Thursday, July 20, 2006

A Pearl of Great Price

When you click on my profile, you will notice that first on my list of favorite books is The Christian's Reasonable Service by Wilhelmus a' Brakel. If you click on the link for the book, you will find that apparently I am the only one who lists The Christian's Reasonable Service as a favorite. Though this is unfortunate, it is not surprising. We tend to be a "right-now" type of people. We want the latest, updated, new and improved edition of things. Besides, we are so inundated with newly published books about issues that are seemingly more relevant and definitely more faddish, that the older, matured books get left behind (no pun intended).

Nevertheless, I consider it a blessing to have been introduced to a' Brakel quite a few years ago and have been encouraged and enriched by one of the pre-eminent pastor/theologians of the Second Reformation. I could not recommend this work any higher. I particularly want to recommend the work to the Reformed African-American community.

As the Reformed African-American community continues to grow and even establish its voice, it would be most beneficial that we articulate theology within our context, but not without historical reference. In other words, let us express Reformed theology without developing a "deformed" theology. One of the ways we do this is to make sure our theology is consistent with the theology of those who have gone before, even with those that have stood the test of time. For me, The Christian's Reasonable Service fits the bill. The Christian’s Reasonable Service is my favorite systematic treatment of theology because I believe it sets forth Reformed theology in a most biblical, historical and most importantly experiential form. One writer on a’Brakel says:

The uniqueness of a’Brakel’s work lies in the fact that it is more than a systematic theology…a’Brakel’s intent in writing is inescapable: He intensely wishes that the truth expounded may become an experiential reality in the hearts of those who read. In a masterful way he establishes the crucial relationship between objective truth and the subjective experience of that truth.

Indeed, experiencing the truth is what Reformed theology is all about. As African-Americans we need not be duped by the a traditional Reformed theological community that is too often comprised of the dry, stoic, intellectualized, and emotionally-paranoid. On the contrary, true Reformed theology is experiential, charged with emotional content based in the clear reverential content of the character of God. Or as my man Dee put it recently, "freedom expression with governance."

This is what I read in a'Brakel. His is a theology full of the governances of the Bible and the Reformed tradition, yet there is the welcoming, even encouragement of this freedom of expression. Even in preaching. For a'Brakel preaching is never to be an intellectual exercise where the young man rehearses last night cram session with Berkhof. On the contrary, the faithful preacher will make “his astute theological acumen subservient to the glory of God and the spiritual welfare of His church.” He makes this point when he writes in his instruction to ministers:

He [the minister] ought to use all his scholarship to formulate the matters to be presented, in order that he might express them in the clearest and most powerful manner. While using his scholarship, however, he must conceal his scholarship in the pulpit. Nonetheless, when necessary he will cause his scholarship to bear on an argument, thereby proving himself to be a qualified theologian.

I whole-heartedly commend a'Brakel's four volume set to you. It is full of pastoral and practically theology. I have found it to be a pearl of great price and would recommend that you sell all to get it.


Rafael said...

When did you learn about Reformed theology? also do you think a person can be reformed and dispensational such as John Macarthur?

ajcarter said...

When did I learn about Reformed Theology?

Well, for the sake of space and time I will tell it as briefly as I can. I learned about Reformed theology once I started studying the Bible and theology with the intent of being in preaching and teaching ministry. I quickly found that the great majority of influential theological works and books in the history of Protestant Christianity were written by men who espoused Reformational Theology. Many of the questions I had concerning theology and Christian living seemingly were most biblically and accurately answered by those men's exposition of the Bible. Also, I was not interesting is reinventing the wheel, only making sure it fit on my car. And it did.

Can a person be reformed and dispensational?

The quick answer to this question would be "no". However, I would add this important caveat. What most people primarily think of when talking about Reformed Theology is the Five Points of Calvinism. Therefore, I would say that a person can be a five point Calvinist and dispensational (ie. John MacArthur). If this is what you mean, then yes.

However, though the 5 points of Calvinism are Reformed theology, Reformed theology is more than the 5 points of Calvinism. Reformed Theology is Biblical, Covenant Theology. At this point Dispensational theology is antithetical to Reformational theology. Therefore a more appropriate question may be, "Can a person be Covenantal and Dispensational? And the answer to that question is "no".

LouLove said...

Great answer Carter!