Archives For Theology

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.

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] 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 Soon: 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).

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

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] 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).

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 second of a four-part series taken from the 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.

JOHN FRAME believes those with Reformed and evangelical convictions are at risk of being marginalized in our generation because of some Reformed leaders, both inside and outside the academy, espousing unbiblical views of such critical areas as worship, evangelism, Christian spirituality, church planting, missions, and the relationship of the church and culture. [1]

christianity-todayBut the good news is that God is raising up a new generation of church leaders and other Christians who are stemming this tide by standing for a robust Reformed theology that includes a biblical view of all these practical areas of ministry. And the theology and philosophy of John Frame is at the forefront, influencing this resurgence of biblical Calvinism among a new generation of church leaders. [2]

Frame represents a historic stream of biblical and philosophical thought [3] deeply rooted in the best foundational contributions of Athanasius, Augustine, Anselm, and Aquinas. In his writings you’ll also find the biblical riches rediscovered by the church in the Protestant Reformation by Martin Luther and John Calvin, as well as the reshaping of those biblical truths in the seventeenth century by the English Puritans.

Frame’s thought also reflects the Dutch Calvinism of Abraham Kuyper and Herman Bavinck and the Princeton theology of Charles Hodge, B. B. Warfield, and J. Gresham Machen. He writes, “I yield to no one in admiration of three brilliant and godly men, friends of one another, who set the highest standards for Reformed theology in the 1900s:

BAVINCK_mediator

A handful of professors profoundly shaped his thought while he was in seminary, including

Cornelius Van TilThe three authors he resorts to most often today are Murray, Van Til, and Clowney. [5] Van Til became the greatest single influence on Frame’s apologetics and theology. Other significant influences on his theology include

  • G. C. Berkouwer,
  • R. John Rushdoony,
  • Meredith Kline, and
  • J. I. Packer.

Frame’s understanding of philosophy has been shaped not only by many of the authors listed above but also by the writings of Plato, Immanuel Kant, and Ludwig Wittgenstein. His emphasis on the importance of not only knowledge and behavior in the Christian life, but also heart affections, is drawn significantly from the writings of Blaise Pascal and Jonathan Edwards (often through the works of John Gerstner and John Piper as Edwards’s contemporary advocates).

Jon-Ed-1-slider

Although Frame’s primary understanding of Christian apologetics and evangelism has been shaped by Van Til, others have deepened and broadened that understanding, including

  • C. S. Lewis,
  • Francis Schaeffer,
  • Gordon Clark,
  • C. John (Jack) Miller, and
  • Vern Poythress (one of his many students whom he now refers to as his teacher.)

As a result of integrating these diverse schools of thought over decades,

John Frame is a rare biblical scholar who has a passion not only for people to gain a biblical understanding of theology, philosophy, apologetics, and ethics, but also for people to learn how to apply these disciplines to practical ministries such as worship, evangelism, discipleship, church planting, and missions.

That’s because, to John Frame, “Theology is application.” [6]

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 Next: Framing John Frame Pt 3: Why It’s Hard to Frame Frame

Click here to read Part 1 of 4: Framing John Frame Pt 1: Introducing The Man and His Message

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] John M. Frame, The Escondido Theology: A Reformed Response to Two Kingdom Theology (Lakeland, FL: Whitefield Media Productions, 2011).
[2] David Van Biema, “The New Calvinism—10 Ideas Changing the World Right Now,” Time, March 12, 2009.
[3] See the bibliography at the end of this series for a list of the one hundred works that have most influenced John Frame’s thought.
[4] John M. Frame, Backgrounds to My Thought, available at http://www.frame-poythress.org/about/john-frame-full-bio/ (accessed May 16, 2013).
[5] Ibid.
[6] Frame, Doctrine of the Knowledge of God, 1–100.
[7] John M. Frame, Salvation Belongs to the Lord: An Introduction to Systematic Theology (Phillipsburg, NJ: P&R Publishing, 2006).