Today is a day that many will celebrate as Reformation Day. Now, I don't have problems with people and churches looking for days to remember and celebrate the Reformation. I want to be clear about that. In fact, the church I pastor often has a celebration, a joint service with the OPC church in town, and it is great.
But historically, is this the day the Reformed ought to be lifting up?
No, I think we have to say no. October 31st is the day that Martin Luther posted his 95 theses, so it is a nice and easy day to point and say here it begins. But, really the 31st is the day the Lutheran Church is born, and in reality that has little to do with the Reformed Church. In fact, the Lutherans hated the Reformed Church for centuries. Luther said we were of a different spirit, the Lutheran teamed up with the Romanists to try and kill us in the 30 Years War. Some of their ministers actually said we were worse than Islam.
Our Reformed forefathers always pointed to a different day . . . January 1st, 1519. This was the day that Zwingli proclaimed he would preach straight through the book of Matthew throwing out the Lectionary. The 100th Anniversary was celebrated at the Synod of Dort on January 1, 1619. The RCUS Directory of worship suggests that churches may keep several days if they wish, and one of those days is January 1. Now, I have always assumed it was because of the New Year, but it may actually be because it is the anniversary of our Reformation. Hard to say.
In the end, the point is remembering October 31st only points to the Lutheran Church, and it is very different than the Reformed Church. Very different indeed. Remember this in a few years when people want to celebrate 500 years of the Reformation in 2017. That celebration has to be focused on Luther. The day we want is January 1, 2019. That way we can focus on the Reformed Church.
Wednesday, October 31, 2012
Today is a day that many will celebrate as Reformation Day. Now, I don't have problems with people and churches looking for days to remember and celebrate the Reformation. I want to be clear about that. In fact, the church I pastor often has a celebration, a joint service with the OPC church in town, and it is great.
Wednesday, September 05, 2012
Wednesday, July 11, 2012
The title of this chapter is called "A Defense of Christian Activism" and is really the most important chapter in the book. This is not Frame reviewing a book, but rather putting forth his defense of Transformationalism.
He begins by simply trying to point out some of the important ways Christianity has influenced the world. And while there is no denying that Christianity changed the world that is not what is really at issue in the Transformationalism and Two Kingdoms debate. Rather it is how that influence and change is brought about that is debated. However, I did have a slight problem with one of Frame's examples. He claimed Christianity brought about democracy. I don't think that is right. He cited Lex Rex but the pagan Athenians had something akin to Democracy, and Parliament existed long before the Reformation got to England. This one I think is stretching it quite a bit. Christianity existed quite well under rulers such as Charlamagne without a hint of Democracy. To prove that Christianity produced Democracy is a large task that Frame does not try, and in fact, I think it impossible.
Frame does get around to discussing the question of how God changes a society when he begins to interact with Horton's article in Christianity Today. Frame holds that Horton misunderstands changing a society with a sword and influencing it with politics. Horton holds that there is no such thing as Christian politics, and Frame seems to disagree. The two men really talk past each other as Horton states things such as Christians should not seek to transform their workplace, nation, or neighborhood into the Kingdom of Christ. Frame agrees if what Horton means is transform the workplace into the church, but disagrees if what Horton means is make it a better workplace through taking every thought captive to Christ. But Horton does mean transform it into the church! I think the two men fundamentally disagree on what "the Kingdom of God" is in reality. Horton and the Two Kingdom men seem to equate this with the church or at least link it so close that the difference is hard to find. Frame and most Transformationalists separate the Kingdom of God into something different from the church that involves the Kingship of Christ in society at large. Horton and the other Two Kingdom men would never ever advocate not living by Christian standards in the workplace, but they would argue that is not the same as bringing in the Kingdom of Christ.
Frame does point out that Horton and other Two Kingdom men do criticize culture, and he finds that at odds with their theology. I think it is again a case of not understanding the Two Kingdoms fully. As I read men like VanDrunen and Horton I think they very well can criticize the culture even in a Two Kingdoms way especially on things that go against the Noahic Covenant such as sodomy and sodomite marriage, and even abortion. I think what Two Kingdom men are trying to do is twofold, not bind the conscious of people on questions that are not violations of the Word such as Democracy. One does not have to believe Democracy is the best in the world or even a Christian product! One does not have to vote Republican. But the main thing they are doing is trying to return the emphasis of the church to the gospel and saving souls. Transformationalism puts emphasis on changing the culture, and it either clouds or distorts the gospel, in their opinion.
The main question between these two camps remains to be is the culture changed by a church proclaiming the gospel and lives being changed by conversion to Christ, or is it changed by a Church being salt and light in the political and cultural sphere keeping and even upgrading the lives of everyone through the wisdom of God.
Tuesday, June 05, 2012
Providentially after reviewing the Frame critique of Rev. Jason Stelleman, Stelleman appears to have gone apostate and gone back to Rome.
First, no matter what one's position on Two Kingdoms, we ought to be able to mourn together, pray for the man and his family to repent, and pray for the church that just had their pastor go back to Rome.
Second, some interesting thoughts are coming out on this. The best of which so far is (not surprisingly) Carl Trueman. Trueman makes some excellent points. His main idea is one about high-churchism and putting church before the gospel. He does not directly state it is a probably with the Two Kingdom view, but they are pretty big on church. In fact, it is one of their critiques of the Transformationalists that the church is minimized. Trueman is right if church is elevated above gospel then Rome seems like the best place because they have long ago elevated their church above the gospel of Jesus Christ. Of course Doug Wilson argues that the problem is the 'TR' view of Sola Fide and then goes into the Federal Vision rants. And Wilson has a point if you don't really believe in Sola Fide and want works as part of your salvation then the Federal Vision can give you that. Just like Rome.
Which ultimately is my point here, neither Two Kingdoms nor Transformationalism necessarily lead to Rome. However, both sides can lead to Rome. If Two Kingdoms men lift church so high as to lose sight of the gospel, as Trueman suggests, then Rome is the next logical step. If Transformationalists lift cultural change up so high they lose sight of the gospel, they will begin to include works as part of the basis of salvation, and Rome is their next logical step.
Stelleman's admission here will surely launch a bunch of attacks on the 2K theology as leading to Rome. After all the 2K guys have said it about the Transforamtionalists as they lost men to Rome. Instead, both sides need to realize the enemy is not each other, but Rome. Rome and her false gospel and seductive words have just stolen a man. Or rather he has left us to show he was not of us.
Tuesday, May 29, 2012
Frame spends chapter 9 examining the book Dual Citizens by Jason Stellman. Stellman is a blogger and pastor by trade. But as Frame points out that Stellman is a graduate of Westminster Seminary California and was completely in attendance there after the whole sale changes that ran out Professor Frame. Thus, he stands as an example of the kind of thinking one might could expect from WSC grads.
Frame and Stellman disagree first on the definition of worship. Frame has a strict definition, which is the corporate gathering of the people of God, and then the broad definition that all of life is worship. It is this second definition that Stellman disagrees with. Stellman wishes to draw a distinction between the sacred and the secular. The Patriarchs are often used such as how Abraham interacts with the pagan rulers of the land in which he lives. He buys land from them, lived among them, and even fought along side of them. Frame counters with Melchizedeck at that fight blessing Abraham, and focuses more on the theocracy set up by Moses.
But it is in the worship section that they really start to disagree. And while I am not sure I like all Stellman has to say about worship, Frame's arguments about worship just cannot be forced to fit into the Three Forms of Unity and the understanding of the Second Commandment at all. Frame argues here that anything that brings the gospel really is okay. Drum sets are mentioned, but he goes far beyond just instrument selection. Frame advocates video clips, power point presentations, and Frame really leaves no room to reject such things as puppet shows and drama although the last two are not specifically endorsed. How that fits wit the Catechism's desire that the people be instructed by the "lively preaching of the word" is beyond me. In fact, one thinks of Psalm 115:1-8 about the idols and how they have no ears, or eyes, or mouths, and so is everyone who trusts in them. The phrase comes up again in Psalm 132 if I remember correctly. The Bible seems quite clear that the teaching of God's people ought to be done how the Lord pleases, not according to our own fancies, lest we become like what we worship.
Not all of Frame's arguments are bad. I do think Frame is right that Chapter 4 about Christianity working best as an underdog and a minority is not right. Frame rightly points to the blessing of Abraham and the countless number of the stars in the sky and the sand on the shore. One could have also pointed to history. Christianity is in the minority now, and are we truly better off than when we were a majority say in Charlamagne's time? Hard to call all of history when the church dominated as bad simply by converting more than were unconverted or at least attending. Was the church doing something wrong by being the majority? I can't buy it.
I would have liked to see Frame interact more with the book of Ecclesiastes. Stellman brings it up, but Frame just mentions a difference of opinion and goes no further into the matter. I think the book may have very helpful insights into this debate about Christian living in the culture. Yet, Frame gives no real exegesis to the book at all. A shame.
The third use of the law comes up at the end of the chapter. I have trouble evaluating this section because I am not sure I understand Setllman to be saying the same thing Frame thinks he is saying. Frame paints it more as a complete denial of the third use, and mocks the important qualifiers such as "usually" that are often thrown in. I do wish Stellman had developed it more himself as the Heidelberg clearly has a section for the law under Christian living of thanksgiving. But I am not prepared to see the WSC men as completely denying the third use of the law. I just don't see it.
Thursday, May 17, 2012
Chapter 8 was easily the most pointless of the entire book. It is a review of three books about worship. The title of Frame's book is The Escondido Theology, but the subtitle is A Reformed Response to Two Kingdom Theology. This chapter on worship has nothing to do with Two Kingdoms. And this is a major point. I think we ought to start seeing a difference between the Escondido Theology and Two Kingdoms.
I say that not because I disagree with the three books reviewed. The only point Frame makes that I find even remotely on target in this chapter is that he points out that a book by Marva Dawn entitled Reaching Out without Dumbing Down claims to be a new path through the worship wars, and it really is nothing new. Marva Dawn argues for traditional worship without being up front about it. Frame does not like this because Frame favors new stuff in worship. I don't like it because they ought to just say out loud that the traditional way is right and then argue for it. We don't need a new way through the worship wars we need to win them. But then Dawn is not associated with the seminary, I don't think. The book did get a nod from Horton's worship book A Better Way.
The most interesting stuff came in the review of D.G. Hart and John Meuther who co-wrote With Reverence and Awe. Here Frame seems to deny the idea of a dialogue form of worship. He does not come out and say so, but seems to have his "snark" on full blast when complaining that Hart and Muether believe reformed worship does require that form. I think that Hart and Muether are right, and in fact, it is hard not read the Reformers are requiring it in worship. Modern worship has no support among the Reformers. Now, Frame refuses to actually interact much in this chapter. Rather he complains and then directs people to his book Worship in Spirit and Truth. He does make sure to add that Hart has failed to overthrow the argument of Frame's own book. No bias there I am sure. Overall this 6 page chapter adds nothing to the book, and really should have just been left out. One gets the idea it was not left out because Frame refused to leave his pet subject alone.
Tuesday, April 17, 2012
The Bayly Bros really hate the 2K Theology. They show it again in this post on Escondido Theology. This post is the epitome of all that is wrong with this debate. This post makes Frame look sane and in control of himself.
Just take the name "2K Sanhedrin". Wow. Horton, VanDrunen, and the others are modern day examples of people who put to death Stephen and whipped Peter and John? Really? That is insane. I still don't understand this vitriol.
But the majority of the post is a screed against Reformed ministers as a whole for not speaking out against social ills and basically calling the Escondido crowd liars for pretending it is a real problem. That is clear from this line: "These R2K men working hard to gag Reformed pastors and elders really have no one at all to gag. And they know it." I find it hard to believe that these guys manufactured this stuff. But I guess the Bayly Bros know best.
They insult all of us by calling us cowards and claim there are no men who preach against the ills of such things as abortion. Never mind the RCUS has passed something specifically stating that God will not long hold back judgment on a country that slaughters its young. But I guess that does not make the Bayly Bros point, so they get to ignore it. I know pastors who write letters to papers, and make phone calls, and yet the Bayly Bros think such men don't exist. There is nothing like someone throwing around insults of cowardice without actually having any proof.
But more important to our current line of investigation is the picture of the Christian ministry painted by the Bayly Bros. It is not just abortion they think should be denounced from the pulpit. In addition to abortion he mentions euthanasia, picketing nursing homes (that have been "Third Reichified"), and politics in general. Perhaps an argument can be made for some of this, but then they go to NSA wiretaps and possible data mining. This I don't get. Preaching against NSA wiretaps. Preaching against data mining. Now, I can agree that these wire taps are against the Constitution. But let us not confuse the Constitution with the Holy Word. What text should one choose to condemn such behavior? Surely not the "be quick to listen" verses of James. That might be taken wrong. And what application is there for the people in the pew? What exactly are they going to do? Not pay their taxes in an attempt to send the NSA out of business? Throw away their cell phones?
This is the sort of extreme behavior that make the 2K guys look very attractive.
Tuesday, April 10, 2012
Chapter 7 is a review of A Secular Faith by D.G. Hart. Hart is of course one who often gives as good as he gets, so one might could expect some fireworks. I am not a fan of this new type of communication where the one with the sharpest barb wins, but perhaps it is just because I am not so good at it.
Frame does make an odd attack at the beginning where he points out derogatorily that the Escondido group is mostly historians. He does not explain why this is awful, but clearly implies it. It is even stranger because Frame admits the book is an excellent history book.
Hart's book hits on the most upsetting aspect of 2K theology to most people: politics. Hart states "that the basic teachings of Christianity are virtually useless in solving America's political disputes" (Hart pg. 11). Although he does admit influence from the church on society but one that is mostly "indirect and unintentional" (pg. 233). Frame obviously takes issue with such an idea and especially the idea that this is the historic reformed position. It fits with Frame's absolutizing accusation against the Escondido theologians. Frame further complains when Hart allows for implications and motivations taken from Scripture for secular activities, which is apparently different from teachings or commands. This Frame rightly points out would make it hard to enforce if it truly is the only acceptable position when you are dealing with implications and motivations.
The interesting part of Frame's critique comes in interacting with Hart on the Biblical text especially in John. John 18:36 where Jesus says that HIs kingdom is not of this world is the first major battle ground. Hart takes this as evidence that Christ's kingdom is indeed different from the secular political kingdom since he is saying it to Pilate, a Roman official. Frame counters with counting up the references to "world" in John chapters 14-18, which he totals at 43. Most refer to the earthly physical realm, not politics. Frame then argues that Jesus is saying that the Kingdom is from the Father above the earthly realm rather than Hart's assertion that the kingdom is of a different character entirely. The reading and understanding of this verse has great implications for other places in John such as 15:19 and 17:16 where the disciples are said to be "not of the world". Does this mean the disciples are to be of another character entirely or are they from the Father above. Can you see the difference now of Frame's Transformationalism? The kingdom is not of a different nature, it is just from a different origin. Hart would rather it be of a different nature than the human politics and human power. Frame goes on to discuss the Kingdom coming to earth in places like Luke 17:21, where it is said to be amidst them already. For Frame this kingdom coming to earth is simply coming from the Father, but can come in the same manner as an earthly kingdom. It is not different in its nature, only its source. Thus, Christian political parties are a good thing because they help usher in the kingdom. Christian labor unions can be good because they too bring the Kingdom of God from the Father. Hart sees unions and governments as not instruments capable of bringing the Kingdom because the Kingdom of God is not of the same nature as earthly kingdoms. It comes about through foolishness of preaching and through the power of the Suffering Servant. They end up being wildly different.
The second biblical discussion is about "render unto Caesar what is Caesar's and to God what is God's" in Matthew 22:21 and Luke 20:25. Hart sees this verse as a 2K separation. Caesar is a pagan and yet his government is legitimate and to be lived under and submitted to even in taxes, an odious thing. Frame thinks the passage teaches rather that God is the ultimate ruler of everything and has simply granted Caesar some of it for a time and that is why he is to be submitted to at all. In fact, Frame points out that simply because it might be legitimate does not mean that is the ideal way to live. In other words, Frame is saying that Jesus's silence about transforming the government to a Christian one means nothing, but Hart is saying Jesus is silent, and it means everything. For why would Jesus be silent if he meant for us to try and transform the government?
One other part that needs to be noted is that Hart does state the Bible is the guide only for "church life" and politics is supposed to be guided by "reason and prudence". Frame attacks this as a reduction of Christ's sovereignty and Bible's place in a Christians life. And I have to say here I agree with Frame. It is hard to read II Timothy 3:16-17 as a guide only for church life.
But Hart is militating against the use of Scripture for a particular political stance, and really what Biblical text can you point to for a program of reducing taxes? What about opposing Social Security? Or supporting it? Hart in fact points out that Christianity is an intolerant exclusive religion, how then can it support a government that is tolerant of differing faiths if transformationalism is true? And here I think Hart is right. Frame of course disagrees and actually says "I do in fact believe that in a general sense government should be theocratic. . . . [acknowledging] Jesus Christ as king of kings." (Frame pg.265). And there you have the main difference. I think it comes back to Hart's "implications and motivations". But we ought to be able to fellowship with someone who has a different political opinion than we do. I am not sure Frame' view allows for such things. Churches ought to be all of the same political persuasion, the Christian political one.
This chapter was very good for the biblical arguments, but I think Frame goes to far afield when he advocates government spreading the Kingdom of Christ.
Monday, March 19, 2012
It has taken me a little longer to post this review because I believe this chapter is a very important one in the book. In this chapter Frame deals with Michael Horton's Covenant and Eschatology. This is a 42 page review of Horton's book, but 32 of the pages deal with Horton's first chapter. This I think is important as it shows a methodological difference between the two camps. Horton in his book argues for five methodological tools, and Frame takes them one at a time.
1. Post-Reformation Scholastics
Horton wants to take seriously the Reformed Scholastics. Frame argues that Horton does not do so and points to the volume of quotes from others. This also fits nicely into Frame's mantra that the Escondido Theology is absolutizing a portion of the Reformed Heritage and claiming it as the only orthodox solution. I do think also that this applies to others in the Escondido group. There does appear to be an affinity for 17th century theologians of the Reformation. One thing that I think Frame and Horton both do not do justice to is that the Reformed Scholastics were Scholastics because of a method that they used. The Scholastic Method. I think it is probably better to just view this as 17th century Reformers rather than actual Scholastics. Too often that term is used broadly to mean the latter portion of the Reformation, but it is not really accurate to do so. Frame is rather brief here.
2. Redemptive Historical/Eschatological Method
Horton here speaks of a Promise-Fulfillment methodology where we see the centrality of God acting and God speaking. Horton sees it in contrast to Platonism. We see the present age and the age to come as opposed to Plato's two worlds. Horton brings in Theology of the Cross and Theology of Glory. Theology of Glory being an overrealized eschatology here and now in the present and the Theology of the Cross being an already-not yet mentality. Frame points out this is related to Horton's emphasis on visualization (Theology of Glory) and proclamation (Theology of the Cross). Theology of Glory and Theology of the Cross just set Frame off anytime they are used, and here is no exception. Frame does see glory for us here and now, and sees the link between glory and the cross. Frame also sees an ontology in the Bible, and it is the Creator-Creature distinction. Frame then speaks of Presuppositional apologetics and the critique goes on from there. However, it is not clear to me that Horton actually rejects Presuppositionalism. In fact, I know VanDrunen affirms it in several places. So this critique seems more of a Frame overreaction to terms he does not like than an actual critique of something in Horton. True, Horton does not specifically bring up the Creator-Creature distinction here, but he also does nothing to suggest he rejects it.
3. Analogical Mode
This was a weird section to read. It seems to me that this is one of the places where Horton is coming down on the side of VanTil against Clark, without ever directly speaking to it. Horton claims our knowledge is more dissimilar than similar to God's knowledge and it is not univocal, but rather analogical. If my understanding of the Clark-VanTil Controversy is right, this is one of the disputed topics. Horton fails to define analogical which is enough to lose me. I need a good definition, and not one that is simply a negative, but one that contains positive light. Frame one would think would be in agreement here with Horton, but not so much. Frame argues for some sort of similarity in knowledge. Saying "God is good" is affirming something real, something we can know. Not just in how God is different, but in something about God himself. Not perfectly or absolutely, but it is still knowing God. Horton seems to agree with Clark's "certain degree of falseness" in our knowledge and speech about God. I think Frame may actually be right here.
4. Dramatic Model
Horton here wants a "history-centered" method as opposed to "text-centered" one. Frame spends a lot of time nit picking at such things as how unfocused words like "centered" are, but in reality he has no major objections. Frame does eventually admit this. He could have trimmed about 5 pages off the book, if he had just said that up front.
5. Covenant Context
Horton here moves on into the Covenant as an important methodological understanding. We are in covenant with God. He speaks and acts in covenant. Thus, the covenant becomes a very important thing for us to understand. Frame points out that Horton follows Klein on covenants. And this again is a major area of disagreement between Frame and the Escondido group. Frame believes that we are saved by grace in all the covenants, and that in all the covenants there are rewards that we merit. He points to Matthew 5:46, 6:4, and 10:40-42. And as I have pointed out earlier Horton has no problem with Shepherd. So, on this point, I tend to agree with Horton. I am not sure how Frame would line up his view with the Heidelberg Catechism's answer that even our best works in this life are tainted and stained with sin, but it would be interesting to know.
The rest of Frame's chapter covers quickly Horton's book. It boils down to two main problems. Frame continually hammers the lack of emphasis on the Creator-Creature distinction, which again I cannot find denied anywhere. Frame just thinks it ought to appear. And then the aforementioned analogical debate. Frame does I think hold to an analogical knowledge, but one with a univocal core (pg.234). This way we are able to actually affirm truths about God. Although Frame does work in a shot at the Law/Gospel distinction of Horton in the last page or two.
Ovearall the amount of time Frame spends on this is striking. I believe that a lot of Frame's objections stem from methodological differences. The disagreements about the Covenant Context appear to have a major impact on this debate. The analogical problem leaving a "degree of falsehood" in all we say and understand about God is a bit troubling. So, I think Frame has pointed out an epistemological problem, but the Covenant dispute seems more important in this Two Kingdom debate. VanDrunen states a couple of times in his book that a consistent view of Justification by Faith will lead one to a Two Kingdom understanding, and while Frame would obviously reject that point, Frame does bring this doctrine back to the forefront of the debate with his critique of the Covenant Context. An interesting chapter to say the least.
Thursday, March 01, 2012
Chapter 5 I am just going to briefly touch because I will admit I have never read Meredith Kline's Kingdom Prologue. This is easily the most scholarly chapter as Frame shows a great deal of respect for Kline. Frame also views Kline as the fountain head of the Escondido Theology.
Interestingly despite a great deal of respect for Kline, Frame believes the Absolutizing (rejecting other views as Reformed) even comes from Kline. He explains that Kline's reaction to the Shepherd Controversy and opposing the Theonomy of Greg Banshen. This is the beginning of the problem for Frame. Kline goes to Escondido, and the faculty ends up preferring Kline's view of things to Frame and the acceptance of divergent views that was characteristic of Philadelphia.
One can see the influence of Kline in Escondido. The acceptance of Framework hypothesis for example. Frame argues that the Two Kingdoms owes a lot to Kline, and maybe so, but even Frame admits it was around with Luther, so Kline is hardly a lynch pin in that equation. Kline held to a post-fall split between Cult and Culture (cult being worship). Culture was a common activity for both the believer and the unbeliever, cult was only for the follower of Christ. This is how Kline ties into the Two Kingdoms, and Frame rejects it claiming "We can find no passage (or biblical principle) that suggests that our cultural labors are anything other than an offering, a living sacrifice, to the glory of God." (pg.171).
Frame rejects Kline's reading of Genesis 9. Kline does not believe Genesis 9 reinstates the Cultural Mandate. Frame, of course, disagrees. Frame's argument really has two prongs. One is that he believes it is simply the natural reading to see Genesis 9 linked to Genesis 1. The main part of the argument (at least here) is that holiness is a matter of degrees. This is a concept I had not really thought of before. Frame uses the illustration of the temple. There was the Most Holy Place where the Ark was kept. And in relation to that everything else is profane. However, the room next to it was known as the Holy Place, and there the was altar of incense and the showbread. And of course the temple itself was seen as a holy place as a whole. He points out that holy ground occurs where God makes an appearance like the burning bush. Thus, for Frame holiness is a matter of degree. This goes against Kline who sees a strict difference between sacred and profane, cult and culture. Frame uses it to claim that everything must be done for God's glory, and everything is in some sense then a holy activity. This really seems to be the underlying point of much of Frame's chapter. The sharp distinction is rejected in favor of degrees of holiness and spirituality.
Again, this chapter is probably better if you had read Kline's work, but I am not planning on doing that so you have to just bear with me. This chapter makes the most effort to interact in a scholarly way. And it is done with a pleasant tone with the obvious exception of the Appendix. This could be seen as a funny joke, but considering the rest of the book, it comes off more as mocking. It is a chart to help you come up with your own Klinian Terms. Just mash any two terms together and viola! Apparently Kline must have been big on this. It adds nothing, and I would have thought a decent editor would have taken this out.
For me (remembering my limitations) the chapter hinges on the discussion about holiness as degrees. And while I am ready to concede that Judaism has degrees of holiness, I am not sure that it is right. The temple may indeed have a Most Holy Place and the Holy Place, but the temple itself is a type pointing to Christ. The question becomes whether or not there is any holiness outside of Christ? And then whether or not that means our service in daily jobs is a degree of holiness simply because the temple had holy places? Frame pushes the idea often of a strict and broad definition of worship with the broad definition being basically equal to service. That way by definition all of life can be said to be worship. This sort of requires a view of degrees of holiness because that statement is only true if we take the broad definition of worship. It also requires a rejection of 2K and Kline's theology because with the broad definition of worship there can be no separation of anything in worship. But if we just agreed to use a different term for the broad worship category (like maybe service), would this rejection still be so mandatory? I feel a little like his terms lead him into certain conclusions.
And just as importantly if the Heidelberg Catechism says even my best works are stained with sin in this life, can they rightly be considered sort of holy? Would we not be able to look at one another say, "I am more holy than you"? Because holiness is a matter of degree and thus the statement is completely possible.
I will say this that Frame has given me something to think about in this chapter. And again, if you have read Kingdom Prologue you will probably benefit more from the discussion.
Saturday, February 25, 2012
This chapter Frame examines David VanDrunen's A Biblical Defense of Natural Law. This chapter does not quite contain as many clearly choppy responses, and I think it reflects the fact that Frame does not quite have the problem with VanDrunen he has with some of the others. In fact, Frame admits up front that he agrees with VanDrunen's view that Natural Law exists. He also seems to agree with the traditional interpretation of Romans 2, and thus agrees with VanDrunen on that point as well. Frame has some quibbles about VanDrunen's discussion of the image of God in Adam, but nothing really major. Primarily the disagreement lies in the application of Natural Law, namely in the Two Kingdoms and how Scripture fits into Natural Law.
VanDrunen seems to argue that Natural Law is governing of the civil or secular kingdom, and the Special Revelation is the governing of the spiritual kingdom or the church in particular. At least that is how Frame sees it and Frame disagrees with this point. I am not quite sure that is a fair representation of VanDrunen, but it is the representation he gets in the book. In the end, Frame just does not see a biblical distinction of Two Kingdoms. Dividing the religious and the civil (or secular) is rejected by Frame. He argues that even political matters have spiritual aspects. He gives an example of a political ruler who is evil and tyrannical. That ruler idolizes the state and is out for his own gain and pride. Thus, he is committing spiritual sins. Tyre, Sidon, and Sodom are listed and their false worship a reason for their evil. Thus, Frame believes that there are not two realms, but rather only one. Although I think it is debatable whether VanDrunen is speaking of realms or rather rule. VanDrunen never denies that unbelievers are guilty for rejecting Christ and asserting themselves. In my understanding VanDrunen argues rather for things that are common or simply human, which includes then a natural law from the image of God, and by the way from God, and then another set that is distinctively Christian. And in world that includes both believers and unbelievers the distinctively Christian cannot be imposed on activities that are simply human. One can expect your plumber to live by Natural Law, but not fix your sink to the glory of God. I am over simplifying but that seems to me to be part of the argument.
Frame runs into problems on page 135 in my opinion. He states, "It either comes from the wisdom of God or the wisdom of the world, and these are antagonistic to one another (I Cor. 1:20-21)." This is the sharp distinction that Transformationalists posit in their rejection of Two Kingdoms. The wisdom of the world is wrong and must be replaced by the wisdom of God. But Frame on the same page backtracks when he examines the line of Cain. "That is not to say that everything in Cainite culture was bad. . . . Music and Metalworking are certainly good activities. But these activities should have been done to the glory of God, within the family of God." Here is part of the problem I think Two Kingdoms avoids. If it is of the wisdom of the world it is bad. Cain's line includes many things that then should be rejected as bad. Metalwork and music among them. In VanDrunen's model metalwork and music are simply human activities and so can be learned even from unbelievers.
Frame briefly touches on the main exegetical debate, in my opinion, the covenant with Noah. VanDrunen argues here is a covenant with all mankind. Noah's covenant is not religious or for the church only such as the covenant with Abraham. Rather this one includes a sign common to all man (the rainbow), blessings for all mankind (no more flood), and rules for social behavior and justice (capital punishment for murder). Frame counters that the only family alive was Noah's and thus it is not with humans in general, but with the church. He points out the sacrifice made by Noah and how that was a specifically religious act. And while the blessings are for the world in general, Frame argues this is true with all the covenants of the Bible. Thus, it is of the same nature as Abraham's covenant. Although Frame does not account for the presence of at least one clear unbeliever in Ham. One's understanding of Genesis 9 seems rather foundational for the difference between the Transformationalist and the Two Kingdom-ist (if I can make up a word).
Frame's problem is not with Natural Law, but with two kingdoms. Frame admits a distinction between Church and State, but not one between Christ and Culture (pg.146). Frame does point out that VanDrunen should have dealt more with the suppression of truth in unrighteousness of Romans 1, which is a fair point. VanDrunen did mention it, but never really goes into detail. In light of Frame's main objection being to the Two Kingdoms it would have been more helpful if Frame and critiqued Living in God's Two Kingdoms rather than the defense of Natural Law. But the publication date of both books made that impossible. Still this chapter made the debate appear to be one of application of an agreed upon Biblical principle of Natural Law. Hardly the cause of such division as we see across the Reformed world today.
Wednesday, February 22, 2012
Frame moves on to R. Scott Clark's book, Recovering the Reformed Confessions. Again the tone is quite upset, and one can easily see the complaint about the Absolutizing nature of Escondido theology rather easily in this book. In fact, it is a much more effective criticism here than with Horton who walked back the title of the book in the first few pages. Clark's book revolves around the Quest of Illegitimate Certainty or Experience, and there is no walking it back or toning it down.
Interestingly, Frame often makes the claim that the Escondido Theology is done by historians rather than theologians. This critique seems unfair, but again with Clark's book, it might actually be true.
Clark attempts to hold forth the Confessions as the only legitimate ground for the church. Where they are silent, so too should we be silent, and where they speak, we must speak. Sounds good in theory. However, I agree with Frame that Clark fails at his own system and really falls down into a subjectivism and then makes it the absolute model for being "reformed". For example, Clark believes it is illegitimate for churches to require a certain belief on the days of creation despite the fact that the Westminster does say "in the space of six days". But Clark then goes on to state that churches ought to have two services every Sunday despite it never showing up in any confession, and they ought to sing only the words of Scripture despite that never showing up in a Confession. Clark does try to argue that it is a legitimate inference from the Regulative Principle of Worship, which does show up in Confessions, but then could we not also argue Six Day Creation is a legitimate inference from every confessions' discussion about creation and then also the 4th commandment? Of course we could. Frame does not use these exact examples, but does point out the inconsistent application of Clark's own view. It ends up being nothing more than the absolutizing of Clark's subjective take on things. Frame tends to focus in on things like Clark's rejection of Transformationalism, which is not explicitly mentioned in the Confessions, neither is the Two Kingdoms view (which Clark never directly argues for, but Frame believes is assumed in the book). Rather than viewing this as a place of liberty and any attempt to demand one over another as a Quest for Illegitimate Certainty, Clark views Transformationalism as part of the problem in the reformed churches today.
Frame spends most of the time defending himself, as Clark does quote Frame occasionally and basically labels him as unreformed. Most of it revolves around Epistemology, and the discussion in this section is interesting. I do think Frame has placed his finger on a troubling aspect of Clark's thought. Clark believes that there is a "degree of falsehood in human speech about God" (pg. 130 in Clark's Confessions and pg. 98 in Frame's Escondido). Here I side more with frame, that while human speech can never full exhaust God nor explain it in the way God knows things, I do not think that implies "a degree of falsehood". We can truly know, I believe. And if there is always falsehood in our speech about God such as "God created the heavens and the earth" then we cannot truly know what is true and what is false. I may not know exactly how God accomplished it or fully understand the power behind such a magnificent act, I do not think that makes the statement even slightly false.
I don't always agree with Frame in his critique. Clark I believe is right in the beauty and joy of strict Confessional subscription. Frame here worries that it limits too much, but I disagree and side more with Clark. Why Clark would then go on and advocate a new Confession to be written is beyond me. If the old Confessions are not wrong, and it is so wonderful to adhere to, I see no need for a new one. Still, Frame here tends to lump strict subscription into the dangerous Absolutizing tendency of Escondido theology, but I don't think they are the same thing.
In the overall scheme of things, Clark's book does not address a large portion of the Escondido Theology. It revolves around the main point of Absolutizing a certain tradition, mainly the 16th and 17th century (and only portions of that!). Discussing anything outside of that tradition is not Reformed or illegitimate. This makes people like Jonathan Edwards and Martin Lloyd Jones unreformed. Clark's book is narrow in its focus, but I think Frame does a descent job in criticizing it.
Thursday, February 16, 2012
I am still composing the next chapter review. Frame is getting into serious reviewing now, so it take a little longer. But, I read something on a blog that was sort of related and kind of upsetting at the same time. So might as well blog about it.
The Bayly Bros blog is a Transformationalist blog. They have a post comparing Ron Paul and R2K Theology in a rather disparaging way. It is this sort of thing that is rather hard to understand. Why the venom? Why the vitriol? And where is the proof?
The point of their post is that R2K people are sissy-boys just like Ron Paul. Ron Paul won't condemn homosexual marriage with federal legislation, so according to the Bayly Bros he is running from a fight. Same thing about abortion. I can understand that these are issues that the Bayly Bros want to fight about. And they want that fight on a federal nation wide level. Fine. I can respect that. But does that mean Paul and his libertarian friends (describe by them as silly girls) really not want any fights? Or does it simply mean that Paul is fighting his fight, a fight to make the federal government less important. It is simply just not the same fight the Bayly's want to have. I am sure Paul feels just as strongly about his fight. It is matter of what is important. And the groups disagree, but I think that hardly makes one a fighter and one a sissy. Is Ron Paul probably unrealistic about the government today? Absolutely. Is he fighting a fight he will not win? Yes. Is he wrong? That is a separate issue. After all the success rate on Gay Marriage and Abortion is much better on the state level. Maybe if the Bayly's really wanted to win they would aid Paul, and then they would win some battles. Maybe.
The blog almost makes the R2K point for them. Here is the Transformationalists Bayly Bros calling everyone else names. If you don't fall into lock step with them, then you are a coward who doesn't want to stand up for Jesus by fighting abortion and gay marriage. Because we all know that Jesus would much rather support the Marriage amendment to the Constitution than argue governments should not have anything to do with marriages at all. The Bayly Bros at least give the impression that Christianity is defined by a political position. Manly Christianity is not possible without politics. Just preaching from the pulpit not enough anymore. The ballot box as a means of grace. The Kingdom of God advanced through Christians in the White House, except that the Bayly Bros just called the only remaining Christian, confessionally speaking, a sissy and not deserving of their votes. Details, details.
The other thing that really bothers me is that the Baylys will call R2K men feminized Christianity and then give a hat tip to Doug Wilson. Really? Those guys writing about justification by faith are bad, but the guy teaching justification by works is a good guy. Come on!
I may end up agreeing with Transformationalism, but I can promise you it won't look like the Bayly's view of Transformationalism.
Wednesday, February 15, 2012
The meat of Frame's critique starts with a look at Michael Horton's Christless Christianity. Horton has a response out, but Horton is reviewed three different times.
Frame immediately takes umbrage with the title. Frame sees the Christless as part of the absolutizing tendency he finds so bad at Escondido. This is all in spite of the fact that Horton immediately states that the title is an overstatement and it is more of a direction rather than a current condition in the evangelical church. Frame notes the clarification, but it does little to lessen the criticism.
Frame takes a few things in Horton's book differently than I did. Horton not wanting to "translate" the gospel is something that Frame finds repugnant. I took this to mean that Horton was against trying to be hip and trendyin how we deal with Scripture and our attempts to make the gospel pleasing by hiding the bitter and unpleasant truths, not as a refusal to apply it or make it understandable or even in modern languages. Perhaps here Frame has legitimate gripe about Horton not being clear enough in defining terms, but as Horton points out in the response, Frame makes a large complaint out of something that Horton does not really believe.
I think a lot of the differences between Frame and Horton can best be illustrated with Joel Osteen, who is a frequent target in Horton's book. Ask yourself, do you believe that Osteen and his teachings are beyond the pale of Chrsitianity? Are they Christless? Frame's answer in this book is a clear no, Osteen is within the pale of Christianity. Horton's is a pretty emphatic yes, Osteen is beyond the pale (or at least trending that way fast). I agree with Horton on this one. And so does the Library of Congress for the record since they place Osteen's book in the Self Help section not the Christianity section. But let me illustrate further with some of Frame's discussion.
On Pg. 45 Frame quotes Horton claiming Osteen is "law-lite" and an "upbeat moralism" with "no justification". Frame likens this emphasis of Horton on using the Law to condemn with the Lutheran controversy about whether or not the law should ever be preached to believers. He accuses Horton of not using the Third use of the law for believers and a lack of teaching on sanctification. But more than that Frame defends Osteen even further stating that Scripture does tell us how to be happy in this world referencing the blessings promised and particularly Josh 1:8. Not directly stated, but implied is that Osteen's preaching One's Best Life Now is therefore a biblical concept and not outside the pale of Christianity. Perhaps even something Frame thinks Horton could learn a little from it.
This ties into Frame's major problem with Horton (in my opinion) and it comes from this statement made in Horton's Christless Christianity:
The central message of Christianity is not a worldview, a way of life, or a program for personal and societal change , it is a gospel (pg.105).
This is Horton's main point. Preaching then should primarily be the announcement of Christ and the retelling of His gospel. After all it is the central message. Horton does not deny Scripture speaks on finances and marriage and other things, but it is not the main point. This accounts for Horton's view of Two Kingdoms, worship, and preaching all of which Frame critiques in this chapter. Frame rather responds:
"the Bible presents a a worldview that is utterly unique among all the religions and philosophies of the world . . . And if the gospel is to be presented to them [unbelievers] clearly, they must understand that it presupposes a way of thinking about the world that is unique in the history of thought. (pg. 51).
Thus, the debate. Is the worldview contained in the Bible central to being able to understand the gospel and present it rightly? And is that worldview a complete and all encompassing worldview? Frame unashamedly asserts that the gospel then is a program of personal and societal change (same page). I wish Frame had spent all of the chapter discussing this one central point. Upon it all seems to hinge. Rather, he goes for the laundry list approach. This discussion was far too short.
Frame's great weakness in this chapter is related to what I described about the title. Frame constantly points out Horton backing off of generalizations. Frame wants to argue that all the difference is a matter of emphasis, and it is hard to condemn an emphasis. Frame says Horton is too much on justification, although Horton speaks on sanctification, which is read as Horton backing off and only an emphasis. Horton speaks of the centrality of the gospel, but admits Scripture teaches about finances, thus, it is just a difference of emphasis. It seems a little to me like Frame fails to grasp two things in relation to this. One, is that this is popular writing. Horton is not trying to enumerate every possible exception or be scholastic in his treatment of stuff. Some leeway must be given in this type of writing. Two, a persons emphasis can be unhealthy and easily lead to heresy. In fact, a case can be made that Christlessness does indeed begin with a misplaced emphasis in many cases. Emphasis on "do this and do that" can indeed be interpreted by many as works righteousness, and indeed might be. Emphasis on "do this for earthly blessings" can similarly be understood as self centered and works righteousness. It may be a matter of emphasis, but unhealthy emphases can be rightly condemned.
Oddly enough Andrew Sandlin breaks into the book here with an addendum. It is rather jarring, and frankly of little use. Sandlin restates what we just read and by so doing gives the impression Frame was too wordy and needs him to organize it. He quotes some OT examples in favor of Frame, and that is about it. Not needed. Any time you have quotations from your own book only a few pages from the actual occurrence of the quote, something has gone wrong.
Overall, I found Frame helpful in setting the question as whether or not the worldview of the Bible has to be presupposed to understand the gospel, but I wished the question discussed at greater length. I also tend to agree with Horton about the state of modern evangelicism and in that emphasis can be condemned as leading down a Christless path.
Sunday, February 12, 2012
The opening chapter is entitled The Escondido Theology, which one would expect. Frame is going to lay out the theology of those whom he will be criticizing and then showing us where he thinks it goes wrong in the rest of the chapters. Well, not exactly. Frame does make it a full three paragraphs before slipping into all out attack mode. And the book suffers quite a bit from this sort of thing. One gets the distinct impression that Frame is building a straw man and then burning him to the ground. Without stating his opponents views positively first, the reader has little familiarity to understand the level of antagonism shown in this opening (and following) chapter. Establishing that he understands it, can state it in its best light, and interact fairly with it would have gone a long way to making the chapter more convincing. But we must push past this methodology and search for substance in spite of the tone.
It is about the 4th paragraph where Frame calls the Escondido bunch Lutherans for their law/gospel emphasis. In fact, it appears a lot of what Frame wishes to decry is what I think he would characterize as a Lutheranizing of the Reformed Tradition, and then the absolutizing of that tendency. Frame points out the Law/Gospel emphasis and the Two kingdoms theology as two Lutheran aspects that are prominent in Escondido. This leads to a few more of his criticisms: the Rule and Blessings over all of life (or lack thereof) and church centered piety. To this is added what Frame believes to be a reading out of all other views as non-reformed. He cites a few examples, but a later chapter deals in great detail about that subject. But it is clear that Frame believes that the Escondido theologians have tried to make their view of the Reformation the only acceptable view of the reformation. This not only reads Frame out of the Reformed camp, but goes against a lot of what Frame stands for in theological investigation.
Interestingly enough Frame provides support to my thesis that a lot of the difference in Transformationalism and Two Kingdoms has to do with one's view of End Times. Frame critics the Escondido Theology as "amillennialism on steroids". In this I tend to agree with Frame, but I think I would put it more as Consistent Amillennialism. The question then becomes whether or not Amillennialism is biblical. But then again, why cannot these two both exist as confessional? No reformed confession I know of forces one to take a stand on Millennialism. But Frame focuses that section instead on the preference of a lot of Escondido authors to prefer the "pilgrim" language of the Bible. This section is a bit unfair and seems unnecessary if you are not going go into depth about the End Times. Frame probably should have left it out.
At one point Frame also tracks the Westminster Philadelphia thought and where it splits off into Escondido Thought. This is probably the most helpful section of first chapter. He links the Escondido thought to Merideth Kline. He points out the influence Kline had over the others, cites some disagreements from Frame's time as professor, and how the new hires filled out the roster of WSC as univocal in favor of Kline's arguments. On the other hand he speaks of WTS as descending from Abraham Kuyper through Cornelius Van Til. With the influence of Van TIl, he then goes to the next generation. This is where Frame makes me a bit nervous. He cites positively the development of Theonomy and R.J.Rushdooney and then onto Greg Bashen. In a later chapter Frame adds Norman Shepherd to that list all in a positive light. Kline apparently opposed all those developments. So do I, although that does not mean I agree with Kline, but does give us insight in the reviewer. It also brings to mind the statements Van Drunen makes in Living In God's Two Kingdoms where he comments twice that if you have a Protestant doctrine of Justification by faith, you will prefer the Two Kingdoms theology. Frame seems to accidentally support that thesis in linking WTS to Shepherd and Theonomy.
In the end, it is a little unfair to pick at Frame in the first chapter. Almost everything he sets out here will be brought up again and dealt with in more detail. So the lack of detail and the broad generalizations made in this chapter are going to be fleshed out in later chapters. This is the hook, and Frame means for us to follow him down into the war zone. So down we must go.
Friday, February 10, 2012
Okay, so my curiosity got the better of me, and I purchased The Escondido Theology by John Frame. Since I am sort of publicly working through the 2 Kingdoms idea and trying to figure out why 2 Kingdoms and Transformationalists seem to hate each other so much, I might as well review Frame's book as I go.
The book as a whole is set up as reviews of several books by men from Westminster Seminary California. All professors except one which is a review of former student, now blogger, Jason Stellman. You may have noticed reviews of Frame's book popping up such as this official rejection by WSC and this unofficial one by D.G. Hart Expect more. It is that kind of book.
To show how serious this fight is this book has an introduction by George Grant, a foreword by Gary DeMar, a "review" (second foreword by Andrew Sandlin, a publisher's preface and an author's preface. This book in short is a declaration of war. Frame's tone is usually rather hostile, as is Sandlin's who adds an addendum in a chapter as well as the foreword. Grant stays more positive, but this book hits hard against the Two Kingdom view. It is quite clear that Frame and the others he gathers around him do not view Two Kingdoms as something confessionally allowable as I do, and clearly not something that is Reformed or even Biblical. It is nothing more than failing to apply the Bible to life, and a stubborn refusal to develop a biblical worldview against the Bible's own pleas.
You are going to want to read this book (or at least my review) because Frame comes out swinging. While I don't always agree with Frame's criticism, it is sort of like a car wreck. You just cannot look away because you want to see what happens next. And sometimes Frame puts his finger on some very good questions and points.
Next time chapter 1!
Sunday, January 15, 2012
In case anyone missed it, Princeton Seminary was founded in 1812 - or 200 years ago. Expect a lot of stuff coming up all year about Princeton. And there are lots of things to praise about Princeton. A century of excellence and a legacy of fighting the good fight for orthodoxy. If you want to join in on some celebrating and learning, check out Greenville Theological Seminary's Conference dedicated to Princeton. Blogs are in on the action as well. Expect more remembrances all year long. Even the Young Restless and Reformed Gang at the Gospel Coalition is in on it all year. And so you should expect more rebuttals about that too.
But the question remains, did Princeton get it right? Is it the model we should be following? I expect to get yelled at, but let me venture the answer. No. They didn't. Everyone always points out that no seminary was orthodox longer than Princeton. Most are lucky to make it 50 years, much less 100. And its direct descendant Westminster has made it quite some time as well (with less success). But the fact remains. Princeton went bad. In fact most seminaries go bad. That is just a fact that cannot really be denied. Whether they are church supported like Calvin Seminary or more independent like Knox. They go bad.
Let me just remind everyone that Andover Theological Seminary and Princeton Seminary are two of the first in the nation. Before that people learned in the homes of pastors. Or they stayed extra at Yale or a place like that reading theology before going to take an exam. Princeton was a fundamental shift in how theological education was done. It became modeled after school. Education was done by the professional scholar not the everyday pastor. This is, I believe, Princeton's fundamental flaw. Every seminary today is based on this model mostly because of Princeton (in the Reformed World at least).
Princeton turned out great scholars, and they battled liberalism in print more than anyone else. The Princeton Review was influential and the world renown of the scholars is nothing to sneeze at. But did they win the battle in the pews? Hard to say, but maybe not. Take a look at their most famous students.
Charles Hodge - never pastored a church but went on to a great career training pastors.
Joseph Addison Alexander - never pastored a church, but taught at Princeton.
B.B. Warfield - was a stated supply at a couple of place, but spent the majority of his life as a professor.
Geerhardus Vos - never pastored a church but was the founder of modern Biblical theology at Princeton.
Casper Wistar Hodge Jr. - never pastored a church and was ordained after he became a professor at Princeton.
J. Gresham Machen - never pastored a church, but did serve in the Great War for which he was ordained. Professor most of his life.
Robert Dick Wilson - never pastored and was a professor that went to Westminster
O.T. Allis - never pastored a church, and was a professor that went to Westminster.
Now many professors did pastor. AA Hodge pastored, as did J.A. Alexander, and his brother J.W. Alexander (who actually quit being a professor to go back to pastoring). But with all of these great professors who did not ever serve in the pulpit, one has to wonder how good were they at applying their truths to the daily ministry? Lest you think I am making this up here is a quote from David Calhoun's wonderful history of Princeton:
"Practical theology was Princeton's weakest area. It was difficult to find the scholar-pastor-preacher combination to fill the need, and there was apparently some reluctance on the part of the faculty to develop this department fully, fearing that it would detract from the more academic work." Vol. 2 pg. 216
The students actually complained in 1909, but the faculty viewed that as a just plain lack of intellectual prowess in the students. However, I think that the end shows that perhaps the faculty misunderstood the fundamental nature of preaching and pastoral work.
Now a student studying with a pastor would not get the access to so many brilliant minds in one place. But he does get a heavy does of pastoral reality, a good handle on the practical nature of theology, preaching, and church shepherding. The question becomes is it better for the church as a whole if many get a rigorous academic training for the ministry to become scholar-pastors, or if an entire army is equipped to be preaching-pastors. I at least think the answer to that is up in the air, and that as we celebrate Princeton we be willing to throw out their model altogether.