Sunday 22 January 2006

Just one systematic theology?

If a general reader wanted to get just one systematic theology, which one should it be? I was asked this question recently. It’s a tricky question, but to my surprise I immediately knew the answer: Robert W. Jenson’s Systematic Theology. This work consists of two volumes: Volume 1 is entitled The Triune God and Volume 2 is entitled The Works of God.

No other systematic theology is more vibrant, more energetic, more contemporary, more sharp and direct in its exposition of the central themes of Christian faith.


Chris Tilling said...

and I just bought Pannenberg's three volume Systematics ...

Anonymous said...

If by general reader, you mean well-educated and conversant with Christian tradition then Jenson is a good one. However, shorter summaries might be more apt. Dogmatics in Outline, Intro to Systematics by Pannenberg?

Ben Myers said...

Hi Chris. Well, I should add that the best contemporary systematic theology is (definitely!) Pannenberg's. And this is definitely the one I would recommend to academic readers.

But for general readers, Jenson's work is far more accessible. And in its own way, it is just as creative and original as Pannenberg's work too -- so scholars should definitely read Jenson as well.

Anyway, these are really the two great contemporary works.

Thanks, Anon., for your comment too. Yes, there are also a number of shorter and more accessible introductory works -- but here I'm thinking of general readers who want to tackle a full systematic theology. But as you say, if someone was looking for a smaller introductory work, I'd probably recommend Barth's Dogmatics in Outline -- or Robert W. Jenson's brilliant little Story and Promise.

T.B. Vick said...

I have slated, beginning Monday, to actually begin reading Jenson's Systematic Theology. I had to get a few other books behind me in my current reading list.

I am actually looking forward to reading it, especially since my friend, David Piske, at has recommended it so highly.

Scribe said...

I have commented favorably on Jenson several times on my own blog, and believe that with some caveats, he has produced the best recent systematic theology. I consider vol. 2 to be stronger and more interesting than vol.1.

Sean said...

Well, Pan is still the MAN! I try to read it at least once every two years, just because it's so engaging with SCRIPTURE! Detailed exegesis in a Systematic Theology? And not just proof texting? Who would of guessed!

Ben Myers said...

You're absolutely right about Pannenberg, Sean. In terms of serious engagement with Scripture, no other theologian even comes close. This is what I love most about Pannenberg -- and it's the main reason why he is, by a long shot, the greatest living theologian.

(But to be fair, most of the other first-rate theologians of recent decades have also engaged seriously with Scripture and have not resorted to proof-texting: e.g. Ebeling, Kueng, H. Berkhof, Schillebeeckx, Moltmann...)

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