Book Reviews -- By: Anonymous

Journal: Bibliotheca Sacra
Volume: BSAC 146:581 (Jan 1989)
Article: Book Reviews
Author: Anonymous

Book Reviews

Systematic Theology. By Lewis Sperry Chafer. Abridged Edition. Edited by John F. Walvoord. Wheaton, IL: SP Publications, Victor Books, 1988. 2 vols. $37.95.

When Lewis Sperry Chafer’s Systematic Theology was published in 1947–48 (vols. 1 and 2 in Fall 1947, and vols. 3–8 in Spring 1948), it made religious publishing history. It was the largest evangelical theology published and the first with a consistent premillennial, dispensational perspective. Within two years, three printings totaling 7,500 sets were in circulation.

Forty years later the two-volume abridged edition of the work produced by John F. Walvoord, Chafer’s successor as president of Dallas Seminary and professor of systematic theology—with the assistance of consulting editors Donald K. Campbell, Chancellor Walvoord’s successor as president, and Roy B. Zuck, vice-president for academic affairs—is making its own publishing history. At the end of 1988 since publication in July more than 16,000 sets had been sold.

How can eight volumes with more than 2,800 pages be compressed into two volumes with 1,004 pages? Several more or less mechanical moves were made. Material from the separate volumes on Christology and pneumatology (vols. 5 and 6) was incorporated in enlarged sections on God the Son and God the Holy Spirit under Trinitarianism in volume 1 of the abridgement. Volume 7 (Doctrinal Summarization) was eliminated except as material was incorporated at appropriate points throughout the work. The Index volume (vol. 8) was reduced to Scripture indexes and selected bibliographies at the end of each of the two abridged volumes. In addition most of the lengthy quotations were eliminated.

The processes of elimination and incorporation were followed by that of condensation. For example the preface with the note “(which every student should read with care)” was reduced from 28 pages to 18; the Prolegomena from 14 pages to 7; Theology Proper, in spite of incorporating material from the volumes on Christology and pneumatology, from 285 pages to 167; soteriology from 390 pages to 179, and eschatology from 184 pages to 162.

Similar condensations were made in the bibliography, angelology, anthropology, and ecclesiology sections.

Another question is, How can the quality of the work biblically, theologically, and literarily be maintained in such an abridgement? As Lynn Landrum observed in his review of the eight-volume set, Chafer was “one of the outstanding stylists among religious writers of the day. [His] sentences neither strut nor stumble. They march with orderly purpose and yet not without grace” (Dallas Morning News, July 13, 1948). As f...

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