Aug 04

A History of Western Philosophy and Theology, by John Frame ★★★★

Habe nun, ach! Philosophie,
Juristerei und Medizin,
Und leider auch Theologie
Durchaus studiert, mit heißem Bemühn.
Da steh ich nun, ich armer Tor!
Und bin so klug als wie zuvor…

from Faust, Johann Wolfgang von Goethe

Goethe perhaps best summarizes my feeble investigations into philosophy, law, medicine, and theology, all studied with great zeal, and yet still left feeling like a fool. I thoroughly appreciate Frame’s approach to the history of western philosophy and his merger with theology, as they both breech similar questions and topics of thought. Oftentimes Frame is verbose, oftentimes terse on a subject in discussion. It is impossible to provide a thorough single-volume text to match the magisterial works of Copleston or Windelband. Frame is a philosopher in the school of Kuyper/van Til, though he makes it clear that he is not a rigid vanTilian. For that reason, I have a deep respect for Frame. Frame offers a fly-over view of western philosophy, starting a usual with the Milesians of ancient Greece and ending with modern deconstruction. Frame is always most kind, sometimes too kind when someone deserves to be attacked, such as the modern deconstructionists. Yet, perhaps Frame feels (as I do) that modern philosophy is more a passing fad than a system of thought to be taken seriously.

Frame takes and runs with the vanTil notion that all thought ultimately is defended by circular reasoning, and thus a defense of Christianity demands a position of Scripture as a presupposition and not as a possibility to be explored and argued as true simply through the use of reason. Yet, all belief systems are circular. The rationalists will use reason to defend their case. Like vanTil, the creator/creature distinction must constantly be held, and that the idea of God speaking to man (through Scripture) is a starting point and a given, and not something that you reason into.

More than 40% of the book is added on at the end in the form of multiple appendices, essays that Frame has written over time and now waiting to be published in a philosophical context. Frame might have served the reader better by offering an explanation before each essay as to setting in which the paper was written.

Frame is very kind. As an example, Frame has many disagreements with Gordon Clark, yet emphasizes what Clark truly got right, and how Clark was perhaps misjudged in the vanTil/Clark controversy. After each chapter of text, there is a review of terms and names, as well as questions to stimulate thought; these questions would be invaluable if one were reading the text for a course. I happen to have read it mostly for my own enjoyment and pleasure, and thus did not constipate myself with deeper philosophical ruminations. I also have this book given as a set of lectures in a course given by Dr. Frame. I will soon be applying myself to listening to Frame philosophize. So far, I find that he is easier to listen to than to read.

Do I recommend this book? Yes of course! John Frame has a brilliant mind and thinks well. I appreciate Frame’s perspectives on philosophy and theology. I would hope that the reader interested in philosophy will also find this text thought-provoking and a delight to read.

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3 Responses to “History of Philosophy and Theology”

  1. Bruder Dennis says:

    “Frame offers a fly-over view of western philosophy, starting a[s] usual with the Milesians of ancient Greece …”

    Egad, Frame is purporting to write a history of Western (as in Euroamerican?) philosophy and he starts with the Milesian Israelites instead of the Yawhists? What does he think is the foundation of European culture, pagan Greece or biblical Israel? And if he is going to start with the Milesians, who migrated to Ireland, he ought to include the Firbolgs for completeness. And later, there are the Zarahites of the tribe of Judah from Catalonia who migrated to Tara, Ireland and took over from the Milesians. This too is “Western history” though none of it makes it into the “history books”. It’s not “classical” enough.

    Yet perhaps if by “philosophy” Frame means that form of paganism known as “Greek philosophy”, then he might just as well start with the Socratic Greeks and forget the Lacaedamonians (which includes the Spartans) who were Israelites of the tribes of Dan, Judah, et al, who founded the oldest known city in ancient Greece, Argos (Jason and the Argonauts, you know? – merchant adventurers) and who wrote a letter about their common ancestry to the Sanhedrin that Josephus included in his Antiquities.

    The key to avoid studying “with great zeal, and yet still [be] left feeling like a fool” is to pick the right reading material! I would recommend starting with the book, Israel’s Lost Empires by Stephen Collins. It is history, not foolosophy or modern theology. History is reality therapy.

    • Kenneth Feucht says:

      Dennis; I appreciate your comments, though I note that you are very quick to criticize everybody else for their lack of insights and for not doing their homework, and yet you also fail miserably at that same thing. Perhaps you should read a touch outside of the late Ray Capt and his followers. Dr. Frame is a brilliant mind that cannot be easily dismissed. As a disciple of Van Til, he would be best to respond to your comments. Perhaps you are not familiar with the fundamental thinking of Van Til? Read the book, save your comments to once you’ve grasped the thesis and thinking of Van Til.

      • Bruder Dennis says:


        1. Collins is not Capt nor is he a “follower” of Capt. If, for some reason, you want to avoid Capt, read Collins – or a number of other authors such as Bennett or Morgan or Allen or Habermas or Gawler. There is a whole scholarship addressing the forgotten or ignored aspects of history that casts classical history in a quite different, and more parochial, light. Capt’s Missing Links, however, answers a few important questions, otherwise unanswered. Van Til does not answer them.

        2. My $3 copy of Cornelius Van Til’s “The Defense of the Faith” was published in 1972, about the time I bought it. Tell me something I don’t know.

        Brilliance is no substitute for truth. History is important; the Bible is mostly history.

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