God the Son Incarnate – Stephen J. Wellum (2016)

god-the-sonStephen J. Wellum, God the Son Incarnate Wheaton: Crossway, 2016, 496 pp, $40.00

God the Son Incarnate by Stephen J. Wellum is the latest installment in the Foundations of Evangelical Theology Series. This outstanding series, edited by John Feinberg was first introduced with the publication of No One Like Him back in 2001.

The author notes that “Jesus himself understood and taught that both Scripture and God’s plan of salvation are Christocenric.” J.I. Packer adds, “Christology is the true hub round which the wheel of theology revolves, and to which its separate spokes must each be correctly anchored if the wheel is not to get bent.” Thus, the stakes could not be any higher as readers wrestle with the weight doctrines that concern the person and work of the Lord Jesus Christ.

The book contains four sections, each with a specific topic that relates to the overall matter of Christology:

Part 1: Epistemological Warrant For Christology Today

The first part should be considered the theological rebar of the book. The author explores Christology and its relationship to the Enlightenment. After sufficiently exhausting some of the major challenges to a biblical Christology, Dr. Wellum presents a biblical epistemology that will serve readers well for the remainder of the book.

Part 2: Biblical Warrant for Christology Today

The biblical plot line is presented (creation, fall, redemption, consummation) which gives readers a helpful overview and places Christology in its proper theological context. The concept of “kingdom through covenant” is discussed which ultimately leads to a rigorous discussion of Christology.

Once the biblical and theological parameters are in place, the author moves forward and discusses the self-identity of Jesus. From there, some of the crucial Christological data is ready to be revealed, including the deity and humanity of Christ and the incarnation.

Part 3: Ecclesiological Warrant for Christology Today

Part three includes some of the weighty matters that surround the discipline of Christology including the nature-person distinction and the Ante-Nicene Christological formulation.

Part 4: A Warranted Christology for Today

The final section discusses some of the more recent Christological controversies, most notably the problem of the so-called kenosis. Dr. Wellum fairly evaluates kenoticism, alerting readers to the many problems it contains.

Conclusion

Dr. Wellum nicely summarizes his work: “Ultimately, the thesis of this entire work is one theological conclusion with many parts. Based on the warrant and critique of the previous chapters, we must confess that the identity of the Jesus of the Bible is that he is God the Son incarnate.”

God the Son Incarnate is a much-needed work as the doctrinal winds continue to blow in every direction, which threaten the biblical and historical Christological. This work is a bulwark of certainty and a prompter of praise. My prayer is that it receives a wide readership, both in the church as well as the academy.

I received this book free from the publisher. I was not required to write a positive review.

WHY FRANCIS SCHAEFFER MATTERS: The Line of Despair – Part 3

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The loss of antithesis in American culture led to what Dr. Schaeffer coined the “line of despair” or giving up all hope of achieving a rational unified answer to knowledge and life.  Schaeffer outlines what he believes are the various steps below this line of despair.  He begins with the German philosopher, Georg William Friedrich Hegel (1770-1831) who became the first man to open the door into the line of despair.  Hegel taught  what we really have is a thesis, and an opposite antithesis, with the answer of their relationship not a horizontal movement of cause and effect, but a synthesis, or dialectical thinking.  In the end result, Hegel’s philosophy produced a synthesis as opposed to antithesis which could be arrived at by reason.

Schaeffer believes that while Hegel opened the door to the line of despair the Danish philosopher, Soren Kierkegaard was the first one to go below the line.    Kierkegaard concluded that one could not arrive at synthesis by reason alone.  Rather, one achieves everything of real importance by taking a “leap of faith.”  Schaeffer, therefore, maintains that Kierkegaard’s conclusions gradually led to the absolute separation of the rational and logical from faith.

What is this leap and what does it involve?  Schaeffer teaches that Kierkegaard’s leap put away the hope of any unity.  Schaeffer writes, “The leap is common to every sphere of modern man’s thought.  Man is forced to the despair of such a leap because he cannot live merely as a machine . . . If below the line man is dead, above the line, after the non-rational leap, man is left without categories.  There are no categories because categories are related to rationality and logic.  There is therefore no truth and no nontruth in antithesis, no right or wrong – you are adrift.” (Escape From Reason, 241, 256).

Schaeffer continues to chronicle the subsequent philosophers who followed Kierkegaard’s thought including the atheistic existentialism of Karl Jaspers, Jean Paul Sartre and Martin Heidegger.  These men reasoned below the line of despair and gave up hope of a rational answer to the questions of life.  The end result: they are left with only the anti-rational.

Schaeffer proceeds to explain what he considers the further steps under the line of despair.  The first as noted above began with philosophy.  The second step was art.  The third – music.  The fourth – culture, and the fifth step was the new theology which was opened by Karl Barth.  While most refer to this brand of theology as “liberal” or “neo-orthodox,” and rightly so, the issue at hand runs deeper than labels.  Indeed, liberal theology rejects the deity of Christ, the inerrancy of Scripture and the New Testament miracles.  The new theology knows nothing of man being created in the image of God.  But Schaeffer adds further clarity to the issue:  “All the new theology and mysticism is nothing more than a faith contrary to rationality, deprived of content and incapable of contentful communication.  You can bear ‘witness’ to it, but you cannot discuss it.  Rationality and faith are out of contact with each other” (The God Who Is There, 64).

Man, therefore, is left in a state of despair which “arises from the abandonment of the hope of a unified answer for knowledge and life.  Modern man continues to hang on to his rationalism and his autonomous revolt even though to do so he has had to abandon any rational hope of a unified answer” (Escape From Reason, 235-236).

The consequences and despair of modern man can be found in three areas.  The first is falling prey to nihilism or embracing a worldview that offers no hope.

The second is  found in the fact that he accepts a false dichotomy (what Schaeffer calls an “absolute dichotomy”) between nature and grace.  However, the modern scheme is presently a dichotomy between contentless faith (no rationality) and rationality (no meaning).  “All the new theology and mysticism is nothing more than a faith contrary to rationality, deprived of content and incapable of contentful communication.  Rationality and faith are out of contact with each other” (The God Who Is There, 64).

Third, since there is no integration point between rationality and faith man engages in acts of desperation in order to find meaning, namely, he accepts a mysticism which gives an illusion of unity to the whole.  Hence we understand why the influx of eastern religion such as Hinduism, i.e. the New Age Movement has gained such a popular foothold in America today.  If there is no hope of a unified field of knowledge one must cling to a mystical world-view that has no rational base but promises hope for the present and the future.

Schaeffer enhances his discussion by contrasting the Christian faith with modern man’s faith which has turned inward.  In Christianity the value of faith depends upon the object towards which the faith is directed.  So it looks outward to the God who is there, and to the Christ who in history died upon the cross once for all, finished the work of atonement, and on the third day rose again in space and in time.  This makes the Christian faith open to discussion and verification (The God Who Is There, 65).

WHY FRANCIS SHAEFFER MATTERS: The Turning Point in Truth – Part 2

The Truth Crisis

Francis Schaeffer sets the tone for his apologetical procedure by explaining the crisis of truth in America:  “We are fundamentally affected by a new way of looking at truth.  This change in the concept of the way we come to knowledge and truth is the most crucial problem facing America today” (The God Who Is There, 6).  He believes a paradigm shift occurred around 1935 when the American attitude toward truth changed.  Prior to this time, American’s were devoted to thinking about presuppositions, namely, the existence of absolutes, particularly in the areas of morals (ethics) and knowledge (epistemology).  But the average American took it for granted  that if a certain idea was true, it’s opposite was false.  In other words, “absolutes imply antithesis.”  The working antithesis is that God exists objectively (in antithesis) to his not existing.

Schaeffer believes that presuppositional apologetics would have stopped the decay.  Incidentally, he maintains that the use of classical apologetics was effective prior to the shift because non-Christians were functioning on the surface with the same presuppositions, even though they did not have an adequate base for them.

The Role of Thomas Aquinas

Dr. Schaeffer maintains that Aquinas opened the way for the discussion of what is usually called the “nature and grace” controversy (Escape From Reason, 209). He contends that Aquinas set up a dichotomy of grace versus nature.

Aquinas taught that the will of man was fallen, but the intellect was not.  The net result, according to Schaeffer, is that man’s intellect is seen as autonomous.  Schaeffer maintains that the teaching of Aquinas led to the development of the so-called Natural Theology where theology could be pursued independent of the Scriptures.  The vital principle to understand according to Schaeffer is that “as nature was made autonomous, nature began to ‘eat up’ grace” (Escape From Reason, 212).

Anthropology

Schaeffer militates against this so-called  “grace/nature” dichotomy and insists that Christ is equally Lord in both areas.  He suggests that God made the whole man and is consequently interested in the whole man.  When the historic space-time Fall took place, it affected the whole man, not merely the will as Aquinas taught.  Thus, Schaeffer taught that the whole man is saved and the whole man will eventually be glorified and perfectly redeemed.

Since God made man in His own image, man is not caught in the wheels of determinism:  “The Christian position is that since man is made in the image of God and even though he is a sinner, he can do those things that are tremendous – he can influence history for this life and the life to come, for himself and others” (Death In The City, 258).

Schaeffer argues that Evangelicals have such a strong tendency to combat humanism that they end up making man a “zero.”  He adds, “Man is indeed lost but that does not mean he is nothing . . . From the biblical viewpoint, man is lost, but great” (Death In The City, 258-259).  Therefore, Schaeffer’s anthropological position is that man is sinful, yet he is significant because he is made in the image of God.  And regenerate man is, as the Reformers emphasized, simul iustus et peccator – simultaneously righteous and sinful.

THE DOCTRINE OF THE WORD OF GOD – John Frame (2010)

In 1987, John Frame embarked on his series, A Theology of Lordship. He began with his first work, The Doctrine of the Knowledge of God.  Fifteen years later, he released The Doctrine of God.  In 2008, he completed The Doctrine of the Christian Life.  Each book is noteworthy in its own right.  However, I must add that outside of Scripture, Frame’s Doctrine of God is by far the most helpful and impressive book I have ever read.

Today I begin the final installment of the Theology of Lordship Series – The Doctrine of the Word of God. And the author inserts a bombshell in the preface: “And the more I think about it, the more I think this book is my best work ever.”  Quite a statement from an author who has already penned the most significant book in my life to date!

Here’s the deal.  When I dig into a Frame book, it is something akin to being invited to the White House.  The tour guide invites guests to explore all the rooms in the house.  “Take your time and enjoy yourself.  Make your self and home.  Stay as long as you like.”  Such an invitation would be both exhilarating and intimidating.  Welcome to the world of John Frame!

Frame divides his work into four parts which include, 1) Orientation, 2) God’s Word in Modern Theology, 3) The Nature of God’s Word, and 4) How the Word Comes to Us.  He includes (as in the other three volumes a very helpful analytical outline) which has helped me over the years in writing my own curriculum for theological education.  Additionally, Frame maintains these outlines help readers see the flow of argumentation throughout the book.

PART ONE: ORIENTATION

This section merely introduces readers to the theme of the book: “The main contention of this volume,” writes Frame, “is that God’s speech to man is real speech.  It is very much like one person speaking to another.  God speaks so that we can understand him and respond appropriately.”  Frame, then,  articulates his thesis: “God’s word, in all its qualities and aspects, is a personal communication from him to us.”

Frame argues that our response to God’s revelation should be one of obedience that comes from the heart: “When God speaks, our role is to believe, obey, delight, repent, mourn – whatever he wants us to do.  Our response should be without reservation, from the heart.”

The author distinguishes the God of the Bible from other world religions.  He summarizes work previously set forth in The Doctrine of God (DG): As such, he is set forth as a God who is an absolute personality.  He is absolute in that he is unchangeable, eternal, and infinite.  Yet he is also personal (or as Frame puts it “tripersonal”).  His point is that some religions and worldviews acknowledge the existence of a personal god.  And others recognize gods who are absolute.  But only historic Christianity acknowledges and worships a God who is personal and absolute.

God is the Creator.  As such, the creation is set apart from the Creator; hence the Creator-creature distinction.  The creature is wholly dependent on the Creator (Acts 17:28).

God is the Covenant Lord.  Frame is quick to remind readers that Lord “represents the Hebrew Yahweh, the name by which he wants his people to remember him.”  God is a covenental; he is the God of control, authority, and presence (what Frame calls the three lordship attributes; a theological reality that is teased out in DG).

Frame relates the lordship attributes to three perspectives respectively.  The situational perspective is the area where we teach and preach the authoritative Word.  The normative perspective focuses on how Scripture defines the word.  And the existential perspective is where God’s Word is transferred from the words we speak to our hearts.

PART TWO: GOD’S WORD IN MODERN THEOLOGY

Part two discusses modern views of revelation: “What distinguishes modern views of revelation from orthodox views is their affirmation of human autonomy in the realm of knowledge.  Intellectual autonomy is the view that human beings have the right to seek knowledge of God’s world without being subject to God’s revelation.”  Autonomy is always irrational; always sinful.

Frame argues that when man seeks to become his own lord, he “denies God’s ultimate control, authority, and presence.”  He articulates the classic Van Til idea of irrationality/rationality: “Either he denies that there is such a Lord or he ascribes lordship to something in creation.  If he denies that there is a Lord, he embraces irrationalism, the view that there is no ultimate meaning in the universe.  If he ascribes lordship to something finite (i.e., idolatry), he embraces rationalism, the view that a godlike knowledge can be obtained from the creation alone.”

Frame’s conclusion is that “nothing can be validated by autonomous reason … for such reasoning leads to a rationalist-irrationalist dialectic, which destroys all knowledge.  For that pottage, much of the church has forsaken its birthright, God’s personal word.”

Anyone familiar with John Frame will recognize that he does not oppose reason itself.  Indeed, “reason itself is a good gift of God.”  This good gift, however, is “fallible … and affected by sin.”  Rather, he rightly reacts against two bedrock principles in liberal theology: (1) Autonomous human reason, and (2) The notion that autonomous reason provides the ultimate criteria of truth and error, right and wrong, “by which everything (including Scripture) is to be judged.”

The author argues that it is sinful to substitute human rationality, history, or a subjective event for the “ultimate authority of God’s personal words” a feat that has been virtually perfected by theological liberals.  Frame has not only identified a key marker of liberalism; he has his finger on some of the error that is creeping into biblically-minded churches and followers of Christ.  Liberals and conservatives alike should recognize that rationalism, historicism, and subjectivism are unable of dealing properly with God’s personal words, i.e. God’s revelation.

Friedrich Schleiermacher, the so-called “father of theology” is the name most associated with the subjective event which is substituted for the authority of God’s Word.  He view of revelation should be familiar to evangelicals because many fall into the ditch of liberalism and do not even realize their shoes are dirty.  Schleirmacher believes that “revelation is primarily subjective, not objective.  It is not objective truths, but our subjective responses to objective truths.”

PART THREE: THE NATURE OF GOD’S WORD

Frame defines the Word of God as (1) “God himself, understood as communicator,” and (2) “the sum total of his free communications with his creatures.”

He reiterates a central theme of the Lordship Series, namely, God speaks to us as Lord.  “We should therefore expect that is speech, like all his actions, will express his lordship attributes: his control, authority, and presence.” As such, Frame examines each lordship attribute respectively.

First, he explores the controlling power of the Word of God.  God’s Word exerts power over inanimate objects as well as creatures.  God’s Word is an instrument of judgment as well as grace/blessing.  In the final analysis, “God accomplishes all his works by his powerful word: creation, providence, judgment, grace.”  The efficacy of God’s Word is God’s sovereign prerogative.

Second, Frame examines the Word of God as his meaningful authority.  When God speaks, his words are meaningful, thus authoritative.  Consequently, God’s authoritative words create obligation on the part of the creature:  “When he questions us, we should answer.  When he expresses his grace, we are obligated to trust it.  When he tells us his desires, we should conform our lives to them.  When he shares with us his knowledge and intentions, we ought to believe that they are true.”

Jesus carries the fully weight of authority as he comes to bear witness to the truth and accomplish the redemptive act that was ordained in eternity past.  Frame concludes, “To hear the words of Jesus, then, is the same as hearing the words of the Father.  We are to hear the words of Jesus as Abraham heard the words of Yahweh, as words of supreme authority.  We are not in any position to find fault with the words of Jesus.  They rather create obligations on our part to hear, believe, obey, mediate, rejoice, mourn – whatever the words may demand of us.”

Lastly, Frame explores God’s Word as personal presence – the third lordship attribute.  The author presents nine practical ways that God manifests his presence in a special way to his people.

1. God’s nearness to his people is the nearness of his words.

2. Where the Word is, there is God’s Spirit.

3. God performs all his actions through speech.

4. God is distinguished from all other gods because he is the God who speaks.

5. The persons of the Trinity are distinguished  from one another in Scripture according to their role in the divine speech.

6. The speech of God has divine attributes.

7. The Word does things that only God can do.

8. The Word of God is an object of worship.

9. The Word is God.

The three lordship attributes of control, authority, and presence are inseparable.  In other words, when God exerts control, there is a corresponding authority and presence that complement one another.  Frame puts it this way: “So if God performs all his actions by powerful and authoritative speech, then his speech is never separated from his personal presence.”

PART FOUR: HOW THE WORD COMES TO US

Part four makes up the bulk of the work and is concerned primarily with how the Word of God gets into our hearts and minds.  Dr. Frame explains how God reveals himself via events and words (the divine voice, the apostles, and prophets).

Frame discusses Jesus’ and the apostles’ view of the Old Testament respectively.  He includes a helpful section on the canon of Scripture.  His treatment of inspiration is extremely valuable and encouraging.

The author tackles what he calls the content of Scripture and parallels it with the Hittite suzerainty treaty which unfolds as follows:

1. Name of the great king

2. Historical prologue

3. Stipulations (laws) and includes exclusive loyalty which is equivalent to love and specific requirements.

4. Sanctions (blessings and curses)

5. Administration.

Frame maintains the “covenantal model of canonicity is enormously helpful in dealing with questions concerning biblical authority, infallibility, and inerrancy.  On this model, God is the ultimate author of Scripture, and we vassals have no right to find fault with that document; rather, we are to be subject to it in all our thought and life.”    And he argues that the five sections also point to five types of revelation that emerges in Scripture respectively:

1. Revelation of the name of God

2. Revelation of God’s mighty acts in history

3. Revelation of God’s law including love and specific requirements

4. Revelation of God’s continuing presence to bless and curse

5. Revelation of God’s institutional provisions: Scripture, church, sacraments, discipline, etc.

Frame argues that the covenants  bolster  the unity of Scripture by their “pervasiveness, complementarity, and their perspectival relationship.”

The inerrancy of Scripture is explored in a thoughtful and comprehensive way.  Frame’s argument is convincing and compelling: “Scripture is both inerrant and infallible.  It is inerrant because it is infallible.  There are no errors because there can be no errors in the divine speech … Error arises from two sources: deceit and ignorance.  Deceit is intentional error, lying.  Ignorance may lead to unintentional error.  But God does not lie, and he is ignorant of nothing.  If Scripture is his Word, therefore, it contains no errors.  It is inerrant.”

Frame unpacks the clarity, necessity, comprehensiveness, sufficiency, and the transmission of Scripture.  Concerning the transmission of Scripture in particular, the author articulates the process as follows: the divine voice communicates via prophets and apostles which leads to the written word.  Frame argues “there is no decrease in power, authority, or divine presence, as we move from the divine voice, to the prophets and apostles, and to the written word.”  Additionally, the written Word proceeds through a number of processes before it reaches the human heart and mind.  These include copies, textual criticism, translations, teaching, preaching, sacraments, theology, confessions and creeds, interpretation, and assurance.

Frame summarizes the essence of his thesis: “He [God] is our covenant Lord.  So his word to us reflects his lordship attributes of control, authority, and presence.  His word has a power that controls all things.  It has supreme authority, so that it creates obligations in its hearers: obligations to believe, obey, and otherwise participate in what he presents to us.  And the word is also the location of God’s very presence to us.”

SUMMARY STATEMENT

Finishing volume four of the Theology of Lordship Series marks the end of an incredible journey.  But in many ways, the journey is just beginning.  For followers of Christ recognize the mandate to love the Lord with all their heart, soul, mind, and strength.  Indeed, our God is the God of control, authority, and presence.

I consider Dr. Frame’s Theology of Lordship Series a labor of love that the church will appreciate and benefit from for years to come.  Every young pastor should set a goal to purchase and thoroughly digest each volume in the Lordship series.  I count these four book among the most valuable resources in my theological library.

Many thanks to John Frame for courageous writing and his diligent approach to God’s Word.

5 stars

THE DEEP THINGS OF GOD: How the Trinity Changes Everything – Fred Sanders (2010)

The Deep Things of God: How the Trinity Changes Everything by Fred Sanders is not the best book I’ve read on the Trinity.  However, it is among one of the more interesting.

The title grabbed my attention as so many Christian books tend to focus on the trivial.  There is nothing trivial about Sanders’ work.  He sounds the alarm and calls evangelicals to return to their Trinitarian roots and experience the deep truths concerning God.

The author cites B.B. Warfield which serves as an effective launching point: “The religious terrain is full of the graves of good words which have died from lack of care … and these good words are still dying all around us.  There is that good word “Evangelical.”  It is certainly moribund, if not already dead.  Nobody any longer seems to know what it means.”  Sober words from a theologian who has been dead for  almost ninety years!

Sanders does not waste any time developing his thesis.  He states it early in the book: “The central argument of this book is that the doctrine of the Trinity inherently belongs to the gospel itself.”  His goal is to demonstrate that “the gospel is Trinitarian, and the Trinity is the gospel.”  And he pounds this theme at every conceivable angle for 239 pages.

The introduction rightly responds negatively to the typical anti-intellectual and reductionist tendencies among evangelicals.  Sanders writes, “When emphatic evangelicalism degenerates into reductionist evangelicalism, it is always because it has lost touch with the all-encompassing truth of its Trinitarian theology.”

One strategy the author utilizes is to call forth witnesses to testify on behalf of Trinitarian theology.  Those who testify are a diverse group: everyone from C.S. Lewis,  J.I. Packer, Francis Schaeffer, Billy Graham, Oswald Chambers, and Susannah Wesley.

Sanders introduces readers to the self-sufficiency of God in what he calls “the happy land of the Trinity.”  In other words, God, from all eternity has always been happy and complete.  There has been perfect fellowship among the members of the godhead from all eternity and there will continue to be perfect fellowship in eternity future.  The author continually returns to the main theme, namely, “The main practical reason for learning how to think well about the eternal life of the Trinity is that it is the background for the gospel.”

Sanders continues to link the doctrine of the Trinity to gospel truth: “Everything in the Christian faith should be connected, clearly and directly, to the one central thing, the gospel of salvation in Christ.”  As such, the author  does brief exposition of Ephesians 1 and borrows the insight of Henry Scougal to bolster his thesis.

Readers become familiarized with the various roles that the members of the godhead perform which ultimately ushers them into “the saving life of Christ.”  Here, Sanders leans heavily on the insight of Francis Schaeffer: “When I accept Christ as my Savior, my guilt is gone, I am indwelt by the Holy Spirit, and I am in communication with the Father and the Son, as well as the Holy Spirit – the entire Trinity.”

I can recommend The Deep Things of God to folks who have wrestled through some of the implications of the Trinitarian formulations.  For those who are unfamiliar with how the doctrine unfolded in church history and how it is developed in Scripture – this is probably not the best place to start.  I would turn first to Bruce A. Ware’s excellent work, Father, Son and Holy Spirit, Robert Letham’s, The Holy Trinity and James White’s, The Forgotten Trinity.

We would do well to remember the words of Dr. South concerning the Trinity, cited in William Shedd’s Introduction to Augustine’s De Trinitate:

  • “As he that denies this fundamental article of the Christian religion may lose his soul, so he that much strives to understand it may lose his wits.”

3.5 stars

THE DOCTRINE OF THE CHRISTIAN LIFE – John Frame (2008)

The Doctrine of the Christian Life by John Frame is the third installment in his Lordship series.  The preceding work, The Doctrine of God is the most influential book I have read to date, outside the Bible.  Every seminary student and pastor should carefully read The Doctrine of God.  The contents are sure to revolutionize one’s life and ministry.

The Doctrine of the Christian Life is a superb addition to the Lordship series.  Since the book is nearly 1000 pages, this format makes it impossible to review this work in a comprehensive way.  Hopefully, a few highlights will lure some prospective readers in.

Dr. Frame’s book may be considered an extended meditation on ethics.  Frame utilizes his well-known triperspectival framework.  Ethics is viewed through three lenses, namely, the situational (the history of ethics), existential (Christian ethics), and normative (the ethical pattern of the ten commandments).

The author links ethics with divine lordship in keeping with the overall tenor of the series.  The Lordship attributes are control, authority, and presence.  Our God controls and accomplishes all that he intends.  Everything he ordains come to pass. Frame argues, “Control means that God makes everything happen.”

God’s authority is “his right to tell his creatures what they must do … authority means that God has the right to be obeyed, and that therefore we have the obligation to obey him.”  Additionally, “God’s authority is absolute.  That means, first, that we shouldn’t doubt or question it … The absoluteness of God’s authority means that his lordship transcends all our other loyalties … God’s authority covers all areas of human life.”

God’s presence is the profound reality that he promises to be with his people.  Frame adds, “When God takes us to be his people, he fights our battles, blesses us, loves us, and sometimes gives us special judgments because of our sins.”

These lordship attributes govern the ethical life of a Christ-follower:

  • “By his control, God plans and rules nature and history, so that certain human acts are conducive to his glory and others are not.”
  • “By his authority, he speaks to us clearly, telling us what norms govern our behavior.”
  • “By his covenant presence he commits himself to be with us in our ethical walk, blessing our obedience and punishing our disobedience.”

Dr. Frame adds, “Three lordship attributes, three mandatory responses: faith, obedience, worship.  These responses are the foundation of our ethical life.  Faith corresponds to control, obedience to authority, and worship to presence.”

In part two, the author reviews non-Christian ethical frameworks.  Perhaps most helpful is the section describing how unregenerate people are both rational and irrational at the same time.  Arguing with Cornelius Van Til, the author writes, “They [unconverted people] claim that their own reason has ultimate authority (rationalism), but they acknowledge nothing that will connect human reason with objective truth (irrationalism).”

Part three summarizes Christian ethical methodology in a very comprehensive fashion.  Dr. Frame utilizes the normative, situational,  and existential perspectives to drive home the basis for Christian ethics.

Part four is an excellent summary of the ten commandments that readers should turn to again and again for fresh perspective on the decalogue.  Perhaps most helpful here is the assertion that “grace precedes and motivates works.”

Part five is a section on Christ and Culture.  The author defines culture and answers the question, “What role (if any) should a Christian have in culture?”  Dr. Frame’s answers are illuminating and motivating.  His answers are worth the price of the book in my estimation.

Finally, Dr. Frame ends on a practical note.  Part six focuses on personal spiritual maturity and includes a helpful section on progressive sanctification.

The Doctrine of the Christian Life is not for the faint at heart.  But it is highly recommended.  I will utilize this resource for many years to come.  And I can’t wait for the final installment of the Lordship series, The Doctrine of the Word of God.

5 stars

WHAT IS PERSEVERANCE OF THE SAINTS?

What is the Perseverance of the Saints? Michael A. Milton does an exceptional job in his attempt to answer the question.  Milton’s tackles this important topic by considering four aspects:

Defining the Doctrine

The author cites Berkhof – “Perseverance may be defined as that continuous operation of the Holy Spirit in the believer, by which the work of divine grace that is begun in the heart, is continued and brought to completion.”

Distortions of the Doctrine

Milton wisely uncovers some of the prominent distortions of perseverance of the saints.  Most notable is the popular notion, “once saved, always saved.”  This idea, while correct in principle, does not tell the whole story.  “It does not,” Milton writes, “address the believers progression in holiness, which is sanctification.”  The author points to the dual reality of God’s sovereignty and man’s responsibility, a key truth that emerges when unpacking this weighty doctrine.

Defense of the Doctrine

Milton’s defense of perseverance of the saints is not comprehensive, nor is intended to be comprehensive.  Rather, he seeks to provide a basic biblical and theological framework that demonstrates the truthfulness of this doctrine.  His arguments are clear and compelling.  They are an excellent introduction for Christians uncovering this doctrine for the first time.

Delight in the Doctrine

Finally, the author discusses the benefits of embracing perseverance of the saints.  He includes encouraging principles that flow directly from the fountainhead of this precious doctrine.

4.5 stars