5.1 – Book Review

Rolland McCune, A Systematic Theology of Biblical Christianity (3 vols). Detroit: Detroit Baptist Theological Seminary, 2009–2010. 1341 pages. Reviewed by Larry Oats.
Rolland McCune was professor of Systematic Theology at the Detroit Baptist Theological Seminary in Allen Park, Michigan. He was President of the Seminary for 10 years and Dean of the Faculty for six years. Prior to that he was on the faculty of Central Baptist Theological Seminary, Plymouth, MN, for 14 years, serving in the capacities of Professor, Registrar, and Dean.

McCune grew up in Indiana. He earned his Bachelor of Arts degree at Taylor University, Fort Wayne, Indiana, and the Bachelor of Divinity (today this would be the Master of Divinity), Master of Theology, and Doctor of Theology degrees at Grace Theological Seminary in Winona Lake, Indiana. He has travelled to the Middle East, visiting Italy, Turkey, Greece, Jordan, Israel, and Egypt. Twice he participated in the Bible Geography Seminar at the Institute of Holy Land Studies in Jerusalem.

McCune began his ministry as a pastor. He was ordained by the First Baptist Church of Warsaw, Indiana. He pastored churches in Missouri and Indiana. While in Minnesota, he served on the Board of Trustees of the Minnesota Baptist Association. In 1977 he was nominated by Taylor University for honorary membership in Delta Epsilon Chi, the honor society of the American Association of Bible Colleges (today the Association for Biblical Higher Education). In 1986 he was given an honorary Doctor of Divinity Degree by Pillsbury Baptist Bible College, Owatonna, Minnesota. Dr. McCune wrote Promise Unfulfilled: The Failed Strategy of Modern Evangelicalism in 2004 and has written numerous articles for various journals.

McCune’s Systematic Theology of Biblical Christianity (3 vols.) is Baptist, dispensational, and fundamentalist. As such, it stands apart from the vast majority of theologies written in the past decade or more. This theology was written for pastors, not particularly for theologians. The writing is clear and concise. McCune places a strong emphasis on the scriptural basis for each doctrine and teaching. His writing style is engaging and understandable. There is nothing particularly new, for McCune’s theology is traditionally dispensational and Baptist.

This work is available in print format from Detroit Baptist Theological Seminary (http://www.dbts.edu/store) or Amazon, or in digital format from Logos Bible Software. It is currently a three-volume set, presumably because it was being published as it was being written. We trust that the next printing will be a one-volume edition.

Volume One covers prolegomena, bibliology, theology proper, and angelology. While his prolegomena is brief, it is a very helpful read for someone who agrees with his underlying presuppositions – a fundamentalist worldview, Baptist ecclesiology, a VanTil style of presuppositionalism, and a Calvinistic soteriology. His high view of the sovereignty of God will be refreshing to some and disturbing to others. In his prolegomena, McCune defines systematic theology as “the correlation of the various teachings or doctrines found in the Bible” (1:5). The only source for theology is “God’s self-disclosure in the Bible” (1:13); he thus rejects nature, rationalism, mysticism, experience, and even the history of doctrine as “false sources of theology” (1:17). In spite of this declaration, McCune does accept the reality of general revelation: “While this revelation is restrictive in content, it is nevertheless absolutely clear and divinely authoritative” (1:40). He also indicates a heavy reliance on the dispensational thought of Charles Ryrie (1:106). McCune rejects progressive dispensationalism as “an unwelcome aberration and wholly unsatisfactory as an approach to understanding Scripture” (1:106).

McCune’s view of inspiration and inerrancy of Scripture is traditional, and his hermeneutic is clearly dispensational. In addition to a straightforward discussion of the existence of God, his personality, and his attributes, McCune includes a section on God’s providential control of the universe. Volume One concludes with a discussion of the origin, nature, and destiny of good and evil angels.

In Volume Two, McCune discusses anthropology, hamartiology, Christology, and Pneumatology. He accepts the Genesis account of man’s creation and fall as a history of actual events. He argues for traducianism and a federal view of the headship of Adam. In his section on the doctrine of sin, he takes a strong view of total depravity and the imputation of Adam’s sin. McCune ably defends the preexistence of Christ, the virgin birth, the humanity and deity of Christ, and the work of Christ in the atonement. This volume concludes with a solid discussion of the personality and deity of the Holy Spirit and his work in the believer. McCune, unlike most dispensationalists, argues for the indwelling of the Holy Spirit in Old Testament saints. He does, however, argue that the baptism of the Spirit is only for New Testament saints.
Volume Three discusses soteriology, ecclesiology, and eschatology. His Calvinism is most evident in his explanation of the doctrine of salvation. Christ’s death is sufficient for all, but efficient only for the elect, salvation is wholly of God, regeneration precedes faith, and the elect will persevere until the end. His dispensationalism is evident in his doctrine of the church. He draws a clear distinction between Israel and the church, based on differences in their origin, purpose, and destiny. His dispensationalism is also clearly evident in his view of eschatology. He argues for a pretribulational rapture, a tribulation with Israel as its focus, the premillennial return of Christ, and a literal kingdom centered on Christ as the Righteous King ruling from David’s throne in Jerusalem.

McCune’s strength is also his weakness. He is straightforward and focused almost exclusively on the text of Scripture. This means he does not interact with much of the current discussions of theology and he does not delve into the history of the development of doctrine. This is helpful for the pastor or layperson who is looking for a fairly simple and direct systematic theology. It is not so helpful for the student seeking to examine the varying positions in the theological world today. McCune also tends toward the dogmatic, often identifying his conclusions without giving the reader a thorough rationale for how he reached that conclusion. That said, this is a helpful set of books for the person not well acquainted with theology and for the pastor who wants a quick read in a given area.