Sunday, June 15, 2008

"Doctrinal Preaching at its Best"

Today marks 8 years since the passing of James Montgomery Boice, who died June 15, 2000. Dr. Boice wore many hats: pastor, radio preacher, Christian leader, defender of the faith. I never heard Dr. Boice preach in person or even on his radio program. So, on this anniversary of his home-going I’d like to spotlight JM Boice in the role in which I know him best—author.

According to Theopedia, “Boice was a prolific author, having published over 50 different works, including a collection of hymns.” Many of Boice’s books are expositions of books of the Bible. Probably the first Boice book I ever purchased was his three-volume commentary on Genesis. Among others, I also have his commentary on the Minor Prophets and one of the volumes in his Romans series. How I wish I had bought all four volumes in that series when it was available in hardback!

Dr. Boice wrote other kinds of books as well as expositional commentaries. He wrote biblical/topical studies like Christ’s Call to Discipleship and Renewing Your Mind in a Mindless World: Learning to Think and Act Biblically. He also published a fine collection of his Easter sermons under the title, The Christ of the Empty Tomb.

Possibly the most important book Boice ever wrote (and this is just an opinion) is the four-books-in-one Foundations of the Christian Faith: A Comprehensive & Readable Theology (Downers Grove, Ill: InterVarsity Press. 1986). This 740-page hardcover consists of sermons he first preached to his own church, Tenth Presbyterian in Philadelphia. He revised the sermons and published them in four books from 1978 – 1981. The books appear as the four parts of the one-volume edition: The Sovereign God, God the Redeemer, Awakening to God, and God and History. What he gives us is a detailed, theological explanation of the Christian life, “a basic theology from A to Z” (Boice, Foundations of the Christian Faith, p. 11).

In this way Boice’s book is like Calvin’s Institutes of the Christian Religion, but without being a mere rehash. Boice describes his book as

an attempt (a) to cover the same ground in highly readable language yet at the same time (b) to introduce themes which Calvin did not treat but which call for treatment today and (c) to seek to relate all doctrine to contemporary rather than ancient views and problems. Book one deals with the doctrine of God and how we know God, book two with sin and the redemptive work of Christ, book three with the Holy Spirit and the application of redemption to the individual, and book four with the church and the meaning of history.

(Boice, p. 12)

Would we be able to comprehensively explain Christian theology to a new believer? Dr. Boice explained it to his congregation and made it available to the church at large. There is solid meat here. Even Christians from a non-Reformed tradition will find much to chew on. I highly recommend Foundations of the Christian Faith and agree with Cyril Barber that a work such as this “illustrates doctrinal preaching at its best” (Cyril J. Barber, The Minister’s Library, Vol. 2. Chicago: Moody Press, 1987. p. 187).

Do you have this book? What are your thoughts on it? Or do you have another favorite book by James Montgomery Boice? I hope we will soon see a book about James Montgomery Boice. Know of any biographies?