Hart’s Response To Frame’s Book, Escondido Theology
Darryl Hart has offered several responses to Frame’s book. The first response I’ll consider is one Hart titled, “More Than You Bargained For?” in which Hart responds to Frame’s comment: “They are also motivated by a desire to oppose what they regard as theological corruptions of the Reformation doctrine, particularly the views of N.T. Wright, Norman Shepherd, and the movement called Federal Vision.” Hart responds: “So I’m to imagine that using the law-gospel distinction in opposition to Shepherd, Wright, and the Federal Vision is extreme?” But this is a bizarre non sequitur. That is not what Frame wrote, nor is it a reasonable inference from what Frame wrote. Frame didn’t say or imply that merely using the law-gospel distinction in those disputes is “extreme.” Even if Frame thinks the use is extreme, one certainly cannot conclude from Frame’s line that he’s saying that such extremity is due to the fact of who is being opposed or the tool that is being used to oppose.
While there is a lot more copy in Darryl’s response, there is no other direct interaction with what Frame wrote.
That’s rather the same as what we find in the next response we will consider, one titled: “Authors, Editors, and Readers.” In this post, Hart quotes Frame thus:
Too often, in ethical debate, Christians sound too much like unbelievers. They reason as if they and their opponents are both operating on the same principle: human rational autonomy. I believe they almost inevitably give this false impression when they are reasoning according to natural law alone. Only when the Christian goes beyond natural law and begins to talk about Jesus as the resurrected king of kings does his witness become distinctively Christian. At that point, of course, he is reasoning from Scripture, not from natural revelation alone.
Then, after providing an example of a few paragraphs from Leithart where Leithart does not mention Christ or the Scriptures, Hart states:
Now, the additional point is not that Leithart is a hypocrite or that Frame is selective in the writers whom he throws under the Lordship of Christ bus. It is instead that authors write for editors and audiences and need to couch their language and arguments in terms acceptable to the editors and plausible to the readers. This isn’t a matter of the right apologetic method or a consistent epistemology. It is a case of either getting published or not, of being understood or not. If Leithart had come to the editors of First Things with arguments in a distinctively neo-Calvinist idiom, they would likely not have published him.
Perhaps that means that Christians should not write for religiously, epistemologically, or the-politically mixed publications. Indeed, it does seem that Frame’s arguments run directly in the fundamentalist direction of not having anything to do with associations where a believer might have to hide his faith under a bushel (NO!). But if Christian authors, even neo-Calvinist inclined ones, are going to write for publications not edited by Andrew Sandel or Ken Gentry or the faculty of Dort College, they may need to use rhetoric and arguments that are not pedal-to-the-metal Christian.
For this reason, I am surprised that John Frame can’t appreciate why 2k writers sound the way they do, or appeal to natural law arguments the way they do.
But Frame is not expressing merely a lack of appreciation, but disapproval. Hart’s response that unless Christians reason as if they are both operating on the same principle, they will not get published or not be successful in persuading their opponents in the ethical debate. For Hart, this pragmatic consideration trumps Frame’s proposed principled consideration. Hart provides no further justification for this trumping. Indeed his comments are telling: “This isn’t a matter of the right apologetic method or a consistent epistemology. It is a case of either getting published or not, of being understood or not.” Thus, for Hart, the pragmatic of being published/understood trumps the principle of correct apologetics and epistemology.