Reformed Systematic Theology
Joel Beeke and Paul Smalley
It feels hard to justify reading a new ST when you haven’t read Turretin or Bavinck or Vos – so I haven’t gone through this in depth! Nevertheless, the fact that this volume is available can only be a good thing. It’s the latest (after Reformed Preaching) in a plan by Beeke to publish much of the material from his lectures at PRTS. Those who’ve sat under Beeke say that it sounds like him, though it’s hard to know what influence a Baptist co-author will have (love you Walker!). There’s an interesting comment that the WCF was ’emended’ (ie corrected/improved!) by the congregationalists on its way to becoming the 1689 Baptist Confession! Being a Beeke book, it aims to be experiential – even including psalms (and hymns!) for the reader or their study group to sing in response to each chapter’s content. Being a Beeke book, it also uses the KJV.
The fact that the book joins a crowded marked has led to mixed reactions. Shane Lems says that this book overlaps with the content of previous ones by around 85%, and even if they do interact with some issues of the day such as Pentecostalism and Open Theism, he had the feeling that he’d read most of it before. On the other hand, Donald John Maclean (of Banner of Truth) states that of all the current candidates to be the ‘Berkhof of the future’, Beeke’s may be the most likely candidate.
Perhaps militating against it may be the length – around 1,200 pages, and this is volume 1 of 4! Its readability is an advantage, but a one volume version might have been more realistic to hand to lay people or study in something like a theology MET. Nevertheless, there are plenty of unofficial helps to those who are keen to jump in and read it – such as a facebook group, reading plan (for the ReadingPlan app) and podcast.
Beeke states fairly early on: ‘The most basic truth of theology is that there is a God and you are not him’. Plenty to meditate on even in that one sentence.
Thanks to Crossway for a complimentary copy of this book through their Beyond the Page review programme.