The Doctrine of God
Readers familiar with Frame's analysis of historic doctrines and current questions will welcome this long-awaited second installment in the Theology of Lordship series. Here he examines the attributes, acts, and names of God in connection with a full spectrum of relevant theological, ethical, and spiritual issues.
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Frame’s stated purpose in the volume is to “maintain sola Scriptura” in his presentation of the doctrine of God (10). To that end he succeeds, developing his arguments from Scripture, using Biblical terminology, avoiding dogmatism where he feels appropriate (e.g. p. 327, in the order of God’s decrees), and warning against pressing analogies too hard where Scripture may not be clear (e.g. pp. 726-35 with models of God’s Tri-unity). Frame unpacks his central motif “that God is Lord of the covenant” (12) with clarity and precision. The Lordship of Yahweh, manifest in the lordship attributes, is implicit, if not explicit, on every page of the volume.
Frame also desires to persuasively demonstrate how and why Yahweh’s lordship should affect our worldview. Here he is also successful, explaining how God’s essential nature informs the ethics, epistemology, and metaphysics of the creation. Indeed, at many points throughout the book he directly asks the reader to evaluate their worldview in light of God’s lordship.
Frame maintains a Christocentric and evangelical focus throughout the book. The need for reconciliation with the covenant Lord and his grace in providing a redeemer are recurring themes in the volume, and Frame closes the book with a winsome plea to any yet-unconverted reader to believe in Christ, which “opens you to all the riches of life with God. The covenant becomes your covenant, and the Lord becomes your Lord. All that God is becomes yours, for he has said, ‘I will take you as my own people, and I will be your God’ (Ex. 6:7; cf. Rev. 21:3, 7).” (741-2).
Frame strikes a refreshing balance in some matters that have been historically polarizing within the church, such as God’s love for the non-elect (418-9), and the unity of God’s decretive and prescriptive wills (538). This is due in no small part to his commitments to sola Scriptura, to framing (no pun intended) the doctrine of God in Biblical categories, to the use of Biblical terminology, and to giving all the Biblical data their full hearing while also understanding the parts in light of the whole. This is not to say that Frame is reluctant to stake a position in matters of controversy, such as the limitations of human freedom (138-159) or God’s sovereign Lordship (the theme of the entire book!) Where Scripture is clear, so is Frame.
One at times may wish that more space had been given to “tying up loose ends”. While considering the relationship between Yahweh’s control and human freedom, man’s fallen nature was mentioned in general terms, but the guilt of original sin was not explicitly brought to bear and would, in the opinion of this reviewer, have rounded out the discussion nicely, particularly insofar as the polemical issue of God’s righteousness in judging the non-elect is concerned.
Additionally, Frame’s use of language can at times be confusing. In a chapter titled “Historical Election” (317-325), Frame uses the term “elect” to refer to individuals or groups who may not be eternally elect but who are nonetheless used by God to accomplish a specific purpose. This concept is thoroughly Biblical, but statements such as “Persons who are elect in that sense can become nonelect because of their unfaithfulness during human history” (329) could be clearer. In the ESV, “elect” does not appear in the Old Testament, and in the New Testament the word always applies to the eternally elect. Frame’s commitment to using Biblical terminology to articulate Biblical concepts could have led him to use a different term in this case.
These occurrences, however, are rare. “The Doctrine of God” is a profound and Biblical treatment of the grandest of all subjects – God himself. Thinkers such as Frame, firmly rooted in the Reformed faith yet always searching for better ways to articulate the truths of Scripture, are a true gift to the church of Jesus Christ, and further testimony to the grace of our covenant Lord.