Systematic Theology: An Introduction to Christian Belief – John Frame (2013)

a frameHow does one review a systematic theology by one of the leading minds of the evangelical world?  How does one summarize the thoughts of a 1,100-page book that towers with truth; a book that takes readers to the top of the theological mountain?  Anyone who attempts to read and devour Systematic Theology by John Frame will be faced with such questions.  Indeed, while the oxygen is scarce at the top of this theological peak, readers will be delighted to enjoy the view that Dr. Frame presents.  As one might expect, every branch of systematic theology is explored.  The author invites readers on a journey which introduces them to God who relates to creatures as their covenant Lord.  The three lordship attributes are articulated throughout the book – control, authority, and presence.

Several thoughts help capture the essence of this incredible book.  While some will be put off by such thoughts, my hope is that a majority of readers will be motivated and inspired to pick up Dr. Frame’s work.  This powerful book is marked by at least ten features:

  1. It is God-Centered
  2. It is Scripture-soaked
  3. It is unashamedly Calvinistic
  4. It is conservative
  5. It exposes liberal scholarship and lays bare its erroneous presuppositions
  6. It is biblical
  7. It is mind-penetrating
  8. It is heart-softening
  9. It is personal
  10. It leads readers to worship God

Systematic Theology: An Introduction to Christian Belief by John Frame is a theological tour de force.   This weighty volume is drenched with Scripture and is drowning with biblical wisdom.  I cannot think of any other writer who has influenced my thinking, outside of Jonathan Edwards himself.  This work is a true labor of love, a gift to the church, and a tool that will sharpen the minds of Christ-followers and serve as a heart-tenderizer for many years to come!

Highly recommended

5 stars

50 Core Truths of the Christian Faith – Gregg Allison (2018)

alGregg R. Allison, 50 Core Truths of the Christian Faith: A Guide to Understanding and Teaching Theology, Grand Rapids: Baker Books, 2018, 426 pp. $19.36

I have been teaching theology for over twenty-five years. During that time span, I have been privileged to use some of the finest theological resources available. Contemporary books like Wayne Grudem’s, Systematic Theology: An Introduction to Biblical Doctrine or John Frame’s Systematic Theology: An Introduction to Christian Belief have been a never-ending source of theological wisdom, and have instructed and encouraged my soul. Books geared to laymen like J.I. Packer’s, Concise Theology: A Guide to Historic Christian Beliefs and R.C. Sproul’s, Essential Truths of the Christian Faith have also proven themselves to be faithful friends.

But despite the wealth of resources for pastors and teachers, very few provide insight for actually teaching theology. For this reason, Gregg Allison’s new book will be a welcome addition to many personal libraries. 50 Core Truths of the Christian Faith: A Guide to Understanding and Teaching Theology is part systematic theology and part pedagogy. Indeed, it is a tool to be reckoned with.

A brief look at the table of contents reveals what initially looks like a traditional systematic theology text. Eight branches of systematic theology are arranged from the doctrine of the Word of God (Bibliology) to the doctrine of future things (Eschatology), respectively. Each branch is subsequently arranged into bite-sized pieces which are designed to be easily digested by the reader.

Each of the fifty chapters contains a one-page snapshot of the content, which includes a summary, main themes, and key Scriptures. Three main sections may also be found in each chapter including:

  1. Understanding Doctrine – Major affirmations, biblical support, and major errors associated with a particular doctrine.
  2. Enacting Doctrine – The case for teaching the stakes for minimizing, marginalizing, or repudiating a particular doctrine.
  3. Teaching the Doctrine – Practical pointers and help with teaching a particular doctrine.

“Christian doctrine is Christian belief based on Scripture,” writes Greg Allison. “The church bears the primary responsibility for constructing and transmitting good theology, with an essential assist from the theological wisdom of the ages. The sound doctrine is believed, practiced, confessed, and taught.”

50 Core Truths of the Christian Faith: A Guide to Understanding and Teaching Theology succeeds in carrying out the aims of the author. It is a treasure chest of biblical wisdom that will encourage and educate. Many pastors, teachers, and professors will benefit from this well-sharpened tool which will lead to the edification of the saints and glorify the Triune God!

Highly recommended.

I received this book free from the publisher. I was not required to write a positive review.

The Life and Theology of Paul – Guy Prentiss Waters

paulGuy Prentiss Waters, The Life and Theology of Paul Orlando: Reformation Trust, 2018, 132 pp. $15.00

It was one of the most dramatic conversion experiences in redemptive history. The apostle Paul, formerly Saul of Tarsus was miraculously transformed into a man who found his delight in God. Guy Prentiss Waters tells the story of Paul’s conversion in his latest book. The Life and Theology of Paul not only unpacks some basic biographical details about the apostle Paul – it explores the basics of Pauline theology.

In some ways, this work is a mini-systematic theology. While the author does not cover every branch of theology, he does present Paul’s hamartiology, soteriology, and the ecclesiology. Also, included is a brief discussion of personal eschatology.

Each chapter concludes with a section of practical application. Here, the author presents real-life principles that readers should wrestle with and apply to their lives.

The Life and Theology of Paul is accessible to a wide range of readers and is a faithful treatment of Reformed theology that will provide deep encouragement for many people. It is my privilege to commend this new volume and trust that it will receive a wide reading.

I received this book free from the publisher. I was not required to write a positive review.

Systematic Theology: An Introduction to Christian Belief – John Frame (2013)

a frameHow does one review a systematic theology by one of the leading minds of the evangelical world?  How does one summarize the thoughts of a 1,100-page book that towers with truth; a book that takes readers to the top of the theological mountain?  Anyone who attempts to read and devour Systematic Theology by John Frame will be faced with such questions.  Indeed, while the oxygen is scarce at the top of this theological peak, readers will be delighted to enjoy the view that Dr. Frame presents.  As one might expect, every branch of systematic theology is explored.  The author invites readers on a journey which introduces them to God who relates to creatures as their covenant Lord.  The three lordship attributes are articulated throughout the book – control, authority, and presence.

Several thoughts help capture the essence of this incredible book.  While some will be put off by such thoughts, my hope is that a majority of readers will be motivated and inspired to pick up Dr. Frame’s work.  This powerful book is marked by at least ten features:

  1. It is God-Centered
  2. It is Scripture-soaked
  3. It is unashamedly Calvinistic
  4. It is conservative
  5. It exposes liberal scholarship and lays bare its erroneous presuppositions
  6. It is biblical
  7. It is mind-penetrating
  8. It is heart-softening
  9. It is personal
  10. It leads readers to worship God

Systematic Theology: An Introduction to Christian Belief by John Frame is a theological tour de force.   This weighty volume is drenched with Scripture and is drowning with biblical wisdom.  I cannot think of any other writer who has influenced my thinking, outside of Jonathan Edwards himself.  This work is a true labor of love, a gift to the church, and a tool that will sharpen the minds of Christ-followers and serve as a heart-tenderizer for many years to come!

Highly recommended

5 stars

Systematic Theology: An Introduction to Christian Belief – John Frame (2013)

a frameHow does one review a systematic theology by one of the leading minds of the evangelical world?  How does one summarize the thoughts of a 1,100-page book that towers with truth; a book that takes readers to the top of the theological mountain?  Anyone who attempts to read and devour Systematic Theology by John Frame will be faced with such questions.  Indeed, while the oxygen is scarce at the top of this theological peak, readers will be delighted to enjoy the view that Dr. Frame presents.  As one might expect, every branch of systematic theology is explored.  The author invites readers on a journey which introduces them to God who relates to creatures as their covenant Lord.  The three lordship attributes are articulated throughout the book – control, authority, and presence.

Several thoughts help capture the essence of this incredible book.  While some will be put off by such thoughts, my hope is that a majority of readers will be motivated and inspired to pick up Dr. Frame’s work.  This powerful book is marked by at least ten features:

  1. It is God-Centered
  2. It is Scripture-soaked
  3. It is unashamedly Calvinistic
  4. It is conservative
  5. It exposes liberal scholarship and lays bare its erroneous presuppositions
  6. It is biblical
  7. It is mind-penetrating
  8. It is heart-softening
  9. It is personal
  10. It leads readers to worship God

Systematic Theology: An Introduction to Christian Belief by John Frame is a theological tour de force.   This weighty volume is drenched with Scripture and is drowning with biblical wisdom.  I cannot think of any other writer who has influenced my thinking, outside of Jonathan Edwards himself.  This work is a true labor of love, a gift to the church, and a tool that will sharpen the minds of Christ-followers and serve as a heart-tenderizer for many years to come!

Highly recommended

5 stars

Systematic Theology: An Introduction to Christian Belief – John Frame (2013)

a frameHow does one review a systematic theology by one of the leading minds of the evangelical world?  How does one summarize the thoughts of a 1,100-page book that towers with truth; a book that takes readers to the top of the theological mountain?  Anyone who attempts to read and devour Systematic Theology by John Frame will be faced with such questions.  Indeed, while the oxygen is scarce at the top of this theological peak, readers will be delighted to enjoy the view that Dr. Frame presents.  As one might expect, every branch of systematic theology is explored.  The author invites readers on a journey which introduces them to God who relates to creatures as their covenant Lord.  The three lordship attributes are articulated throughout the book – control, authority, and presence.

Several thoughts help capture the essence of this incredible book.  While some will be put off by such thoughts, my hope is that a majority of readers will be motivated and inspired to pick up Dr. Frame’s work.  This powerful book is marked by at least ten features:

  1. It is God-Centered
  2. It is Scripture-soaked
  3. It is unashamedly Calvinistic
  4. It is conservative
  5. It exposes liberal scholarship and lays bare its erroneous presuppositions
  6. It is biblical
  7. It is mind-penetrating
  8. It is heart-softening
  9. It is personal
  10. It leads readers to worship God

Systematic Theology: An Introduction to Christian Belief by John Frame is a theological tour de force.   This weighty volume is drenched with Scripture and is drowning with biblical wisdom.  I cannot think of any other writer who has influenced my thinking, outside of Jonathan Edwards himself.  This work is a true labor of love, a gift to the church, and a tool that will sharpen the minds of Christ-followers and serve as a heart-tenderizer for many years to come!

Highly recommended

5 stars

SOJOURNERS AND STRANGERS – Gregg Allison (2012)

1581346611_lDr. Gregg Allison leaves no stone unturned in his newest work, Sojourners and Strangers: The Doctrine of the Church.  Allison’s fine piece of work is the latest installment in the Foundations of Evangelical Theology Series, edited by John Feinberg.

Six majors themes form the skeletal structure of  Sojourners and Strangers.

Part One: Foundational Issues

Allison introduces the subject of ecclesiology and underscores his presuppositions at the outset: “I firmly maintain that the source – the sole source – and the starting point of our theology is Scripture, the Word of God.  He presents the basic idea of the church, which is “the people of God … the communion of the saints … and is composed of particular people: ‘sojourners and strangers.'”

The author presents his methodology for ecclesiology.  Realizing that one’s approach in this area has broad implications, Allison contrasts theological methods that embrace continuity and discontinuity between the testaments.  He stands somewhere in the middle of this debate by describing himself as one who embraces a moderate discontinuity, what some have described as progressive dispensationalism.  His conviction has a bearing on his view that concerns the origin of the church and the relationship between the church, Israel, and the ordinance of baptism.  This hermeneutical criteria is a helpful backdrop that serves the rest of the book well.

Part Two: The Biblical Vision – Characteristics of the Church

Here the author studies the inception of the church and her relationship to Israel and the kingdom of God.  Allison makes his position clear: “Because of the identity of the new covenant partners – God and Christ-followers – I draw the conclusion that the church began at Pentecost and did not exist prior to  that monumental event.”  While writing from a Reformed framework, the “line in the sand is drawn” by distinguishing himself from main stream Covenant theology.  The argument is straightforward: “But these faithful and obedient followers of  Jehovah, these people of God, did not  constitute the church.  Yes, God’s work of redemption began with Adam.  Yes, God’s promise to bless all human beings through a particular nation was made to Abraham.  Yes, God’s covenant with the particular people of Israel was given specific expression on Mount Sinai with Moses.  But the people of God post-Adamic covenant, post-Abrahamic covenant, and post-old/Mosaic covenant – up to the new covenant – did not constitute the church.”

Allison’s hermeutical presuppositions are refreshing to be sure because while on one had he distinguishes himself from the covenantal framework, he also distinguishes himself from classical dispensationalism, i.e. “the church stands in both continuity and discontinuity with the people of God in the past.”  Near as I can tell, he is an agreement with the essence of the proposal but forth by Peter Gentry and Stephen Wellum in their excellent work, Kingdom Through Covenant.

Additionally, the orientation of the church is established in part two by examining seven characteristics of the church.

1. The Church is Doxological – oriented to the glory of God.

2. The Church is Logocentric – focused on the Word of God.

3. The Church is Pneumadynamic – empowered by the Holy Spirit.

4. The Church is Covenantal – with God and in covenant community with one another.

5. The Church is Confessional – united by a common Christian confession or creed.

6. The Church is Missional – called to proclaim the gospel and advance the kingdom of God.

7. The Church is Spatio-Temporal/Eschatological – a historical reality with a grand future.

Allison explains each characteristic in great detail and suggests practical suggestions for abiding by the biblical model.

Part Three: The Vision Actualized – The Growth of the Church

Part three demonstrates how the vision set forth in the previous section will be fostered and protected.  This vision will be actualized by maintaining the  purity and unity of the church.  Additionally, the commitment to church discipline plays a key role.  Church discipline is defined as “an anticipatory and declarative sign of the divine eschatological judgment, meted out by Jesus Christ through the church against its sinful members and sinful situations.”  Churches who neglect or reject church discipline do great harm to its members and the testimony of God’s people.

Part Four: The Government of the Church

In this critical section, Dr. Allison unpacks the offices of the church.  First, he examines the office of apostle which is “no longer operative” in the author’s view.  He continues to explore the office of elder and deacon, noting the biblical qualifications and responsibilities of each.

The subject of church government is set forth in a clear and understandable way.  Episcopalianism, Presbyterianism, and Congregationalism are explained in their historical context. The author presents his proposal for the governance of congregational churches – a model that is elder-led and congregationally affirmed – which appears to be the biblical model.

Part Five: The Ordinances of the Church

The various views of baptism and the Lord’s supper are presented in light of church history.  Disagreements that the author has with other views are set forth with charity and graciousness.

Part Six: The Ministries of the Church

Finally, Allison overviews the various spiritual gifts, a biblical theology of worship, and various ministries that emerge in the local church context.  The church should be “for the world and against (the sinful corruption) of the world.

Summary

I cannot recommend Gregg Allison’s work highly enough.  His treatment of ecclesiology should be applauded for its depth and breath.  And it should be celebrated for its gracious approach to disputable matters.  Readers will be remiss to find a shred of compromise or capitulation; yet his gentle approach weaves throughout the fabric of the book.  Sojourners and Strangers should be required reading for every Ecclesiology class for Bible College students and Seminarians alike.  This book will not only instruct and educate; it will help stem the tide of errors and mis-steps that have so characterized the last several years of church history, especially the blunders that have come out of the emergent and seeker-sensitive church.  I would also refer readers to his excellent work, Historical Theology for a superb look at the development of Christian theology in church history.

5 stars