Review of Frame’s “The Escondido Theology”

2013/09/14

The Escondido Theology: A Reformed Response to Two Kingdom TheologyThe Escondido Theology: A Reformed Response to Two Kingdom Theology by John M. Frame
My rating: 1 of 5 stars

The subtitle of John Frame’s book misleads the potential reader. This book is a little about Two-Kingdom theology and a lot about Frame’s antipathy toward Reformed critiques of evangelicalism and his animosity toward his colleagues. Frame has burdened us with a specious construct– a bogeyman. This bogeyman runs against his reputation for irenicism. In fact, “John Frame, the irenic polemicist” (the title of a tribute to Frame among the book’s introductory matter) is a reputation in serious need of repair in the aftermath of The Escondido Theology: A Reformed Response to Two Kingdom Theology.

The most interesting of the chapters (most of them book reviews) is Frame’s reading of Meredith Kline’s Kingdom Prologue. Sadly, even here, Frame’s criticisms are usually shallow and perfunctory. Frame displays a lack of understanding of the Biblical foundations of the Covenant of Works and the distinction between Law and Gospel. Throughout the book, Frame shows an overarching penchant for attempting syntheses of Biblical interpretations that are not compatible. Such syntheses are usually unfavorable to the so-called Escondido theologians; Frame’s strong desire is to sound an alarm against what for him is an extreme version of Reformed theology. Since Frame makes it clear that just about every other form of Christian theology should be read charitably and get the benefit of the doubt, one comes away wondering how coherent Frame’s “irenicism” really is.

Frame offers Abraham Kuyper as an antidote to the alleged errors of his colleagues at one point. He even claims that his own thought follows in the line of Kuyper. Yet he never adduces Kuyper’s important distinction between the church as organism and the church as institute. Nor does he consider the potential this distinction has for making sense of the Two Kingdom vs. One Kingdom debate.

Frame asks questions, even if obvious ones, of the specifically “Two-Kingdom” books he impugns (Van Drunen’s, Stellman’s, Hart’s) that would be illuminating for Reformed 2K proponents to answer. Sadly, Frame frequently wastes his readers’ time by repeating certain weak criticisms in book review after book review. For example, Frame habitually appeals to I Corinthians 10:31 in support of Christian social activism and against distinctions between cult and culture. He thereby grossly oversimplifies the issues and seriously miscalculates in turning repeatedly to this text as his “silver bullet.” This is just one example of the crude proof-texting that Frame employs among other unhelpful lines of attack. The authors Frame covers surely deserve a more fruitful engagement than what he offers here. Not recommended.

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