It’s brilliant not merely because he addresses (in an irenic way) the substance of all the contentions that are made in that book, not least of which is Two Kingdoms theology. He discusses the issue of who is the proper bearer of “the Reformed tradition”. He brings a sharp focus to bear upon “Christless Christianity” (and it’s “Gospel-Driven” counterpart, the “Lost Soul of Protestantism, and more). He discusses Protestant Scholasticism and Richard Muller (the real heroes of this story); and lots, lots more. (The whole thing is more than 7500 words, but still, I highly recommend giving it a look).
But beyond the issues, he talks about something that’s a lot deeper:
Michael Horton, who ends up bearing the brunt of the critique, described the book as “a new low in intra-Reformed polemics.”
To be the nastiest and most unfair polemicist in the Reformed community would be quite the accomplishment. Prof. Frame would have to outpace several of the Escondido men themselves, along with any number of Clarkians and theonomists – and that would only take into account the American cranksters! As biting and even sometimes inflammatory as some of Prof. Frame’s writing may be, this book does not take the prize for nastiness. And it is certainly a long way off from the battles of those golden years of Reformed confession-writing. We should never forget that the debates carried out by our Reformed ancestors, even the men now idolized by the Reformed gatekeepers, at times involved literal hatchet jobs.
Wedgeworth is spot-on when he says “We should never forget that the debates carried out by our Reformed ancestors, even the men now idolized by the Reformed gatekeepers, at times involved literal hatchet jobs”.
I’ve been hanging out at D.G. Hart’s blog recently because of his fun interactions with Bryan Cross. I came to Reformed theology largely through Hart’s books about Machen, whom I came to regard as the heir of Calvin through “Old Princeton” (though I tend to tune out Hart’s disagreements with Turretinfan over 2K views). While I agree with Steve Hays that “natural law” fails to address some very difficult moral issues, I don’t think anyone is going to hell over the Westminster “Two Kingdoms” theology, either.
I’ve known Scott Clark for about as long as there has been an Internet through which we could email. I’ve met Michael Horton. I write for a blog where Steve Hays, who calls himself a Biblicist, has been strongly influenced by the writings of John Frame (and presumably his “Something Close to Biblicism), which I like a lot, and with which I fundamentally agree. Clark writes scathingly about Frame. Clark is not well-regarded by Hays, but I’ve learned more about historical theology from Scott Clark than anyone else, I think.
Cyril of Alexandria was apparently a pretty good theologian. But he was just simply a thug as well. He can be a lesson for folks today.
American Christianity certainly has its problems. But Christianity has always had problems. And despite the problems in American Christianity, it is our Christianity now.
I’m no fan of things like “bishops”, but I’m a very big fan of an old fart who goes by the handle “Embryo Parson”. There was a time when I despised him, but our more recent friendship shows us how (“in the Lord”) such transformations are possible. And I do think he has a very healthy attitude toward American Christianity.
Wedgeworth does not simply point out the problems. He points to a solution:
Instead, we do need a Reformed ressourcement. It needs to move forward by building upon the tradition. It should be a Reformed irenicism that is really Reformed, having clearly-stated and definitively Reformational principles. It should be an irenic catholicity that achieves peace through courageous and rational dialogue and debate, charitable but assertive. And it must always be truth-telling, with regards to itself and its opponents. Prof. Frame possesses the latter qualities of peace and honest integrity. The Escondido men aspire towards the former qualities of consistency with the great Reformed tradition, ….
We think we have begun to point to a way beyond the dead ends and impasses of ultra-confessionalism on the one hand, and a Neo-Calvinism so “neo” it is no longer really Calvinist on the other. And we are finding that many young pastors and churchmen, seeing the problems of the two opposing camps which have so far dominated the American Reformed world, are quite ready to step out onto that road.