Recommending a Systematic Theology Book

John ArmstrongBiblical Theology

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.