During a Bible study several years ago, I heard a phrase I dislike. Struggling to explain a difficult verse, a friend said, “I like to think of God as...”
No—I wouldn’t say it was actually evil to say this; still, this common expression is galling (and often misleading), because what we ‘like to think’ about God is not just irrelevant, it can actually lead us away from truth into heresy. Long ago, heretics were burned at the stake; now they can frequently get rich on books and talk shows as they lead their people blissfully astray. Which is worse?
Without firm biblical foundations, believers can resemble spiritual “infants, tossed back and forth by the waves, blown here and there by every wind of teaching” (Eph. 4:14). Our passionate faith needs to be knowledgeable, too. Bishop Moule once said, “Beware equally an undevotional theology and an untheological devotion.”
To avoid misunderstandings about God, the Bible, our faith, or the church, we would be wise to have at least one good resource to organize, summarize and clarify the truths of Scripture. Otherwise, many of us may just passively hope to eventually encounter the most relevant verses about a topic in a Bible study or in our pastor’s sermons. Do you want to bypass all that passive wondering, waiting and hoping? You can’t do much better than Wayne Grudem’s Systematic Theology. (At Christianbook.com the sturdy hardcover is about $29, and worth every dollar. The paperback is cheaper, but you will likely want to use this timeless book for many years.)
What does the Bible say about the character and role of each person of the Trinity? What about angels and demons? What about mankind, sin, salvation, hell, the church, end times, or Heaven? What about the gifts of the Spirit? What should be the roles of women in the church, or of men in their families? These truths are scattered—but not hidden—in Scripture.
With few theological terms, Grudem writes plainly about these and other tenets of our faith. Systematic theologies gather relevant references to enable more complete, less fragmented knowledge of God’s truths, and Grudem’s book is the best of these, I think, for it skillfully weaves worshipful regard for the character of God into each topic he covers. His book is flavored both with deep knowledge and with intimate acquaintance, for he shares much about Whom he knows and enjoys. It reads more like biography (God’s!) than dogma.
All 58 chapters, all 1300 pages, are practically informative and passionately worshipful. In fact, he ends each chapter with a praise song or hymn and a relevant Bible verse to memorize. Don’t feel intimidated by the book’s size—you can take small bites or big ones. Or just read a chapter when it most interests you. Read about the resurrection at Easter, or about why God made us male and female when your son starts dating, or about Heaven when your aunt dies. This is Amazon's #1 bestseller in Protestant Christian theology for good reason; not because it’s popular, but because it’s so solidly biblical.
Grudem’s text shows us the bigger picture of Scripture, and it reconciles numerous apparent contradictions (antinomies). It also traces various biblical misunderstandings to their logical ends—to the heresies and cults that embody them. Best of all, Grudem helps us to know what God wants us to know about Himself, rather than what we ‘would like to think.’
“God will never prove unfaithful to those who trust what He has said. Indeed, the essence of true faith is taking Him at His word and relying on Him to do as He promised.” (Wayne Grudem)
(Systematic Theology has been made available for check-out from the ABEFC library, along with other titles in The Bookshelf.)