, because it's one body of Truth, not many truths.

    And about the exhaustiveness of truth for man, we should see the character of truth that presupposed by Frame. He is a disciple of Cornelius van Til, and retain the principle of the character of truth from him. He said that truth is analogical in character. This means that it is true that human cannot get the truth exhaustively. But this doesn't mean that what man know is wrong or not sufficient. The truth which man knows is true in character because it is analogous to the complete truth which possesed by God and God only reveals as far as what human could know.

    CMIIW(Correct Me If I'm Wrong), we learn together..

  2. That truth is analogical in character, I think, nobody here would debate. The question then turns to the nature of that analogy. According to Horton's covenantal epistemology, truth is reliable (and particular) due precisely to the fact that God has hand-picked (as it were) the analogies which we are to use. That is, God alone has chosen what analogies refer to his own transcendent Truth and has given them to us in Scripture. These are then the only "authorized" analogies, and thus totally trustworthy and reliable. We need not demur by stressing the "paradoxical" nature or equivocity of special revelation. This is unnecessary and wrong-headed. God has spoken to us in 'baby talk' for sure, but this doesn't mean God's word is inherently contradictory or requiring a multiperspectival hermeneutic. Correct me if I'm wrong, but given Frame's tri-partate schema, how can the existential (that is referring to man) attain access to another perspective? Doesn't the require knowledge outside of what is revealed? How is this not an attempt to peer into the secret things, to get a bird's eye view, from atop a perch not given to us. The hidden things God has not revealed. The revealed things he has given us in his word, and they belong to us and our children (Duet. 29:29). It would seem a multiperspectival approach would destroy the unity of this revelation, while requiring a tri-partate reception upon the part of man? Can we ask such things of mere man?

  3. If truth is not absolute but merely "analogical" and at "no single point" does revealed truth coincide with God's truth, then logically it follows that man knows nothing that God knows and revelation is impossible. If, on the other hand, truth can be revealed univocally on man's level as a creature, then it follows that what man knows is exactly what God knows at that point of convergence. Of course, God knows way more than mere creatures may know. But when man knows 2 + 2 = 4 it must be true for both God and man or else 2 + 2 = 4 is a meaningless statement. Scripture is univocally God's very words spoken to man on man's level and at every single point when man understands properly what God says in the Bible then man knows at that point of revealed truth precisely what God knows at that point of convergence. Jesus died for the sins of His people is true for God and for us since that is a perfectly clear proposition of Scripture. (John 10:11, 15; Matthew 1:21; 1 John 2:2).


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