This review appeared in the Jul-Sep 2011 vol. 168 no. 3 issue of Biblotheca Sacra, DTS’s quarterly academic journal.Subscribe Today
A Systematic Theology of Biblical ChristianityDetroit Baptist Theological Se, Allen Park, MI January 17, 2009
McCune is professor of systematic theology at Detroit Baptist Theological Seminary. In the first of several volumes he discusses the classic systematic categories of prolegomena, bibliology, the triune God, and angelology. His writing is clear and simple and heavily based on biblical proof texts. Volume 1 is divided into four major sections. The first, Prolegomena, provides “An Introduction to Systematic Theology.” Under “The Doctrine of Scripture,” McCune defends the inspiration and inerrancy of Scripture and a dispensational system of interpretation. In the third section, “The Doctrine of God,” the author discusses the existence of God, His self-revelation and personality, and the divine attributes. The section concludes with a defense of God’s providential control of the universe. A discussion of the origin, nature, and destiny of good and evil angelic beings occupies the fourth part of volume 1.
In the second volume McCune discusses theological anthropology, focusing on the creation of man, the image of God, man’s original state, and the Fall. He then transitions into a discussion of sin, in which he discusses the origin and nature of sin, total depravity, and the imputation of Adam’s sin. The treatment of sin is completely individualistic. Missing is any discussion of the impact of sin on society and creation, beyond this brief statement: “The animal kingdom was cursed with carnivorous instincts. The ground was cursed with thistles and thorns (Gen 3:17–18). And, the entire creation was cursed, being made subject to the ‘slavery of corruption’ (Rom 8:19–22)” (vol. 2, p. 41). Under the doctrine of Christ, McCune defends the preexistence of Christ and the Incarnation. The virgin birth, the humanity and deity of Christ, and the Atonement are also discussed in this section. McCune does not discuss the development of Christology in the first couple of centuries culminating in the creeds of Nicaea and Constantinople and the Definition of Chalcedon. This volume concludes with a section devoted to the doctrine of the Holy Spirit. The personality and deity of the Spirit are defended and His work in individuals is discussed. The corporate nature of the Spirit’s work is absent, a significant omission.
McCune defines systematic theology as “the correlation of the various teachings or doctrines found in the Bible” (vol. 1, p. 5). Thus it is not surprising that he asserts that “the only legitimate source [of systematic theology] is God’s self-disclosure in the Bible” (p. 13). He classifies nature along with rationalism, mysticism, experience, and history of doctrine as “false sources of theology” (p. 17). Surely nature is better seen as a legitimate source of knowledge of God, especially based on the assertions of the psalmist (Ps. 19:1–6) and the apostle Paul (Rom. 1:18–20). McCune later asserts that “God’s stamp is on everything he has planned, created, presently sustains and controls. In short, every aspect of the universe bears testimony or witness concerning God. While this revelation is restrictive in content, it is nevertheless absolutely clear and divinely authoritative” (p. 40).
McCune’s defense of his views sometimes leads to a dismissive attitude toward alternative positions. In his explanation of dispensationalism, the author dismisses progressive dispensationalism as “an unwelcome aberration and wholly unsatisfactory as an approach to understanding Scripture” (vol. 1, p. 106). Since there is no engagement with the views of progressive dispensationalists, the reader is left without any basis for evaluation of such an assertion. Surely other Christian interpreters deserve to have their views discussed and evaluated, not simply dismissed out of hand as an aberration.
McCune defends a distinction between Israel and the church as the “first essential tenet of dispensationalism” (vol. 1, p. 113). Following Chafer, he identifies the distinction according to origin, purpose, and destiny. The difference in purpose, according to McCune, is this: “Israel’s purpose was to mediate salvation and model true religion to the nations, bring forth the Messiah and give the Scriptures. Noticeably absent in such a list is any missionary mandate. These purposes were realized principally through national, political means and structures. On the other hand, the church is commissioned to take the gospel to all nations (Matt 28:19–20)” (p. 114). The mission of the church differs from that of Israel, but with his assertion that Israel had no “missionary mandate” and his other comments, McCune has failed to clarify the nature of Israel’s responsibility as a kingdom of priests (Exod. 19:6) and as the means by which God will bless all the nations (Gen. 12:3).
The author states that he is heavily dependent on the dispensational thought of Charles Ryrie (vol. 1, p. 106). Readers who desire a basic theology would be well served by Ryrie’s Basic Theology: A Popular Systematic Guide to Understanding Biblical Truth (Chicago: Moody, 1999).
—Glenn R. Kreider