The Doctrine of the Christian Life

If there is one book that you should possess, read, study, use as background resource for preaching and teaching on the Christian life, this is the book. This is the third volume in a series of four by John Frame. For years I have included the writings of John Frame on my must read list. He thinks from a wholistic world and life view regarding the Kingdom of God.

As the title suggests, this book deals with Christian ethics. And, who better than Frame to write about that topic. He points out, as he writes about Christian ethics, the threefold perspectives regarding ethics and Christian living.

First there is the normative perspective, followed by the cultural or situational perspective and then followed up by what he calls the existential perspective, referring to our daily living the Christian life. We are aware that Christianity, particularly reformed and evangelical Christianity, is struggling with the very topics included in this book, things like: the kingdom of God, law and grace or law and the gospel, justification and sanctification, the sufficiency and authority of Scripture, culture, and the role of the church within the kingdom. While sharing with Frame a one kingdom perspective and seeing God as sovereign over all of life and realizing that all truth is God’s truth, I find this book full of substantive content in dealing with these issues. Frame does not hesitate to set forth his understanding and convictions in a way that does not pull any punches, yet he does so in a fair and balanced manner. Even with those with whom he disagrees, he speaks fairly and with a Christian spirit.

Frame’s treatment of the law of God, particularly the ten laws, will be welcomed by the serious Christian who wants to obey His Lord and King. He explains how we relate to the law of God i.e. to show us our sins, then to lead us to Christ, and after we are in Christ, how the law becomes God’s standard for our living the Christian life, not to win God’s favor unto salvation and acceptance, but as the way he wants us to live in order to obey, serve, and please him. I think of one example: chapter 32: “The Fifth Commandment: Family, Church, and State,” followed by chapter 33 on the fifth law, entitled “Man and Woman.”

I particularly appreciate his section “Christ and Culture.” As Christians we do not live in a vacuum which requires that we have to be able to understand our environment in order to apply our theology to daily Christian living. What is culture? How do Christians relate to culture? What about the church and culture? These are some of the topics that make this book a treasure and commentary on the Christian life. The last section of the book reveals his overarching desire, “Personal Spiritual Maturity.”

Though Frame is a philosopher and theologian, par excellence, he writes with the heart of a pastor concerned for his people to live the Christian life, according to God’s standard. His triperspectival view of the Christian life, (normative, situational, and existential), blends together all three areas into one wholistic view of living the Christian life: loving God, loving one another, and walking in obedience as we progress in our sanctification. Frame will challenge you to think biblically and theologically from a “Calvinistically Reformed” context. Consistent with Equip to Disicple’s philosophy, Frame helps us to underscore the importance of the church’s role in making kingdom disciples thus enabling them to live in the broader kingdom without attempting to transform things like our workplace into a church, yet at the same time having a clear Christian impact on the culture around us. Once again the old saying comes forth with the challenge,” how to be in the world but not of the world.”

Charles Dunahoo pastored churches in Georgia and Alabama before being called to his present position as Coordinator for the PCA of Christian Education and Publications (CEP).

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