“The Study of Theology” Revisited: A Response to John Frame -- By: Richard A. Muller

Journal: Westminster Theological Journal
Volume: WTJ 56:2 (Fall 1994)
Article: “The Study of Theology” Revisited: A Response to John Frame
Author: Richard A. Muller

“The Study of Theology” Revisited:
A Response to John Frame

Richard A. Muller

In his essay “Muller on Theology,” John Frame charges me with defective hermeneutics, a faulty view of providence and Scripture, and, by implication, with heterodoxy. I am happy to say that Professor Frame is mistaken in these matters and that, undoubtedly, he also offers us the reason for his mistake: “I am confused…I can only express bafflement,” he comments. He even goes so far as to credit his own level of misunderstanding to me in advance of further discussion: “And if I am confused,” he writes, “I believe it is Muller who has confused me.”1 Yes, he is somewhat confused. But I decline to take credit in this matter.

Much of the problem that Frame appears to have in understanding the book arises from an initial “genre” mistake. He entitles his essay “Muller on Theology” and then proceeds to wonder why no doctrine of Scripture appears in the book, why there is no doctrinal justification of the church’s development of the dogma of the Trinity, why there is no discussion of “biblical qualifications for eldership” or of “biblical doctrines of knowledge and wisdom” (p. 149). Frame would also have been pleased if the book had included a short theological discourse assuring its readers that its author has a strong appreciation of divine providence (cf. p. 145 n. 11, where he objects to the book’s “treatment of divine providence,” citing pp. 99 and 117–18). The problem here is that the book is incorrectly described as “Muller on Theology”: rather, it is “Muller on The Study of Theology.” As the title notes in brief (pressing, fairly obviously, I thought, the point of genre) and the introduction at some length, the book discusses an approach to the theological curriculum as organized in the traditional fourfold model (biblical, historical, systematic, and practical theology). It does not broach and was not intended to broach questions of detail concerning exposition of the content of the individual disciplines: there is no doctrine of Scripture in the book; there is no doctrine of the Trinity; nor is there an exposition of any other doctrine in the list of loci between God and the Last Things. That

was not the purpose of the book—although I would be glad to recommend a few fine volumes in the genre of “systematic theology” that may be read to good effect while using some of the hints in my book.

By way of response: the sole authority of Scripture is fully and categorically affirmed in several places in the volume—and my own check of pp. 99 and 117–18 di...

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