A New Christian Dogmatics from Eerdmans

A New Christian Dogmatics from Eerdmans

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I recently received from publisher Wm. B. Eerdmans a complimentary copy of Christian Dogmatics: An Introduction by two Dutch theologians Cornelis van der Kooi and Gijsbert van den Brink (2012/2017). It’s a beautifully hard cover volume encompassing 806 pages (including indexes). On the back cover and inside are glowing endorsements by Richard J. Mouw, Michael S. Horton, Charles Van Engen, and John Bolt—all well-known Reformed theologians with evangelical credentials. I have not read the whole volume yet, but have glanced through it and read portions. It is very contemporary, moderate, irenic, broadly Reformed in posture and orientation, and accessible in language. The authors quote a broad range of theologians and philosophers but the influences of certain 20th century Dutch Reformed theologians such as G. C. Berkouwer and Hendrikus Berkhof are notable.

One of the first things I noticed as I scanned the table of contents is that the doctrine of Scripture appears as Chapter 13—on the heels of the doctrine of the Holy Spirit (Chapter 12). That is not to say, of course, that the Bible is not mentioned or used as an authority for theology before that; it is only to note that a complete account of a doctrine of Scripture follows that of the Holy  Spirit—which is ironic (at least to me).

Years ago my good, late friend Stanley J. Grenz published his similar one volume “dogmatics” entitled Theology for the Community of God (also published by Eerdmans) and included the full discussion of a doctrine of Scripture after the doctrine of the Holy Spirit—late in the order of chapters. For that he was pummeled and vilified by certain conservative evangelical theologians. I am waiting to hear from them now about van der Kooi and van den Brink who do the same.

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Of course, as an evangelical Arminian, I am especially interested in these Dutch Reformed theologians’ treatment of the doctrines of God’s sovereignty—especially providence and election/predestination. I found them to be very moderate—following closely Berkouwer and Berkhof (Hendrikus, not Louis!). There is no hint here of the aggressive “five point Calvinism” of many American Calvinists.

In sum, if someone asked me to recommend to him or her a moderately evangelical, one volume systematic theology from a broadly Reformed perspective I would recommend this one while cautioning that I have not yet read every page. What I have read pleases me even though, naturally, as an Arminian, I would have trouble using it as my own textbook in a course in systematic theology.

We evangelical Arminians need a good, broadly evangelical (not only Wesleyan), contemporary, one volume systematic theology from an Arminian perspective. I have heard rumors of such—that it is “in the works”—from a British Nazarene theologian, but he has cautioned me not to expect it anytime soon. I hope that it may yet appear in publication during my lifetime. I will not write one; I’m not a systematician but a historical theologian. I will leave it to others to risk systematizing revelation and Christian belief; I’m not at all convinced it can be successfully done. I agree with Alfred Lord Tennyson who famously wrote “Our little systems have their day; they have their day and cease to be. They are but broken lights of Thee and Thou, O God, art more than they.”

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