A review on the way:
Horton has written a Reformed Systematic theology which reads like a series of extended academic essays on the standard subject areas. He writes with precision and demonstrates an enviable depth of knowledge and breadth of reading. This 1052 page beautifully produced hard back book breaks into 7 main areas:
- Knowing God: The presuppositions of theology
- God who lives
- God who cares
- God who creates
- God who rescues
- God who reigns in grace
- God who reigns in glory
These headings sound warm, personal even pastoral but that isn’t the feel of the book at all. What you get is a rigorous academic text which presents a reformed evangelical position but through a critical engagement with a range of alternative positions. For example NT Wright is cited not only as someone who does not accept the reformed position on imputed righteousness. (ch. X) but also with someone who has a useful contribution to make on understanding Christology by setting the Messianic expectations of their day in a wider historical context. Unlike some conservative reformed thinkers who would view all of Wright’s work as suspect if they disagree with him on another area of theology. But this is a confessional theology – other views are not presented as credible alternatives merely foils for the reformed position to be presented. This is done firmly but graciously and in a non-emotive terms.
Horton hears who?
Its always interesting to look at who the author chooses to interact with. So footnotes are an indication of the theological pool that the author swims in. Here are some of the most oft quoted writers and thinkers in this book and what they reveal about the author.
Women? Two-Thirds World theologians? I am not surprised, perhaps its asking too much for a book this long to engage meaningfully with the majority world?
To give you a flavour of the book here’s a quotation:
“Reflecting the contrasting ontologies of “overcoming estrangement” and “meeting a stranger” is the contrast between the Neoplatonic concept of ontological participation (methexis) and a covenantal concept of union (koinonia). From Origen to John Milbank; there has been a pronounced tendency to identify union with Christ with a Platonic or Neoplatonic scheme of ontic union of the soul with divinity on an ever-ascending ladder of being” p.602
Who would enjoy this book?
Reformed academics – as it offers them a new text book to teach from.
Church pastors – as it provides a different angle on some of the classic doctrinal conundrums.
Eclectic Thinkers – as it provides some fresh integrative thinking – for example Vanhoozer’s Theodramatic theology provides an dialogue partner in the prolegomena to this book.
I must admit it was the last part of the subtitle the intrigued me most about this book. I was hoping that this book would bring the insights of the new monasticism into conversation with Systematic Theology or atleast seek to find ways to apply the great doctrines of the faith to every day life. But that isn’t what Michael Horton is trying to do. In short this book is shorter, less accessible but more generous and scholarly than Wayne Grudem’s Systematic Theology – it also suffers less on the proof texting mode of biblical exegesis. It doesn’t give answers to some of the hot topic issues of our day but will probably prove to have greater staying power. If you are interested investigating a reformed theological perspective this is a great book to stretch your thinking.