Category Archives: 1 – Introduction

My Systematic Theology Books

Yesterday’s being Boxing Day the Life group that my wife and I attend didn’t have a meeting. Thus instead of sharing with you from it, I’ll present an updated version of my September 30 “My Systematic Theology Books” post. It contains two additional books and is arranged alphabetically instead of chronologically.

Aquinas, Thomas. The Summa Theologica. Translated by Fathers of the English Dominican Province. Volumes 19-20 of Great Books of the Western World. Chicago: Encyclopedia Britannica, 1952. Aquinas (1224-74) was the greatest philosopher and theologian of the medieval church. He wrote The Summa Theologica in 1267-73. In 1879 Pope Leo XIII declared it official teaching of the Roman Catholic Church.

Berkhof, Louis. Systematic Theology. Fourth edition. Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1939. Berkhof (1873-1957) was a president and teacher at Calvin Seminary. <i>Systematic Theology</i> was the favourite systematic theology book of Dr. Ratz, the dean of Eastern Pentecostal Bible College when I attended it. Grudem (see below) describes Berkhof’s Systematic Theology as “probably the most useful one-volume systematic theology available from any theological perspective.”

Calvin, John. Institutes of the Christian Religion. Edited by John T. McNeill and translated and indexed by Ford Lewis Battles. Volumes 20-21 of The Library of Christian Classics. Philadelphia, Westminster, 1960. Calvin (1509-64) was the greatest theologian of the Reformation. He wrote the original version of Institutes of the Christian Religion in 1536 and revised it several times. The LCC version was translated from the 1559 version collated with earlier versions.

Erickson, Millard J. Christian Theology. Third edition. Grand Rapids, Michigan: Baker, 2013. Erickson (1932- ) is currently Distinguished Professor of Theology at Western Seminary in Portland, Oregon. The first edition of Christian Theology was published in three volumes in 1983-85. It excels in interacting with contemporary theological thought.

Grudem, Wayne. Systematic Theology. Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 1994. Grudem (1948- ) became Research Professor of Theology and Biblical Studies at Phoenix Seminary in 2001 after teaching for twenty years at Trinity Evangelical Divinity School. He has a website at www.waynegrudem.com. His Systematic Theology is my most useful all-round systematic theology book and my family and I are reading it in our family Bible reading time.

Horton, Stanley M. Editor. Systematic Theology: A Pentecostal Perspective. Springfield: Gospel Publishing House, 1994. Horton (1916- ) is Distinguished Professor Emeritus of Bible and Theology at Assemblies of God Theological Seminary. Systematic Theology: A Pentecostal Perspective was written by twenty teachers of Bible and theology in the seminary and colleges of the Assemblies of God.

Strong, Augustus H. Systematic Theology. Valley Forge: Judson Press, 1907. Strong (1836-1921) was a president and professor of theology at Rochester Theological Seminary. <i>Systematic Theology</i> was first published in 1886 and revised and enlarged in 1906. It was widely used by Baptists until replaced by Millard Erickson’s Christian Theology (see above).

Thiessen, Henry Clarence. Lectures in Systematic Theology. Revised by Vernon D. Doerksen. Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1979. Thiessen (1883–1947) was a former chairman of the faculty at Wheaton College. The first edition of Lectures in Systematic Theology was published in 1949. It was the textbook for systematic theology at Eastern Pentecostal Bible College when I attended it. Grudem categorizes it as Dispensational.

Williams, J. Rodman. Renewal Theology. Grand Rapids, Michigan: Zondervan, 1996. Williams (1918-2008) was a teacher at Regent University. A website dedicated to him is at www.rodmanwilliams.com. Renewal Theology was published in three volumes in 1988-92. It was the first systematic theology published from a charismatic perspective. Besides appreciating its Pentecostal/charismatic orientation, I like its pastoral style and its extensive footnotes, particularly those on the Greek text. Despite its being Calvinistic, it would be my favourite systematic theology book if it weren’t for its also being amillenial.

My Systematic Theology Books

Yesterday my family and I didn’t have time for after breakfast Bible reading. Thus instead of sharing from it with you, I’ll comment briefly on the systematic theology books that I have. I’d appreciate your advising me of other systematic theology books that you have and find useful.

Aquinas, Thomas. The Summa Theologica. Translated by Fathers of the English Dominican Province. Volumes 19-20 of Great Books of the Western World. Chicago: Encyclopedia Britannica, 1952. Aquinas (1224-74) was the greatest philosopher and theologian of the medieval church. He wrote The Summa Theologica in 1267-73. In 1879 Pope Leo XIII declared it official teaching of the Roman Catholic Church.

Calvin, John. Institutes of the Christian Religion. Edited by John T. McNeill and translated and indexed by Ford Lewis Battles. Volumes 20-21 of The Library of Christian Classics. Philadelphia, Westminster, 1960. Calvin (1509-64) was the greatest theologian of the Reformation. He wrote the original version of Institutes of the Christian Religion in 1536 and revised it several times. The LCC version was translated from the 1559 version collated with earlier versions.

Strong, Augustus H. Systematic Theology. Valley Forge: Judson Press, 1907. Strong (1836-1921) was a president and professor of theology at Rochester Theological Seminary. Systematic Theology was first published in 1886 and revised and enlarged in 1906. It was widely used by Baptists until replaced by Millard Erickson’s Christian Theology (1983-85).

Berkhof, Louis. Systematic Theology. Fourth edition. Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1939. Berkhof (1873-1957) was a president and teacher at Calvin Seminary. Systematic Theology was the favourite systematic theology book of Dr. Ratz, the dean of Eastern Pentecostal Bible College when I attended it. Grudem describes it as “the most useful one-volume systematic theology from any theological perspective,” but I think that Grudem’s own Systematic Theology is.

Thiessen, Henry Clarence. Lectures in Systematic Theology. Revised by Vernon D. Doerksen. Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1979. Thiessen (1883–1947) was a former chairman of the faculty at Wheaton College. The first edition of Lectures in Systematic Theology was published in 1949. It was the textbook for systematic theology at Eastern Pentecostal Bible College when I attended it. Grudem categorizes it as Dispensational.

Grudem, Wayne. Systematic Theology. Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 1994. Grudem (1948- ) became Research Professor of Theology and Biblical Studies at Phoenix Seminary in 2001 after teaching for twenty years at Trinity Evangelical Divinity School. My family and I are currently reading Systematic Theology in our after breakfast reading time.

Horton, Stanley M. Editor. Systematic Theology: A Pentecostal Perspective. Springfield: Gospel Publishing House, 1994. Horton (1916- ) is Distinguished Professor Emeritus of Bible and Theology at Assemblies of God Theological Seminary. Systematic Theology: A Pentecostal Perspective was written by twenty teachers of Bible and theology in the seminary and colleges of the Assemblies of God.

O for a Thousand Tongues to Sing

In my family’s reading from and discussion of Wayne Grudem’s Systematic Theology (Zondervan, 1994) in our after breakfast Bible reading time, we have now finished Chapter 1, “Introduction to Systematic Theology.” Grudem ends each chapter with questions for personal application, a list of special terms introduced in the chapter and defined in a glossary at the end of the book, a bibliography consisting mainly of works written from a conservative evangelical position, a Scripture memory passage, and a hymn. Originally I’d planned to share at the end of each chapter from our discussion of its questions, but not knowing how to do so for Chapter 1 without giving the questions I decided to share its hymn instead.

In introducing the hymn, Grudem observes that he wasn’t able to find any hymn related to the subject of the chapter, systematic theology, and so selected a hymn of general praise, Charles Wesley’s “O for a Thousand Tongues to Sing.” He provides seven stanzas of it from a Presbyerian hymnal, Trinity Hymnal, noting that its words are in public domain and thus not subject to copyright restrictions. My being Pentecostal, I located the hymn in a Pentecostal hymnbook, Hymns of Glorious Praise. Finding that not only did it give only five of the seven stanzas but also that it contained slightly different wording in one line, I turned to the Internet’s NetHymnal.

NetHymnal observes that Wesley wrote “O for a Thousand Tongues to Sing” to commemorate the first anniversary of his conversion, this origin being reflected in the final stanza given below, and that the stanza that begins “O for a thousand tongues to sing” was stanza seven of Wesley’s original poem. NetHymnal gives twenty stanzas, the first nine of which are below.

O for a thousand tongues to sing
My great Redeemer’s praise,
The glories of my God and King,
The triumphs of His grace!

My gracious Master and my God,
Assist me to proclaim,
To spread thro’ all the earth abroad,
The honors of Thy name.

Jesus! the name that charms our fears,
That bids our sorrows cease;
‘Tis music in the sinner’s ears,
‘Tis life, and health, and peace.

He breaks the power of canceled sin,
He sets the prisoner free;
His blood can make the foulest clean;
His blood availed for me.

He speaks, and, listening to His voice,
New life the dead receive,
The mournful, broken hearts rejoice,
The humble poor believe.

Hear him, ye deaf; His praise, ye dumb,
Your loosened tongue employ;
Ye blind, behold your Saviour come;
And leap, ye lame, for joy.

In Christ your Head, you then shall know,
Shall feel your sins forgiven;
Anticipate your heaven below,
And own that love is heaven.

Glory to God, and praise and love
Be ever, ever given,
By saints below and saints above,
The church in earth and heaven.

On this glad day the glorious Sun
Of Righteousness arose;
On my behighted soul He shone
And filled it with repose.

How Should We Study Systematic Theology?

Wayne Grudem’s Systematic Theology, which my family and I are reading, suggests some guidelines to observe in studying systematic theology (or doing any Bible study). One of the guidelines lists steps to follow in studying a topic. Here I’ll state the other guidelines that it suggests and then list the steps.

Guidelines to Observe in Studying Theology

– We should pray that God will help us understand what we read from the Bible.

– We should share what we learn with humility and love towards others.

– We should use our reasoning abilities to draw conclusions from the Bible but must make sure that what we deduce from a passage doesn’t contradict what another passage teaches

– We should get help from other people and from books (including systematic theologies).

– We should study theology with praise. I’ll comment further on this below.

Steps to Follow in Studying a Topic

1. Find all the verses relevant to the topic by using a good concordance (looking up in it words important to the topic) and the relevant sections in systematic theology books.

2. Read, make notes on, and try to summarize the points made in the verses.

3. Summarize in one or more points what the verses say about the topic.

4. Read as a check the sections about the topic in systematic theology books.

Studying Theology with Praise

In our family reading of Grudem’s Systematic Theology, I usually read excerpts from his presentation and we discuss them. However, struck by his exposition on studying theology with praise, I had my wife read the whole section. It includes several Bible verses in which the Psalmist expresses his delight with the word of God, although not the one which as a boy I often quoted in Scripture showers, “Thy word is a lamp unto my feet and a light unto my path” (Psalm 119:105, KJV), and concludes with Paul’s expression of joy in Romans 11:33-36 over the doctrine on which he has just finished expounding:

“Oh, the depth of the riches and wisdom and knowledge of God! Jow unsearchable are his judgments and how unscrutable his ways!
“For who hath known the mind of the Lord, or who has been his counselor?
“Or who has given a gift to him that he might be repaid?
“For from him and through him and to him are all things. To him be glory forever. Amen.” (ESV)

Why Should We Study Systematic Theology?

In my first post I defined systematic theology as “the organized study of God and His relationship to humans and the world,” and in my second post I listed the major doctrines or areas of study that comprise systematic theology. Implied in those posts is that it is important for us to know what the Bible says about those doctrines.

The systematic theology that my family and I are reading, Wayne Grudem’s Systematic Theology, is more explicit. It argues that to fulfill the Great Commission we need to know systematic theology. Here is what Jesus commanded the eleven and thus us to do in that commission: “Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. And behold, I am with you always to the end of the age.” (Matthew 28:19-20, ESV).

Grudem explains that for us to teach “all that I have commanded you” involves not only knowing what the Gospels record of Jesus’ oral teaching but also the Old Testament which Jesus assumed his listeners knew and what he would reveal to them later through the Holy Spirit and they would record in the rest of the New Testament.

Sure we could learn what the Bible teaches about a doctrine by reading through the Bible to see what it says about the doctrine instead of by studying systematic theology. But suppose I want to know what it says about spiritual gifts. If I were to start at Genesis 1:1, I’d have to read a long time before I’d find the answer in 1 Corinthians 12-14. It’d be much easier if I could refer to what a systematic theology says about them.

In his Systematic Theology Grudem suggests some additional benefits to us of studying systematic theology:
– It helps us to overcome the wrong ideas that we may have acquired through our reading of parts of the Bible or from others.
– It helps us to make better decisions on questions of doctrine that we may meet later.
– It helps us to grow as Christians.
– It helps us to distinguish between major doctrines, doctrines that we should seek agreement on, and minor doctrines, doctrines which we may differ on.

What Are Doctrines?

A doctrine is what Christians believe about a particular topic. The topic may be broad, being one of the major areas of study listed below, or narrow, being on an aspect of one of those areas, such as the canon of the Bible.

– The Doctrine of the Bible
– The Doctrine of God
– The Doctrine of Man
– The Doctrine of Christ
– The Doctrine of the Holy Spirit
– The Doctrine of Salvation
– The Doctrine of the Church
– The Doctrine of the Last Things

Since my faith is in Jesus Christ rather than in the Bible, I’d prefer to begin the above list with “The Doctrine of Christ.” However the systematic theology that my family and I are reading, Wayne Grudem’s Systematic Theology, and the other major systematic theologies in my library begin with either “The Doctrine of the Bible” (Strong, Thiessen, Grudem) or “The Doctrine of God” (Aquinas, Calvin, Berkhof), and so I’ve begun the list with them. On the other hand, I’ve included in the list a doctrine not listed separately by any of the major systematic theologies, “The Doctrine of the Holy Spirit,” as is done in Pentecostal systematic theologies.

After providing a list of major areas of study similar to the above, Grudem identifies three criteria he used in selecting what narrow topics to include in his Systematic Theology: they are emphasized in the Bible, they have been significant throughout church history, or they are important for Christians today. Examples of doctrines important for Christians today although not significant earlier in church history are the Pentecostal doctrines of baptism in the Holy Spirit and of spiritual gifts. Thus I definitely plan to include them in our family reading of Systematic Theology.

What Is Systematic Theology?

Yesterday my family and I began reading from and discussing Wayne Grudem’s “Systematic Theology” (Zondervan, 1994) in our after breakfast Bible reading time. This will be our third reading of such a book, our having read Marion M. Schoolland’s “Leading Little Ones to God” (Eerdmans, 1981) several years ago and William W. Menzies and Stanley M. Horton’s “Bible Doctrines: A Pentecostal Perspective” (Logion, 1993) a few years ago. This time I plan to make brief daily reports on our reading and discussion here.

Systematic theology is the organized study of God and His relationship to humans and the world.

Systematic theology is related to these theological fields of study, each of which contributes to but is distinct from systematic theology:

– Historical theology is the study of how Christians in different periods of time have understood various theological topics.

– Philosophical theology is the study of theological topics using observation and reason rather the Bible.

– Apologetics is the defence of the Christian faith against the objections of unbelievers.

– Biblical theology is the study of the teachings of parts of the Bible. It includes Old Testament theology, New Testament theology, and the theology of individual books or sections of the Bible.

Formal systematic theology differs in these ways from the informal systematic theology that most Christians do regularly:

– It is organized.

– It is more detailed.

– It is more accurate.

– It considers all relevant Scriptures.

Comments from followers of and visitors to Open Theism are welcome. However, as I observed when I created it, it is intended to introduce open theism to my family and friends. Thus it is not intended for advanced discussion of open theism or for arguments between supporters and opponents of open theism, other sites being available for both of those activities. Thus I will approve the publication of only those comments that are made in a non-technical and friendly manner.