Robert Culver: A Real Theologian

Since today officially marks my entrance into the mid-thirties, I’m going to devote the day to my favorite past-time – good coffee and better theology. I’m going to take my Bible, a hot cup of single-origin java bliss, and park it next to Robert Culver’s Systematic Theology: Biblical & Historical.

Culver’s Magnum Opus

Though published in 2005, Culver’s Systematic exudes maturity and decades of theological reflection. It’s quickly become one of my favorite theological resources because it has everything you want in a systematic theology – 1200 dense pages of tiny font (nearly 900 words per page!), detailed exegetical analyses of Bible passages, summaries of historic theological debates and statements, and even winsome pastoral illustrations and personal anecdotes to drive his point home. Culver has one on skinning a cat under eschatology that’s priceless. When I read him, my response is always: “Now, there’s a real theologian.”

The capstone to decades of faithful pastoral and theological labors, thismagnum opus took Robert Culver 12 years to write – and that doesn’t include the time to actually build the “writing cabin” on his farm in which to write it!

Culver’s Story

Desiring God has done us a real favor by posting their interview with Culver in The Old Man and His Book.

The only surviving charter member of Evangelical Theological Society, Robert Culver served as a pastor and professor for decades – at Wheaton, Trinity Evangelical, and Grace Theological Seminary (Winona Lake), helping nurture these institutions during their infancy.

Now 96 years old, Culver still lives on that farm in Minnesota to which he retired to write.

Trust me, you have to try really hard not to be encouraged by this senior saint. Here are some teaser excerpts:

 

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  • Culver is one of the last men standing from an era of evangelicalism most Millennials can only read about. He was born 1916… he asked if we were aware of the new Calvinistic journal in the Southern Baptist Convention. New? We looked it up later and found that the Founders Journal started in 1990 which must seem like new when youre 96.
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  • He had sensed a call in the direction of full-time ministry for several years and had preached at least a dozen times in nearby churches. Now the tuition break [at seminary] sealed the deal, and he gave up his childhood dream of being a rodeo performer.
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  • Culver then led a church plant in Fremont, Ohio, for three years, until 1945, and built the church building with his own hands. He still remembers the dimensions (64 feet by 52), and says in those years he spent more time as a carpenter-stonemason, working on the new house of worship, than sermon preparation.
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  • Throughout the 1990s, his typical day involved waking early for coffee, working on the theology book until mid morning, when Celeste would bring him a meal. Then hed return to writing until mid afternoon and use the rest of the day for chores around the farmhouse and other odds and ends. He wrote out his chapters on lined tablet pages, and Celeste did the arduous work of putting every line into type sometimes two or three times.

After wading through that dense book, it’s hard to fathom that it was all originally penned by his own hand. Take a few minutes to read The Old Man and His Book and be encouraged by a real theologian:

And it was beautiful to see a saint who it seems has grown warm and gracious with age, rather than narrow, cold, and stern. May God increase his tribe.

Other Works by Robert Culver

Daniel and the Latter Days. Good, thoughtful primer on premillennialism. Culver’s one of my favorite premillennial writers because he’s clear, exegetical, careful and knows when to stop speculating (a virtue to be encouraged!). My copy is one of the prizes of my personal library – slumming around a used bookstore 2 years ago, I found a copy in great shape that was autographed by Culver himself in 1965.

The Earthly Career of Jesus Christ. Great overview and harmony of the life and ministry of the Lord Jesus.

A Greater Commission: Broad Range of the Scriptural Mandate for World Missions. Clear, biblical thinking on the mission of the Church that still adequately dispels much of the confusion today.

3 thoughts on “Robert Culver: A Real Theologian

  1. Thanks for the post. What a guy! How cool is that, he built the church, and then pastored it.

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