Thursday, August 21, 2014

Contra Johannem Frameum: Miscellaneous and summary statements

Throughout the rest of John Frame's book, he reviews various books from authors related to the seminary in one form or another. Some of these books I have not read, but judging from how Frame misrepresented Horton and Clark, I would not be surprised if he misrepresented every single book he "reviewed."

It is not my intention to show all of Frame's other errors and misrepresentations, as it would be almost like beating a dead horse. Rather, I would look at a couple of other statements, then look at Frame's supposed summary statements describing the so-called "Escondido theology."

Worship and seeker-sensitivity

They [D.G. Hart and John Muether -DHC] quote my statement in Worship in Spirit and Truth that worship should be carried on in "a friendly, welcoming atmosphere," and they comment that "following this logic, worship style becomes a matter of taste." They then equate my recommendation with "irreverent worship." Nevertheless, they say later, as I do, that worship should involve joy. And of course they, like Horton, want no truck with anything from popular culture.

Does Reformed theology really require all this? Do we really forsake the Reformed faith if we seek to take visiting unbelievers into consideration (as 1 Cor. 14:24-25), or if we seek to be friendly to visitors? ... Didn't they [the Reformers -DHC] advocate clear communication in worship, both verbally (through the use of vernacular languages) and musically (through the emphasis on congregational singing)? [John Frame, The Escondido Theology: A Reformed Response to Two Kingdom Theology (Lakeland, FL: Whitefield Media Productions, 2011), 280]

Here again, Frame misrepresents what Hart and Muether (and Horton) are arguing for. They are not arguing against communication, but against accommodation to worldly forms. Does this necessarily mean the denial of all Contemporary Christian Music? I do not think that is necessarily the case, although certainly Hart and Muether think it does. Regardless, the key issue is this: Hart and Muether are advocating for reverence in worship, a vertical focus through the dialogical principle. They never once denied that communication was essential to worship. Communication after all is not the same as adopting a horizontal "friendly atmosphere." Note also that a vertical focus does not mean that worshipers are unfriendly to each other. That is not at all Hart's and Muether's point, and one should not infer from the silence concerning the friendliness of believers to each other with the denial that one should be friendly with other believers.

I must say that this tactic of arguing from silence is endemic throughout Frame's book. As another example, Frame attacked David VanDrunen in his "review" of A Biblical Defense of Natural Law by stating that the problem with VanDrunen's view of the conscience providing moral knowledge is a grave "omission of any significant role for Gods supernatural commands informing his conscience" (p. 130), as if silence equals denial. All manner of such false accusations have been manufactured out of thin air just because writer X does not mention a certain principle Y that Frame thinks is important. Frame is truly straining at gnats here to try to come up with anything to stick on Westminster Seminary California it seems.

On Two-Kingdoms theory

If that is true [that Scripture teaches that "religious" issue intrude into politics and culture -DHC], then it is impossible to define a "realm" that is exclusively religious or nonreligious. There is one realm, the creation, the realm in which God works all things according to his sovereign will and demands that we serve him in all aspects of our lives.

...

The existence of a Cainite society, separate from the people of God (Gen. 4:26) was an evil, VanDrunen, by calling this society "realm," intends to confer some sort of legitimacy on it. But the development of societies in opposition to God is, according to Scripture, profoundly illegitimate. (pp. 134-5)

I have not read this book by Dr. VanDrunen yet, but I have taken his class on ethics where he discussed parts of his two-kingdoms doctrine. So while I cannot speak for his particular version of Two-Kingdoms (R2K) theory, I know some parts of it and Frame's caricature is just plain ludicrous. First of all, VanDrunen never once claims that there is any realm that is religiously neutral. The issue is not religious neutrality, but rather the issue is how God rules that realm, "religious" or not. Secondly, historic Reformed teaching differentiate between the Church and the State, so that the existence of two "realms" is always held to. Even under Christendom, besides the Inquisition and the Crusades, the civil magistrate was the one to put heretics to death. The sentence of heresy is done by the church, but it is the civil authorities who actually executed the judgment. The difference between the Reformation view, the Kuyperian view and the R2K view is not whether there are two different "realms" or "kingdoms" but how they relate to each other. It is interesting to see how Frame, in his rejection of R2K, denies even this distinction held to in the entirety of church history. Lastly, the issue with Cainite society is not to say they are neutral, but that they are an assembly that only has one kingdom since they are not part of the kingdom of grace, i.e. the civil kingdom. Even Frame claims they are wicked, so surely it is conceded that they are not part of Christ's kingdom yet nevertheless they do still have a civil kingdom, thought wicked and, I could even concede for the sake of argument, "illegitimate."

Whether R2K is biblical or not, misrepresentation of the position hardly helps make the case for the opposing side. If name-dropping Van Til and Kuyper is supposed to make us think R2K is wrong, all the misrepresentation of the position surely discredits the opposition more than it shows why R2K is wrong.

Summary statements

At the beginning of the book, Frame threw up a bunch of statements that he claims are "assertions typical of and widely accepted among, Escondido theologians" (p. xxxvii). From all his misrepresentations so far, if one were to guess that little if any of these assertions are actually held to by the professors of Westminster Seminary California, one would be right. Here are the various assertions (pp. xxxvii-xxxix), and my responses:

  • It is wrong to make the gospel relevant to its hearers
    Answer: Misleading and false. It is wrong to compromise the Gospel and biblical practices in the name of "making the gospel relevant to its hearers."

  • Scripture teaches about Christ, his atonement, and our redemption from sin, but not about how to apply that salvation to our current problems.
    Answer: False! Misrepresentation. Scripture teaches all things. YET, Scripture is not a textbook on all topics and therefore where Scripture is silent we should not try to "mine" Scripture for "application" to "our current problems."

  • Those who try to show the application of Scripture to the daily problems of believers are headed toward a Christless Christianity
    Answer: FALSE! Misrepresentation! Those who focus on "application" using Scripture as mere prof-texts, without the Gospel and without grounding in the Gospel, are not headed, but are proclaiming, a Christless Christianity.

  • Anything we say about God is at best only an analogy of the truth and is therefore partly false.
    Answer: Misleading but understandable misrepresentation. Vantillians have in view the nature of truth, of which Man's truth is an analogy to God's truth. Since analogies have similarities and dissimilarities between the archetype and the ectype, God being infinite means that there are quite a lot of dissimilarities between archetypal truth and ectypal truth. Such dissimilarities result in the nature of truth claims being "partly false." Again, I think that such language as used by Dr. R Scott Clark is misleading, but still one has to represent the position correctly.

    More importantly, I thought Frame claims to be a Vantillian. This should be the last objection he has if he truly is following Van Til.

  • There is no immediate experience of God available to the believer.
    Answer: If by that, Frame means mystical experiences, tell me where in Scripture is mysticism taught.

  • The only experience of God available to the believer is in public worship.
    Answer: False! Misrepresentation! To emphasize the primacy of public worship and public piety is not to deny private piety.

  • Meetings of the church should be limited to the preaching of the word and the administration of the sacraments.
    Answer: False. The priority of church meetings IS preaching of the word and the administration of the sacraments. Other meetings may be called, but they are not mandatory. The main thing must remain the main thing however.

  • In worship, we "receive" from God, but should not seek to "work" for God.
    Answer: Misleading. A denial of every-member ministry does not make non office-bearers pew warmers!

  • The "cultural mandate" of Gen. 1:28 and 9:7 is not longer in effect.
    Answer: False. The "cultural" or creation mandate is still in effect, but it is given to humanity in general, not the church.

  • The Christian has no political mandate to seek changes in the social, cultural, or political order.
    Answer: Misleading. In 2K theory, the Church has no mandate to seek changes. Individual Christians have no "mandate," but they ought to be involved in the community, which involves seeking changes in the social, cultural and political order where applicable.

  • Divine sovereignty typically eliminates the need for human responsibility.
    Answer: False! Justification is purely of grace apart from good works. That is the point, not some "zero-sum game" such that God being sovereign imply humans are passive in their sanctification, which however is grounded in the Gospel and not of one's efforts.

  • Preaching should narrate the history of redemption, but should never appeal to Bible characters as moral or spiritual examples.
    Answer: They can be appealed to as examples, as examples ultimately of Christ, but all such examples are to be grounded in what Christ has already done for us, not mere moralism in Law-only preaching.

  • Preaching "how tos" and principles of practical living is man-centered.
    Answer: Misleading. Insofar as such preaching is not centered on the Gospel indicatives, it IS man-centered. But principles of living if based upon the Gospel should be preached.

  • To speak of a biblical worldview, or biblical principles for living, is to misuse the Bible.
    Answer: False! The issue is not whether there is a worldview, but whether one is trying to use the Bible to proof-text theories that are not actually taught in the Bible, where the Bible is silent.

  • Nobody should be considered Reformed unless they agree with everything in the Reformed confessions and theologians of the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries.
    Answer: False! Misrepresentation! First of all, it is just Reformed confessions, not necessarily all theologians of the 16th and 17th centuries. Secondly, depending on the form of subscription practiced by the denomination, one may or may not take exceptions as long as they do not violate the essence of the faith, its "system of doctrine."

  • We should not agree to discuss any theological topics except the ones discussed by Reformed thinkers in the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries.
    Answer: False. Since Frame evidently thinks that republication and 2K is new, then his very case defeats this assertion.

  • Jonathan Edwards and D. Martin Lloyd-Jones were not Reformed.
    Answer: One can be in the Reformed church while holding to doctrines contrary to the Reformed confessions. They are "Reformed" in the loose sense. They are Reformed in the stricter sense (at least Jonathan Edwards) because they subscribe to a Reformed confession. But this is misleading. The question raised by Dr. Clark is not whether they are Reformed, but whether they were acting Reformed at that instance.

  • Theology is not the application of Scripture, but a historical investigation into Reformed traditions.
    Answer: False. Theology is not the application of Scripture it is true. It is rather thinking God's thoughts after Him, knowing God and making Him known. Theology is THEN applied to life, but it is not application itself. It is also NOT a historical investigation into Reformed tradition. Rather, historical investigation shows us the wisdom and insights of saints gone by, to direct us in the right path of thinking theologically.

  • There is no difference between being biblical and being Reformed.
    Answer: Misleading. There is a difference; the former follows Scripture, while the latter follows Scripture and it is understood that the Reformed faith IS what Scripture itself teaches. But what Frame is trying to insinuate is that being "Reformed" is an addition to Scripture, which is a misrepresentation of how the Reformed tradition has always understood itself — that to be Reformed IS to be biblical, and that non-Reformed thought is not biblical at all.

  • To study the Bible is to study it as the Reformed tradition has studied it.
    Answer: Misleading! We believe that the Reformed tradition has studied the Bible, and to study the Bible in any manner other than the Reformed tradition is to not study the Bible at all.

  • God's principles for governing society are found, not in Scripture, but in natural law.
    Answer: False! Misrepresentation! God's principles are indeed found in natural law, but whoever said there is no relation whatsoever between natural law and Scripture?

  • Natural law is to be determined, not by Scripture, but by human reason and conscience.
    Answer: False dichotomy! Why not both? But the main issue is not how it is determined, but the relation of natural law and Scripture, of which Frame has not even shown he understands them.

  • Scripture promises the believer no temporal blessings until the final judgment.
    Answer: False! Misrepresentation! But the blessings God promises us on earth may not be the "earthly blessings" we want.

  • We can do nothing to "advance" the Kingdom of God. The coming of the Kingdom, since the ascension of Christ, is wholly future.
    Answer: What does Frame mean by "advance"? He hasn't even defined his terms. Furthermore, denial of theonomy and theonomic postmillennialism does not translate into seeing the kingdom as wholly future, since the Kingdom of God has already come in Christ's first coming. What is denied is not the coming of the Kingdom now, but the coming of the Kingdom now in power.

  • The Sabbath pertains only to worship, not to daily work. So worship should occur on the Lod's Day, but work need not cease.
    Answer: M.G. Kline's view of the Sabbath is not held to by almost anyone else besides Kline. So this is a misrepresentation.

  • Only those who accept these principles can consistently believe in justification by faith alone.
    Answer: FALSE!

  • Reformed believers must maintain an adversarial relationship with American evangelicals.
    Answer: False! Misrepresentation! Horton's "village green" model does not promote an "adversarial relationship." In fact, Dr. Horton is probably one of the nicest professors around. The only one adversarial here is John Frame. Concerning evangelicals, we call a spade a spade. We call on them to repent of their unbiblical doctrines and turn to the Reformed faith, out of a heart of love. Nothing adversarial here!

  • Worship should be very traditional, without any influence of contemporary culture.
    Answer: False! Misrepresentation! Denial of seeker-sensitivity and informal worship does not necessarily equate to "worship should be traditional."

  • Only those who accept these principles can be considered truly Reformed.
    Answer: False. The focus is on whether they hold to the Reformed confessions, not "these principles," most of which as you can see are caricatures. The irony is that Frame is writing this book to exclude those from Westminster Seminary California from being called "Reformed." Who's the sectarian here?

  • These principles, however, represent only desirable "emphases." There are exceptions.
    Answer: There are no exceptions. The "exceptions" are an explication of the principles being discussed, and therefore that Frame sees them as exceptions shows he does not understand, or does not seem to understand, what he is "reviewing."

In conclusion, John Frame has shown himself to misrepresent almost every writer in this book, especially seen in those whose books under review I have read. Frame persistently engages in all forms of logical fallacies, and his charges are slanderous to those he is attacking. Far from proving some nefarious "Escondido Theology," Frame has to repent of his lies about these ministers of God— of violating the ninth commandment and attacking the good names of these authors, many of them ministers of the Gospel.

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