Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Book Review: The Christian Faith by Michael Horton

The Christian Faith: A Systematic Theology for Pilgrims On the Way by Michael Horton is not your average systematic theology. It's not broken up into simple chapters ending in "-ology" like Christology, hamaritology, ecclesiology, and the like. Instead, Michael Horton means to tell a story because the doctrines of Scripture arise out of the drama of Scripture. Or as he puts it, "The Christian faith is, first and foremost, and unfolding drama . . . The great doctrines of the Christian faith arise out of this dramatic plot".

For these reasons, The Christian Faith isn't primarily a catalog to reference all the topics that make up your typical systematic theology. Rather, Michael Horton tells the story of God, from beginning to end. After an opening section covering the presuppositions of theology called "Knowing God", Horton shapes his systematic theology in a more narrative-like fashion around the following "chapters" of history:
  1. God Who Lives
  2. God Who Creates
  3. God Who Rescues
  4. God Who Reigns in Grace
  5. God Who Reigns in Glory
The benefit of an approach like this is that The Christian Faith doesn't read like a dry systematic theology. Instead, the very words that Horton uses to describe biblical doctrine and theology—words like "drama", "story", and "narrative"—are also perfectly fitting words to describe Horton's book. He also includes a lot of the history of theology, and does so in an equally engaging way. Names like Augustine, Barth, Berkhof, and Schleiermacher need not necessitate a dull read, and Horton soundly makes this point.

One caution: this book can be an intimidating read on a few different levels. The size itself (just under 1,000 pages) may keep more than a few from cracking the cover. And Horton is a scholar of not only theology but history and philosophy, so the novice may want to keep a dictionary (and a smart friend) nearby.

With those cautions in mind, I cannot recommend this book more highly. If you want a systematic theology that deals with each topic in its biblical, philosophical, historical context, Horton's The Christian Faith is first rate. While this book may not be the top choice for introductory theology, this book is like the best theological jawbreaker. Try and take it fast and it will break you. But take your time on it, savor it, and it will deliver a sweet payoff in the end.

Rating: 4 1/2 out of 5 stars

Recommended for: Pastors, theologians, teachers, anyone looking for a systematic theology that's not dry

This book was a free review copy provided by Zondervan.

1 comment:

Matt Wilcoxen said...

Hey, thanks for this review! I'm pretty excited to see this book coming out. I'm hoping that more thoughtful evangelical theologies like this will stimulate pastors and break the stronghold of awful, boring theology (ahem, Grudem).