John Frame on knowing how we know things and authority


I’m reading John Frame’s “The doctrine of the knowledge of God” with my Ministry Trainee and have found the opening three chapters really helpful on knowledge. Frame divides knowledge into:

Normative:  The knowledge of God. We know God only through God’s self-revelation in scripture and in Christ.

Situational: The knowledge of the world.  The knowledge of creation, God’s mighty deeds in history and the law of God which has been made known in scripture and through creation. God commands us to understand his creation and our history well enough to be able to apply scripture into all areas of life today.

Existential: The knowledge of self.  True knowledge of self only comes through knowledge of God and knowledge of God only comes through knowledge of self.  As we get to know God and his law better so we come to know ourselves better.

Knowledge in its fullest sense involves all three aspects, so when one aspect of knowledge is missing you get interesting results:

The fundamentalist (pejorative).  The thing that annoys people most about fundamentalists is not their knowledge of the scriptures and of history or creation science but their lack of knowledge of self.  The lack of awareness of how they come across or how they relate to others or their own sinfulness, desires and passions makes the fundamentalist awkward in a crowd.

The disengaged pietist.  If you can fathom all mysteries about God but are total absorbed in the self, the result is a withdrawal or disconnection from the world.  There’s no point, really, in being a clever old biblical scholar with self-awareness if that awareness does not extend to working out how the world works and how to function in it.

The secularist. Lots of people today claim to know how the world works and are impressively self-aware.  But if the assumptions and observations about the way things are and who I am are not rooted in scripture then for all the wisdom, research and self-confidence is entirely misplaced as that knowledge does not match ultimate reality.

At any point, I can let one of the three categories of knowledge slip.  If I am in a pastoral situation but don’t grasp all that is going on through careful information gathering, then the application of the normative will be misguided.  If I am burnt out and emotionally wasted, I will not be aware of self to the extent that I should and will be awkward in a crowd.  If I give up my study of the scriptures and reading about God so as to grow in my knowledge of God, then my ministry will have no real effect, but my counselling and preaching will simply be secular platitudes in Christian guise.

Lord, help me to grow more and more in knowledge.

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