John Frame, Systematic Theology: An Introduction to Christian Belief. Philipsburg, NJ: P&R Publishing. November 2013. 1280 pp. Hardcover, $49.99.
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Thanks to P&R Publishing for the review copy!
Back in the fall, P&R Publishing was gracious enough to send me a review copy of John Frame’s latest 1000+ tome. Not only have I been reading, but several guys in the systematic theology read-thru have as well (see my post on Sunday Night school).
In order to give myself time to read through the book, and to interact with a little more depth, I thought I’d do a series review. The idea is that it will run in parallel to the series review of Michael Bird’s Evangelical Theology, which also came out last fall (see my intro post, and the first part of the review).
But, Frame’s is much longer, and contains more sections, so here’s what the series posts will look like:
- The Biblical Story
- The Doctrine of God Part 1
- The Doctrine of God Part 2
- The Doctrine of the Word of God
- The Doctrine of The Knowledge of God
- The Doctrine of Angels and Demons
- The Doctrine of Man
- The Doctrine of Christ
- The Doctrine of the Holy Spirit
- The Doctrine of the Church
- The Doctrine of the Last Things
Alert readers might notice that several of Frame’s systematic sections share titles with full length books in his Lordship series. Frame knows what you’re thinking and so he just goes ahead and clears things up in the preface:
Certainly these earlier books have been a great help to me in writing this one, and readers of those books will see here a basic continuity of thought and approach. They might even suspect (rightly) that in many places some text has been cut and pasted from those past books. But I have tried to do more than to summarize the big books and to expand chapters of the smaller one [his Salvation Belongs to The Lord]. Rather, I have tried to rethink everything to make it more biblical, clear, and cogent (xxxi)
What I’ve read so far is original material, but looking at the sections on the Word of God and knowledge of God, much of the material is similar, but it is very condensed. This still leaves his section on the doctrine of God at almost 500 pages (the largest of the book). This is compared to the section on angels and demons coming in at under 20 pages (similar incidentally to Horton’s treatment).
Typically, I’d expect that the the areas of systematic theology that an author has extensively treated elsewhere will be stronger than others (very true of Horton’s work). This also appears to be true of Bird who is light on philosophical foundations and epistemology, but heavy on Christology (which he has published several books on). It is hard to say at this point if it is a detrimental defect, but it is certainly a weakness if a one is attempting to systematically treat all the topics (though I realize there is some justification for less space on angels and demons than other doctrines).
In any case, I’ve enjoyed the opening two sections and am looking forward to reading the rest in community and offering up thoughts to you here. It’ll probably take until later this fall to finish, so hopefully you’re willing to commit to the long haul.