by John M. Frame
[This article is taken from The Practical Calvinist: An Introduction to the Presbyterian and Reformed Heritage (ISBN 1-85792-814-8) ed. Peter A. Lillback, which is published in the Mentor imprint of Christian Focus Publications (www.christianfocus.com) and is used with their kind permission.]
Newly arrived on the Westminster faculty in 1968, I was asked to teach the systematic theology course Doctrine of God (“Theology Proper”) that Clair had taught the year before. I asked if he had any advice for a green theologian. He mused to the effect that the Doctrine of God is a strange locus; everything in it could as easily be taught somewhere else in the curriculum. That comment shook up my thinking. Yes, Clair was right: Predestination can be taught under soteriology, rather than theology proper. The acts of God, miracle, providence, and creation, are as much biblical theology as systematic theology. The persons of the Trinity can be discussed under Christology and Pneumatology. The attributes of God can be discussed in connection with his mighty acts; for in Scripture it is God’s mighty acts that move people to speak (in praise) of his attributes. So I have come to present the Doctrine of God from many angles, “multi-perspectivally,” as we say.
I never had Clair as a teacher, but many times his seemingly off-hand (actually well-thought-out) observations have pushed me out of my comfort zone, perhaps even more so since my departure from Philadelphia. His views of theological and denominational traditions, the relation of the Reformed faith to Evangelicalism, and the primacy of evangelism, have been especially formative. I mention Clair often as a church historian who is not locked into traditionalist ways of thinking, but who mines our tradition for new possibilities of Christian life and witness. And Clair has humbled me often by his preaching and godly example. May the Lord continue richly to bless his study and witness!