Oct 04

The Christian Faith, A Systematic Theology for Pilgrims on the Way, by Michael Horton ★★★★★

This book is truly a tour de force, a massive compendium of 990 pages of Horton’s thoughts on various topics in systematic theology. It is not an easy read, though it is quite an enjoyable read. From the very first pages where Horton waxes philosophical, he issues barrage after barrage in defense of the historic Reformed Christian faith. The manner in which the book is written makes it better to read the book cover to cover rather than in individual topical style. It is not like a typical systematic theology text, in which a given topic is presented, the various contending viewpoints presented, and then a defense for the author’s position is offered. Occasionally that form is followed, such as with the discussion of the atonement. Oftentimes, the book has a looser format. It is like Horton is writing a running commentary on the themes of systematic theology. Thus, this book would serve poorly as a basic textbook of systematic theology, but should be manditory reading in conjunction with Berkhof or Reymond, or other contemporary systematic theology texts that follow a more traditional outline.

Horton offers a mix of quality of chapters. Occasionally, he gets bogged down. He can introduce concepts that are simply assumed, such as when he refers to differences in Greek vs. Latin thinking, without explaining the nuances of these differences. Some chapters are quite superb, such as his discussion of the union with Christ, which is developed better here than in any other theology text. His discussion of the creation of the world and man is very weak, and might even have a tendency of leaning toward theistic evolution. The discussions of eschatology seem to focus on a few contemporary authors such as Grudem and the dispensationalists, without fully developing the Reformed amillenial, premillenial, and postmillenial positions. The chapters on the doctrine of the church and the sacraments are superlative, but not comprehensive.

JI Packer stated in his systematic theology class that the textbooks of systematic theology need to be re-written every generation, as the role of systematic theology is to provide in contemporary words the eternal doctrines of the church, while at the same time confronting the contemporary challenges to that theology. In this respect, Hortons’ Systematic Theology shines. Horton has no fear of tackling modern thought, and Karl Barth, as well as modern theologians are very frequently quoted and either rebutted or used in support of his argument.

Even though I label this a systematic theology “running commentary”, it was a challenging but absolutely most enjoyable read, and most thought provoking. It sustains my highest recommendation.

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