Monday, March 19, 2012

Escondido Theology Chapter 6

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.