Wright, Shawn D. Theodore Beza: The Man and the Myth. Great Britian: Christian Focus Publications, 2015. 256 pp. $14.99. Purchase at Amazon or for Kindle for less.
Dr. Shawn Wright is Assistant Professor of Church History at The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary. He also serves in the local church as an elder.
Theodore Beza (1519-1605) was the successor to one John Calvin.
With only 8 chapters divided over 256 pages, Wright looks first at Beza’s life and the context in which he ministered. He then paints with broad strokes the theological vision of Beza. The majority of the book is a summary of five publications of Beza:
- Confession of the Christian Faith
- Tabula Praedestinationis
- Treatize of the Plague
- Treatize of Comforting such as are Troubled about their Predestination
- Maister Besaes Household Prayers
Wright pulls no punches and is unapologetic in his own personal views. He is a Calvinist and he endorses the commonly used acronymn, TULIP. He writes with great sympathy toward Beza in the hopes of dispelling some of the myths that have come to be accepted throughout the history of the church.
After offering the introductory and summary of the life and theology of Beza in the first couple chapters, Dr. Wright dives in head first into the more controversial works of Beza. His fifth chapter entitled “Letting God be God” is, in my estimation as a reader and reviewer, the purpose of writing the book.
It is in this chapter that Wright tackles Beza’s doctrine of double predestination – the belief that as God predestines some to salvation, He in turn predestines others to hell. Some may have heard of this doctrine called reprobation. They are one in the same.
What sets Wright apart, specifically in this chapter, but in the entire work as a whole, is his pastoral care as he wades into the deep end of theology. For many, these concepts kill evangelism and missions. For Dr. Wright, they give the messenger a greater boldness to proclaim the gospel of Jesus Christ in an increasingly hostile environment (here in the U.S.).
Another aspect of this biography is the “Uses” section at the end of each chapter. These are designed to be discussion questions, but they are not simply a wrestling with the issues. Rather, Wright wants his readers to understand how the various truths Beza, and consequently what Dr. Wright writes about, impact our daily life and view of God.
For many, Theodore Beza is one of those historical theologians that they know little about and care to learn more because of his dangerous assertions. Dr. Shawn Wright has done a favor for the church in not only writing this biography and elucidating truth and dispelling myths, but he has also equipped a new generation of pastors and Christians to wrestle with divine truth. I highly recommend this biography to all Christians who want to take the time to get to know the heart and theology of perhaps one of the more misunderstood theologians in the history of the church.