This morning I wrote an email to a very good friend who had written to ask me to recommend a systemtic theology book for a resource section that will appear in a booklet he recently wrote that will be published by a national ministry. I wrote the following letter:
Dear Brother:
I have been thinking a bit further re: systematic theologies for your intended general audience. I think first of Alister E. McGrath’s always excellent work. He writes readable, basic, and very sound stuff. His method is historic and biblical while his content is centrist and non-extreme in every way. He is an evangelical who is truly ecumenical and irenic without ever giving up any of the essential truths that are basic to Christian faith. His conclusions are always mainstream and orthodox without the quirks. He has a new book called Theology: The Basics (Blackwell, 2004). I highly recommend this as a guide for your readership. His larger book, still very accessible, is Christian Theology: An Introduction and then following it there is The Christian Theology Reader, in which he provides solid readings taken from historical theologians.
A little more risky, but quite brilliant to my mind, is Donald Bloesch’s Essentials of Evangelical Theology, a two volume work that is still in print for a great price. It pushes the envelope slightly but is a warm, Christ centered, and balanced two-volume work. Bloesch, as you may know by now if you read my blogs from last week, is a mentor to me in every way.
I hope this helps you my friend.
Grace and peace,
P. S. What I am always looking for is evangelical, orthodox, Christ-centered, centrist material that is balanced and that also covers the traditions of the field fairly and sympathetically. Grudem, as I previously noted, is clearly evangelical but he is also ideologically quirky at some places (in his case in conservative ways) and his book is a Sunday School manual in both form and style. He essentially relies on the old "proof-texting" method and does not, therein, actually do theology but rather gives his conclusions based upon how he strings together various texts to make his argument. It is for this reason, and several others, that so many have embraced the book in Bible colleges and Sunday School classes.

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  1. Will Turner April 19, 2005 at 3:37 pm

    “He essentially relies on the old “proof-texting” method and does not, therein, actually do theology but rather gives his conclusions based upon how he strings together various texts to make his argument.”
    How then should proper theology be done? Is Bloesch really any different in proof-texting, and if so how? I have only read “God the Almighty” and his Essentials. Throughout those works he proof-texts both Scripture and Barth. Is it just that you agree more with Bloesch over and against Grudem?
    Does not all Systematic Theology to a certain extent “string together various texts” to make their arguments? Are you looking for an exegetical-systematic theology? Reymond, while I disagree in some places, is the closest I have seen to being an exegetical-systematic theology.

  2. Steve Jackson April 19, 2005 at 7:20 pm

    Tom Oden’s series is quite good. For a brief book, I think Henry’s Basic Christian Doctrine is also good.
    A problem with both McGrath and Bloesch is that they don’t clue the reader in to the significant issues concerning Barth’s orthodoxy.
    I think Mr. Turner is correct: doesn’t everyone “proof text”? And isn’t Grudem’s proof-texting against women in the ministry is more scriptural than Bloesch’s proof-texting in favor.

  3. Steve Jackson April 19, 2005 at 7:49 pm

    Guthrie’s New Testament Theology is a NT theology organized like a systematic theology. It’s quite good.

  4. David Chew April 24, 2005 at 11:05 pm

    I have been reading R. J. Rushdooney’s _Systematic Theology_ (2 vol) and found it to be deep, yet readable and faithful to God’s Word. I use Hoekesma (_Reformed Dogmatics_) and Berkhof as excellent reference works, but hardly readable.

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