On several occasions we have featured John Frame here at Books At a Glance, highlighting not only some of his specific works but also our own appreciation for his faithful influence in helping so many understand biblical teaching. (See, for example, our interview with him here.)
Today we feature chapter 34 of his book, Selected Shorter Writings, vol.1, in which he shares a few details about his life and work. Many thanks to P&R for their kind permission to post this chapter.
“A Testimony” by John Frame
Note (July 25, 2012): I wrote this for a volume of testimonies by Christian alumni of Princeton University.
In my grade-school years, my parents were not regular churchgoers, but they took me to Sunday school at a nearby church. At first, I enjoyed Sunday school mainly for the opportunity to visit with my friends and to play pranks on the teachers. The church found it nearly impossible to find teachers willing to take the boys’ class. Nevertheless, I took a church-membership class at around the age of eleven or twelve and joined the church. I understood most of the doctrinal teaching, but was still a pagan at heart. Around thirteen or fourteen, however, God confronted me. Through the youth ministry (which clearly set forth the gospel) and the music ministry (which drove it into my heart), God led me to confess from the heart that I had greatly offended him and to receive Jesus’ sacrifice on the cross as my only hope and comfort.
Through junior high and high school I grew in my knowledge of Scripture and doctrine, and I learned to bring a witness to friends. But by my senior year I had settled into a kind of relativism. Troubled by Bible difficulties, I took the easy way out, regarding the Bible as a mere collection of symbols. After graduation, I spent the summer traveling through the country with some friends. We attended church only about twice the whole summer.
When I arrived at Princeton, however, I wanted to renew my relation to God, and so I visited a number of religious meetings and organizations. The one that captured my attention was the Princeton Evangelical Fellowship (PEF). That group focused on straight Bible teaching. We met twice a week with Dr. Donald Fullerton, and the students met for a daily prayer meeting in someone’s dorm room. We had conferences and learned to present the gospel on campus. PEF would have no part of my relativism. For them, God’s Word was true, and all of it must be believed. Jesus was the only way, the only truth, the only life. Despite all the secular campus influences on the other side, God enabled me to put aside all my sophisticated reservations and embrace Christ with all my heart and mind.
When I was a freshman, I probably would have been happier to find a group with more discussion, more student input. And I didn’t agree with everything that Dr. Fullerton taught. But God knew what I really needed. I needed his Word. I needed to be around people who took God at his word, who believed in prayer, who wanted to share Christ with their community and the world. By my senior year, I knew that God had led me to the right place.
I majored in philosophy, which is not what PEF would have preferred. But through PEF, and through the contrasting voices of the Princeton philosophy department, I was able to see that the Bible taught not only a way of salvation, but a distinctive worldview, different from those of non-Christian religions and of secular philosophers. I learned from the Bible that even our thought life must be brought captive to Christ (2 Cor. 10:5). Christ is Lord not only of our spiritual and moral life, but of every aspect of our existence (1 Cor. 10:31)—not only on Sunday, but on every day of the week.
That theme, the lordship of Christ over all things and over all aspects of human life, has been my great encouragement since Princeton days. I went on to Westminster Seminary, and to grad study in religion at Yale, and then returned to teach at Westminster in 1968. In 1980, I moved to California to help plant a new seminary near San Diego, and in 2000 I took a position with Reformed Theological Seminary in Orlando, Florida. God has enabled me to publish a number of books and articles through this time. My series of larger books is called A Theology of Lordship, in which I have tried to show how Jesus Christ is Lord of our thinking (epistemology), of our theological method, and of our ethical choices.
I married Mary Grace in 1984, and we have five children. In California, she homeschooled our kids while ministering (with only occasional help from me) to homeless people and prisoners. She modeled, and still models, for me a level of discipleship beyond what I have attained. So God continues to challenge me to understand his lordship in deeper ways and in more dimensions. It has been a rich and wonderful journey.
I’ve had some major ups and downs in my life over the years, including periods of disappointment with God. But his Word and Spirit have prevailed—both for me and against me. His promises have proved true. I remain grateful for the things he taught me during my Princeton years, and I seek to continue in the directions in which he led me then.
I’m continually amazed at how events in our lives that seem to make no sense at the time turn out in the long run to form a pattern in which we can discern God’s hand. The decisions I’ve made have not always been the right ones. Yet God has overruled and has used even my worst decisions to bring me to new levels of fellowship with himself. So I encourage my younger readers, including Princeton students, to look to the long term, for our God is the God of all history, and he sees the end from the beginning (Isa. 46:9–10).
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