Vern Poythress

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Vern Sheridan Poythress
Madera, California
Theological work
Tradition or movementCalvinist, Van Tillian presuppositionalist
Main interestsPhilosophy of science, philosophy of mathematics, linguistics, hermeneutics, New Testament
Notable ideasMultiperspectivalism, scientific law as a form of the word of God, foundation for ontology and epistemology in the Trinity

Vern Sheridan Poythress (born 1946) is an American Calvinist philosopher, theologian, and New Testament scholar.


Poythress lived on his family farm in Madera, California until he was five years old and later moved with his family to Fresno, California.[citation needed] Poythress earned a B.S. from California Institute of Technology,[1] in Mathematics in 1966, which was done in 3 years, and where he was valedictorian of his class.[citation needed] There, he was a William Lowell Putnam Mathematical Competition in 1964, while a student there.[2][verification needed] He received his Ph.D. in mathematics from Harvard University,[1] finishing in 1970.[citation needed] He studied linguistics and Bible translation at the Summer Institute of Linguistics at the University of Oklahoma in 1971 and 1972,[citation needed] and he enrolled at Westminster Theological Seminary, earning an M.Div. (1974) and a Th.M. in apologetics (1974).[citation needed] He then received an M.Litt. in New Testament from Clare College, Cambridge in 1977,[citation needed] and received a Th.D. in New Testament from the University of Stellenbosch, Stellenbosch, South Africa,[3] in 1981.[citation needed][4]

Poythress taught mathematics at Fresno State College (now California State University, Fresno) for a year after earning his Ph.D. in the subject,[citation needed] and taught linguistics at the Summer Institute of Linguistics in the summers of 1974, 1975, and 1977.[citation needed] As of 2016, he was teaching New Testament and occasional courses on the philosophies of science and language at Westminster Theological Seminary in Philadelphia,[1] work he began in 1976.[citation needed]. As of this date,[when?] Poythress edits the Westminster Theological Journal, a role he has played since taking over for Peter Enns in 2005,[citation needed] and his blog with John M. Frame was listed in early 2018 as one of the top 50 Christian popular culture sites.[5]

He was a member of the Translation Oversight Committee for the English Standard Version.[when?][6][dead link]

In 1981, Poythress was ordained as a teaching elder in the Reformed Presbyterian Church, Evangelical Synod, which merged into the Presbyterian Church in America.[citation needed]


As an Christian evangelical, Poythress advocates the complete, divine authority of the Bible.[according to whom?][citation needed] As a Calvinist, he places great emphasis on the sovereignty of God and adopts the Neo-Calvinist theme that Jesus is Lord over every sphere of human existence, not just private or religious life.[citation needed] He makes use of Biblical theology in the tradition of Geerhardus Vos, and builds on Meredith G. Kline's work in Images of the Spirit to argue that "imaging" is a pattern in the Bible beyond man and woman being made in the image of God.[citation needed] He has a decidedly positive view of the Old Testament Law, though he rejects theonomy and Christian Reconstructionism, and he also rejects the hermeneutics of dispensationalism in favor of traditionally Reformed covenant theology.[citation needed] In Christian eschatology, he advocates an Augustinian amillennial perspective (see the article on the summary of Christian eschatological differences).[citation needed]

He is an advocate of Cornelius Van Til's presuppositional apologetics, particularly the ideas that epistemology and ontology must find their ultimate grounding in the Trinity.[according to whom?][citation needed] He has also sought to work out presuppositionalism's central claim that there is no neutrality in the area of science and mathematics.[citation needed] In a manner akin to Augustine's view that truth is divine,[citation needed] Poythress views scientific law as a form of the word of God.[7] In 1976, Poythress wrote a chapter on "A Biblical View of Mathematics,"[8] in which he argued (among other things) that number is eternal because the Trinity is eternal.[9] In a 1983 article, he suggested that mathematics is the rhyme of the universe.[10] His philosophy of science draws on the work of Thomas Kuhn.[11]

A central idea in Poythress' thought has concerned the validity of multiple perspectives, or multiperspectivalism, a project that he shares with his teacher and collaborator John Frame.[according to whom?][citation needed] In Poythress's work Philosophy, Science, and the Sovereignty of God, he explored how the scientific concepts of wave, particle and field can be used analogically to demonstrate different ways of looking at things.[citation needed] He argued that such a triadic structure is "a means of avoiding unhealthy dualism",[12] and he continued on this line of thought in Symphonic Theology, where he applied multiperspectivalism to theology.[citation needed]


Poythress has published a number of books in different fields — Christian philosophy of science, linguistics, theological method, dispensationalism, biblical law, copyright law, hermeneutics, Bible translation, and eschatology and the Book of Revelation [13] including:

He has contributed to a number of other volumes such as The Foundations of Christian Scholarship, Hermeneutics, Inerrancy, and the Bible, The New Testament Student and His Field, Inerrancy and Hermeneutic: A Tradition, A Challenge, A Debate, Theonomy: A Reformed Critique, Recovering Biblical Manhood and Womanhood, New Geneva Study Bible, and The Spirit of the Reformation Study Bible.[full citation needed]

Additionally, he has published a number of scholarly articles, including:[14] [13]

Personal life[edit]

Poythress married his wife Diane in 1983, and they have two sons.[citation needed]


  1. ^ a b c Bowyer, Jerry (April 19, 2016). "God In Mathematics". Forbes [online]. Retrieved July 16, 2019.
  2. ^ Gallian, Joseph A. (October 2004). "The First Sixty-Six Years of the Putnam Competition". The American Mathematical Monthly. 111 (8): 691–699. doi:10.2307/4145042. JSTOR 4145042.
  3. ^ Frame, John M. (2017). "Preface". In John M. Frame; Wayne Grudem; John J. Hughes (eds.). Redeeming the Life of the Mind: Essays in Honor of Vern Poythress. Wheaton, IL: Crossway. pp. ii–vii. ISBN 978-1433553066.
  4. ^ Per the Bowyer article, op. cit., Poythress has an "M Div, ThM, M Litt, and a ThD in various theological disciplines from Westminster Seminary, Cambridge University and the University of Stellenbosch respectively", but the specific dates and details that appear are as yet unsourced. John Frame's preface to the dedicatory essay volume, op. cit., confirms this degree, but does not have date information.
  5. ^ Jared Moore (February 27, 2018). "The Top 50 Christian Pop Culture Blogs". Retrieved July 16, 2019.
  6. ^ "ESV Translation Oversight Committee".[dead link]
  7. ^ Poythress, Redeeming Science, pp. 13–31.
  8. ^ Poythress, Vern S. (1976). "A Biblical View of Mathematics". In North, Gary (ed.). Foundations of Christian Scholarship. Vallecito, CA: Ross House. pp. 159–188.
  9. ^ Byl, John (2001). "Theism and Mathematical Realism". Proceedings of the Association of Christians in the Mathematical Sciences. Grand Rapids, MI: ACMS: 33–48. Retrieved July 16, 2019.
  10. ^ Poythress, Vern S. (1983). "Mathematics as Rhyme". American Scientific Affiliate. Archived from the original on 2003-09-06.
  11. ^ Boa, Kenneth D.; Bowman, Robert M., Jr. (2006). Faith Has Its Reasons: Integrative Approaches to Defending The Christian Faith (2nd ed.). Biblica. p. 275. ISBN 1932805346.
  12. ^ Poythress, Philosophy, Science, and the Sovereignty of God, p. 103.
  13. ^ a b has a more extensive self-published bibliography.
  14. ^ Selected publications from Poythress's "Faculty biography at Westminster Theological Seminary" (PDF).

Further reading[edit]

External links[edit]