RPM, Volume 15, Number 28, July 7 to July 13, 2013

A Review

Systematic Theology God Glorifies His Lordship in Our Salvation

P&R Publishing
Phillipsburg, New Jersey
Copyright 2013
Author
John M. Frame

By Joseph R. Nally
Theological Editor
Third Millennium Ministries

It is indeed a great honor and privilege to be asked to write a review of John M. Frame's, Systematic Theology. 1 As one of my former Systematic Theology professors 2 at Reformed Theological Seminary 3, Frame distinguished himself not only in his knowledge and approach to understanding the Lordship of God and his Word, but also in the spirit in which he taught – with a deep and abiding love for God, family, church and his students. In this volume of volumes, he once again speaks to us with not only extensive knowledge, but in "love."

On my bookshelf 4 sits numerous systematics by Charles Hodge, Louis Berkhof, Robert Reymond, and Wayne Grudem. 5 I enjoy them all. They inform, educate, and bring clarity to different issues within Scripture. While systematics are full of precious knowledge to assist any student to better understand God and his holy Word, the reader will find none so well written with a meekness and tenderness of heart as Frame's. The "breadth and length and height and depth" 6 of God's amazing love graces this volume of theology.

If the reader has enjoyed the format, studious research, and observations in Frame's other works 7 , then they will enjoy his Systematic too. A new reader will be enriched also by its content, style, and biblical perspective. If Edward's "Sinners in the Hands of an Angry God" can be said to have drawn sinners to Christ 8 , Frame's work will be said to draw the Christian even closer to understanding their Creator, God, and Lord more fully. This work is a necessity for every layman, pastor, and scholar alike.

The systematic is written from and faithful to a Reformed perspective; glorifying God and his Word. As expected, Frame makes extensive reference to Scripture and the Westminster Confession of Faith; but he makes good use of other confessions too. 9 Frame also quotes and uses the thoughts of numerous great theologians as well, such as, but not limited to: John Calvin, Meredith G. Kline, Herman Bavinck, Karl Barth, Cornelius Van Til, Heinrich Heppe, Thomas Aquinas, and many others. 10 It is a well researched and written systematic.

The volume begins with the Forward written by J.I. Packer 11 and then proceeds with the Introduction, The Biblical Story, The Doctrine of God, The Doctrine of the Word of God, The Doctrine of the Knowledge of God, The Doctrine of Angels and Demons, The Doctrine of Man, The Doctrine of Christ, The Doctrine of the Holy Spirit, The Doctrine of the Church, The Doctrine of the Last Things, and Doctrine of the Christian Life. Each division is replete with memory verses, study questions, and resources for further study. The Appendix of course includes Frame's Triads 12 and a Glossary of Theological Terms. 13 There is an Index of Scripture and of Subjects and Names meticulously edited by John Muether 14.

Frame's systematic is unique from various perspectives. In this brief space I will only mention two. First, before Frame enters into what is traditionally been known as the "systematic" part of Systematic Theology, he begins by "describing the biblical story, first as a history of divine-human covenants, second as a narrative of the advancement of God's kingdom, and finally as a genealogy of the family of God." 15 This assists in putting the entire systematic into proper "contexts." 16 This section sets a theme of the whole systematic: God's grace and sovereignty, as applied in the history of his Church; the history of salvation which reaches even into this modern era. " Salvation is to be a great epic, not a short story" 17 ; the history of the past informs and adds clarity to the present (cf. 1 Cor. 10:11). So, our understanding of God is more lucid because we can examine the numerous contexts for Scripture from the past. 18

Second, while Frame is careful to address numerous contemporary issues 19 , as understood from the book's initial sub-title, "God Glorifies His Lordship in Our Salvation," his work directs the reader to Christ; to his salvation alone. This personalizes the text. Though it draws on "yesterday," it makes it applicable to the reader "today and forever" (cf. Heb. 13:8).

This is especially seen in his division of the Doctrine of the Christian Life. In seminary classes, Frame (and other professors) emphasized that 'true theology is that which is lived out.' The Puritan, William Perkins, once said, 'Theology is the science of living blessedly forever.' 20 J.I. Packer, in the same vein, says that theology is for achieving God's glory (honor and praise) and humankind's good (the godliness that is true humanness) through every life-activity. 21 Frame's whole work (52 chapters), but especially the section on "Christian Life" capitalizes on this great truth. He sees God as Lord not only over his Kingdom and Word, but over very life of very life itself.

This distinguishes this Systematic Theology from among others. Though the others I have mentioned are "excellent" and address many of the same topics, none delve into the "living" aspect of the Christian Life as decisively as Frame. This is a great service to the Church. This is a more complete systematic. Frame not only embraces a 'great' theology, concerning the 'great' God (Job 36:26; cf. Job 11:17; Psa. 90:2; 1 Cor. 13:12) and a 'great' salvation (Heb. 2:3), he addresses the question of 'How then shall we live'? 22 He addresses the 'great' life that we should live before God! Lest we forget the Westminster Shorter Catechisms first question, "What is the chief end of man?" Frame reminds us in his systematic that "Man's chief end is to glorify God, and to enjoy him forever" (1 Cor. 10:31; Rom. 11:36; Psa. 73:24-26; John 17:22, 24).

True to the Bible, John Frame lovingly brings the reader into the fulness of 'systematic theology.' While gracefully technical, Frame's words are eloquently simple to understand; clear, concise, and comprehensive. A systematic theology that is accessible, scholarly, rich, and life-enriching.

I highly recommend this work. No study will be complete without it. It will not only advance your knowledge of God, but open anew the wonderful life God has designed for you to live as well.

Sola Fide, by faith alone, Sola Scriptura, by Scripture alone, Solus Christus, through Christ alone, Sola Gratia, by grace alone,
Soli Deo Gloria, glory to God alone!

Notes:

1. According to P&R Publishing the sub-title (God Glorifies His Lordship in Our Salvation) of the Systematic may change when the book is actually printed. The book is scheduled to be released Nov. 13, 2013.

2. Dr. John M. Frame, Professor of Systematic Theology and Philosophy at Reformed Theological Seminary. Princeton University, A.B. Westminster Theological Seminary, B.D. Yale University, M.A., M. Phil. Belhaven College, D.D. Frame serves as J.D. Trimble Chair of Systematic Theology and Philosophy. An outstanding theologian, John Frame distinguished himself during 31 years on the faculty of Westminster Theological Seminary, and was a founding faculty member of WTS California. http://www.rts.edu/orlando/faculty/bio.aspx?id=502 Last accessed 30 January 2013.

3. http://www.rts.edu/seminary/

4. and or, Computer.

5. including, Abstract of Systematic Theology by James Boyce, Concise Theology by J.I. Packer, Institutes of the Christian Religion by John Calvin, Dogmatic Theology by William G.T. Shedd, Great Doctrines of the Bible by D. M. Lloyd-Jones, Outlines of Theology by A.A. Hodge, Reformed Dogmatics by Herman Bavinck, Studies in Dogmatics by G.C. Berkouwer, Systematic Theology by Augustus Strong, Systematic Theology by Morton H. Smith, Systematic Theology by Robert D. Culver, and The Works of B. B. Warfield, etc. Technically some of these are not considered "Systematics," but none-the-less are valuable theological tools in the heart and mind of any student, pastor, or scholar.

6. Ephesians 3:18.

7. Salvation Belongs To The Lord: An Introduction To Systematic Theology, Perspectives on the Word of God: An Introduction to Christian Ethics, The Doctrine of the Knowledge of God, The Doctrine of God, The Doctrine of the Christian Life, The Doctrine of the Word of God, and Apologetics to the Glory of God, etc.

8. "Sinners in the Hands of an Angry God" was used by God in what is called "The Great Awakening;" a precious work of God in which great masses of people in colonial America realized their need for a Savior and fled to Jesus Christ. Marsden states, "Edwards hoped that the imagery and message of his sermon would awaken his audience to the horrific reality that awaited them should they continue without Christ." Marsden, George, Jonathan Edwards, New Haven: Yale University Press, p. 221.

9. Belgic Confession, Heidelberg Catechism, Canons of Dort.

10. Frame states, "It is good for readers of theology to know what Augustine thought about a particular issue, or Luther, Calvin, Edwards, Barth, Bultmann, Moltmann, Pannenberg, or someone else." (Systematic Theology, p. 20 of the PDF version).

11. James Innell Packer serves as the Board of Governors' Professor of Theology at Regent College in Vancouver, British Columbia. He is considered to be one of the most important evangelical theologians of the late 20th century. Mongerism.com, http://www.monergism.com/thethreshold/articles/bio/jipacker.html Last accessed 20 January 2013.

12. 110, if my count is correct; ranging from Theology: areas of life, Scripture, persons, to the Divine Lordship Attributes: control, authority, presence, to Covenant: historical prologue, stipulations, sanctions, to the Lordship Attributes: control, authority, presence, and finally with the Perspectives on the Discipline of Ethics: teleological, deontological, existential, etc. The reader may view a brief sample here - http://www.frame-poythress.org/triads-for-apologetics/ - Last Accessed 20 January 2013, but in Frame's Systematic (and seminary classes – thanks John) he goes through them in more detail.

13. Frame states, "I wrote up this Glossary for inclusion in my Festschrift, Speaking the Truth in Love. It is not a standard theological dictionary, but a dictionary of my peculiar technical terms and their definitions. The more traditional theological terms (with traditional definitions) appear in the present book when I discuss the corresponding doctrines." (Systematic Theology, p. 1049 of the PDF version).

14. John R. Muether, Professor of Church History at Reformed Theological Seminary. Gordon College, B.A. Westminster Theological Seminary, M.A.R. Simmons College, M.S.L.S. http://www.rts.edu/Orlando/faculty/bio.aspx?id=25 Last accessed 30 January 2013.

15. Frame, Systematic Theology, p. 62 of the PDF version.

16. Frame writes, " Note that I said "contexts," not "context." Each particular verse of Scripture has many contexts: the verses on either side, the book it is part of, the section of Scripture in which it is found, other passages dealing with the same topic, other books by the same author, other books (even extra-biblical books) of the same genre, other writings that come from the same setting. In the end, however, the most important context of any verse is the Bible as a whole. Every theologian writes out of a general perspective, an idea of the purpose and thrust of the Scripture as a whole. So in this part of the book, I will try to indicate the type of book that Scripture is, and its overall message." Frame, Systematic Theology, p. 63 of the PDF version.

17. Frame, Systematic Theology, p. 93 of the PDF version.

18. Frame states, " So in Scripture one event will picture, foreshadow, even motivate another event a thousand years later. The rebellion of Israel against God in the wilderness (Num. 14) is a warning to Christian believers in the first century A.D. (Heb. 3:7–19). Indeed, the accounts of that ancient history have the purpose of edifying believers in the new covenant period (Rom. 15:4)." Frame, Systematic Theology, p. 94 of the PDF version.

19. Annihilationism, Open Theism, Lordship salvation, etc.

20. The Golden Chain (1592), in Ian Breward (ed.), The Work of William Perkins (Appleford: Courtney Press, 1970), p. 177.

21. From a lecture at Regent College, Vancouver, B.C., September 1992.

22. Francis Schaeffer. How Should We Then Live?: The Rise and Decline of Western Thought and Culture. Crossway (2005). As one of the foremost evangelical thinkers of the twentieth century, Francis Schaeffer long pondered the fate of declining Western culture. In this brilliant book he analyzed the reasons for modern society's state of affairs and presented the only viable alternative: living by the Christian ethic, acceptance of God's revelation, and total affirmation of the Bible's morals, values, and meaning.

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