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Encounter on a Plane: Evidence for the Biblical God
by John M. Frame, Professor of Apologetics & Systematic Theology at Westminster Theological Seminary (CA)
The following imagined and spontaneous exchange between author Frame and “Al”, his seat mate on an airplane, is excerpted here in mid-conversation from chapter nine of a new text, Apologetics to the Glory of God, by John M. Frame, ©1994, Presbyterian & Reformed Publishing Company. This unedited excerpt is reprinted here by special permission.
JOHN: Reason is a great faculty. But why follow its dictates?
AL: Because living irrationally brings failure, pain, and suffering.
JOHN: Not always. Don’t you know some irrational politicians who are living high on the hog? Don’t you know some rational people who are suffering miserably because of their commitment to the truth?
AL: Are you advocating irrationalism?
JOHN: No; I am asking why I should live according to reason.
AL: Well, you’re committed to moral justice; you ought to be committed to truth as well, for that is also a moral value. When your reason shows you a truth, you ought to recognize it and confess it.
JOHN: Exactly! Reasoning itself presupposes the objective moral standard of truth.
JOHN: And that moral standard in turn presupposes loyalty to an absolute person.
AL: To God.
JOHN: To God.
AL: You’re going too fast. Maybe there’s a person up there who serves as a criterion of morality. But why call him God? How can you show that he is all-powerful, all-knowing, and all the rest?
JOHN: That’s where the “absolute” part comes in. If God has weaknesses, then he cannot be the absolute final judge of good and evil. If he is ignorant in any measure, then he cannot rightly judge the good and evil that we do. If he has a beginning or an end, then it is possible to give a rational account of a world without God. But we have seen that that is impossible.
AL: But what God are you talking about? Allah? Zeus? Jehovah? Jesus? Buddha? Brahma?
JOHN: I’m talking about the biblical God, who is Jehovah and Jesus and the Holy Spirit as well.
AL: Why not the others?
JOHN: Well, to make a very long story short: Zeus is not an absolute being; he’s finite, though a bit larger and more powerful than we are. Certainly he is not a moral paragon. Buddha never claimed to be god, and his original teaching is arguably atheistic. Brahma approaches the idea of absoluteness, but “he” is essentially impersonal, one of many gods in Hinduism, and “beyond good and evil,” thus not capable of serving as a moral standard.
AL: What about Allah?
JOHN: Allah is a kind of revised version of the biblical God. Mohammed, the founder of Islam, regarded the Bible as the Word of God; but with some inconsistency he revised its more difficult teachings, like the Trinity, and produced his own religious book, the Koran. Indeed, he turned the biblical God into an arbitrary source of fate, seriously compromising biblical personalism. The chief argument between Christians and Muslims is over whether the Bible itself permits this sort of tinkering. The Muslims say that the Bible predicts the coming of Mohammed to fulfill God’s purposes. Christians deny it.
AL: So you’re telling me that only the Bible advocates a God with absolute personality?
AL: But what of the Mormons and the Jehovah’s Witnesses?
JOHN: The Mormons are polytheists. And the Jehovah’s Witnesses deny the Trinity.
AL: What’s so important about the Trinity?
JOHN: Well, the Bible teaches it, and the Bible is God’s Holy Book. Scripture says there is one God, but then it points us to three beings who have divine status. They are not just one person playing three roles: Jesus prays to the Father; the Father and Son send the Spirit into the world. The Father speaks from heaven, while the Son is being baptized in the Jordan River and the Spirit is falling on him in the shape of a dove.
AL: How do we know that the Bible is God’s Holy Book?
JOHN: Well, as we’ve seen, the biblical tradition alone teaches that God is an absolute personality. That same tradition makes it clear that God intends to rule his people in the very personal way of using language. And that language is to be written down in book form. The Ten Commandments were written by the finger of God, and the apostle Paul said that Scripture was “breathed out by God.” Throughout the book- see especially Psalm 119-there are praises and superlatives directed to the written words of God.
AL: But you’re using the Bible to prove the Bible.
JOHN: Yes, but just as you used reason to prove reason, or just as you earlier used your atheistic presuppositions to prove atheistic conclusions. We all have our presuppositions!
AL: But can’t one believe in a God of absolute personality without accepting any single religious tradition?
JOHN: I suppose we could, if it weren’t for Jesus.