After 49 years of distinguished service as a seminary professor at three seminaries, Dr. John Frame retired last month. He has been a mentor, faculty colleague, and dear friend–as our seminary offices have been next to each other for the last 17 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.

This is the fourth of a four-part series taken from Screen Shot 2014-10-12 at 9.04.39 PMthe foreword I wrote for 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.

“You are a gentleman and a scholar.” 

It’s a phrase used in the Catcher in the Rye. But it’s been used for centuries throughout the British Isles to describe a rare person worthy of being considered not only a scholar but also a gentleman. Not all scholars are gentlemen. Not all gentlemen are scholars. John Frame is both.

john_frame sketch

One would understandably think that a scholar with Frame’s intellectual rigor and theological acumen would likely carry with him an aura of haughtiness. Instead, as one who has had an office next to him since 2000, I can tell you firsthand that John is a man marked by a rare blend of remarkable intellect and authentic humility.[1]

He is a model of living out what he writes about in his popular booklet Studying Theology as a Servant of Jesus[2] (his grandfatherly advice written originally for incoming students at RTS-Orlando).[3]

Those who engage John in theological or philosophical debate (and there are many) experience his charitable and fair spirit—his genuine willingness to take a serious look at both sides of an issue. He’s well known for treating an opposing view graciously and respectfully, even while deconstructing it.

Many don’t know that John is also a classically trained musician (piano and organ) and a critic of film, music, and other media. His passion for and writings on worship and music have provoked controversy, especially in Reformed circles, because he regards contemporary worship music, and even liturgical dance, as biblically permissible and even enjoyable in worship.

John often confuses people because on a Sunday he can enjoy leading a new church plant in informal worship by playing an electric keyboard as part of a contemporary music ensemble. Then on Wednesday of the same week, he can greatly enjoy leading the seminary community in formal worship by playing a sixteenth-century hymn on the majestic, custom-built organ in the RTS-O chapel. Chapter 38 of this book is titled

“Twenty-five Random Things That Nobody Knows about Me.”

This list came from a Facebook game that his students “dragged [him] into.” What I love about this final chapter is that it gives you a glimpse into the personal life of this renowned theologian and philosopher. Here are a few of my favorites:

#3: I was always the last guy chosen for sports teams, and with good reason.

#4: We listened faithfully to Pittsburgh Pirate games from 1950–56, when the team had the worst record in baseball.

#18: My priorities for ministry were (a) missions, (b) pastorate, (c) academic theology. A visit to mission fields in 1960 ruled out (a). A year and two summers of pastoral experience ruled out (b). So I embraced (c) by default, as God’s calling.

#23: I did not marry until I was forty-five. God was preparing someone special.

#24: In 1999, I led a worship team of myself, a saxophonist, and a trombonist. The other two musicians were in their late seventies, but we really rocked.

John has shared with me how he is sometimes concerned about spending so much time in the privacy of his office writing, rather than being more actively involved in public ministry. So my role over the years we’ve worked together has been to periodically reminded him of what he already knows and teaches – that

There’s nothing more practical than sound theology.

I’ve seen firsthand how his theological writings are having a significant practical impact on the lives and ministries of Christian leaders around the world.

John is much more than a theologian, philosopher, and apologist. He is also a loving husband to Mary, father to his grown children, and grandfather to his rapidly growing gaggle of grandchildren. He is a humble and quiet man who prefers writing in the solitude of his office to coming into the public limelight.

All this is to say that it’s worth your time to read through these rare theological and philosophical gems in Frame’s Selected Shorter Writings. Here you will find his “Primer on Perspectivalism”—a clear, concise summary of triperspectivalism that will enhance your knowledge of God, yourself, others, and the world. Other chapters include foundational topics such as these: “What the Bible Is About: One Thing and Three Things,” “The Gospel and the Scriptures,” “Introduction to the Reformed Faith,” and “The Main Thing.”

Then enter more deeply into Frame’s ongoing humble but bold dialogues by reading essays such as “Reformed and Evangelicals Together,” “Is Justification by Faith Alone the Article on Which the Church Stands or Falls?,” “N. T. Wright and the Authority of Scripture,” “Cultural Transformation and the Local Church,” “The Bible and Joe the Plumber,” and, of course, the rest of the “Twenty-five Random Things That Nobody Knows about Me.”

If you’re new to reading the works of 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[4]—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, http://www.frame-poythress.org, 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.

Screen Shot 2014-10-12 at 9.04.01 PMWhether or not you’re new to reading Frame’s theological works, sooner or later you must own and begin making regular use of his magnum opus—Systematic Theology: An Introduction to Christian Belief [5] with a Foreword by J.I. Packer. This remarkably accessible and practical work is the culmination of his nearly fifty years of studying, writing, teaching, and applying the Word of God to all aspects of life. World Magazine recently recognized it as “Book of the Year.

I am extremely grateful to God for this man and his ministry. This is why I so strongly promote the reading of his books and articles in all my seminary classes at RTS-Orlando and at the church leadership training events where I speak and teach in North America and abroad.

It is a great privilege for me to commend this book to you. Here you’ll find a wide array of important topics written in Frame’s inimitable style of robust charity. Enjoy mining the rich truths in these winsome and provocative essays.

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

Click here to read Framing John Frame Pt 3: Why It’s Hard to Frame Frame

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

COMING SOON: “Applied Theology: A Systematic Theologian and a Practical Theologian Apply Theology to Life and Ministry.” By Childers & Frame

Don’t miss out on the latest updates on the Applied Theology Project!

Click here to sign up with your email.


[1] With his nearly five decades of participation in seminary convocation and commencement ceremonies, I know of no one who has worn academic regalia more often, and holds wearing it in more disdain, than Frame.
[2] John M. Frame, Studying Theology as a Servant of Jesus (Orlando: Reformed Theological Seminary, 2002).
[3] As one of the “Fathers” (older professors) at RTS-O, Frame has also had a significant personal influence on all the “Brothers” (younger professors—including me). For instance, almost every time I see him, he asks me the same question: “Tell me again, how’s your book coming along?”
[4] John M. Frame, Salvation Belongs to the Lord: An Introduction to Systematic Theology (Phillipsburg, NJ: P&R Publishing, 2006).
[5] John M. Frame, Systematic Theology: An Introduction to Christian Belief (Phillipsburg, NJ: P&R Publishing, 2013).

July 4 Shirtless ManJPGIt’s a 4th of July I will never forget. And neither will our guests. Our celebration began normally. Becky and I had several seminary students over to our home for an old fashioned hamburger, hot dog, baked beans, etc. spread.

As it started to get dark, we all drove to our neighborhood fireworks display on the edge of a small lake near our home. A relatively small crowd of a few hundred neighbors were there. A few of the students brought to my attention that the blaring music was very boomer–70’s hard rock. Hadn’t noticed it except for my involuntary head-banging.

It was a very Norman Rockwell sort of scene with kids and dogs running around as spectacular fireworks were exploding high in the air.

What happened next is still hard for me to believe. Just after a beautiful display of fireworks over the lake had ended, a shirtless man walked over near the base where these very high-powered, professional fireworks were being launched.

He then handed his beer can to another man, who had a large American flag in his other hand, and then reached over and picked up one of the large boxes of fireworks-apparently scheduled to be shot off for the next round. I still can’t believe what happened next. This man hoisted the large, heavy box of very powerful, highly explosive fireworks over the top of his head and lifted the box up as high as his arms could reach.

Then this man started walking from the edge of the lake toward the broad yellow tape that was designed to keep the crowd (us) at a safe distance from these potentially dangerous explosives. He stopped about 10-15 feet before the yellow tape, with his arms still fully extended as high as they could go, when the first sparks began to shoot from the huge bottom of the large box of fireworks.

Standing about 6 feet away from this shirtless man was his buddy with the can of beer in one hand and raising up the American flag in the other.

If you look very closely at the video screenshot above (from my trusty iPhone), you can see this shirtless man with his hands held high above him holding the box from which all the fireworks are starting to explode. And if you look to the right of this man (his left) you’ll see his buddy, who has a big American flag in his right hand that you can’t see because it’s behind the fire. If you look closely you can even see the yellow tape (between these 2 men and the crowd in front of us) supposedly meant to keep us a safe distance from the fireworks.

What took place next only lasted for 7 seconds before the shirtless man had to throw down the exploding fireworks box. But everyone with us that evening said they will probably never have another 4th of July when they don’t remember this one. Immediately after the explosions and balls of fire stopped shooting at us, one of the seminary students, Nolan, yelled out,

“That one nearly killed you Steve! We’re lucky to be alive! We’re lucky to be alive! Friendly fire!  We just came under attack! This is unprecedented in the American society! We just came under attack at our own fireworks show!”

Becky and I think our favorite Thank You note came from another student, Tim, who wrote,

Thanks again for having us over for the 4th. It was one I’m certain we’ll never forget. It was the first time I was shot at by a shirtless man while his buddy held his beer and waved an American flag. I’d like to think that this is what the Founding Fathers would have wanted. “Give me drunk fireworks, or give me death.”

To help make your 4th of July weekend more memorable, I’ve just posted below the video I took of those 7 seconds, along with some slower instant replays so you can see the most amazing and frightening fireworks display I’ve ever seen.

You’ll also hear the adrenaline-soaked comments made by some members of our group immediately after we stopped being fired on. And If you watch the video carefully, you’ll see why Nolan screamed, “That one nearly killed you Steve!”

If you’d like to see this 3-minute video Click Here.

Or watch below:

Even though it’s been almost 40 years since my dad died, my heart especially aches for him every Father’s Day. Several times today I’ve thought about how wonderful it would be if I could call him. As I looked at pictures of him, my mind was flooded with rich memories.

Lee Childers was raised in poverty without a dad. For many years he and his two older brothers (Marine & Navy officers in the battle of Midway) were passed from one foster home to another. At 17, saying he was 18, he enlisted in the Air Force as his only hope for a new life. And a new life is what he found.

His career as an Air Force pilot (Colonel) took him around the world, exposing him to the riches of diverse cultures, and providing him with a college education. This is

why my sister was born in Germany (He flew in the Berlin Airlift) and I was born in Japan (we were part of the U.S. occupation after WWII).

He was married to my mom for 33 years. Father of two children (my older sister & me). Military pilot. Commercial pilot. Homebuilder. Graduate student of psychology. Artist. Quiet. Gentle. Strong. Loved his only son deeply and well. Colonel Childers kissed his son goodnight on the forehead even through high school.

He was one whom I had the privilege of leading to Christ in January 1978. He then served alongside me in my first church plant. We spent many hours reading the new Bible I gave him and praying together during the last year of his life. During his final year he taught me how to preach to him every Sunday as he looked on at his son, the preacher, not knowing I could see him often wincing because of the pain he was experiencing from his cancer during my sermon.

My mom, my sister, and I had the privilege of holding him as he past into heaven. The good news is that he will be resurrected to new life when Jesus returns to make all things new.

Then he will finally meet my precious wife, children, and grandchildren. Then he will paint again. And we can have long talks again. And then, I won’t ache to be with him anymore.

Look very closely at his picture below & you’ll see his wedding ring. I’ve worn it for the last 37 years. I miss you dad, especially on this day, and deeply long for our reunion in the age to come.