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The Doctrine of the Word of God (A Theology of Lordship) Hardcover – October 27, 2010
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"I thank God for raising up John Frame in our day. We are the wiser, the more biblical, and the healthier because of it. And because he has written so deeply and so well about such great truths about a great God, this will, I believe, be the testimony of generations to come." --John Piper, Pastor for Preaching and Vision, Bethlehem Baptist Church, Minneapolis
"John Frame's course on the doctrine of the Word of God had a profound influence on me as a student at Westminster Seminary in 1971, and it has significantly affected my understanding of theology for my entire life." --Wayne Grudem, Phoenix Theological Seminary
"The fourth volume in John Frame's Theology of Lordship series, The Doctrine of the Word of God, is the best of themand that is high praise." --D. A. Carson, Trinity Evangelical Divinity School
About the Author
John M. Frame (A.B., Princeton University; B.D., Westminster Theological Seminary; M.A. and M.Phil., Yale University; D.D., Belhaven College) is the J. D. Trimble Professor of Systematic Theology and Philosophy at Reformed Theological Seminary in Orlando and the author of many books, including the four-volume Theology of Lordship series.
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I had been a Christian, by the grace of God, for seven years, being transformed while in college. I had only a small exposure to nominal Christianity via my background in a liberal, mainline denomination. I knew only the most basic outline of the facts about Christ that I gleaned from each Sunday's liturgy. I believed that George Washington was the first President of the United Sates, that Mickey Mantle was my favorite baseball player, and that Jesus Christ died on the cross for our sins. And none of them made any difference to my daily life.
Then God intervened in my life out of the blue in 1969 and I was a different person. I had heard the gospel, been transfixed by its message and relevance, and was given grace to savingly trust in Christ alone for salvation. When I told my local priest that January afternoon that God had transformed my life and that I had been "born again" and was now trusting in Christ for my salvation, he told me that such teaching was dangerous and hoped I would "get over it". A former campus chaplain, he said that he had seen people really "messed up" by this kind of teaching. As I left his office that day, I knew he was not a safe guide for my spiritual life and perhaps he was the "messed up" person. (He left the ministry in the next few months to become a stock broker and make more money!)
In God's providence, at the time God chose to save me, I had been taking an obligatory religion class at my liberal arts college. My professors (from such prestigious schools at Yale, Princeton, Harvard Divinity School and the University of Chicago Divinity School) taught us that the Bible was unreliable. The Old Testament in particular was a collection of myths, pious sayings, ragged history, and outright fabrications.
At best it recorded the highest aspirations of pious Jews. I can remember sitting in class that Fall, yet to be converted, but wondering why these men had chosen a job of debunking what they were paid to teach. Why didn't they just go out and get real jobs positively standing behind SOMETHING!
My conversion in early January left me still a month until finals and time for a restudy of the Old Testament
materials. How amazed I was as a new Christian, now indwelt by the Holy Spirit, to read the Old Testament with new eyes. I certainly did not understand all that I was reading but I begin to understand a lot and I was given an inner witness by the Holy Spirit that this was the very Word of God. I grew to despise the liberalism that had kept the gospel from me when I was growing up and then attacked the Bible in class in college. To later find Bible believing Christians, and churches and student ministries beyond my college was a windfall beyond words. (After my conversion and subsequent spiritual growth, I recognized that I had seen first hand what "wolves in sheep's clothing" looked like.)
Back to 1976 and THE BATTLE FOR THE BIBLE. Now that I was involved in student ministries, I had begun taking classes in an evangelical institution and began to learn that the "battle for the Bible" goes all the way back to the Garden of Eden. When the serpent said to Eve: "Did God really say...?" and "No, you will not die..." and flatly contradicted God, the battle for the Bible was in full display right there at the beginning of human history. My studies showed me that almost every generation sees some attack upon the Word of God and its inspiration, truthfulness, clarity, sufficiency, and authority.
Battles for the Bible for the past 35 years have revolved around its clarity and sufficiency (do we need psychologists to fix us; prophets to give us newer words from God; the insights of anthropology to do missions, etc, etc.?) [A good example of a text addressing specious attacks on the Bible is Noel Weeks, THE SUFFICIENCY OF SCRIPTURE; Banner of Truth.)
That brings me to today and my reviews of three new books displaying and defending the greatness of the Word of God.
Kevin DeYoung, TAKING GOD AT HIS WORD (Why the Bible is Knowable, Necessary, and Enough, and What That Means for You and Me); Crossway Books
What a gem Pastor (and soon to be doctor) DeYoung has given us. It is refreshing and it is clear, accurate, encouraging, stimulating and correct. Christians today need to be taught or to learn for themselves through reading this book that the Bible is "more sure" than our experiences, that we critique our experiences by the Bible, not vice versa; that the Bible is enough, that we don't need psychologists, prophets, anthropologists, gurus or tongues and interpretations of tongues. The Bible is sufficient.
The Bible is clear, final and necessary. It is the unbreakable Word of God. DeYoung exhorts us to stick with the Scriptures and not be moved from our full confidence in the Word of God. Plus it has an excellent Appendix of some 30 of the "best books on the good book". With a large study guide available from Crossway, it would make a great and important Sunday School class, group study or church officer training study. Highly recommended. And kudos to Crossway in having DeYoung popularize so many issues and making the teaching of the Bible plain and for the masses.
FOR INTERMEDIATE READERS:
John Frame, THE DOCTRINE OF THE WORD OF GOD
(A Theology of Lordship, Volume 4); P & R
Reformed readers have probably heard of Professor John Frame though they may not have read any of his hefty tomes on theology. Don't let the size of this volume (650 pages) deter you from faithfully reading through the whole volume for it would be a tragedy of a wasted opportunity. Frame has the gift of writing clear, everyday English while writing on all kinds of theological topics. This may be his best volume!
Several trustworthy guides (e.g. J. I. Packer, Doug Kelly, and others) note that it may be the best current volume on the orthodox doctrine of Scripture. In the series, A THEOLOGY OF LORDSHIP, Professor Frame has already written on THE DOCTRINE OF THE KNOWLEDGE OF GOD (how do we know what we know and specifically, how does a human being come to have real and true knowledge of God). Then he wrote
on THE DOCTRINE OF GOD (who He is, what He is like and what that all means); and then THE DOCTRINE OF THE CHRISTIAN LIFE. Professor Frame admits early on the all of these books are based upon the trustworthy and sufficient Scriptures and show the trustworthiness of Scripture as each doctrine is treated. This entire volume is meant to help the reader think through all the the Bible is and should mean to us.
The Chapter headings are as follows:
PART ONE: ORIENTATION
1. The Personal-Word Model
2. Lordship and the Word
PART TWO: GOD'S WORD IN MODERN THEOLOGY
3. Modern Views of Revelation
4. Revelation and Reason
5. Revelation and History
6. Revelation and Human Subjectivity
7. Revelation and God Himself
PART THREE: THE NATURE OF GOD'S WORD
8. What is the Word of God?
9. God's Word as His Controlling Power
10. God's Word as His Meaningful Authority
11. God's Word as His Personal Presence
PART FOUR: HOW THE WORD COMES TO US
12. The Media of God's Word
13. God's Revelation Through Events
14. God's Revlation through Words: The Divine Voice
15. God's Revelation Through Words: Prophets and
16. The Permanence of God's Written Word
17. God's Written Words in the Old Testament
18. Respect for God's Written Words in the Old
19. Jesus' View of the Old Testament
20. The Apostles' View of the Old Testament
21. The New Testament as God's Written Word
22. The Canon of Scripture
23. The Inspiration of Scripture
24. The Content of Scripture
25. Scripture's Authority: Its Content, & Its Purpose
26. The Inerrancy of Scripture
27. The Phenomena of Scripture
28. Bible Problems
29. The Clarity of Scripture
30. The Necessity of Scripture
31. The Comprehensiveness of Scripture
32. The Sufficiency of Scripture
33. The Transmission of Scripture
34. Translations and Editions of Scripture
35. Teaching and Preaching
38. Confessions, Creeds and Traditions
39. Human Reception of Scripture
40. The Interpretation of Scripture
42. Person-Revelation: the Divine Witness
43. Human Beings as Revelation
44. Writing on the Heart
45. Summary and Organizational Reflections
APPENDICES--There are 17 Appendices on top of this!
What a wealth of good things. I would commend church officers, seminarians, pastors and thinking lay people to read and master this book. Again, Frame writes to be understood, not to show off a turgid or academic prose. Laymen can understand this book.
Pastors and seminarians should understand this book.
FOR MORE ADVANCED READERS:
Peter Lillback & Richard Gaffin, eds.; THY WORD IS STILL TRUTH (Essential Writings on the Doctrine of Scripture From the Reformation to Today); P & R
Another "Aha!" moment regarding the battle for the Bible came in 1980. I was in seminary and my professor, John Woodbridge, had a seminar class evaluating a then new book by Jack Rogers and Donald McKim, THE AUTHORITY AND INTERPRETATION OF THE BIBLE (An Historical Approach). The authors purported to show that the so-called modern idea of the "inerrancy" of the Bible was invented by professors at late 19th century Princeton Seminary (A. A. Hodge and B. B. Warfield). Their thesis was that the normative view of the church had been that the Bible had errors but not such that people could not be saved or grow. They told us that the church for nearly 2,000 years had always believed in an errant Bible. So the position of their seminary in California, which had changed to embrace the errantist position, was in the mainstream of church history.
The seminar class took the Rogers & McKim volume and looked up every footnote in the book. We could volunteer to back check chapters and I chose the ones on Charles Hodge (my thesis subject) and the Puritans (a growing love). How shocked I was to discover that the footnotes, by and large, were doctored! Quotes were trimmed to leave out contrary comments;
secondary sources were conflated with primary sources leaving a completely different impression of what the original author was saying, sentences from the middle of a paragraph were made to say something that the whole paragraph did not say, etc, etc. It was hash job!
When the class came together and we discovered that the others had found the same discrepancies that each of us had found, we sat silently in amazement. The professor reminded us that we were all sinners and sometime professing Christians did unrighteous things to justify their conduct. So professors from a reportedly evangelical seminary, seeking to help keep their support base, rewrote church history to make
themselves seem kosher. (You can read the results
of this class in John Woodbridge, BIBLICAL AUTHORITY: A CRITIQUE OF THE ROGERS/McKIM PROPOSAL; Zondervan; 1982)
The battle for the Bible was still in process and now so-called evangelicals were adjusting the Bible to the dictates of contemporary scholarship. For the past 30 years I have seen the on-going skirmishes as once professed evangelicals lose their confidence in the Scriptures and jump ship, landing in all kinds of strange places with strange bed-fellows.
One of the newest books to thoroughly debunk the notion that the church has never believed in inerrancy is THY WORD IS STILL TRUTH. Several decades ago,
Westminster Seminary Old Testament scholar E. J. Young wrote, THEY WORD IS TRUTH. It strengthened a generation of young evangelical and Reformed scholars as to the truthfulness and trustworthiness of the Bible.
What Drs. Lillback and Gaffin have done is bring together the best sources from the 16th century Reformation down to today to show that Christ's church has always believed in a fully trustworthy and inerrant Bible.
Westminster Seminary had been embarrassed a decade ago when one of its Old Testament professors did not teach and publish in accordance with the Scripture or the Westminster Standards and had to be removed. The final section of the volumes shows what Westminster faced and how they are currently in line with historic, orthodox Reformation Christianity.
PART ONE: SOLA SCRIPTURA: THE REFORMERS'
REDISCOVERY OF THE WRITTEN WORD OF GOD
--what Luther taught
--what Zwingli taught
--what Bullinger taught
--what Calvin taught
PART TWO: THE REFORMED CONFESSIONS
--almost all the 16th and early 17th century
creeds and confessions
PART THREE: EARLY REFORMED INTERPRETATION
--from Henry Bullinger to Jonathan Edwards
PART FOUR: THE DOCTRINE OF SCRIPTURE IN
--William Ames, John Owen, Francis Turretin and
PART FIVE: THE DOCTRINE OF SCRIPTURE IN THE
SCOTTISH AND DUTCH LEGACY
--John Witherspoon, William Cunningham,
Abraham Kuyper, Herman Bavinck, Louis Berkhof,
PART SIX: OTHER NINETEENTH CENTURY EUROPEAN
--Louis Gaussen, Adolphe Monod, Ernst Wilhelm
Hengstenberg, and Charles Spurgeon
PART SEVEN: THE DOCTRINE OF SCRIPTURE IN THE
THEOLOGY OF OLD PRINCETON
--Charles Hodge, A. A. Hodge, Benjamin B.
Warfield, and Moises Silva
PART EIGHT: THE THEOLOGY OF SCRIPTURE OF THE
FOUNDING FATHERS OF WESTMINSTER
--J. Gresham Machen
--Robert Dick Wilson
--O. T. Allis
--Cornelius Van Til
PART NINE: THE BIRTH OF BIBLICAL THEOLOGY
(at WESTMINSTER SEMINARY)
--Ned B. Stonehouse
PART TEN: THE AUTHORITY OF THE OLD TESTAMENT
AND NEW TESTAMENT CANON OF SCRIPTURE
(AT WESTMINSTER SEMINARY)
--Edward J. Young
--Ned B. Stonehouse
PART ELEVEN: CHALLENGES TO THE REFORMED
DOCTRINE OF SCRIPTURE
--E. J. Young
PART TWELVE: THE WESTMINSTER CONTROVERSY
PART THIRTEEN: CONCLUSIONS
This is no "ivory tower" dispute. This is no idle discussion by folks with too much time on their hands. I know what it is like growing up in a liberal denomination that has jettisoned confidence in Scripture and has nothing to say to a lost world. And the world has returned the favor by paying the church no mind.
The fate of Christ's church and the preaching of the gospel depends upon whether we have a sure Word of God. The churches of Europe were emptied in the late 19th century as the churches and preachers no longer believed "Thy Word is truth". Early 20th century Britain and modern America has seen the same things happen as denominations have lost 50 million adherents because their pulpits no longer blazed with "Thus sayest the Lord". When problems arise in Christian's lives today in these denominations, there is no longer a sure Word of God to turn to for answers.
Thank you Drs. Lillback and Gaffin and thank you to P & R for publishing so helpful a volume. May the Lord
bless it for the up-building of Christ's churches and the spread of the gospel.
Your Book Servant,
Pastor Steve Martin
The main section of the book is divided into four parts which contain several chapters in each parts. Part one lays the foundation down with a chapter on the Personal-Word Model and another chapter on the Lordship of God and the Word of God. Part two looks at God’s Word in modern theology specifically with the Bible being God’s revelation. Part three examines the nature of God’s Word by asking what is the Word of God and then using Frame’s Tri-perspectivalism explores God’s Word with the triade of control, authority and presence. The bulk of the main section of the book is found in part four in which John Frame looks at the topic of how God’s Word comes to us. Here John Frame talks about things that typically most books on systematic theology rarely talks about when they present a bibliology: Frame discusses about the media of God’s Word, the “phenomena” of Scripture, translations and editions of the ible and textual criticism. I think this is a big plus for this work if you are looking for a work that is a systematic theological presentation on the Word of God while interacting with these important topics.
Like other works in this series John Frame has an appendix section that feature multiple appendixes in which some are rather lengthy. I have always found John Frame’s appendixes as theological gold. These appendixes provide clarifications, reviews of books, etc. However unlike the other three volume half of The Doctrine of the Word of God are appendixes (about 350 pages with the main section of the book and another 350 pages or so of appendixes). One might even say that really there are two books: One being The Doctrine of the Word of God and the second being a collection of Frame’s shorter writings on the Word of God. After I finished the book I realized that I had a better time remembering the appendixes more than I did the main chapters in the book. In particular I enjoyed appendix D in which Frame critiques Dooyeweerd’s movement concerning their view of the Word of God, appendix J in which Frame critiques Peter Enns and also appendix O concerning Frame’s defense of something close to Biblicalism. For those who have previously read other works by Frame would immediately realize that this book has far less footnotes than previous works by John Frame. The reason for this is because John Frame has already explain so much of his methodology in other books and here Frame wants to write freely his thoughts.
Overall a good book and I recommend it for others. I would also suggest that readers read this book slowly over time. I typically read about 5-10 pages a day.