Faith, Form, and Fashion: Classical Reformed Theology and Its Postmodern Critics

By Paul Helm

An erudite and considered defence of the classical approach to theology within the Reformed tradition, in the light of recent postmodernist alternatives.

ISBN: 9780227174920


Faith, Form, and Fashion is a study of systematic theology from the perspective of an analytic philosopher. Paul Helm achieves this by examining the theological innovations of Kevin Vanhoozer and John Franke. Each proposes that doctrinal and systematic theology should be re-cast in the light of postmodernity. No longer can Christian theology be foundational, or have a stable metaphysical and epistemological framework. Vanhoozer advocates a theo-dramatic reconstruction of Christian doctrine, replacing the timeless propositions of the “purely cerebral theology” of the Reformed tradition in favour of a theology that does justice to the polyphony of multiple biblical genres. Franke holds that theology is part of a three-way conversation between Scripture, tradition, and culture, with an uncertain outcome.

This study shows that each of these proposals is based on misunderstanding and exaggeration, and that the case against foundationalism is unclear and unpersuasive. Helm argues that Vanhoozer’s appeal to revelation as divine speech-acts is not as radical as he thinks, and that his epistemology is weak. In the hands of postmodernity, Christian theology abandons its exactness and the standards of care that are a notable feature of doctrinal constrictions. The book will be of great interest to those with an interest in Reformed theology or Christian theology more generally.

Additional information

Dimensions229 × 153 mm


Trade InformationJPOD

About the Author

Paul Helm is a Teaching Fellow at Regent College, Vancouver, Canada. He held the Chair of History and Philosophy at King’s College, London, 1993-2000. He is the author of several books, including John Calvin’s Ideas (2004) and Eternal God (2nd edition 2010).



A. Classic Reformed Theology
1. The Form of Theology
2. Epistemology

B. Some New Proposals Considered
3. Nature and Narrative
4. Being and Doing
5. Speech Acts, Propositions, and Assertions
6. Propositions, Time, and Truth
7. Meaning and Reasoning
8. Foundationalism and Its Woes
9. Knowing and Believing

C. Conclusion
10. CRT and the Future



Endorsements and Reviews

[Paul Helm’s] confessional conception of the Calvinistic tradition looks to the great thinkers of the past while seeking to address pressing doctrinal and philosophical issues in the present, with an eye to the future. This is a readable and stimulating study that is sure to generate discussion!
Oliver D. Crisp, Professor of Systematic Theology, Fuller Theological Seminary, Pasadena, CA

Helm’s Faith, Form, and Fashion clarifies the stakes involved in abandoning what Helm calls ‘Classical Reformed Theology’ for postmodernist approaches like Vanhoozer’s and Franke’s. No doubt, Vanhoozer will have much to say about Helm’s take on his position, but Helm’s book opens a crucial dialogue for all who care about sound theological articulation of Christian faith.
Mark R. Talbot, Associate Professor of Philosophy, Wheaton College, Wheaton, IL

Helm has done a service to thinking Christians in an age of post-postmodernist gullibility.
Rev. E.T. Kirkland, in English Churchman, No 7936

… the greatest contribution of this text is Helm’s robust detailing of the history, method and principles of CRT for contemporary theology. … it would be a useful primer for any graduate or seminary student who is interested in Reformed theology.
Vanessa Williams, in Theology, Vol 119.1

This volume provides helpful summaries of CRT and offers general lines of response to postmodern thought. To that extent, it may be helpful to those who identify with [Classical Reformed Theology].
John R. Franke, in Journal of Reformed Theology, Vol 11, Issue 3