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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:


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).


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 (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).

Marsden PhotoProfessor of History Emeritus at Notre Dame, George Marsden is one of today’s foremost historians and award-winning authors who has written extensively on the relationship between Christianity and American culture—especially American Evangelicalism and Fundamentalism (Understanding Fundamentalism and Evangelicalism, Reforming Fundamentalism, Fundamentalism and American Culture, etc).

He is most well known for his award-winning biography of Jonathan Edwards (Jonathan Edwards: A Life), a prominent 18th century American pastor, theologian, and philosopher who played a critical role in the First Great Awakening and Christian revivals in Colonial America.

Marsden has recently written another groundbreaking book reflecting on how American public life might better accommodate the rise of religious pluralism. In The Twilight of the AmericaMarsden Twilight Bookn Enlightenment (Perseus Books, Feb 2014) he seeks to explain why Christianity has become increasingly excluded from the public sphere, resulting in an assortment of religious crises and “culture wars.” Marsden offers an insightful analysis of the decline of culture in America since the 1950’s along with thought-provoking ways to consider applying Protestant principles from the early republic to today. For more, read the Amazon summary below:

In the aftermath of World War II, the United States stood at a precipice. The forces of modernity unleashed by the war had led to astonishing advances in daily life, but technology and mass culture also threatened to erode the country’s traditional moral character. As award-winning historian George M. Marsden explains in The Twilight of the American Enlightenment, postwar Americans looked to the country’s secular, liberal elites for guidance in this precarious time, but these intellectuals proved unable to articulate a coherent common cause by which America could chart its course. Their failure lost them the faith of their constituents, paving the way for a Christian revival that offered America a firm new moral vision—one rooted in the Protestant values of the founders. A groundbreaking reappraisal of the country’s spiritual reawakening, The Twilight of the American Enlightenment shows how America found new purpose at the dawn of the Cold War.