After 49 years of distinguished service as a seminary professor at three seminaries, Dr. John Frame is retiring this month. He has been a mentor, faculty colleague, and dear friend–as our seminary offices have been next to each other for the last 16 years. He has distinguished himself as a prolific author and one of America’s foremost theologians and philosophers—significantly shaping the thought of Evangelicalism today.

Many of today’s most influential Christian leaders and authors, like Tim Keller and John Piper, readily acknowledge the significant impact John Frame has had on them. Although widely known and deeply respected in church leadership and academic circles for decades, his works are now, finally, becoming well known to the general public.

Frame Selected Works Cover

This is the third of a four-part series taken from the foreword of his book, John Frame’s Selected Shorter Writings, Volume 1, by P&R Publishing. I wrote this with the goal of helping to introduce Frame and his writings more widely to the general public, with the hope that more people would begin mining the rich theological, philosophical, and practical gems that have for too long been mostly in the hands of academics and church leaders.

JOHN FRAME is often difficult to categorize because he is marked by both genuine humility and great courage in his approach to a vast array of today’s theological and ecclesiastical categories.

john_frame sketchLiberal? Denominational? Ecumenical? Fundamental?

  • Knowing that he might be accused of being a theological liberal, he continues to stand against fractured denominationalism, and to fight for greater ecumenical unity in the church.
  • Knowing that he might be accused of being a theological fundamentalist, he continues to stand against moderate views of Scripture, and to fight for an infallible, inerrant Bible.

Optimistic Transformationalist? Pessimistic Dualist?

  • Knowing that he might be accused of being a cultural transformationist (and triumphalist), he continues to stand against pessimistic theological dualism that wrongly separates the church and culture, and to fight for the optimistic, biblical social engagement of Christians as witnesses to the lordship of Christ over all areas of public life.
  • Knowing that he might be accused of being a cultural isolationist (and pessimist), he continues to stand against theological views of God’s kingdom that wrongly equate the priority of the institutional church ministries of the Word and social action, and to fight for understanding the primary purpose of the institutional church as making disciples of all nations through prioritizing the ministries of evangelism and the Word.

Ecclesiastic Traditionalist?  Pietistic Individualist?

  • Knowing that he might be accused of being a traditionalist, he continues to stand against rapidly emerging, individualistic expressions of “Churchless Christianity,” and to fight for the biblical necessity for all Christians to come under the spiritual authority and care of a local church body, through which they prioritize the regular, corporate ministries of the Word, sacrament, and prayer.
  • Knowing that he might be accused of being a pietist (and revivalist), he continues to stand against theological views that wrongly emphasize the communal dimensions of Christianity at the expense of the personal, and to fight for the biblical validity and need for all Christians to pursue holiness through personal spiritual disciplines such as regular Bible reading, prayer, and fasting.

  Traditional Academy? Educational Revolutionary?

  • Knowing that he might be accused of being an out-of-touch, ivory-tower academic, he continues to stand against the trend of church leaders’ not receiving seminary training, and to fight for the importance of well-educated church leaders.
  • Knowing that he might be accused of being opposed to traditional seminary training, he continues to stand against the inherent problems with the traditional seminary model, and to fight for more innovative, practical, church-based seminary training models.

At Reformed Theological Seminary in Orlando (RTS-O), where John and I have served together (our offices are next to each other) as resident faculty members for sixteen years, we have heard a description over the years of those who are Reformed (Calvinistic) in theology as being on a theological continuum that ranges from the broadly evangelical (BE) on the one end to the truly Reformed (TR) on the other.

Broad Evangelical (BE)? or Truly Reformed (TR)?

Calvinism Poster Secret BE

Calvinism Poster TR

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

BEs are those who normally emphasize their evangelical theological convictions more strongly than their Reformed convictions. And at the other end of the continuum, TRs normally emphasize their Reformed theological convictions more strongly than their evangelical convictions.

So what is John Frame—a BE or a TR? He is neither. Frame is in a completely different category called WR—“Winsomely Reformed.” Someone who is WR cannot be identified as normally being at any one particular point on this Calvinistic continuum between the BEs and the TRs. That’s because

John Frame has the unique capacity to function wisely and well anywhere across the doctrinally diverse continuum of evangelicalism—yet still hold strongly to his robust theologically Reformed convictions.

A New (Old) Category: Winsomely Reformed (WR)

John Frame is the epitome of someone who is WR. This is why it’s been so difficult for people to categorize him. In some contexts he’ll be overtly emphasizing his Reformed convictions. But in other contexts he will intentionally emphasize only his broader evangelical convictions.

This confusing behavior is not because he is fearful or comprising his beliefs, but because he’s learned to base his words and emphases on what will be most appropriate in each unique context. Frame has a strong commitment to both evangelical theology in general and Reformed theology in particular, coupled with godly wisdom to know in which context and to what extent one or the other should be emphasized.

If you’re new to reading the works of John Frame (or theological works in general), let me strongly encourage you to take the time to explore his other writings. Here are just a few introductory readings I recommend that you consider to begin priming your theological pump:

  • Salvation Belongs to the Lord [7]—a brief mini-systematic theology that is easily accessible to the average reader.
  • Studying Theology as a Servant of Jesus—practical advice for incoming seminary students and all new students of theology.
  • Browse his website, where you’ll find many of his writings. He shares this website with Vern Poythress, Calvinistic theologian, philosopher, New Testament scholar, and one of his former students

Coming Soon: Framing John Frame Pt 4: A Gentleman and a Scholar

Click here to read Framing John Frame Pt 1: Introducing The Man and His Message

Click here to read Framing John Frame Pt 2: Influencers on His Thought

Coming Soon: The 100 Books That Have Most Influenced John Frame’s Thought by Frame and Childers

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[1] John M. Frame, Salvation Belongs to the Lord: An Introduction to Systematic Theology (Phillipsburg, NJ: P&R Publishing, 2006).

[2] John M. Frame, Systematic Theology: An Introduction to Christian Belief (Phillipsburg, NJ: P&R Publishing, 2013).

Lloyd Photo

Lloyd Childers during the battle of Midway in June 1942

My family has a strong military background. My paternal grandfather, Fred Childers, experienced the horror of war as a combat medic in World War I. All three of his sons followed him in military service to their country. His oldest two sons, Lloyd and Wayne, served in the Marines and fought in the historic Battle of Midway. His youngest son, my father Lee, served in the Air Force and flew in the Berlin Airlift.

I want to begin by paying tribute to my uncle, Lloyd Childers (1921-2015), who died last year. Lloyd was a true World War II hero, receiving the distinguished Flying Cross and the Purple Heart for his heroism as a tail-gunner in a torpedo plane of the USS Yorktown at the Battle of Midway. But, like most heroes, he would just say he was doing his job.

This brief video excerpt below is taken from hours of his video testimony, when he was 85 years old, now archived and made available to the public at the Digital Collections of the World War II Museum.

In this video, Childers describes in great detail what it was like to be in air combat against the Japanese Zero fighters during the Battle of Midway. After clearing anti-aircraft fire from a Japanese destroyer, two Japanese Zero fighters began attacking his plane at the same time. He was gravely wounded, shot twice in his left thigh and once in his right ankle, shattering the bones. Then his machine gun jammed.

Childers looked out of his plane directly into the eyes of a Japanese pilot. He stood up in the cockpit, pulled out his 45 caliber pistol, aimed at the Japanese pilot, and opened fire.

The plane dropped out of sight. Then the engine of his plane was hit and the pilot, Harry, told him they were not going to make it back to the aircraft carrier. Harry was killed in combat later.

Lloyd Childers as a combat instructor in 1955

Of 12 torpedo planes, his was one of two planes from his squadron to survive the attack on the Japanese and make its way back to the American fleet. His plane was so damaged it could not land on a carrier and ditched next to the USS Monaghan. Childers was later transferred to another ship for emergency medical treatment where he witnessed the sinking of the USS Yorktown from the sickbay.

After World War II, he was commissioned as a Marine officer and assigned to fly combat missions in the Korean war in 1950 – 1951. He was re-trained as a helicopter pilot and was later deployed to the Belgian Congo for humanitarian assistance in 1959.

After the Korean War, Childers commanded a Marine helicopter squadron in 1965 and 1966 in Vietnam. It was there he led the first successful night troop landing in a “Hot Landing Zone” where his helicopter was under fire from the enemy. In Vietnam he received the Legion of Merit as well as his second Distinguished Flying Cross.

After retiring from the military he earned a Master’s degree in education and a Ph.D. in higher education in order to serve at Chapman College in Orange, California until his final retirement.

He became the sole protector and provider for his little brother, my father, teaching him to be a warrior too.

Childers learned to be a warrior from an early age. Sadly, he came from a broken home, where his parents divorced when he was 10 years old, leaving him and his two younger brothers on the street to fend for themselves. He became the sole protector and provider for his little brother, my father, teaching him to be a warrior too.

I am deeply grateful for the life and service of my uncle Lloyd, and for all veterans who have sacrificed for our liberty. Freedom is not free.

Click this link below to watch Lloyd Childers’ first-hand account (7 minutes) of what it was like to be a tail-gunner in the historic Battle of Midway.

Credit: The Digital Collections of the National WWII Museum

Watch this powerful, 1-minute testimony from our Pathway Learning ministry partner who is willing to risk his life for the sake of reaching his people in West Africa.

“We know there is a chance that we can be killed and yet we wanted to go and see the gospel spread across that region.”

“We are not fighting with guns and weapons. It is a fight over hearts and minds.”

“I am passionate about having Pathway Learning come help us because we see that it is the most practical way to share the gospel, train our own people, equip them with leadership skills, and send them back to their own people.”

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