A couple thoughts from John Frame

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I've been reading John Frame's The Doctrine of the Knowledge of God, which I'm enjoying very much. I had one bit fairly early on I was particularly struck by and wanted to excerpt here. Frame is discussing how God's thoughts are different from ours:

2. God's thoughts ultimately determine, or decree, what comes to pass. God's thoughts cause the truths they contemplate; ours do not. This is the Lordship attribute of control in the realm of knowledge.

3. God's thoughts, therefore, are self-validating; they serve as their own criteria of truth. God's thoughts are true simply because they are his. None of us can claim to have such self-attesting thoughts. Our thoughts are not necessarily true, and when they are true, it is because they agree with the thoughts of someone else, namely God, who furnishes the criteria for our thinking...

8. God possesses knowledge in a different way from us. He is immaterial and therefore does not gain knowledge from organs or perception. Nor does he carry on "processes of reasoning," as understood as temporal sets of actions.

I don't have a lot to add to what he said, but I found point 8 very striking. It's easy to anthropomorphize God and start thinking that he must be reasoning about things, responding to my decisions, etc. While God does act in time, he is eternal and omniscient, and, as Frame points out, doesn't carry out processes of reasoning like I do. When I start thinking of God in anthropomorphic terms, I reduce him in my thoughts to less than he really is.

5 Comments

I'd want to resist the conclusion that God doesn't want us thinking about his reasoning in an anthropomorphized way. After all, the Bible consistently anthromorphizes God's actions and thoughts, e.g. Hosea 6:4:

What should I do with you, Ephraim?
What should I do with you, Judah?
Your loyalty is like morning mist,
like the dew which goes away early in the day.
[Douglas Stuart's translation]

It sure sounds as if God wants us to think of his reasoning process as including real struggling through an emotional bind. He is a gracious, loving God. He is a just, righteous God who can't tolerate persistent wickedness. Hosea is full of this sort of thing.

All the prooftexts commonly used for the open theist claim that God changes his mind also present themselves anthropomorphically, presumably because God wants us to think of him as interacting with us in time, even if his actions are all atemporal and really one action across time.

In the end, I suspect some of us need this sort of thing as a counterbalance to always thinking in the anthropomorphic way, but some of us (including me, and I suspect many Reformed people) need the anthropomorphic reminders that God is personal, with all the particular personal traits about God that often get intellectualized in theological discussions.

Jeremy,
I totally agree with you in terms of God presenting himself anthropomorphically. And indeed, God is personal. That's actually one of the things I appreciate about Frame -- he's careful to point out where overemphasizing these sorts of things leads to the notion that God is impersonal, and so on. God isn't wholly and absolutely other; rather, he is the covenant Lord who even relates with us - so much so that he sent his own son to die for us. So at the same time he is "big" and different, but also near and accessible. And of course, God certainly does act in time in response to our decisions and actions.

I still think it's a significant point, because it helps me have greater confidence that God is trustworthy even when I don't understand why he's doing what he's doing. I mean, if something "bad" happens, I can think about and try and figure out why things are going the way they are, even try to use my reasoning ability to find out why God is acting the way he is. God doesn't have to reason about it; he knows exactly what he's doing, and why he's doing it.

I just wanted to say, thankyou for this brief yet wonderful post. It is just too easy for us to continually seek to bring the Lord down more and more to our natural and finite level. We need these reminders that indeed he is God and not man.

Blessings in Christ Jesus!

Good to see you reading some reformed and presuppostional material. :)

I think you ought to take a look at this also. Check out the logic stuff below:

http://www.frame-poythress.org/poythress_articles/1995Reforming.htm

Poythress discusses how the logic that we are accustomed to is unitarian logic, and that there is such a thing as trinitarian logic.

I just picked up the article, and will finish it another time.

I'm actually going there(WestminsterTS) this Thurs(13th) for Prospective Student day.

Ciao,
Rajji Rao

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