A majority of complementarian evangelical scholars sympathetic to the eternal economic subordination of the Son (EES) returned to the orthodox position in 2016. (EES = though each member of the Trinity is equal in being [one nature or “ousia”], the Son is eternally subordinate to the Father in function. There are still a few pushback hangers-on to this potentially fatal theological error.
Let me state this clearly. The Father, Son and Spirit are eternally equal in power and glory and authority in every way. The Father has no more eternal authority than the Son or Spirit.
During the economy of redemption (beginning with his incarnation), the Son willingly subordinated himself to the Father’s will. This is called “economic” because it pertains only to a particular task at particular time. It is not an eternal reality in the Trinity. The Trinity can exist, and ordinarily does exist, without it. Had man never fallen, there would never have been the economic subordination of the Son.
The divine relation between the members of the Trinity is not patterned on human relations. The human son has a beginning. The divine Son did not. The human son submits to the authority of the father. The divine Son does not eternally submit to the authority of the Father, because, being equal in being, they have equal authority.
Please note this. Despite all protests, if you believe in the EES, even if you state that the Father and Son are equal in being, you’re talking nonsense — and embracing subordinationism. To be equal in being means the Father, Son, and Spirit are equally authoritative, and not subordinate one to the other.
Those who champion EES to buttress the subordination of the wife to her husband are just as wrong as the egalitarians who hold that man and woman are equal in relation since the members of the Trinity are equal in relation.
The error of both is in assuming that the ontological Trinity is a pattern for human relationships. But there is nothing in creation that corresponds to the ontological Trinity. To say that there is undermines the Creator-creature distinction and is potentially catastrophic.
The Bible teaches what we nowadays call complementarianism. But don’t monkey around with the orthodox Trinity in order to support that view.
A famous quote attributed to Martin Lutheris: “If I profess, with the loudest voice and the clearest exposition, every portion of the truth of God except precisely that little point which the world and the devil are at that moment attacking, I am not confessing Christ, however boldly I may be professing Christianity. Where the battle rages the loyalty of the soldier is proved; and to be steady on all the battle-field besides is mere flight and disgrace to him if he flinches at that one point.”
Actually, the quote is by Elizabeth Rundle Charles appearing in her TheChronicles of the Schoenberg Cotta Family, and about Luther. It does, however, reflect Luther’s oft-repeated sentiment.
In the great battles for the souls of men and the world, a certain species of Christian leader specializes in taking a bold, boisterous, public stand on issues that aren’t under attack. These leaders exit the actual battlefield to create sandbox battles, sometimes convincing the naïve, and perhaps even themselves, that they’re faithful warriors. They’re not. They’re irrelevant.
Since March 2020, the “point[s] which the world and the devil are at [this] moment attacking” are political liberty in the culture, and gospel truth in the church. The draconian and suffocating executive political edicts issued in response to COVID-19, notably in the form of “shelter at home” (euphemism for virtual house arrest), antisocial distancing, and mandatory masking haven’t only ravaged jobs and livelihoods and wrecked the economy. They’ve gutted public Christian worship and transformed many churches into non-churches — what were once churches are now religious Zoom collectives. It is statist ideology adapted to the institution-formerly-known-as-church.
Following quickly in its wake were the protests and terrorism and monument toppling, allegedly in response to the unconscionable killing of George Floyd. In actuality, this tragic event permitted Cultural Marxists, mostly in the form of Black Lives Matter, to invent a rationale for an assault on the United States and Christian culture.
Likely more troubling than this social anarchy has been the capitulation of thousands of conservative churches to “wokeness,” supporting the new racism in the church: white Christians bowing and kneeling (idolatrously?) before black Christians in confession for other people’s sins, actual or imaginary, and shifting the conservative church into social Leftism. What Communism couldn’t accomplish in a century, “white guilt” pulled off in three months.
While all this was going on, some of the great bastions of orthodoxy were manning the bulwarks of the covenant of works, two-kingdom theology, and the rise of the latest iteration of the Middle East Antichrist. While not unimportant, error on these topics is far from posing the danger to both society and church that ideological statism and Cultural Marxism do. Fixating on the former doctrines while the latter poison the commonwealth as well as Christ’s body exhibits a battle-avoiding irrelevance that might deceive the naïve but that disgusts the perceptive.
A chief culprit in this irrelevance is theological hyper-specificity. We’ve all heard of the proverbial medieval scholastic debates over how many angels can dance on a pin’s head, but debates today can be no less trivial. Debates over the sign gifts (tongues and healing), water baptism, church government, the sacraments or ordinances, Bible translations, and election and predestination are occasionally worth having, but they don’t touch on the heart of the once-and-definitively-delivered Faith one way or another.
Truly trivial, however, are the silly arguments over infralapsarianism, supralapsarianism, or sublapsarianism; the ordo salutis; and the immediate or mediate imputation of Original Sin (if you don’t know what these are, you don’t need to know).
While many truths revealed in the Bible are implicit and need to be drawn out by careful prayer, study, and reasoning (like the orthodox Trinity), some theological arguments catapulted to top-agenda items are simply speculative. Somebody once asked an older theologian friend of mine his view on the lapsarianism controversy (infra-, supra-, or sub- ?).
He responded, “Why should I have a view when God doesn’t?” If the Bible doesn’t address certain topics that might interest us, it might be because we don’t need to spend a lot of time thinking about them. And thinking about them when we should be thinking about topics burningly relevant to church and culture is positively dangerous.
Theology Without Christian Worldview
Finally, many Christians assume theology will suffice to equip one for life in this world. But it won’t. It’s necessary, but not sufficient. Theology needs to be incorporated into a Christian world-and-life view. This is an entire outlook generated by a heart for God, a life immersed in the Bible, and a mind cultivated in Christian philosophy — a God-oriented knowledge in all things, not just theology.
About three decades ago a great push emerged for a recovery of the early ecumenical creeds and especially the Reformation confessions during that time of doctrinal flimsiness. This was a timely call, and many churches and ministries correctly reoriented themselves to these powerful doctrinal statements. I myself was a part of this movement, and I make no apology for it.
But we’ve now learned that the historic confessions won’t save us. This is evidenced in that a surprising number of these “confessional” churches have capitulated to “wokeness,” Leftist “social justice,” Black Lives Matter, socialist economics, feminist ideology, and routinized same-sex “attraction.”
While they formally affirm confessionalism, what they lack is a comprehensive Christian world-and-life view. This, and not merely a reaffirmation of confessionalism, is the desperate need of the hour.
Theology – Christian worldview = cultural irrelevance.
Theological hyper-specificity and theology without Christian worldview are two hazards leading to irrelevance during the great battles of the time. Our calling is to fight where the “battle rages,” where “the loyalty of the soldier is proved, and to be steady on all the battle-field.”
Ours is an age of specialization. This is particularly true of vocation. At one time, “doctor” denoted an expert in general medicine; he was called a GP, General Practitioner. Some simply called him “The family doctor.” Today it seems as though GP’s are few and specialists are many: podiatrists, cardiologists, oncologists, ophthalmologists, neurosurgeons, osteopaths, anesthesiologists, hematologists and scores more. The same is true of law. The wide-ranging expert in law is hard to find. Instead, we have tax attorneys, trial attorneys, estate attorneys, criminal attorneys, bankruptcy attorneys, immigration attorneys and many else besides. Specialization might be most prominent in academia. There are so academic specialties today that attempting to catalog even many would severely understate the number. As much as we might complain about overspecialization, we benefit from it and wouldn’t want to return to the days of generalizers. After all, we wouldn’t want a podiatrist operating on our brain, or an immigration attorney representing us in court on charges of tax evasion, or a Latinist teaching us engineering. Although generalists, with their bird’s-eye-view of the landscape, are necessary, specialists have their place.
What is theology?
They have their place in theology. Theology literally means “the study of God.” In one sense, everybody is a theologian, even a professed atheist, because every person has a view of and interest in God. But when we use the term theology, we usually denote an intentional, systematic investigation of God and his revelation. Theology defined in this way invites specialization. Traditionally those specialties have included natural theology (the study of nature as God’s creation), biblical theology (the study of the progressive unfolding of truth in the Bible), systematic theology (the arrangement of biblical teaching under prominent thematic heads), historical theology (the study of what Christians believed at various times during church history), and pastoral (or practical) theology (what the Bible says about day-to-day individual and church life). These specializations include their own divisions: biblical theology is often divided into Old and New Testament theology. Systematic theology includes soteriology (doctrine of salvation), ecclesiology (doctrine of the church), and eschatology (doctrine of the last things). Historical theology consists of various eras: patristic theology, medieval theology, Reformation theology, and modern theology. Pastoral theology may divide into spiritual formation, prayer, church growth, spiritual leadership, and similar topics. All of these are theological specialties. Like doctors and attorneys, theologians generally [!] specialize. Thomas Aquinas is perhaps best known as a proponent of natural theology. Karl Barth was a systematic theologian. Jaroslav Pelikan was a historical theologian. Charles Swindoll is a pastoral theologian. Theologians specialize within their specialties. Karl Barth specialized in revelation. J. N. D. Kelley, a historical theologian, focused on patristics. John Walvoord, a systematic theologian, devoted his attention to eschatology. Theology is such a wide field that it’s impossible for any one theologian to master all of it — not even towering theologians like Augustine, Aquinas, Calvin or Barth.
What is cultural theology?
An emerging specialty in theology is cultural theology. It is defined as the study of what God’s full revelation teaches about culture and applying that teaching to pressing cultural issues. Because the issues of our time have become specialized, the study of revelation must include a special(ized) concern for culture. Of course, culture has been around as long as man has, and therefore cultural theology is not a specialty whose need has only recently evolved. However, dramatic developments of culture in modern times (in, for example, ideology, technology, jurisprudence, medicine, economics, and the arts) press serious Christians for a coherent grasp of godly truth to address and govern them. For instance, what does God’s revelation have to say to the political views known as socialism, liberalism, conservatism, or libertarianism? Or ideologies like Marxism, feminism, Islamism, transgenderism, and white privilege? What about new technologies like stem-cell research, genetic manipulation, cloning, transhumanism, and surrogate motherhood? Consider theories of law: originalism, progressivism, sociological law, utilitarian law, and natural law. These developments, contemporary or traditional, and many others require a distinctly Christian evaluation. After all, Christians must glorify God, whether eating or drinking or in doing whatever else they do (1 Cor. 10:31) — including how to vote in a political election, whether to support contraception or same-sex marriage, and which movies and TV programs to watch. Christian painters and architects must know which art and architecture glorifies God. Christian code-writers should consider how their Faith should shape computer technology. Christian business owners and salespersons should know God’s law as it pertains to business exchanges and selling products and services. Cultural theology is not, therefore, limited to intellectual fields like scholarship and ideology. It also must deal with ordinary, tactile culture as we encounter it in our daily lives.
What is God’s revelation?
I have been using the expression “God’s revelation,” “revelation,” and “God’s law,” and it’s imperative to specify what I mean. After all, if God’s revelation and law is the source of our knowledge about how to apply truth to culture, we need to know where to find it. We find it in three places: creation (Rom. 1:20), Jesus Christ (Heb. 1:1–3), and the Bible (2 Tim. 3:16–17). These are not three revelations, but a single revelation in three forms: they work together, and they may not be isolated from one another. For example, the Bible is not a catalog of moral religious truths that may be severed from Jesus Christ’s atoning death and victorious resurrection. Nor is creation designed to be isolated from Jesus and the Bible (“natural theology” or “natural law”). Nor may Jesus Christ be sequestered from the Bible, from which alone we can infallibly learn about him. The Bible occupies a priority in this triad, not because it is inherently more important than creation or Jesus Christ, but because it is the only source of objective, infallible knowledge of the other two. We can learn powerful truths from creation (Ps. 19:1–6), but not the truths of salvation and many specifics of morality. We can know of the historic person of Jesus Christ apart from the Bible, but almost nothing else authoritative about him. Jesus Christ is more important than the Bible (he saves us from our sins; the Bible can’t), but the Bible holds a certain priority in revelation.
Since the Bible was written many centuries ago and most of the modern cultural topics had not yet appeared, it obviously doesn’t (and couldn’t) address most of these topics explicitly; but it does address them implicitly. Cornelius Van Til wrote:
The Bible is thought of as authoritative on everything of which it speaks. Moreover, it speaks of everything. We do not mean that it speaks of football games, of atoms, etc., directly, but we do mean that it speaks of everything either directly or by implication. It tells us not only of the Christ and his work, but it also tells us who God is and where the universe about us has come from. It tells us about theism as well as about Christianity. It gives us a philosophy of history as well as history. Moreover, the information on these subjects is woven into an inextricable whole. It is only if you reject the Bible as the word of God that you can separate the so-called religious and moral instruction of the Bible from what it says, e.g., about the physical universe.
The Bible is the revelatory light in terms of which we — and everybody — should see and interpret all of life.
Is the Bible designed to govern all of life?
Behind cultural theology is the rock-solid conviction that the Christian Faith is designed to shape (and reshape) all of human life. This conviction is rooted in what has been called the cultural mandate. God created man to create culture for his glory. Adam and Eve weren’t created merely to fellowship with God. They were also created to exert godly dominion over the rest of creation, to serve as God’s stewards, his “deputy governors,” in J. I. Packer’s words, over the earth. They were his royal representatives, mediating God’s will to the rest of creation. We read in Genesis 1:26 — “Then God said, ‘Let Us make man in Our image, according to Our likeness; let them have dominion . . . .’”
Dominion (stewardship) over creation is man’s and woman’s chief earthly calling. Man’s basic calling is to glorify God and enjoy him forever (in the words of the Westminster Shorter Catechism), but his chief calling as regards the earth is to subdue it for God’s glory.
Man interacts with God’s creation to lovingly impose God’s prescriptive will on it. Man isn’t called to leave creation as it is. He interacts with creation, adding his God-given creativity and ingenuity to improve it. This means that although creation as it came from God’s hand was “very good” (Gen. 1:31), it wasn’t everything God intended it to be. In short, creation isn’t sufficient; God wants culture, too. Just as man was to grow and mature in devotion and obedience to God, so creation itself was to grow and mature under man’s guidance. God didn’t create fruit trees simply for man to admire the fruit; the fruit (from all but one tree) was to be eaten. Horses weren’t simply to be contemplated; they were to be used for human transport. Water wasn’t to be merely marveled over; it was to be used for consumption and cleaning and bathing. That is, the creation, including man himself, wasn’t to be static, but dynamic.
The cultural mandate is a pre-Fall (or creational) ordinance. Did God rescind the cultural mandate after the Fall? By no means. In Genesis 9:1–4, after the universal Flood, God re-stated to Noah the mandate he first gave in Eden. Sin did, however, introduce two modifications. First, because of sin, man would suffer from the hardships posed by a creation under the curse. Man’s work would be tiresome; woman’s childbearing would be painful (Gen. 3:16–19). The cultural mandate would be hard work.
Cultural theology shows Christians how to think and act in this way: culturally, not just individually or familially or ecclesiastically. With a passionate commitment to the Lord Jesus Christ in the Holy Spirit’s power, it investigates both creation and the Bible (as a united revelation) to determine how man and woman are to progressively align contemporary culture to God’s will.
To advocate cultural theology is not the same as suggesting that theology must “attempt to relate [God’s] word to a particular age and cultural milieu.” It doesn’t, for example, merely answer questions like, “How do we explain substitutionary atonement in our highly individualistic and democratic world?” or, “How must we speak so modern man can grasp salvation by grace, since our culture is performance-based?” The task of cultural theology isn’t just to “relate [God’s] word to a particular age and cultural milieu,” but also to relate God’s word to a particular age and cultural milieu on specifically cultural topics. Cultural theology presupposes that the Bible is designed to offer truth and guidance in all areas of life.
This is particularly the case with biblical law: God’s ethical imperatives. The Bible is God’s word, and it’s not God’s word only in matters pertaining to church and prayer and evangelism. The fact is that the Bible has a remarkable lot to say about cultural matters, including instructions about such matters. There are so many, in fact, that one would almost seem to have to work intentionally to miss them. God’s law covers cultural topics as diverse as food, cooking, clothing, personal cleanliness, politics, education, farming, building, music, jurisprudence, money, economics, warfare, health, marriage, crime, penology, abortion, homosexuality, substance abuse, and much, much more.
The problem isn’t that the Bible is silent on cultural topics. The problem is that many Christians “read around” these topics or simply ignore them or find them insignificant. Nor does the fact that the New Testament cancels some of the Old Testament laws (like the sacrificial system and dietary laws) invalidate my point. That point is that the Bible is quite interested in cultural topics; it lays down laws about many of these topics; and we can’t simply dismiss this entire category out of hand.
If God’s word is binding, it’s binding in all that it says, not simply in “spiritual,” heavenly or non-cultural topics. “This book [the Bible], writes Meeter, “therefore, besides teaching us the way of salvation, provides us with the principles which must govern the whole of our life, including our thinking as well as our moral conduct. Not only science and art, but our home-life, our business, our social and political problems must be viewed and solved in the light of Scriptural truth and fall under its direction.”
This doesn’t mean that the Bible is intended to furnish an exhaustive supply of cultural knowledge. It doesn’t tell us the value of pi, the duration of the Ottoman Empire, the recipe for apricot jam, the formula for carbon monoxide, or the details of human DNA. But it does establish the basic principles in terms of which all of these cultural topics and all others must be understood, and it does lay down God’s law on many specific cultural topics. Recent examples of cultural theology include Peter Jones on paganism, Nigel M. de S. Cameron on medicine and biotechnology, Brian G. Mattson on politics, Stephen C. Perks on education, Very S. Poythress on science, and John R. Schneider on economics. John M. Frame; Walter C. Kaiser, Jr.; and R. J. Rushdoony have shown how the Bible speaks an authoritative word to a myriad of cultural issues. Joseph Boot has offered a paradigm for this cultural mandate mission in the world.
Is theology primarily for the church?
This means that theology cannot be limited to the church. Some theologians are ecclesiastical or confessional theologians: they are called to provide doctrinal direction to their particular church or denomination, and often to explain and defend that ecclesiastical tradition: Lutheran theology, Baptist theology, Roman Catholic theology, Presbyterian theology, and so on. But if man must live not by bread alone, but by every word that proceeds from God’s mouth (Matt. 4:4), the entire Bible must govern our lives in their entirety. And if we must glorify God in all that we do (1 Cor. 10:31), we must take God’s word as a lamp to our feet and light to our path (Ps. 119:105) — not just in our individual lives or families or churches, but in our eating and voting and sexual and exercise and spending habits and, more broadly, in economics and technology and theater and movies and education and science and music. The Bible is designed to govern our entire lives, and culture in its entirety. Theology is essential to the life of the church, but must not be limited to the church.
This is not to suggest, however, that cultural theology is uninterested in the church. For starters, cultural theology shows the church the doctrines and ideas she has embraced that have caused her to fail in applying the faith in culture. In addition, it teaches the church cultural truths found in the Bible by which she should exercise the cultural mandate. These are biblical ways to help make the church truly “culturally relevant,” rather than finding ways that the church can ape the culture to attract attendees, which is what church relevance is often thought to entail these days.
Is theology privileged?
When we speak this way, we seem to be veering far away from the concerns of traditional theology. If you pick up almost any textbook on systematic theology, you’ll not see biblical teaching categorized according to economics, education, music, psychology, and technology. This is because these topics, while addressed by the Bible explicitly or implicitly, are not categories most theologians believe most important. Theologians define what the theological categories are. And cultural categories are not deemed most important theologically.
This brings up a vital though perhaps jarring distinction: if man’s chief earthly calling is the cultural mandate, and if the Bible provides the truths in terms of which he must fulfill that mandate, theology as it has been traditionally understood is not the central use of the Bible. Theology is a theoretical science, not unlike biology, mathematics, and language arts. It is man’s attempt to arrange the “data” (biblical revelation) into a systematic, topical order, just as biologists do with their data, i.e., living things. Both of these theoretical sciences are necessary, one dealing with biblical revelation, and one dealing with creational revelation, but are subsets of more fundamental use of the Bible. That use is to fulfill the cultural mandate before the face of the God whom we worship. Systematic theology is one necessary way of doing that, but so is discovering the biblical view of animal treatment, economic market mechanisms, musical beauty, and space travel. These are not somehow less significant or less “theological” than how sin entered the world, how the divine and human natures of Jesus Christ relate, and when Christians might expect the Second Advent. They only seem less important because Christianity has assumed that individual salvation rather than a more comprehensive cultural redemption (of which individual salvation is a central part) is what the Bible is all about.
Is philosophy necessary?
One barrier to many intelligent Christians’ considering a biblical application to culture is that they consider this concern the province of philosophy, not theology. After all, philosophy is defined as “rationally critical thinking, of a more or less systematic kind about the general nature of the world (metaphysics or theory of existence), the justification of belief (epistemology or theory of knowledge), and the conduct of life (ethics or theory of value).” Philosophy deals thoughtfully with the broad issues of life, while theology is limited to specific leading themes of the Bible. Historically, Christians have usually considered the Bible (or nature) the source of knowledge for theology, while allowing common, universal reason to be the source for philosophy. Put bluntly, this meant that theology was to be Christian and philosophy a- or non-Christian. Theology was churchly and philosophy was worldly. This also meant that the broad views of culture were not treated in a distinctly Christian way, because they weren’t deemed as significant as theological topics.
Yet it is precisely because what we term philosophy is so broad that a Christian philosophy must inform Christian theology. As Gordon J. Spykman asserts:
[T]heology finds its place within the larger contours of a biblical worldview explicated in a Christian philosophy…. The fundamental premise of this Christian philosophy lies in its commitment to the biblical teaching that all of reality is so ordered by the creative work of God that his Word stands forever as the sovereign, dynamic, redeeming law for all of life. 
If the Bible is designed for all of life, then thinking about all of life in a biblical way is Christian philosophy. In fact, this is just what a Christian or biblical worldview is. If we include cultural theology in what has traditionally been known as philosophy, we can say that philosophy and theology are virtually identical.
In this way, Christian philosophy/theology (which is what cultural theology actually is, a biblical worldview) is our guide for thinking and living in this world. It fulfilled precisely this role among the faithful in the eras covered by biblical history. God created Adam and Eve to think and act in God-honoring ways in a lush, sinless environment, communing with him and stewarding the rest of creation for his glory. After God’s Flood of judgment wiped out nearly the entire human civilization, God repeated the cultural mandate to the godly man Noah, who walked with the Lord God. God soon elected one man, Abram, to father an entire godly race to reside in a specific track of land and act according to his comprehensive word. From this race was to rise the Messiah, God’s anointed One, who would sacrifice his life for the sins of humanity and rise from the dead in great victory to assume his heavenly throne over which he presently rules the earth. Christians, redeemed from their sins by the blood of the Lamb and restored to their status as culture reclaimers, live all of life for God’s glory and, despite great trials and hardships, move forward in great faith, expecting extensive victory in this world. They work faithfully on God’s good earth and anticipate the day when God himself will descend to a renovated and resurrected earth (2 Pet. 3:10–13; Rev. 21:1–7) and dwell eternally with humanity. This will truly be heaven on earth, what God has always intended. Cultural theology is the Christian attempt to provide guidance for this comprehensive historical odyssey.
Cultural theology is the theological project of the Center for Cultural Leadership. The most urgent need of our time is not a revival and restoration of denominational distinctives or an ecclesiastical theology that leaves the culture untouched. It is not simply Christian theology and Christ’s church that are under satanic assault today but the very foundations of our society and even the cosmos itself (to attempt to erase sexual distinctions is to war on the God-created cosmos). H. Even Runner’s words first uttered nearly 50 years ago are even more germane today:
Yet Christianity, in spite of much of the apparent history of the movement, is not a matter merely of devoting a certain part of our life to some or other church institutions or of our giving our assent to this or that more or less orderly body of theological judgments. To be Christian is to live whole human lives in this creation of God’s by the light of God’s word and with the aid of his Spirit. The most fundamental and urgent battle of our time is not to be thought of in the first place as one for the preservation of some familiar and accepted church organization or of some system of theological propositions — though both of these may have their subordinate importance. The struggle of our time goes much deeper: it is a struggle for the religious direction of human society in its totality. The battle of our time is to determine which spirit is to possess our hearts and give direction to our civilization …. Even to preserve the organized churches and whatever of theology may be dear to us we shall have to fight for a more integral Christian faith to sense the religious unity of man’s life in the world, or there will follow the last remaining steps, almost imperceptible in their advance, to a thoroughly secular way of life in which there is no place for the Good Shepherd’s voice. It is not possible in the twentieth [and now twenty-first, PAS] century for Christians to make a good confession only within the secure shadows of the institutional church.
Cultural theology is committed just to this comprehensive program. It is calculated to foster the godly “religious direction of human society in its totality.” Anything less is destined to defeat.
 Two excellent introductions to the definition and classifications of theology are Millard Erickson, Christian Theology (Grand Rapids: Baker, 1983), 1:17–37 and John M. Frame, Systematic Theology (Phillipsburg, New Jersey: P & R Publishing, 2013), 3–12.
 It might be assumed that cultural theology is a species of systematic theology, but since the sorts of topics that the former addresses have never been of great interest to the latter, this identity is incorrect.
 Neo-orthodox theologian Rudolph Bultmann “demythologized” the Bible to give us a Jesus that moderns could encounter without the burden of the ancient world picture of the Bible. See his “On the Problem of Demythologizing,” New Testament Issues, Richard Batey, ed. (New York and Evanston; Harper & Row, 1970), 35–44.
 Cornelius Van Til, The Defense of the Faith (Phillipsburg, New Jersey: Presbyterian and Reformed, 1967 edition), 8, emphasis in original.
 Nigel M. de S. Cameron, “Christian Vision for the Biotech Century: Toward a Strategy,” in Human Dignity in the Biotech Century, Charles W. Colson and Nigel M. de S. Cameron, eds. (Downers Grove: InterVarsity, 2004), 21–39.
 John M. Frame reminds us that we might easily fall into the trap of assuming that the Bible is not quite in “good working order” and that theology is necessary to correct that “problem” by arranging a more systematic revelation. See his The Doctrine of the Knowledge of God (Phillipsburg, New Jersey: Presbyterian and Reformed, 1987), 77–81.
 In the medieval world, this did not mean that philosophy was to be atheistic. It did mean that it was thought it could glorify God without being Christian. See Herman Dooyeweerd, Roots of Western Culture (Ancaster, Ontario, Canada: Paideia Press, 2012), 111–137.
I’m not going to interact with the substance of Robert Godfrey’s and Mike Horton’s breezy responses to John Frame’s The Escondido Theology(just as they didn’t interact with the substance of Frame’s book), but I can’t pass up a “teaching moment” (as we say these days) to those onlookers who might want to learn a thing or two about scholarship — and substandard scholarship.
First, read this from Godfrey, the main point of his response to Frame:
Perhaps the simplest way to do that [“set the record straight”] is to refer to the thirty-two bullet points with which John has summarized our views at the beginning of the book (pp. xxxvii-xxxix). He introduces these bullet points by claiming: “Below are some assertions typical of, and widely accepted among, Escondido theologians. Not all of them make all of these assertions, but all of them regard them with some sympathy” (p,xxxvii). In response all of us on the WSC faculty wish to state clearly that we reject all of these thirty-two points as a fair or accurate presentation of our views…. In relation to most of John’s bullet points we believe and teach the very opposite of what is attributed to us.
Similarly, Horton writes:
Do not assume that if you’ve read The Escondido Theology you actually have any grasp of what I or any of us [sic] teach at Westminster Seminary California.
Frame’s book is comprised almost entirely of extensive and intensive book reviews from current Westminster Seminary California (WSC) faculty. They are not PR notices (like Godfrey’s presidential response) nor are they a list of disputed categories with sprinkled comments (like Horton’s response). They are weighty, analytical, documented book reviews. They take the authors’ leading arguments seriously and critically interact with those arguments. They agree with the authors on some points and disagree on other points. In other words, they are standard, scholarly book reviews.
Now consider what Godfrey is saying in his response to these reviews. A scholar and former long-standing faculty member interacts critically and analytically with prime works by the leading members of the WSC faculty, and that reviewer manages not only to unfairly or inaccurately depict every single one of thirty-two of their positions, but manages in addition, to portray their views as “the very opposite” of what they believe. In Horton’s language, you wouldn’t “have any grasp of what I or any of us teach at Westminster Seminary California” (emphasis supplied).
What’s so Bizarre
If you’ll think about it, this defense borders on the bizarre. Most disagreeing responses to scholarly book reviews go something like this: “The reviewer understood most of my views, misunderstood others, and he is wrong in his opposition to my views, and here’s why; and his misunderstandings of certain of my views are irrelevant because I simply don’t hold those views.” That is a credible disagreeing rejoinder to book reviewers, and scholars do it all the time. If the author is humble and interested in getting at the truth, he might even say, “The reviewer make some good points, and I’ll re-think my views in light of them.”
Never in all my years (many years now) of reading authors’ responses to reviews of their books have I read, “The reviewer misunderstood or misinterpreted or unfairly or inaccurately characterized every single one of my views that he discussed.”
This line of reasoning has an air of unreality about it. If a reviewer unfairly or inaccurately characterizes every single position of the book(s) — a whopping thirty-two in this case, not two or three, which is not entirely uncommon, but thirty-two — there is something more than ordinary misunderstanding going on. The reviewer is either so dense that he cannot understand arguments, or he is deliberately twisting the book’s arguments. In commonsense parlance, “Two’s a coincidence, but three’s a trend.”
Please understand what Godfrey is saying: “John Frame, a Princeton- and Yale- (and Westminster- ) trained theologian-philosopher, founding and longtime faculty member at our very institution, author of massive tomes on systematics and all sorts of other topics (much more than any current WSC faculity member), widely recognized as a rigorous thinker steeped in the best of the analytical philosophical tradition that prizes clarity and analysis, has managed to unfairly or inaccurately characterize every single position of ours — count ’em, thirty-two — that he addressed.” Or Horton: “Do not assume that if you’ve read The Escondido Theology you actually have any grasp of what I or any of us teach at Westminster Seminary California.” Any grasp?
Now if this is the case, there are two — and only two — explanations: either Frame is dense — no scholar at all, in fact — or else he has intentionally mischaracterized the WSC views and is therefore an immoral liar. Frame is either stupid or sinister.
If any faculty at any credible college or university received a book by a prominent scholar at a sister institution reviewing five or six books of its leading scholars, and the faculty all said, with one voice, “He has unfairly or inaccurately characterized every single position of ours, making it appear that we teach the exact opposite of what we actually think, and you could not get any grasp of what we actually teach by reading these reviews” they’d be laughed right out of their mahogany paneled offices. It does not happen, and could not happen.
Except at Westminster Seminary in California.
Young scholars and students, let this be a lesson to you: if you ever have the fortune of having your book reviewed by a world-renowned scholar, and you don’t like what he says, don’t respond by saying, “He didn’t understand a thing I said, and he perverted everything I said into its very opposite.”
Not, at least, if you wish to be taken seriously.
But implicitly accusing reviewers of either massive ignorance or malevolent intent seems to be quite acceptable at WSC. That’s not the way actual scholars interact with one another in the real world.
I myself am no great scholar and never claimed to be. But I have read great scholarship for many years. I know scholarship when I see it.
Christian systematic theologies abound today, and the themes around which one may orient any theology are legion: Protestant, Roman Catholic, Baptist, Pentecostal, feminist, dispensationalist, Afro-American, liberation, liturgical, evangelical, Marxist, Asian, Indian, and on and on. On the basis of Biblical revelation, I thought it might be useful to list 10 traits of theology that should inspire us to be skeptical when we detect them.
Be skeptical of any theology that:
1. Situates the Person of Jesus Christ anywhere except at its absolute center (Col. 1:15-19; Heb. 1:3).
2. Prefers knowledge to love (1 Cor. 1:8; 13:8).
3. Assumes one can know doctrine without first obeying Christ (Jn. 7:17).
4. Produces cruel, pharisaic people (Mt. 7:1-20).
5. Pits personal revelation against propositional revelation (Jn. 1:1-3; 17:17)
6. Refuses to acknowledge its own sinful, finite, tentative, human character (Is. 55:8-9; Rom. 3:4)
7. Forbids any tradition to be judged by the written Word of God (Mt. 15:1-6)
8. Sees apologetics anywhere but in the Gospel (1 Jn. 5:6-10).
9. Draws people to the theologian or his theology rather than to Jesus Christ (1 Cor. 1:10-13).
10. Tries to win acceptance in the eyes of sophisticated unbelievers (1 Cor. 1:18-31).