Tuesday, November 5, 2013

John Frame's Systematic Theology

Systematic Theology: An Introduction to Christian BeliefSystematic Theology: An Introduction to Christian Belief by John M Frame
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

John Frame has contributed much to theological thought and it is exciting to see him put together a systematic theology.  Frame sees theology as not simply an academic exercise, but rather an art that has many practical implications.

"There really is no justification for restricting theology only to academic or technical questions. (How academic? How technical?) If theology is edifying teaching, theologians need to listen to everybody’s questions. My point, however, is not to divert theology from theoretical to practical questions, or to disparage in any way the theoretical work of academic theologians. But I do think that academic and technical theology should not be valued over other kinds. The professor of theology at a university or seminary is no more or less a theologian than the youth minister who seeks to deal with the doubts of college students, or the Sunday school teacher who tells OT stories to children, or the father who leads family devotions, or the person who does not teach in any obvious way but simply tries to obey Scripture. Theoretical and practical questions are equally grist for the theologian’s mill."

Frame laments the fact that it has become normative for “systematic theology” to be more concerned with the history of theological thought rather than what the Scriptures themselves says.  His goal in writing is, not to show the historical ebb and flow that led to a doctrine, but the biblical support for that doctrine .

"This present volume of systematic theology will be focused on Scripture, not on history of doctrine or contemporary theology. Of course, nobody should suppose that the ideas in this book appeared out of nowhere, with no historical context. My own confession is Reformed, and this book will certainly reflect that orientation, though I hope herein to reach out to members of other doctrinal traditions. And from time to time I will refer to secular and liberal thinkers of the past and present. But my chief interest is to state what the Bible says, that is, what it says to us."

Frame proposes the an interesting structure to his theology.

"Many theological writers, indeed, have chosen one theme around which to structure their discussions. For Martin Luther, the theme was justification by faith alone.  For Immanuel Kant, it was ethics; for Friedrich Schleiermacher, feeling. Others include the holy (Rudolf Otto), the fatherhood of God (Adolf von Harnack), crisis (Karl Barth), Word of God (also Barth), personal encounter (Emil Brunner), self-understanding (Rudolf Bultmann), dialectical self-negation (Paul Tillich), acts of God (G. Ernest Wright), language event (Gerhard Ebeling), hope (J├╝rgen Moltmann), liberation (Gustavo Gutierrez), secularity (Harvey Cox), resurrection (Wolfhart Pannenberg)."

Frame sets out to view theology through the central theme of God’s lordship.

Frame poses his “triperspectival understanding of divine lordship” as a unifying theme in systematic theology and then works through the typical theological subjects from this perspective.  I only had access to the first couple of chapters and it is hard to get a good gauge on a book like this from a small sample, but from everything I see this looks like a promising contribution to the discipline of theology in the life of the church.

I received a sample of the book from the publisher to look over and review.

View all my reviews

Kevin DeYoung has some thoughts on this book that is definitely helpful.  I also look forward to being able to access a full copy of this book and offer a proper review in the not too distant future.