Thursday, April 08, 2010
Uncle Ben's Book Blog: Discourses of Redemption, by Stuart Robinson
This is a review of a very old book (published in 1869). It has not, as far as I know, ever been reprinted. It is available now on Google Books, as well as in several of the better libraries around the country. I have heard rumors that it is soon to be reprinted, and if it is, I would encourage my readers to buy it. However, since I don't know for certain, I'll just let my readers know that if it is to be reprinted, and I get the details, I will let my readers know immediately.
Robinson was a Southern Presbyterian, and his view of the church can be summed up in Jesus' statement to Pilate, "My kingdom is not of this world." Robinson's book was brought to my attention by Nick Willborn, and I have finally gotten around to reading.
The work can be called an early attempt at Biblical theology, or redemptive-historical theology. But the reader must not expect to meet here something equivalent to Bruce Waltke's Old Testament Theology, nor even something like Geerhardus Vos's Biblical Theology. What it shares with Vos is the fact that the chapters are discourses, or lectures, though these lectures were personally put into writing by Robinson, not later collected from lecture notes. It also shares with Vos the fact that it covers both Old and New Testaments. What it does not share with either Vos or Waltke is their interaction with critical scholarship. It is not that Robinson was ignorant of that scholarship. It is rather that he found it unhelpful. Beside that he was doing something completely different from what anyone else was doing in those days.
Robinson moves through the Bible, selecting particular passages that highlight the development of the gospel and the growth and organization of the church. Thus, Discourse III deals with the revelation of redemption to the patriarchs, while Lecture IV presents the organization of the church visible in the patriarchal period. He proceeds through the various periods of the Old Testament showing the growth and development of the gospel. Shifting to the New Testament, he deals with a number of passages from the Gospels, showing what was revealed by the earthly ministry of Jesus. He finishes with several passages from the New Testament epistles and a concluding Discourse from the end of Revelation.
I found a number of the Discourses particularly helpful. Discourse IV on the organization of the visible church with its seal is very useful for those struggling with understanding the role of baptism in a truly biblical-theological fashion. The discourses on the role of David and his kingship as pointing to the Messianic kingdom clarify a number of issues that are being disputed today in Reformed circles. Discourse XI, on the three parables of Luke 15 clearly demonstrate the Trinitarian nature of redemption. The treatment of the the rich man and Lazarus in Discourse XIII is a clear defense of the justice and necessity of hell. The final Discourse (XX) sounds the clarion call of the gospel as it comes from the enthroned Christ.
There are in addition some useful appendices. I would draw the reader's attention especially to Appendix B on the role of the church in the scheme of redemption, and Appendix D on the biblical view of the relationship between church and state.
If this book is brought back into print, I encourage you to buy it. Those who bring such useful works back into the public eye should be rewarded for their labors.
Finally, I would draw your attention to Dr. C. N. Willborn's article "Biblical Theology in Southern Presbyterianism," in The Hope Fulfilled: Essays in Honor of O. Palmer Robertson, ed. Robert L. Penny (Phillipsburg: P&R Publishing, 2008), 3-25.