Why Pastors Should Engage Mastricht’s Theoretical-Practical Theology

While a commendation from such a great luminary like Edwards will be enough to sell the set to many, others need more incentive.

I appeal to the glowing endorsement of the book from Jonathan Edwards, which is included on the back cover. Comparing Mastricht with Turretin, he noted, “they are both excellent.” Yet he added that Turretin was fuller on controversial points while Mastricht was better on the whole as a “universal system of divinity.” This led him to say that, as a whole, this book “is much better than Turretin or any other book in the world, excepting only the Bible.”

 

I have been warmly commending, Peter van Mastricht’s Theoretico-Practica Theologia for a decade. However, students have wondered whether my promises that someone was translating it into English were empty. Now that these promises are finally coming to fruition with the publication of this first volume, as one pastor asked me, “Why should I buy and read another systematic theology?”

One answer is to appeal to the glowing endorsement of the book from Jonathan Edwards, which is included on the back cover. Comparing Mastricht with Turretin, he noted, “they are both excellent.” Yet he added that Turretin was fuller on controversial points while Mastricht was better on the whole as a “universal system of divinity.” This led him to say that, as a whole, this book “is much better than Turretin or any other book in the world, excepting only the Bible.”

While a commendation from such a great luminary like Edwards will be enough to sell the set to many, others need more incentive. Below are four reasons why pastors should both buy Mastricht and not let him collect dust on their shelves. I will conclude with some suggestions on how to use this work in the ministry.

1. Mastricht’s theology is for preachers.

While modern pastors and students likely will not (and should not) adopt Mastricht’s exact method of preaching, they should learn from his goals. Today, it is common for men either to be academic theologians or to labor for the church without seeing any relevance of academic theology to the ministry of the local church. In the period known as Reformed orthodoxy, many ministers wedded a precise academic theology with the devotional needs of local congregations. The skill of translating content back and forth between these realms has become rare. Mastricht wrote his theology with scholastic precision without losing sight of the ministry and piety. This process should be a vital component of training pastors in every age.

2. Mastricht’s system is comprehensive.

Mastricht wove exegesis, systematic theology, elenctic theology, and practical theology into a single system. He had something approaching the precision of Turretin and the devotion of Brakel. However, he neither reached the same level of precision as Turretin nor the same depth of devotion as Brakel. Yet few authors do everything that Mastricht does in a single volume. Turretin’s elenctic theology is fuller than Mastricht’s, but Mastricht includes it. Brakel’s pastor counsel is more robust than Mastricht’s, but he does not neglect it. At the same time, Mastricht’s exegetical and positive treatments of theology outstrip both of these other authors. While many classic Reformed authors included aspects of each of Mastricht’s four divisions in their theological systems, he is the only one that this author knows of that divided each chapter of his theology into these categories. This makes his work more comprehensive than most.

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