More than football happens on Saturdays…

IMG_1305Babies are killed. More fathers, mothers, grandmothers, grandfathers, girlfriends, and boyfriends put to death the next generation. Down at the Greenville Women’s Clinic, Buffkin and Campbell were hired to do the deed. They’ve put to death over 80,000 children since the clinic opened, averaging about 2,700 murders a year.

I urge any Reformed brothers, Greenville Presbyterian Theological Seminary students, pastors who read this blog to come witness outside the clinic. If you are flirting with the R2K heresy, we’ll call your participation evangelism. You aren’t opposed to evangelism, are you?

IMG_1306

The last two weeks have been intense. Last week a blasphemous young man dropped off his girlfriend so she could kill her twins and then proceeded to do all he could to rile us up. He is proof that atheists don’t simply deny God, they hate Him. This week a young man listened to Parks as he preached and engaged in what we hope was a fruitful conversation. We pray that his return to the clinic was not to see that the abortion was completed but to rescue his baby. Please pray that that would be the case.

Nine Characteristics of the Escondido Theology, Summarized by John Frame

In addition to the 32 bullet-points in the “Author’s Preface” of his book The Escondido Theology: A Reformed Response to Two Kingdom Theology, John Frame spends the first chapter of his book explaining “the history and rationale that explain these controversial statements” (1). The rest of the book then brings to light specific instances of those teachings in the writings of the Escondido theologians. At the conclusion of the first chapter, titled “What is the Escondido Theology?”, Frame summarizes the characteristics of this movement. Here are his nine summary statements:

1. As strict separation between law and gospel;

2. A radicalization of the Reformation two-kingdoms view, leading to separation of church and culture, and church and state, so that it is wrong for believers to seek changes in society;

3. A rejection of any focus on human subjectivity;

4. A rejection of the social views of Kuyper, Old Princeton, and Van Til;

5. A radical confessionalism;

6. The exclusiveness of redemptive-historical preaching;

7. The limitation of our worship and fellowship with God to the worship services of the church;

8. A prohibition of all attempts at “relevance”; and

9. The view that all these distinctives are tests of Reformed orthodoxy.

Though Westminster Seminary California and her Escondido theologians “do not wish to engage in a protracted discussion of these things with John” and have concluded that John’s work “is so replete with caricatures, misrepresentations, and straw opponents that a healthy debate on important issues is aborted at the outset,” many others would like to know what the intended meaning is of the thousands of quotations Frame engages with in his book. If John’s work is caricatures, misrepresentations, and straw opponents, this work should be straightforward.

If you are unable to purchase the book, you can read three of the chapters which were originally published over a year ago on  www.frame-poythress.org:

Review of Michael Horton’s Christless Christianity: The Alternative Gospel of the American Churchpublished Oct. 20, 2009 (Chapter 2 in The Escondido Theology)

Review of David Van Drunen’s A Biblical Defense of Natural Law–published Jan. 9, 2010 (Chapter 4 in The Escondido Theology)

Review of R. Scott Clark’s Recovering the Reformed Confessions: Our Theology, Piety, and Practice–published Feb. 6, 2010 (Chapter 3 in The Escondido Theology)

Did Calvin "add a little moral strength" to Geneva?

Seven of John Frame’s 32 bullet-point summaries of the teachings of the Escondido theologians are focused on the topics of preaching and the application of Scripture:

  • It is wrong to try to make the gospel relevant to its hearers.
  • Scripture teaches about Christ, his atonement, and our redemption from sin, but not about how to apply that salvation to our current problems.
  • Those who try to show the application of Scripture to the daily problems of believers are headed toward a Christless Christianity.
  • Preaching should narrate the history of redemption, but should never appeal to Bible characters as moral or spiritual examples.
  • Preaching “how tos” and principles of practical living is man-centered.
  • To speak of a biblical worldview, or biblical principles for living, is to misuse the Bible.
  • Theology is not the application of Scripture, but a historical investigation into Reformed traditions.

Below is my post, originally published on David and Tim Bayly’s blog, which begins to illustrate why John Frame would derive such summaries from Michael Horton’s works and the works of the other Escondido theologians…

***

John Frame’s review of Michael Horton’s Christless Christianity (now published in The Escondido Theology) ends with a summary of arguments from Horton’s work that cannot be justified by arguments from Scripture or classic Protestant confessions. Number seven from Frame’s list is this: “Preaching of the gospel must never use biblical characters as moral or spiritual examples. Nor must it address practical ethical issues in the Christian life.”

In Christless Christianity, we read the following, helping us understand why Dr. Horton would affirm the above statement:

I recently heard a sermon that ended with the appeal, ‘Are you going to accomplish great things for God?’ It is easy for believers with a sensitive conscience to come away from the average spiritual diet in church thinking they must be a Paul in evangelism, a Wilberforce in culture, and a Thomas a Kempis in spiritual disciplines. Radical discipleship in this triumphalistic vein seems rather far from Jesus’ invitation, ‘Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy and my burden is light’ (Matt. 11:28-30).

Calling us to accomplish great things for God is part of the hype that constantly burns out millions of professing Christians. Telling us about the great things God has accomplished—and more than that, actually delivering his achievement to sinners—is the real mission of the church. And it might even put wind in the sails of those among us whom God has called to extraordinary achievements! But it will be enough if it puts wind in the sails of those whom God has called to ordinary and fruitful lives. On Monday, a congregation once again assured of God’s amazing grace to sinners, will be scattered into the world as salt and light. If we think the main mission of the church is to improve life in Adam and add a little moral strength to this fading evil age, we have not yet understood the radical condition for which Christ is such a radical solution (Christless Christianity, 210-211).

Read through chapters 11 and 12 in the book of Hebrews and ask yourself whether Horton’s vision of the life of faith captures what is portrayed there? After the chronicle of lives lived by faith producing extraordinary works in chapter 11, we’re told these men and women are witnesses to us—examples of faithful living.

Hebrews 12:1-2

(1)  Therefore, since we have so great a cloud of witnesses surrounding us, let us also lay aside every encumbrance and the sin which so easily entangles us, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us,

(2)  fixing our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of faith, who for the joy set before Him endured the cross, despising the shame, and has sat down at the right hand of the throne of God.

Why are comfortable Americans being burned out by being called “to accomplish great things for God,” while the recipients of Hebrews who were being threatened with the loss of all their earthly goods and their very lives are exhorted to lay aside every encumbrance and sin, to run with endurance, and to resist sin to the point of shedding blood? If only verse 12, where we’re told to fix our eyes on Jesus, the Author and Perfecter of faith, wasn’t confused by the exhortation of verse 11.

Dr. Horton and others in his camp are always dogging pietists. If one believes calling people “to accomplish great things for God” leads to burnout, you’ll not only shy away from calling people to rescue babies from the hands of murderers, but you’ll avoid calling people to actual holiness. The calling to walk in a manner worthy of Jesus Christ, to please him in all respects (Col. 1:10), is to accomplishment great things for God.

The exhortation to the young man struggling with depression or lust or anger or lying or cowardice will be “fix your eyes on Jesus” without what precedes: “lay aside every encumbrance and the sin which so easily entangles us.” The exhortation will be to coast steadily through the race rather than “run with endurance.” And not only his own life, but the Church, too, will be worse off for a man making peace with his sins.

Calvin’s great accomplishment wasn’t simply his publication of the Institutes. It was also his constant battle and overcoming of his sin of timidity (see the preface of his commentary on the Psalms). Had William Farel shared the position of Dr. Horton, Calvin would have received a nice massage rather than the imprecations that led him to fear God and get to work shepherding Geneva.

Assertions of the Escondido Theologians, Summarized by John Frame

In the “Author’s Preface” of his The Escondido Theology: A Reformed Response to Two Kingdom Theology (buy it here), Dr. Frame provides thirty-two bullet-point summary statements on the teachings of the Two-Kingdom theologians (pp. xxxvii-xxxix). Some of the main proponents of this new theology are Michael Horton, R. Scott Clark, David Van Drunen, and Darryl Hart, all of whom currently teach or have taught at Westminster Seminary California. Dr. Frame states, “If you thought these writers simply taught good old Reformed theology, you might be very surprised to learn how unusual and controversial their teaching is. Below are some assertions typical of, and widely accepted among, Escondido theologians. Not all of them make all of these assertions, but all of them regard them with some sympathy.” Here then are those summary statements:

  • It is wrong to try to make the gospel relevant to its hearers.
  • Scripture teaches about Christ, his atonement, and our redemption from sin, but not about how to apply that salvation to our current problems.
  • Those who try to show the application of Scripture to the daily problems of believers are headed toward a Christless Christianity.
  • Anything we say about God is at best only an analogy of the truth and is therefore at least partly false.
  • There is no immediate experience of God available to the believer.
  • The only experience of God available to the believer is in public worship.
  • Meetings of the church should be limited to the preaching of the word and the administration of the sacraments.
  • In worship, we “receive” from God, but should not seek to “work” for God.
  • The “cultural mandate” of Gen. 1:28 and 9:7 is no longer in effect.
  • The Christian has no biblical mandate to seek changes in the social, cultural, or political order.
  • Divine sovereignty typically eliminates the need for human responsibility.
  • The gospel is entirely objective and not at all subjective.
  • We should take no interest in our inner feelings or subjective life.
  • Preaching should narrate the history of redemption, but should never appeal to Bible characters as moral or spiritual examples.
  • Preaching “how tos” and principles of practical living is man-centered.
  • To speak of a biblical worldview, or biblical principles for living, is to misuse the Bible.
  • Nobody should be considered Reformed unless they agree with everything in the Reformed confessions and theologians of the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries.
  • We should not agree to discuss any theological topics except the ones discussed by Reformed thinkers in the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries.
  • Jonathan Edwards and D. Martyn Lloyd-Jones were not Reformed.
  • Theology is not the application of Scripture, but a historical investigation into Reformed traditions.
  • There is no difference between being biblical and being Reformed.
  • To study the Bible is to study it as the Reformed tradition has studied it.
  • God’s principles for governing society are found, not in Scripture, but in natural law.
  • Natural law is to be determined, not by Scripture, but by human reason and conscience.
  • Scripture promises the believer no temporal blessings until the final judgment.
  • We can do nothing to “advance” the Kingdom of God. The coming of the Kingdom, since the ascension of Christ, is wholly future.
  • The Sabbath pertains only to worship, not to daily work. So worship should occur on the Lord’s Day, but work need not cease.
  • Only those who accept these principles can consistently believe in justification by faith alone.
  • Reformed believers must maintain an adversarial relationship with American evangelicals.
  • Worship should be very traditional, without any influence of contemporary culture.
  • Only those who accept these principles can be considered truly Reformed.
  • These principles, however, represent only desirable “emphases.” There are exceptions.

Further analysis and explanation of the above assertions can be found in Dr. Frame’s book which is a compilation of reviews of the books of the Escondido theologians. In my view, the work of the Two-Kingdom theologians is an attempt to justify a dead orthodoxy–but perhaps that’s too generous a description.


John Frame's The Escondido Theology: A Reformed Response to Two Kingdom Theology

Here’s a book I hope to read as soon as it arrives (buy it here). John Frame, professor of systematic theology and philosophy at Reformed Theological Seminary in Orlando, has written critically of the radical two-kingdom theology coming out of Westminster Seminary California (as have David and Tim). The Escondido Theology will be a compilation of Frame’s reviews of books written by proponents of this aberrant theology. Get a head start on the book by reading a few of those reviews here (Horton), here (Clark), and here (Van Drunen).

Description of The Escondido Theology: “This book is a critical analysis of a theological movement John Frame calls The Escondido Theology. The name is chosen because this movement developed mainly among faculty members of Westminster Seminary California which is located in the city of Escondido, California. Some members of this school of thought, such as Michael Horton, Meredith Kline, and Darryl Hart, are well-known to students of Reformed theology. But these figures have never before been discussed as composing a distinctive school of thought. More often they have been discussed as individual theologians, or simply as representatives of the orthodox Reformed theological tradition. But they are not simply Reformed; they hold views that are quite distinctive, unusual and controversial. In Dr. Frame’s view, these positions are not standard Reformed theology. None of their distinctive positions is taught in any of the Reformed confessions. These positions are an idiosyncratic kind of teaching peculiar to the Escondido school. Those who teach them are a faction, even a sect. Taken in the plain sense of the terms, their positions are all unbiblical. Dr. John Frame’s The Escondido Theology is a needed corrective to the rapidly growing advocacy and acceptance of a two-kingdom approach to theology and culture. It is not only timely, considering the popularity of Two Kingdom Theology , but also because he is the right individual to address the issues, having previously served as a Professor at both Westminster in Philadelphia and then as a founding faculty member at Escondido. Dr. Frame personally witnessed the inception and development of this doctrinal view in Escondido. Dr. Frame’s insight and analysis clearly represents the Reformed Christian World and Life View because it is historically rooted in Calvinistic theology.”

Available at Amazon, too–but they are currently listing 3-6 weeks for shipment:

The Escondido Theology: A Reformed Response to Two Kingdom Theology