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prov·o·ca·tion - something that provokes, arouses, or stimulates. pant - to long eagerly; yearn. a collection of thoughts intended to provoke and inspire. these posts are hoping to encourage people to think, especially Christians, and pant even harder for the waterbrooks of the Lord. If you are not a believer in Christ Jesus, I welcome your perspective and encourage your investigation on these matters.

Tuesday, March 21, 2006

My Top 12 Systematic Theologies

I have been going through several systematics recently due to various research topics and have come to really appreciate the work being presented through the efforts of excellent theologians. I thought I’d provide my top 12 systematic theologies in light of that research. My good friend, J. Caleb Clanton, professor of philosophy at Vanderbilt, has asked me to compile a list of must-reads over various topics/themes in Christian theology. Over the course of the next couple of months, I will post a few. Your input would be greatly appreciated. So here’s my top 12:

  1. John Calvin’s Institutes of the Christian Religion (2 vol. edition)
  2. Wayne Grudem’s Systematic Theology
  3. Louis Berkhof’s Systematic Theology
  4. Charles Hodge’s Systematic Theology (3 vol.)
  5. Robert Reymond’s New Systematic Theology for the Christian Faith
  6. James P. Boyce’s Abstract of Systematic Theology
  7. Millard Erickson’s Christian Theology (2nd Edition)
  8. Gordon Lewis and Bruce Demarest’s Integrative Theology (3 in 1)
  9. John Gill’s Body of Doctrinal and Practical Divinity (3 vol.)
  10. William Shedd’s Dogmatic Theology
  11. R. L. Dabney’s Systematic Theology
  12. Herman Bavinck’s Reformed Dogmatics (multi-volume – still being printed)
At this moment in my studies, these are the systematic I have become acquaintanced with during recent years. Do you have a favorite? If you are familiar with several of these, how would you order your top five? Any not mentioned hear that you particularly enjoy? As I continue to study these systematics, I assume that the positions will inevitably change a bit. However, this is where they stand right now. Some of you, after having listened to the Webb-Miller chat would argue, “What’s the point in systematic theology?” This post is not intended for that discussion, although I would love to have it (at a later time of course).


Blogger Circenses said...

Word of Truth, by Dale Moody

Dogmatics (3 vol), Emil Brunner

The Christian Religion in its Doctrinal Expression, by E.Y. Mullins

These three and Erickson's are my personal favorites.

3/21/2006 11:52:00 AM

Blogger Timmy said...

Ooh, and I can't believe I forgot about this one:

Francis Turretin's Institutes of Elenctic Theology (3 vol.)

Good stuff.

3/21/2006 12:22:00 PM

Blogger R. Mansfield said...

This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

3/21/2006 03:34:00 PM

Blogger R. Mansfield said...

Four additions I'd recommend to your list:

I highly recommend Norman Geisler's new 4-volume systematic. I think it's incredibly valuable for a couple of reasons. First, he comes at every topic not only from a theological perspective, but also from an apologetic and philosophical perspective. He spends a great amount of time demonstrating objections from believers and unbelievers alike to topics and then addressing them head on. And he doesn't create straw men--he goes straight to the source, especially in regard to skeptics. Secondly, his detailed prolegomena (the "Introduction" section of vol. 1) is the best and most thorough I've seen in years. My major disappointment in the series is to realize upon obtaining vol. 4 is that Geisler is a dispensationalist. I've read him for years, and just never realized that. However, the rest of this work is indispensable.

Then, for a different perspective that will round out your library (I'm assuming you have all those books that you list) from a slightly different theological viewpoint is Thomas Oden's three volume Systematic Theology. What's valuable about Oden's work (to me) is that he integrates more voices from church history into his theology than any other systematic I know of. He draw regularly upon the church fathers, reformers, contemporary theologians, protestant and Catholic. Reading his systematic reminds you that you are part of 2000 years of Christian thought.

Third, I'd recommend Donald Bloesch's 7-volume Christian Foundations series. I have four of the volumes so far. Bloesch is often called a "progressive evangelical" which means he's too conservative to be called liberal, but he's not quite as traditional as some of the others on your list. But I find he often has very good insights. His volume on last things is a bit odd in his chapter on the intermediate state, but it still has praises on the back cover from folks like J. I. Packer.

Finally, is any collection of Systematic Theology complete without Thomas Aquinas' Summa Theologica? Actually, HE didn't complete it himself before he died, but his remaining outline is filled in by other Catholic theologians who followed him. He is good to have around to understand medieval theological thought. And you will recognize Aristotle's influence upon his work.

3/21/2006 03:40:00 PM

Blogger B. Preston said...

Mr. timmy,

I compiled a survey on this topic a few months ago and created a spreadsheet with weblinks to relevant texts or information on the particular Theology.

I asked the respondents to provide their top answers by century (post-reformation).

You can find the list at this link:

I hope you find it informative.

3/21/2006 04:46:00 PM

Blogger Timmy said...


Thanks for the great input. Concerning the ones I didn't list, I do have Oden's three volume set as well as Bloesch's Essentials of Evangelical Theology set (2 vol.). They are decent, and I think they definitely have something to offer, though I still like my top 12.

I don't have Geisler's four volume set, nor do I have Aquinas' Summa Theologia (somebody spank me now!). Um, I have looked through Mullins a bit, but am not acquaintanced with it or Moody's word of Truth or Brunner's Dogmatics as I would like. My excuse I guess would be that my time is short these days, I have chosen to spend my time with theologians I line up most with (theological framework, that is). I know that sounds lame, but there you go.

Two others which come to my mind include Barth's works and Duane Garrett's Systematic (2 vol. set). Anyone got anything to say about these two?

3/21/2006 09:14:00 PM

Blogger Kenan said...

You left off A Manual of Theology by John L. Dagg, the first Southern Baptist systematic theology in print.

3/21/2006 09:22:00 PM

Blogger R. Mansfield said...

Duane Garrett has a 2 vol. systematic??

3/21/2006 10:27:00 PM

Blogger Timmy said...

Good one Kenan. I have Dagg's Manual on Church Order by not his Manaul of Theology. I need to check into that.

Um, as far as the Garrett Systematic, am I wrong or is there a copy in the Lifeway at school (SBTS) that is? I could be foolin' myself, but I know those shelves pretty well (spend way to much time scanning for hidden jewels). I will go and check again. I did look on Amazon and BAMM and did not see anything, so I might be mistaken. Maybe someone else can chime in who is in the know on this.

With the suggestions at hand, I think are up to over 20 Systematics. Are there any others (notable that is) that have yet to be mentioned?

What about Robert Culver's Systematic, A.H. Strong's Systematic, Sperry Chafer's Systematic, McGrath's Scientific Theology (3 vol.), Pannenberg's Systematic (3 vol.), or Tillich's Systematic (3 vol.)? Anybody got comments or recommendations about these? Denunciations?

3/22/2006 05:16:00 AM

Blogger Kenan said...

An intesting feature of A Manual of Theology is Dagg's emphasis on the applicability of theology. Each section is prefaced with the "duty" man has in response to the particular doctrine. In the first paragraph, Dagg states: "The study of religious truth ought to be undertaken and prosecuted from a sense of duty, and with a view to the improvement of the heart. When learned, it ought not to be laid on the shelf, as an object of speculation; but it should be desposited deep in the heart, where its satisfying power ought to be felt. To study theology, for the purpose of gratifying curiosity, or preparing for a profession, is an abuse and profanation of what ought to be regarded as most holy. To learn thing pertaining to God, merely for the sake of amusement, or secular advantage, or to gratify the mere love of knowledge, is to treat the Most High with contempt." (p. 13)

3/22/2006 07:06:00 PM

Blogger Timmy said...


Great quote! I totally agree. You know, I am thinking that there are many dangers of contemptible approaches on several fronts. For instance, would you not agree that it is contempt of "the most High God" to deny the study of systematic theology? Inasmuch as it is wrong for those who do it with wrong ends and motives, is it equally wrong to not do it at all?

3/22/2006 10:12:00 PM


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