Over the past couple of years, I made it a goal of mine to read through Wayne Grudem’s Systematic Theology. Grudem’s is one of the standard systematic theology books used in Bible colleges and seminaries around the world. I read Millard Erickson’s book in my theology classes in seminary, and thus wanted to take a look at Grudem’s work. Over the next few paragraphs, I will mention just a few impressions of the text that I have. I will not attempt a thorough review, as to review a 1,200 page work is not a task I relish.
The first thing that I will applaud in Grudem’s work is the way in which he made his book accessible for readers of all different levels. While some of the concepts are necessarily difficult to mentally wade through, Grudem did extremely well in making this book readable. I do not remember many times in which I felt I had to reread a paragraph or sentence simply because the prose was difficult. Yes, sometimes the logic was difficult, but never the language. Grudem does not revel in using bigger words than his readers can easily digest.
Another positive of the book is its devotional nature. At the end of each chapter, Grudem offers questions for reflection, Scripture to memorize, and even an applicable hymn for the topic being discussed. This demonstrates for us that Grudem does not consider theology something to be reserved for sterile academia. On the contrary, Grudem helps us to see that to embrace theology should necessarily include a deep life of worship of the Creator.
I must also say, though it sound self-promoting, that I enjoyed reading a work that I could so readily agree with. As the author took us through doctrine after doctrine, I found myself so regularly thinking, “Yes, that is exactly what I think.” Of course this is not every concept on every page, but for the most part, I found myself easily able to point back to Grudem and to say to people that this is a good place to see why my doctrine is what it is.
In any work of this size, it is impossible to agree with every concept or argument. There are some doctrines or definitions given where I believed that Grudem may have shot wide of the mark. This is a difficult thing to write, however, as I assume Grudem to be much brighter than me, and thus he is probably right while I need the correction. Without getting into the issues, Grudem’s definition of the New Testament gift of prophecy and his handling of cessationism vs. continuationism is an example where I do not quite find myself lining up with the author’s assessment. I will say, however, that reading Grudem here has made me commit to review my position on the topic and examine my own understanding.
Perhaps the strangest criticism of this book is that some chapters feel too short. Yes, this book is already enormous. Many people will never open its covers for the simple fact of the intimidating mass of the tome. However, some of the latter chapters of the book feel like cursory overviews. This is the downfall of a single volume systematic theology. The point is, however, that many who look to this book for a defining answer on difficult issues such as eschatology will only find a starting point with Grudem, but will have to look to other, more focused works to find a conclusion. No, this criticism is not fair when we consider the book’s purpose, but it is still something that a reader may sense as he or she works through the volume.
I would recommend that Christians of all walks of life take a shot at working through Grudem’s Systematic Theology. Yes, the book is huge. But, if you will give yourself to simply one chapter per week, in 57 weeks, just over 1 year, you will have worked through deep thinking on some of the most glorious things that a person can consider. I have no personal hesitation at all in calling Christians to look to Grudem’s work as a great starting place for understanding the things of the faith.