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John Frame: Speaking the Truth in Love

December 24, 2009

For the past week I have plowed through P&R‘s new Speaking the Truth in Love: The Theology of John Frame.  I have not finished it, nor do I plan on it.  I have read most of the articles, and thumbed through the rest.  I have never seen a festschrift this massive – its over 1,100 pages, with 39 articles, and 8 sections.  Because of the nature of Frame’s work, there are only a few articles that can be described as “light reading.”  Most of them are tough goings if you are not familiar with Frame’s thought background – some of them are difficult even if you are familiar with Frame’s work.

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Where to begin?

  • The place to begin is at the beginning.  Read the Personal Words from Many Friends.  It is a fun read from theologians and pastors from across the spectrum whom Frame has influenced over the past several decades.
  • Chapters 1-2 – After the Personal Words you should read chapter 1 My Books: Their Genesis and Main Ideas by John Frame himself.  Its a good and brief summary of his literature he has produced.  Then move directly to chapter 2 Background to My Thought.

Jump Around – In my opinion, its best to move around to different topics of interest.

  • Chapter 12 – Justin Taylor and James Grant’s chapter on John Frame and Evangelicalism is a good introduction to how Frame has interacted with evangelicalism broadly speaking and more particular in Presbyterian circles.
  • Chapter 8 – Vern Poythress’ chapter Multiperspectivalism and the Reformed Faith is a crucial chapter in understanding Frame’s concept of multiperspectivalisim (or triperspectivalism), how it affects different disciplines (theology, apologetics, linguistics, ethics, etc), and how it has affected the Reformed faith.  This is probably the most important chapter in understanding Frame’s thought.
  • Chapter 19 – James Anderson’s Presuppositionalism and Frame’s Epistemology is probably the best chapter in the book on Frame’s apologetic.  This is strictly an opinion because all of them (there are 8 total) are very good.  But Anderson works to make Frame’s presupppositionalism practical, which is always helpful for apologetics.  Its also another helpful chapter on his multiperspectivalism.
  • Chapter 32 – David Powlison’s Frame’s Ethics: Working the implications for Pastoral Care is really helpful in understanding how Frame’s ethical triperspectivalism is practical for the pastor looking to “cure souls.”  While ethical reflections tend to be “static,” human hearts and souls are perplex and dynamic, needing multiple perspectives – sort of like jazz!

Chapters That Dig Into Frames Thought

  • Chapter 9 – K. Scott Oliphint’s The Prolegomena Principle: Frame and Bavinck is his attempt to cure “Bavinck’s bug” with Frame’s epistemology.  Its a good chapter on showing the superiority of Frame’s prolegomena over Bavinck in order to remain consistent with the Reform Theology they both set forth.
  • Chapter 13 – Paul Helm’s Frame’s Doctrine of God is no bedside reading (which is what I attempted one evening!).  I can’t imagine anyone requesting Paul Helm to expand more on his ideas (“Helm’s Deep” is more than ironic), but that is what Frame has requested.  And so Paul Helm has obliged.  Although there is a good bit of assumed knowledge of Helm’s book The Providence of God, it is still worth the read if you have not read Helm’s book.
  • Chapter 20 – Donald Collett’s chapter Van Till and Transcendental Argument Revisited is worth reading only if you are familiar with the interaction between Frame, Bahnsen, Craig, and Collett on Frame’s use of the Transcendental Argument.  Frames tends to recognize more continuity between traditional and presuppositional transcendental arguments, while other Van Tillian’s don’t, emphatically.

I truly enjoyed plowing through this volume.  It is astonishing to see Frame’s fingerprints in almost every single theological discipline – including worship wars.  His contribution is massive.  I have a deeper appreciation of John Frame after reading these articles, which I am grateful for.

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