Biblicists And Federal Visionists Together

In this systematic theology, Frame has not overwhelmed us with the scholarly apparatus characteristic of so much theological literature, and as he certainly is capable of doing. Instead, he has chosen to enter into conversation with his reader, showing how he has come to understand the teaching of God’s Word. He takes us with himself into a deeper and fuller exploration of God’s creative and redemptive purpose in the world. Frame’s work will well serve the needs and interests of the informed layman and theological student as well as the more advanced scholar.

—Norman Shepherd, Former Pastor; Former Professor of Systematic Theology, Holland

John Frame has written a very big book—another one. Frame’s strengths are once again on display: vast scope, unshakable confidence in Scripture, carefulness and generosity, a deceptively casual style. What most stands out, though, is the open-mindedness of his project. Big as it is, Frame’s work raises questions even as it answers them, and as a result it opens ever-new threads in the ongoing conversation that is the Reformed tradition.

—Peter J. Leithart, President, Trinity House, Birmingham, AL

Systematic theology is notoriously challenging to read but even more challenging to write. I tell students that too many modern theologians have given us ‘cookbooks’ that feed neither the mind nor the soul. John Frame is is a great evangelical exception. He has mastered the historical method, and more importantly, his readers have come to expect that biblical theology will guide his systematic theology. As he says,’The Bible is the most important thing.’ I welcome this important volume and encourage all readers of theology, especially students, to have Frame’s valuable work at their side.

— John H. Armstrong, President, Act3 Network; Adjunct Professor, Wheaton College Graduate School

No theologian in modern times combines (1) a simple, childlike faith in the Bible, (2) a razor-sharp analytical intellect, (3) a gift for conceptual and linguistic clarity, and (4) a love for Christ’s Church and everyday Christian people more successfully than John M. Frame. All factors considered, no theologian in recent memory—not Barth, not Brunner, not Pannenberg, not Tillich, nor even the conservatives: Millerd Erickson, Carl Henry, The Hodges, Francis Pieper, Joseph Ratzinger (Pope Benedict)–measures up to Frame. He is God’s unparalleled gift to the church and his systematic theology is a wellspring of truth in a theologically parched age.

— P. Andrew Sandlin, President, Center for Cultural Leadership; Senior Pastor, Cornerstone Bible Church, Santa Cruz (Resources On the Federal Vision)

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  1. “He is God’s unparalleled gift to the church”
    And, here we thought that God’s Son had that esteemed place!

  2. Reminds me of a bunch of puppies licking and slobbering over each other in the whelping box. I think that is what folks do when they like a book.
    And the problem is?

  3. Ummm…..
    Om the other hand, I do know some good pastors out there who have endorsed books they shouldn’t have (and come to regret it), so I wouldn’t read too mush into that…

    • Scott,

      I suppose it depends on what one does with it. Lots of people seem to take him to be proposing a sort of commonsense system of accounting for three perspectives but I think he’s proposing something much more radical.

      I’ve tried to address some of them in a couple of places on the HB.

      TPism isn’t just a commonsense proposal. It’s a radical (i.e., fundamental) revision of Reformed theology. It is a subjectivist and even Hegelian method of theology. The perspectives don’t remain static. They norm each other. The Wheel of Fortune is a good analogy. The TPist has these perspectives on a wheel but since they interpenetrate and norm each other, he must spin the wheel. TPism puts the TPist in charge. He not only spins the wheel, he interprets the meaning of the wheel. He’s no longer a pilgrim, he becomes the norm. He gets to say what the inter-relation of the perspectives means.

      In my experience and in that of, e.g., Richard Muller and David Wells (see the trialogue between JMF, Muller, and Wells in the WtJ) it makes genuine dialogue impossible. In the case of JMF it’s led him to abandon Van Til’s view of incomprehensibility in favor of G. Clark’s view. Interestingly, he also affirms the archetypal/ectypal distinction and then accuses those who hold the historic view of TA/TE of denying the inerrancy of Scripture. TPism is dialectical and we mere mortals, who are left to read Scripture with the church, to wrestle with the church’s confession, and the historic Reformed tradition are essentially excluded from the discussion.

  4. OK, so Shepherd, Leithart, Sandlin, I don’t know Armstrong, is there anybody NOT from the federal vision that will endorse this book?

    Is this supposed to be a competitor for Horton’s ST?

      • Yes, there are many blurbs from a great lot of mainstream folk but these blurbs are outstanding, don’t you think? Imagine that Amandus Polanus, an orthodox Reformed OT scholar who published a massive systematic theology in 1609/1610, had a blurb from Arminius amidst all the other blurbs?

        For context, Shepherd publicly taught justification “through faith and works” with the result that, after several years of confusion he was dismissed from WTS/P. Leithart is a signatory to the Joint FV Statement of 2007. Sandlin is a theonomic Federal Visionist. Armstrong began his public life as a “confessional evangelical” who served on the board of the Alliance of Confessing Evangelicals. He directed Reformation and Revival (including a journal) and edited books as part of that project. Since that time, however, he has moved rather dramatically. He’s now a minister in the RCA and has allied himself with the Federal Visionists and the Emergent (as distinct from Emerging) Church movement, which is a theologically and ecclesiastically “progressive” appropriation of pietism, biblicism, and moralism. Here’s a snapshot of where John was theologically in 2009. Here are resources on the emerging/emergent church movements.

  5. Norman Shepherd is still around?

    While will probably confuse people, I would say that Shepherd is not actually a Federal Visionist. He doesn’t have Jordan’s hermenutics, Meyers’ liturgics and Leithart’s ecclesiology. Further, even though most Reconstructionists supported Shepherd, the man never took up the theonomist’s mantle of carrying over expired elements of the law into the Christian era. In other words, Shepherd is central to Federal Vision, but Federal Vision is more than Shepherd.

    If anything, Shepherd simply took the Schilder movement’s “conditional” monocoventalism and presented it dogmatically.

    • Elliot,

      Shepherd taught the FV before there was a self-described FV movement. There were multiple sources for the FV, as you say, but as far back as ’77 Sinclair Ferguson called attention to what the very doctrines we now call “FV” in an essay Shepherd published in a volume of the NT Students. In that essay, ostensibly on evangelism, Shepherd taught the same doctrine of baptismal union with Christ. He also taught the two-track view of election, decretal on one track and conditional on the other. Shepherd was mediating Schilder but he went further than Schilder (though there are a number of followers of Schilder who have identified with Shepherd’s theology going back to Jelle Faber’s defense of Shepherd after Faber spent some time at WTS/P and then published a series of articles in the CanRC magazine. There’s nothing in the Joint FV Statement that isn’t in Shepherd’s theology.

  6. I’m sorry if my question is idiotic, but with such great folk endorsing his book, why did he (and:or the editors feel the need to get Shepherd’s, Leithart, Sandlin’s endorsements? That’s what I find striking. It almost seems like a statement in of itself.

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