Introducing A Trinitarian Theology of
Faith, Hope, and Love

By Dr. John M. Frame

In this new book and course by Drs. Childers and Frame, you’ll explore an ancient, Trinitarian approach to the study of theology and spirituality found in the great theological works of Augustine, Luther, and Calvin. 

These thinkers have outlined for us a transformational way of doing theology that is eminently Scriptural and involves our whole being – not only our minds, but also our hearts and lives.

You’ll learn how to cultivate the Christian virtues of faith, hope, and love by having a faith that is grounded in the biblical truths of the Apostles’ creed, a hope that is based on Jesus’ teaching in the Lord’s Prayer, and a love that is rooted in the Ten Commandments.

In this new book and course, you’ll be equipped to:

  • Explain the heart of Christianity as faith, hope, and love
  • Describe faith as believing in the Triune God as Lord
  • Articulate hope in God and for man in the Lord’s Prayer
  • Describe the superiority of love in the Ten Commandments
  • Understand how the Ten Commandments transform us
  • Explain the riches of a theology of faith, hope, and love

About the Applied Theology Project
The Applied Theology Series provides you accessible, affordable seminary-level teaching designed to help you learn how to apply theology to your life and ministry in practical ways – with the goal of helping you better know, love, serve, and honor God as LORD in all of life. Seminary professors John Frame and Steve Childers combine their almost 90 years of teaching and ministry experience to help you apply theology to life and ministry.

CHOOSE YOUR LEARNING PATHWAY:
Read the Introduction by John Frame below
Take the Course (create your own private online study group)


Introducing A Trinitarian Theology of
Faith, Hope, and Love

By John Frame 

Theology is, as we’ve said, the application of Scripture by persons to all areas of life. That definition gives us a norm for our study (“Scripture”), presents a range of subject matter (“all areas of life”), and encourages our self-reflection as “persons” engaged in the study.

On this definition, theology is Scriptural, practical, and personal. But on this understanding, theology is universal in scope, and therefore a huge task. Are there any directions as to how we may divide up the task into smaller units?

Scripture itself doesn’t tell us to do this first, then this, then that. In one sense we can begin anywhere. When our enemies throw us into a pit, it is time for the theology of Ps. 40:2. When we are in trouble, or happy, or sick, we need to apply James 5:13-16.

That is theology, ourselves applying the word to the area of life we are presently experiencing.

But in this book, our task is not primarily occasional theology, theology for this or that experience. Occasional theology is perfectly legitimate; indeed it is necessary; but we cannot contain it all in a book, for our experiences, our “areas of life,” are too vast in number to include in a book. A book like this can only summarize the process.

And the quest for a summary is itself a theological question, often called “the question of method:” Does Scripture give us any help in summarizing the process of theological work? Does it tell us anything about how we (we persons) should apply the Scriptures to the events and settings of our lives?

Here the history of theology gives us some help. I have not been known as a historian of doctrine, though I have written a large book on the subject.[1] In my view, some theologians have been overly preoccupied by the history of doctrine, by tradition, to the detriment of the Protestant principle, “by Scripture alone.”

My own goal in teaching theology has been to encourage my students to focus on Scripture itself and thereby even to correct tradition if that is necessary. That was the goal of the Protestant Reformers. But there is also positive value in tradition. Scripture itself teaches us to honor our parents and others who have taught us wisdom (as Prov. 1:8-9). And as we ask the theological question of how to do theology, we should listen to them.

My colleague, Steve Childers, has found some helpful insights in the great theological work of Augustine, Luther, and Calvin. These thinkers have outlined a way of doing theology that is eminently Scriptural, avoiding some errors that have crept into other traditions.

When asked near the end of his life to summarize Christianity as he understood it, Augustine replied by citing Paul’s triad in 1 Cor. 13:13: faith, hope, and love. Expounding that insight, he wrote a little book, The Enchiridion, which described faith by means of the Apostles’ Creed, hope by way of the Lord’s Prayer, and love by way of the Ten Commandments.

This way of summarizing Christian theology was taken up also in the important works of Luther and Calvin, and in the Confessions of the churches.

Clearly this way of summarizing the work of theology meets the requirements of our earlier definition. It is Scriptural, for all its content is taken from Scripture.[2] It is practical, for it deals with our mind, our heart, and our decisions. And it is personal, for it engages everything that we are. It is the fundamental spiritual exercise by which we apply the Scriptures to all areas of life.

But though it is practical and personal, it is not “man centered” in the pejorative sense. Rather, it is God-centered, because focused on the Trinity: (1) the eternal plan of God the Father, (2) accomplished by the Son, and (3) applied to our hearts by the Spirit.

The Father’s eternal plan is the content of our faith; the Son’s application of that plan for our eternal salvation is the content of our hope; and the Spirit’s bringing that plan into our hearts is the content of our love.

In the book and course that follows, we seek to outline this method. As this is a Scriptural, practical, and personal approach, our book will differ from some others. The book will be informed by our academic study, but we hope you will not see it as an academic book. We intend simply to take the written word of God and apply it to the situations of life, as the Holy Spirit enables us to.

I turned 80 in April, 2019, much older than Augustine was when he summarized his life work in the Enchiridion. My own life work does not have anywhere near the importance of Augustine’s.

But I do pray that this book will summarize my own, in which I have tried to confess the same faith as that of Augustine, Luther, Calvin, and above all the Bible itself.

Steve, who has done most all of the actual writing, has done a wonderful job in expressing that faith that is mine as well as his own. I give thanks to God for bringing me such a wonderful friend and colleague.

Dr. John M. FrameEmeritus Professor of Systematic Theology and Philosophy
Reformed Theological Seminary


[1] Frame, A History of Western Philosophy and Theology (Phillipsburg: P&R Publishers, 2015).
[2] The Apostles’ Creed was written shortly after the completion of the biblical canon, but Christians of all traditions have adopted it as a summary of biblical faith.

ABOUT JOHN FRAME

Dr. John Frame served as a seminary professor of Systematic Theology and Philosophy for almost 50 years. His areas of speciality include systematic theology, apologetics, ethics and philosophy. Dr. Frame began his teaching career in 1968 on the faculty of Westminster Theological Seminary in Philadelphia. He later served as a founding faculty member at Westminster Seminary California. In 2000, he began teaching at Reformed Theological Seminary in Orlando, and retired in 2017. He now works with Pathway Learning and Steve Childers as co-author and theological editor of the Applied Theology Project. He’s best known for his prolific writings, particularly his four-volume Theology of Lordship series.

He is a graduate of Princeton University, Westminster Theological Seminary, and Yale University. An ordained minister in the Presbyterian Church in America, Dr. Frame is deeply committed to the work of ministry and to training pastors. Students appreciate Dr. Frame’s wealth of insight and his ability to communicate complex issues simply and clearly. Students also value Dr. Frame’s practical definition of theology as “the application of God’s revelation to all of life.” Dr. Frame is a talented pianist and organist as well as a discerning media critic. He and his wife Mary have five children, Debbie, Doreen, Skip, Justin, and Johnny.


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Phone
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You may give securities either by transfer of the certificate of ownership or through account transfer arranged by your broker. In each case, you avoid the tax on any potential gain and receive a deduction for the full fair market value of securities. To give a gift of stock, email us at staff@pathwaylearning.org, call us at 407-682-6942, or write us at P.O. Box 2062, Winter Park, FL 32790.

In the Applied Theology Project, former seminary professors John Frame and Steve Childers combine their more than 90 years of combined teaching and ministry experience to help you apply theology to real life and ministry.

Knowing God as Lord in All Areas of Life

The Applied Theology Series provides you accessible, affordable seminary-level courses designed to help you learn how to apply theology to your life and ministry in practical ways – with the goal of helping you better know, love, serve, and honor God as LORD in all of life.

In this Essentials of Theology Course, we’re explaining and applying the definition of theology as “a study of God in Scripture to know God as LORD in all areas of life.” In this sixth lesson, our focus is on helping you learn what the Bible teaches about knowing Christ as Lord in all areas of life.

God’s purpose for the world is not merely the rebirth of human souls so they can go to heaven, but also the rebirth and renewal of all things lost in creation because of the Fall.

Your knowledge of God gained from the study of Scripture is meant to make a difference, not just in an isolated religious part of your life, but in all areas of your life – such as family, work, education, politics, art, and entertainment.

In this lesson, you’ll be equipped to:

  • Describe the relationship of theology to Christ’s Lordship
  • Explain how a true knowledge of God relates to all of life
  • Understand the relationship of the gospel to the kingdom
  • Expound how God’s kingdom has already come on earth
  • Illustrate what all things will look like when Jesus returns
  • Articulate a vision of Christ’s Lordship over all areas of life

CHOOSE YOUR LEARNING PATHWAY:
Read the Transcript Below
Listen to the Audio
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Knowing God as Lord in All Areas of Life

By Steve Childers and John Frame 

So far in this series we’ve been explaining and applying the definition of theology as “a study of God in Scripture to know God as Lord in all areas of life.” In this final session, our focus in on the last phrase in this definition, “in all areas of life.” The main idea here is that the knowledge of God as Lord we gain from the study of Scripture is meant to make a difference, not just in an isolated spiritual or religious part of our lives, but in all areas of our lives, such as family, work, education, politics, art, and entertainment.

1. God’s Good News that Christ is Lord Over All Areas of Life

Much of our focus in this series is on the good news that when God raised Jesus from the dead, he was not only proclaiming his ultimate victory over sin, death, and evil—he was also inaugurating his new rule on earth in all areas of life. The Apostle Paul describes the resurrected Christ as the “first born from the dead” (Rom 8:29b) referring to all those who would follow Jesus by their resurrection in the new age to come and rule with him in all areas of life forever.

The good news we proclaim is that, through the resurrection and ascension of Jesus, God demonstrates that his kingdom has already been launched on earth. When Jesus ascended to the right hand of God the Father in heaven, he and the Father poured out his Spirit as a magnificent display that Jesus Christ is now enthroned on high as our Redeemer King carrying out God’s cosmic rescue mission to restore the Father’s rule over all things.

2. God’s Good News that Christ’s Kingdom has Come (Already)

When Jesus began his public ministry, he called everyone to repent and believe in this good news of the gospel. What good news? It was the good news that the promised kingdom of God was near. Jesus said, “The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God is at hand; repent and believe in the gospel (Mark 1:15).” Jesus is saying here, “Repent and believe in the good news that the kingdom of God is at hand.”

Later, Paul follows this same focus on the good news of God’s kingdom coming in the world through Christ over all areas of life in Colossians 1:20 when he writes, “For God was pleased … through (Christ) to reconcile to himself all things, whether things on earth or things in heaven.” Paul saw God’s purpose for the world as not merely the rebirth of human souls so they can go to heaven, but also the rebirth of all things, i.e. all creation.

When Paul proclaims the good news, it is about how God has exalted Jesus Christ as Lord over all things. He writes, “Therefore God has highly exalted him (Jesus) and bestowed on him the name that is above every name, so that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father (Phil 2:9-11).”

The good news of the kingdom of God coming to earth through Jesus Christ as Lord over all areas of life continued to be the primary message proclaimed by Paul, even when he was held in custody for preaching it. In the very last verse in the book of Acts, we see a fascinating glimpse into what Paul was doing while under arrest for the gospel: “he was “proclaiming the kingdom of God and teaching about the Lord (kurios) Jesus Christ (anointed) with all boldness and without hindrance (Acts 28:31).”

3. God’s Good News that Christ’s Kingdom is Coming (Not Yet)

At the end of the Apostle John’s life, while also being held in custody for preaching this good news of the kingdom, God reveals to John a vision of what it will look like when Jesus returns and God finally restores all things by creating a new heaven and new earth:

Then I saw a new heaven and a new earth, for the first heaven and the first earth had passed away, and the sea was no more. And I saw the holy city, new Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, prepared as a bride adorned for her husband. And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, “Behold, the dwelling place of God is with man. He will dwell with them, and they will be his people, and God himself will be with them as their God. He will wipe away every tear from their eyes, and death shall be no more, neither shall there be mourning, nor crying, nor pain anymore, for the former things have passed away.” And he who was seated on the throne said, “Behold, I am making all things new (Rev 21:1-5a).

Seeing Jesus as Lord in all areas of life, making all things new, presents us with Christ’s comprehensive and inescapable claims over all humanity and the world. This vision of God’s lordship shapes the definition of theology used in this series: “Theology is the study of God in Scripture to know God as LORD in all areas of life. At its heart this means that theology is the application of God’s revelation in Scripture to all areas of life.

Although John Frame wrote this definition, it is deeply rooted and influenced by theologians like Augustine, Calvin, Kuyper, and Bavinck, whose understanding of theology centers in a vision of the sovereignty of God as Lord over all aspects of reality, life, and culture. This God-centered, theological vision reflects that of the theologian, philosopher, and former Prime Minister of the Netherlands, Abraham Kuyper, when he famously said,

There is not a square inch in the whole domain of our human existence over which Christ, who is Sovereign over all, does not cry: “Mine!”

By defining theology as the application of God’s revelation in Scripture to all areas of life, we have set before us a theology of the gospel that is as wide as creation, reflecting the Dutch theologian Herman Bavinck’s summary of redemption, as “Grace Restores Nature.” This is the good news that the Father’s creation, ruined by humanity’s sin, is now being redeemed by Christ and restored by His Holy Spirit into the Kingdom of God.


We help underserved church leaders develop churches that transform lives and communities

WAYS TO GIVE

Online
Give using your credit card or bank draft through our secure online form

Phone
Call us at 407-682-6942

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Matching Gift
Your employer may also be able to double your gift.

Give a Gift of Stock
You may give securities either by transfer of the certificate of ownership or through account transfer arranged by your broker. In each case, you avoid the tax on any potential gain and receive a deduction for the full fair market value of securities. To give a gift of stock, email us at staff@pathwaylearning.org, call us at 407-682-6942, or write us at P.O. Box 2062, Winter Park, FL 32790.

In the Applied Theology Project, former seminary professors John Frame and Steve Childers combine their more than 90 years of combined teaching and ministry experience to help you apply theology to real life and ministry.

A Brief Explanation Of An Ancient Definition Of God

The Applied Theology Series provides you accessible, affordable seminary-level courses designed to help you learn how to apply theology to your life and ministry in practical ways – with the goal of helping you better know, love, serve, and honor God as LORD in all of life.

In this Essentials of Theology Course, we’re explaining and applying the definition of theology as “a study of God in Scripture to know God as LORD in all areas of life.” In this fifth lesson, our focus is on helping you learn what the Bible teaches about God’s communicable and incommunicable attributes.

In this lesson, you’ll be equipped to:

  • Explain God’s incommunicable attributes
  • Describe God’s communicable attributes
  • Articulate the definitions of God’s attributes
  • Illustrate the relationship of God’s attributes
  • Summarize why God reveals his attributes
  • Demonstrate how we magnify God’s attributes

CHOOSE YOUR LEARNING PATHWAY:
Read the Transcript Below
Listen to the Audio
Watch the Video
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Knowing God’s Attributes

By Steve Childers and John Frame 

The desire to do justice to all the attributes of God revealed in Scripture and maintain a biblical view of God’s transcendence and immanence led the Christian church to do more than emphasize that God’s word reveals him in analogies. This desire also led the Christian church to make a distinction between two groups of attributes of God. These groups of attributes have received different names throughout history. We will use the names incommunicable and communicable attributes.

The primary purpose of the two categories has been to distinguish between the bible’s teaching on God’s transcendence, as his distinction from and elevation above the world, and God’s immanence, as his distinction with and presence in the world. Although the bible does not present these two categories of God’s attributes as standing rigidly against each other in total separation, it is important to affirm “that God possesses all of his incommunicable attributes in an absolute way and to an infinite and therefore incommunicable degree.”

God’s incommunicable attributes are unique to him and cannot even be found in humans or be shared by humans, though humans, made in his image, reflect them in ways appropriate to their created status. These attributes include:

  • God’s absolute independence, he is determined by nothing, and everything else is determined by him (Acts 17:25, Rom 11:36). Humans are relatively independent, in that they can think and act for themselves, but only within the limits of their place in God’s plan.
  • God’s immutability, i.e. God cannot change, he remains the same eternally (James 1:17). Human beings also remain themselves after they are created; but they undergo constant change, from forces within them and outside them.
  • God’s simplicity, i.e. God’s being is free from composition and parts, he is one whole (Ps 36:9, Jn 5:26, 1 Jn 1:5). Human beings think and act as whole persons but they are dependent on the parts of which they are composed.
  • God’s eternality, i.e. God transcends time and yet penetrates every moment of time with his eternity (Ps 90:2). Human beings gain some transcendence over time through their God-given memory, and through their ability to accept God’s revelation of the future. But unlike God they are time-bound.
  • God’s omnipresence, i.e. God’s being transcends all space and yet bears up all space by his omnipotence (Ps 139:7, Acts 17:27-28). Humans gain some transcendence over space by moving here and there, inhabiting widely different parts of creation, and learning to communicate over wide distances. But they are always located in one particular place.

When the historic Westminster Shorter Catechism (1647) answers the ancient question, “What is God?,” the answer is: “God is a Spirit, infinite, eternal, and unchangeable, in his being, wisdom, power, holiness, justice, goodness, and truth.” After defining God as “a Spirit,” i.e. not having a physical body like humans, God is described as being infinite, eternal, and unchangeable. These are incommunicable attributes of God that we, as humans, do not have the capacity to share with him. But, as God’s image bearers, we do have the capacity to share, in a limited way, God’s communicable attributes of his being, wisdom, power, holiness, justice, goodness, and truth.

This list of three incommunicable attributes and seven communicable attributes are not meant to be seen as exhaustive but representative. Notice God’s attribute of love is not even listed in this definition, even though we read in Scripture that “…God is love (1 John 4:8b).” This catechism answer reveals how God’s attributes can be seen in relation to each other. God is presented here as a Spirit who is infinite, eternal, and unchangeable (incommunicable attributes), in his being, wisdom, power, holiness, justice, goodness, and truth (communicable attributes). Practically speaking this means:

  • God is infinite, eternal, and unchangeable in his being, referring to God’s nature as being without limitation, everywhere, in all of time, and always the same.
  • God is infinite, eternal, and unchangeable in his wisdom, referring to God’s omniscience in knowing all things.
  • God is infinite, eternal, and unchangeable in his power, referring to God’s omnipotence in being all powerful.
  • God is infinite, eternal, and unchangeable in his holiness, referring to God’s transcendence from creation, perfect purity and righteousness.
  • God is infinite, eternal, and unchangeable in his justice, referring to God’s just nature by which he maintains ethical justice and righteousness over against every violation of it.
  • God is infinite, eternal, and unchangeable in his goodness, referring to God’s radical grace, love, and mercy toward fallen humanity in sin.
  • God is infinite, eternal, and unchangeable in his truth, referring to God’s perfection that assures us of the ethical reliability of his revelations and promises.

As divine image-bearers, we can reflect these communicable attributes of God. But we must always remember there is a sense in which even these attributes are uniquely peculiar to God in an absolute way that cannot be shared by us. This means there is a divine being, wisdom, power, holiness, justice, goodness, and truth that is so absolute, independent, infinite, eternal, and unchangeable with God that humans cannot even share it.

As God’s image-bearers, we are not merely a reflection of God’s attributes, but a reflection of God himself, whose being cannot be separated from all of his attributes. As humans, we can make a distinction between having human attributes and being human. We can lose our attributes of wisdom, power, and holiness and still be human. But this is not possible for God because the bible describes every attribute of God as also a description of God’s personal essence and being.

This is why God’s attributes must not be understood as mere characteristics of God or impersonal forces but as reflections of his being and person. God is not only wise, he is wisdom. God’s power is not only a force but the power of a real person exerting his will. God is not only holy, he is holiness. God is not only just, he is justice. God is not only good, he is goodness. And God is not only truthful, he is truth. So, when you obey Jesus’ command to seek first God’s righteousness this means you are to seek first God himself in Christ who is righteousness.

Because God’s attributes of wisdom, power, holiness, justice, goodness, and truth are not composite parts of him that can somehow be separated from the others, this also means that we must not see them as separated from each other. We can summarize this complex integration of God’s attributes by saying that all of God’s divine attributes have divine attributes. Practically speaking this means:

  • God’s wisdom is a powerful wisdom, a holy wisdom, a just wisdom, a good wisdom, and a truthful wisdom.
  • God’s power is a wise power, a holy power, a just power, a good power, and a truthful power.
  • God’s holiness is a wise holiness, a powerful holiness, a just holiness, a good holiness, and truthful holiness.
  • God’s justice is a wise justice, a powerful justice, a holy justice, a good justice, and a truthful justice.
  • God’s goodness is a wise goodness, a powerful goodness, a holy goodness, a just goodness, and a truthful goodness.

God reveals himself to us in Scripture so we might glorify and enjoy him forever. The word glory, from the Latin Gloria, “fame, renown,” is used to describe the beautiful, radiant display of God’s attributes as the most glorious being in existence. In the Old Testament, the Hebrew word kabod, translated glory, originally means “weight” or “heaviness.” The New Testament word for glory, doxa, continues to express this meaning of importance, honor, and majesty.

God’s attributes reveal to us that he alone is in a category of greatest importance, honor, and majesty. As God’s image-bearers, we are designed by God to bring him glory by reflecting the beauty of who he is and what he does in all his magnificent works of creation and redemption. We are called to magnify the radiance of his perfections that reveal his infinite, eternal, and unchangeable being in the fullness of his wisdom, power, holiness, justice, goodness, truth, etc.

In his treatise, “Concerning the End for which God Created the World,” Jonathan Edwards concludes, “It appears that all that is ever spoken of in the Scripture as an ultimate end of God’s works is included in that one phrase, “the glory of God.” The Apostle Paul confirms Edward’s conclusion when he writes, “For from him and through him and to him are all things. To him be glory forever. Amen (Rom 11:36).”


We help underserved church leaders develop churches that transform lives and communities

WAYS TO GIVE

Online
Give using your credit card or bank draft through our secure online form

Phone
Call us at 407-682-6942

Mail
Send a check:
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Matching Gift
Your employer may also be able to double your gift.

Give a Gift of Stock
You may give securities either by transfer of the certificate of ownership or through account transfer arranged by your broker. In each case, you avoid the tax on any potential gain and receive a deduction for the full fair market value of securities. To give a gift of stock, email us at staff@pathwaylearning.org, call us at 407-682-6942, or write us at P.O. Box 2062, Winter Park, FL 32790.