Review: Theology in Three Dimensions

35999474.jpgJohn M. Frame is Emeritus Professor of Systematic Theology and Philosophy at Reformed Theological Seminary in Orlando, Florida. Frame received an MA and MPhil from Yale University and a DD from Belhaven College in Jackson, Mississippi. Frame is the author or contributor of numerous books, including Systematic Theology: An Introduction to Christian Belief, A History of Western Philosophy and Theology, and the four-volume Theology of Lordship series. Frame is a brilliant and distinguished Christian thinker in the Reformed tradition, and well-known for the concept of Triperspectivalism—a revolutionary approach to understanding the world (and everything therein) from three distinct perspectives. Triperspectivalism threads itself through nearly everything that Frame does, and, until now, readers would need to explore his entire corpus to develop a succinct portrait of the concept. It is here that Theology in Three Dimensions: A Guide to Triperspectivalism and Its Significance offers readers a concise look into the methodology and rationale for Frame’s three-fold approach.

Theology in Three Dimensions appropriately begins with a brief discussion on perspectives. Frame unpacks the collaborative effort of Vern Poythress in the development of the approach and helpfully demonstrates the basic construct of Triperspectivalism. A perspective, according to Frame, “is the position from which a person sees something . . . the angle from which he looks” (p. 2). For Frame, because God is triune in nature, inevitably the world around us (the creation of the triune God) reflects his triunity in the abundance of triads that dot its existence. Theology in Three Dimensions is primarily concerned with showing such theologically and biblically, and thus Frame’s discussion focuses on three perspectives: (1) the normative, (2) the situational, and (3) the existential perspectives.

The normative perspective is concerned with what ought to be (obligations), rather than what is (p. 53). That is, the normative perspective is a perspective of knowledge that views the world as a revelation of God’s will (p. 95). Frame notes, “the normative perspective includes everything that God has made and everything that God has said to us” (p. 57). The situational perspective is concerned with the states of affairs or the objects of knowledge—facts. That is, the situational perspective focuses on the objects in the world rather than the norms that ought to be in the world. As Frame differentiates, “laws and facts, norms and situations, describe one world—God’s world—from two perspectives” (p. 62). The existential perspective is a perspective of human knowledge that focuses on our internal subjective experience in close proximity to the presence of God (p. 94). That is, the existential perspective is closely related to the concept of knowledge of self. Each of these perspectives holds together within themselves and offer triadic layers within layers.

Theology in Three Dimensions is a fascinating read. It’s brief and can be read in a single sitting. That said, while Frame is a gifted communicator and a prolific writer, most readers will need to read it more than once to see how the concept fits together. Chapters 2-4 further elaborate on the nature of perspectives, while chapters 5-7 spend more time unpacking each of the perspectives individually. Where readers will most likely find satisfaction in Frame’s book (apart from a clear concise presentation of the far-reaching nature of Triperspectivalism) is chapter 8—what to do with perspectives. Here Frame takes the concept of Triperspectivalism and applies it (briefly) to various aspects of life, such as salvation, the word of God, philosophy, apologetics, and even pedagogy. So, what’s the big deal with Triperspectivalism? “It keeps us focused on the biblical bottom line,” Frame continues, “that God is nothing less than the Lord, and that his lordship is fully revealed in Jesus Christ . . . everything we do as Christians should be done to Jesus as Lord” (p. 89).

If you are looking for a quick introduction to one of the most revolutionary ways to view the world and teach the Bible, then Theology in Three Dimensions: A Guide to Triperspectivalism and Its Significance by John M. Frame is an essential read. It will not only change the way that you interact with the Bible, it will change the way that you interact with God! It comes highly recommended!

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