Systematic Theology: Biblical and Historical by Robert Duncan Culver
One bookshelf groans and creaks under the weight of my treasured systematic theologies. And so I thought the shelf would completely crack apart when I added the newest (and biggest) addition to my family of contemporary systematic theologies.
Systematic Theology: Biblical and Historical by Dr. Robert Duncan Culver was published in 2005 by Mentor (Christian Focus) as one massive book easily surpassing the size and weight of Erickson’s Christian Theology. But it’s impressive for more than its weight.
Culver’s volume adds two dimensions that I have come to love. I’m grateful for Robert Reymond’s ability to clearly set forth a clear Reformed theology systematically based upon an explicitly biblical foundation. Reymond’s A New Systematic Theology of the Christian Faith is one of the first volumes I reach for when I need specific biblical discussion. But I’ve also grown to love the historical theology of Alister McGrath. McGrath’s Historical Theology is a fabulous look at the historical development of the various components of theology over the centuries. Culver brings both the explicitly biblical framework of Reymond and the historical-mindedness of McGrath together in one massive volume!
But because of its readability and because I most agree with his understanding of the charismatic elements of Christianity, I still prefer Wayne Grudem’s Systematic Theology. It’s very good although it’s one of the oldest of my contemporary systematics (and in need of an overall revision and update). But for my money, Culver sits behind Grudem in the No. 2 position.
A note to expositors is necessary. I am a preacher not a systematician, so systematic theologies are more fun to collect than commentaries (which I must collect). But there is one excellent expositional advantage to a small library of systematic works. When preaching through, say Acts 6, you can see where the doctrine of the passage fits within the larger context. If I browse the Scriptural index in the back of Culver I come to see that Acts 6 is an important chapter because verses 1-5 define some rare but clear proofs that the early church held some form of ‘church membership.’ I may have breezed right past this in my commentaries and expositional studies.
Expositors are good at narrowing their laser-beam attention on 4-8 verses of God’s Word and the systematicians are good at shining a wide-angle beam of light on all Scriptural doctrine. It’s very helpful for preachers like myself to understand where my sermon text fits into the larger systematic structure.
Building a small family of systematic theologies is important (and a fun hobby). So get Grudem and Culver. If you have a strong enough bookshelf (and budget) consider McGrath, Reymond and then Erickson.
Photos (c) 2007, Tony S. Reinke