Frame’s Thirty-Two Point List … and Dr. Godfrey’s Response

These are the thirty-two points that Frame has identified as being associated with “Escondido Theology.”

  1. It is wrong to try to make the gospel relevant to its hearers.
  2. Scripture teaches about Christ, his atonement, and our redemption from sin, but not about how to apply that salvation to our current problems.
  3. Those who try to show the application of Scripture to the daily problems of believers are headed toward a Christless Christianity.
  4. Anything we say about God is at best only an analogy of the truth and is therefore at least partly false.
  5. There is no immediate experience of God available to the believer.
  6. The only experience of God available to the believer is in public worship.
  7. Meetings of the church should be limited to the preaching of the word and the administration of the sacraments.
  8. In worship, we “receive” from God, but should not seek to “work” for God.
  9. The “cultural mandate” of Gen. 1:28 and 9:7 is no longer in effect.
  10. The Christian has no biblical mandate to seek changes in the social, cultural, or political order.
  11. Divine sovereignty typically eliminates the need for human responsibility.
  12. The gospel is entirely objective and not at all subjective.
  13. We should take no interest in our inner feelings or subjective life.
  14. Preaching should narrate the history of redemption, but should never appeal to Bible characters as moral or spiritual examples.
  15. Preaching “how tos” and principles of practical living is man-centered.
  16. To speak of a biblical worldview, or biblical principles for living, is to misuse the Bible.
  17. Nobody should be considered Reformed unless they agree with everything in the Reformed confessions and theologians of the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries.
  18. We should not agree to discuss any theological topics except the ones discussed by Reformed thinkers in the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries.
  19. Jonathan Edwards and D. Martyn Lloyd-Jones were not Reformed.
  20. Theology is not the application of Scripture, but a historical investigation into Reformed traditions.
  21. There is no difference between being biblical and being Reformed.
  22. To study the Bible is to study it as the Reformed tradition has studied it.
  23. God’s principles for governing society are found, not in Scripture, but in natural law.
  24. Natural law is to be determined, not by Scripture, but by human reason and conscience.
  25. Scripture promises the believer no temporal blessings until the final judgment.
  26. We can do nothing to “advance” the Kingdom of God. The coming of the Kingdom, since the ascension of Christ, is wholly future.
  27. The Sabbath pertains only to worship, not to daily work. So worship should occur on the Lord’s Day, but work need not cease.
  28. Only those who accept these principles can consistently believe in justification by faith alone.
  29. Reformed believers must maintain an adversarial relationship with American evangelicals.
  30. Worship should be very traditional, without any influence of contemporary culture.
  31. Only those who accept these principles can be considered truly Reformed.
  32. These principles, however, represent only desirable “emphases.” There are exceptions.

Dr. Godfrey responded to the above list this way:

He introduces these bullet points by claiming: “Below are some assertions typical of, and widely accepted among, Escondido theologians.  Not all of them make all of these assertions, but all of them regard them with some sympathy” (p,xxxvii).  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.

At first glance, it looks like Dr. Godfrey is saying that each member of the faculty of WSC rejects each of the thirty-two points.  But Dr. Godfrey’s qualification “as a fair or accurate presentation of our views,” is key.  That characterization can mean that the objection is as trivial as “the list doesn’t express the points the way we mean them.”

So, for example, Dr. Godfrey continues:

We have the most sympathy with the bullet point which says “There is no difference between being biblical and being Reformed” (p. xxxviii). Yet we would state it differently: we are Reformed because we believe that the Bible is most faithfully understood and taught in Reformed Christianity. 

This seems like an actual affirmation of the point. But then how can “all” of the points be rejected as being unfair or inaccurate? Dr. Godfrey then asserts:

In relation to most of John’s bullet points we believe and teach the very opposite of what is attributed to us.

So, already we have moved from “all” to “most.”  But which are the ones that the faculty teaches “the very opposite”?  We are left wondering, because Dr. Godfrey prefers to leave the reader guessing.  Dr. Godfrey does not even provide an example of a single point on which the faculty both believes and teaches “the very opposite.”

Dr. Godfrey claimed that his purpose in writing a response was to set the record straight: ” We do not wish to engage in a protracted discussion of these things with John, but we do find it necessary to set the record straight.”  But what has been straightened or clarified?  Nothing except that point 21 is essentially on the money but just not worded the way that they would like.

Also, it is clear that the faculty of WSC does not appreciate criticism.  But love of criticism is a rare trait indeed.  One can hardly blame them for that.  In sum, Dr. Godfrey has swung and missed in his attempt to “set the record straight.”  He has neither identified any errors in Frame’s characterization, nor any errors in Frame’s criticism itself.


P.S. Let me point out that I would agree with the WSC faculty about point 21, and even go a step further and say that one of the aims and strengths of Reformed theology is to be as biblical as possible.

21 Responses to “Frame’s Thirty-Two Point List … and Dr. Godfrey’s Response”

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