John Frame: Theology of My Life

Frame, John.  A Theology of My Life.

To echo a postmodern vibe, I was narrated by this narrative.  John Frame gives us his teaching career and explains some things we were always curious about:  if he graduated with the highest honors from Yale, how did he never get a doctorate?

My favorite part of the book was his discussion of Princeton and Yale.  He studied under some of the great names in American philosophy. He aced elementary logic taught by one of Carnap’s disciples, yet struggled under Hilary Putnam, who taught from Quine’s book on logic.

He also went toe-to-toe with the infidel Walter Kaufmann.

His Time at Westminster

He notes that Woolley supported abortion in some cases.

On an even sadder note, we are taken through the Shepherd and West-Cal controversies.  And while I think his “Machen’s Warrior Children” typology is a bit overdone, it does seem factually accurate.

I am going to note some points on the Shepherd controversy and leave it at that.  I don’t think Frame should have given Shepherd the “air support” that he did (though no different, in principle, from Gaffin’s endorsement of Call of Grace).

Frame explains that Shepherd used “instrumentality” language with works.  That’s the problem. On one hand, Frame says we shouldn’t be bound to language like “instrumental causation.”  On the other hand, if we are going to use that language, and Shepherd does, then we can’t use it with regard to works.

Frame reworks Shepherd’s argument this way: works are a necessary element of saving faith, and saving faith is a necessary element to justification; therefore, works are necessary to justification.  Frame argues this doesn’t mean that works “cause” justification. In formal logic, A is necessary to B, B is necessary to C; therefore, A is necessary to C. This does not mean that A is the efficient cause of C.

Still, Shepherd created this problem for himself and I don’t think Frame sufficiently distanced himself from it.

The Extreme Dutch

Frame notes a minister who had a library of 12 Dutch books (written in Dutch). He judged any new theology book by that shelf.  

And then there are aspects of the Reformed world that I, as a former Baptist redneck from La., will just never understand.  Frame is referring to the “pure Dutch” or “pure Scotch” elements of OPC life. While I did feel some of that in my decade in the OPC, it was never overwhelming (for me, anyway). 

The part about West-West was tough to read.  I wasn’t there and I’ve heard parts of both sides, both of whom I believe. I cannot deny that I have benefited from Frame’s perspectivalism.  On the other hand, I don’t think Scott Clark’s approach to historical theology can be done away with. Clark has been the mightiest opponent of the horrors of Wilsonism.

Frame’s criticism of West-West’s lack of Van Tillianism is rather amusing, given Frame’s (correct) criticism of “Van Til Bots.” I think both are right (how Framean?). Frame himself broke with the van Tillian tradition in using analytical, Wittgensteinian language (which in some cases I think was necessary). The Escondido school never formally broke with Van Til; rather, they tried to integrate key aspects of historic Reformed theology on prolegomena that many van Tillians just ignored (or weren’t aware of).

 

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