Constructive Southern Baptist Systematic Theology

I don’t even know that this claim can be substantiated, but what are blogs for besides making unsubstantiated claims?

I think we need more constructive Southern Baptist systematic theologies from current Southern Baptist theologians.

To my knowledge, I can only think of either a) theologies of particular doctrines b) non-Southern Baptist baptistic STs or c) the anomaly that is “A Theology for the Church.”

NOTE: Yes we have many historical theologies (Garrett’s massive tome comes to mind) and some biblical theologies (e.g. Schreiner’s NT theology). I’m talking here specifically of systematic theologies, though.

As far as the first is concerned, they are good and helpful in many cases. I’m thinking specifically of NAC’s series including volumes on Baptism and the Lord’s Supper and other such works (e.g. Dever and Hammett’s works on ecclesiology, Bruce Ware’s works on theology proper, etc.). I want MORE though – more on that at the end.

In many other cases, though, these theologies on particular topics tend to focus on divisive doctrines like Calvinism and dispensational eschatology, and at this point I think it’d be nice to, you know, talk about something else. Or at least talk about soteriology and eschatology in a more comprehensively systematic context.

As to the second point, Grudem, Erickson, and Geisler have produced systematic theologies from a baptistic viewpoint, but I want to see some SBC theologians do the same.

Finally, I want to commend the purpose and spirit behind “A Theology for the Church,” edited by my former President and teacher Danny Akin. Theology is done in community, and I’m appreciative of that volume’s dedication to that truth and to its desire to combine diverse perspectives in it.

But systematic theology is systematic – it needs to fit together from beginning to end. And so I’d like to see those diverse perspectives found in the different chapters of “A Theology for the Church” get their own individual STs.

I’m looking at you Malcolm Yarnell. I’m looking at you Russ Moore. I’m looking at you Greg Thornbury, Bruce Ashford, Chris Morgan, Greg Allison, Nathan Finn, Craig Blaising, John Hammett, Ken Keathley. And all the people I’m forgetting and offending right now.

I want MORE. More than just books on particular doctrines. I want some big, fat, 7 volume systematic theologies like Baptists used to write in the 1700s. Let’s do this.

From en.wikipedia.org

John Gill Agrees – Write more ST!

 

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19 thoughts on “Constructive Southern Baptist Systematic Theology

  1. For what it’s worth, I couldn’t agree more. I think we have settled for Sunday school fare in what we think “systematic theology” is.

    True systematics aims towards the synthesis and depth that we find in Thomas’ Summa, the countless (and untranslated) volumes of the Protestant scholastics, Barth’s Dogmatics, etc. Nothing like it from a Southern Baptist theologian, ever. E.Y. Mullins attempted the constructive part, to his credit, but it wasn’t wholly original.

    What you’re talking about is what I’m aiming for with my own studies. Perhaps if the Lord grants me many years and a lot more wisdom!

  2. or what it\’s worth, I couldn’t agree more. I think we have settled for Sunday school fare in what we think ”systematic theology” is.

    True systematics aims towards the synthesis and depth that we find in Thomas’ Summa, the countless (and untranslated) volumes of the Protestant scholastics, Barth’s Dogmatics, etc. Nothing like it from a Southern Baptist theologian, ever. E.Y. Mullins attempted the constructive part, to his credit, but it wasn’t wholly original.

    What you’re talking about is what I’m aiming for with my own studies. Perhaps if the Lord grants me many years and a lot more wisdom!

  3. But Matt, what would that 7-vol. ST look like? Would it be based on a dispensational or covenantal hermeneutic? How would it define sin and man? As the “traditional Baptists” have of late or as “historic Baptists? And what about eschatology? Premill? Postmill? Amill? How about the doctrine of the Lord’s Supper? A pure memorial which amounts to just sheer remembering or an actual feeding on Christ by faith through the memorial? How about the Lord’s Day? Sabbatarian or a New Covenant view? Polity? Single pastor? Eldership – congregational or purely elder-led?

    I think we can have a Southern Baptist write a ST, but I don’t think we can have a ST that is known as a “Southern Baptist ST”, the confessional umbrella is just too wide. But yes, I would welcome the massive 7-vol. set, I just could not guarantee that I’d make that purchase if it was written by some of the people you named. 🙂

  4. AMEN & AMEN. There is a principle in Logic known as “The Law of Consistency”. What we currently have in the SBC is unfettered chaos. The Principle in the Law of Non-Contradiction says concerning biblical interpretation; (a) you may be correct & I incorrect; (b) I may be correct and you incorrect; (c) we BOTH may be incorrect. What we cannot be is both CORRECT and hold differing interpretations of the same passage.

    The Systematics that you appeal for would help us in this realm. A house divided against itself cannot stand (nor effectively do ministry together). Lets have some Forums in which the original text is posted in diagrammatic format, examined and a conclusion reached as to “What Does The Text Say?” There is internal consistency in God’s Word. He is not schizophrenic. He does not say one thing in one place and then contradict that in another.

    We have an abundance of Polemics and Politics but a great need for some well ordered Systematic Theology. I pray that this may be forth coming.

    In Grace,
    Tom Fillinger
    Columbia SC
    803 776 5282.

  5. A few things come to mind:

    1. Comprehensive SysTheos take years to write and very few of today’s writing scholars can/will sacrifice so much time for one book

    2. Are publishers really scrambling for another SysTheo to publish while Grudem sits on such a lofty pedestal?

    3. Why do we need any others when we have Gill, Dagg, and Boyce? 🙂

  6. “In many other cases, though, these theologies on particular topics tend to focus on divisive doctrines like Calvinism and dispensational eschatology, and at this point I think it’d be nice to, you know, talk about something else.”

    Yes! I completely agree!

  7. I don’t know if I agree that writing an ST takes “years and years.” Hodge’s ST was a fuller treatment of his class notes, so is much of Reymond’s. Why can’t Southern Baptist ST teachers do the same? I’m assuming if they’ve taught ST I and II, then they have to have lecture notes on the all of the fundamental loci of ST. I don’t think it would take “years and years” to work these notes into material worthy of publication.

    • Hi Van,
      I agree that class notes are a great way to write a book, but class notes really do take “years and years” to refine. Think about James Leo Garrett – he wrote his massive Baptist Theology by compiling his notes near the end of his career. G. K. Beale does the same thing. I’m not talking more than two decades here, and in many cases it will be significantly less than that, but as a a prof I can say that just because I’ve taught through a class a couple of times does not mean that those notes are ready for publication. I’d want to teach the course at least 5-10 times over the course of at least a few years before even thinking about that possibility.

      • Yes, Matt, you are correct. I was assuming that this would be a seasoned teacher, not someone who just taught ST for two or four semesters. What I meant to communicate was that I disagreed that it took “years and years” once said seasoned teacher actually decided to produce a ST. After teaching years and years and having copious notes on each locus that has been refined and re-refined, when that professor was, e.g., approached by a publisher to produce a ST, I would assume that, given the time, he could do it in a couple of years, maybe less, but not “years and years.”

  8. I couldn’t agree more. We need SBC theologians to do constructive ST (or theologies?), which show their interpretive framework/methodology and then put it all together in a coherent way.

    Word on the street has it that Ware (probably Crossway) and Wellum (B&H) will write their own STs in the near future. May their tribe increase!

    • I realize this an old post, nice to revisit the discussion, but I’m interested (two years later) on the status of Ware’s ST? Any word? Would love to sit with that for a while.

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