"Beeke and Smalley unashamedly desire theology to be practiced, and they make it clear through the doxological and practical layout of this book."
Disclaimer: I received a free copy of this book from the publisher in exchange for an honest review.
Systematic theology is important in helping us see what the Bible teaches on a particular topic or theme in scripture. Ranging from the existence of God to the coming of Christ, systematic theologies help us grasp the breadth of scripture as we wrestle with the meaning of specific passages and how they relate to our understanding of the doctrines of the Bible.
Joel Beeke and Paul Smalley’s Reformed Systematic Theology: Revelation and God is the first volume in an amazing corpus of systematic theology. It is accessible for every student of the Bible, especially pastors and teachers. While this is a new work, it is certainly not a novel one since Beeke draws widely and deeply from the wells of systematic theologians throughout history, especially those from the Reformed stream of Protestantism.
Beeke and Smalley’s introduction to theology is worth the price of the book. In this section, they lay out the importance of theology, what it is, why we do it, which theology we do, and how it’s done. Far from being dead orthodoxy, Reformed Systematic Theology is academic, spiritual, Christian, catholic (universal church), evangelical, and reformed (historically, confessionally, theologically, hermeneutically, polemically, and experientially). This funnel of doctrinal perspectives begins broad and narrows in on a rich history of theology which has benefited the church, especially Protestantism, for centuries.
The depth of knowledge in this work can’t be discussed at length in this short review, but what should be known is that Beeke and Smalley bring the wisdom of Scripture and witness of the church together to present theology in a richly rewarding way. Not only do they present scriptural passages and their interpretations as it relates to the various doctrines, but they also interact with objections to the biblical, orthodox, and historical understandings of the Bible. This is done in a humble and scholarly manner, leaving readers informed enough to wrestle with different perspectives without building weak, strawman arguments.
I deeply enjoy Joel Beeke’s preaching and writing because he is well-read and well-studied, yet his writing style is deep without being dry, and clear without being simplistic. As a lover of the Puritans and their writings, I also thoroughly enjoy the references to Puritan works as well as early church fathers, the Reformers, and modern systematic theologians. This breadth is enjoyable as it sheds enough light on historical thinking without becoming a historical theology and illuminates enough modern works to model and maintain the relevance needed to discuss the issues of today’s church.
As with much of what Beeke has done with his Family Worship Guide and Reformed Preaching, Reformed Systematic Theology features experiential theology. Each chapter of this book has songs for worship, questions for meditation and discussion, and questions for deeper reflection. Beeke and Smalley unashamedly desire theology to be practiced, and they make it clear through the doxological and practical layout of this book.
All in all, I thoroughly enjoy Reformed Systematic Theology: Revelation and God and look forward to the rest of the books in the series. Whether you’re a biblical scholar, pastor, or Christian who loves the Word of God, this is a great addition to your studies of theology. Lord willing, it will be one of my go-to systematic theologies for sermon prep, teaching, and deeper study of Scripture. It is obviously Reformed in its content, but don’t let this deter you from such a rich and valuable resource. It is a useful tool for the church.