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Systematic Theologies Reviewed
By Gary F. Zeolla
Below are short reviews of several systematic theology works. The title links are direct links to where the books can be purchased from Books-A-Million.
By Gordon Lewis and Bruce Demarest
Drs. Lewis and Demarest were two of my professors at Denver Seminary. I was particularly close to Dr. Lewis. He is one of the most intelligent yet humble and gentle men I ever met. And these characteristics come through in his theology.
This theology covers the full range of theology. Each subject is dealt with in-depth. Supporting Scripture verses and the implications of the viewpoint presented are given. It also overviews contrary viewpoints and explains why they do not adequately fit the Biblical material. The reasons for the disagreement are presented in a very fair and straightforward manner. No harsh language at all is seen in this theology.
The theological viewpoint presented is Baptist-Reformed. I agreed with the Baptist perspective before I went to seminary and moved into a Reformed view while at seminary. I present the same perspective in my book Scripture Workbook: For Personal Bible Study and Teaching the Bible .
So I would highly recommend this theology. And if you want to study even more Scripture verses that support each position given, see my book. It presents dozens or even hundreds of supporting verses for each topic covered.
By Millard J. Erickson
This is one of the volumes I used in studying theology at Denver Seminary. It presents a very thorough treatment of each area of Christian theology. It is rather easy to understand for such an in-depth treatment of Christian theology. It also overviews contrary viewpoints and explains why they do not adequately fit the Biblical material. The reasons for the disagreement are presented in a very fair and straightforward manner. No harsh language at all is seen in this theology.
The theological viewpoint presented is Baptist-modified Reformed. I agree with the Baptist perspective, but I would prefer a more full Reformed view. Strong support is given for eternal security, but Erickson seems to hedge on the other four points of Calvinism.
But this minor problem aside, overall this is an excellent volume for the reader who wants to study Christian theology in-depth.
Institutes of the Christian Religion
By John Calvin
Calvin's classic theology still stands as one of the best theologies ever written. Calvin was extremely thorough in every area he discussed. But this thoroughness does leave this volume difficult going at times. But the knowledge that can be gained from reading this theology makes the effort worthwhile.
Despite popular conceptions, Calvin's Institutes is not primarily devoted to presenting Calvin's view of predestination. Of course, his view on this matter is presented, and rather strongly so. But such discussions only constitute a small percentage of this work. Calvin deals with all aspects of the Christian faith in as much depth as he does predestination.
However, Calvin's treatment of those he disagrees with is less than congenial, to say the least. He is especially harsh on Anabaptists and Catholics (whom he calls "papists"). It was somewhat the norm at time to be harsh with one's "opponents," so Calvin cannot be faulted too much for this. But still, such language in theological debates is uncalled for today.
So if you can get past the harsh language and are ready to really exercise your mind and to learn all you can about the Christian faith, then it is definitely worthwhile to attain and work your way through these volumes.
By Louis Berkhof
Berkhof presented in-depth treatment of the full range of Christian theology. His thoroughness can be seen in every topic he covers. But his writing style is not the easiest to follow. He throws around a lot of terms and names that one not familiar with Christian theology and history might not know. But for the more advanced student of the Christian faith, expending the effort to understand Berkhof's will prove to be fruitful.
Berkhof very strongly presents a Reformed viewpoint. But the section on this subject really only constitutes a small percentage of the total work. Berkhof deals with all aspects of the Christian faith in as much depth as he does the Reformed view of salvation.
One area where I disagree with Berkhof is in regards to baptism. He present an infant baptism perspective while I believe in believer's baptism. But this is the only major disagreement I would have with Berkhof. So I would recommend this volume, but not as one's primary or only theology.
I would recommend consulting volumes like Lewis and Demarest's Integrative Theology or Erickson's Systematic Theology first, and Berkhof's only secondarily for comparison purposes. You might also want to consult my Scripture Workbook for aid in studying various theological topics.
Evangelical Dictionary of Theology
Edited by Walter A. Elwell
What sets this volume apart from other theologies is it is an A-Z listing of articles discussing the full range of the Christian faith. So for whatever subject one wants to study, you can turn directly to the discussion. And not only is every conceivable area of theology discussed, but so are ethical issues, important persons in Church history, denominational histories and viewpoints, cults, and non-Christian worldviews.
The viewpoint presented is conservative throughout. On some areas where there is disagreement among conservatives, more than one article is given supporting each contrary view. Other times, different views are dealt with within the same article. And when the discussion favors one view over another, it is always done is a fair and non-offensive manner. On areas such as predestination, the view presented does tend to favor a Calvinist over an Arminian viewpoint, but not strongly so.
This is not the type of volume that one would read straight through. With as lengthy as it is, I doubt anyone could! But it is a very helpful resource to have around to refer to when one wants to study a particular subject.
Note: Along with from Books-A-Million, my Scripture Workbook is also available from the publisher AuthorHouse.
The above reviews were posted on this Web site in April 30, 2000.
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