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The Doctrine of God (A Theology of Lordship) Hardcover – May 1, 2002
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"A magnificent treatment that will be a standard work for decades. Frame stands in the great Reformed tradition . . . yet in his treatment of the doctrine of God he surpasses them all with an amazing breadth of knowledge and depth of understanding. In every section Frame brings fresh insight to old doctrines." --Wayne Grudem
"A meticulusly biblical, remarkably cogent, and powerfully transforming presentation." --Richard L. Pratt Jr
"A joy to read. It is an intellectual treat. . . . Preachers and academic theologians will soon count it an indispensable tool." --Donald Macleod
From the Publisher
Readers familiar with Frames analysis of historic doctrines and current questions will welcome this long-awaited second installment in the Theology of Lordship series. Here he examines the attributes, acts, and names of God in connection with a full spectrum of relevant theological, ethical, spiritual truths.
The Doctrine of God received the 2003 ECPA Gold Medallion Award in the Theology and Doctrine Category. Congratulations, Dr. Frame, for this award reflecting many years of study on the topic of God's attributes and character.
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Top Customer Reviews
Frame properly mentions early on that the Protestant Reformation did not really touch on the area of Theology Proper that much. The Reformation focused on other theological loci such as soteriology and ecclesiology, but left much of the medieval understanding of Theology Proper fairly intact. Therefore, Frame's book, along with some other books that have come out recently, really represent the first serious attempt to apply Semper Reformanda to the Doctrine of God, and it is an effort that is long overdue. Frame's considerable interaction with non-evangelical views of God in this book amplify the fact that evangelical Protestantism has, for way too long, failed to develop a distinctly Protestant understanding of God that sets a reliable standard against heterodoxy.
In this book, Frame emphasizes the concept of God as covenant Lord, and develops much of the book in accordance with this organizing principle. While Frame is careful to note that covenant Lordship is not the only legitimate way to organize a Theology Proper, it is nonetheless a compelling approach given its constant theme throughout Scripture. In fact, Frame convincingly argues that many heterodox attempts to develop a theology of God deliberately avoid this theme because of its obvious threat to the autonomizing of man that so many modern day theologies try to stress. In this vain, Frame's systematic critique of libertarian free-will and the notion of divine middle knowledge are extremely good. Frame's sustained focus on the Biblical names of God is quite refreshing in showing how His names are themselves a form of revelation that teach us more about Him. Frame's discussion of transcendence and immanence draws heavily from Van Til, but is a presentation that is most helpful, and most needed. Lastly, Frame's interaction with the gender-neutral and 'maleness of God' controversy is both very relevant and substantive. Frame takes a conservative view on this question, but the reader is comforted by the fact that Frame's presentation is respectfully Biblical in its emphasis, rather than reaking of the kind of hysteria that is typically employed by folks on all sides of this issue who tend to have axes to grind. Those looking for solid critiques of Barth, Moltmann, Pinnock, McFague and others will find much to chew on here.
Readers who are familiar with Frame's perspectivalism may find some of the early chapters to be a bit redundant, but these chapters are very helpful for those are just beginning to get exposed to Frame's approach. In addition, those who are well versed in many of Frame's other works will find a bit of duplication here. Lastly, while many of the appendices are good, a number of them seem off-topic and make an already big book unnecessarily larger.
But overall, this is a very important book that makes significant in-roads in developing a Protestant and strongly Reformed Doctrine of God. It is a book that forges a careful path of sound theology where God is concerned amidst a forest of competing theological constructions that often leave much to be desired. Frame has provided the church with a valuable service here.
Director of Theological Resources & Education
Desiring God Ministries
Aside from the above triad, Frame's work covers much of the same ground as many other manuals on theology proper. The book's value, though, is that it is quite recent and responds to issues that 300 year dead Puritans had not dreamed of. In this book Frame confesses God as "covenant lord" (Frame, 11). The covenant Lord interacts with his people according to the above triad: authority, control, and presence. Frame is obviously interacting with Meredith Kline's work on suzerainty treaties (Kline, 1997). That is: The Name of the Great King; Historical Prologue; Stipulations; Sanctions; Continuity (Frame, 2002: 438).
Despite some of the hysteria that usually accompanies the Reformed world's response to Frame's works, this book remains solidly within the Reformed tradition, even if Frame questions large sections of that tradition at times. Sometimes, I suspect, Frame himself does not realize he is doing it. Frame deals squarely with issues relating to man's interaction with God (free will) and with one another (ethics). In other words, as far as books concerning the doctrine of God go, this one is quite relevant.
It's difficult to review a systematic theology textbook. They all follow the same general order and in reviewing one, you have already reviewed about 35% of the next one. Frame's book is that, to be sure, but he also deals with specific issues that do require a response.
Libertarian Free Will
Frame ridicules the alternative to what he perceives the Augustinian tradition to be. He defines compatibilism (determinism) as the "view that every event has a sufficient cause other than itself" (136). Libertarian free will (not to be confused with the economic position) argues that humans have the power to choose between different alternatives (138). Frame then gives fourteen or so reasons why libertarianism is false (139-144). Most of his reasons hinge on a specific exegesis of passages which are self-evident only to Calvinists. Secondly, when approached with counter texts (like in Ezekiel when God pleads with his people not to die, but turn and live) he interprets them in light of his prior Calvinist commitments. But how do we know beforehand, given sola scriptura, that we should interpret them by this framework and not that one?
His only interesting objection is that Scripture never grounds human responsibility in libertarian freedom? Well, the verse in Ezekiel notwithstanding, I would reply, "Fine, ground it in the person of God." Does God have libertarian freedom? If he doesn't, then Frame is hard-pressed to explain how God isn't bound by causal necessity, along with all of the Origenist problematic that entails. Frame seems aware of that criticism and says that in heaven, we won't be able to choose to sin, so therefore we don't have libertarian freedom (141). However, that's valid only if we assume a form of simplicity that reduces the choice between good and evil. St. Maximus the Confessor, however, said we choose between many goods. Ergo, no Origenism.
His discussion on election, like his take on free will, assumes a Calvinistic slant on the exegesis. That's not a fault, to be sure, but one should be aware that his tradition's exegesis is by no means self-evident. Interestingly, a Calvinist view of election (also known here as individual election) is not even necessary to his triad of God's authority. He begins by rightly noting that the elect one is Jesus Christ (322). He asserts, but not quite argues, that Old Testament election was both corporate and individual. He never offers an Old Testament verse demonstrating this, though. His take on Romans 9 ignores the fact that Romans 9-11 was dealing with the corporate body of apostate Israel. He further equates election with new covenant membership. The problem, though, is that he has yet to show that election is used in an individual sense. Perhaps it is, but when the New Testament speaks of election, and Reformed people hold to the principle of continuity (especially circumcision = baptism), then we must also conclude that election must be grounded in its Old Testament, corporate sense.
The Triune God
Much of this section of the book reads like a proof-text list arguing for the deity of the Son or Spirit. That's not a fault, but the question often facing people is not whether the texts say this person is divine, but how does his divine status relate to the questions of unity and plurality. Frame gives a helpful list on how the Church confessed the Trinity throughout history. There are very good critiques of Aquinas and Boethius. For example, take Boethius' definition of a person as "an individual substance of a rational nature" (700). If this is the case, and there are three persons in the Godhead, then how are there not three (four?) natures in the godhead?
Frame draws upon the soon-to-be published work of Federal Visionist Ralph Smith (2003) in critiquing Thomas Aquinas. If the persons are simply alternative names for the divine essence, then how is this not modalism? Frame concludes, following Smith, " And when we take Father, Son, and Spirit as names of relations...are we not reducing concrete persons to abstract entitites" (702)?
Frame's take on the Filioque is interesting, largely because he doesn't really care (718). He affirms the Western view and offers the same standard arguments for it, namely since there is an analogy between temporal sending and ontological procession, therefore they are the same (717). However, besides the fact that the above isn't even an argument, one could argue that since Jesus came into the world by work of the Holy Spirit in the virgin Mary (sending, if you will), then Jesus eternally proceeds from the Spirit!!!! Anyway, Frame says it's bad theology to build doctrines off analogies.
This book is a welcome addition to the Reformed community. Frame passionately interacts with the texts and there is much material for sermons and lessons. The book has some weaknesses, though. There is little (nothing?) in the way of historical understanding and the student leaves the discussion without a real knowledge of how this worked out in history.