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Book Review – A Theology for the Church (Daniel Akin ed.)

Daniel L. Akin, ed. A Theology for the Church, Revised Edition. Nashville, TN: B&H Academic, 2014. 770 pp. $54.99.

theologyEvery time I say I’m not going to read another introductory systematic theology I read another one; and I have never regretted it. Last year it was Michael Bird’s Evangelical Theology, this year it was A Theology for the Church edited by Daniel Akin. There are several distinguishing features of A Theology for the Church. One is the length – at 728 pages not including backmatter, this volume is considerably shorter than typical one-volume systematic theologies (which are over 1,000 pages), making this volume more accessible – less daunting and easier to get through for those not accustomed to reading such tomes. Another is that every chapter is written by a different person and the whole book is from a Baptist perspective (though competing views are always presented fairly).

Thirdly, this volume was written by churchmen for the Church. Systematic theology is often perceived as dry, academic, and irrelevant by those without an affinity for the discipline. But many systematic theologies by evangelicals who love the Church and see doctrine as fuel for doxology and orthopraxy do convey that in their tomes (e.g. Grudem ends each of his chapters with a memory verse and a hymn). However, in this volume implications on the Christian life and mission are much more explicit than is typical, and recur much more frequently. In the midst of teaching on the various doctrines, authors frequently exhort the reader to know and love God more and to participate in His mission. This unique emphasis can be explicitly seen in the fact that every chapter ends with a section entitled “How Does This Doctrine Impact the Church Today?

Perhaps the most significant distinguishing feature/strength of A Theology for the Church is that it’s not actually a systematic theology as I had expected: it’s an integrative theology. “The present volume is born out of the conviction that a theology for the church should integrate the historical, biblical, philosophical, systematic, and practical aspects of theology as it seeks to achieve a unified, coherent, contextual, and compelling account of the Christian message” (46). Integrative theologies are much rarer than volumes that treat a specific discipline, and typically one must read a different book on each discipline (e.g. many read Grudem’s Systematic Theology at over 1000 pages and Allison’s Historical  Theology at over 700 pages, and that leaves several other facets unexplored). To have a one-volume integrative theology at just over 700 pages that is so accessibly written and geared toward the Church is truly a blessing.



Book Review – The Crucified King: Atonement and Kingdom in Biblical and Systematic Theology

Jeremy R. Treat. The Crucified King: Atonement and Kingdom in Biblical and Systematic Theology. Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 2014. 320 pp. $26.99.

Crucified KingIn both the church and the academy, there has been an unfortunate separation of the kingdom and the cross. I’ve experienced church and parachurch settings where either kingdom or atonement was emphasized, to the near-exclusion of the other; and in both contexts I have an ache for what is missing. The same dichotomization characterizes theological tomes – works that treat the kingdom hardly ever mention the atonement, and works that deal with atonement hardly mention the kingdom of God. Both kingdom and atonement are significant motifs in Scripture, and focusing on either while discounting/ neglecting the other can have devastating impacts on both one’s theology and ministry/church life.

In The Crucified King: Atonement and Kingdom in Biblical and Systematic Theology, Jeremy Treat provides an in-depth study of the biblical and theological relationship between the kingdom of God and the atoning death of Christ on the cross. “[T]he answer lies ultimately in Jesus, the crucified king, as properly understood within the story and logic of redemption” (25). Here “the story” of redemption is biblical theology and “the logic” of redemption is systematic theology. Because the cross-kingdom divide has much to do with the divide between biblical and systematic theology (with the former emphasizing the kingdom of God whilst largely neglecting the doctrine of atonement and the latter focusing on the doctrine of atonement whilst paying little attention to the theme of the kingdom of God), a holistic, integrative treatment of the themes of kingdom and atonement “will bridge this gap between biblical studies and systematic theology, incorporating insights from both disciplines for both doctrines” (27).


Book Review: Antinomianism (Mark Jones)

Mark Jones. Antinomianism: Reformed Theology’s Unwelcome Guest? Phillipsburg, NJ: P&R, 2013. 176 pp. $17.99.

antinomianismI recently found myself the unwitting and unwilling participant/victim in an Internet war. I had posted a book review that I thought was irenic and fair – pointing out and praising the author for the many good points that he raised, but critiquing and warning against the error of conflating and confounding justification and sanctification. But I was vilified as a legalist and slaughtered. In the aftermath of that war and because of the popularity of this author/pastor and by extension this view of sanctification, I wanted to study sanctification and the law/gospel issue. I was therefore very eager to read Mark Jones‘s latest book.

The cluster of deviations bearing the name antinomianism has been an intense battleground within the tradition of Reformed theology since its very inception, and is still a significant issue today. However, books on the topic are few and far between; apart from strictly academic works that are mostly descriptive in nature, not many books specifically devoted to the topic have been written in the twentieth and twenty-first centuries. Therefore, Jones’s monograph is a much-needed work.