Framing John Frame Part 1: Introducing the Man and His Message

Steve —  May 12, 2017 — Leave a comment

Yesterday, after 49 years of service as a seminary professor at three seminaries, Dr. John Frame taught his last class at RTS Orlando. 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 first of a four-part series taken from the foreword I wrote for Frame’s 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 PhotoJOHN M. FRAME (b. 1939) is a Calvinist theologian and American philosopher especially known for his work in systematic theology, Christian apologetics, and ethics. In the tradition of John Calvin (Tracts and Treatises),[1] Jonathan Edwards (Miscellanies),[2] B. B. Warfield (Selected Shorter Writings),[3] and Herman Bavinck (Selected Shorter Works),[4] Frame has now published his own Selected Shorter Writings.

Similar to those who have benefited only from J. I. Packer’s more well-known books such as Knowing God,[5] but have never tapped the riches of his lesser-known writings (e.g., his Introductory Essay to John Owen’s The Death of Death in the Death of Christ[6]), those who have benefited only from Frame’s more well-known books can now mine the riches of his lesser-known, shorter writings.

Before publication of this book, most of these rare theological and philosophical gems had been hidden away as Frame’s book appendices or as electronic files or articles posted on websites and blogs not widely known to the public. This book, however, is not merely a compilation of appendices and articles. Instead, these chapters are mostly unpublished essays of Frame’s thought as part of the culmination of a remarkable career as an author and a teacher of theology and philosophy.

Building on his education at Princeton, Westminster Seminary, and Yale, Frame distinguished himself as an outstanding theologian during thirty-one years on the faculty of Westminster Theological Seminary in Philadelphia and California. Since 2000, he has been on the faculty of Reformed Theological Seminary in Orlando as professor of systematic theology and philosophy. He teaches apologetics, systematic theology, ethics, and history of philosophy and Christian thought.

During his decades as a seminary professor, Frame has distinguished himself as a prolific author, publishing books and articles not only in the areas of apologetics, theology, and ethics, but also in worship, film, music, and other media.

Among his larger theological works is his highly acclaimed and award-winning Theology of Lordship series, including The Doctrine of the Knowledge of God (1987),[7] The Doctrine of God (2002),[8] The Doctrine of the Christian Life (2008),[9] and The Doctrine of the Word of God (2010).[10] Frame is especially noted for his work in epistemology and presuppositional apologetics. He is considered one of the foremost interpreters and critics of the thought of the late Christian apologist Cornelius Van Til, whom he studied under at Westminster Seminary.

In Frame’s first book, The Doctrine of the Knowledge of God (1987), he elaborates his Christian epistemology, which he calls triperspectivalismand argues that in order to appreciate the richness of attaining true knowledge, a person must understand that knowledge always involves the integration of three perspectives: the normative, situational, and existential.


tri-300x73His triperspectivalism has made a profound impact on church leaders today, including his practical application of Christ’s offices as Prophet (normative), Priest (existential), and King (situational) to all of life and ministry. Frame’s passion to see the lordship of the triune God in every sphere of thought and life is contagious. And this needed contagion is now spreading to multitudes of Christians and church leaders at a critical time.

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 [11]—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, Part 2: The Major Influencers on His Thought


[1] John Calvin and Henry Beveridge, Tracts and Treatises of John Calvin (Eugene, OR: Wipf and Stock, 2004)

[2] Jonathan Edwards, The Works of Jonathan Edwards,vol. 13, The Miscellanies: A–500, ed. Thomas A. Schafer (New Haven, CT: Yale University Press, 1994); vol. 18, The Miscellanies: 501–832, ed. Ava Chamberlain (New Haven, CT: Yale University Press, 2000); vol. 20, The Miscellanies: 833–1152, ed. Amy Plantinga Pauw (New Haven, CT: Yale University Press, 2002); vol. 23,The Miscellanies: 1153–1360, ed. Douglas A. Sweeney (New Haven, CT: Yale University Press, 2004).

[3] Benjamin Breckinridge Warfield, Selected Shorter Writings, ed. John Meeter (Phillipsburg, NJ: P&R Publishing, 2001).

[4] Herman Bavinck, Selected Shorter Works (Portland, OR: Monergism Books, 2011).

[5] J. I. Packer, Knowing God. 20th anniversary ed. (InterVarsity Press, 1993).

[6] John Owen, The Death of Death in the Death of Christ: A Treatise in Which the Whole Controversy about Universal Redemption Is Fully Discussed (London: Banner of Truth, 1959).

[7] John M. Frame, The Doctrine of the Knowledge of God (Phillipsburg, NJ: Presbyterian and Reformed, 1987).

[8]John M. Frame, The Doctrine of God (Phillipsburg, NJ: P&R Publishing, 2002).

[9]John M. Frame, The Doctrine of the Christian Life (Phillipsburg, NJ: P&R Publishing, 2008).

[10]John M. Frame, The Doctrine of the Word of God (Phillipsburg, NJ: P&R Publishing, 2010).

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