A Review of Lewis Sperry Chafer’s “Systematic Theology” -- By: John F. Walvoord

Journal: Bibliotheca Sacra
Volume: BSAC 105:417 (Jan 1948)
Article: A Review of Lewis Sperry Chafer’s “Systematic Theology”
Author: John F. Walvoord

A Review of Lewis Sperry Chafer’s “Systematic Theology”

John F. Walvoord

The appearance of the eight-volume work in Systematic Theology by President Lewis Sperry Chafer of Dallas Theological Seminary is without question an epoch in the history of Christian doctrine. Never before has a work similar in content, purpose, and scope been produced. Its appearance in a day when liberal interpretation and unbelief have riddled the Biblical basis for theological study is in itself highly significant.

Protestant systematic theology had its origin in the early works of the Reformers. Among the first was the Loci Theologici of Melanchthon published in 1521. Zwingli produced his Commentarius de vera et falsa religione in 1525. William Farel brought out his theological manual in 1534 with the title, Summaire briefue declaration daucuns lieux fort necessaires a ung chascun Chrestien pour mettre sa confiance en Dieu et ayder son prochain. The most famous early work was that of John Calvin, Institutes of the Christian Religion, first published in 1536, and later entirely rewritten and enlarged through successive editions until the definitive edition of 1559. No one can question that these works shaped the theological thinking of their own and successive generations and played a large part in the formation of creeds still recognized today. They were in the main a return to Biblical teaching in the fields of bibliology, anthropology, soteriology, and ecclesiology. The issues were the doctrine of illumination—the work of the Holy Spirit teaching the Scriptures without the medium of priest or church, the priesthood of every believer, justification by faith, and the authority of the Bible. The Protestant theology of the Reformers was occasioned by the revolt against the corruption and misuse of Biblical revelation. It concerned itself largely with correcting these abuses by a return to the Scriptures.

As in any revolt, the emphasis was placed on the area of controversy. The root difficulty of Roman Catholic interpretation of the Bible was only partially realized. The point of departure for the Roman Church was the failure to interpret the Bible literally. The Old Testament theocracy given to Israel had been made the justification for the papal system. The church became an institution rather than a living organism of believers baptized into the body of Christ. The future of Israel was denied, and her promises and destiny transmuted into a program for the church. For the most part, the Reformers dealt with the results rather than the causes of the corrupt system of Romanism of their day. The return to the Bible was not complete and the church of the Reformers too soon became another institu...

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