A Puritan Theology: Doctrine for Life
By Joel Beeke and Mark Jones
Out of all your books in your personal library, which one is your most prized possession?
I hope, as fellow Christians, your answer is the Holy Bible. But your second? Mine, the treasure of my bookcase, is the massive systematic theology tome, A Puritan Theology: Doctrine for Life by Reformed theologians Joel Beeke and Mark Jones.
But a question may nag you as you read the previous statement: why would a adventure-loving, historical-fiction-devouring young man (such as yours truly), prize a 1000+ page book of 400 year old theology?
But let me tell you: this 1000+ page tome is no ordinary systematic theology. This is a rich compendium of history, biography, book reviews, theology, and even a few discussions of practical Christian living.
The book is divided into 60 chapters grouped in 8 sections, each categorized by the established systematic loci, or topic.
The first few sections discuss the all-important topics of Prolegomena, Theology Proper, Anthropology, and (gulp) Covenant Theology. A few of the chapters focus on the teachings of one particular well-known Puritan. The book features William Ames, John Owen, Stephen Charnock, John Owen, William Perkins, John Owen, Thomas Goodwin, John Owen, Anthony Burgress, John Owen, Richard Sibbes, John Owen, John Bunyan, John Owen, Thomas Manton, John Owen, Chistopher Love, John Owen, and Matthew Henry. (Did I mention John Owen?).
The rest of the books sections are titled: Christology, Soteirology, Ecclesiology, and Eschatology. (If you are not a scholar and are reading this, no worries. These studies are rather simple when explained.) Some of my favorite chapters were: The Puritans on Providence, The Blood of Christ in Puritan Theology, Puritan Preparatory Grace, The Puritans on Adoption, and Puritan Preaching (1 and 2).
The literacy style is a little academic in places, but if you persevere, you will come across rich nuggets of Scriptural truth which, with prayer, can open your eyes and change the way you view the Christian Life.
Even if you do not agree with every Biblical interpretations the Puritans arrived at, (I skipped the parts on Covenant Theology and Paedobaptism), or even the conclusions the authors state in their historical interpretations, there is still so much here not to walk away with not having learn something about what the Bible says about God, man, and the Bible in quaint, memorable words.
After gaining knowledge from the great Christian thinker-pastors of the 17th century in every loci of theology, you will be greatly blessed and encouraged by the last ten chapters, Theology in Practice. For the sake of brevity, I will not go into detail, except to suggest that you read these last chapters first and then the rest on theology. The perspective it gives you is too precious to miss. Tolle ledge, pick up and read!
Soli Deo Gloria,
The Book Adventurer