May 8, 2002

Evangelical Reunion

Category: Theology - Ecclesiology :: Permalink

I don’t remember why I stopped reading John Frame. When I was first becoming Reformed, I was a big Frame fan. In fact, it was when I was reading a section in The Doctrine of the Knowledge of God that the light came on and I understood the biblical basis for infant baptism.

But for some reason, I stopped reading Frame around the time I went to seminary. Perhaps it was because I didn’t like something he’d written. Perhaps it was just that I was so busy keeping up with the reading in seminary that I didn’t have time to read Frame on the side. Perhaps it was something else.

Recently, however, I’ve started to read Frame again. I read his Perspectives on the Word of God back in January, as reported here. And yesterday morning, I finished Evangelical Reunion: Denominations and the One Body of Christ, about which I will now procede to rave. First, the obligatory caution: I don’t necessarily agree with everything Frame says in this book. But I certainly agree with a lot of the points he makes.

Frame argues that God intended his church to be one, not to be shattered into thousands of separate denominations. He traces the history of denominationalism and examines both the dangerous effects of denominations and the reasons why we love ’em (“My home, my family, my team”). Denominations tend to foster an “us against them” attitude: we bolster our confidence in our own denomination by running down others. We’re inclined to pretend that our “team” has a corner on the truth and thereby justify not reading or interacting widely with the rest of the Christian community. But, as Frame says, “We should get used to rooting more for ‘the church’ and less for a particular denomination” (p. 61).

Frame then goes on to talk about working toward reunion. Part of the path there involves getting to know people from outside our circles.

It is easy enough to be denominational chauvinists if we never encounter anyone from any other tradition. It is not so easy when we meet real flesh-and-blood fellow Christians from other branches of the church. This is especially the case when God calls us to stand together with them against unbelief (p. 72).

He talks about how to deal with differences of doctrine, practice, history, government, and priorities and then addresses our attitudes and our assumptions with regard to Christians from other churches. He points out that at least some degree of doctrinal tolerance is necessary and inescapable. We are continuing to learn, both as individuals and as churches and groups of churches: God doesn’t teach everyone everything all at once or even at the same rate. Therefore, we must be tolerant toward those who disagree with us. We ought to labour as much as possible to preserve the unity of the church.

Frame’s book isn’t perfect. In places it may raise more questions than it answers. I don’t think Frame would mind that. His goal is to get people thinking and discussing these issues as we work toward greater unity. Unfortunately, the book received only a few reviews before sinking into virtual oblivion with barely a ripple. It’s good to see that the book is available, complete with a new appendix, at Third Millennium. Christian Book Distributors also has some copies of the out-of-print first edition for $0.99, if you prefer an actual book. It’s well worth buying, reading, thinking about, and discussing, even if you end up disagreeing with him at points.

And while I’m raving about stuff, let me add that Miles Davis’s Kind of Blue is a great album and Chaim Potok’s In the Beginning is a great book, and I’m going to go and combine them now for a few minutes before bed.

Posted by John Barach @ 11:46 pm | Discuss (0)

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