Nine Characteristics of the Escondido Theology, Summarized by John Frame

In addition to the 32 bullet-points in the “Author’s Preface” of his book The Escondido Theology: A Reformed Response to Two Kingdom Theology, John Frame spends the first chapter of his book explaining “the history and rationale that explain these controversial statements” (1). The rest of the book then brings to light specific instances of those teachings in the writings of the Escondido theologians. At the conclusion of the first chapter, titled “What is the Escondido Theology?”, Frame summarizes the characteristics of this movement. Here are his nine summary statements:

1. As strict separation between law and gospel;

2. A radicalization of the Reformation two-kingdoms view, leading to separation of church and culture, and church and state, so that it is wrong for believers to seek changes in society;

3. A rejection of any focus on human subjectivity;

4. A rejection of the social views of Kuyper, Old Princeton, and Van Til;

5. A radical confessionalism;

6. The exclusiveness of redemptive-historical preaching;

7. The limitation of our worship and fellowship with God to the worship services of the church;

8. A prohibition of all attempts at “relevance”; and

9. The view that all these distinctives are tests of Reformed orthodoxy.

Though Westminster Seminary California and her Escondido theologians “do not wish to engage in a protracted discussion of these things with John” and have concluded that John’s work “is so replete with caricatures, misrepresentations, and straw opponents that a healthy debate on important issues is aborted at the outset,” many others would like to know what the intended meaning is of the thousands of quotations Frame engages with in his book. If John’s work is caricatures, misrepresentations, and straw opponents, this work should be straightforward.

If you are unable to purchase the book, you can read three of the chapters which were originally published over a year ago on

Review of Michael Horton’s Christless Christianity: The Alternative Gospel of the American Churchpublished Oct. 20, 2009 (Chapter 2 in The Escondido Theology)

Review of David Van Drunen’s A Biblical Defense of Natural Law–published Jan. 9, 2010 (Chapter 4 in The Escondido Theology)

Review of R. Scott Clark’s Recovering the Reformed Confessions: Our Theology, Piety, and Practice–published Feb. 6, 2010 (Chapter 3 in The Escondido Theology)

3 thoughts on “Nine Characteristics of the Escondido Theology, Summarized by John Frame

  1. I have gone through about half the book, and to be honest, it painful. Frame repeatedly makes the assertion that the Escondido folks teach against relevancy, even going so far as to claim that Horton is against translating the Bible clearly. It is painfully obvious that Horton is against reducing the gospel message into something less than it is. It is relevant in its own way, which is of the upmost importance, but it is not reducible. To those that are perishing, the gospel is foolishness, no matter how charitably it is presented. It cannot nor should not be watered down in order to make it palatable – otherwise, the gospel is simply lost. I don’t think Frame disagrees with this, and I have no idea why he would go out of his way to critique something he agrees with. Frame critiques Horton for disallowing the Bible to be applied to life, which again, is simply a baffling criticism. Horton is against applying the Bible in ways that it is not meant to be applied, not against applying the Bible!!! Furthermore in this regard, Frame repeatedly stretches phrases in ways beyond what is intended, to the extent that he critiques many things that Horton would as well (and I know this, being a former student of Horton’s).

    Why would all the professors go out of their way to lie and advise the general public to read their books if in fact Frame had represented them correctly? Why not take them at their word as opposed to his? Please advise: I am not imputing ill motivation on Frame’s part. I am sure his motivation is good, I simply do not understand how he could have reached his conclusions.

    see Jason Stellman’s comments at his blog:

      • I am going to go ahead and assume at this point that you are not concerned about whether a response is written by anyone from WSC, approximately the same length as Frame’s book. I gave a legitimate response and clarification to a claim that Frame pervasively makes, especially concerning Horton. Stellman gives a similar response to Frame concerning the same charge. Your response does not even acknowledge whether Frame might be wrong in his understanding on the point raised, but you simply infered that several ministers and those who train ministers of the gospel are liars. Why would anyone waste their time trying to explain themselves if no matter what they say, they are accused of lying? As a general answer, you are right. We are all guilty of being selfish.  But that does not legitimate Frame’s claim whatsoever.

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