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Charles Octavius Boothe (1845-1924) was a slave who was freed by the Emancipation Proclamation of 1865. He worked tirelessly to improve the plight of black people following the Civil War. He knew that one powerful way to do this was to plant churches and promote biblical literacy among those who had once been fed false teaching at the hands of their former slave masters.
Boothe cooperated with white Christians who worshiped with him to help advance black people and fight the oppression they still faced heavily following the Civil war. Though he is described as a “reluctant teacher”, Boothe wrote A Plain Theology for Plain People* to help the average sharecropper know the Word of God and the God of the Word.
He felt that theology ought to be studied but that it should be done with as much simplicity as possible. He knew of the many deep matters and theological conundrums that come from studying Scripture, but his aim in this work was to provide a simple theological framework for the people he ministered to.
This month, my goal is to briefly and simply walk through some of what Boothe taught. I highly recommend that you purchase a copy of the book and work through it slowly, prayerfully, and meditatively. It’s a short volume and perfect to read in small chunks throughout the month.
The purpose of these posts is to provide some brief thoughts and questions for meditation. If you find something thought-provoking, comment and start some dialogue. I look forward to working through A Plain Theology for Plain People with you this month.
God Revealed To Mankind
Knowing theology is necessary for knowing God. However, we must be humble in our search for knowledge about God because He “is found of the lowly, but hides himself from the proud and self-sufficient man.” We don’t master God when we come to the Word, we let God master us as we grapple with His Word.
Boothe opens with God’s revelation of Himself to humanity. God shows Himself in creation, providence, and prophecy.
God Revealed In Creation And Providence
In creation, we see evidence of God in the things created (Psalm 19:1-2, Romans 1:20). Boothe says, “A human track in a desert would be to me conclusive evidence that a human foot had trodden that desert. Thus Paul argues that the things which are seen and handled are proofs of the unseen things.”
In providence, we see God orchestrating events, both grand and small, for the good of His people and for His glory (Romans 8:28). It is true that “the vulgar will call it luck, unbelievers will call it chance, but deep down in each heart there remains the feeling that in verity there are more things in heaven and earth than are dreamed of in common philosophy.”
God Revealed in Scripture
In Scripture, God reveals Himself in 3 ways:
1. In harmony with His creation; We sense God in His creation and providence, and God tells us that He indeed created and upholds the world (Gen. 1:1, Jer. 10:23, John 1:1, Hebrews 1:3).
2. In the moral law; “This law demands that men shall worship God and love one another, neither of which principles have origin in the depraved nature of man. Hence the source of this law, like the works of creation, starts higher than the mind of man, and declares the presence of a heart that is pure and holy.”
3. In prophecy; When God prophesies events, they come to pass. For example, God prophesied Israel’s exile, their subsequent return home, and the devastation of Babylon. (Jer 29:10, Ezra 1:1-4, Isaiah 13:19-22). The grandest display of God's prophetic work pertains to Jesus:
“Whoever traces the development of this Christ-thought in the Bible, from Genesis 3:15, through all its forms, down to the manger at Bethlehem, and thence to the cross, through the tomb, and on to the ascension—whoever traces this idea, with humble purpose to be informed, must of necessity perceive that it is but the unfolding of an eternal purpose, involving not only all of man’s earthly history and mortal career, but having in view his interests in the world to come.”
How I’m the world can we see all of the Scriptures point to Jesus and not stand in awe of God grand design and divine mind?
That’s a lot of rich theology packed in only a few pages! However, Boothe’s logic is clear and his words are simple and biblical. We could probe the depths of Scripture and theology for the rest of our lives and never find everything. Yet, Boothe offers us a plain bit of theology to meditate on. Let it lead you to prayer and worship!
Share any thoughts or comments below!
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