I know that the first thing you wanted to do to spend time this summer was to pick up a theology book and read. I could easily submit that statement to some of my seminary professors who taught summer courses. In fact, I had two different theology books at Southeastern that would have easily taken the whole summer to read and digest. So, why add a theology book to the Summer reading list?
Last week I put out the challenge of learning to grow in Godliness. What better way to grow in Godliness than to dive into theology! I know, that is one of the words and subjects that many churchgoers will unfortunately shy away from. I get it…have you ever looked at a theology book? The two I mentioned from seminary would prove to the average reader as a daunting task. The standard text in many seminaries is Systematic Theology by Wayne Grudem, a massive book of over 1,200 pages. Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary President Daniel Akin edited a newer theology book that was geared for many churchgoers or pastors who had not been able to attend seminary. A Theology for the Church became the standard at Southeastern and was a much more accessible book in reading and comprehending, but it is still a 992 page work. These are both great books for any follower of Christ to read and digest as they grow in their understanding of God.
What if I were to tell you that you could take read a comprehensive and excellent theology book in less than 150 pages? That is why I put Plain Theology for Plain People as a strong book for your summer read. Charles Octavius Boothe was not an ivory tower seminary theologian. He was a pastor. Boothe was born in Alabama in 1845 as a slave. He was a critic of slavery but was not abused as many slaves were. He would later write, “I think I can say that [my master] and I really loved each other.” Boothe knew that his audience was vastly uneducated, comprised of sharecroppers, pastors, teachers, and community leaders. He also knew that the overwhelming majority of theology textbooks available would speak in the clouds where those on the ground could not grasp.
One of the biggest draws for reading a work this summer like Plain Theology for Plain People is the saturation of Scripture. I do not want you to think that other theology works are not full of Scripture, but I will say that many of them do not let the Scripture do the talking. For example, in this book Boothe describes the character and nature of God. One section on page 18 is called “He is true and faithful.” The entire section is quotation of Scripture after quotation of Scripture with only 1 paragraph of commentary to tie the pieces together. Too many other books of theology will take a section like this and fill you with pages of the author’s contemplations and inferences and then tag on 25 Scripture references that justify their conclusions. This is not to suggest that other texts are wrong, just that Boothe has offered us something clearer.
One of the other great things about Boothe’s Plain Theology for Plain People is the rich history that many African American Christians share. I will be the first to admit that this was the first theology book I had read by an African American author. I have read subject related books that cover an aspect of theology, but nothing that is comprehensive. Plain Theology covers the Trinity, doctrine of man, salvation, life in Christ, Scripture, end times, and more in a beautiful display of the African American heritage and legacy of the Christian Church. These are perspectives that make us who we are as the church in America!
I do not know what your plans are for reading this summer, but I believe that Plain Theology for Plain People should be near the top of your list. Our goal and our aim is to grow in Godliness together as we read. Or, as Boothe puts it, “What a glorious work that building, that house of God, that temple, that church will be when finished! And what a blessed privilege it is that ‘every one of us,’ as the apostle says, has some gift from Christ to fit him for helping on its completion! Let every one keep fixed in mind the thought, ‘I am called by the blessed Jesus to help in building up His glorious house,’ and seek daily grace and help, so that he may build wisely and rapidly!”
May we build together as we grow in Godliness!
Addendum: I was in seminary with Walter Strickland, who edited the 2017 release of Boothe’s Plain Theology for Plain People. Here is a good YouTube video from the Jude 3 Project where Walter speaks more about Charles Octavius Boothe and Plain Theology for Plain Theology: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=fC2pVKMzVvM
 Charles Octavius Boothe, The Cyclopedia of the Colored Baptists of Alabama: Their Leaders and Their Work (Birmingham: Alabama Publishing Company, 1895), 10.
 Charles Octavius Booth, Plain Theology for Plain People, ed. Walter R. Strickland II (Bellingham, WA: Lexham Press, 2017), 81.