Vern Poythress

This article is about the theologian. For the Georgia politician, see David Poythress.
Vern Sheridan Poythress
Born 1946
Madera, California
Residence United States

Theological work

Era Contemporary
Tradition or movement Calvinist, Van Tillian presuppositionalist
Main interests Philosophy of science, philosophy of mathematics, linguistics, hermeneutics, New Testament
Notable ideas Multiperspectivalism, scientific law as a form of the word of God, foundation for ontology and epistemology in the Trinity

Vern Sheridan Poythress (born 1946) is a 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.

He earned a B.S. in Mathematics from California Institute of Technology (1966) in three years as the valedictorian of his class, and was Putnam fellow in 1964.[1] In 1970, he received his Ph.D. in mathematics from Harvard University. He studied linguistics and Bible translation at the Summer Institute of Linguistics at the University of Oklahoma in 1971 and 1972, and he enrolled at Westminster Theological Seminary, earning an M.Div. (1974) and a Th.M. in apologetics (1974). He then received an M.Litt. in New Testament from University of Cambridge (1977) and a Th.D. in New Testament from the University of Stellenbosch, Stellenbosch, South Africa (1981).

He taught mathematics at Fresno State College (now California State University, Fresno) for a year after earning his Ph.D. in the subject, and he taught linguistics at the Summer Institute of Linguistics in the summers of 1974, 1975, and 1977. He has taught New Testament at Westminster Theological Seminary in Philadelphia since 1976 and has edited the Westminster Theological Journal since 2005.[2] He was also a member of the Translation Oversight Committee for the English Standard Version.[3]

In 1981, he was ordained as a teaching elder in the Reformed Presbyterian Church, Evangelical Synod, which merged into the Presbyterian Church in America. He married his wife Diane in 1983, and they have two sons, Ransom and Justin.


As an Evangelical, Poythress advocates the complete, divine authority of the Bible. As a Calvinist, he places great emphasis 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. 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. 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. In Christian eschatology, he advocates an Augustinian amillennial perspective (compare the summary of Christian eschatological differences).

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. He has also sought to work out presuppositionalism's central claim that there is no neutrality in the area of science and mathematics. In a manner akin to Augustine's view that truth is divine, Poythress views scientific law as a form of the word of God.[4] In 1976, Poythress wrote a chapter on "A Biblical View of Mathematics,"[5] in which he argued (among other things) that number is eternal because the Trinity is eternal.[6] In a 1983 article, he suggested that mathematics is the rhyme of the universe.[7] His philosophy of science draws on the work of Thomas Kuhn.[8]

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. 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. He argued that such a triadic structure is "a means of avoiding unhealthy dualism",[9] and he continued on this line of thought in Symphonic Theology, where he applied multiperspectivalism to theology.


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, many of which he has made available online for free:

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.

Additionally, he has published a number of scholarly articles, including:[10]


  2. "WTS faculty profile".
  3. "ESV Translation Oversight Committee".
  4. Redeeming Science. pp. 13–31.
  5. Poythress, Vern S. (1976). "A Biblical View of Mathematics". In North, Gary. Foundations of Christian Scholarship. Vallecito, CA: Ross House. pp. 159–188.
  6. Byl, John (2001). "Theism and Mathematical Realism". Proceedings of the Association of Christians in the Mathematical Sciences: 33–48.
  7. "Mathematics as Rhyme".
  8. 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.
  9. Philosophy, Science, and the Sovereignty of God. p. 103.
  10. Select publications from Poythress's "Faculty biography at Westminster Theological Seminary". has a more extensive bibliography.

External links

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