"Plain Theology for Plain People" by Charles Octavius Boothe. A Review

Charles Octavius Boothe
Lexham Press
1313 Commercial St.
Bellingham, WA 98225, USA
ISBN: 9781683590347; $14.99; (1890) 2017

G.K. Chesterton once penned, “Tradition means giving votes to the most obscure of all classes, our ancestors. It is the democracy of the dead. Tradition refuses to submit to the small and arrogant oligarchy of those who merely happen to be walking about” (“Orthodoxy”). Lexham Press has taken a good stab at this “democracy of the dead” by resuscitating “Plain Theology for Plain People” written in 1890 by an emancipated slave who became a Christian preacher, Charles Octavius Boothe. This small, 151 page re-typeset, reworked paperback was written by Boothe to help fellow emancipated slaves, who had little education and little time to obtain formal instruction, grow deeper in the depths of God’s love in Jesus Christ. Therefore, it is easily accessible for folks from every walk of life. As Boothe put it, “this little book’s only mission is to help plain people in the study of the first principles of divine truth” (3).

“Plain Theology for Plain People” is something of a Bible-saturated Systematic Theology, or Manual of Christian Doctrine. It runs through nine major loci from “The Being and Character of God” to “The Last Things.” Boothe walks his students through Scripture on each of these subjects, giving them hand-holds and waypoints in their trek. The author’s presentation is thoughtful and thorough, without getting lost in the side trails. His Baptist insignia shows forth clearly in regard to baptism as only immersion, and in his ecclesiology. And his “Calvinism” comes out in his very gracious and charitable handling of predestination, election, justification and sanctification. A relentless theme that refreshingly streams forth from Boothe’s pen in several places is that “the more we think of the sinfulness of sin, the more wonderful the love of God will appear” (33). It was an easy read that can quickly lend itself to a devotional book!

There is also an introduction written by Walter R. Strickland II, assistant professor of Theology and Associate Vice President for Kingdom Diversity at Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary. This short overview gives a brief biography of Charles Octavius Boothe, and how “Plain Theology for Plain People” came about.  It left me with a greater desire to learn more about Boothe and his other works.

“Plain Theology for Plain People” is a worthwhile voice from “the most obscure of all classes.” It is also a valuable work displaying sound, biblical theology from the pen of an emancipated American slave who became a preacher of the Gospel of Jesus Christ. I strongly encourage you to snatch up a copy and give this brother your ear and your time.

My hearty thanks to Lexham Press for providing, upon my request, the free copy of the book used for this review. The assessments are mine given without restrictions or requirements (as per Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255).


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