Recommended Books in Systematic Theology
Everyone seems to be giving their “best books of 2013” list about this time of year. I thought I would narrow the field a little to systematic theology. A couple of qualifications. (1) I have not read everything, so if you have written a stellar book in the field of systematic theology, I am sorry to have missed you. (2) My list is subjective, revolving around my own particular interests and theological bent. That said, here are the books I really enjoyed this year:
David Gibson and Jonathan Gibson, eds. From Heaven He Came and Sought Her: Definite Atonement in Historical, Biblical, Theological, and Pastoral Perspective. Wheaton, IL: Crossway, 2013.
This is a fine book, with fine contributors, on a very fine topic! Definite atonement has come under severe attack in the last couple of years, so I am grateful to see this robust, thick, and extensive defense of the doctrine from a biblical, theological, and historical standpoint. Michael Bird’s new systematic theology makes the claim that limited atonement is a text-less doctrine. I have no idea how one could hold on to such a claim after reading this volume. Also, if you are a Credo Magazine reader, then you will be especially interested in chapters by Michael A.G. Haykin, Paul Helm, Lee Gatiss, Thomas Schreiner, Robert Letham, Stephen Wellum, and many others. My only question is this: Why has it taken so long for a book like this to be published! (PS-right now you can get the book 45% off here.)
Sam Storms. Kingdom Come: The Amillennial Alternative. Christian Focus, 2013.
I am not an amillennialist. I am a historical premillennialist. Nevertheless, I respect Storms’ scholarship and exegetical-theological rigor in this book, though I remain unconvinced. Whatever view you hold, you must sit down with Storms and do battle.
Michael Horton. The Gospel-Driven Life: Being Good News People in a Bad News World. Grand Rapids: Baker, 2012.
Yes, yes, I know, I am cheating now. Technically this book is from 2012. However, I did not get around to reading it until 2013, so I am going to sneak it in here. With the publication of his The Christian Faith and Pilgrim Theology (two other valuable works that will be passed on for generations, I believe), I wonder if this book was overlooked. But I think this book is not only well-written, but hits the bull’s-eye when it comes to some of the most common misunderstandings of the gospel in contemporary evangelicalism. I wish every college student would read this book. Horton corrects the all-too-common assumption that the gospel is something that comes from within us rather than something that comes from outside of us and is objective, complete, and accomplished. Horton will make you very uncomfortable, correcting your hidden and unrealized unbiblical assumptions. Pick up and read! (Also be sure to check out Horton’s The Gospel Commission: Recovering God’s Strategy for Making Disciples, also published in 2012.)
Brian Vickers. Justification by Grace through Faith: Finding Freedom from Legalism, Lawlessness, Pride and Despair. Phillipsburg, NJ: P&R, 2013.
Are you looking for a book that will introduce you to the doctrine of justification? Here is a good one. Vickers writes in a clear, precise manner and he addresses the major biblical issues and texts surrounding justification by faith. Thomas Schreiner says of the book, “This is the first book I would give to a scholar or layperson desiring to learn more about justification.” While one might argue that this is not technically a systematic theology book, Vickers draws out the theological implications…so it qualifies!
Matthew Barrett (PhD, The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary) is Assistant Professor of Christian Studies at California Baptist University, as well as the founder and executive editor of Credo Magazine. He is the author and editor of several books, including Salvation by Grace: The Case for Effectual Calling and Regeneration. You can read about Barrett’s other publications at matthewmbarrett.com.