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5 Stars Out Of 5
Excellent Theological Resource
January 26, 2014
Abstract of Systematic Theology by James P. Boyce was originally published in 1887 and has been reproduced by Founders Press in the edition that I am reviewing. One of the first things to notice about this reprinting is the price. The Founders Press website sells the book for $18.50 which is a great price for a 500+ page, hardback theology book. James P. Boyce was the principal founder of the first Southern Baptist Seminary which is now The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary in Louisville, KY. In The Baptists: Volume Two, Tom Nettles describes Boyce's Abstract of Systematic Theology as reflecting "his wide reading, his close reasoning, his passion for Reformed thought, and his busy schedule." While sometimes overlooked by more prominent figures such as Basil Manly and John Broadus, Boyce and his Abstract deserves the attention of this generation of believers.
If you are a student of the word and hunger for a better understanding of Calvinistic Baptist thought and history then this is an excellent volume to add to your library. Abstract has been described as "a masterpiece for the learned but a practical textbook for students and pastors without seminary training. This is its great value for today, profound enough for the seminarian, simple enough for the laymen!" I would wholeheartedly agree with this statement. As someone who reads quite a bit and desires to go to seminary I found the book to be deep and rich in thought. As one who tries to see the value of books for others I saw the book to be highly accessible to a wide range of lay people.
This volume presents a very well written and systematic study of theology that should continue to be a great resource for the church today. Most of the chapters are short enough, or have enough section breaks that would allow for this to be read in small portions daily. One could read through this work in a month or two by just devoting a small portion of time to it each day and they would walk away extremely blessed. Three appendices have been added to this edition that are helpful. There is a brief catechism on Bible Doctrine that would be beneficial for families to work through together. The Abstract of Principles is a section devoted to fundamental laws of the Southern Baptist Theological Seminary from 1858. There is also a scripture index that has been added. This is helpful in finding references quickly and is something that is missing in older volumes.
I would highly recommend this book to anyone who seeks to grow in their knowledge of the truth. Boyce's writings, though written in 1887, are still very readable today. I received a free copy of this book from Founders Press in exchange for an honest review.
While doing research in the library for a systematic theology paper at Southern Baptist Theological Seminary in 2006, I stumbled across an old, battered volume of theology by a guy named Boyce. I was instantly hooked and read almost one-third of the book standing there in the library aisle (and stayed up all night to finish the rest of it that evening at home). I'd never heard of this guy, but he was so good that (I'm ashamed to say this) I was strongly tempted to keep the book and just pay the fine. I returned the book to the library, and then, in the providence of God, I found the title in the bookstore that afternoon.
Boyce's content is excellent, very logical in its layout, and almost deceptively simple (which serves to demonstrate his aptitude as a teacher). He is ruthlessly and exhaustively biblical, indicated not only by his brilliant theological insights, but by the scores of biblical references at the end of each point. He wrote for his students' sake, but the volume was highly praised upon its debut for its accessibility for the layman. It is a rich feast for the soul and I cannot recommend it highly enough.
A couple of points to consider, however: his chapter on creation was written in the context of scholars not having a sufficient response to evolution. It reflects that situation. Also, his argument for the atonement tracks right down the classic definite atonement trail, only to reach Dort's conclusion in the final paragraph (sufficient for all, efficient for the elect). So, while it is excellent, it is not without its issues.
A special note to Southern Baptists: you should read this volume (along with Dagg's Manual of Theology) to know the Scriptures better, and your theological heritage.