Systematic Theology

Systematic Theology, by Wayne Grudem ★★★★
Grudem’s and Berkof’s Systematic Theologies were both required reading when I took a systematic theology class from JI Packer with Regent College in Vancouver, Washington. He encouraged us to read Grudem since, he stated, “there is no God in Berkof”. Grudem’s strengths are often his weaknesses. It is an easy read, perhaps too easy. Many theological words are not used, and it is written at about the 8th-grade level. This is a little bit of a pity, since seminaries are using this as a textbook to train pastors. It would be like going to medical school, and using the anatomy coloring book as your primary text, talking about the collar bone rather than the clavicle, armpit rather than axilla, or belly button rather than umbilicus. True, you need to know both terms. But, I expect seminary students to be trained in a fashion that befits advanced post-graduate learning. Otherwise, throw out college, and send our pastors-to-be to bible school, like the Baptists do.
Grudem tends to be solidly grounded in Reformed thinking, which makes this a pleasure to read. My main complaint is that he tends to be preoccupied with certain topics and ignores others. Many historical controversies, such as the origin of the soul, are nearly completely ignored. Yet, he spends over 70 pages discussing the role of gifts in the church. Regarding gifts and miracles, Grudem is definitely a non-cessationist, to which I don’t have a serious problem, except when pushed too hard. Grudem is very reluctant to admit that miracles have always tended to be rare, and he would rather like to think that they are predictable and expected. Regarding prophecy, I tend to agree with him that prophecy is more than just teaching, though I disagree that it is necessarily something more earth-shattering than exhortation. Grudem is also quite eager to defend the pentecostal version of tongues, which I have a serious problem with. He even admits that “tongues interpretation” is only a rough summary of the meaning of what was said, which, in my book, is NOT what is meant by interpretation. I have yet to see a charismatic or pentecostal service that uses tongues in a biblical fashion. I’m also not a pre-millenialist, but won’t object too seriously his stance on that. He fails to offer any suggestion that historic pre-millenialism might have legitimate objections. Grudem’s greatest strength is in discerning which issues are truly worth rolling up your sleeves for a good fight, versus those issues which are not worth being divisive about. All in all, I’d give it 4 stars for laymen’s use, and only 2 star for seminary use.