R. L. Dabney’s Systematic Theology was first published in 1871. The first Banner of Truth
edition appeared in 1985, and has been reprinted a number of times by the Trust.
Robert Dabney is generally considered, with his senior contemporary, J. H. Thornwell, the second great theologian
of the Southern Presbyterian Church in the USA in the latter half of the last century. Pastor,
sometime chaplain to Stonewall Jackson, whose biography he wrote at the request of his widow, Dabney was later
professor at Union Seminary and a founder of Austin Theological Seminary.
A man of monumental culture, taking part in the major debates of his day, he could cut and thrust theologically with
the best. His Systematic Theology went through six editions until 1927. The Banner of Truth reprints of the
second edition of 1878 have made a treasure available once more.
The work reflects Dabney’s unique classroom style, which involved entering dialogue with the great thinkers of the
reformed tradition and polemics with those outside it. Dabney focuses on the major expositors for each topic
discussed. Turretin, Hodge and Edwards receive ample attention and when Dabney takes issue with those opposed to his
Calvinistic convictions, as often is the case, he does so with acumen, respect and fairness. He strives to give the
complete picture, and no difficulty is shirked. However Dabney was no servile follower of the reformed line. In
these discussions, his first concern is always with what Scripture says, and how the reformed tradition may have
obscured it. When he thinks Scripture requires it, Dabney makes no bones about taking Hodge or Turretin to task.
Then his originality can be most stimulating. For instance, in the debate over supralapsarianism and
infralapsarianism (concerning the place of the fall of man within the divine decrees), Dabney bluntly states that
‘this is a question which ought never to have been raised. Both schemes are illogical and contradictory to the true
state of the facts, although the infralapsarian position is more honorable to God’. Would that Barth had read
If this point seems esoteric, it indicates Dabney’s attention to detail and for this reason he can be read with
profit on almost any subject.
By no means light reading, Dabney leaves us with the impression that for all our seeming sophistication, much
theological teaching and discussion of the present must count as impoverished by these standards.
By Robert L. Dabney
Banner of Truth Trust 1985
912 pages, clothbound, £18.00, $34.00
ISBN 978 0 85151 453 6
 Southern Presbyterian
By Henry Alexander White
Banner of Truth Trust 2000
482 pages, clothbound, £13.50, $26.75
ISBN 978 0 85151 795 7
Other works by Dabney published by the Trust and currently (November 2007) in print are Discussions of R. L. Dabney,
Volume 3 and Evangelical Eloquence
Dr. Paul Wells teaches Systematic Theology and Apologetics at the Reformed Seminary in Aix-en-Provence, France.