Review by Robert Letham, the Gospel Coalition
The eagerly awaited second volume of Douglas Kelly’s Systematic Theology does not disappoint. Carrying on from his earlier volume on the Trinity, the professor of systematic theology at Reformed Theological Seminary in Charlotte approaches the person of Christ from an explicitly trinitarian foundation, focusing on the beauty of God and of Christ. This is a rich and wonderful perspective that is rooted in Scripture yet often overlooked.
Kelly’s overall approach in his project is hugely welcome. He follows the Reformers and Puritans in recognizing the Bible to be the supreme authority but also the past work of the church—in its creeds and confessions, and in its leading and recognized representatives—to be the grid through which Scripture is to be interpreted. This is greatly needed. While Rome has held tradition in equal reverence with the Bible, evangelicalism has largely ignored or rejected tradition. Indeed, in supporting Kelly’s approach in a recent ministerial seminar, I scarcely avoided lynching. By assuming that all truth is limited to a narrow strand of evangelicalism beginning in 1517 or restricted to a small cadre of biblical scholars, evangelical theology has been at best greatly impoverished. Kelly focuses on this point in an important appendix (491–99).
Having said that, Kelly’s treatment of his great theme is largely biblical and expository. He begins with the witness of both Old and New Testament to Christ, considering the names and titles of Christ in each, and then delves into the mystery of the hypostatic union and a range of questions arising from it. This leads into a discussion of Christ’s obedience and sufferings, with a profound treatment of the seven last words on the cross. The volume ends with chapters on Christ’s resurrection, ascension, and heavenly rule.
Reading this book is stimulating theologically and enriching spiritually. Preachers, teachers, and students alike—besides the proverbial intelligent layperson—cannot fail to benefit from it.