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Plain Theology for Plain People

ISBN: 9781683590347
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A Forgotten Masterpiece

In this handbook first published in 1890, Charles Octavius Boothe simply and beautifully lays out the basics of theology for common people. “Before the charge ‘know thyself,’” Boothe wrote, “ought to come the far greater charge, ‘know thy God.’” He brought the heights of academic theology down to everyday language, and he helps us do the same today. Plain Theology for Plain People shows that evangelicalism needs the wisdom and experience of African American Christians.

Walter R. Strickland II reintroduces this forgotten masterpiece for today.


Praise for Plain Theology for Plain People

By reprinting ... a book written for the average sharecropper, Walter R. Strickland has provided Christians with a helpful biblical and theological resource. Along with Strickland’s insightful introduction, this book’s reprinting provides another example (among many) of the contributions of black Christians to Christianity, their contributions to evangelical biblical and theological discourse, and their contributions to the intellectual environment of evangelical Christianity. Readers of Boothe’s work will especially appreciate his intentional efforts to make the bible and theology accessible to his original audience.

—Jarvis J. Williams, Associate Professor of New Testament Interpretation at The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary

Any given Sunday in some black churches, a member of the congregation may encourage the pastor by saying, “Make it plain, preacher!” In Plain Theology for Plain People, Charles Octavius Boothe makes plain a systematic theology that is both faithful to biblical orthodoxy and responsive to the particular interests of black Christians. I am thankful to God that Walter Strickland discovered this literary jewel and now shares it with the contemporary people of the Lord. Too often, the black church is mischaracterized as being emotionally rich and intellectually shallow. Plain Theology shows this to be a harmful stereotype. All disciples of Jesus Christ interested in how to, in the words of Robert Smith Jr., make doctrine dance should read this book and apply it to the preaching of the plain and pure gospel of the Lord Jesus Christ.

—CJ Rhodes, Pastor of Mount Helm Baptist Church in Jackson, Mississippi

We are in Walter Strickland’s debt for publishing a new edition of Charles Boothe’s Plain Theology for Plain People, an extraordinary book by an extraordinary man. This is everyday theology from the margins, from below, from the perspective of the dispossessed. It is no dry textbook, but theology written by an African-American pastor, born into slavery, who sought to instruct ordinary people in the Christian faith. A classic volume, short, readable, informative, by an inspiring Christian leader.

—Michael F. Bird, Lecturer in Theology at Ridley College

Top Highlights

“This still is the direct route to the ‘outer darkness where there is wailing and gnashing of teeth.’” (Page 28)

“in that he did good, and gave us rain from heaven, and fruitful seasons, filling our hearts with food and gladness’” (Page 5)

“besides the freewill offering for the house of God which is in Jerusalem’” (Page 9)

“On June 13, 1845 Charles Octavius Boothe was born in Mobile County Alabama. He was the legal property of Nathaniel Howard.” (Page vii)

“A veritable divinity seems to have hedged us as we journeyed. I say it with all reverence.” (Page 5)

Lexham Classics

Lexham Classics is a series of beautifully typeset new editions of classic works. Each book has been carefully transcribed from the original texts, ensuring an accurate representation of the writing as the author intended it to be. Learn more about Lexham Classics.

Product Details

  • Title: Plain Theology for Plain People
  • Author: Charles Octavius Boothe
  • Series: Lexham Classics
  • Publisher: Lexham Press
  • Publication Date: 2017
  • Estimated Page Count: 176
  • Format: Paperback, Logos Digital
  • Trim Size: 6x9
  • ISBN: 9781683590347

About Charles Octavius Boothe

Charles Octavius Boothe (1845–1924) was a Baptist pastor and educator. He was the founding minister of Dexter Avenue—King Memorial Baptist Church in Montgomery, Alabama and one of the founding fathers of Selma University.

About Walter R. Strickland II

Walter R. Strickland II (PhD, University of Aberdeen) is assistant professor of theology and associate vice president for diversity at Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary. He co-wrote Every Waking Hour with Benjamin Quinn.

Sample Pages from Plain Theology for Plain People


11 ratings

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  1. Josh Watford

    Josh Watford


  2. David Anfinrud
    A book to build your firm foundation of Christian Faith. Staying away from the theological terms but explain our faith in a concise way to help us build our foundation. A good book for any library. It is considered a classic. It is a good reminder to keep things simple and concise. Not talk over the heads of those around you. Our faith was built on simplicity and as we grow in Faith it helps us get closer to God. Written over 120 years ago. It is a place in today's faith. Keeping the eye on God and the Bible and not feelings that are contrary to the teachings found in the Bible.
  3. ekarudi



  4. Steven Blader

    Steven Blader


  5. Erich Javier Astudillo Acevedo



  7. Walter Strickland
  8. Gregory Wolff

    Gregory Wolff


    Can you make this title available for the Logos platform?
  9. Reid A Ferguson
    Charles Octavius Boothe was a slave. Born in Alabama, June 13, 1845, he was the “legal property” of one Nathaniel Howard.
 Charles Octavius Boothe was a man of God. Coming to faith in Christ in 1865 and baptized in 1866. It seems his social or physical, and his spiritual emancipation coincided. And from that time on, as Walter Strickland writes in the introduction to Boothe’s “Plain Theology”, “Racial uplift was Boothe’s consuming passion.”
 Boothe’s efforts toward this end were concentrated above all in education. He was convinced that an educated black community was the best way to contradict the stereotypes with which black Americans were saddled.
 Entering the ministry, he both founded and pastored two important churches:  “First Colored Baptist Church” in Meridian, Mississippi, and in 1877, “Second Colored Baptist Church” in Montgomery Al. The latter had a name change to Dexter Avenue Baptist Church and went on to civil rights fame under the pastorate of Martin Luther King, Jr. Dr. King served there from 1954 – 1960.
 Thus while basic education was a necessity, Boothe was burdened that mere education was not enough. The impact in black literacy rates due to his and other’s efforts during this time was profound. In 1860, literacy among southern blacks was a mere 10%. By 1890, that rate had risen to 43%. But as I said above, for Boothe, that was not enough. Literacy alone could not accomplish what needed to be done. To quote Strickland’s Introduction once more: “Boothe promoted literacy so former slaves could read the Bible and break free of the oppressive interpretive practices that made the Christian faith a tool to subjugate blacks during slavery. By reading the Bible for themselves blacks could escape manipulative interpretations that were used to foster docility in slaves and make obedience to their masters synonymous with obedience to God.”
 Boothe’s response to that fuller need was: “Plain Theology for Plain People.” A systematic theology for those who had no prior theological platform to build upon. A volume in the plainest English, to summarize a Biblical framework and worldview to lead African Americans to their rightful place at the table of broader Evangelicalism. Simple but not simplistic. Brief, but not scant. Plain but not vulgar. It is a model of concise lucidity.
 Boothe felt keenly the reality that in the African American community, those endeavoring to shepherd the souls of others and pastor God’s people were woefully ill-equipped. In most cases prevented from higher education let alone formal theological education, something was needed to meaningfully and soundly fill the gap. And in my estimation, he more than succeeds.
 As I read this very slender volume (140 pages in all) the word that kept coming to my mind was that it “breathed.” Systematics can be stifling. Don’t get me wrong, I am a systematics guy. I love systematic theology. I love the symmetry and the depth and the framework it provides. From Calvin’s Institutes (interestingly penned as a digest for the average ex-Romanist in the pew) to Shedd’s Dogmatic theology, Berkhof, Horton, Packer, Grudem, Erickson, Ryrie, Mullins, Boice, Frame and others – I gladly swim in these waters. But often, they can be so academic and philosophical, or so driven by a pre-cast system that they lose their energy. They don’t breathe. They aren’t for the average guy or gal in the pew, but more for specialists. Unlike the Bible. Not so Plain theology for Plain People. 
I did not go back to actually test this in fact, but I think if you were to take out all of Boothe’s Scripture quotations and only referenced them – you would reduce the book by 1/3 to ½. This tells you two things: 1. It is Scripture-rich in all of its points. 2. It shows Boothe’s extraordinary facility with the Word in that Plain Theology is a sum of crucial Bible doctrine demonstrated from the Bible itself, threaded together by connecting thoughts from the author. Brilliant.
 Gone is the specialized technical jargon of the academic in favor of clarifying simplicity.
 There are a couple of glitches. Boothe is clearly committed to Believer’s Baptism. That might give some an itch to scratch. And his portion on church discipline seems a tad unbalanced at first blush. I would love to be able to have him clarify a couple of his statements more. But no one is going to be led astray. And while the readers will not emerge with the delightful ecclesiastical labels we are so fond of in our day for classifying everyone into categories, sub-categories, sub-sub-categories etc., they will be sound their overall Biblical understanding in a systematic way. He won’t say a word about being a Baptist, a Presbyterian, Methodist or Episcopalian. He won’t refer to being “Reformed” or “Calvinistic”, “Arminian”, pre- post- or a-mill, traducian, creationist, tricotomist, in-errantist or supra- sub- or infralapsarian. Nor will he mention being a White Christian versus a Black Christian vs a Hispanic Christian vs. any other ethnically categorized Christian. He will talk only of being Christ’s and belonging to His Church and knowing truth as revealed in the Scriptures.
 Plain Theology for Plain People would make a stupendous small group study, beginning Believer’s class or individual Bible study for anyone wishing to come away with the basics in a readable, accessible non-technical format.
I really cannot recommend this work highly enough. Reading it was a real treat for my own soul. And at 140 pages, it can be read through very quickly.
 Plain theology for Plain People has earned one of those permanent places in my collection – and one I plan to revisit again. 
Lexham press is to be commended for bringing this gem of African American theological thought to us anew in our generation. It may be more useful now than ever before.
  10. Edward Wright
    good for my simple brain


Print list price: $14.99
Save $5.00 (33%)