Sunday, February 12, 2012

Escondido Theology Chapter 1

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.


Matt Powell said...

Good report, Lee. I'm looking forward to the rest of your series on this book.

Anonymous said...

Yes, thank you! Wish I could get a hold of this book, but I can't. (BTW, this is really surprising that Frame wrote a book that could be questioned for apparent carelessness)