Minister's Blog

John Frame on death and dying

By Steve Jeffery, 22 Apr 2013

John Frame on death and dying

Some insights from John Frame's Doctrine of the Christian Life on the subject of death.

  • "The word that most fully summarizes the result of Adam's fall is death. This was God's threat in Genesis 2:17." (Frame, Christian Life, 684)
  • "Death, like life, is physical and spiritual. Physical death ends our participation in earthly life. Spiritual death (Eph. 2:5) is a loss of fellowship with God ... Spiritual death leads to eternal death, to permanent separation from God." (Frame, Christian Life, 685)
  • "The sixth commandment basically says that life and death are God's business ... we may not take life without his authorization. Rather, we must respect life because of our reverence for God." (Frame, Christian Life, p. 685)
  • "The Puritans saw, among other things, that 'a joyful heart is good medicine, but a crushed spirit dries up the bones' (Prov. 17:22). As modern medicine is discovering anew, cheerfulness has physical consequences. It promotes life. So the sixth commandment calls us, among other things, to be cheerful." (Frame, Christian Life, p. 686).
  • "The Hebrew verb ratsakh is translated 'murder' or 'kill'." (Frame, Christian Life, p. 686)
  • "The slayer is not released until the death of the High Priest ... only death can deal with death." (Frame, Christian Life, p. 686)
  • "Jesus also tells us to eliminate the causes that lead to loss of life." Cf. Mt 5:21-26 (Frame, Christian Life, p. 688-689)
  • "Murder begins in hate or anger." Lev 19:16-17; 1 Jn 3:15; Jas 1:20. "People who allow hostilities to fester, who don't try to overcome them, have violated the sixth commandment, because lack of reconciliation leads to death." (Frame, Christian Life, p. 689)
  • "When hate and anger are purged away, only love remains ... the sixth commandment mandates love." (Frame, Christian Life, p. 690)
  • Three senses of death: physical, spiritual, eternal (Frame, Christian Life, p. 732; cf. ch. 35)
  • "Human physical life begins in Genesis 2:7: God 'formed the man of dust from the ground and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life, and the man became a living creature.'" (Frame, Christian Life, p. 732). The language of "living creature" (nephesh hayyah or similar) is used elsewhere of "non-human living beings (Gen 6:17; 7:157:22; Acts 17:25; note especially Eccl. 3:19), but Adam is unique in his dramatic intimacy with God in Gen. 2:17. He alone receives breath (figuratively, of course) from God's own nostrils." (Frame, Christian Life, p. 732-733)
  • "Cessation of breathing is the usual criterion of physical death in Scripture." Helpfully supplemented by medical advances that clarify when and why the cessation of breathing becomes irreversible. (Frame, Christian Life, p. 733)
  • "The fact that a heart and other organs can be 'kept alive' indefinitely by artificial and other means despite brain death should not lead us to question in these cases whether the patient is truly death. Clearly a corpse does not become alive when we move its heart back and forth. A distinction must be drawn in these cases between natural and artificial sources of function." Another benefit of medical advances: to clarify this distinction. (Frame, Christian Life, p. 733-734)
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