[This post is part of the Perspectives on Triperspectivalism series]
We’re reading through chapters 2 and 3 this week, and it’s at that point that Frame first introduces his notion of perspectivalism. I’ve written a longer explanation as part of a paper I presented at an ETS regional meeting, and you can read that here.
What Frame is probably more known for though, at least at the popular level is his triperspectivalism. Again, I’ve got a longer explanation here, but here’s a shorted rundown and then a map for how that makes sense of the structure of his book.
First off, here’s Frame’s three perspectives:
- The normative perspective
- The situational perspective
- The existential perspective
These are derived from the three aspects of God’s lordship: authority, control, and presence. If we were to enter a field of study, observations from the normative perspective evaluate what God has authoritatively said on the topic. Observations from the situational perspective would evaluate facts from nature, history, science, or a combination of similar disciplines. Observations from the existential perspective would evaluate how the study relates to our subjective experience.
To help you intuit a little how this works, I’ll give you a few of Frame’s triads with the appropriate letter in parenthesis so you can see which perspective it would be considered:
- Objects of knowledge: God (N), the world (S), ourselves (E)
- Christ’s offices as mediator: Prophet (N), King (S), Priest (E)
- Our union with Christ: Justification (N), Adoption (S), Sanctification (E)
- Factors in ethical judgment: Scripture (N), the situation (S), the moral agent (E)
- The nature of theology: Application of the Word of God (N), to all areas of life (S), by persons (E)
I could go on, and in fact the list does go on in Speaking the Truth in Love: The Theology of John Frame. But for now, hopefully that’s enough of a taste to help you piece it together.
When we turn to DKG though, careful observers will notice the book is split into three parts:
- The objects of knowledge
- The justification of knowledge
- The methods of knowledge
I could let you guess, or I could just add the letter at the end so you can see it:
- The objects of knowledge (S)
- The justification of knowledge (N)
- The methods of knowledge (E)
For the first section the real question is “what objects are available to know in the world,” which is a situational question. The second section then deals with how knowledge is justified which is a normative consideration since we are bringing certain norms of though to bear on the situation. The third section is concerned with people must do in order to grow in knowledge.
What is interesting about Frame’s structuring though is that it involves perspectives within perspectives. So for instance, the first section has three chapters, which could parsed this way:
- God, the Covenant Lord (N)
- God and the World (S)
- God and Our Studies (E)
Similarly, after an introductory chapter in section 2 (The Justification of Knowledge), chapter 5 evaluates from justification from the normative, situational, and existential perspectives. Then in the last section concerning methods of knowledge, we examine the topic from the normative perspective (use of Scripture), the situational (use of language, logic, history, science, philosophy) and the existential (what kind of person is suited to grow in theological knowledge).
Hopefully that helps if you’re following along in the reading. It can be confusing at times since Frame tends to see triads everywhere. But I’ve found at least once you grasp his basic idea, it actually helps you account for things you’d normally overlook in your studies and generally has enhanced my ability to interact with theological debates with more charity.