The Doctrine of the Christian Life is the third volume of John Frame’s projected four-volume series A Theology of Lordship. The first two volumes, Doctrine of the Knowledge of God and Doctrine of God, have won lots of praise, and the same is certain to be true of Christian Life. This book is vintage Frame. He has the kind of mind that comes along once a generation, but is very adept at explaining complicated material for the average reader. His writing is actually interesting to read. But for me, his greatest gift is that he’s an amazingly careful scholar. What I mean is that he seeks to go exactly as far as Scripture goes-no more and no less. And he’s willing to buck even his own Reformed tradition where he believes that it goes beyond the requirements of Scripture.
Doctrine of the Christian Life is, broadly speaking, an ethics book. It’s the kind of ethics book a Christian philosopher writes, which means he starts by asking very broad questions about how we should approach ethical questions, on what authority they can be answered, and the like. He briefly addresses non-Christian ethics before outlining a Christian ethical methodology. In my favorite section of the book, he goes through the Ten Commandments in great detail, covering related topics and hot-button issues as they relate to the Commandments. He then has a section on Christ and Culture, and a brief conclusion on growing in spiritual maturity.
This book weighs in at just over 1000 pages, so for most readers it’s not the kind of work where you start at the beginning and work your way through (although the time would be well spent). Much of the introductory material also wouldn’t interest the average reader, although again, the effort would be richly rewarded. The sections on the Ten Commandments and Christians in culture are incredible-exactly the kind of thing you’d like to have on your shelf as a for a good Christian take on a given ethics topic. Frame is especially good on bioethics, the Sabbath, and sexuality. But I have yet to read a section that I don’t think is great.
Make no mistake, this is definitely a thinking-man’s guide to Christian ethics. But it’s also immensely practical, and a great resource for believers who want to have all their thinking shaped by Scripture.