The Doctrine of God. A Theology of Lordship

Article excerpt

The Doctrine of God. A Theology of Lordship The Doctrine of God. A Theology of Lordship. By John M. Frame. Phillipsburg: P&R, 2002, xxii + 864 pp., $39.99.

Fifteen years have passed since the first installment of John Frame's projected four-volume "Theology of Lordship" series. Entitled The Doctrine of the Knowledge of God, the inaugural volume set forth a biblical account of covenantal epistemology in light of divine lordship. We now have the long-awaited second volume, The Doctrine of God. Volumes on ethics (The Doctrine of the Christian Life) and Scripture (The Doctrine of the Word of God) are expected to follow in (relatively) short order.

The central motif of this work is that Yahweh is the covenant Lord. Because Frame's goal is to produce a biblical exposition of the doctrine of God in terms of covenant lordship, he maintains a methodological commitment to sola scriptura throughout the work. (Roughly five thousand Scripture citations demonstrate the seriousness of Frame's intent.)

In Part 1, Frame proposes three "Lordship attributes": control, authority, and presence. These are central to the content and structure of Frame's work. God's control of nature and history is efficacious and universal, while his authority is absolute and universal. His supreme control and authoritative evaluation operate not only from above, but also from within and to us through his covenantal presence, to bless and/or to curse. Crucial to Frame's theology and pedagogy is that these triadic distinctions of the Lordship attributes are perspectively related and mutually interpreting, such that one cannot be understood apart from the others. This means that a theological encyclopedia holds little interest for Frame, whose order of presentation is primarily determined by pedagogical concerns.

In Part 2 Frame shows that unbiblical theologies invariably distort both God's transcendence (control-authority) and immanence (presence), simultaneously exhibiting rationalist and irrationalist tendencies. Examples of this are seen when critics suppose that genuine human freedom-responsibility and the existence of evil are incompatible with the Lordship attributes as traditionally understood. Frame tackles these classical problems, arguing for a compatibilistic concept of freedom and setting forth the biblical portrait of how the existence of evil relates to God's control, authority, and presence.

Part 3 expounds a philosophy of Lordship, averring that there is a distinctively biblical ethics, epistemology, and metaphysics. Only Christian ethics does justice to the normative, situational, and existential perspectives. Only Christian epistemology can account for both genuine knowledge and proper humility. And only Christian metaphysics properly understands the Creator-creature distinction. This philosophical prolegomenon sets the stage for the remaining three major sections that unpack God's revelation of himself.

Part 4 places the acts of the Lord under the rubric of his control, examining God's miracles, providence, creation, and decrees. Part 5 deals with the biblical descriptions of God from the perspective of his authority, expounding the divine names, images, and attributes. The latter are classified according to another triadic categorization: goodness, knowledge, and power. Part 6, lastly, deals with the triunity of God as an aspect of divine presence, offering a glimpse into God's inner life and the life that believers share with him.

The book ends with nine appendices: an extensive list of triads that may reflect or illumine the Trinity in some way, two responses to the embarrassingly incompetent critiques of Frame by Mark Karlberg, and seven previously published book reviews by Frame that relate to the doctrine of God.

Before moving to analysis and the place of Frame's work in comparison with other recent attempts, it may be helpful to examine how Frame approaches some of the divine attributes as traditionally understood. …