I’ve been slowly walking through John Frame’s Systematic Theology.
And, completely enjoying it.
That doesn’t mean I grasp it all. It doesn’t mean that I understand it completely. In fact, Frame lost me for a bit this afternoon, as he discussed the concept of “God as Lord” being a worldview, and the biblical and unbiblical views of transcendence and immanence. I had to wade through that paragraph a couple of times, and I still don’t fully get it.
But still. Good stuff.
And, why is it good stuff? Why is the study of theology–and, particularly, systematic theology–a worthwhile pursuit? I mean, there are plenty of other things to do–easy-to-read, good-feeling Christian “fluff” that will tell us how to fix our lives in three easy steps.
It’s good stuff, because it’s important stuff. And, I explored that deeper in my first post, which you can find by clicking here: Theology Is….
So, let’s take a closer look at chapters 2 and 3:
- Chapter 2: The Lord
- Chapter 3: God’s Lordship as a Unique Worldview
I’ll admit; I was a bit surprised that this is where Frame officially starts–with God’s Lordship. I suppose I expected him to begin with, oh–say–creation. Or, even, pre-creation–God’s existence prior to the formation of this world. Maybe even predestination (get the tough stuff out-of-the-way). But, no, Frame starts with this: God is Lord.
It didn’t take long, in reading chapter two, to figure out the answer to that.
If we, as Christ-followers, do not ground our belief and our faith in the truth that God is Lord, than we base our claims on shifting–and sinking–sand.
It’s more than just belief. I can believe that something is true, and yet never let that truth have any place in my life. For example–a very simplistic example and possibly a silly one, but here goes: I believe that fruit is good for me. It provides much-needed vitamins and nutrients and fiber. I believe that this is true, 100%. But, I don’t eat fruit. I don’t like fruit, so I don’t eat. And, I’m mildly allergic to some fruits–they make my throat and face itch and swell a bit, so I don’t eat them, even though they are good for me.
So, I believe that eating fruit (the ones that don’t make me itch) would be a huge benefit for my life. That is truth. But I find no place for them in my life. They are not an integral part of what I intake, for nourishment every day.
Reading back through that–it is far, far too simplistic. But hopefully you get the idea. I can believe that there is a God. And yet, I can refuse to recognize His Lordship in my life. In fact, at one time in my life, I did believe there was a God. But I saw Him only as huge, big creator God; not God who knew me-who knew my name–who I could have a relationship with, and who was Lord of my life.
Frame lays it out like this: The divine Lordship of God is the centrality of scripture:
“In the ESV the term Lord (representing both Yahweh and ‘adon in Hebrew and Kyrios in Greek) is found 7,776 times, in 6,603 out of 31,086 verses of the Bible.”
Yep, ok. He may have a point.
But what does it mean? What impact does the truth that God is Lord, have on the lives of believers? What impact does it have on you and I?
And, even this–what impact does it have, even, on non-believers?
It’s this: Covenant, Control, Authority and Presence:
- Covenant: A covenant is, typically, an agreement between a greater king and a lesser one, or a subject. Too often it is taught that the Biblical concept of covenant is an agreement between God and man. Not so. At least, not so in that it is something that is negotiable. No, the covenants given to man, by God, are non-negotiable. Frame describes it like this: “…Lord names the head of a covenant. His essential relation to us is that of a great King who has delivered us from death and calls us to serve him by obeying his written word.”
- Control: Because God is Lord, He is sovereign. And, because He is sovereign, He controls all things. Why? “…Yahweh controls the entire course of nature and history for His own glory and to accomplish His own purposes.” Sovereignty is a tough thing to understand. But it is an essential part of who God is. (This is where we see that God’s Lordship impacts not only those who are Christ-followers, but all of creation. I hope to write more on that at a later date.)
- Authority: God alone, has the authority to covenant with His people. And, God alone has the authority to enact His sovereign control. We see this through God’s “speech” in the book of Job. And, He forbids competing loyalties (Deut. 6:4-5 and Ex. 20:3) “No other authority may compete with God’s own words. No words may be added to God’s or put on the same level of authority.” (Is. 29:13). And, only God’s authority covers all of life.
- Presence: This is where the above three come together so beautifully. Because He covenants with us, and because He is sovereign and holds all control, and because His authority is above all other authority, He can not be passive. He is an active God. He is an involved God. He is a present God. Some commentators show that “Yahweh” (Lord) also means “God is there.” We know, for certain, that Emmanuel–another name for God–means “God with us.” He can not be Lord, without being present. And, by His very nature, He can not be present, without being Lord.
Chapter 3 dealt with the idea of God’s Lordship as a worldview. It was in that chapter, that I got a bit lost. But, not so lost, that I didn’t take grasp hold of this:
“One who rejects the God of the Bible necessarily believes the opposite of biblical theism. One cannot be neutral on this question: you are either for God or against him….Those who do not recognize him exchange the truth for a lie (Rom. 1:25), and they lose the basis for finding truth. Although they know many things, they gain knowledge only by borrowing principles from Christian theism.”
And yet again, whew.
Because one of the things I wanted, more than anything, in my quest to determine if God was real, and if scripture was truth, was just that: truth. I wanted to know if what we are taught each Sunday, from thousands of pulpits in thousands of churches, was really truth. And, yet, in coming to understand that it was truth, I gained so much more than just knowledge of that truth. I gained God, Himself–the sovereign, transcendent, immanent, omnipresent, personal, holy, righteous, loving God. And he loves me.
And, that is truth that I will cling to, the rest of my life.
**Thank you, again, P&R Publishing, for the opportunity to read through and provide these reviews. If you would like to purchase a copy of Systematic Theology by John Frame, and read along with me, I’d love to hear from you! You can purchase it at P&R Publishing’s website (currently on sale!), located at this link: Systematic Theology by John Frame