Tuesday, March 18, 2014

"Christian Theology": Blogging Through Erickson - Final Thoughts

To summarize: Paul viewed the gospel as centering on Jesus Christ and what God has done through him. The essential points of the gospel are Jesus Christ's status as the Son of God, his genuine humanity, his death for our sins, his burial, resurrection, subsequent appearances, and future coming in judgment. It may well be said that, in Paul's view, Jesus Christ is the gospel. In fact, the apostle uses the expression "the gospel of Christ" on several occasions (Rom. 15:19; 1 Cor. 9: 12; 2 Cor. 2: 12; 9: 13; 10~14; Gal. 1:7; Phil. 1:27; 1 Thess. 3:2). Friedrich contends that we should not attempt to determine whether the objective or subjective genitive is being used in these passages; Christ is to be understood as both the object and the author of the message. Paul sees the essential truths of this gospel message as fulfillment of Old Testament promises (Rom. l:l-4; 16:25-26; 1 Cor. 15: l-4). Even the fact of coming judgment is good news to the believer (Rom. 2:16), since Christ will be the agent of judgment. For the believer, the result of the judgment will be vindication, not condemnation. (1072)

On May 21, 2012 I wrote and posted my first blog from Dr. Millard Erickson's book Christian Theology. And now, over 100 posts later, I am finally concluding my quest to blog through the entire book. I never read Erickson's systematic theology in either Bible college or seminary. By the time I arrived, the schools were quickly transitioning from Erickson to Dr. Wayne Grudem's best-seller Systematic Theology: An Introduction. My interaction with Erickson's seminal work has been through various research projects (such as on monism) and after starting this project, I quickly realized why Erickson was required reading for so many years.

In this last and final post, I want to highlight a few of the things I liked, and even disliked, about Erickson's theology.

Philosophy is Serious Business

In his book Recovering Classic Evangelicalism: Apply the Wisdom and Vision of Carl F. H. Henry, Dr. Gregory Thornbury laments the absence of strong philosophy in modern theological textbooks. Case in point, Thornbury says, is the best-selling systematic theology of them all: Wayne Grudem's. Grudem's 1,000+ page textbook fails to include a prolegomena - a staple in virtually all major systematic theologies in the centuries before.  

Though I have read Grudem's work in full before, I never noticed this and Thornbury's comment has stuck with me. Erickson's theology, however, not only has a prolegomena, but a strong one at that. In addition, to the praise of Thornbury in the same book, Erickson places a heavy emphasis throughout his book on philosophy and epistemological conclusions. Virtually every chapter tackles some philosophical challenge all of which begins in his prolegomena. This is why, I believe, Grudem bypasses a prolegomena section. In his textbook, philosophy is rarely mentioned.

This is a real strength to Erickson's work. Theologians cannot ignore philosophy no matter how hard they might try. Philosophical assumptions lie at the root of what we believe and inform our theology (and vice versa I would add). Furthermore, the culture tends to follow the direction of its most influential philosophers.

This, then, has led to the ongoing popularity of Erickson. Though many other systematic theologies have been written since Erickson, it continues to earn the respect it deserves. Erickson is able to articulate the gospel and his theology not just in light of theological challenges, but against philosophical errors.

Thorough

Secondly, Erickson is more thorough than most systematic theologies I have interacted with. Go back to Grudem. When I was in seminary, I was writing a major paper on what I called the New Monism. My interests in it stemmed from my ignorance of it. The movement married contemporary neuroscience materialism with Christianity and concluded that humans are soulless. Regarding monism, Dr. Grudem says virtually  nothing on the subject writing it off. Erickson, on the other hand, provides his readers with a serious discussion of it. There, Erickson walks the reader through the basic arguments and why it contradicts Scripture.

This is just one example and countless others could be given. Grudem and others provide a helpful introduction to all the major issues of theology. Erickson, on the other hand, provides a more thorough treatment of most of the major issues of theology.

The Limits of Depth

Though Erickson's thoroughness is a real asset, it does limit the book in one crucial area. Most one-volume introductory systematic theologies seek to deal with most theological issues. Grudem, again, is case in point. Erickson, on the other hand, is forced to bypass discussing important topics in his pursuit of thoroughness.

Two examples can be given here. First, in his discussion of the doctrine of God's Word, Erickson rightly deals in depth with inspiration, authority, and inerrancy but does not adequately address the perspicuity or the infallibility of Scripture. Likewise, in his eschatology, Erickson fails to provide the reader with a clear argument for Hell. This does not mean he doesn't discuss it or defend it. He does especially in light of his discussion of annihilationism. However, he does not walk the reader clearly through the biblical text on what Christians believe about the doctrine.

This is a real weakness and it seems that going forward authors must choose between discussing everything in brief or covering most things in depth (Michael Bird's book Evangelical Theology is guilty of what Erickson does here as well).

Concise

Finally, Erickson is readable, engaging, and articulate. In short, Erickson is a great writer and his systematic theology reflects that. A good one-volume systematic theology must be concise and Erickson excels at that. The author is able to say in a paragraph what would take most theologians (and theological students) to say in several pages. Bird, in contrast, is more wordy.


Conclusion

When I set out to read and blog through Millard Erickson's systematic theology, I did not anticipate it taking me so long. Regardless I am thankful to God that I have slowly walked and blogged through the process. At times, the process was slow either due to personal time or to the gravity of the issues (I spent several posts just on the immutability of God for example). Ultimately, however, these 100+ posts have been a real growing experience for me. I encourage every pastor, theologian, and student of God's Word to invest in and read slowly through a work like this. Theology truly is doxology.


Christian Theology: Blogging Through Erickson - Prolegomena 1 
Christian Theology: Blogging Through Erickson - Prolegomena 2 
Christian Theology: Blogging Through Erickson - Prolegomena 3
Christian Theology: Blogging Through Erickson - Prolegomena 4  
Christian Theology: Blogging Through Erickson - Prolegomena 5  

Christian Theology: Blogging Through Erickson - Bibliology 1
Christian Theology: Blogging Through Erickson - Bibliology 2 
Christian Theology: Blogging Through Erickson - Bibliology 3
Christian Theology: Blogging Through Erickson - Bibliology 4
Christian Theology: Blogging Through Erickson - Bibliology 5
Christian Theology: Blogging Through Erickson - Bibliology 6
Christian Theology: Blogging Through Erickson - Bibliology 7
Christian Theology: Blogging Through Erickson - Bibliology 8  
Christian Theology: Blogging Through Erickson - Bibliology 9
Christian Theology: Blogging Through Erickson - Bibliology 10

"Christian Theology": Blogging Through Erickson - Theology Proper 1
"Christian Theology": Blogging Through Erickson - Theology Proper 2
"Christian Theology": Blogging Through Erickson - Theology Proper 3 
"Christian Theology": Blogging Through Erickson - Theology Proper 4
"Christian Theology": Blogging Through Erickson - Theology Proper 5 
"Christian Theology": Blogging Through Erickson - Theology Proper 6
"Christian Theology": Blogging Through Erickson - Theology Proper 7
"Christian Theology": Blogging Through Erickson - Theology Proper 8
"Christian Theology": Blogging Through Erickson - Theology Proper 10
"Christian Theology": Blogging Through Erickson - Theology Proper 11
"Christian Theology": Blogging Through Erickson - Theology Proper 12
"Christian Theology": Blogging Through Erickson - Theology Proper 13
"Christian Theology": Blogging Through Erickson - Theology Proper 14
"Christian Theology": Blogging Through Erickson - Theology Proper 15
"Christian Theology": Blogging Through Erickson - Theology Proper 16
"Christian Theology": Blogging Through Erickson - Theology Proper 17
"Christian Theology": Blogging Through Erickson - Theology Proper 18
"Christian Theology": Blogging Through Erickson - Theology Proper 19
"Christian Theology": Blogging Through Erickson - Theology Proper 20

"Christian Theology": Blogging Through Erickson - Creation/Providence 1
"Christian Theology": Blogging Through Erickson - Creation/Providence 2
"Christian Theology": Blogging Through Erickson - Creation/Providence 3
"Christian Theology": Blogging Through Erickson - Creation/Providence 4
"Christian Theology": Blogging Through Erickson - Creation/Providence 5 
"Christian Theology": Blogging Through Erickson - Creation/Providence 6
"Christian Theology": Blogging Through Erickson - Creation/Providence 7
"Christian Theology": Blogging Through Erickson - Creation/Providence 8
"Christian Theology": Blogging Through Erickson - Creation/Providence 9
"Christian Theology": Blogging Through Erickson - Creation/Providence 10
"Christian Theology": Blogging Through Erickson - Creation/Providence 11
"Christian Theology": Blogging Through Erickson - Creation/Providence 12
"Christian Theology": Blogging Through Erickson - Creation/Providence 13
"Christian Theology": Blogging Through Erickson - Creation/Providence 14
"Christian Theology": Blogging Through Erickson - Creation/Providence 15
"Christian Theology": Blogging Through Erickson - Creation/Providence 16

"Christian Theology": Blogging Through Erickson - Anthropology 1
"Christian Theology": Blogging Through Erickson - Anthropology 2
"Christian Theology": Blogging Through Erickson - Anthropology 3
"Christian Theology": Blogging Through Erickson - Anthropology 4
"Christian Theology": Blogging Through Erickson - Anthropology 5 
"Christian Theology": Blogging Through Erickson - Anthropology 6

"Christian Theology": Blogging Through Erickson - Hamartiology 1
"Christian Theology": Blogging Through Erickson - Hamartiology 2
"Christian Theology": Blogging Through Erickson - Hamartiology 3
"Christian Theology": Blogging Through Erickson - Hamartiology 4
"Christian Theology": Blogging Through Erickson - Hamartiology 5
"Christian Theology": Blogging Through Erickson - Hamartiology 6
"Christian Theology": Blogging Through Erickson - Hamartiology 7
"Christian Theology": Blogging Through Erickson - Hamartiology 8
"Christian Theology": Blogging Through Erickson - Hamartiology 9

"Christian Theology": Blogging Through Erickson - Christology 1
"Christian Theology": Blogging Through Erickson - Christology 2
"Christian Theology": Blogging Through Erickson - Christology 3
"Christian Theology": Blogging Through Erickson - Christology 4
"Christian Theology": Blogging Through Erickson - Christology 5
"Christian Theology": Blogging Through Erickson - Christology 6
"Christian Theology": Blogging Through Erickson - Christology 7
"Christian Theology": Blogging Through Erickson - Christology 8
"Christian Theology": Blogging Through Erickson - Christology 9
"Christian Theology": Blogging Through Erickson - Christology 10

"Christian Theology": Blogging Through Erickson - Work of Christ 1
"Christian Theology": Blogging Through Erickson - Work of Christ 2
"Christian Theology": Blogging Through Erickson - Work of Christ 3
"Christian Theology": Blogging Through Erickson - Work of Christ 4
"Christian Theology": Blogging Through Erickson - Work of Christ 5
"Christian Theology": Blogging Through Erickson - Work of Christ 6
"Christian Theology": Blogging Through Erickson - Work of Christ 1
"Christian Theology": Blogging Through Erickson - Work of Christ 2
"Christian Theology": Blogging Through Erickson - Work of Christ 3
"Christian Theology": Blogging Through Erickson - Work of Christ 4
"Christian Theology": Blogging Through Erickson - Work of Christ 5
"Christian Theology": Blogging Through Erickson - Work of Christ 6
"Christian Theology": Blogging Through Erickson - Work of Christ 7

"Christian Theology": Blogging Through Erickson - Pneumatology 1
"Christian Theology": Blogging Through Erickson - Pneumatology 2
"Christian Theology": Blogging Through Erickson - Pneumatology 3
"Christian Theology": Blogging Through Erickson - Pneumatology 4
"Christian Theology": Blogging Through Erickson - Pneumatology 5
  
"Christian Theology": Blogging Through Erickson - Soteriology 1
"Christian Theology": Blogging Through Erickson - Soteriology 2
"Christian Theology": Blogging Through Erickson - Soteriology 3
"Christian Theology": Blogging Through Erickson - Soteriology 4 
"Christian Theology": Blogging Through Erickson - Soteriology 5
"Christian Theology": Blogging Through Erickson - Soteriology 6
"Christian Theology": Blogging Through Erickson - Soteriology 7
"Christian Theology": Blogging Through Erickson - Soteriology 8
"Christian Theology": Blogging Through Erickson - Soteriology 9
"Christian Theology": Blogging Through Erickson - Soteriology 10
 
"Christian Theology": Blogging Through Erickson - Ecclesiology 1
"Christian Theology": Blogging Through Erickson - Ecclesiology 2
"Christian Theology": Blogging Through Erickson - Ecclesiology 3
"Christian Theology": Blogging Through Erickson - Ecclesiology 4
"Christian Theology": Blogging Through Erickson - Ecclesiology 5
"Christian Theology": Blogging Through Erickson - Ecclesiology 6

"Christian Theology": Blogging Through Erickson - Eschatology 1

"Christian Theology": Blogging Through Erickson - Conclusion

"Christian Theology": Blogging Through Erickson - Final Thoughts
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