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Review: Logos Bible Software and Reformed Resources

March 13, 2014

J. V. Fesko

The digital age is upon us and that means that there is a publishing revolution that is afoot. It used to be that seminary students and ministers had to make a lot of space on their bookshelves for all of the tomes they wanted to own, but with the creation of the e-book, all of a sudden things have changed. What once took up a lot of space now sits on a computer hard drive, and what once cost a lot of money, now costs a fraction of the price. The problem, however, has been if you wanted to build a library, you were on your own. This is especially so with regard to quality Reformed resources, but now Logos Bible Software has created a new series of packages that are aimed specifically at the connoisseur of Reformed theological literature.

If you’re familiar with the Logos tiered package system, the Reformed libraries they sell offer a number of different levels of resources. In the Base Package, for example, you get the Logos Bible software, which has a wealth of general resources for studying the Scriptures, as well as Outlines of Theology (A. A. Hodge), the Westminster Standards, Institutes (Calvin), Systematic Theology (Hodge), Dogmatic Theology (Shedd), the works of John Bunyan, and the works of Jonathan Edwards. If you go with the Reformed Platinum package, you not only receive the aforementioned works, but a slew of other excellent theological resources including, Herman Witsius (11 vols.), the Summa Theologia of Aquinas in English and Latin (30 vols.), Calvin’s Tracts and Treatises (8 vols.), the works of John Owen (24 vols.), which includes his 8 volume commentary on Hebrews, the works of Charles Hodge (29 vols.), a collection from B. B. Warfield (20 vols.), the select works of Geerhardus Vos (14 vols.), a collection from Louis Berkhof (15 vols.), J. H. Thornwell (10 vols.), A. A. Hodge (11 vols.), Thomas Goodwin (12 vols.), Robert Dabney (11 vols.), Abraham Kuyper (3 vols.), and many others. In fact, there are too many resources to list in this review.

The natural question, of course, is, What does this all cost?

The Reformed Starter Package costs $294.95 and the Reformed Platinum costs $2,149.95. Yes, at first glance whatever excitement you may have experienced in reading about the available resources might be doused by the seemingly weighty price for the top-tier package. There are several considerations, however, to keep in mind.

First, if you added the price of all of the resources you get in the Platinum package, it totals approximately $30,000. A similar cost difference appears for the Starter package, with an approximate value of $3,700 if you purchased them separately in print.

Second, there is the space factor. You might be able to spend a lot of money and save some by buying used books, but where might you put them all? Space might not be a great consideration for every minister, but I have had missionaries approach me before asking about what digital resources they might purchase and use. Why? Space is at a premium and it is often very cost prohibitive to ship hundreds of books overseas and hope they make it. I have often been frustrated when I travel. I have research I want to do but no ability to carry large quantities of books with me. With a digital library, I no longer have to worry about weight limits or the size of my carry-on. It’s all at my fingertips on my computer. Moreover, one of the plusses of the Logos system is that they have Android and iOS mobile apps and a web-based program that allows you to access your library from a variety of devices.

Third, while I like holding a book in my hand, as most bibliophiles do, there are certain advantages to digital books have over their paperbound ancestors. One of the best features is the ability to search vast quantities of material and get instantaneous results. You can search, for example, across Hodge, Owen, Calvin, Thornwell, Toplady, Knox, Goodwin, Witsius, Aquinas, for the occurrence of a specific term or use of a Scripture reference. One of the added benefits is that every Logos book is meta-tagged so that specific terms, such as Hebrew and Greek vocabulary, can be quickly found. Logos does not simply scan and dump books into an electronic file. To search so many works for specific data would take hours of flipping through books. True, just like the paperbound books, you have to sort through the information to determine what is relevant, but searching, marking, highlighting, and quoting is significantly assisted by the digital format.

Fourth, the most unique, and strongest feature of the Logos system, one that sets it above all other formats, is the access to new resources, such as Geerhardus Vos. Logos has started a new translation project of Vos’s Dogmatics, a five-volume work that has never before been available in English translation. In fact, obtaining a copy of the original Dutch edition is extremely hard given its rarity. But if you read Dutch, you can even purchase the original edition in digital format. I think this aspect of the Logos philosophy makes investing in the Logos system worthwhile all on its own. I have had the opportunity to read volumes 1 and 2 of Vos’s Dogmatics and have found it fascinating and insightful, and unavailable through any other medium.

These features make consideration and entry into the digital library market a useful and beneficial decision. This is true not only for the seminarian looking to build his library, but also for the seasoned scholar who wants to increase his efficiency in conducting research. Note, there is no replacement for reading texts from cover to cover, but finding key passages and gaining access to valuable but previously unavailable resources is definitely a plus. For those who have concerns about the costs, there are several options, such as purchasing the base package and building your library with specialized bundles. Another option to consider is that pastors should approach their churches and encourage them to invest in the library for their personal study. While, $2,149.95 is a large amount for a personal budget, it’s a much smaller amount for a church budget. Churches should consider, therefore, investing in this system for the benefit and edification of their pastor’s continuing education, from which they benefit on a weekly basis through the pastor’s preaching and teaching.

In my opinion, digital libraries will never replace printed books. And I for one still like to own a dead wood copy of a book if I can. But for ease of access, portability, efficiency for searching, and even access to new valuable resources, the Logos Reformed digital library offerings is the best system presently on the market. For more information, click here.