Last week, we announced a new series, Lexham Classics, that brings the best of our Christian heritage to modern readers. This common heritage spans eras and traditions, reflecting the richness of our shared faith. By studying these works from throughout history, we hope your modern perspective will be illuminated with timeless wisdom.
To commemorate Black History Month, we’re highlighting one forgotten masterpiece in particular—Plain Theology for Plain People by Charles Octavius Boothe.
Theology for everyday people
Boothe was born into slavery in 1845 in Mobile County, Alabama. Despite the oppressive circumstances he was born into, he was afforded a number of opportunities to educate himself from a young age. He took these opportunities to study Scripture and was baptized in 1866. In post-emancipation America, he was a leader in the development of black education. He believed education to be a stabilizing force in society and an educated black population would disrupt the white narrative of inferiority.
His passion for education and his Christian faith led him to author a systematic theology for a largely uneducated black audience. Published in 1890, Plain Theology for Plain People was an effort to equip “plain folks” with a practical theology. Almost certainly the only theological work published by a black author at this time, Boothe brought the heights of academic theology to his congregants, so that they might be filled with good things.
Boothe brings the entirety of his academic influences to bear on his systematic theology but does so with simplicity in mind. “The doctrines of our holy religion need to be studied in order, according to some definite system; but simplicity should prevail, simplicity of arrangement and simplicity of language,” he wrote. Boothe also used Scripture to inform his work, showing that the Bible and theology go hand-in-hand, especially for those who are unfamiliar with both.
The rift between the academy and the pew is just as prevalent in the modern church. Though written for a specific audience, studying Boothe’s work can give us some insight into the relationship between intellectual tradition and the church.
A forgotten masterpiece
To reintroduce this classic work, Walter Strickland II will write an introduction for this volume. Strickland is instructor of theology at Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary and special advisor to the president for diversity.
Plain Theology for Plain People has never been widely available and we are honored to make it available to a wide audience in digital and print formats. The Logos edition is available for pre-order today; the print edition will be made available soon.
In Plain Theology for Plain People, Charles Octavius Boothe simply and elegantly lays out the basics of theology for everyday people.