Systematic Theology texts are best known for providing a compendium of theological truth into a single source, whether that be in a single volume or in a multi-volume set. Successful systematic theologies aptly incorporate sound and core biblical doctrine into a helpful resource, one which provides the reader the ability to access information on a variety of important doctrine to include developing a better understanding of not just the facts of that doctrine, but more importantly, how it impacts the greater message of Scripture, their daily life, and the church at large. A Theology for the Church edited by Daniel Akin, accomplishes that very feat, providing in a single volume a corpus of biblical doctrine.
A Theology for the Church is divided into eight sections: The Doctrine of Revelation, The Doctrine of God, The Doctrine of Humanity, The Doctrine of Christ, the Doctrine of the Holy Spirit, the Doctrine of Salvation, the Doctrine of the Church, and the Doctrine of Last Things. Unlike other systematic theology texts that are the work of a single author, this particular work contains the contributions of fourteen different theologians, each contributing their own level of theological insight and expertise.
As noted in the preface, “A Theology for the Church follows a distinctive pattern and a definite strategy. Each chapter is organized around four main questions, the order of which is significant: (1) What does the Bible say? (2) What has the church believed? (3) How does it all fit together? And (4) How does this doctrine impact the church today?” Thus, this systematic theology is theological in nature by examining what Scripture says on the topics it addresses, it is historical in that it engages how these doctrines have been understood throughout church history, it is systematic in that it seeks to fit the various parts into a cohesive and cogent whole, and it is practical in that it helps the reader apply the truths found in this volume to everyday life.
An example of this excellent approach can be found in Mark Dever’s outstanding chapter on the Doctrine of the Church. As noted by Dever, the church is “the most visible part of Christian theology, and it is vitally connected with every other part. A distorted church usually coincides with a distorted gospel.” Dever follows the four part approach noted earlier by first examining what Scripture says about the church. He rightly rejects the idea that the church or assembly of God’s people is solely a New Testament phenomenon as believed by many today. The reality is “the shape of the visible church today bears a clear continuity – though not identity – with the visible people of God in the Old Testament.” God has always been about calling a distinct people to Himself to reveal to the world His glory and message for humanity, namely the message of salvation through Christ. While there are certainly differences between the Old Testament assembly and the New Testament Church, distinctions which Dever aptly notes, both are “closely related, and they are related through Jesus Christ.”
Dever also provides a helpful outline of what a healthy church looks like, specifically two important marks – the right preaching of the Word of God and the right administration of baptism and the Lord’s Supper. He again roots his discussion in the Old Testament and rightly so given the call to hear the word of the Lord can be found in the Shema which is always followed by the command to hear and obey the word of the Lord. This task is also found in the New Testament and the responsibility of the church to rightly proclaim the word of truth. Ultimately, “The right preaching of the Word of God is central to the church and is the basis and core of it.”
Perhaps the most helpful aspect of Dever’s discussion of the Doctrine of the Church is his outline of why this doctrine matters for us today. In a day and age where the church seems to be unsure of her mission, where many no longer feel the need to be a part of a local church community, and when many seem to be more along the lines of false teachers rather than shepherds rightly declaring the word of truth, a biblical understanding of the Doctrine of the Church is in dire need for us today. According to Dever, “A right ecclesiology matters for the church’s leadership, membership, structure, culture, and even character.” Given all the other doctrines elaborated in this book are to be expounded through the means of the church, “getting the doctrine of the church right becomes a benefit to people, as the truth about God and his world is more correctly known, taught, and modeled.”
All who read this book will find themselves with a greater and broader understanding and appreciation for the core doctrines of the faith. Each contributor examines their particular topic with great perspicuity and devotion to standing firm on sound doctrine. By providing Scripture’s own statements on each subject of doctrine covered, the church’s historical position on that doctrine, and important elements of daily application, A Theology for the Church stands tall with the other great systematic theological texts. I highly recommend this work for all believers and especially for Bible College and Seminary students and most certainly for pastors. It will be a valuable resource for years to come.
This book is available for purchase from B&H Academic by clicking here.
I received this book for free from B&H Academic for this review. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255 : “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”