Book Reviews -- By: Anonymous
MBTJ 4:1 (Spring 2014) p. 87
David Beale, Historical Theology In-Depth: Themes and Contexts of Doctrinal Development since the First Century, 2 volumes (Greenville, SC: Bob Jones University Press, 2013). 532 pages; 516 pages. Reviewed by David Saxon.
During his several decades of teaching church history and theology at Bob Jones University, Dr. Beale became known for painstakingly accurate scholarship, a generous and humble spirit, and an infectious passion for the majesty of God. These three attributes are on full display in this two-volume history of Christian theology.
While most histories of doctrine opt for either a chronological or topical organization of the vast amount of material involved, Beale combines the two approaches. While pursuing a largely chronological narrative, he mixes in various topical studies, finally settling into a topical arrangement of the majority of volume two. The book advertises itself as an “in-depth” treatment of this enormous subject, and, at times, the detail of the discussions fully delivers on this promise. In one thousand pages, however, the history of Christian theology cannot be explored in depth, and the depth of the coverage varies from section to section. Nevertheless, even the sections that feature more summarizing are valuable.
The strongest aspect of this work is no doubt its handling of the patristic material. Beale’s doctoral dissertation dealt with the eschatology of the Ante-Nicene Fathers, and it is obvious that he has spent countless hours exploring the Fathers in the years since. Approximately fifty-seven percent of the two volumes explores material from the Early Church (through about A.D. 500). Beale devotes most of the first volume to the
MBTJ 4:1 (Spring 2014) p. 88
Fathers, and he includes valuable readings from their writings in almost every chapter. His handling of this material is extremely judicious, resisting the temptation to minimize their theological aberrations and make Protestants of them but also undermining Roman Catholic interpretations that are equally anachronistic. Some of the highlights in volume one include his analyses of Tertullian (chapter 17), Cyprian (chapter 18), the Council of Chalcedon (chapter 24, which includes the complete text of Leo’s Tome), and five chapters on Augustine (covering nearly one hundred pages). Volume two returns to the patristic era for detailed discussions of sabbatarianism, the eternal generation of Christ (a doctrine Beale distinguishes sharply from Christ’s eternal Sonship and which he disputes as erroneously subordinationist), and abortion. In four appendices to volume two, he gives detailed attention to various cosmological questions (the shape, age, and creation of the earth), once again drawin...
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