Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Holding onto Tradition: Responsive & Non-Captive

Now these things, brethren, I have figuratively applied to myself and Apollos for your sakes, so that in us you may learn not to exceed what is written, so that no one of you will become arrogant in behalf of one against the other (1 Cor 4:6).

Good, clear, and helpful thoughts from John Frame:
... I try to encourage Bible interpretation that is responsive to tradition, but not captive to it. The chief rule of Reformation hermeneutics is that Scripture is the best interpreter of Scripture, under the illumination of the Holy Spirit. “Biblical” theology is often defined as a method of Bible interpretation focusing on redemptive history. That’s fine, but it should not be the only method we use. Redemptive history may be the chief content of Scripture, but there are many things in the Bible (Psalms, Proverbs, e.g.) that are most narrowly historical.

... We should certainly learn from people God has appointed to teach the word, both in our generation and in the past. However we should be ready to make a break with the past if Scripture forces us to do that. That itself has an important precedent in tradition: the Protestant Reformation. And when we do make use of tradition in our theology, we should not be narrowly confined to the tradition of our own denomination. Theology today, in my view, partly because of the nature of graduate education, is far too focused on theologians in the past and present and far too little focused on Scripture itself. The best balance is in John Murray’s work.

Read the Credo Magazine's entire interview with John Frame.

There is a lot of wisdom in Frame's answers. Not least of which is his simple principle on the relationship between Scripture and tradition: Responsive, but not captive. It often seems that Christians are either captive or non-responsive to Christian tradition. Either position leaves us impoverished and ill-equipped. With Reformation Day upon us, Frame's encouragement that "we should be ready to make a break with the past if Scripture forces us to do that" is a timely reminder.

In what I read and observe in contemporary theology, I heartily agree with Frame that "graduate education" has set theology too far adrift from its source in the Word of God and made it far too concerned with the personal theology of individual writers / lecturers. I am grateful for Frame's courage to (frequently) call theologians and the Church to account on this matter (see previous post on Schreiner for a similar point).

Also, I second his nod to John Murray, who is truly a great resource for responsive, but not captive theology. After more recently procuring his four-volume, Collected Writings, I have been greatly helped. Murray is moving closer to the top of my "consult-first" list in my library. (Hint: The "Library of Light" in my church has a copy of his biography, Life of John Murray. It is a heartening read and good introduction to this faithful brother in Christ).

Finally, in this category of tolle lege, John Frame's Theology of Lordship series is likewise a real gem, I consult one of those four volumes in my library regularly. Frame writes lucidly and biblically, not afraid to challenge his readers nor his own tradition. Personally, I am ambivalent toward his triadic structure, but that does not diminish the value of his works.

You would be wise to add Frame to your "wishlist" (Tip: start with Doctrine of God or Doctrine of the Word of God).

NB, his Apologetics to the Glory of God is likewise indispensable on that topic... especially if Van Til is a bit much for you.

No comments:

Post a Comment