The Exiled Preacher has done it once again in providing us a fascinating interview in his Blogging In The Name of the Lord series with his latest discourse with John Frame. John Frame has been very influential in my theological and spiritual development so I was of course very interested. His comment on systematic theology was clarifying: Among all the theological disciplines (exegesis, biblical theology, historical theology, practical theology) systematics is the one that adds it all up. When we have a question about God, or Christ, or salvation, systematics is the discipline that looks at all the biblical data, sifts through all the work of past theologians, and tries to formulate an answer. So it answers questions of the form “what does the whole Bible say about…?”
I could not easily get excited about working through scholarly problems about, say, how Turretin’s view of the sacraments developed from 1680-83, though I’m happy that God has provided the church with people who have that kind of skill and interest. But I can get very excited about questions of what we today should believe and do (about the sacraments, the hypostatic union, abortion, or anything else). So to me systematics is the most directly contemporary, practical, and pastoral of all the theological disciplines.
Also, as a presuppositionalist, (due much to his influence) I found his answer worth consideration to those in the evidentialist camp, “Presuppositionalism” simply means that in all our thought God’s word is our supreme authority. We presuppose it, in the sense that its teachings take precedence over any other ideas we have, from any other source. “Let God be true, though every man a liar,” Rom. 3:4. That means that we must presuppose God’s revelation in all fields of study and all our conversation, even in apologetics, when we are arguing the truth of Christianity with an unbeliever. We cannot at any time pretend to be “neutral.” We should, rather, honestly admit our bias. Of course we should point out also that non-Christians are biased in the other direction: according to Rom. 1, they know God, but they repress that knowledge, exchange it for a lie, prefer not to have God in their knowledge. Insofar as evidentialists deny these biblical teachings, presuppositionalism is far better and more biblical.
But none of this forbids us to use evidences in our apologetic encounters. The Bible itself says that the heavens declare the glory of God. We should assume, then, that study of the heavens will validate Scripture, not falsify it. And we should be ready to use the Bible’s own evidences for its truth: the New Testament’s citations of the Old, the witnesses of 1 Cor. 15: 3-11, and so on. But we should not present these as neutral observers. Rather we should point out that these evidences must be seen through the eyes of faith, and that they make no sense without faith. Indeed, nothing can be rightly understood apart from faith, for everything is God’s creation and bears witness to him.
It’s a great read about this thoughtful and insightful teacher. Read the whole article here.