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Dr. Wayne Grudem is a familiar name in the evangelical world. With degrees from Harvard, Westminster Seminary and Cambridge, and a professor for many years on the faculties of Trinity Evangelical Divinity School and Phoenix Seminary, his academic qualifications in the field of biblical studies are immense. He has brought this great learning, along with a spiritually sensitive heart, to bear on what many consider his magnum opus, Systematic Theology: An Introduction to Biblical Doctrine.

One might wonder why a ministry like ABR would offer a systematic theology textbook. Are not such volumes only for heavy thinkers -- for seminarians, pastors and scholars rather than for laymen in the pews? And is not ABR's mission to be 'a Christian apologetics ministry dedicated to demonstrating the historical reliability of the Bible through archaeological and biblical research' -- as if this definition precludes offering a systematic theology text?

The purpose of apologetics, when one gets down to basics, is to give a defense for the Christian faith -- namely, that Biblical Christianity presents the only true view of God, mankind, and the world we live in. Such a defense is only possible if the text of Scripture can be trusted, so in our ministry we emphasize the historical reliability of the biblical text. But on a deeper level, the Bible is historically reliable only because God has inspired it. He is the Divine Author tying the various books of Scripture, written over many centuries by diverse penmen living in varied cultures and using different languages, into a whole stamped with an underlying unity by the ultimate Author. It is this unity that the study of Systematic Theology seeks to investigate and make sense of, and it is enormously faith-building when one is able to grasp this pervasive unity clearly.

Scripture presents us with internally consistent yet gradually unfolded revelation from God. This gradual unfolding, in which the New Testament opens up the Old and the later NT books shed light on the Gospels, cannot be fully appreciated by casual readers of the Bible, or by young Christians who have not really tasted the meat of the Word. If biblical truth is viewed simplistically as merely a set of declarative statements of 'truth,' it falls far short of the rich picture painted by the whole of Scripture. By making this work available we are endeavoring to provide readers with a general reference clearly showing forth the internal consistency of Scripture, an apologetic function quite in keeping with our overall mission.

Since this is a general work of Systematic Theology designed to appeal to the widest possible evangelical audience, it is not tied to any particular denominational stream. The book opens with a few pages of endorsements from a wide spectrum of evangelicals. Charles Colson wrote, 'Wayne Grudem understands that every Christian 'does theology,' that doctrine inevitably finds its application in the believer's life. Clearly written, this volume demonstrates an appreciation for the rich diversity of traditions within the body of Christ while at the same time reminding us that our faith is rooted in historic Christian truth' (my emphasis). Jack Deere, author and lecturer, commented: 'Grudem's Systematic Theology is destined to become a classic. He leads his readers through the most controversial and difficult areas of theology with unparalleled clarity....This work is capable of leading a beginner into the process of mature theological reflection as well as challenging and delighting the seasoned theologian. I have never enjoyed a systematic theology as much as this.' Vern Poythress of Westminster, squarely in the Presbyterian tradition, likewise has solid praise for the book: 'Grudem's book...stands squarely in the historical Reformed tradition on the main issues of theology, including the doctrine of Scripture, the doctrine of God, and the doctrine of salvation...' At the same time, Baptists such as Paige Patterson (Southeastern Baptist Seminary), James Borland (Liberty University), and John Piper can speak highly of it. Patterson: 'Systematic Theology by Wayne Grudem is a fair-minded, thorough text in systematic theology -- the best I have seen in recent years in terms of convenient organization, clarity, and a willingness to tackle the most salient issues of the day. This is an admirable blending of the scholarly and devotional elements seldom achieved in academic books.'

All of this points to the volume's wide acceptance and careful, evenhanded treatment of sensitive topics. That said, it does show an apparent preference for certain viewpoints which not all will agree with. One of these, in ABR's view, concerns the question of the age of the Earth. It is our settled conviction that only a young Earth viewpoint does justice to the plain sense of the Scriptures, which teach that 'in six days the LORD made heaven and earth, the sea, and all that is in them, and rested on the seventh day' (Exodus 20:11). All other arguments raised to defend an old earth view derive from a desire to reconcile the teachings of modern science with the Scriptures. Grudem has attempted to tread carefully around this touchy subject, avoiding a definitive pronouncement: 'Although our conclusions are tentative, at this point in our understanding, Scripture seems to be more easily understood to suggest but not require a young earth view...' (page 307, emphasis in the original). We, however, would say that Scripture does not merely 'suggest' this, it plainly teaches it. We hope that with the passing of the years (Grudem wrote the book in 1994), the author has decided to err on the side of Scripture rather than science. (Dr. Terry Mortenson of Answers in Genesis did a detailed analysis of the creation material in Grudem's work (and others), found online at https://answersingenesis.org/age-of-the-earth/systematic-theology-texts-and-the-age-of-the-earth/; the interested reader is encouraged to check it out.)

But these caveats in no way minimize the overall faith-building value of the work. Grudem has done an admirable job in showing us how God's hand is clearly seen in the deep unity of Scripture and in the way its doctrines are developed and are never contradicted by later revelation. One comes away from it marveling at the greatness and wisdom of the God who has bequeathed to us so great a salvation in His son, our Lord Jesus Christ, and this impression is only deepened by the devotional content spread throughout the book.

In summary, although it is not the sort of work one immediately connects with an apologetics ministry, Grudem's Systematic Theology is a worthy book for all who desire to become more thoroughly grounded in the Word of God.

 

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ABRT 28 | 8/1/2019