It’s Sneak Peek Week on EerdWord, when we’re sharing excerpts from four of the coming season’s most exciting new releases.
Today’s excerpt comes from the preface to Anthony C. Thiselton’s one-volume Systematic Theology, which will be released in November but is available for preorder now.
(Read through to the end to preview the table of contents.)
* * *
I am grateful for the invitation from the publishers to write a systematic theology that would be “affordable” for students and ministers, as well as others, and would easily fit into a single volume. Financial resources especially for students and ministers are seldom plentiful, and there is a firm limit to what we can reasonably ask of them.
In addition to this, the best systematic theology to date is probably that of Wolfhart Pannenberg, but it is a three-volume work, and often requires rigorous, demanding, and detailed reading. John Webster’s projected systematic theology is said to extend over five volumes; Sarah Coakley’s projected work is said to extend to three or four volumes; and Robert Jenson’s work extends to two volumes. At the opposite end of the spectrum, several one-volume works, useful as they are, have now become a little dated, and are in places too brief or overselective to comprehensively cover the subject.
The compromise for me has been the requirement to write in less detail than I should have chosen. This is why I have had to call the chapter on Christology, for example, “A Concise Christology,” and several other chapters have been shortened to make room for necessary philosophical, exegetical, and linguistic concerns. Nevertheless, others have encouraged me to include several issues that might normally be included in a philosophy of religion, and to integrate these concerns fully with Christian theology. I have attempted to do this unreservedly and gladly.
I began university teaching fifty years ago, and this work has grown out of many years of teaching systematic theology (alongside New Testament, hermeneutics, and formerly philosophy of religion), and also from conversations and discussions with university colleagues and seminary and university students. To facilitate this volume as a teaching tool, I have divided it into fifteen chapters of relatively equal length, to match weekly sessions in an average-length semester. Major universities in the USA and UK seem to vary between fourteen- and sixteen-week semesters. Each chapter, in turn, contains five subsections of roughly equal length. Only chapter 5 is a little longer than the others, since it covers three very different areas.
One of the most distinctive contributions of this volume is perhaps that it offers as broad an interdisciplinary perspective as has been possible. Within this framework, I have included the traditional elements expected of any systematic theology: a theological understanding of God and creation; issues about the existence of God and atheism; a theology of humankind and misdirected desire and alienation; the work and person of Christ; the person and work of the Holy Spirit; the church, ministry, and sacraments; and two chapters on the last things. All these have careful foundations in biblical exegesis, and also interaction with major thinkers through the centuries and today. The latter is not simply for the purpose of recording a chronicle of what has occurred in history, but more especially to illustrate hermeneutical bridges and possibilities. I have tried to include personal assessments.
I am very grateful for an almost casual but crucial warning from Dr. Peter Forster, bishop of Chester, that too often systematic theologies are found to yield disappointingly few practical lessons for Christian discipleship, or to provide too little practical inspiration for Christian devotion. I have tried my utmost, while retaining academic integrity, also to be fully mindful of these utterly right Christian and practical concerns. I have punctuated theological discussions with practical observations about their relevance to the Christian life, while also seeking firmly to avoid any hint of a pious or homiletic tone.
Table of Contents
I. Method and Truth
- The Need for Coherence and Objections to “System”
- Truth, Theology, and Philosophy: The New Testament and Earlier Church Fathers
- Truth, Theology, and the Bible in Historical Context
- A Further Aspect of Philosophy: Conceptual “Grammar”
- Speech-Acts, Hermeneutics, Sociology, and Literary Theory
II. God: Personhood, Trinity, Holy Love, and Grace
- God: Impersonal, Personal, or Suprapersonal?
- God as Holy Trinity: Complication or Confirmation?
- The Living God or “Theism”?
- God as Holy Life-Giver and Loving Creator
- God as the Giver of Grace
III. God and the World
- The God of Love and the Problem of Evil
- Can We Argue from “Cause” to God’s Existence? God’s Transcendence
- The Argument from Design, and Modern Science
- The Argument from Necessity: The Ontological Argument
- Almighty, Omniscient, and Omnipresent: Their Meaning
IV. The Challenge of Atheism: Lessons for Christians
- The Origins of Atheism: A Simple, Materialist View of Humankind
- “God” as a Human Projection: Feuerbach and Freud
- “God” and Social Manipulation: Nietzsche and Marx
- The Attack on Revelation
- Between Atheism and Theism: Deism, Pantheism, and Agnosticism
V. The Nonhuman Creation, and Ordinances for Human Welfare
- The Creation and Work of Angels, Mainly in the Biblical Canon
- Angels in Postcanonical Judaism and in Historical Christian Thought
- The Creation and Status of Animals: Is Creation Centered on Humankind?
- Human Ordering: Political Communities, Marriage, and Justice
- Modern Concerns for the Limitation of the State, and Justice for All
VI. Human Potentiality and the Image of God
- The Image of God: Human Beings Becoming “Persons”
- The Unity of Human Nature, in Contrast to Mind-Body Dualism
- The Diversity of Human Capacities
- The Intervention of Sin and Alienation: Biblical Vocabulary
- Understandings of the Universal Nature of Sin and the Fall, Notably in Paul
VII. Misdirected Desire and Alienation: A Hermeneutical Comparison of Historical Thinkers
- The Ante-Nicene Church Fathers
- The Post-Nicene Church Fathers
- The Medieval and Reformation Periods
- The Early Modern Period
- The Twentieth Century Onward
VIII. Jesus Christ the Mediator
- The Gospel Defined in Terms of the Cross, and the Cross Defined in Terms of God’s Grace
- The Transparent Meanings of Redemption and Salvation
- Two Further Transparent Presuppositions: Mediation and Sacrifice
- Complementary Models of the Atonement
- Expiation and/or Propitiation? Paul’s Distinctive Idea of Reconciliation
IX. Why Consider Historical Theologies of the Atonement? Historical Thought and Hermeneutics
- The Atonement in the Early Church
- The Post-Nicene Period
- Anselm and Abelard
- The Reformation: Luther and Calvin
- Varied Approaches in the Modern Period
X. A Concise Christology
- The Historical Context: The Prophetic and Apocalyptic Expectations of the Old Testament and Judaism
- Jesus’ Proclamation of the Kingdom of God: Pointers to Christology
- The Three So-Called Quests and the Need for Historical Research
- The Christology of the Epistles and Acts: Lord, Last Adam, One with God
- Radical Contrasts between Ancient and Modern Christologies
XI. The Holy Spirit: (I) Biblical Doctrine
- Foundations and Themes in the Old Testament and Judaism
- The Holy Spirit in the Synoptic Gospels and Acts
- The Pauline Epistles and Gifts of the Spirit
- Further Major Themes in Paul
- John and the Rest of the New Testament
XII. The Holy Spirit: (II) Historical Insights
- The Rise of the Pentecostal Movement
- The Holy Spirit before Nicaea
- The Holy Spirit in the Post-Nicene Fathers
- The Holy Spirit in the Reformation and Post-Reformation Periods
- The Holy Spirit from the Nineteenth Century until the Present
XIII. Why the Church? Why Ministry? Why Sacraments?
- Foundations: The Call of God’s People and Modern Individualism
- Theological Debates about the Doctrine of the Church
- Theological Principles Relating to Ministry
- The Sacrament of Baptism
- The Eucharist, Holy Communion, or the Lord’s Supper
XIV. The Return of Christ, the Resurrection, and Related Issues
- Death and Debated Claims about Purgatory and the Millennium
- The Return of Christ, or the Parousia
- Claims about the Imminence of the Parousia and the Nature of Expectation
- The Resurrection of Jesus Christ
- The General Resurrection of the Dead
XV. The Last Judgment, Eternity, and the Restoration of All Things
- The Purpose of the Last Judgment
- Judgment, Verdicts, Wrath, and Justification by Grace
- Progression “after” Judgment? What Is “Eternal” Life?
- The New Jerusalem
- From Glory to Glory; the Restoration of All Things
Click to preorder Systematic Theology or to read a Five Questions interview with Anthony Thiselton here on EerdWord.