Monday, April 16, 2018

MY Top Ten: Theological Works

Over the past week, I have seen multiple posts concerning "Top 10" lists covering a variety of topics. I'm not a big fan of such lists since they are quite subjective and really prove very little.

Last evening, at our church's Bible study, the subject of theologians was raised for the second time in the past few days. So, I decided to assemble a list of MY top 10 theological works. Here are the criteria I used in ranking the works:

1. It must be a published theological work (not sermons or commentaries).
2. It must be a work I own.
3. It must be a work I use!
4. Its position in the list is, for the most part, indicative of its frequency of use by me.
5. It is not necessary that I agree with everything in the work (as though anyone does other than the author of the work).

With those in mind, here is my list in reverse order.

10. "The City of God" by Augustine - Perhaps the first systematic theology of the Christian era. I find it to be Augustine's best work, at least of the ones I own. As with others, I disagree with the church father in some areas. But, I feel reading Augustine is a prerequisite for doing theological studies.

9.  "Institutes of the Christian Religion" by John Calvin - Need I say more? Brother John and I disagree on several points and, given the historical context at the time he ministered, he is difficult to read in certain areas. Yet, if you haven't read Calvin's Institutes (or own it!), you need to, whether you agree with him or not.

8.  "Manual of Theology" by John L. Dagg - A Baptist theologian of the south, later President of Mercer University, Dagg was a blind theologian. This work is not nearly as thorough as others but very good, especially, in my opinion, when it comes to the church.

7.  "Abstract of Systematic Theology" by James P. Boyce - Boyce was a Southern Baptist, one of the founders of Southern Seminary and on its original faculty. I view the work as more of an outline of Systematic Theology but refer to it often.

6.  "Systematic Theology" by L. Berkhof - Louis Berkhof was Dutch Reformed (as was Bavinck and Kuyper below). An excellent work highly appreciated by Wayne Grudem (also see below).

5.  "Dogmatic Theology" by W. G. T. Shedd - another Presbyterian who is as good as Hodge. Once again, my major problem with Shedd is his understanding of the church.

4.  "Reformed Dogmatics" by Herman Bavinck - Bavinck was a Dutch Reformed theologian of the 19th century. This work is very good though I find him difficult to read in spots.

3.  "Systematic Theology" by Charles Hodge - Possibly the best Presbyterian theologian. This is a great work. If only he would have better understood Ecclesiology! 

2.  "A Body of Doctrinal and Practical Divinity" by John Gill - Gill is always criticized for being "hard shell". But, for an older writer, I find him well-organized, easy to read, and quite thorough.

1. "Systematic Theology" by Wayne Grudem - I consider Grudem to be the best systematic work done in the past one-hundred years. Since it is more recent, it is very easy to read. Grudem is quite thorough, utilizing the Scriptures extensively. There is a smaller version containing a subset of the material available.

A few of honorable mentions to:

"A Systematic Theology of the Christian Religion" by James Oliver Buswell - Buswell is good but I prefer Berkhof of the two.

"Systematic Theology" by Augustus H. Strong - I feel he is weak in certain areas.

John Owen's work (several volumes) but especially "The Death of Christ". Owen is a terrific theologian but very difficult to read.

"Lectures in Systematic Theology " by Henry Thiessen - the original work was written more from an Arminian position; the revised version is more Reformed.

The works of Dutch theologian Hermann Witsius. Not an organized systematic theology but good nevertheless.

The same may be said for the works of Abraham Kuyper.

"The Christian Religion in Its Doctrinal Expression" by E. Y. Mullins - there are spots where I believe this work falls short.

"Christian Doctrine" by W. T. Connor - not overly thorough and, like Mullins, I feel it falls short in many areas. 

That's my list for what it is worth. It has changed over the years and, most likely, will change again in the future if the Lord delays His return!

1 comment:

Pastor Chris said...

I’d imagine Dagg, like many former theologians would be turning over in their graves if they knew (or had concern now) over the state of the institutions they once headed.