"Escondido Theology"

Discussion in 'Theological Forum' started by Kevin, Jan 12, 2012.

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  1. Kevin

    Kevin Puritan Board Doctor

  2. PuritanCovenanter

    PuritanCovenanter Moderator Staff Member

    We discussed the book when it came out here and I closed the thread until someone could give a solid review of it.


    So if anyone has read the book and can give a solid review that would be fine. But keep it within this context. We already discussed the possible merits of this book without having read it.
    Last edited: Jan 12, 2012
  3. DMcFadden

    DMcFadden Puritan Board Doctor

    I think we can be certain that Horton, Clark, et. al. have been "Frame(d)" pretty good in the book.

    It is on my list of must-read books, but it will be some time before I can read it. If anyone has a reference to a good review, it would be a wonderful gift.
  4. Kevin

    Kevin Puritan Board Doctor

    Thanks, I missed the earlier thread.

    I spent the day at the Haddington House Library yesterday, and saw that title. I would be interested to hear what he has to say. As well as what people think of what he has to say.
  5. mvdm

    mvdm Puritan Board Junior

    I read the book, and without giving a "review", I would observe:

    1. Good portions of the book are a compilation/re-work of material previously published, i.e., Frame's reviews of certain books by Horton, Clark, Van Drunen, and Kline. Book ties things together into one work.

    2. Background info given on his reasons for leaving WSC is helpful to understand his reluctance to publish the book.

    3. Spends time anticipating the inevitable charge of personal vendetta.

    4. Overall, lays out the theology under review through use of extensive quotations and his analysis is straightforward and readable.
  6. Andrew P.C.

    Andrew P.C. Puritan Board Junior

    If you look at Wscal's blog, Dr. Godfrey wrote somewhat of a response. I think it's worth taking a look at and taking careful thought into approaching the subject.
  7. NaphtaliPress

    NaphtaliPress Administrator Staff Member

  8. Kevin

    Kevin Puritan Board Doctor

    That was very unsatisfactory.

    Can anyone imagine what any WSC faculty bloggers would have said if Doug Wilson had offered a blog post such as that in response to the FV critics?
  9. Wayne

    Wayne Tempus faciendi, Domine.

    I must disagree, Kevin. A response was given, though in short form.

    Consider this possibility--that in his reply, Dr. Godfrey was consciously seeking to walk in light of Proverbs 15:1.
  10. Romans922

    Romans922 Puritan Board Professor

    Can you elaborate what the problem is?
  11. mvdm

    mvdm Puritan Board Junior

    Since I had read Frame’s book, I was asked to give my impression of Dr. Godfrey’s response posted on the WSC site. As I said above, I do not intend to write a review of Frame’s book. Nor do I wish to make extended comment on Godfrey’s response. I am even reluctant to make this post, since I know critique on this issue has some highly personal and partisan dimensions to it. Thus, I'll just focus more narrowly on what I found a most remarkable aspect of the response, where Godfrey wrote:

    “In response all of us on the WSC faculty wish to state clearly that we reject all of these thirty-two points as a fair or accurate presentation of our views. …In relation to most of John’s bullet points we believe and teach the very opposite of what is attributed to us.”

    Well, has Frame so misrepresented them that his formulations are the “opposite” of what faculty members of WSC teach? Let’s look at just one of Frame’s key points that gets at the heart of the modern “two kingdoms” theology:

    “God’s principles for governing society are found, not in Scripture, but in natural law.”

    Now compare that bullet point with some representative quotes from WSC faculty members:

    “His revelation speaks to everything but not in the same way. The cultural or civil sphere is normed by God’s general or natural revelation. Special revelation wasn’t given to norm cultural or civil life.” R. Scott Clark.

    "Scripture is not the appropriate moral standard for the civil kingdom. … Scripture is the sacred text given to God’s covenant people whom he has redeemed from sin. . . . Given its character, therefore, Scripture is not given as a common moral standard that provides ethical imperatives to all people regardless of their religious standing. David Van Drunen

    “Christ’s kingdom is its own culture: holy rather than common. That does not mean that it is an alternative subculture. In other words, there is no such thing as Christian sports, entertainment, politics, architecture and science. In these common fields, Christians and non-Christians are indistinguishable except by their ultimate goals and motivations.” Michael Horton,

    “God presently rules the world through providence and common grace, while he rules the church through Word, sacrament, and covenantal nurture. This means that there is no difference between Christians and non-Christians with respect to their vocations.” Michael Horton

    “{Guided by} the Lutheran two-kingdom perspective on scholarship, scholars at Christian institutions will not feel the need to introduce questions of faith in literature or chemistry classes, or to require theological precision from every new hire in sociology. Indeed, only in the Bible and theology departments, where faith and theological convictions make the most difference, is close scrutiny of a professor's profession of faith immediately relevant to academic work”. Darryl Hart

    The problem with using the Bible in public life is that you bind people who don’t believe the Bible. .. I believe making non-believers obey the Bible is illegitimate as long as they don’t believe the Bible.” Darryl Hart.

    Additional quotes could be supplied, but not sure how any reasonable reader could find Frame’s formulation as the “opposite” of what these faculty members actually teach. Perhaps that's not a bullet point Godfrey had in mind? He did only say that they reject "most" of the bullet points as being "opposite" of their teaching. He did not identify any bullet point that might tend toward being agreeable or a more fair representation, so we are left to guess at this point.

    Additionally, I wish Godfrey had addressed the fact that approximately 17 pages later past the bullet points, Frame provides an even more crystallized summary of the features of the “Escondido theology”. Two(2) of these 9 features Frame lists as follows:

    1. A strict separation between law and gospel.
    2. A radicalization of the Reformation two-kingdoms view, leading to a separation of church and culture, and church and state, so that it is wrong for believers to seek changes in society.

    Can anyone question whether #1 is accurate? #2 is not a unique to Frame, and quite frankly, there is a growing chorus of Reformed scholars who would concur with it.

    I well understand that a WSC blog entry could not address everything in Frame's book. But rather than simply crying out "misrepresentation" and engaging in ad hominem against Frame, I wish he could have provided a charitable offer to engage Frame's arguments, even if in a different forum.

    Sadly, Godfrey’s response actually raises the question of how familiar he is with what’s actually being taught by members of his faculty.
    Last edited: Feb 8, 2012
  12. Contra_Mundum

    Contra_Mundum Pilgrim, Alien, Stranger Staff Member

    I may be wrong in my analysis, but this:

    “God’s principles for governing society are found, not in Scripture, but in natural law.”

    looks like a caricature, to me, from what I've read and digested from the WSC.

    Here's what's wrong with it: I think WSC would say that *ultimate* principles that sustain or govern a society are found in Scripture (spelled out in the moral law); AND in natural revelation. The SAME law is found in BOTH. So IMO, the statement is inaccurate at best, prejudicial at worst.

    Consequently, along with Paul (Rom.1-2) WSC will affirm that the natural man is capable of resurrecting a "tolerable" moral/governmental order, thanks to the fact that he has an ineradicable "work of the law" within him. Of course, the human apprehension is very imperfect, and they don't get everything just right. In fact, perhaps most of the time they erect tyrannies and despotisms, rather than a truly beneficial social order. Certainly, they typically privilege one nationality or class, at the expense of others. What else should we expect from people who inherently rebel against their Maker?

    The real issue and division between WSC, and critics represented by Frame and others, is this: in a setting that is non-evangelistic, what is the best means of finding and promoting good-government? Should we try to "sell" anti-abortion measures on the basis of the 6th Commandment, the Sermon on the Mount, and Psalm 139? WSC says "no, that's not the best way, and may even be counterproductive--mainly because mining the Bible for public-policy grounds is a misuse of the text." Are all those above references relevant to the question of whether a nation should allow abortion? Of course. But the Bible is not a book for unbelievers. It is written to convict unbelievers of sin, but it is not a book FOR unbelievers. And, in the main, they don't like it anyway.

    So, the original statement, if it is to have any helpful relevance to the actual issue, needs to be re-Framed.

    “God’s natural law is the place to find common-ground with unbelievers in pursuit of benevolent principles for governing society (or other pursuits), inasmuch as we cannot escape the necessity of living and working with them; rather than making an appeal to them to just "obey" the laws of Scripture.

    A Christian in government should certainly be directly informed by Scripture as to his awareness of the common, natural law, because he is "spiritual," and can in fact "receive the things of the Spirit of God," by way of clarity and confirmation. His arguments should be strengthened because of this advantage.

    But ultimately, I think the "big issue" at hand isn't the argument over whether "God's principles for governing society"are found in Scripture, nature, or both. But whether "God's principles" are coequal and coterminous with the Moral Law (10 Commandments, and their natural adjuncts); or if the "right way" to do a myriad of things is found--or should be sought--from Scripture.

    If you think that the Bible is a BIG RULE BOOK, then you will mine it for all its worth. A LAW for this, a LAW for that, a LAW for this, a LAW for that, a LAW, a LAW, LAW, LAW, LAW.... And all the non-Christian neighbors hear this incomprehensible message, "Hey, this country has Christian origins; so ya'll OBEY if you know what's good for you (in this life!), and especially what's good for me!"

    If you think that the Bible is a BIG BOOK about Jesus CHRIST, then you will mine it for all HE'S worth. "These are the Scriptures that testify of ME." And all the non-Christian neighbors will hear this incomprehensible message (except when the Spirit works, making it understandable!): Come to Jesus and find LIFE, by GRACE.

    In the end, the latter is the only way one will ever have a larger society that is well-salted for long-term preservation.
  13. MW

    MW Puritan Board Doctor

    I appreciate the emphasis and focus on the Lord Jesus Christ here, but we are left with a moral dilemma which the unbelieving society is bound to take advantage of, and is even now using to the detriment of Christianity in the world. If we were to accept that "God’s natural law is the place to find common-ground with unbelievers in pursuit of benevolent principles for governing society (or other pursuits)," we have essentially told the unbelieving society that it does not need the special revelation of Jesus Christ to make a well governed, benevolent society. Alas! the salt has lost its savour and is good for nothing! Worse than that -- now that the society feels perfectly capable on the basis of natural principles to arrive at moral solutions without the aid of Christianity, society would be quite within its rights to judge the higher morals of Christians as superfluous, if not supercilious and burdensome. It might on that basis adversely criticise Christianity as a religion that is simply unfit for human society. Then, for the Christian's failure to live up to the neutral, mundane, social ethics of the community in which he lives, the community might justly determine the Christian is unfit for society and intitiate the extermination of this odious sect. At which point it will be shown that the unthinking Christian has given the thinking non-Christian the moral weapons he needs to outlaw and persecute Christianity until the name of Jesus Christ is never heard again. Alas! the salt has become good for nothing, but to be cast out, and trodden under foot of men!

    The rhetoric of neutrality always leaves out of view an important factor -- that "the world" (the world that by wisdom knew not God) is not neutral but hates the Lord Jesus Christ and hates His people. Toleration may have taken the teeth from the lion but it has not changed its nature. Let us never forget that it was Christianity which brought toleration to our western world. It was Christianity which sowed the seeds of representative government and civil rights. These principles are not inherent in the world by nature. Take Christianity out of the public square and the world will simply use these principles for its own destruction.
  14. PuritanCovenanter

    PuritanCovenanter Moderator Staff Member

    Sorry Bruce and MDVM. But I really believe this goes deeper than that. These separations hurt. Even in this discussion on the Union in Christ.
    BTW, That wasn't the message of our Country's founders who gave their all. It wasn't what I wanted to give my life for as a military person under Ronald Reagan. It wasn't all about me. The founding fathers gave and promised all. Was it all just so we could live in liberty away from or for truth? In studying this period years ago it was for. Is the Bible and our Confession against this? BTW, this also has to do with the law and gospel debate in my estimation as I have stated before on the Puritanboard.
    Last edited: Feb 10, 2012
  15. PuritanCovenanter

    PuritanCovenanter Moderator Staff Member

    BTW, I believe in rightful forced subordination. It is right. We do it daily. Ask my parents as they were raising me and trying to teach me. May I remind everyone of Deut. 29;29. Maybe we should devote a thread to Luther and Two Kingdoms. Luther's and Augustine's teaching on this don't look like Westminster California's in my estimation as I read and have seen the fruit of in History. But I would really rather focus on something more primer and premier. Christ and Union. It is foundational. It is the root of the problem in my estimation.

    Back on to the topic. I agree with the URC Elder. He is not alone.

    I do believe the Bible is a book about Jesus Christ. Believe me. I do. Even for the unelect.
    Last edited: Feb 10, 2012
  16. SolaGratia

    SolaGratia Puritan Board Junior

    "There is a great ignorance even of the very first principles of religion. It will be very easy, Sirs, to introduce Popery into Scotland. Oh, the gross ignorance of our principles that are contained in our Catechisms, larger and shorter, and Confession of Faith, sworn to in the Covenants."

    Richard Cameron, ‘Sermon on Hosea 13:9-10 (1680)′ in Sermons in times of persecution in Scotland, by sufferers for the royal prerogatives of Jesus Christ, ed. James Kerr (Edinburgh, 1880), p. 409.
  17. Jack K

    Jack K Puritan Board Post-Graduate

    Thank you, Bruce. From what I've read, I would agree that the way you put it more accurately represents what the WSC guys are trying to say. We must interact with what they really mean to say, not, as you put it, a charicature of what they're saying.

    Even if one disagrees with them, playing fair means accurately acknowledging their strongest point from the start... and only after that, examining it for pitfalls. We all know that to be an effective advocate in any discussion we first need to convince the other guy that we do understand what he meant to say and appreciate whatever strong points he's made.

    And the WSC guys do make some strong points that deserve to be engaged, not merely dismissed by restating them in a way they disapprove of.
  18. SRoper

    SRoper Puritan Board Senior

    No problem with number one, but did he really write number two? "So that it is wrong for believers to seek changes in society"? Wow. I haven't read a whole lot of the output of WSC, but I don't recognize that at all.
  19. Mark Hettler

    Mark Hettler Puritan Board Freshman

    I am about halfway through the book, and I've read Godfrey's response. On the whole I agree with MVDM (11 above), and won't expand on that since I can't really improve on what he's presented.

    But in fairness, I have to agree with Scott R. that "so that it is wrong for believers to seek changes in society" is a bit of a mischaracterization. I've heard Horton and Hart on the subject, and I don't think they have a problem with individual believers seeking changes in society (although I haven't gotten to Frame's review of Hart's "Secular Faith" yet and I may be missing something). But they clearly are opposed to the organized church, and church officers in their official capacity as church officers, working for change in society. If you were to substitute "the church" for "believers" in that quote, it would not be a caricature at all.
  20. ChristianTrader

    ChristianTrader Puritan Board Graduate

    If this was the "big issue" I would be with WSC along with the Reformed tradition. However it seems that those from WSC do not really want to look to the 10 commandments. At best, they wish to look to the last six commandments while ignoring the first table when it comes to ruling a society. If they took both tables seriously, they would not be able to avoid the religious wars of yesteryear that they are so anxious to avoid.

  21. Wayne

    Wayne Tempus faciendi, Domine.

    What Mark has summarized in his second paragraph is nothing more than the old doctrine of the spirituality of the Church, succinctly stated in WCF 31.4.
    (a doctrine grievously misused by some Presbyterians in the 19th century.)

    Sean Lucas had a good post on this subject : Sean Michael Lucas: The Spirituality of the Church

    and Dr. David Coffin has spoken on it at length. His church's web site had a bibliography posted, but I can't relocate that at the moment.
  22. Backwoods Presbyterian

    Backwoods Presbyterian Puritan Board Doctor

    They may agree that individual believers can seek to change society, but as Rev. Buchanan's post shows and Dr. Hart has repeatedly said, the "Escondido 2K" view teaches explicitly that Scripture cannot be used by the individual to redress the civil government. They are free to appeal to "Natural Law" and reason, but not to the explicit teachings of Scripture.

    In other words E2K teaches that I as an individual cannot point to Leviticus 18:22 or Matthew 19 when speaking against homosexuality and homosexual "marriage", but must look to nature and make arguments from there as to why homosexuality is wicked and should be legislated against. To use Scripture in this case (in their view) is to misuse and misappropriate the Bible for a purpose in which it was never intended.

    That most assuredly is not the Reformed 2K view.

    ---------- Post added at 03:45 PM ---------- Previous post was at 03:26 PM ----------

    In addition I wonder if the E2K men could agree with Charles Hodge in his discussion of the 5th Commandment in his Systematic Theology, Vol. III, pg. 359, when he says:

    "The sanctity of law, and the stability of human government, depend on the sanction of God. Unless they repose on Him, they rest on nothing. They only have His sanction when they act according to His will; that is in accordance with the design of their appointment and in harmony with the moral law."
  23. mvdm

    mvdm Puritan Board Junior

    Yes, Frame wrote #2. I agree it is incomplete, but I suspect I know what he is driving at. There is much in the Escondido works arguing against the idea of "Christianizing" or "transforming" culture. Thus, Frame would have been more precise if he had added the words "upon explicitly Christian/Biblical principles" at the end of #2.
  24. Backwoods Presbyterian

    Backwoods Presbyterian Puritan Board Doctor

  25. bookslover

    bookslover Puritan Board Professor

    I visited the bookstore at Westminster Escondido recently and mischievously asked the clerk if they were going to carry Frame's book. To my surprise, he said that yes, they will carry it.
  26. Unoriginalname

    Unoriginalname Puritan Board Junior

    I hope you dressed and laughed like Dick Dastardly when you did it.
  27. NaphtaliPress

    NaphtaliPress Administrator Staff Member

  28. py3ak

    py3ak They're stalling and plotting against me Staff Member

    Nice. I'm glad someone made this point.

    This has been covered before: taking law as "imperative" and gospel as "indicative" is not the historic Reformed law-gospel distinction.

    This is good stuff.

    Sadly there is no way this is not going to bring back echoes of a previous controversy. The fact is (though I suspect it's not an applicable fact in this case) that someone can always be dis-satisfied with a formulation of their view that doesn't wind up in agreement. And by that standard, if your opponent is obstinate, you will never have an acknowledged right to critique them.
  29. Poimen

    Poimen Puritan Board Post-Graduate

    The bolded portion above in light of the quote below makes me wonder if that is what John was trying to say (or should have said).

    Last edited by a moderator: Feb 10, 2012
  30. PuritanCovenanter

    PuritanCovenanter Moderator Staff Member

    Thanks Ruben.

    I appreciated this from Dr. Horton.....
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