Trials: Theological Rubber Meets the “Everyday” Road

I have been away for several weeks due to some troubling news that my wife and I received regarding her pregnancy. She is doing well but there is a good chance that she is in the early stage of Placenta Accreta. This will present a particular set of difficulties down the road as she gets closer to her due date. In light of this, my time has been occupied with taking care of her, our home, our children. It has also presented the opportunity to reflect on God’s providence and unceasing love for those who are called to be His.

I confess that I struggled at first to understand why this was happening. I would imagine this is a fairly normal reaction for most people, Christian and non-Christian alike. In a single instance everything seemed to come to a screeching stop. Things that seemed important before now appeared trivial and insignificant. And the nagging question continued to haunt me: “Why would God, my Father in Heaven, allow us to go through such an ordeal?” As I was driving home from work one afternoon I was flooded with a terrible anxiety and my imagination ran wild… But only for a few moments.

At this point, my theology kicked in. This is what this blog is about: where the study and the “everyday” meet. I immediately and intentionally began to meditate on some biblical and theological truths that served as a salve for my soul. I remembered that I love God, and that He causes all thing to work out for our good (Rom. 8:28). I reflected on God’s sovereign grace and a love that neither my wife or I could ever be separated from (Rom. 8:38-39). I thought about the role that trial and tribulations play in our lives and how God uses these to build us up in our most holy faith; how they should not rob of us joy (James 1:2-3; Rom. 5:3). All of these are founded on theological truths about the nature and being of God, His providential hand in all things, His lordship over all creation, but most of all, in the blessed gospel of God’s saving grace in Christ. The truth is that I cannot fathom how the unbeliever can graciously face the difficulties and anxieties that accompany this life without gospel of Jesus, without a biblical theology of suffering. Regardless of the outcome, Christ is mine and I am His. Adding to that the fact that my wife is also a believer brings all the more joy.

Suffering, trials, tribulations, afflictions…these are God’s ordained means of growth in the life of the Christian (Acts 14:22; 1 Peter 4:12; 2 Tim. 3:12). No other religion in the world would make such a claim. It forces us to face our own sinfulness and fall into the hands of the Creator, Sustainer, and Redeemer of our bodies and souls. Does this mean we do not feel the pain of suffering? No, in this life there will be pain and heartache. Concern for our loved ones will always be there. But underneath it all, there is an unshakable joy in knowing that the God of the Scriptures has us in His heart and mind, and He will use these disconcerting moments to increase our faith, our holiness, and make us more like the Savior. Therefore, we can be strong and courageous in the Lord (Deut. 31:6; Eph. 6:10).

Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of mercies and God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our affliction, so that we may be able to comfort those who are in any affliction, with the comfort with which we ourselves are comforted by God. For as we share abundantly in Christ’s sufferings, so through Christ we share abundantly in comfort too.

2 Corinthians 1:3-5

“Frame Stops Where the Bible Stops” – Why Christians Should Read John Frame?

This is a blog post I found on The Calvinist International written by Joseph Minich. I was planning on writing about my earnest desire that more Christians engage the theological works of John Frame. Mr. Minich has beat me to the punch (by a few years) and I am grateful because I couldn’t have said it better myself. It’s a little long but worth your time.

One of the main reasons, which Minich will point out below, that I highly recommend John Frame is because he really seeks to understand and apply Deuteronomy 29:29:

“The secret things belong to the LORD our God, but the things that are revealed belong to us and to our children forever, that we may do all the words of this law.”

Frame is very intentional in his Scripture-based approach to theology, as opposed to other systematic theologies that can be shoddy in exegesis and emphasize historical theology and tradition as a means of justifying a doctrine. Frame’s high view of Scripture comes out and he is very aware of the boundaries that are imposed by Scripture itself.


 

WHY I LOVE JOHN FRAME’S “BIBLICISM” & YOU SHOULD TOO

by Joseph Minich

The most common complaint I’ve seen regarding John Frame’s recent Systematic Theology is that it does not contain enough historical theology. It approximates “biblicism” (cue scary music) in its approach to the Reformed faith. And while I might attribute a greater degree of significance to historical theology and confessions than does Dr. Frame (though I’m not entirely sure of this), I want to write briefly in his defense here.

The truth is, the Reformed world needs this “biblicist” systematic theology, and for several reasons:

1. No matter how much we pay lip-service to the subordinate authority of confessions, there are many in the Reformed world who seem to functionally treat the confessions as on par with Scripture. Even if this is not their heart’s intention and even if they argue that quoting the confession in theological disputes is appropriate precisely because the confessions are “biblical,” the simple point of fact is that the confessions are not the Bible. And when Reformed believers relate to their non-Reformed Christian brethren about doctrines we hold dear, the thing they need to know and emphasize the most is the Bible. The Bible alone is God’s speech (i.e. words) to His people, and as such, it is the common ground that we share with all our Christian brothers and sisters. Do you want to persuade ordinary believers of the Reformed faith? Then show them that the Bible teaches the Reformed faith.

2. Some systematic theologies are very strong on philosophical and historical issues, but forget to go over the basic biblical commonplaces for defending a position. I have often wanted to find the (forgive me) “proof texts” for various topics, and have been sorely disappointed. Never with Frame. Every time I try to explore even the most esoteric doctrines (divine atemporality, etc), Frame presents the main texts (and several besides) and then discusses what can and cannot be derived from them. This is so helpful for the teacher of theology. For many, Frame’s work will be the “go to” for approximating the sorts of texts a Reformed person might appeal to for our various distinctives.

3. While I wish Frame would state certain doctrines in stronger and more traditional language (divine simplicity, especially), his work is actually a help to the historical theologian because his views are mostly traditional. He does use some terms more broadly (law/gospel) and he adds a distinctive “Frame-flavor” (a wealth of triads, vocabulary, etc) to many doctrines. But most of the time, these “special touches” are either pedagogically useful or (at least) warrant reflection. And in either case, the substance is quite traditional– whatever the artifice. In my judgment, it takes only a small dose of critical evaluation to see this clearly. And for those (like myself) who are comfortable with a very pronounced role for reason in theology, Frame is usually a great place to go to determine how far we can get toward certain classical doctrines from Scripture alone. In some cases, Scripture “hints at” certain classical formulations which might nevertheless have a more elaborate defense from reason (in coordination with Scripture). If one does not feel the need for all truth to have a “Bible verse” to support it, then one can be easily motivated to be honest about the extent to which Scripture approximates traditional theology. And Frame is perhaps the most helpful and honest author I’ve found in showing where Scripture most closely approximates classical Christian doctrine without feeling the need to say that it goes “all the way” in each case. In short, Frame stops where the Bible stops.

4. Frame is also a philosopher by trade and so his “biblicism” does not result in the sort of shoddy exegesis or overly quick inference that often plagues such an approach. His judgments are measured with the sharp mind of a philosopher and the wisdom of one who has walked long with Christ. Even when you disagree, he asks the questions that must be grappled with. This is a biblicism with philosophical precision and a love for Christ and His church that jumps off the page. This is “the application of the word of God to our questions,” which is something like Frame’s definition of theology.

5. What is more, most of the philosophical and existential asides are more contemporary is nature than their historical theological counter-parts. Again, while I think these latter are important and essential, it is also very useful to see someone address the sorts of philosophical issues, practical problems, and common questions that might arise in a Sunday School classroom or in a conversation with a moderately educated non-historian. Several other systematic theologians have done this as well, but the reader will always walk away from Frame’s own analyses with either some nuts and bolts tools that get right to the heart of the issue, or they will be challenged to think very hard about an alternative.

In short, Frame’s is something of a “go to” systematician for determining the Biblical material that must be engaged in grappling with a topic. And he is a top contender for determining the sorts of questions that need to be answered if one is to resist his own skeptical or non-committal treatment of some traditional formulations, as well as for addressing contemporary questions in a pedagogically useful manner. Frame’s work really is for the people of God and it always directs them with humility, wisdom, and precision to His voice above all else.


Joseph Minich lives in Texas with his wife (Rebecca) and four children (Samuel, Truman, Felix, and Ruby). He recently graduated from Reformed Theological Seminary (D.C. Campus) and is pursuing a Ph.D in intellectual history at the University of Texas at Dallas. (As of 2014)

Link to the original article: WHY I LOVE JOHN FRAME’S “BIBLICISM” & YOU SHOULD TOO

 

On Tradition and Scripture – Dr. John Frame

Frame, John M., The Doctrine of God, Phillipsburg, NJ: P & R Pub., 2002. pg. 10.

As I have indicated in my writings on biblicism and tradition, there is a tendency among some leading evangelical thinkers today to base theological judgments on traditions, confessions, or historical study. But to make them the normative is to violate the sufficiency of Scripture as God’s word. In most cases, the arguments used constitute genetic fallacies: something is good because it comes from a good tradition, or bad because it comes from a bad one. Thus, traditionalism weakens the cogency [strength or persuasiveness] of the theological argument.

 

Sola Scriptura, therefore, will guard us against bad speculation and philosophical imperialism. The point is not that philosophical terminology or argument is always bad, but rather that such terminology and argument must be tested by Scripture.

HIGHLY recommended reading:

Book and Bible…Open: A Practical Suggestion

The picture above may not make much sense when you first look at it. It’s not about how you should set up your desk, or about the nifty book stand (get one; they’re worth it!) that is propping up a massive tome. It’s about the items that are in the picture: my computer, pencil, theological book and my Bible. Nothing really special. Just what, I believe, should be open on every desk or table when ever a Bible-believing Christian wants to study any theological work. But one of these is typically stays on the shelf. Let me explain.

The one item that I have found regularly missing from the desk of someone studying theology is their Bible. I firmly believe that a believer that desires to understand biblical doctrine should use their Bible when conducting theological studies. Now, it doesn’t have to be your physical Bible. It could be on your computer, tablet, and even your phone. My point is that ready-access to the biblical text from which we are to derive true theology should be easily available to the student. And here’s why:

  • It helps you ground your study of theology in Scripture. When you open up any worthwhile systematic theology or similar theological work you’ll notice that the writer has cited many biblical passages to support the doctrine, concept, or idea that they are trying to express. Ladies and gentlemen, those are there to be looked up. I do not believe that we should simply pass over those citations. It is a solid way to do theology because it grounds our understanding of what the author is attempting to communicate in the Word of God itself. I cannot begin to tell you the number of times that I have read some theology without my Bible open, and then went back to read the same text while I looked up the passages and found that everything was much clearer.
  • It helps you develop discernment (1 John 4:1). Not everything we read will resonate with the Scriptures. We need to be discerning readers and test what is that we read against what the Bible teaches. As John points out, there are many false teachers that will attempt to deceive the people of God and draw them away from the truth. By taking the extra time to look up the passages that are used by the author, you are developing discernment and learning to be critical thinkers.
  • It helps you steer away from lazy study. Let’s face it: its extra work to look up passages, especially if there are a dozen or so that address the argument the author is trying to make. I’m not saying that you have to look up every single one. But, as I have said in another post, there is no rush. Most of you are not going to seminary or have deadlines. Might as well take your time, and develop the Berean discipline of examining the Scripture to see if what the theologian is saying is true (Acts 17:11)
  • It helps you remember what you have read. By pausing and looking up passages, you are forcing your mind to engage the topic at hand. It serves to focus your thinking by dwelling on the topic for longer than you would have if you had just continued reading on. This helps you remember what you have read because your taking an active role in your study. This is fuel for later meditation. Along with this, take notes on a computer or in a journal. Write down what you believe the author is saying. It doesn’t have to be long; just a note here and a note there. But again, by doing so you are pushing yourself to engage with the author’s argument and chances are that you’ll remember so much more. It’s worth the effort.

Hope this was helpful. If you have any other suggestions, leave them in the comments below.

Blessings.

15 Minutes a Day Helps Keep Foolishness Away

Here’s a short excerpt from one of John Piper’s sermons (Get Wisdom). It’s amazing what one can accomplish with just 15 minutes of Bible and/or Theology reading each day.

Since wisdom is found in the Word of God, we must apply ourselves in study and meditation to know the Word and do it. “The law of the Lord is perfect, reviving the soul; the testimony of the Lord is sure, making wise the simple.” (Psalm 19:7). Therefore, we must devote ourselves to know and understand the testimonies of the Lord. And here I commend not only faithful Bible study, but also regular reading of great books on theology and biblical interpretation, books that distill the wisdom of the greatest students of the word over the past 1900 years.

Now, I know what you are thinking: I don’t have the time or the ability to get anywhere in books like that. So I want to show you something really encouraging. When this was shown to me about four years ago by my pastor, it changed my life. Most of us don’t aspire very high in our reading because we don’t feel like there is any hope.

But listen to this: Suppose you read about 250 words a minute and that you resolve to devote just 15 minutes a day to serious theological reading to deepen your grasp of biblical truth. In one year (365 days) you would read for 5,475 minutes. Multiply that times 250 words per minute and you get 1,368,750 words per year. Now most books have between 300 and 400 words per page. So if we take 350 words per page and divide that into 1,368,750 words per year, we get 3,910 pages per year. This means that at 250 words a minute, 15 minutes a day, you could read about 20 average sized books a year!

Now, the goal is not numbers. It would be incorrect to think that the book count is the sole purpose. But our minds do need something to ruminate on. Farmers know what the word “ruminate” means. It means to chew over and over, the way a cow chews on cud. We need to fill our minds with good biblical and theological truth so that it can chew on something throughout the day.

Be like a cow and chew on that. cow2