John Frame’s email to Matt Slick
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Dr. John Frame’s Email received Aug. 26, 2005. Dr. Frame gave me permission to quote him. I underlined specific parts for emphasis
Always good to hear from you. Thanks for all the help you’ve given us via carm.
I think it’s possible for a regenerate person to have no conscious beliefs at all. WCF X, 3 says that infants can be saved, presumably without any profession at all. And it extends this provision also to all other elect persons who are incapable of being outwardly called by the ministry of the Word. I presume this is intended to cover severely disabled people et al., but there is no specific definition here.
I agree with WCF on this. Now in regard to non-infants, Scripture does require a profession of faith (Rom. 10:9-10
), but how detailed must this profession be?
The fundamental Christian profession is “Jesus is Lord” (Rom. 10
, 1 Cor. 12:3
, Phil. 2:11
). If someone professes Jesus’ Lordship with evidence of genuine understanding and lives a life consistent with this profession, I’m willing to welcome him as a brother.
Now if someone like this starts teaching heresy, the church must judge whether that is so serious that he should no longer be accepted as a brother. Normally, if someone professes the Lordship of Christ and then begins to study Scripture and theology, the Spirit will lead him to a fairly orthodox position. So if he diverges sharply from orthodoxy, the church may need to take action. I emphasize that this is the work of the church, not primarily of individual believers (though of course charges of heresy must begin with concerned individuals). But I would hesitate to break fellowship with anybody who is a member in good standing of a church I regard as true.
We all have ups and downs in our moral and theological development. In high school, I entertained all sorts of liberal ideas, universalism among them. But I never abandoned my trust in the Lordship of Christ, and I have no doubt that I was regenerate at the time. Theological error is no worse than any other sin. In the believer’s life it can happen, be repented of and forgiven.
Is it possible to be saved without knowing about the Resurrection of Christ? Sure. There were lots of Jewish believers in the first century who needed to be informed of the Resurrection by the apostolic proclamation. (Think of the people who “knew only the baptism of John.”) I’ve no reason to believe that they were all unregenerate before they knew that Jesus was risen. So today, there may be people in whose hearts God is working, who haven’t been taught the full truth about Christ. They may even profess that Christ is Lord, without knowing that the Resurrection is specifically physical. But when told in a godly way, they will eventually accept the truth.
So far we have been talking about what is possible to a regenerate person. It’s a different question to ask what sort of profession is acceptable for church membership. Here we must consider the age and mental ability of the person, also his teachableness. Certainly, if someone applied for membership in my church and went around teaching universalism
and a merely spiritual Resurrection, I would oppose his membership. I would oppose it all the more if such a person became a ministerial candidate.
Blessings in the Lord,
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