In our present “postmodern” ethos, laden as it is with deconstructionism and hermeneutical suspicion, Christians have to ask how the primacy of biblical revelation does in such an environment. Does it struggle for air or does it flourish? Maybe it is better to ask, can it flourish as an idea among ideas?
The biblical outlook has set against it three formidable foes. These enemies of God’s Word are constantly at work chipping away at the foundations upon which Christian theology, and therefore Christian truth, rests. Often working surreptitiously, these three foes are well-known.
In biblical shorthand they are the world, the flesh, and the devil.
For all that is in the world—the desires of the flesh and the desires of the eyes and pride in possessions—is not from the Father but is from the world. (1 John 2:16)
Any theology worth its salt will constantly engage these powers, correcting and seeking to undermine their challenges and influence. True theology is a corrective to false ideas wherever it is found.
A theological system ought to be the product of exegetical study of Scripture, not a preface to exegetical work. Hermeneutical principles are first observed in the Scriptures themselves, even in a cursory and casual reading. Those principles are then applied in actual study of the text in the exegetical process.
This important order of principles and process is one reason that it is a bit of a misnomer to refer to a “dispensational hermeneutic.” Dispensational thinkers claim that they (are at least attempting to) consistently apply a literal grammatical historical hermeneutic to the biblical text. In that hermeneutic approach, dispensational conclusions are just that—conclusions. If we claim to hold to a dispensational hermeneutic, then on the one hand we are asserting our lack of bias in consistently applying an objective hermeneutic, while on the other we are showing our bias by claiming a dispensational presupposition. One can’t have it both ways. Dispensationalists have struggled with this to some degree. Reformed theologians, on the other hand, have virtually dismissed this issue altogether, readily admitting that theology drives their hermeneutic.
Systematic theologies are invaluable resources for the Church. They are as varied as the authors who write them and some are more beneficial than others. The preponderance of systematic theologies are written by individuals within a denominational/theological tradition. While there are many multi-authored books on specific topics, this is not the case with systematic theologies. So it is unique and a bit refreshing when a systematic theology does comes along that breaks the individual author mold.
One of these few contributions is A Theology for the Church, Revised Edition edited by Daniel L. Akin. First published in 2007, the revised edition has new chapters on theological method from a missional perspective by Bruce Ashford and Keith Whitfield and a theology of creation, providence, and Sabbath by Chad Owen Brad which engages current research in science and philosophy. Additionally, the chapters on special revelation by David Dockery and human nature by John Hammett have been updated.
A Theology for the Church follows the standard outline of systematic theology starting with the doctrine of revelation and concluding with the doctrine of the end times. Each chapter approaches these doctrines through a fourfold pattern: (1) What does the Bible say? (2) What has the church believed? (3) How does it all fit together? and (4) How does this doctrine impact the church today?
Michael Horton has done a masterful job in providing a systematic theology written for the common man. Pilgrim Theology (the abbreviated version of his larger systematic theology, The Christian Faith), is a thorough, but not tedious explanation of the basic doctrines of Christianity. Horton presents these doctrines in simple terminology and in concise wording. He gives “just enough” information without exhausting the subject matter or his readers. Where technical terms are used there is either an immediate explanation or one is included in a helpful glossary located in the back of the book.
One of the most voluminous and rich periods of Christian tradition and writing is that of the sixteenth and seventeenth century Puritans. The number of works and pages they produced is staggering and is only outdone by their passion for Christ and their commitment to the Scripture about which they wrote. They produced many classics that Christians have read for centuries since. The Puritans have been the victim of misunderstanding by many, but those who have taken the time to read them, have been changed forever.