Well 2016 has just begun and I started with a whopper. Granted, I started this in 2015, and I bought this book nearly 2 years ago so it has taken me awhile to get to it. But it has been a goal of mine to read through this particular text because it is so popular. So here are some thoughts:
I appreciate Dr. Grudem and his work on this pretty substantial book. I had to take 2 semesters of systematic theology and I wasn’t all that impressed with Dr. Elmer Town’s textbook, “Theology for Today.” So a lot of what I will be writing about will be comparing the two texts.
Here’s what I liked:
- I really enjoyed the language Dr. Grudem used to put into perspective his ideas. He is able to break down really complex thoughts to help the reader work through these issues. It seems like sometimes that isn’t always the case in academia. I can see what a lot of colleges use this particular textbook to teach systematic theology because of the ease of reading.
- I agree with Dr. Grudem on most things in this particular book. He is coming from a more reformed perspective so I literally had no problems in his compilation through soteriology. Other areas I mostly agreed with were his views on theology proper, christology, anthropology, hamartiology, and bibliology.
- There are a few really excellent quotes throughout the book which I won’t take time here to flesh out (in particular I love his definition of theology towards the beginning of the book)
Understanding all of this, please read the following with this thought in mind: I agree with MOST of what Dr. Grudem thinks but as it is with most things, you remember the bad stuff more than the good. So here are some things I didn’t like or disagreed with:
- In the previous text I read, Dr. Towns starts with a section called “prolegomena” which is basically an introduction to how we study theology. I think this was one of the most important sections (if not the most important) of the book. It teaches you how to study theology on your own, in particular what you bring to the table will directly affect your positions in theology. For example, we all have bias and experiences that we tend to keep with us when we examine the Bible. The “good” theological student needs to empty him/herself of these bias before studying theology or they will have an askewed view of their own theology. I thought this was one of the most important lessons you could learn when you first study theology and I was disappointed not more was given to this subject.
- In the Towns book, he logically organizes each section based on the “ology” that you are currently studying. For example, section one was Bibliology that had various chapters about that subject. Section two was Theology Proper with various chapters contained within that subject etc. Dr. Grudem has a more flowing systematic theology that goes from one subject to another without designating these important groupings. I think that really kind of defeats the purpose of the word “systematic” in systematic theology. I think it would make much more sense from an organizational standpoint to rework the different chapters into these subgroups (and my book is an older edition so who knows what the later ones are now like).
- I will admit, I did skip his entire chapter on spiritual gifts. Dr. Grudem ascribes to a position called “continuationism” which is the thought that miraculous spiritual gifts have continued from the Apostolic times. I think his arguments against cessationism are weak and I disagree with much of the evidence he gives to advocate his position. I knew this when I ordered his book but it is curious to me that his textbook his the “golden standard” at many universities that are cessationist in nature.
- Dr. Grudem also does not advocate a dispensationalist eschatology and in whole, I thought he did a disservice to dispensationalism in general. There wasn’t even a discussion on the various dispensations or the covenants from Covenant Theology which is very curious. I would have liked to have read more about these two topics (which, by the way, the Towns does an excellent job because Dr. Towns comes from a Dispensationalist slant).
Overall I think this is a fine book, but certainly not the best.