Friday, July 20, 2007

Interview with John Frame...

I recently posted a manuscript of a talk that John Frame gave to a graduating class of seminarians at Westminster West in Escondido, CA. At least one person commented that they did not know of John Frame. I first became aware of John Frame through a conference I attended in Wheaton, Illinois where he was one of the speakers. What struck me most about Dr. Frame was his apparent gentleness and warm heart that overflowed as he spoke. I later came to learn that Dr. Frame was one of the key influences in Wayne Grudem's theological development. If you want to learn a little bit more about John Frame you might be interested in reading the following interview he had with TWOTH.

Twoth: Born and raised

John Frame: Pittsburgh, PA

T: Currently living

JF: Oviedo, FL (north of Orlando)

T: Favorite book(s)

JF: The Bible, John Murray’s Lectures in Systematic Theology

T: Quote that stirs your heart most

JF: Changes from time to time. Today, 1 Cor. 15:58, “Therefore, my beloved brothers, be steadfast, immovable, always abounding in the work of the Lord, knowing that in the Lord your labor is not in vain.”

T: Dead theologian influences

JF: Anselm, Luther, Calvin, Edwards, Warfield, Van Til, John Murray, Edmund Clowney.

T: Living theologian/pastoral influences

JF: John Piper, James Packer, Dick Kaufmann (pastor of Harbor Presbyterian in San Diego), Tim Keller (Pastor of Redeemer PCA, NY), Vern Poythress, Richard Pratt.

T: What does a typical day or week look like for Dr. Frame?

JF: Teaching classes, writing, answering emails, playing the organ, being with the family. .

T: What does Dr. Frame do to keep the heart aflame?

JF: Mainly worship, and preparation for worship.

T: Do you read a lot?

JF: Not much for pleasure or edification, compared to other theologians. Is it important to be well read or know a few good books well? I’d say the latter, at least for me. People with other gifts may legitimately seek more breadth.

T: Do you make notes in your books?

JF: Sometimes. If I am preparing a review or some such thing, I take notes on paper outside the book.

T: Do you read daily?

JF: Yes. Probably more news and cultural stuff than theology.

T: What’s Dr. Frame currently reading?

JF: Dennis Johnson, Him We Proclaim, for an endorsement.

T: Can you reflect upon any moments you had being a student under Professor VanTil? Any crumbs you may offer to our readers? I’m sure any reflection will be worth something to our readers, especially me!

JF: I asked him once a question I thought to be very simple—thought he would answer it in fifteen seconds. He replied that “to answer that question, we must go back to Adam and Eve.” Well, we went back to Eden, went through the Bible at some length, then the history of philosophy from Thales to the present. I didn’t hear an answer to my question, but I suppose it didn’t matter. I’ve long forgotten what that question was.

T: You have had a steady publishing career with some very impressive works. What’s currently in the publishing pipe? Or what projects are you currently working on?

JF: Doctrine of the Christian Life is complete, in the hands of the publishers. I expect it to be released in a year or two. I’m currently trying to get time to write Doctrine of the Word of God.

T: If you had another 100 years on earth what project would you like to tackle?

JF: I’d like to study Christology and soteriology—and jazz.

T: What advice can you offer to people desiring to fill the shoes of today’s theologians? Let’s say I want to be the next Dr. John Frame…

JF: The work of theology is not just expositing past theologians, but rather seeking to solve theological problems. To do that, you must learn to think, not just to regurgitate facts. Too many Reformed theologians today think they’ve done their job when they have gathered some quotes from historic and/or contemporary figures and approved some and deplored others. What needs to be done is to give reasons for the positions we take. And ultimately, these reasons must come from the Bible. We also need to give thought, not only to the cogency of our reasoning, but also to the spiritual effect our words will have on others. Are they kind, gentle, loving, challenging, etc.?

T: Biblical Theology & Systematic Theology can these two disciplines walk hand in hand?

JF: They must. I think they are really two perspectives on the same content, not different contents.

T: You’ve contributed to various works on worship and I wanted to ask you a question regarding worship in our reformed circles. I often ask, “Why don’t we sing contemporary worship songs?” The usual response is, “Well they are lacking theological depth.” If that’s the case isn’t that a rebuke to most of the “reformed” community? If we pride ourselves in having excellent theology yet we don’t produce a new song what is that saying? So far the best responses I’ve heard are that we are no longer sending our young men and women off to be educated in music and maybe we should just sing the “inspired text” instead and the problem would go away. What do you say?

JF: I say we should try our best to set the Reformed faith to music that engages the hearts of people today. Eventually the best will rise to the top.

T: As you may or may not know when we interview someone we usually will ask a “Dinger” question; a question that is a little uncomfortable to ask, we call it “being twothed!” Dr. Frame here is your Dinger: A long time ago, we have heard it said that you said that you can “dance” a sermon. Is this true? If so do explain.

JF: I think what I said was that you can sing a sermon—since the Bible does not distinguish between what may be said and what may be sung in worship. As for dance, I have no biblical reason to prohibit it; Ps. 150 and other texts actually command dance in worship. Presumably such dance should be edifying. Whether we use the word “sermon” to describe edifying dance seems mainly a matter of terminology.

T: Last thoughts?

JF: Thanks for your interest. May God bless the ministry of twoth.

T: Thank you for taking the time to dialog with me for this interview. We look forward to being able to post your interview soon at

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