A Young Preacher’s Thoughts on John Frame’s “Escondido Theology”

Close to this time last year, the most controversial book in the evangelical world was Rob Bell’s Love Wins (or at least, the most controversial anticipated book release).  This year, John Frame’s Escondido Theology:  A Reformed Response to Two Kingdom Theology (hereafter, ET) has garnered a reaction from almost everyone in the Reformed community.  There has already been an entire response released from Westminster Seminary California (WSCal) written by Robert Godfrey, a response by Michael Horton, and a couple of blog posts from Daryl G. Hart.

The following is not a full-fledged review, but it is a collection of thoughts on the book by a young preacher in the Reformed tradition (my own denomination is the ARP Church).  I provide a summary of Frame’s main contentions, some helpful quotes, and my own analysis at points.  Overall, I am in agreement with Frame where he critiques ET, but that doesn’t mean he himself can’t be more balanced or is immune to critique.

Prelimary Comments

The book suffers from some immediate problems that might frustrate a serious reader.  First, the content of ET is book reviews, most of which have been published online or elsewhere.  Thus, unless you think a few new book reviews are worth $25, the book is a bit expensive. (Though I do think the introductory chapter is worth a lot to one who is interested in this debate.)

Second, Frame’s critique of ET is limited in two significant ways.  He is only critiquing three full-time professors at WSCal (Hart is an adjunct), and the critiques aren’t comprehensive.  Indeed, it is probably the case that Horton, Clark, and VanDrunen have views that are, for the most part, shared by their colleagues.  However, this isn’t necessarily clear from reading ET.  Yet, if only three full-time faculty are being critiqued, is it fair to call their views the “Escondido Theology” and perhaps implicate the rest of WSCal’s faculty?  Maybe the label “Klinean Theology” would be better, or perhaps HorClarDrunen Theology (only half kidding).  It would be a shame for all WSCal faculty to have a negative reputation.  I have personally benefited from certain full-time (Dennis Johnson) and part-time (Edward Welch, David Powlison, Timothy Lane) faculty.

In addition, whatever one thinks of Frame’s book reviews, a critique of someone’s thought should include a more comprehensive critique that spans most of the major works of the one being critiqued.  In taking Horton, for example, Frame only critiques three of Horton’s books (Christless Christianity, Covenant and Eschatology, and a very brief critique of A Better Way).  Yet, other works by Horton may need examination to offer a more competent critique (e.g. Where in the World is the Church, People and Place, The Gospel Commission, The Christian Faith, The Law of Perfect Freedom, etc.).  This would require an entire restructuring of the book, and Frame notes how he values book reviews.  Still, a different format with a more comprehensive critique of ET theologians might better serve the Reformed community.

Third, as Frame admits (p. xl-xliii), his personal history with the men critiqued and the school examined makes him a target to be accused of allowing unfair bias to color his theological critique.  Reading Frame’s testimony of his departure from WSCal is saddening to the reader.  Yet, throughout the book, Frame gives details of his tenure at WSCal that border on hearsay.  I wish Frame would have left the issue alone after the introductory chapter as his comments don’t promote unity, and they may drive away some readers. (Frame also seems less than charitable a few places in the book.  His critique of Horton’s academic climate is a bit harsh (p. 199-200), as is his handling of Hart’s book, A Secular Faith, where on p. 249, Frame asserts that Hart would call non-2k views heretical.)

Despite these setbacks, ET is a very interesting read, and I think it is an important book which covers an important theological debate.  I’ll limit the rest of my comments in examining how Frame approaches the various themes of ET.

Worship, Confessionalism, Ecclesiology

Perhaps the issue that hits home with Frame the most has to do with the doctrine of the church, ecclesiology.  Within ecclesiology are other debatable topics that Frame takes on such as worship, confessionalism, preaching, and contextualization.

The logic of Two Kingdoms extends pretty well to the above mentioned topics, and Frame often notes the logical connections for the reader.  In sum, if 2K (in the Klinean/Escondido sense) is true, then the visible church has its own isolated, separate existence from other earthly affairs.  This means that its corporate worship should be a culture unto itself, should emphasize the “not of the world” over the “in this world” motif, should concern itself with proclamation and redemptive-historical preaching, being gathered over being scattered, etc.

Another central disagreement between Frame and ET theologians is how “Reformed” is defined.  Clark in his Recovering the Reformed Confession gives a much narrower views of “Reformed” than Frame.  Frame states, “What Clark does in this book is to advocate a kind of Reformed theology and church life that appeals to him more than the recent versions…I would propose understanding the Reformed community as a historical community that began as Clark describes, but which no longer follows the original pattern in detail.”  On top of p. 73, Frame correctly asserts that the original Reformed community wasn’t uniform on everything, and greater diversity entered later.  Indeed, the amazing story of Reformed Orthodoxy is that there is much uniformity and many issues of theology, but the seeming unity that Clark describes is a stretch.  This is why the word “Reformed” has “fuzzy boundaries” (p. 74), not in the sense that any content may be poured into the term, but that no Christian theological tradition ever maintains its monolithic structure for very long.  I think many, including ET theologians, would benefit from William B. Evans’ thoughts on confessional hermeneutics.

I agree with Frame that Clark and others would seem to violate their strong stance on confessionalism.  First, issues that ET seems to make a priority for Reformed folk are not talked about in the Reformed confessions (RH preaching, law-gospel dichotomy, 2K theology, etc.).  Second, 2K theology as construed in ET is in contradiction to the original 1647 WCF in 23.2-3 (p. 87).  Even the revised versions in America, 23.3 would seem to contradict 2K theology in speaking of the civil magistrate as a “nursing father” to the church.  Frame’s point is not that 2K is necessarily wrong, or that Clark’s view of confessionalism is wrong (though he does think they are wrong).  Rather, Frame is pointing out the glaring inconsistency in ET and that history is not on their side (see Frame’s critique of Hart on this matter, p. 268-69).

Regarding contextualization in ministry, worship, and preaching, Frame goes after Horton pretty hard, though he paints all of ET as being against communicating the gospel in a relevant manner (p. 16).  At one point, Frame takes Horton’s critique of contextualization as a confusion over the relationship between God’s sovereignty of human moral responsibility (p. 20, n18). (Which itself is a confessional issue.)

While Horton’s language regarding relevance, contextualization, and communication is wrong at worst, and confusing at best, I wonder if Horton really dislikes contextualization as such but is reacting against certain movements in their attempts at contextualization (seeker-sensitive, emergent, etc.).  Frame does note Horton’s concern for communication on some level (p. 278).

I will cover some aspects on the debate over preaching later in this review, but I found Andrew Sandlin’s appendix to chapter 2 to be helpful.  In sum, Sandlin claims that Frame’s case against Horton’s view that preaching should be less about practical application, felt needs, subjective response, etc. and more about the objective work of Christ in the gospel.  Horton promotes a redemptive-historical model of preaching that some would classify as a monoredemptive-historical homiletic.  Yet, as Sandlin points out, the NT has examples of exemplary exegesis, calling the reader to positively imitate OT saints, etc.  Though Frame/Sandlin are correct, I think even they should give WSCal a little more credit with what they are trying to do.  A preacher might preach a text, and he could apply it in its micro, macro, or meta (i.e. canonical, Christ-centered) sense.  Sandlin/Frame are upset that the micro (and even macro) are swallowed up by the meta in Horton’s homiletic.  In my reading of Horton (as well as Dennis Johnson, WSCal’s preaching professor) there is an affirmation of the micro, but it should never be preached apart from the meta (the indicative –> imperative paradigm).  Obviously, the overall thrust of the NT would have us emphasize the meta and not the isolated micro, but Frame/Sandlin are correct to point out that there is no written rule in the Bible which says the preacher of a text must always give such emphasis to the meta.  I myself think the approach of WSCal is very helpful and produces great sermons (obviously, when done well, e.g. Tim Keller).  But Sandlin/Frame win the debate in terms of precision. (Interestingly, Horton has recently published a blog on “Application in Sermons” which is very different from his rhetoric in Christless Christianity.  Although, he is still off point when he claims that a sermon must never end with an exhortation or imperative, but rather must go back to the indicative of the gospel.  In general, I think ending with Christ and the gospel is the best and most affection-rousing means to end a sermon, but the Bible never states such a requirement either explicitly or implicitly.)

Two Kingdoms and Politics

Frame notes the confusing and contradictory quality of Hart and others in claiming strong historical precedent for their position while also admitting their position is contrary to the Reformers who thought through these issues within the context of Christendom (p. 4).  Indeed, Frame is correct in his critique of Clark’s book, Recovering the Reformed Confession, that 2K political theology is a distinctly American, not European, phenomenon (p. 5).  Though Kline’s exegesis provides a basis for this theology, it seems to me that 2K theology as construed in ET is a reaction to the Religious Right and other evangelical political movements.

Much of the appeal of 2K is found in David VanDrunen’s case for natural law as distinct from supernatural revelation and that natural law is both sufficient and reasonably knowable apart from Scripture.  Frame obviously disagrees with this assessment, and I would side with Frame.  Most anyone who considers themselves “Van Tilian” would lean toward Frame in this debate.  Frame agrees with VanDrunen as to the existence of natural law, but not its use (p. 128).  He also makes the excellent point that supernatural revelation is not just for sinners who need a Savior, but God gave supernatural revelation to Adam and Eve in their prefall state, even in revealing his law (p. 129).

Two problems with VanDrunen’s view of 2K that Frame points out are worth noting.  First, Frame makes a comparison between VanDrunen’s 2K and how biblical errantists claim that the Bible only speaks to spiritual matters. (p. 132) Now, to be fair to ET 2K proponents, especially VanDrunen, they do not use the language of “limited inerrantists” or errantists, but the implication of the comparison is that 2Kers may be closer to Barthianism than Reformed theology when it comes to Scripture’s application.  Its a critique worth considering.  Second, VanDrunen’s biblical-covenantal hermeneutic in support of 2K theory, Frame thinks, reads too much into the biblical text. (p. 140) As Frame noted with Hart, I wonder if our American political context influences VanDrunen’s exegesis.  It seems that an important question to ask is what is the chance that a particular relation between two kingdoms taught in God’s Word is finally realized in human history over the last two hundred years?  Did God himself presuppose “the secular” before there was a “secular”.  (Don’t tell John Milbank.  He would be crushed.)

A more balanced view of relating natural and special revelation is summarized by Frame, “God designed us to gain moral knowledge, not by supernatural revelation alone or natural revelation alone, but by an organic combination of the two.”  Many have called this a “two books” model of Christian epistemology (p. 132).  I think VanDrunen (and ET as a whole) would be better suited to argue, ala Calvin, a distinction between God as Creator and God as Redeemer, and allow Scripture to help decipher the content for each of those categories rather than the simplistic natural law perspective of VanDrunen.  This perspective could still preserves religious liberty, separation of church and state, etc.   Also, I would commend all readers to read James Anderson’s critique of VanDrunen.

Law-Gospel

For me, this is the most confusing issue in the debate over ET.  I will hear from ET the law-gospel dichotomy hermeneutic, but when I search for any quotes from them that affirm the third use of the law, I find them.  In wanting to apply the principle of charity, I should affirm ET theologians and claim that they hold to the third use of the law.

So, is Frame wrong to say that ET is “Lutheran” in its construal of law-gospel?  Frame himself “backtracks” (p. 58) and offers an important clarifying point, “Horton here again is arguing for an emphasis, certainly; I cannot believe he intends to absolutely prohibit the use of Scripture to guide us in our ‘secular’ activies.  But as he presents his argument, he gives no encouragement at all to Christians who are seeking to apply their faith to the world in which they live.” (p. 52) Perhaps this is the essential problem with ET, a lack of biblical balance.  The reactionary nature of theology and philosophy can doom many a persons.  I am thankful for the pithy saying I learned in my own seminary studies, “Be as balanced as the Bible is balanced.”  I think it is safe to say that Horton is imbalanced in his discussion of law-gospel.  Frame offers, in my view, a more balanced view of “gospel” in relation to other emphases that has some overlap with ET writings but , again, provides more balance (p. 297-98). (On p. 312 in a footnote, Frame makes the all important point that there is a difference between emphasis and antithesis.)

Concluding Thoughts

First, much of this debate gets back to key disagreements between Cornelius Van Til and Meredith Kline. Frame sets up this dichotomy early in the book.  In reading Frame’s review of Kline’s Kingom Prologue, it struck me that Kline’s change in theology came in the 1970s (or at least began to manifest itself more in that decade) – the same time that Christian Reconstructionism/Theonomy was on the rise.  Kline’s biblical and covenantal theology, which became foundation to ET, was in contrast to theonomy.  I wonder if the root cause of this theological disagreement with ET has to do with the rise of theonomy in American Reformed theology and the attempt to see it defeated in all its forms?

Second, I am sympathetic to Frame’s goal for the book.  Early on, Frame writes, “I hope to remove forever the perception that the Escondido theology is a standard of orthodoxy, or more orthodox than other forms of Reformed theology.” (p. 16)  Frame isn’t necessarily wanting his reader to primarily come away from reading this book as a Framean on preaching, worship, culture, etc.  In a surprise to some, Frame admits that certain positions of ET are “within the bounds of Reformed orthodoxy.” (p. 18) In reading Frame on this, I thought back to his article “Penultimate Thoughts on Theonomy” where he is most critical not of theonomy’s propositions, but of theonomy’s posture.  Or, rather, Frame is critical of the posture of theonomists.  In my reading of Horton, Hart, Clark, and others, I would have to agree with Frame that these theologians haven’t presented their distinctive views in the most winsome manner, and I’m afraid the reputation of WSCal has suffered for it. (Thankfully, Clark removed is often controversial blog, The Heidelblog, though Hart still writes on his Old Life blog, mainly against Frame, The Gospel Coalition, and other overtly evangelical perspectives.)  Perhaps, if Tim Keller is right, there is a softening of the Escondido edge and more unity is being forged, at least when it comes to the Christ and culture debate.

Third, Frame’s precisionist mindset and method is a partial cause of his dissonance with Horton, Hart, and Clark.  In his critique of Christless Christianity, Frame continually critiques Horton’s lack of precision (p. 26-27).  Indeed, the academic theologian Horton is a different writer than popular writer Horton (p. 199), as is the case with most theologians who are blessed with different reading audience demographics.  Like Frame, I prefer the academic theologian Horton since that Horton is more precise and nuanced.  Horton’s other work, though, is mostly polemical (certainly less irenic), and in the end, Horton’s reactionary theology leaves him wide open for critique. This is why Frame goes after Horton’s critique of Joel Osteen.  Disappointingly, many, including Horton and Clark, have claimed that Frame defends Osteen, when in reality Frame offers his own strong critique of Osteen (p. 30, 37).  I am upset that many Reformed folk, including scholars, have misread Frame on this issue.

In my own reading of Horton’s popular books, I’ve tried to be charitable and ask if he is defining terms in a manner that is less denotative and more connotative.  Two words that come to mind, again, are contextualization/relevance and subjectivity.  Its possible that Frame is correct in his strong rebuke of Horton’s handling of these concepts and terms, but I wonder if Horton is reacting to certain functions of these terms and lacks clarity to the reader.  Perhaps Frame could have (maybe should have) asked Horton for clarity, but the strained relationship between these men contributes to their lack of conversation.  (Though Frame admits in a footnote on  p. 245 that Horton may be working with different definitions of these terms.  Yet, I still agree with Frame that Horton would be of better service to readers of his popular books to provide a definition of these terms if he is abandoning the more common usage of them.) In the end, Frame rightly notes that ET theologians, like Horton, would be better off to provide examples and analysis of relevance/contextualization so that there would be less confusion as to where Horton and others stand on the issue (p. 296).

Also, Frame takes Clark to task for his lack of clarity and charity (p. 77).  I wonder if Clark and others were more charitable and had more clarity if there would be more Christlike conversation between Frame and ET theologians.  Then again, part of this lack of unity may be due to Horton and Frame’s disagreement as to how the Reformed community relates to evangelical Christians with Horton’s “Village Green” analogy (p.155).

While I don’t suspect that this book will foster greater unity between the scholars involved in this debate, perhaps the goal of Frame’s book will fulfilled (i.e. younger theologians not viewing ET as the only Reformed option).  I myself know young men in seminary who used to agree with ET theologians on these controversial issues, but now they would offer a critique in the same way Frame does (at least on some issues).  So, I don’t see WSCal recruiting and influencing young pastors and young men to their “tribe” as well as other sectors in the American Reformed context are doing.

About these ads

20 thoughts on “A Young Preacher’s Thoughts on John Frame’s “Escondido Theology”

  1. Thanks. I was wondering about this and knew there was some strong push back from Westminster West.
    I admit to being very frustrated when I read Escondido guys like Clark, Stedman and Horton’s more polemical works (he can be quite good when he’s not being critical). They focus on the kingdom of God and don’t really address how to live in the kingdom of God.
    Just Sunday we were talking about this at church and the push back to theonomy was raised. I also agree they pick the wrong things to be “confessional” about- often majoring in the minors while playing willy nilly with things actually in the WCF (this was particularly true of Clark’s book). They seem like a Reformed-Lutheran hybrid. Perhaps because they serve in more Continental Reformed groups than Puritan/Presbyterian branches of the Reformed Heritage (Hart & Stedman excepted).
    I guess Frame’s own humanity (fallen) is revealed as he allows the personal history to perhaps color things. I know things there ended in an ugly fashion. Gossip is like a tasty morsel, but I need not know the details of it.
    Hope you’re weathering all the changes well.

    • Thanks for your insights Steve. I hope that better, more unifying, days are ahead for the Reformed community, and the evangelical church.

      Our changes for our family are going well. We are moving to Rock Hill, SC this Saturday and will begin our ministry officially on April 1, assuming everything goes well at presbytery on March 13.

  2. Great review Daniel. I have not read Frame’s book, but I have read a bit of Horton on the two kingdom issue. I do wish that, given Frame’s history with Westminster West, that someone else could have written this book. This is an important debate. Horton can be quite polemic and therefore he tends to draw his lines in the two kingdom debate a bit narrowly. How does he see these issues working out in the church? I like DeYoung’s What is the Mission of the Church better. He seems to take a two kingdom view, but is willing to be a bit more flexible in his working out of the issues in a real church with real people living in a real culture. I agree with your observation that Horton is probably fighting against some abuses that he sees in Reformed circles where the church can do almost anything and call it Kingdom work. And, he also understands that this can lead the church away from its primary goal of Gospel proclamation in Word ministry. There is a great video somewhere of Horton and Keller conversing on this.
    Blessings to you…

  3. “I myself know young men in seminary who used to agree with ET theologians on these controversial issues, but now they would offer a critique in the same way Frame does (at least on some issues). So, I don’t see WSCal recruiting and influencing young pastors and young men to their “tribe” as well as other sectors in the American Reformed context are doing.”

    I really do hope that you’re right, Daniel Wells!

    Congratulations on your first baby!!

  4. Good review. Fair, thorough, clearly willing to take stances on different sides of different issues without towing some kind of party line. I appreciate your approach, even though we disagree on some matters.

    As I am a WSC alum – and one at that who feels greatly blessed by his time studying with the *entire* faculty (yes, even Horton, Clark and VanDrunen!) – hopefully my compliment will speak to the care and thoughtfulness of your review.

    Thank you posting this!

    • Andrew, thank you for your kind words. Also glad to hear you had a positive experience at WSC. My first seminary class ever was with Horton (he taught “Ministry in a Postmodern Context” at RTS Charlotte in summer 2008). Great experience. Also pretty cool to have pizza lunch with a well-known scholar.

      • Daniel,

        Why isn’t this a defense of some of Osteen’s health & wealth theology?

        “I think the word “entirely” overstates Osteen’s position, but certainly he does believe that our attitudes, actions, and obedience are necessary to receive the full blessings of God’s grace. Here I think Osteen is quite right, though Horton associates his position with Pelagianism and Gnosticism. Scripture often teaches that obedience is the road to the fullness of God’s blessing, indeed that obedience is the mark of a living faith. See Matt. 5:1-12, 43-45, 6:2-6, Gal. 5:6, James 2:14-26. Paul presents the proper balance:
         
        …work out your own salvation with fear and trembling, 13 for it is God who works in you, both to will and to work for his good pleasure. (Phil. 2:12b-13).”

      • Dr. Clark,

        It is true that Frame defends an aspect of Osteen’s practice over and against what he perceives to be an overreaction from Horton. But if you look on pages 30 and 37 of Frame’s book, you see that he is also critical of Osteen. My point is that we shouldn’t present Frame as “defending Osteen’s theology” as if Frame buys into the whole product. Frame seems to be merely doing the work of a systematician and logician in being more nuanced in his critique. Certainly, Horton comes at it from a more polemical angle. Perhaps unlike Frame, I have nothing against this approach, but I think it explains where Frame and Horton are missing each other.

        Indeed, theological dialogue demands charity in our interpretation of another’s work. I must take Frame at his word when he offers a significant critique of Osteen, even while he also claims that not every ‘jot and tittle’ from Osteen is bad.

        Blessings,
        Daniel

      • Daniel,

        With all due respect (and I mean that) it is quite telling that John chooses to defend Osteen on this point. This is at the heart of Osteen’s health and wealth theology.

        Is it true that our “attitudes, actions, and obedience are necessary to receive the full blessings of God’s grace”? Really? Under what covenant? By God’s free, unconditional favor (grace) I am in a covenant of grace (as defined). My reception of God’s “full blessings” is not contingent on my “attitudes, actions, and obedience.” Were it so, grace would no longer be grace! (Rom 11:6 “But if it is by grace, it is no longer on the basis of works; otherwise grace would no longer be grace.”).

        So, not only does John concur with Osteen’s confusion of works and grace (which, doubtless, connects to John’s ardent defense of Norman Shepherd’s doctrine of justification through grace and faithfulness, a doctrine that most of the confessional Reformed denominations, including John’s own, have judged to be contrary to God’s Word) but it is the very crassest form of the prosperity gospel.

        I’m not a bigot. I’m willing to admit if Osteen gets something right but he hasn’t done it yet.

        Isn’t this a case of John being so opposed to Horton (and other Reformed confessionalists) that he’s blind to Osteen’s gross errors in his attempt to find a place from which to criticize Horton, whom he knows a priori to be wrong.

        Why is it that John is more hostile to and sharper in his criticisms of folk, however frail they may be, who are trying to be faithful to God’s Word as confessed by the Reformed churches and so accommodating to the worst manifestations of evangelical excess like Osteen?

        Why does multi-perspectivalism seem only to work in favor of the Osteen’s of the world (and the theonomists and the federal visionists et al) and not the confessionalists? Doesn’t that tell us something both about the nature of the method and its chief practitioner?

      • Dr. Clark,

        I’ll respond to the first half of your comment as the second half seems to border on some of the personal issues between Frame and WSCal, and I don’t want to get involved in that discussion. My personal opinion is that some sort of mediated session needs to take place for confession of sin, repentance, and reconciliation.

        Regarding whether our “attitudes, actions, and obedience are necessary to receive the full blessings of God’s grace”, I think it depends on how we define ‘full blessings of God’s grace.’ In context, Frame seems to be less concerned with justification or glorification, but more concerned with sanctification (though with regard to glorification, Frame could cite WCF 13.1). And, he could cite WCF 13.3; 16.2-3, 6; 18:3-4 as evidence of believers growing in grace, in part, through obedience wrought by the Spirit. WCF 18 on assurance especially notes discipline/punishment for those who go astray for a time as well as coming into the grace of assurance at a point in their Christian walk.

        Also, if you want to bring in WSCal’s particular stance on covenant, law/gospel, that is fine. Just know that many Reformed scholars and pastors who might disagree with Frame’s views on worship, evangelicalism, etc. would side with him on covenant and law/gospel. I’m not making a ruling on the issues myself, but it needs to be pointed out that those issues aren’t intrinsically tied to Frame’s view of Horton and Osteen, as if one will favor Osteen if they differ with WSCal profs on law/gospel and covenant.

        Blessings,
        Daniel

      • Daniel,

        I didn’t intend to be personal. I appreciated John as a prof and continue to appreciate aspects of his work but I do think we have to face squarely that he has publicly supported movements that are at odds with confessional Reformed theology and practice. Observing those facts is not personal. I’m asking: what makes it possible for him to do so and to be so critical of Reformed confessionalism? Has he been as charitable toward confessionalism as he has been toward the FV? Is that a fair question?

        At least part of “full blessings” entails health and wealth. Again, the question is how John can support that. John taught us in our Christian Life (ethics) course that there is a relation between our obedience and material blessings. John knows his own mind and he genuinely agrees with Osteen on this.

        What WSC “particular stance”? The Westminster Standards are not a peculiar property of Westminster Seminary California are they? The covenants of redemption (pactum salutis), works, and grace are the common property of all Reformed folk for centuries.

        I’m saying that, by making the “full blessings” John and Osteen have placed believers under a covenant of works. Now, to be sure, I think that civil life, including employment is a sort of covenant of works (2 Thess 3:10) but we don’t confess, do we, that God blesses us proportionally to our obedience? Were that so wouldn’t we all starve?

      • Dr. Clark,

        While you know Frame better than I do, in my reading of his works I have seen him be critical of theonomy, Federal Vision, Norman Shepherd, etc. If you and others want to complain that he isn’t as critical of them as he is of ‘confessionalists’ as you define them, that isn’t my issue or the concern of my review. I’m sure Frame’s debate with certain professors of WSCal plays into that, which is unfortunate in some measure, though understandable in a way.

        I have never picked up in Frame’s work that his view of “full blessings” does ‘entail’ health and wealth as Osteen and others would present it. For the third time, I would point you to pages 30 and 37 of Escondido Theology and see Frame’s critique of Osteen. Again, it is important to read other theologians in context and be charitable in interpretation.

        How does Frame conclude that just because a believer can obey God with their heart, mind, soul and strength that they may grow in grace and in God’s blessing (which may or may not include temporal blessings, such is up to God’s providence), he is placing them under the covenant of works? Again, go back to my previous comment where the WCF speaks of believers being blessed and punished by God according to their obedience. The issue is once of sanctification in those sections of the confession.

        Part of the confusion and disagreement may be due to different views of the covenant of works being recapitulated in the Mosaic covenant, which is a debated issue in Reformed circles today.

        Blessings,
        Daniel

      • Daniel,

        1) I’m not sure that the doctrine of republication is entirely relevant. Even so it’s not an WSC peculiarity. Versions of it were taught widely in both the 16 and 17th centuries and thereafter (e.g., Boston). The idea that the Mosaic, old covenant was a legal covenant, if only to illustrate the first use of the law, was virtually universally taught. The fact that it’s considered idiosyncratic today says more about our relative ignorance of the Reformed tradition than it does about the doctrine itself. One finds the same situation relative to the Pactum Salutis. Just because some modern Reformed writers (e.g., Berkouwer) expressed disdain doesn’t mean that it’s not a historic Reformed view.

        2) I wonder if you appreciate how strongly John has defended Norm Shepherd’s right to revise the doctrine of justification. John was on Norm’s side during the original controversy and has published repeatedly in defense of the right of the self-described Federal Visionists to teach their doctrine. A few years back he described, in print, as “stupid” those who dare say that the Shepherd/FV is a denial of the gospel. That makes the URCs, the OPC report, the PCA GA et al “stupid.”

  5. Dr. Clark,

    Perhaps Dr. Frame is defending evangelicals against the dogmatic assertions of the Christian “elite” who profess to have the purist version of the truth and make everyone who disagrees with them 2nd class citizens of the kingdom on the Village Green?

    • Ron,

      Do you want to let Osteen on the green? Is he an “evangelical”? I’m not an elitist, I’m a confessionalist. I’m a member of and a minister in the Reformed churches who confess a certain understanding of God’s Word. John is also one of those but he doesn’t seem to feel bound by those confessions in the same way I do. He’s tolerant of what the Reformed churches have judged as error on justification and on the 2nd commandment, to name just two.

      Why is democratic v elitist the right category for this discussion? Why not right and wrong or confessional and unconfessional?

      • Dr. Clark,

        A confessionalist’s “certain understanding of God’s Word” should not be confused with God’s Word itself. This is the heart of the matter. Those who hold to the essentials of the faith, but have an insufficient understanding of lesser matters are not 2nd class citizens of the kingdom. He whom Christ has received I will not reject, and He doesn’t only receive those who hold to the WCF. Only loving, respecting, recognizing, and serving those who do is elitist. None of us have it perfectly right, and what does each one of us have (confession of faith included) that we did not receive?

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s