In John’s Latitudinarian Garage

I don’t know what’s in your garage, but from time to time mine has become pretty cluttered and stuff has to be pitched. What we keep and what we pitch says something about us. People have theological garages too, in which they keep all their theological influences and that collection can say a fair bit about the owner of the garage too. Recently John Frame wrote a review of Mike Horton’s book, Christless Christianity. In that review John opened up his garage and gave us a peek as to what he has kept, wants to keep, and what he wants to throw away.

Most people probably know John only from his books and to those who don’t live and breathe Reformed theology, piety, and practice he seems like a sweetly-reasonable bridge builder between Reformed theology and broad evangelicalism. Thus, folk who don’t share much in common with Reformed theology as it is (or at least ought to be) confessed and practiced by the Reformed churches favor John’s work not because it gives them insight into that odd creature in the zoo (Reformed confessional theology) but because its message is, “Sure you’re Reformed too!” The spirit of the age (Zeitgeist) is subjectivist (I define reality) and inclusivist (everyone plays and everyone wins) and John’s theology fits right in. That’s great unless, of course, one knows well the Reformed theology of the confessions and the older writers. In that case things are rather more complicated since John has lobbed out several radical proposals over years, which, if adopted and implemented, would virtually transform Reformed theology and, as I’ve said before, not in a good way.

With this pointed review we seem to be thrown again into controversy. Any disagreement of this sort is unpleasant but sometimes these things are necessary. Eric Landry, at the WHI blog has published a response to Frame. Fair-minded readers who’ve read Horton’s book (and the marvelous follow-up, Gospel Driven Life) will not recognize the book in John’s review. The WH response explains why that is. In the publishing business John’s review is known as a “hit piece.” Books reviews are notorious for becoming opportunities for settling scores. In that sense it would be tempting to say with the cops on Monty Python, “Right then, nothing to see here, move along,” but there is something to see here.

This review is a fine distillation of most of what makes John’s theology what it is. Consider this: In the “Warrior Children” piece Frame endorses Norman Shepherd as one of the most brilliant theologians of our time. He says the same thing in the recent festschrift and Shepherd reciprocates in the same volume by acknowledging Frame as his “defender.” This is the same Norman Shepherd who was dismissed by WTS/P in 1981 because, during a seven-year controversy, he was unable to explain how his teaching agreed with the Word of God as confessed by the Westminster Standards. Shepherd genuinely does not understand that he has taken a Pelagian or at least Pelagianizing position. He genuinely doesn’t understand the difference between sola fides (faith that is alone) and sola fide (by faith alone). In his volume published in 2000 Shepherd made flatly Pelagian arguments (which have roots in his 1959 ThM thesis which had Pelagian arguments). On this see the relevant chapters in Covenant, Justification, and Pastoral Ministry where these things are documented. For more on the development of Shepherd’s theology see Guy Water’s essay in the festschrift for Palmer Robertson. For that matter see Palmer Robertson’s history of the Shepherd controversy. Either Norm Shepherd is a technically incompetent, biblicistic, moralist who teaches covenantal Arminianism (when covenant is in view the theology is essentially Arminian) on a trajectory toward Socinianism or he is a genius who has made a great breakthrough in Reformed theology. Both assessments cannot be right. Blessedly, many of the (NAPARC) Reformed churches (PCA, OPC, URCNA, RCUS, RPCNA) have considered Norman Shepherd’s proposed revisions of Reformed theology and rejected them. John (and Shepherd) may be right that Shepherd is a visionary and the rest of us are just trapped by the dead weight of traditionalism, but we haven’t seen it and this piece isn’t likely to help us see it.

Consider also that, in the review, Frame ends up siding with Joel Osteen versus Horton (whose theology he calls “narrow, factional, even sectarian”) on the question how obedience relates to wealth and remonstrates with Horton for being too hard on Osteen. What kind of a theology cannot see that what Joel Osteen says is utterly incompatible with biblical and historic Christianity? What kind of theology even bothers to look for something redeeming in Osteen’s message? It is a theology that is premised upon an intentionally vague (but not brief), broad, inclusive evangelicalism, upon the progressive wing of the old evangelical coalition, which is in the process of cracking up. As Darryl Hart has argued, “evangelicalism” doesn’t really exist. In short, John is an evangelical latitudinarian. How can he be the theologian of a broad, inclusive, socially influential movement if it doesn’t exist or if it’s at odds with basic Christian doctrine? Thus, a priori, there must be some way in which Osteen (who, after all speaks to 30,000 weekly in person and to millions on TV) is right. Could there be a deep, structural connection between John’s theology and Osteen’s “glory story”? I think there is. There’s a connection between his long-standing support for Shepherd’s revision of the covenant of grace into a covenant of grace and works. It’s no accident that picked the issue of works and wealth with which to support Osteen. In traditional Protestant (both Lutheran and Calvinist) categories, Osteen, Shepherd, and Frame are theologians of glory. A theology of the cross is about Christ for us (Christus pro nobis) for righteousness, not for wealth or this-worldly power and influence. The theology of glory is about what we can do for/with God.

In the interests of duct-taping evangelicalism together, Frame is advocating confessional minimalism and multi-perspectival inclusivism. By contrast, in the interests of a genuinely biblical and Reformed theology, piety, and practice, Horton is advocating confessional maximalism. He still believes not just the broad outlines (from some perspective or other) of the faith confessed by the Reformed churches but he actually believes the stuff between the first article and the last. He actually wants to see that inform our piety (the way we relate to God) and practice (the way we live out our faith). The practical fruit of John’s theology is that Reformed churches become less distinct from broad evangelical churches. Frame is explicit that, in his view, this is a good thing. He’s argued for this sort of “evangelical” ecumenism in his book Evangelical Reunion. Horton is arguing for a sharp antithesis between what today constitutes “evangelicalism” and confessional Reformed theology, piety, and practice. The function of the review then is to discredit, partly by misrepresenting him, Horton’s case so as to strengthen confidence in the broad, inclusivist approach to evangelicalism.

This review is an outstanding example of latter-day latitudinarianism. If you want to know where latitudinarianism leads, check out Julius Kim’s chapter in CJPM. What happened to the Church of England when it was over run by Latitudinarians?

Finally, the odd thing about this version of Latitudinarianism is that John seems to have room in his theological garage for theonomy, Norman Shepherd, the Federal Vision, and Joel Osteen but he doesn’t have room for Mike Horton and his ilk. That’s an interesting garage but it’s not one in which folk who still believe the Reformed faith should want to live.

    Post authored by:

  • R. Scott Clark
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    R.Scott Clark is the President of the Heidelberg Reformation Association, the author and editor of, and contributor to several books and the author of many articles. He has taught church history and historical theology since 1997 at Westminster Seminary California. He has also taught at Wheaton College, Reformed Theological Seminary, and Concordia University. He has hosted the Heidelblog since 2007.

    More by R. Scott Clark ›

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  1. I was really gobsmacked (I love that word) by his review. How can he side with Joel Osteen? Amazing. Maybe he just had a bad day when he wrote the review? I’m searching for some charity here.

  2. Dr. Clark:


    First, Dr. James Innes Packer, which grabbed my attention…and is affording occasion for further reflection here.

    Second, now this. And, as a former Prof (Rev. Frame), this has my attention. Thanks.

    The blogs are hiking this far and wide. Facebook also. As an aside, I read one of John’s works several year back, Contemporary Something or Other (??), advocating or justifying liturgical dance. ??


  3. Dear Dr. Clark,

    thanks for this excellent piece. I am astounded by how Frame can misrepresent Horton’s excellent book. It was a hit job unworthy of a man of his caliber.

  4. “Most people probably know John only from his books and to those who don’t live and breathe Reformed theology, piety, and practice he seems like a sweetly-reasonable bridge builder between Reformed theology and broad evangelicalism.”

    Well, such bridge construction would come under the rubric of unity. And to the degree that loving unity is espoused and defined in Scripture, that’s a good thing.

    The difficulty comes when weighing the choices between doctrinal minimalism and doctrinal near-maximalism and its causation and resulting impact on unity and inclusivity/exclusivity.

    Doctrinal minimalism -> Greater Unity and Less Clarity

    Doctrinal near-maximalism -> Greater Factionalism and More Clarity

    Both points on the spectrum have its shrieking critics. Ya gotta pick your poison as the saying goes.

    On a tangential note: My casual unverified observation is that many Reform folks look down upon independent or fundamental Baptists as being too sectarian, too factional. But then it seems that some Reform folks are just as sectarian and factional. It seems like the Pot calling the Kettle black when Reform folks say the Fundamentalist folks fight too much.

    • I’m Reformed. I love the Reformed faith and tradition. I don’t look down on anyone who contends for the truth of the Gospel. I believe the Reformed Confessions because they are biblical. So if anyone wants to claim that they aren’t, we can fight, and so long as the goal is the truth, and we humbly submit to the teachings of Scripture and the dictates of logic, we both will be better for the debate. And, in the end, everyone at the local OPC Church will squeeze in real tight to make room for him in the pew.

    • TUAD your equations presuppose something that doctrinal maximalists don’t hold. The doctrinal maximalist would understand that the well being of Christian unity is based on the fullness and precision of one’s doctrinal confession.

      • M. Jay Bennett,

        I’m well aware of that. I’m saying that the doctrinal maximalist’s understanding of the well-being of Christian unity based on the fullness and precision of one’s doctrinal confession, as you put it, cashes out into greater factionalism.

        It’s observable, well-nigh indisputable.

        P.S. In a rather rough sense, but with some applicability, the Pharisees could arguably be seen as doctrinal maximalists.

          • The recognition that we are caught on the horns of an uncomfortable dilemma that has no easy, tidy resolution. The recognition of such a predicament leads to an understanding that there is messiness involved. And given the understanding that there’s messiness involved, hopefully an extension of grace and kindness towards those who think that we are the ones being messy on our preferred horn of the dilemma.

            • I’m not defending John Frame’s review. I’m speaking in general about the difficulties in the discussion about doctrinal minimalism and doctrinal maximalism.

              • TUAD,

                1. Why do commenters use behind pseudonyms? I’ve never understood that? Nothing personal, just wondering.

                2. I said “confessional minimalism….” You changed a key term to “doctrinal.” These are different things. There are doctrines which are held widely but not explicitly confessed or obligatory ecclesiastically but what is confessed by the churches is obligatory.

                John and I have both subscribed the Westminster Standards. We’ve both sworn oaths to uphold and defend the same confession and yet it is obvious to me that we have very different relations to those same documents and to the doctrines taught and confessed by the Reformed churches.

                • A solid pseudonym makes it harder for your boss to find out that you commented on their favorite blog when you were supposed to be working, and harder for professors to find out that you commented on THEIR blog while in THEIR class…

                  • You know, in every blog I participate there are always people that question the character and integrity of people using pseudonym. First off, for people that post stuff like that it tells me something about their integrity and character.

                    Second, has it ever occur to some that using pseudonym because they are humble and not try to show off? It is common practice to use pseudonyms in literature and even in the 18th century many Biblical commentaries are written in pseudonyms.

                    I have no issue revealing who I am when someone just take the courtesy to ask, but I prefer to use pseudonym when posting in internet blogs.

                    • I appreciate this but I don’t understand how expressing an argument or a point of view constitutes showing off? I ask about pseudonyms because, well, I have to take responsibility for everything I say. Writers with pseudonyms do not. That strikes me as somewhat unfair. I’ve considered banning them here but haven’t. You give me something to think about, however.

                • Dr. Clark:

                  You said:

                  “John and I have both subscribed the Westminster Standards. We’ve both sworn oaths to uphold and defend the same confession and yet it is obvious to me that we have very different relations to those same documents and to the doctrines taught and confessed by the Reformed churches.”

                  How so, that is, what are the different relations you and Rev. Frame sustain to the Standards? Federal Vision would be one. A second one, I suspect that URC is a Confessional Church requiring members to subscribe to the 3FU, while the PCA does not appear to have that. Otherwise, thumbnail sketch: what would be the other issues.

                  And many thanks, good post.

                    • OK, understand all but the first two, Trinity and Creator/creature distinction. I suppose that would go far outside the orbit of this post however. But thumbnail sketch I sought and that’s what I got. I’ll leave it at that. Thanks.

            • TUAD:

              Case for doctrinal maximalists, a term you’ve used here. Some observations.

              First, Lutheran Confessionalists embraced the Augsburg Confession, 1530. Difficulties arose and the Formula of Concord 1580) resolved most of their issues internal to the German Churches. However, it resulted in an impasse at intercommunal concord with Reformed Churches. It’s OK for this Churchman. The Lutherans hammered out some excellent points, giving greater visibility to the grand doctrine of justification by faith alone. One perspective: this is a downside since the Reformed and Lutherans worship separately. This is only a downside if your argument presupposes that organizational unity is required for Christ’s Churches. These Lutheran “maximalists” have done a grand, great, and marvellous service to the entire Catholic Church by putting this essential matter before us all–with this clarity. Woe to any who don’t listen and appreciate the Lutheran emphasis on justification by faith aloe.

              Second, the Reformed Churches–as maximalists–engaged the Remonstrants. We gained the Canons of Dordt, 1619, as a sound development in the Catholic Church, a ratification of Augustinianism, the Council of Orange, Wycliffe’s, Anselm’s and Bradwardine’s theologies and the Irish Articles of 1615. This conflicted with the Formula of Concord, which is weak on these matters. This was an improvement to the Reformation.

              Third, a minimalist action by the Elizabethan Church, the XXXIX Articles. Elizabeth, Queen Exegete the First, the Sovereign Theologian of England, sent ambassadors to Torgau, 1577, to ask the Lutherans not to proceed with the Formula of Concord, since it would disrupt the relations between the English and German Churches. The Lutherans proceeded. The XXXIX Articles were not upgraded to embrace those aspects in the F o C that are extremely valuable. A tremendous loss. Further, the Civil War in England with its’ political problems was so intertwined with the religious questions, that upon the Restoration, the Church of England–as minimalists–to their hurt and injury, did not embrace the WCF…even while Archbishop Ussher’s Irish Articles of 1615 was standard stuff for the Church of Ireland (Anglican).

              Fourth, a minimalist action in the Jacobean Church. Ambassadors from England were sent to Dordt. Five representatives, I believe. After the debates, one returned and Amyraldian, essentially. The other turned from his Calvinism to Arminianism. The other three were strong Dordtian Calvinists who returned to advocate for the doctrinal “upgrade.” James 1 liked Dordt, but the *minimalists* prevailed. Anglicanism never recovered after that failure of thinking and verve. We got Laud and Wesley as a result while a strong Dordtian tradition persisted in a mixed body of mish-mashers.

              Based on the above, the maximalists have advanced the case for biblical doctrine, resulting in some areas of disagreement (e.g. the Lord’s Supper, definite redemption), but have left the far better record of theological engagement, nourishment and witness. The minimalists, while achieving perhaps greater unity, have taken the screens out of the window and let the flies and bugs enter.

              I say, let the maximalists present their cases, live in their more narrow confines, engage with other maximalists of other limited confines, all of this without organizational “unionism” and without the facade of a feigned unity, but standing on principles that they “truly” share. This debate enriches the Churches and allows the truth to clearly emerge. This also keeps ecclesiastical pride in check and the impulse to imperialism in check, e.g. Romanism is exhibit A.

              I am happy to see the URC stand on its confessional principles . The same for the OPC. The same for the LCMS and WELS. I’m not sure what the PCA stands for, in terms of the people.

              Doctrinal minimalism leaves width with no depth. Thank God for the above maximalists.

              A standing question re: Frame, what does “ex animo” subscription to the Westminster Standards, a maximalist posture, mean for his teaching ministry in the PCA? Does he teach his students to say and preach this to evangelicals? How about the Sabbath, the Lord’s Day? With respect to just baptism alone, as one perhaps among others, can and will he say to the Anabaptists in this nation and at the mega-churches he extolled, you have “greatly sinned” in this negligence?

            • D. Philip Veitch and M. Jay Bennett,

              I lean more towards being on the side of doctrinal near-maximalism than towards doctrinal minimalism.

              That being said, I do grant the force of the arguments by those critics of doctrinal near-maximalism that it does tend to have a slippery slope towards quarreling and divisive factionalism. My response would be that it’s a price I’d rather pay than the price for a shallow, hollow, papered-over unity based on a doctrinal minimalism that’s intentionally worded vaguely so as to allow for multiple interpretations.

              Ya gotta pay one way or the other.

        • Actually, the Pharisees are the latitudinarians. The Reformed Confessions all emphasize justification by faith alone, period. Nothing added. Frame and other emphasize law-keeping as the basis for assurance of salvation rather than justification by faith alone as the sole basis of the Christian’s assurance of salvation. Furthermore, Mike Horton has over and over pointed out that the broad church is pelagian precisely because it emphasizes moral law and ignores Gospel/justification by faith alone. Doctrinal reductionist reduce doctrine to a minimum for one reason and one reason alone: They want to emphasize law rather than Gospel or to the full exclusion of the Gospel. Joel Osteen is not preaching grace but LAW.

          Sincerely in Christ,


  5. I have read John’s review, and as one of his former students, I am not surprised by it. I do think he goes a bit over the top in his criticisms, especially his criticism of the language Michael Horton uses. I have not read Horton’s book, but I think I understand his point better than Frame does. It seems to me a bit much to say that Frame’s review is a hit piece. I think he has more integrity than that. The reactions to his review do not seem to consider the possibility that he might be making some valid points. The Apostle James tells us to be slow to anger. As for the infered criticism of Frame’s perspectivalism, I have never heard or read anything by him that hints at perspectivalism leading to a downplaying of the authority of Scripture.

  6. In doing some hunting around, I’m wondering about the relationship of all this to worship-patterns, to wit, the widespread use of contemporary Christian music (CCM) in the PCA. I don’t have a dog in that fight per se since I’m a Prayer Book man. When I was in active ministry, I recommended five men to RTS, Orlando, FL. What I’m learning is that CCM pervades the Orlando churches and also their seminary.

    Is there a connection here?

  7. Response to D. Philip Veitch:
    Personally, I’m an RPW myself, though Prayer Book and RPW folk are different. I really don’t favor CCM and I wouldn’t know if there is a connection to the article above. Maybe there is a correlation to it in some abstract way. We know that theology informs our worship, so I guess the theology of Frame would correlate to his response. Who knows.

    • J Martinez:

      I’m not here to discuss RPW, BCP and Reformed folks. Not interested in a conflict on that here. I’m a BCP-man and ne-er the twain shall meet on that. In short, the old BCP is governed by about 85-90% of Scripture and drips with it from front to back. It needs revisions, but both BCP-folks like myself and Reformed folks, share a profound love for Biblical worship. The “more Bible,” the better.

      A few thoughts.

      First, I read one of Rev. Frame’s books years ago. Name eludes me now. Had to do with worship and the RPW-principle was frequently invoked. It really–memory fails—didn’t do much for me. It seemed to be an apology of sorts for Contemporary Christian music.

      Second, a friend is reporting the following to me in another venue. She is a PCA-Churchwoman and a Confessional-Churchwoman. She attended a Chapel service at RTS Orlando, FL, where drums, guitars, etc., were involved along with CCM.

      Third, in a conversation with some others, that are very, very credible, CCM apparently is almost the “regulative norm” for Orlando PCA Churches. I’m not PCA, so I don’t know.

      Fourth, the singing of Psalms, Reformed or historic Anglican, has been in Reformational contexts. When the switch-over to hymns occurred somewhere in the 18th century, on the Anglican side, there was considerable opposition.

      Fortunately, Rev. Iain Campbell has got me back to Psalm-singing through a series at his website. I’m not an exclusive Psalmodist, but am not far off far it. I’ll take that to “exclusive hymnodist.”

      The question, at bar, appears to be how Confessional Churchmen relate to the broader, non-confessional forms of evangelical Christianity.

      As to CCM, Orlando and Rev. Frame’s perspectives, what about worship-patterns.

      All ears and learning here.

      • P.S. to J Martinez, I’ll never sing, ever, any of Wesley’s hymns. That entire tradition is rooted in a depth of animosity to Calvinists in the C o E, notably the Rev. Augustus Montague Toplady and Rev. John Whitfield. It’s time to uproot that wicked plant of Arminianism and Wesleyanism. Kindly, courteously, lovingly, but honestly, biblically, and most firmly. And I’m not singing this CCM-stuff.

        It’s time for Psalm-singing to inform the piety of the wide reaches in the churches, if they can yield to Christ’s Active Choirmastery, Priestly Intercession and Christ’s theology as we sing them.

        Psalm 44.1-8, that’s what our fathers taught us. May we not compromise, but present our case.

        • I absolutely agree. If God gave us a psalm book, why should we sing from any lower court? I think that God can compose the best since he is the creator of not only man but of creativity itself. Also, I think Hymns really beg an important question: do we really think we are better composers than what God has bequeathed for us in the inspired text of the Bible?

          • JM:

            First, will just shorten it to “JM” in the future, rather than JMartinez. And glad you use your name rather than a pseudonym.

            Second, am very, very, very glad that Rev. Campbell prompted me to pull the Psalter off the shelf for a personal recovery of Psalm-singing. In my forlorn and desolate tract of geography, Camp Lejeune, NC, not aware of Psalm-singing contexts. All CCM-stuff in droves and abundances, except at a Tractarian work here—uggg—and in the handful of mainline churches—uggg.

            Somewhere in my “garage,” to use Dr. Clark’s metaphor, only literally in my case, I have a family-baptism-marriage Bible with mulitple entries of family history. It goes back to Glasgow, Scotland, 1833.

            The back of this Bible is most interesting.

            It had the metred Psalms. They sang those.

            Most interestingly, as best I can recollect (it’s in my literal garage, a play on Dr. Clark’s allusion to an “Evangelical Latitudinarian Gararge”), this Bible had not just the metred Psalms……it had dozens of metred paraphrases to vast reaches of the Bible from Genesis to Revelation.

            I remember reading some of the sections from Isaiah, sung in Glasgow, from Isaiah. Will the “Evangelical Latitudarians” sing sections such as Isaiah, such as Isaiah 1.1-10? As long as I live, I won’t forget the shock I had when I read the close paraphrase.

            Where, pray tell, these losses? And what Professors of Theology defend these losses rather than assert, advocate and defend a biblical reformation of music?

            I, for one, am for a reformation, a recovery, a reclamation, and a take-over from the CCM-ers and any apologists for CCM-stuff.

            It’s about feeding the sheep the saving and nurturing “bread of life,” not entertaining the troops or, worse, feeding the goats.

            I concur with you, although not an exclusive Psalmodist, not far from it. Will take that any day to the exclusive hymnodists.

  8. I’m trained as a lawyer not a theologian. But I think the two professions have much in common. One point in common is the need to understand basics of rhetoric. To be successful, theologians and lawyers alike must learn what makes oral and written presentations persuasive.

    Dr. Frame’s review is a textbook example of how to undermine the credibility of your present argument and your personal credibility. Nobody wants to undermine their chances of winning any argument, but that you can recover from. The cliche is apt in this instance: You live to fight another day. When you undermine your personal credibility, you undermine all of your arguments (past and future). This is the type of mistake lawyers and theologians need to avoid at all cost.

    Here’s the lesson as I learned it from a mentor who spent more than 25 years as a judge: The best way to gain personal credibility is to always be scrupulously accurate when presenting your opponent’s case. This should motivate careful study your opponents case.

    The other side of the rule is that if your account of your adversaries case contains any inaccuracies, your credibility inevitably suffers. The inaccuracies will be seen as either deliberate misstatements (in which case, you will be deemed a fraud or a cheat) or as mistakes (in which case you will be deemed careless or sloppy or lazy). It’s better to be called sloppy than to be called a liar. But either way the damage is done and the conclusion is clear: you have proven yourself an unreliable messenger.

    I know this sounds harsh. That’s because it is harsh. It’s nonetheless true. And I mentioned it hear because I noticed how Frame’s misrepresentations of Horton’s book changed my view of him. Because he’s demonstrated that he is a competent scholar, I had to conclude that his inaccurate account of this book was deliberate. The book, after all, was intended for laypeople, and he’s a professional.

    • RL:

      Bravo! As a lawyer, bravo!

      I had the same inklings, to wit, a deliberate mischaracterization by Rev. Frame with the same unflattering conclusion that you drew.

      In other words, there was something else going on “behind” the arguments and besides the arguments….something that was motivating the discussion.
      Something untoward, if not squeaky, and even petulant perhaps.

      John never engaged with wider swath of literature, e.g. David Wells, David Hunter, Alliance of Confessing Evangelicals and others, that favours Dr. Horton’s assessment of doctrinal declension on the major loci of theology in evangelicalism.

      Here’s the sense I got from Frame: “Never mind the facts of my opponents in that swatch of literature, I’m picking a fight with Dr. Horton’s anecotal exposure to evangelical churches (which is as good as mine) which is gaining currency. I don’t like that ascendant view which is critical and popular.”

      • A read nadir–a real pit–emerges in Frame when he talks about the mega-churches and Osteen. Sustained quibblery! No confessional interaction of any kind.

        RL, he paid no attention to his opponent’s arguments, Dr. Horton. The land is awash with Arminianism and Rev. Frame can’t seem to “frame” his argument in anything else but quibbleries.

        This “says more about” Frame than it does about Dr. Horton’s book. Glad Rev. Frame put “his strut and stuff” out there. Pretty poor!

  9. This is a good example of not taking criticism properly. Horton’s PR machine is active…. These kinds of fights are so unattractive….

    • Not if you are interested in truth.

      Horton’s work is a polemical piece, a diagnostic work with a prescription for the disease. Frame is perfectly within his rights to show us that Horton is wrong in his assessment.

      And those who have read the book and agreed in substance with its argument need not be cast as Horton’s PR machine (is that not a matter of rhetoric rather than argument?). Are they not free to respond to Frame’s critique if they consider it to be poorly “framed”?

    • “These kinds of fights are so unattractive.”

      Guadacanal and the battle for the Solomons by Marines in the Pacifice was not attractive either. One direction only, “Forward!” Neither were the sea battles by the Royal Navy in the Mediterranean Sea in WW2 attractive. Malta. Crete. Palma de Malorca. Straits of Gibraltar. Let’s toughen up. John pushed his gig pretty hard.

      Arguing for CCM and our “creative moments” of “gosh golly gee whiz” theology, if anything, is unattractive. Fighing for Scriptural worship, however, is not just attractive but essential. Again, let’s toughen up.

  10. I live in Orlando, Florida. Unfortunately, I have to live in the same town with John Frame. Even more unfortunately I’m finding that what I thought was a relatively conservative and reformed evangelical seminary is producing students who see nothing wrong with becoming an Anglo-Catholic or a charismatic Anglican who sees nothing wrong with fellowshipping with Anglo-Catholics. The new Anglican Church in North America is essentially Anglo-Catholic and completely intolerant of confessing Reformed Anglicans like myself.

    I personally know of at least two students who graduated from RTS. One of them became ordained with the Anglican Province in America, a decidedly Anglo-Catholic continuing church. The other went with the AMiA, which is charismatic but also in full and complete fellowship with the Anglo-Catholics in the AC-NA.

    At one time I was an ordained deacon with the Reformed Episcopal Church (2002-3). I resigned after I discovered the planned merger between the APA and the REC. The REC is now a full member of the AC-NA along with AMiA. In short, latitudinarian evangelicalism leads straight back to semi-pelagianism, pelagianism, and eventually either theological relativism like what we see in The Episcopal Church or it leads to reunion with Rome, as the recent move of Forward in Faith/Church of England bishops to reunite with Rome in the new Apostolic Constitution provision set up by the pope.

    Maybe John Frame would be happier if he just went on and emasculated himself?

    Sincerely in Christ,

    Charlie J. Ray

    • “Unfortunately, I have to live in the same town with John Frame.”

      Wow, I hope you don’t say that in the New Heaven and Earth when you have to live in the same city as him!

      “God, I know I will have to live near him in heaven, but really, I don’t want to live near him now!”

      • It is not at all certain that John Frame will be in heaven since visible congregations contain both elect and reprobate persons. It is also not certain since Frame seems to lean toward an incipient latitudinarianism and hence theological relativism. In my opinion the doctrine of justification alone is essential doctrine which Frame seems to not understand.

    • Reply to Charlie J. Ray,

      So what does a REC who is confessional to do? Isn’t there some opposition to the merger? I’m sure you’re not the only confessing RE that has problems with this merger.

      • jmartinez83, I am no longer REC. I resigned as a deacon after I discovered that true Calvinists are not welcome. If you are a compromiser who is willing to say that Anglo-Catholics are your “brothers” in Christ–like James I. Packer for instance–you are welcomed with open arms. Silly me. I actually think semi-pelagians and pelagians are going to hell! I’m just an intolerant and stupid fundamentalist you know.

        But really, I think Frame made one good point in his review. Horton should have more guts to call it like it is. For instance, when Horton interviewed David Virtue and Oss Guinness on The White Horse Inn he did not press either of them on compromising with Anglo-Catholics or Roman Catholics. Guiness signed the Evangelicals and Catholics Together document and Mike Horton never even mentioned it in the radio program. David Virtue of VirtueOnline claims to be Protestant but his blogsite is dominated by pelagianism and Anglo-Catholicism. The vast majority of those in the new AC-NA province are pelagians. The former bishop of South Carolina, Fitzsimmons Allison, is the only guy in that episode of the White Horse Inn who even mentioned that justification by faith alone is an essential doctrine of the Christian faith. The Anglican Communion is by and large apostate not because of the homosexuality issue but because it is PELAGIAN!

        You heard it from me first. Or did you????


      • JM:

        As to an REC Churchman, he goes into exile. The proposed merger with the APA slipped Tract XC back into the REC with the signatures of every single Senior Presbyter—and that’s all they are.

        Talk about Latitudinarians? Confessional minimalists? The REC has gone neo-Tractarian.

        Not interested in developing that here since this is a Reformed website—and a good one.

        But, a short answer from a former REC-man.

  11. D. Philip Veitch – Frame’s book on “worship” was Worship in Spirit and Truth: A Refreshing Study of the Principles and Practice of Biblical Worship

    Dr. Clark – Great post.

  12. I am a Christian first. That means my commitment is to Scripture and to Christ first. Secondly, I am a “confessional” and reforming Anglican and confess the 39 Articles. Thirdly, I adhere to the Lambeth Articles 1595, Irish Articles, and the Westminster Standards/Three Forms of Unity.

    But the bottom line is that I am in no way obligated to fellowship with John Frame or anyone else who compromises the Scriptures or the Reformed confessions. The principle of the priesthood of believers overrides ecclesiastical hierarchies–even Presbyterian ones–particularly when such denominations for all practical purposes do not follow their own confessions of faith. Sola Scriptura!

    Also, I learned while visiting the local branch campus of RTS that the seminary takes great pride in being “independent” of any ecclesiastical oversight. Translation: There is no real or solid confessional commitment by the seminary despite the title: Reformed Theological Seminary.

    It is increasingly obvious to me that not only is the word “evangelical” empty of meaning but so is the term “Reformed.” That is an overly generalized word which means nothing with a further particularization of what is meant and what doctrinal and theological commitments an individual or congregation actually has.


  13. Thank you for posting this Dr. Clark. It has been overdue for some time, was my thought, but its timing is perfect.

    • Charlie:

      Given your jouney from charismatic-land through a Wesleyan Seminary, Asbury, to Calvinism and a BCP, have you thought of writing a book on the Osteen-Hagin world?

      I thought the references by Rev. Frame to Osteen most curious and weak.

      • As far as I can tell, the Osteen method of teaching is a form of Pelagianism that can somehow create the type of environment in which even domestic turkeys can fly.

    • Charlie:

      Rev. Frame falls off his pedestal or his chair (pick the metaphor) when he talks about Osteen and mega-churches, uncritically, unconfessionally…almost like he prefers the fight and rebuttal to constructive engagement.

      No more recommendations of RTS by me.


  14. [deleted inappropriate personal reference as a violation of confidence -Ed.]

    I think Frame was way, way, way off in his critique of Horton’s book

    🙂 How ’bout dem apples, Scott?

    Though I would quibble with some point Dr. Clark makes, and would hope that he, Horton,hart, &c. will read (and interact with) James Anderson’s piece on Triperspectivalism and Epistemology in the festschrift, I will just keep my mouth closed so as not to detract from the more important point: and that is that John Frame should have sat this one out.

  15. Dr.Clark,

    I believe that your comment contrasting the ‘theology of the cross’ against the ‘theology of glory’ gets to the deeper issue. As Luther pointed out in the Heidelberg Disputation theologians of glory prefer works to suffering. They will talk about suffering and they will talk about the cross, and then they will rush off to see what works are to be done today. If these works can be multiplied, so much the better. Extending the list of works to include helping with the pregnancy center, working on the turkey dinner, liturgical dance, and all the other ‘church’ activities insures that my favorite work will be accepted. And if my work is accepted, then perhaps I can avoid suffering or at least minimize it.

    In contrast, theologians of the cross recognize that God has made the fullest revelation of Himself in suffering, particularly in the passion of the Lord Jesus Christ. Lutheran theologian Gerhard Forde claims, “Now we in turn suffer the absolute and unconditional working of God upon us. It is a suffering because as old beings we cannot abide such working. We are rendered passive by the divine activity. ‘Passive,’ it should be remembered here, comes from the same root as ‘passion,’ which is, of course, ‘to suffer.'” Nowhere is this more demonstrated to our human understanding than in the Ministry of Word and Sacrament. It is here where we are rendered passive as we hear of Christus pro nobis and the good news proclamation that we are righteous before our God.

    It is this theology of the cross that is seen in Horton’s work. He strives to maintain an ecclesiology that makes us the unconditional receivers of God’s mercy. Our role in this is passive, but then having been freed from our religious attempts to appease God we are then able to serve our neighbors without regard as to whether the works are good or bad. Works are no longer limited to ‘church’ works, but are truly multiplied. When the centrality of Word and Sacrament are lost, and our activities have obscured the work of Christ, then works have actually decreased regardless of appearances.

    One last quote from Forde is appropriate:

    This is not to say, however, that the language of affirmation, comfort, support, building self-esteem, and so forth does not have its place. On the level of human relations it can be quite necessary and beneficial. It has its place, however, among that which is penultimate, in caring for the well-being of persons in this age. The danger and misuse comes when such language displaces or obscures the ultimate. It would be as though an alcoholic were to confuse breaking the habit with salvation. Penultimate cures are mistaken for ultimate redemption. When that happens the church becomes predominantly a support group rather than the gathering of the body of Christ where the word of the cross and resurrection is proclaimed and heard.

  16. I haven’t read Horton’s book yet. But, when it gets over the 1000 sold mark, I am definitely going to pick it up.

    • How about Luke writing to Theophilus, or (from the post-canonical era) Diognetus to Mathetes? They’re disputed, of course, but it’s at least plausible that the recipient’s name was masked.

      • There’s no doubt that there are times and places where writing pseudonymously or anonymously is necessary. If someone is writing to/ on the HB from Saudi Arabia or China some other place where participation here would place one’s life in jeopardy, that’s understandable. I can understand if one is at work. I can’t understand if my students (or any students) are on the hB in class, however!

        • Yes, I hadn’t read the whole context of the discussion. My mistake.

          However, I think this ‘tradition’ of posting pseudonymously comes from the message boards, where it is de rigueur. My guess is that lots of people carry the convention of pseudonymous posting across from the message board (which is the more venerable institution) to the blog. (Some of them may even desire to carry an Internet persona across for consistency’s sake. If I were to do that, you would only know me as Wooster.) I’m not saying that’s the case for everyone, but there is that ‘tradition’ to consider.

          Culture clash and traditionalism on the Internet: someone’ll be doing a PhD on it soon. 😉

  17. My wonderful experience as a student at WSC was a little bit after Mr. Frame’s unhappy experience so I can’t speak authoritatively but it seems like nearly all of his program is a distant but personal strike at the WSC profs.
    He has misread and misrepresented Dr. Horton before on his 2K view. And here he’s doing it again. It seems very personal.
    I don’t believe Mr. Frame has been ‘telling the truth in love.’

  18. I am surprise and not surprise by this review by Frame. Surprise that as a very competent scholar that he is he should of known better. Not surprise because I know Frame and WSC (especially Horton) aren’t exactly beer buddies….

    This is once again another reminder that our flesh is weak and we need to rely on the glory of Christ in every second of our lives….

    At least it gives more Ph.D. dissertation materials for future generations to write, which is always welcome…. 🙂

  19. Dr. Clark,

    Thanks for responding to this. It is a very sad thing to see this sort of needless division and controversy from Dr. Frame.

  20. What do you all think about Apologetics from a doctrinally latitudinarian perspective? Or given from a doctrinally minimalist framework… I assume all the speakers would confess to the Nicene Creed?

    See here.

    • TUAD, with that minimalism, you could be Romanist or Orthodox. Sorta like the new ACNA gaggle with Rick Warren on the right and Metropolitan Jonah on the left. Anything goes.

  21. “Latitudinarian garage,” I like it.

    However, it’s not sustainable if you subscribe “ex animo” to the Westminster Standards. I re-read the piece and a profound nadiar—a real pit–emerges when Rev. Frame nears the subject of Osteen and the mega-churches.

    My reaction was “That’s it? From a Professor of Theology? There’s gotta be more.” There’s not. I don’t want to believe it, so I’ll check again.

  22. This is an aside to the larger issue, but asked for a thumbnail sketch of different relationships sustained by Dr. Clark and Rev. Frame to the Confessions. Trinity was one that didn’t quite register.

    Given the FV-fiasco, I now get the issue on Trinity and connected the dots. Duh?! My bust.

    Of course, an attack on the Person of Christ and the dignity, sufficiency, and abiding validity of His one sufficient and perfect sacrifice and oblation of Himself in our behalf.

    Given my long-developed hostility, justifiably so, for Tractarianism and Romanism in my sectors, this just moved the FV-issue to a top-tier issue.

    This is an aside but perhaps it’s not. FV/Covenantal monism and Arminianism? We’re awash with it. Yet, not much from Rev. Frame about Arminianism at all in his critique of Dr. Horton?

    How about Osteen, Benny Hinn, Paula White, Joyce Meyer, Fred Price, etc. They control and govern the “religious books” section at Barnes and Noble and Books-a-Million in my town. Not a word from Mr. Frame, nada, zipp0, zero on Arminianism.

    In fact, that section of Frame’s critique is a disaster….”latitudinarian” is one way to put. “Compromiser” might also work. If he’s going to deal with Dr. Horton’s relationship to Osteen-thinking, this would have been the time to deal with Osteen theologically. Nada, zippo.

    Dr. Clark, musing out loud. I don’t hang in your circles, so a little slow on the uptake here.

      • Yes, and he also refers to the battle that Van Til had at WST when he made the similar statement before JMF. I would have to say that in some way, we can say that God is one numerically. This isn’t modalism either. I think Van Til was on to something. I would have to refer back to JMF’s book on Van Til, but I’m sure he doesn’t misquote VT.

  23. It’s all too easy for outsiders to see that there is much that is personal in this debte; it’s not simply theological. And hence, the relationship between Frame and the WSC fellas is a classic case of the two sides being pushed into taking extreme positions they doesn’t need to. I don’t agree with Shepherd and think his position on justification is anti-reformation, but the guy is not a Pelagian!! (Clark can you please be more measured in your language). Moreover, Frame’s siding with Osteen against Horton at one point is also a case of one party going to a crazy extreme.

    This debate between Frame and WSC would be all the more helped if each side was a little more willing to admit the positive points in the other side’s position rather than slam everything the other side says. Not everything Frame says about Horton’s book is wrong. Moreover, Frame (at least) needs to be more willing to admit that the WSC guys have a point about Shepherd.

    • Marty,

      We did not name ourselves Machen’s Warrior Children — though some of us wear that title proudly.

      Nevertheless, I stand by my charge that Shepherd is Pelagianizing. That’s not hyperbole. Read his ThM thesis. Read his 2000 book. He moves from Adam to us in a way that can only be described as Pelagian.

      That’s a sober, measured evaluation, a position I took knowing that I would take heat for it from folk such as you who assume that it just couldn’t be.

      John is a theological radical. Our troubles with him and his distemper toward us doesn’t change that fact.

      • Dear RSC,

        Perhaps we have a different understanding of Pelgianism? As I understand Pelagianism: grace is the giving of God’s law and Christ as an example (i.e. it’s completely external to the believer); the atonement is purely subjective; sin is bad examples around us. Hence, justification includes no element of internal grace working in the believer.

        Thus, Sherpherd’s theology is bad, but not Pelagian, at least from my own reading of Pelagius. I’d say he’s basically semi-Pelagian (i.e. Roman Catholic) on justification?

        Blessings, Marty.

        • Most of what Shepherd is doing is semi-Pelagian but there are genuinely Pelagian elements in his theology. This is why I say that he’s not just mistaken but technically incompetent. This is part of what makes JMF’s decades of defense of Shepherd so amazing.

  24. In the interest of full disclosure, localhist is actually Richard L. Lindberg, a graduate of WTS and a student of Frame’s while I was there. However, I fail to see what the use of pseudonyms has to do with the discussion of Frame and Horton. I also fail to see the relationship between RTS/Orlando’s style of worship and Frame’s review of Horton. Based on what I know of the Latitudianarian movement in the Church of England in the 1600s, I don’t think using this term for Frame is appropriate. Finally, I am surprised at the extent that some who have posted on this matter fail to treat Mr. Frame as a brother in Christ.

    • Richard,

      Yes, there was a Latitudinarian movement in the C of E but there have been and are other latitudinarians and JMF is one of them. Of course, he’s selective. He’s willing to make room for Joel Osteen but not Reformed confessionalists. As to treating others charitably, I agree that we ought to be gracious and patient with one another even in controversy. I confess that I need to check my attitude regularly. I am a great sinner (does that now disqualify me as a minister?) and constantly in need of the grace of Christ. Will you also challenge JMF to be gracious to us Reformed confessionalists?

  25. Scott Clark, on October 23rd, 2009 at 7:18 pm Said:
    JMF has proposed that we may say that God is “one person.” It’s in his large volume on the doctrine of God.

    So did Van Til.

    • Yes, and he was wrong too. He did it in one line in one “unpublished” (but printed) class syllabus. Decades after JMF has taken up that error and amplified it. In fairness to CVT and JMF there’s a line in Bavinck that heads in this direction too. Still, it’s heresy against the catholic faith. It just cannot be said. I’m sorry. I don’t care who said it. The doctrine of the Trinity is not a theological play thing. JMF has, however, also embraced, tolerated, advocated, and defended lots of errors that CVT did not.

      • This issue:

        Dr. Clark said:

        “JMF has, however, also embraced, tolerated, advocated, and defended lots of errors that CVT did not.”

        The debate has widened to more issues, to wit, what’s within the “wide, big tent?” What does “latitudinarian” mean for Confessionalism, day-to-day confessing the faith to friends and neighbours, and our piety? Including worship?

        I have six or seven points made by Dr. Clark. Arminianism/covenant monism is one very serious matter. That undermines predestination and justification. Trinity is another. Dr. Clark mentioned worship also.

        “Latudinarian” is a substantial charge.

        Upon a re-read last night of Rev. Frame’s arguments, he appears to be bent on one thing—turning up distinctions and objections without hardly finding anything of merit. It may well deserve the title “hit piece.” I’m leaning strongly in that direction.

        All of this is not just a matter of “theological questions.”

  26. Would someone mind filling me in on the history between Dr. Frame and Westminster Seminary California. I’m somewhat familiar with his work (having written on Van Til in Seminary), but don’t really know the history that’s led to such a rancorous “review.”

    I’m trying to sort through and figure out all of these Reformed controversies (e.g., with Shepherd)…and feel like I’m coming into conversations that have been going on for decades (because they have). I have a sense of what’s being said, but lack knowledge of the context.

    I get the FV stuff. I basically understand Shepherd, but this one’s new to me.

    • Geneschlesinger:

      First, I don’t think Rev. Frame is a Doctor, is he?

      Second, and to your point. These are my sentiments as well in terms of the history of Rev. Frame and WSC.

      I’m going to re-read Rev. Frame’s review again. “Rancourous” seems apt, but am with-holding my bottomlines until I’ve digested more. Am interested in “justice, judgement, equity, prudence, subtleties as well as the overall trajectory, wisdom and, to be pious about it, the sense of the fear of His Majesty.” As they say re: NASA flights, “Houston, we’ve got a problem.”

      I share your sense of it. The Elders in Israel need the facts.

      To switch the metaphor from NASA to Dragnet, the old TV show, “Just the facts, Maam (Sgt. Friday).”

      • John has an earned MPhil from Yale. I believe that he was awarded a PhD from Whitefield Theological Seminary. For what research I do not know. I can say, however, that, in the past, we have refused to allow faculty members to claim or use any such degree in connection with WSC.

    • Hi Gene,

      There aren’t many people qualified to tell that story and I doubt that it’s entirely appropriate here. That’s why I was guarded in what I wrote above.

      John thinks that broad evangelicalism is basically okay. Mike thinks that broad evangelicalism is basically very ill. John thinks of the Reformed churches are a subset of the broader evangelical movement and Mike thinks that evangelicalism is one thing (or, if Hart is right, no thing) and Reformed Christianity is another.

      In Recovering the Reformed ConfessionI have argued that Reformed churches are “evangelical” but we are not “evangelicals.” We believe in getting the gospel right (which distinguishes us from much of broad evangelicalism) and in getting it out. John has argued for a general merger of all sorts of evangelical churches and he wanted WSC to be or become a more broadly evangelical seminary with some Reformed distinctives.

      Lest someone make John into a martyr here one should read the exchange between John, Richard Muller, and David Wells in a 1994 issue of the WTJ. In that essay, which parallels this discussion in many ways, Wells and Muller both expressed dismay at the way their views were represented and analyzed by John.

      • Dr. Clark:

        I think you’re prudent in your handling of the private details other than the public venues, such as the WTJ article as noted.

        Having said that, however—a big however and notwithstanding this issue of prudence and discretion–Rev. Frame’s post and review is public. That, itself, makes it fair game. That also revealed the “fault lines” that need to be aired and discussed. And glad to see the widespread interaction here and elsewhere.

        You’ve given significant outlines that need discussion. If this happened at WSC, it surely has occurred, inferrably, at RTS, Orlando, FL. That raises another issue. What is going on at Orlando these days. Elders in Israel want and need to know. Psalm 119 and the love of God’s Law mandates inquiry. This affects the churches and the sheep.

        I’m not sure how to get that WTJ article. Is it online?

        I’m not seeking to make Rev. Frame a martyr. I am profoundly interested in his analysis of Dr. Horton (earned Doctorate).

        As to Drs. Wells and Muller’s (profound?) dislike of mischaracterization by Rev. Frame, this needs exposure, to wit, that WTJ article.

        Being 2113, or 9:13 PM, EST:

        “Lighten our darkness, we beseech Thee, O LORD: and by Thy great mercy defend us from all perils and dangers of this night; for the love of Thy only Son, our Saviour. Amen.”

      • Dr. Clark:

        “In that essay, which parallels this discussion in many ways, Wells and Muller both expressed dismay at the way their views were represented and analyzed by John. I’m confident when I say that neither wants to have anything to do with John ever again.”

        In rereading all of this again, this above struck me–again.

        Not good. I don’t know Dr. Muller, but if Dr. Wells took that view of Rev. Frame, this is near damning. Dr. Wells has a towering command of large tracts of theology and history. “Mischaracterization” of their views”

        Our forum lawyer–name eludes me now–has noted that “mischaracterization” of another’s viewpoints in the court room, briefs and summaries leads to unflattering conclusions by the court: laziness or fraud.

        Our resident lawyer took exactly that dim view of Rev. Frame. “Mischaracterization” of Dr. Horton. I’ve pondered it. I have not dropped the gavel in “my court room” (consisting of one judge and jury), but am close to it. I’m not expecting it to favour Rev. Frame.

        I’d like a week to mull it over and make a real go at the most charitable construction possible….and even then, it probably won’t be very positive for Rev. Frame. Am a little on the slow side.

  27. Whitefield Theological Seminary is unaccredited. Matthew McMahon has a degree from there as well. I’m not impressed with the curriculum and there are practically no professors there.

    • Charlie:

      Whitefield awarded R.C. Sproul, Sr., a Ph.D. I believe. I suspect it was based on his numerous books. BTW, R.C. has an earned doctorate from the Free Un. of Amsterdam, I believe. I know his disssertation work dealt with justification. He studied under G.C. Berkhouwer (my infamously weak memory fails on the correct spelling of GCB).

      GCB was one of the few “paid” attendees to the Vatican 2 Council, paid for by the Papists. R.C. can’t brook Romanism in any way, shape or form. That’s an aside.

      To the point, perhaps Rev. Frame’s doctorate was awarded on the basis of his publications.

      However, for this scribe, this issue is an aside and the main issue is the “Latitudarian Garage.”

      If Rev. Frame handles Dr. Horton with such approaches, how will he handle others who disagree with him?

      If Drs. Wells and Muller were unhappy with the mischaracterizations of their views, one wonders if fair shakes would be offered other inquirers.

      • Phil,

        I think that RC had a Drs from the Free. It’s short for “doctorandus” – about to be doctored. It means one finished coursework but did not submit a diss.

        • Thanks.

          I recollect that personal issues, e.g. illness, required a return to the U.S. Some how or other GCB worked with him on some form of conclusion to it all.

          It was a Drs. if memory serves me in reading.


          This forum has genuinely been helpful.

        • Thanks.

          I recollect that personal issues, e.g. illness, required a return to the U.S. Some how or other GCB worked with him on some form of conclusion to it all.

          It was a Drs. if memory serves me in reading. Helpful, is the title “Dr.” as we understand it, dissertation and successful defense thereof, appropriate or correct?


          This forum has genuinely been helpful.

  28. RSC: “John has argued for a general merger of all sorts of evangelical churches and he wanted WSC to be or become a more broadly evangelical seminary with some Reformed distinctives.”

    I was a pastor’s conference at RTS Orlando some time ago and Kistemaker commented that RTS was not under ecclesiastical authority precisely because they want to appeal broadly to Evangelicals in general. It might be another reason why students coming out of RTS have no problem becoming semi-pelagians and idolaters in Anglo-Catholic churches.


      • Is this documented In print?

        I’ve been tracking Moore Theological College, which has undergrad and grad colleges. It’s Anglican with a long tadition of English Refomed theology.
        I noticed that one of its younge profs posting something of his musings on “annilationsim.” Quite surprising.

        Had heard that Stott adopted “annihilationism.” Is it so?

        Bring this to the point on task: (1) Is this documented on Kistemake’s endorsement of annihilition? (2) What are the “Latitudinism” parameters? What’s *else* in John;s boxes in John;s large garage?

        As I ponder this more…e.g. Frame’s defense and allegedly written defense of Shepherd and the other oddities…this *no minor matter.*

        • Clarification on the above.

          Moore College is in Sydney, Australian, long know for it’s Refomed Anglican witness.

          Dr. Phiip Edcumbe Hughes, my best instructor at WTS (east), took his doctorate from this college. A man who breathed Engish Reformes in addition to his professional and scholarly work in the NT, his specialty.

          Dr. Hughes was also one of the early challengers of Shepherd’s views on justification, another seveal boxes in “Frame’s large garage.”

  29. “John thinks that broad evangelicalism is basically okay. Mike thinks that broad evangelicalism is basically very ill.”

    I’ve read John’s work and I didn’t walk away with that idea. I believe that you are speaking to general about his work. There is a danger in generalizing the work of another person, especially when it has already been made public like John Frame’s.

    R. Scott Clark, do you center the Church around North America? Western Christianity as we know it is dying in the case of the United States. Christianity is alive and thriving in the southern hemispheres with over 60% of the church located outside the U.S.

    Where I’m from Christianity is growing even among other religions. Chinese are attracted to Buddhism and Christianity and the Christianity in my country for the most part isn’t westernized.

    I don’t think that you’d accept Christianity among its populous, because its not westernized, 1/3 of chinese believers are Pentecostal, though the Methodist Bishop in Singapore has stated that 2/3 of all chinese believers are either Pentecostal/Charismatic. Many chinese have received miracles coming to the faith and after which something you probably would deny even though you speak of God’s sovereignty.

    With that said, I don’t know how much your opinion of Frame’s work matters in the overall view of the church. Americans are good at centering everything around themselves, even Christianity and you’ve done that to by contextualizing it into a special club that you, Horton and others can only be part of, but not John Frame, Anglicans, Pentecostals or others who don’t hold to you.

    This is not an attack on you though, but please don’t generalize and re-read John’s work if you have too. This Horton campaign is becoming more and more sensationalized against Frame day by the day and it needs to settle down.

    • Lee:

      “This is not an attack on you though, but please don’t generalize and re-read John’s work if you have too. This Horton campaign is becoming more and more sensationalized against Frame day by the day and it needs to settle down.”

      To the contrary, in terms of the Catholic Churches of the Reformation, I think this discussion needs closer analysis.

      I’m not convinced at all that this is a “Westernized” inquiry.

    • Lee Yong:

      I am a Chinese currently in Singapore, and know the Singapore churches. Let’s just say that if the spirituality of Singapore “evangelical” churches is what is meant by spiritual vitality, I want nothing of it.

      The heresy of Neo-Orthodoxy, Pelagianism, Contemplative Spirituality etc flourishes in our “premier seminary” Trinity Theological Seminary, according to my friend (who is not named) who is studying there. Liberalism is well and alive in TTC, with the denial of the Inerrancy of Scripture, the belief in “multiple authorships of the book of Isaiah”, the Documentary Hypothesis etc. Recently, on FB, this same friend of mine posted a remark that Christ believed in Inerrancy. Let me quote ad-verbatim the response given by one of the better students studying there. He states: “Jesus is a liar”. On being pressed, he said that this is a logical conclusion based upon his denial of Inerrancy. Since he disbelieves in Inerrancy, while Jesus believed in Inerrancy, therefore according to him Jesus is a liar.

      The Purpose Driven madness and the Seeker-Sensitive nonsense have taken hold of the “evangelical” churches in Singapore. The blasphemous “health and wealth gospel” is preached from the pulpit of our two largest “megachurches”, the damning error of Antinomianism also coming from the pulpit of Joseph Prince, who redefines the doctrine of Justification and Repentance in order to make room for his damnable doctrine of demons.

      TTC of course supplies pastors and full-time workers in the Asiatic region (especially South-East Asia) with their theological education. Darkness holds large swaths of the professing Church in Asia. I would therefore object to your usage of adjectives like “alive” and “thriving” to describe the churches here.

      With regards to Charismatism, ignoring for the movement whether Charismatism is biblical, the fact of the matter is that the Word-faith heresy and the New Apostolic Reformation (NAR) has infiltrated the Charismatic circles. Those two are doctrines of demons. I know; I once was in the NAR before God by His grace opened my eyes to bring me to the Truth.

      One can only weep in surveying the devastation in the Singapore churches. Elsewhere, the situation is not much better, as my friends (pastors and not) around the [South-East Asia] region can testify. Far from Christianity being “alive and thriving” in Asia, it is numerically thriving but spiritually in a mess.

      Horton’s books, while focusing on the American church situation, is badly needed here. The state of the Singapore and South East Asian churches are even worse than America has ever been yet.

      • Daniel:

        A most helpful input on the “Eastern Front” of Singapore. Or, perhaps, from your perspective, we are “east” to you and you are the “west” to us.

        I’ve heard that charismaticism, with its associated doctrines of rank and odious Arminianism, it open canon for inspiration (like Anabaptists, Schwarmer, and Munsterites of the Reformation days), its rank failures at exegetical endeavours, and alleged miracles inform much of the east. Also, the “Word of Faith” movement and the “Health, Wealth and Prosperity” Gospel.

        From your report, it sounds like “Western” non-confessionalists and non-reformationally oriented influences exist where you are. All the more important for messages such as are found at this blogspot to get onto the streets.

        Naturally speaking, given the human hearts’ addiction to pride–which the enthusiasts are enslaved by—nothing short of a “real miracle” can undo what you are describing.

        Thanks for the update. And I hope you remain close to this blogspot. My own situation reflects y

        I’ll keep you in the prayers at 10AM and 4PM, EST.

      • Daniel:

        A most helpful input on the “Eastern Front” of Singapore. Or, perhaps, from your perspective, we are “east” to you and you are the “west” to us.

        I’ve heard that charismaticism, with its associated doctrines of rank and odious Arminianism, it open canon for inspiration (like Anabaptists, Schwarmer, and Munsterites of the Reformation days), its rank failures at exegetical endeavours, and alleged miracles inform much of the east. Also, the “Word of Faith” movement and the “Health, Wealth and Prosperity” Gospel.

        From your report, it sounds like “Western” non-confessionalists and non-reformationally oriented influences exist where you are. All the more important for messages such as are found at this blogspot to get onto the streets.

        Naturally speaking, given the human hearts’ addiction to pride–which the enthusiasts are enslaved by—nothing short of a “real miracle” can undo what you are describing.

        Thanks for the update. And I hope you remain close to this blogspot. My own situation reflects your’s. I live in a small town, 90,000 perhaps, 60,000 of which are U.S. Marines. A few mainline churches with a half-Christ and half-Word. The rest of the churches are Schwarmer, enthusiasts, tub-thumpers and worse. It’s very bad, but may have to come out of retirement. I can empathize.

        I’ll keep you in the prayers at 10AM and 4PM, EST.

        • Philip:

          The Word-faith movement is indeed prominent in the “East”. About Charismatism, the worst thing about it is its ecumenism and “non-judgmentalism”. At least Pentecostalism at its inception can be considered marginally evangelical; the same cannot be said of much of the Charismatic movement who have allowed wolves of all sorts into the churches.

          Thanks for your prayers. May God keep you even in the small town you live in.

          • Daniel:

            This same “ecumenicism,” or “latitudinarianism”, if not “doctrinal indifferentism,” appears to apply to African Anglicanism, although they are far better on some basics than the decadent Western churches…who once had a rich biblical history and faithful defenders. So “enthusiasm” and “charismaniacism” sounds like it informs your part of the world.

            As to enthusiasm, American “frontiersman religion” affected this country too—Pelgianized Finneyism, revivalism, and a gross “creedal anti-creedal” Anabaptist and Wesleyan movements. We’re living with those disasters today. I live in a town where that is the predominant religion.

            Stay faithful where you are as will I.


      • Daniel Chew:

        Thank-you for speaking up! At last someone else who sees the problem with minimalism and latitudinarianism in the “broad” evangelical movement. I too was once Pentecostal/Charismatic so I know these heresies and heterodoxies firsthand. I became a reformed believer only to find that so-called “reformed” churches are just as confused as the broad evangelical churches. It’s time to switch gears from “tolerance” to “polemics.”

        The Protestant Reformers laid their lives on the line and were unafraid to use polemics in defending their new found discovery of the Gospel. The fact of the matter is the heterodox teachers are on the open attack against confessional and reformed Christianity. How can we afford to sit back while the forces of darkness seek to undermine the very Gospel itself????

        In Christ,


      • Daniel:

        Thanks for sharing. I’m an American currently living and working in Singapore. From what I have observed, Charismatism and the seeker-sensitive / mega-church model do seem to have an extensive influence on Christianity here. But I go to a Bible-Presby church, so I don’t really have a lot of experience in this regard.

        We should meet up some time. I’d be interested in hearing more.


        • Mike:

          indeed. The B-P movement is the pariah of Singapore Christianity, alongside the fewer and smaller Reformed churches. Unfortunately, the recent entrance of the KJVO error has wrecked the B-P movement and dishonored the name of Christ.

          You can contact me at: puritanreformed (at) gmail (dot) com. Looking forward to hearing from you.

    • I’m also Chinese. Though I have not seen the situation in Singapore, from what I’ve observed in Hong Kong and Chinese churches in the US and Canada, as well as the writings coming from the mainland intelligentia, “Christless Christianity” is a very fair description of a very real danger. Cultural forms may vary, but the gospel is the same in all cultures.

      Lee, the dangers of overgeneralization are noted. It may also be helpful to recognize Frame’s overgeneralization of Horton, and perhaps your overgeneralization of Clark?

  30. Marty,
    When I was at WSC from 2004-2008 the criticism of Frame was measured and not as personal as you might think. In fact one professor who was my landlord considers John to be his best friend. Another professor, who is one of the godliest men I’ve ever met, is also very close to John. When Frame’s ecclesiology, epistemology, confusion of law/gospel… the list goes on forever…was critiqued I was really encouraged by the tone. I saw exemplary behavior on the part of my profs who train the church’s ministers.
    However, as I’ve been explaining to my wife, Christians are to be seasoned in their speech, and kind to outsiders, and encouraging to bruised reeds but when teachers in the church rise up against the church to usher in confusion and disturb the unity then leaders need to be a bit more stern (Gal 1:8).
    Also, although it appears to be very obvious that Frame’s theology is more and more a product of his resentment about past ‘difficulties,’ I have not observed at all that WSC’s theological training program is at all framed by any reaction to Frame. WSC is a seminary that strives for faithfulness to the Reformed confessions. I hardly dealt with Frame in my studies. I got to revel in the beauty of everything Reformed.

    • Chaos:

      This is a good word on WSC. That’s been my observation, as an outsider, in reading the posts here and at the WSC website. Thanks for this report.

      I was an “east coaster” WTS in an earlier ice age.

      Aren’t the Reformed Confessions grand? And ought they not be re-taught again? Inside our churches “and”, repeat, “and” to the wider evangelical community, as standards of faith? I anticipate your answer.

      I say yes to that.

      Thanks for the good report on WSC. If I were to do it all over again, that’s where I’d head.

  31. As of 2022, 822 PM for the civilians here, EST, 26 Oct 09, while the debate on the “hit piece” has abated in terms of comment, let me register this.

    Dr. Clark has thrown on piece of meat before this hungry scribe.

    I have been masticating bones, flesh, teeth and all—over this article by Rev. Frame.

    I’ll say this. There is an emerging furor and heat in the soul and mind over this.

    I am not amused by this play-piece and “hit job.” Two or more can play that game, John, if you’re reading this. You, Reverend, may fall on the very sword you unsheathed.

    Let’s say this response has been percolating for several days now. And it’s getting hotter for this U.S. Marine. And I’m glad to have served with them. They taught me “Semper Fi,” always faithful. Rev. Frame defended Mr. Shepherd and all the gobble-dee-gook-machinations. I didn’t learn “Semper Fi” from them. Better to have been a Marine and served with Marines than to have had two years under their instruction.

    And then this post by Mr. Frame? NOT!!!

  32. And I want no pietistic responses. I’m meditating on the law, day and night, almost literally. Psalm 1. Don’t even try telling me to calm down. None of you, I most strongly suspect, have served in combat. We have our own approach to things. I am hot about this. So, no pietists need comment. I’ll be back.

  33. In that one, the MO in John Frame’s campaign against the RPW was nothing but an evasive mischaracterization of a hatchet job and two, American Evangelicalism (aka arminian latitudinarianism) largely agrees with Frame on worship, it’s not a real big surprise who he sides with when it comes to any criticism of AE, be it on worship or the gospel.

    Further, if we buy into J. Owen’s view that false worship follows upon the ignorance, neglect or weariness in the exercise of faith (Works 5:437), not only did a lot of the FV crew (Jordan, Horne, Schlissel, Wilson) warm up by following John in breaking the Ninth on the good and necessary consequences of the Second (contra HC 96, BC 7, WCF 1:6, 21:1, LC 109, SC 51), much more importantly “ignorance, neglect or weariness” of the doctrine of justification by faith alone is the distinguishing hallmark of the FV.

    Throw in Norm Shepherd’s influence and friendship to all parties above and to some narrow and doctrinaire minds, speaking the truth in love does not characterize JF’s reformed legacy and influence. Maybe something more like a modern day reformed Benedict Arnold sums it up, at the very least on worship.

    Maybe the brother could at least stick to tinkering with his lawnmower in the garage rather than continue to afflict the church with more of his contagious theological opinions than he already has up to this point.

    • Bob S:

      I’d “Frame” my review differently than your’s, but not by very much. I have wondered if he already treats theology like a “lawnmower,” to wit, something he can tinker with and sport with. Sort like a “gee-whiz-this-is-fun-doing-theology” rather than the “life-and-death-matter” that it is.

      In other words, there appears to be some sort of disconnect with the world and the churches. Or, in another way, is there an “isolation” from the larger world of churches for Rev. Frame?

      Maybe he’s not isolated on the other hand and he really that everything is “hunky dorey,” in which case, matters are worse.

  34. I’m wondering in all this (though I’m admittedly generally apathetic about all this) if latitudinariasm is nonetheless, in principle, a kingdom ethic that we, in principle, must in this time between the times treat suspiciously precisely because of our penchant toward depravity.

    In other words, the kingdom to come will be latitudinal (i.e., filled with more than confessional Reformed folk—”obviously”), but the kingdom now ought not strive to that end (Really? “Ought not”? It feels funny saying that in light of John 17:11.). To my mind, it’s not the desire (of conflating the kingdoms—since that happens in Rev 21) that’s the problem; it’s putting the cart before the horse, glory before the cross, so to speak.

      • Maybe “ambivalent” would’ve been a better word choice. Mea culpa.

        But surely you desire the apathetic or ambivalent to see the importance of the discussion underway? Have you no care for those who, maybe mistakenly, don’t share your scruples?

        But maybe the real answer to your question is: to bait folks who take themselves too seriously.

        • Chris,

          I share your disdain for taking self more seriously than ideas. However, I’m hard-pressed to agree that what is finally going on here is more the former than the latter.

          There is such a distinction as the church militant and church victorious. I wish we were more victorious than militant, too, but, well, we ain’t.

          • Well, then, it seems we ought to define garage, since that is, after all, the metaphor used in the main post. If the garage is the kingdom, then he who takes himself too seriously is he who defines who’s in and who’s out—outside of an ecclesial context.

            If the garage is a denomination that confesses, for example, the Westminster Confession, well, then, he who takes ideas seriously is he who judges — again, within an ecclesial context — who’s in and who’s out, according to said denomination’s confession of faith.

            So, what kind of garage are we speaking of here? Is Christianity multifarious (and thus, necessarily, latitudinal) or not? If so, then how do we approach the very real problems Horton addresses?

            I really don’t know. Maybe both Horton and Frame need to read (or re-read) Newton’s piece “On Controversy.”

            • Chris,

              I think a helpful distinction is between the confessionally Reformed and evangelically Reformed. I know, that sounds like more arbitrary self-seriousness. But consider that the likes of Frame don’t want to be understood as confessionally Reformed anymore than the confessionally Reformed don’t want to be reckoned as evangelically Reformed. I’m confessionally Reformed and inhabit an evangelically Reformed denomination. The irony of the latitudinarians is that while they want to include confessionalists, in the end, they really don’t. And that makes sense, they shoulnn’t because the psotures are just plain different.

              What’s wrong with saying we should approach the problems Horton addresses like he does: with a confessionally Reformed theology, piety and practice. We don’t do it like Frame does because he’s evangelically Reformed.

  35. 1) I was going to parse John’s article, but was so disgusted with it after several reads, that just couldn’t stomach it. Puerility at best, at best.

    2) Have been conducting program recon of TBN and various charisphilic programming, the largest satellite outfit that governs much of TV outlets.

    3) John better get outside the classroom and see what’s going on…and write something more responsible. If needed, I can defend that, as one of Machen’s grand-whatever-sons. And I’m old enough to call him John now, not Professor.

    4) Time for him to back off on the Horton-Wells axis of analysis of our times. He’s a little late for the conflict and, with his article, timed to suggest previous non-engagement.

    Nuff said.

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