An Assessment of John Frame’s Systematic Theology: An Introduction to Christian Belief

Toward a Biblical, Catholic, and Reformed Theology: An Assessment of John Frame’s Systematic Theology: An Introduction to Christian Belief

Toward A Biblical, Catholic, and Reformed Theology:
An Assessment of John Frame’s Systematic Theology: An Introduction to Christian Belief[1]

Downplaying historical theology in the name of being biblical can be a dangerous way of introducing radical shifts in method with little notice. The question is not whether we are influenced by the historical teachings of the church, but which ones will influence us and whether they are correct.

To what does ‘Reformed’ Theology refer?[2] “Reformed” is primarily a historical term. It describes a system of doctrine that led to a decisive break with confessional Roman Catholicism in the sixteenth century and that continued into subsequent centuries.[3] Reformed theology came to be defined by its confessions of faith and catechisms, as summaries of doctrine that united Reformed churches.[4] These documents united churches internationally by providing a means to promote the catholicity of the church’s confession. However, all of the major Reformed confessions included statements on the necessity, authority, and sufficiency of Scripture alone as the rule of faith and practice.[5] The goal of Reformed theology is to represent accurately the system of doctrine taught in Scripture and to proclaim this system of theology to the church and to the world. ‘Reformed,’ therefore, represents what a certain group of churches taught or continue to teach about what the Bible says. Ordinarily, those who call themselves, ‘Reformed,’ do so because they believe that the Reformed confession is biblical. This approach reflects both love for Scripture and for the church, which Christ purchased with his precious blood.

John Frame’s Systematic Theology is hard to categorize. His theology is simultaneously brilliant, innovative, and eccentric. Its primary strengths are the clarity of his arguments, his extensive use of Scripture, and his ability to interact critically with unbelief. The primary weakness of his theology lies in its lack of connection to historic Reformed theology. This is a problem, because the absence of historical theology will almost always result in a theology that is detached from the confession of the church and which interprets the Bible in a way that detracts from rather than promotes church unity.

Frame’s Systematic Theology, though helpful and profound in many respects, bears a problematic relationship to Reformed theology. After describing the general structure and unifying features of Frame’s work, the material below largely raises questions about Frame’s theology in relation to Reformed teaching. Being biblical is more important than being Reformed. However, the primary aim of this review is to bring Frame into conversation both with biblical principles and with some historic witnesses to Reformed theology. Doing so is important in pursuing a theology that stands in catholic continuity with our Reformed forefathers in the faith. As we do so, we pursue unity around the teachings of Scripture and are better able to pursue a catholic unity with all who rest on the supreme authority of God’s Word by appealing to and promoting a common understanding of the Bible.

General Structure
Frame’s roughly 1,100 page work is very uneven. J. I. Packer notes in the preface the author’s fear that this might be the case. A glance at the table of contents reveals that almost 800 pages of the work is devoted to the doctrine of God, the doctrine of the knowledge of God, and the doctrine of Scripture. In the traditional structure of Reformed theology, this would encompass merely two out of seven theological loci.

To be fair, Frame incorporates much of the rest of the system of theology into these subjects (for example, including providence and covenant theology early in the book). Even though this is the case, some topics receive little direct development. Most notably, Christology, Soteriology, and Ecclesiology, which ordinarily occupy three distinct areas of study in a Reformed system, receive roughly 120 pages combined attention. While the first two of these topics are woven admirably into virtually every section of his work, this does not meet adequately the inherent demand for depth in them. Weaving the loci of theology together in this way is useful to show the interconnectedness of biblical doctrine, but it leaves too many unanswered questions and ambiguities.

Frame is most famous for his tri or multiperspectivalism.[6] He divides every area of investigation into three perspectives: normative, situational, and existential. These correspond to the three ‘Lordship attributes’ of control, authority, and presence. Frame chooses Lordship, both in this book and in his four volume Theology of Lordship series, to be the controlling description of God in relation to mankind. While praising Calvin for not having a central theological theme that governed his writings, Frame chooses Lordship to be the central theme of his own.[7] Control points to God’s sovereign rule over all things. Authority speaks of his right to rule. Presence ensures his ability to exercise his control and authority over all things. These Lordship attributes result in three perspectives in human knowledge. The normative perspective serves, as the name suggests, as a norm regulating the other two perspectives. The situational perspective describes the situation in which we find ourselves in the world. The existential perspective largely coincides with personal experience or appropriation of the other two perspectives. In his chapter on the Trinity, Frame notes that his multiperspectivalism does not arise from his trinitarianism, but that he would not be surprised if there ended up being some correlation.

Frame’s triperspectivalism is problematic both in terms of the relative importance that he places on the three Lordship attributes and the three perspectives of human knowledge. Lordship is certainly a biblical attribute of God. The problem lies with making Lordship the centerpiece of the system of theology. For example, control and presence largely coincide with what are traditionally known as divine omnipotence and omnipresence. Singling these attributes out as two of three Lordship attributes raises questions concerning the traditional doctrine of divine simplicity (though Frame still affirms this doctrine).[8] Divine simplicity affirms that God is his attributes and that divine attributes inform one another. Frame’s treatment of omnipotence illustrates this well.[9] Traditionally, Reformed theology treated omnipotence as meaning that God can do whatever he wills to do in agreement with his attributes.[10] For example, he cannot lie (Heb. 6:18; Tit. 1:1-2; etc.) or die because this would contradict his nature and, therefore, limit his omnipotence. As one children’s catechism puts it, ‘God can do all his holy will.’[11] Every divine attribute informs every other, including God’s power.

Frame, however, has lifted Lordship out of this typical construction and placed it in a privileged status. He acknowledges that his Lordship paradigm does not allow him to follow the traditional description of omnipotence in relation to other divine attributes. Instead of God’s power expressing his other attributes and consistently, Frame resolves omnipotence into the tautological statement that God’s power accomplishes his power. This Lordship paradigm, while initially sounding plausible, represents a seismic shift away from the Reformed (and Medieval) concept of divine simplicity.[12] When we view God’s attributes as informing and explaining one another, we have a coherent theological system (even though we know ‘but the edges’ of God’s ways. Job 26:14). If we follow Frame in prioritizing Lordship over divine simplicity, then we must rework the entire system of theology accordingly. Frame is radically changing theological paradigms in the name of being biblical. Whether he is so is separate question, but readers should be aware of the novelty of his views as they weigh them carefully in light of God’s Word.

Frame later distinguishes between God’s necessary and relative attributes. Relative attributes are those that describe the relationship between God and his creation. Lordship is, in his view, a relative attribute.[13] While it is true that we know God primarily in terms of our relationship with him, making a relative attribute the governing principle of theology creates two potential problems. The first is that it gives one divine attribute precedence over all others, thus again compromising divine simplicity. The second is that it subtly shifts the center of gravity in theology from God to man. Frame denies this charge vigorously, but it is not a new charge against him. However, it is hard to find precedent for the centrality that he gives to divine Lordship in any prior Reformed theological system. There is a good reason for this. Throughout Scripture, the divine name (Yahweh) encompasses everything that it means to be God. Frame, however, defines this name in terms of control, authority, and presence. Frame only agrees with the tradition construction by relativizing traditional definitions of the divine attributes either to make them interchangeable with the three Lordship attributes or to envelop them into these attributes.

Frame’s description of the interrelationship between the normative, situational, and existential perspectives creates theological tensions and problems as well. He notes that these perspectives are three ways of viewing the same thing and that each perspective implies the others. However, he adds (repeatedly) that, ‘ultimately, these three are the same.’[14] His treatment of the sufficiency and authority of Scripture highlights the problems arising from such assertions. After treating Scripture as the norm that regulates the rest of life, he argues that since Scripture appears in history and is interpreted by people, it is part of the situation and existential perspectives as well as the normative.[15] Since all three perspectives ‘are ultimately the same,’ this raises the question as to whether Scripture has absolute normative authority over situations and experiences. My situation in life and my personal experience turn out to be aspects of the normative perspective rather than absolutely subject to it.

In some sense Scripture does stand as judge over the other two perspectives, since Frame promotes the formula that whenever Scripture contradicts our view of something, Scripture is right and we am wrong. However, he appears to construct the doctrine of the sufficiency of Scripture in a way that is more akin to a Lutheran than a Reformed principle. In Frame’s view, if Scripture does not contradict (or forbid) what I think or do, then it is permissible.[16] The traditional Reformed understand of the sufficiency of Scripture is that we must worship and serve God only as he commands us to do.[17] Frame departs from this construction by flattening the distinction between how Scripture regulates public worship and the rest of life.[18] Scripture takes priority over one’s situation in life and experience, but it is hard to conclude under Frame’s construction that Scripture has absolute authority over the other two perspectives. He argues later that the existential perspective is itself a form of divine revelation, rather than a response to divine revelation.[19] It is important to remember in this connection that all three perspectives are, in his view, ultimately one. Yet Scripture directs us to ‘the law and to the testimony’ (Is. 8:20), often in contrast to the perceptions shaped by our situation and experience  (Deut. 13).

Moreover, Frame’s triperspectivalism sometimes comes across as arbitrary. In the triad of covenant, kingdom, and family, for example, treating the covenant as a normative perspective and the kingdom of God as a situational perspective appears to be forced.[20] Frame stressed earlier that God’s Lordship attribute of presence is covenantal in nature. Covenant highlights communion with God, which, in his terms, is an existential perspective. Yet here covenant is normative. Frame argues that since each perspective includes the others, his paradigm holds. However, if every doctrine can shift its relation to the normative, situational, and existential perspectives when convenient, then how can these perspectives be useful as criteria for theological distinction and organization? If they are ultimately one, then how are they useful for making distinctions? Frame’s triperspectivalism ends up distinguishing everything and nothing at the same time.

Though in his last chapter, Frame vigorously charges of relativism against his triperspectivalism,[21] it is easy to understand where the charge comes from. While he desires to maintain a traditional Reformed position on the authority and sufficiency of Scripture, his non-traditional methodology raises questions whether does so consistently. It is easy to understand mankind’s relationship to God in light of Scripture under classic Reformed formulations, but this relationship is not so easy to describe or define using Frame’s multiperspectivalism. This is both Frame’s most distinctive contribution to theology and the root many difficulties arising from his work.

Frame’s Definition of Theology
Frame’s definition of theology runs of the risk of facing a subjective dilemma parallel to his triperspectivalism. His definition focuses on ‘edification’ as the purpose of theology.[22] He defines theology as, ‘the application of Scripture, by persons, to every area of life.’[23]

Though Frame does not take note of the fact, it was a common question in the Medieval, Reformation, and Post-Reformation periods as to whether theology was primarily theoretical, practical, or both.[24] William Ames, following Peter Ramus, famously defined theology as the doctrine of living to God.[25] Almost all later Reformed theologians desired to stress the practical side of theology in some way.[26] Johannes Hoornbeeck’s influential work was entitled, Theologiae Practicae.[27] Without downplaying the dogmatic foundation of theology, he stressed communion with God as the purpose of theology. Peter van Mastricht represented a growing tendency in Reformed theology to balance both sides of the equation in his Theoretico-Practica Theologia.[28] While Frame makes passing reference to Ames, Calvin, and the twentieth-century theologian, John Murray,[29] he does not reflect the nature of the question in its historical context.

There is a subtle difference between Frame’s definition of theology and historical Reformed reflections on the nature of theology. Frame defines theology as the application of Scripture. Prior Reformed authors believed that theology was both theoretical and practical. They debated the relative weight that one should place on either side of this scale. Application was an integral part of theology without being equated with theology. By equating theology with the application of Scripture (to use Frame’s terms), the normative aspect of theology no longer remains distinct absolutely from its subjective components. The doctrinal norm derived from Scripture is enveloped in the situational and existential perspectives in a way that threatens the unique place of the normative perspective. Instead of arguing in which direction the scale should tip, Frame has melted down the metal out of which the scale is made and formed in into a solid disk. He has reframed (no pun intended) a vital historical debate by cutting it loose from its historical expressions and invented his own unique paradigm.

Covenant Theology
Frame’s treatment of covenant theology is more traditional in some respects than some modern approaches, and less so in others. In contrast to many contemporary authors, Frame defends an intra-trinitarian covenant (pactum salutis or covenant of redemption) standing behind all historical covenants.[30] However, he argues for the presence of a creation covenant that is distinct from the covenant of works.[31] This relates to the third Lordship attribute, which is God’s covenant presence. In other words, God is not Lord if he is not present, and his presence is inherently covenantal. In Frame’s view, the fact of creation results in a creation covenant.

Early Reformed orthodoxy identified two covenants: a covenant of works and a covenant of grace. High orthodoxy added the eternal covenant of redemption to this scheme. Some Reformed theologians treated the Mosaic covenant as a covenant distinct from the covenant of grace.[32] The results were that most Reformed thinkers held either to one eternal covenant with two primary historical covenants (works and grace), or to one eternal covenant with three primary historical covenants (works, grace, and Mossaic).[33] Reformed authors generally equated the creation covenant with the covenant of works. Some, such as Herman Witsius, argued that the covenant of works was coeval with man’s creation.[34] Others, such as Thomas Goodwin, argued that God instituted the covenant of works when he prohibited Adam to eat of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil.[35] Reformed writers agreed about the nature of this covenant and they did not recognize another creation covenant distinct from it.[36] They tended to regard passages such as Jeremiah 33, in which the prophet referred to God’s covenant with day and night, as metaphorical expressions.[37]

While Frame is not alone in identifying a creation covenant as distinct from the covenant of works, this is an appropriate place to notice the silent shift that has taken place in Reformed covenant theology. This does not make the shift right or wrong, but it raises the questions when it occurred and how it affects the system of Reformed doctrine. Westminster Confession of Faith 7.1 acknowledges that man could not enjoy God as his fruition or reward apart from a ‘voluntary condescension’ by way of covenant. Yet even apart from this “voluntary condescension,” mankind owed obedience to God and related to him as creature to Creator. It seems problematic biblically to equate the Creator/creature relationship with a covenant. In Scripture, all covenants involve relationships, but not all relationships are covenantal. Covenants affect the quality of the relationship between God and people, but the Creator/creature relationship would still exist without covenants. In Frame’s case, an additional creation covenant appears to be a theological result of his Lordship paradigm.[38]

For an author that claims to be so strictly biblical, his position appears to be a significant systematic leap that does not easily fit historical categories or precedents. He claims to be biblical as well in rejecting the common Reformed idea that Adam and Eve were in a period of probation under the covenant of works that would have let to confirmation in eternal life on the grounds that ‘the text does not say this.’[39] Yet he has no hesitation in importing a creation covenant into the Genesis narrative that is prior to the covenant of works, even though the text ‘does not say this’ either. Drawing theological conclusions in continuity with the historical witness of the church fosters unity. Ignoring this witness in the name to being biblical leads to new paradigms that make this kind of unity virtually unreachable.

Something Close to Biblicism?[40]
Frame unashamedly notes that he includes less historical theology than other comparable works because he wants to be biblical.[41] While this sounds appealing to many Christians, it is impossible to do theology in a historical vacuum. Frame’s situational perspective reflects this fact. Downplaying historical theology in the name of being biblical can be a dangerous way of introducing radical shifts in method with little notice. The question is not whether we are influenced by the historical teachings of the church, but which ones will influence us and whether they are correct.

For example, relying on the supposed structure and character of ancient near eastern suzerainty treatises (which is a debatable topic), he goes so far as saying that these ancient treatises are ‘the root of the Bible’s doctrine of Scripture.’[42] The origins of his triperspectivalism are not entirely clear (though he makes passing reference to an idea planted by Cornelius van Til).[43] What is clear is that this construction does not arise from simple and straightforward biblical exegesis. Ignoring historical theology as a conversation partner in the name of producing a theology that is more biblical gives readers a false impression and threatens to confuse Frame’s innovations with a bare reading of Scripture. Without historical theology, systematic theology becomes detached from the church. Historical theology does not tell us what to believe, but it helps us be self-critical. Without drawing from the past, we will have the unfortunate circumstance of holding communion with the church at the present day.[44] This unavoidably detracts from a biblical catholicity of doctrine, which by definition cannot reinvent itself in every generation. A Reformed theology distinguishes itself from everything that is not Reformed. Yet a common confession that is steeped in Scripture provides inroads to a greater biblical catholicity. In the name of being biblical, Frame distances himself from the Reformed tradition to some extent and modifies this tradition in a way that appears to be sui generis. It is hard to see how this promotes catholicity in relation either to the Reformed community or to the broader Christian world.

Frame’s attitude to Reformed confessions further emphasizes this point. Confessional subscription has been a debated topic in American Presbyterianism.[45] The question is whether or not ministers subscribe to their confessions and catechisms in toto, or whether they subscribe to an unspecified system of doctrine contained within them. Frame asserts, ‘Strict subscriptionism violates sola scriptura.’[46] This (common) accusation raises at least two problems. The question of the nature of creedal subscription is itself problematic. If two believers confessed the words of the Nicene Creed, for example, and one said, ‘I believe,’ but the other said, ‘I generally adhere to,’ then the creed would lose its purpose immediately. Creeds enable believers to join in a united confession of their faith. Who would accuse someone of violating the authority of Scripture by insisting upon full agreement with the Nicene Creed? Strict or full subscription to a creed does not violate automatically the Reformed sola scriptura principle. Such questions usually result from the content of the creed rather than difficulties over what it means to say, ‘I believe this.’ While this is not the place to resolve this debate, Frame’s words against those who subscribe to creeds are harsh and insubstantial. It also makes uncharitable assumptions concerning the convictions and consciences of those who subscribe fully to creeds.[47]

His view of the nature and use of creeds is more deeply troubling. He argues that creeds are optional, if not unnecessary, because the NT protected orthodoxy reactively rather than proactively.[48] In other words, he argues that the NT responded to error rather than providing positive summaries of doctrine. This ignores the fact that early summaries of doctrine in the pages of the NT, such as 1 Cor. 15:1-11 and 1 Tim. 3:16, were almost always reactive in response to some error. This is the biblical pattern for creed making. Creeds are stable and well-defined statements of common belief that churches or officers adopt to express their convictions. Frame does not appear to grasp the historical purpose or their biblical necessity of creeds and confessions. He argues that if ministers subscribe to creeds, then they will stifle theological growth and development and they will not be able to amend their creeds.[49] However, the Reformed creeds themselves acknowledge the right of synods and councils to determine matters of doctrine alongside of the possibility that they may err and need correction.[50] Moreover, Samuel Miller observed that ministers need theological stability and maturity before they can prevent the church from being “tossed about by every wind of doctrine” (Eph. 4:14). If their views change, then men who are godly and honest will have the integrity to acknowledge this fact and to minister elsewhere if necessary.[51]

Scripture has ultimate authority beyond which there is no appeal, but unity and trust is not possible without some agreement over what the Bible says. As a young Christian, the present author belonged to a group of ‘non-denominational’ churches that professed ‘no creed but the Bible.’ However, each congregation had a statement of ‘what we believe’ on their websites in order to inform visitors. Because of their refusal to acknowledge creeds, each congregation had a different statement of faith. This made unity between sister congregations difficult and ambiguous at times. There was also a tacit assumption that the leadership subscribed to their statements of belief without exception otherwise visitors would be misled.

Frame’s appeal to being biblical is not what it appears to be at first glance. Frame gives the impression that he is interested in what the Bible says rather than what the church has said about the Bible. Yet he appeals to sources such as ancient near eastern suzerainty treatises to build his covenant theology. The question is not whether we will draw from elements of extra-biblical sources as an aid in understanding Scripture, but whether we will draw from the Spirit’s work through the church in ages past. The church is not infallible, but Christ has promised to work through her. We ought to begin with her testimony if we would be biblical.

Miscellaneous Issues
Much more could be said about Frame’s Systematic Theology that illustrates where he suffers from a paucity of historical theology. All this author can do is list some of them here to plant seed thoughts in readers. Examples include shifting from discussing God’s intent in the free offer of the gospel to something approximating English hypothetical universalism;[52] misunderstanding the historical context of the lapsarian controversy;[53] importing the two natures of Christ into pre-incarnate theophanies;[54] careless language on the Trinity, such as referring to ‘three divine beings;’[55] inadequate understanding of the relationship between eternal generation and aseity in Reformed theology;[56] imputing to the Son ‘eternal obedience’ and even ‘eternal subordination of role’ in relation to the Father;[57] importing Christ’s threefold office into the definition of the image of God, rather than describing man’s function in the world in terms of these offices;[58] opening the door for those who say that Adam was the head of a pre-existing group of early hominids, rather than existing by the special creation of God;[59] redefining the Reformed doctrine of total depravity and accusing the traditional doctrine as teaching that man is as bad as he can be;[60] questioning the legitimacy of a logical order in the traditional ordo salutis;[61] and urging the church to adopt elements of Presbyterianism, Congregationalism, and Episcopleanism simultaneously and at its own discretion.[62]

The point in listing these examples is not to say whether Frame is right or wrong. The point is to illustrate how, as a modern Reformed theologian, he departs from historic Reformed theology in significant ways. Sometimes he is self-conscious in doing so and tells his reader that this is the case. At other times, he makes theological shifts in silence, leaving some readers unaware that a change has taken place.

Frame’s Systematic Theology is profound and thought provoking. Yet the very features that make his theology innovative make it less clear what relationship he has to the historic Reformed faith. His lack of historical theology makes his work less catholic in character. If the church does not self-consciously stand on the shoulders of its Reformed forefathers, then the term ‘Reformed’ will quickly lose all meaning in contemporary discussions. There is room for progress in our understanding of Scripture and of Reformed theology. A theology that is genuinely Reformed must be biblical and must not rest on human tradition. Otherwise that theology would call itself Reformed while simultaneously demolishing one of the primary foundation stones of Reformed theology. Yet a theology that does not build on the past threatens rather than promotes the unity of the church.

Christ appointed means to promote a catholic unit in sound doctrine. In Ephesians 4:11-16, the apostle Paul lists gifts that the ascended Christ gave to the church. Apostles, prophets, evangelists, pastors, and teachers were foremost among these gifts (v. 11). Some of these offices were temporary and some of them are permanent. It is not important to show which ones are which here.[63] Through varied means, he sent them to accomplish the common task of equipping the saints for the work of ministry and of building up the body of Christ (v. 12). These officers should promote unity in faith and maturity among believers and prevent them from being tossed about by every wind of doctrine (v. 13-14). This comes through teaching sound doctrine and speaking the truth in love in order to build up the saints in love (v. 15-16).

Christ promised to furnish his church with teachers promoting doctrinal unity through sound teaching and loving discipleship. Christ has kept this promise. He has preserved the truth in his church throughout her history. Reformed Christians have believed that the theology embodied in their creeds and confessions represent Christ’s faithfulness in giving Scriptural light to the church to promote unity in sound doctrine. If the church would pursue a theology that is biblical, catholic, and Reformed, she must do so in light of Christ’s promises. She must pursue Christian unity not only in light of the present teaching of the church, but in continuity with the unity that Christ has already blessed the church with. Only a theology that is both biblical and catholic can be unambiguously Reformed – and the character of Reformed theology is unmistakably both biblical and catholic.

Ryan M. McGraw is Pastor of, First Orthodox Presbyterian Church in Sunnyvale, CA, Adjunct Professor of Systematic Theology at Greenville Presbyterian Theological Seminary, and Research Fellow at Jonathan Edwards Centre Africa.  Note: This review will appear in the 2015 issue of Mid-America Journal of Theology.  Published here with permission.


[1] John M. Frame, Systematic Theology: An Introduction to Christian Belief (Phillipsburg, NJ: P & R Publishing, 2013). Note: This review will appear in the 2015 issue of Mid-America Journal of Theology. Published here with permission.

[2] Elsewhere Frame wrote, ‘On the view I advocate, it is not possible to state in precise detail what constitutes Reformed theology and church life. … The concept, frankly, has “fuzzy boundaries,” as some linguists and philosophers say.’ It is important to recognize that Frame’s rejection of creeds as markers of Reformed theology is itself out of accord with Reformed theology.

[3] See the introduction to Herman J. Selderhuis, ed., A Companion to Reformed Orthodoxy, Brill’s Companions to the Christian Tradition (Leiden: Brill, 2013).

[4] Richard A Muller, Post-Reformation Reformed Dogmatics: The Rise and Development of Reformed Orthodoxy, Ca. 1520 to Ca. 1725, 4 vols., 2nd ed. (Grand Rapids, Mich.: Baker Academics, 2003), 1. For a concise yet detailed treatment of Reformed theology in relation to the church and her confesisons, see J. Mark Beach, ‘Theology and the Church,’ in Companion to Reformed Orthodoxy, 65-89.

[5] J. V. Fesko, ‘The Doctrine of Scripture in Reformed Orthodoxy,’ in Companion to Reformed Orthodoxy, 429-463.

[6] Packer suggests that this will likely be Frame’s primary legacy to systematic theology. ‘Preface,’ xxix

[7] Frame, Systematic Theology, 16.

[8] Even though he defends a proper relationship between his view and divine simplicity, he later criticized the traditional concept of divine simplicity as making all of God’s attributes ‘identical.’ Frame, Systematic Theology, 835. This exemplifies his characteristic tendency to affirm traditional theological language while simultaneously redefining and adapting it to his own ends.

[9] Frame, Systematic Theology, 342-346.

[10] For example, Johannes Wollebius, Compendium Theologiæ Christianæ (Compendium of Christian Theology)., 9th ed. (Cantabrigiæ: ex celeberrimæ Academiæ Typographeo, 1654), 15: “Objectum omnipotentiae Dei est, quidquid eius natura non est adversum, et contraditionem non implicat.”

[11] Hoornbeeck observes that divine omnipotence always follows the divine will, which in turn, reflects perfectly all divine attributes. Johannes Hoornbeeck, Theologiae Practicae (Practical Theology) (Francofurti & Lipsiae: Bailliar, 1698), 1:109.

[12] Which is why Wollebius treats divine simplicity after the being of God, but prior to other divine attributes, including power. Wollebius, Compendium, 12.

[13] Frame, Systematic Theology, 232.

[14] Frame, Systematic Theology, 33.

[15] Conversely, the situational and existential perspectives are ‘part of the normative.’ Frame, Systematic Theology, 737.

[16] Frame, Systematic Theology, 1041, etc.

[17] WCF 21.1

[18] For example, see his Worship in Spirit and Truth: A Refreshing Study of the Principles and Practice of Biblical Worship (Phillipsburg, NJ: P & R Publishing, 1996). This is a large part of his case for dance and drama in public worship.

[19] Frame, Systematic Theology, 743.

[20] Frame, Systematic Theology, 87.

[21] Frame, Systematic Theology, 1112.

[22] Frame, Systematic Theology, 6.

[23] Frame, Systematic Theology, 8.

[24] See chapter two of Ryan M. McGraw, ‘A Heavenly Directory:’ Trinitarian Piety, Public Worship, and a Reassessment of John Owen’s Theology, Reformed Historical Theology 29 (Göttingen: Vandenhoeck & Ruprecht, 2014).

[25] William Ames, Medulla S.s. Theologiæ … in Fine Adjuncta Est Disputatio De Fidei Divinæ Veritate. Editio Tertia Priori Longe Correctior (The Marrow of Sacred Theology …) (Apud Robertum Allottum: Londini, 1629),1. On Ramus see Tobias Sarx, ‘Reformed Protestantism in France,’ in Companion to Reformed Orthodoxy, 228-233.

[26] Adriaan Neele, in his work on Mastricht, notes that this is a neglected area in the study of Reformed orthodoxy. Adriaan C. Neele, Petrus Van Mastricht (1630-1706) Reformed Orthodoxy: Method and Piety (Leiden; Boston: Brill, 2009).

[27] Hoornbeeck, Theologiae Practicae.

[28] Peter van Mastricht, Theoretico-Practica Theologia. Qua, Per Singula Capita Theologica, Pars Exegetica, Dogmatica, Elenchtica & Practica, Perpetua Successione Conjugantur (Theoretical-Practical Theology, in which Theology is Divided in each Chapter into Exegetical, Dogmatic, Elenctic, and Practical Parts) (Trajecti ad Rhenum, & Amstelodami: Sumptibus Societatis, 1715).

[29] Frame, Systematic Theology, 13.

[30] For an extensive classic treatment of this doctrine, see Patrick Gillespie, The Ark of the Covenant Opened, Or, a Treatise of the Covenant of Redemption Between God and Christ, as the Foundation of the Covenant of Grace the Second Part, Wherein Is Proved, That There Is Such a Covenant, the Necessity of It, the Nature, Properties, Parties Thereof, the Tenor, Articles, Subject-Matter of Redemption, the Commands, Conditions, and Promises Annexed, the Harmony of the Covenant of Reconciliation Made with Sinners, Wherein They Agree, Wherein They Differ, Grounds of Comfort from the Covenant of Suretiship (London: Printed for Tho. Parkhurst …, 1677). See also, Carl R. Trueman, “The Harvest of Reformation Mythology? Pattrick Gillespie and the Covenant of Redemption,” in Maarten Wisse, Marcel Sarrot, and Willem Otten, Scholasticism Reformed: Essays in Honour of Willem J. van Asselt (Leiden: Brill, 2010), 196-214.

[31] Frame, Systematic Theology, 29.

[32] Mark Jones, ‘The “Old” Covenant,’ Drawn into Controversie, 183-202.

[33] Cocceius offered an alternative view, but his covenant theology was so unusual and complicated that almost no one followed the precise details of his schema. See Brian J Lee, Johannes Cocceius and the Exegetical Roots of Federal Theology, Reformed Historical Theology 7 (Göttingen: Vandenhoeck & Ruprecht, 2008).

[34] Herman Witsius, De Oeconomia Foederum Dei Cum Hominibus Libri Quatuor, 2 vols. (Rhenum, 1694), 1.2.1.

[35] Thomas Goodwin, Of the Creatures, and the Condition of their State by Creation, The Works of Thomas Goodwin (Grand Rapids: Reformation Heritage Books, 2006), 7:48-53.

[36] See Richard A. Muller, ‘The Covenant of Works and the Stability of Divine Law in Seventeenth-Century Reformed Orthodoxy: A Study in the Theology of Herman Witsius and Wilhelmus À Brakel,’ Calvin Theological Journal 29, no. 1 (1994).

[37] For example, John Downame, The Second Volume of Annotations Upon All the Books of the Old and Nevv Testament This Third, Above the First and Second, Edition so Enlarged, as They Make an Entire Commentary on the Sacred Scripture, the Like Never Before Published in English: Wherein the Text Is Explained, Doubts Resolved, Scriptures Parallel’d and Various Readings Observed (London: Printed by Evan Tyler, 1657), in loc.

[38] Frame, Systematic Theology, 61, 146, 190, etc.

[39] Frame, Systematic Theology, 64.

[40] Frame wrote an online article bearing this title.

[41] Frame, Systematic Theology, xxxiii.

[42] Frame, Systematic Theology, 19.

[43] Frame, Systematic Theology, 1104, fn. 3.

[44] Velema and van Genderen have an excellent treatment of this point in the first chapter of their Concise Reformed Dogmatics (Phillipsburg: P&R Publishing, 2008).

[45] See David W. Hall, ed., The Practice of Confessional Subscription (Oak Ridge, TN: Covenant Foundation, 1997).

[46] Frame, Systematic Theology, 628, 656.

[47] Thanks to Ryan Speck for this observation.

[48] Frame, Systematic Theology, 654.

[49] Frame, Systematic Theology, 656.

[50] WCF 31.2-3.

[51] Samuel Miller, The Utility and Importance of Creeds and Confessions (Greenville, SC: A Press, 1991), 29-32.

[52] Frame, Systematic Theology, 239; See Drawn into Controversie for the nature of this question.

[53] Frame, Systematic Theology, 225.

[54] Frame, Systematic Theology, 319.

[55] Frame, Systematic Theology, 441, 447, 488.

[56] Frame, Systematic Theology, 492-493.

[57] Frame, Systematic Theology, 494, 501.

[58] Frame, Systematic Theology, 785-791, 889.

[59] Frame, Systematic Theology, 806.

[60] Frame, Systematic Theology, 865.

[61] Frame, Systematic Theology, 936.

[62] Frame, Systematic Theology, 1027-1028.

[63] John Owen, The Works of John Owen (Johnstone & Hunter, 1853), 4:438-452