The Best Systematic Theologies to Have
I’ve been really, really enjoying John Frame’s new Systematic Theology. It is so clear and it is a joy to read. It is especially helpful (and unique) to see how his thinking on tri-perspectivalism relates to each doctrine.
After I tweeted about Frame’s book, a friend of mine asked me an excellent question: How many systematic theologies should one have? That is, it seems like there are so many coming out these days. Which ones are worth having and which ones aren’t?
Here’s my answer. As you can tell from this, I almost always err on the side of more rather than less. If you can only have (or are only interested in having) one systematic theology, I still recommend Grudem’s as the all around best. But for those interested in knowing the best systematic theologies to own, here’s my suggestion, grouped roughly into two eras.
Reading these guys takes time and effort, but is well worth it. If you want to go down to the deepest foundations in theology, don’t just read contemporary authors — as helpful and important as they are. Read the giants from generations past.
Note: Always get the unabridged. (Never, ever, ever, ever get the abridged version of anything!) This is the translation and edition I recommend.
2. Charles Hodge, Systematic Theology
This a link to the first volume in the Kindle edition. It looks like you can get all three volumes on Kindle for $0.99.
3. Francis Turretin, Institutes of Elenctic Theology 3 vol. set
Turretin asks and answers in massive detail almost all of the most difficult and challenging theological questions you can think of. He is simply brilliant.
4. Louis Berkhof, Systematic Theology
If you only get one systematic from prior generations, Berkhof’s is the one to get. It is incredibly clear, concise, and solid.
1. Wayne Grudem, Systematic Theology: An Introduction to Biblical Doctrine
Still the best way to get a solid, easy to follow understanding of the doctrinal basics of the faith, in my view. Grudem is so clear, so thorough, and engages very well with differing positions. Especially noteworthy are his chapters on the Trinity, Incarnation, and Providence, which are still the absolute best places to go to get a clear and solid understanding of those three especially important doctrines.
2. Michael Horton, The Christian Faith: A Systematic Theology for Pilgrims on the Way
Horton’s systematic is remarkable. It probably interacts the most consistently and substantially with other movements among the systematics I’ve listed here.
3. John Frame, Systematic Theology: An Introduction to Christian Belief
This is what I’ve been enjoying of late and launched this post. Frame is clear, substantial, and incredibly helpful. He even talks about the importance of being a missional church in his chapters on the church. You walk away from each chapter feeling like you have a solid, renewed understanding of each doctrine.