Review: Systematic Theology: An Introduction to Christian Belief

18701170John M. Frame holds the J. D. Trimble Chair of Systematic Theology and Philosophy at Reformed Theological Seminary in Orlando, Florida. Frame received degrees from Princeton University, Yale University, and Westminster Theological Seminary. He is widely recognized by his peers as one of the greatest theological minds of our age, and arguably the most important Reformed thinker of the last century. Frame is the author of many books, including A History of Western Philosophy and Theology, Theology in Three Dimensions: A Guide to Triperspectivalism and Its Significance, and the 4-volume A Theology of Lordship series.

Systematic Theology: An Introduction to Christian Belief is the culmination and synthesis of many years of writing on, teaching about, and studying of the Bible. Frame is known for being biblical, clear, cogent, readable, accessible, and practical, and Systematic Theology summarizes the mature thought of one the most important Reformed theologians of the last hundred years. Frame’s contribution to the Reformed tradition is already massive, but his Systematic Theology uniquely represents a lifetime of dedicated and distilled theological thinking and service to the next generation.

Systematic Theology is over 1100 pages and separated into twelve parts, most of which should be self-evident and expected for students of systematic theology: (1) Introduction to Systematic Theology, (2) the Biblical Story, (3) the Doctrine of God, (4) the Doctrine of the Word of God, (5) the Doctrine of the Knowledge of God, (6) the Doctrine of Angels and Demons, (7) the Doctrine of Man, (8) the Doctrine of Christ, (9) the Doctrine of the Holy Spirit, (10) the Doctrine of the Church, (11) the Doctrine of the Last Things, and (12) the Doctrine of the Christian Life.

Many readers are likely familiar with Systematic Theology: An Introduction to Biblical Doctrine by Wayne Grudem and Christian Theology by Millard J. Erickson. Frame’s Systematic Theology runs in a similar vein as Grudem and Erickson in terms of scope. However, Frame is set apart from these two popular works in his innovative and eccentric approach to the task of theology, balanced with the unparalleled clarity of his arguments, extensive use of Scripture, and his unique capacity to critically engage with unbelief. Not that Grudem and Erickson lack clarity. But, Frame has a distinct way of making an argument observable for the reader before connecting it to the Christian life. Frame is also known for his multiperspectivalism approach, and his Systematic Theology is saturated with examples outworking of such application.

Where Frame’s Systematic Theology is prone to shortcoming is the manifest unevenness of the works content. Nearly half of the book is devoted to parts three, four, and five—doctrine of God, the Word of God, and the knowledge of God. This is somewhat understandable given the scope of Frame’s literary corpus and the amount of material that he’s written on those three subjects already, but it leaves little room for the reader to explore Frame’s thoughts on other theological matters. Additionally, while Frame is both clear and accessible for all readers, those less familiar with the arena of systematic theology or Frame’s multiperspectival approach may get lost in the details. If this is a concern, I would recommend readers start with Frame’s recently published Theology in Three Dimensions: A Guide to Triperspectivalism and Its Significance as a primer. It will provide a framework for better grasping the riches found here.

Systematic Theology: An Introduction to Christian Belief by John M. Frame is a monumental achievement that deserves every bit of praise seen since its publication. It’s hard to call this   Frame’s magnum opus given the size and impact of the 4-volume A Lordship Theology, but Systematic Theology certainly does contend for such position due to its distilled content and scope. If you’re looking for a systematic theology that contends for shelf space and frequent use, then Systematic Theology: An Introduction to Christian Belief comes highly recommended. It’s the concentrated work of one of the greatest Reformed thinkers of the past hundred years. What more needs to be said? It should be on the shelf of every serious student of theology.


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