I want to begin by thanking Crossway for sending me a copy of this book! My review for this book will be much less of a summary of the book and more an examination of the pros and cons of this book as a theological resource in the context of other available resources of this kind. This review will also not be an examination and critique of MacArthur’s theology. My goal in this review is to briefly examine it’s quality and usefulness as a systematic theology resource. In other words, how does this resource stand with other volumes of systematic theology or Bible doctrine?
The first questions I always ask myself when a new theology volume comes out is something along the lines of “what makes this volume stand out from the others? What does this volume offer that the others do not?” Some volumes make this easier to know than others and this volume does the former. The authors clearly lay out what they see as their “distinctives” in the preface of this volume. They begin by laying out the shape of this volume. They seek to be biblical in content, exegetical in method, systematic in presentation, comprehensive in breadth, pastoral in application, and practical in its affordability, portability, and utility (pg. 25). In choosing one word that best describes themselves they choose biblicist. By this they mean, “at the core of our convictions lies an unshakable trust in God’s innerent and infallible Bible, rightly interpreted” (pg. 26). This shape forms their “distinctives.” The authors argue that this volume is marked by eight distinctives. First, a presuppositional approach to scripture that affirms the existence of God and His revelation to us in Scripture. Second, a belief in young earth creationism and a global flood. Third, an emphasis on covenants that are biblical derived not theologically constructed. Fourth, an emphasis on the sovereignty of God in salvation. Five, a belief in cessationism. Six, a biblically based understanding of the NT church. Seventh, complementarian beliefs when it comes to the roles of men and women. Finally, pre-millennial eschatology. Their goal in this is that it will “extend one’s biblical knowledge, which will enable one’s sound understanding of doctrine, which will enrich one’s divine wisdom, which will expand one’s Christlike obedience, which will elevate one’s holy worship” (pg. 27). Let me begin with the pros of this volume.
#1- The goals of this volume are admirable as the study of theology must deepen our relationship with God which as we grow in that relationship the result is a transformed life.
#2- The prayers and hymns that end each chapter are helpful in connecting the study of theology to the spiritual life.
#3- This volume is saturated with Scripture and exegesis.
As I said at the beginning of this post I intend to be brief and thus the three above mentioned pros are not the only pros but what I see to be the top three. I will not list out the cons that I see but will instead address them in paragraph format for the sake of argumentation.
The main issue I take with this volume as a helpful resource is in their definition of systematic theology, in other words, an issue of theological method. They define is as “the organization of Scripture by a synthesis of scripture teaching, summarized using major categories that encompass the entirety of God’s written revelation” (pg. 36). The result of this definition is a volume that fails to do theology in the context of Church history as it seeks simply to categorize biblical exegesis. This volume, thus, lacks what historical theology can offer to Biblical interpretation and exegesis. For the sake of fairness, I will assume that they know and took into account Church history and historical theology when writing this volume but what I see has happened can be summed up in this illustration. This volume feels like a math textbook in which all of the math problems have already been answered for me. This volume feels more like I’m being told what I must believe rather than helping me learn how to discover theological truths.
In summary, I think that this volume does not stand with other volumes like it. I fail to see what is unique about this volume. If you are interested in learning how to do theology I would suggest your look at other volumes such as Alister McGrath’s Christian Theology which offers a significantly shorter and historically grounded volume which desires to help the reader learn how to do theology faithfully. I understand that the length of this post does not give a comprehensive overview of this volume but hopefully a few helpful comments as you evaluate this volume for yourself.
Quality rating: 3 stars
Recommended Reader: I don’t recommend this volume
Price: $39.41 (Amazon)