Which Systematic Theology to study first?

Discussion in 'Theological Forum' started by monoergon, Nov 3, 2016.

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  1. monoergon

    monoergon Puritan Board Freshman

    I am going to buy my first systematic theology; I'm considering three options:

    1. Geerhardus Vos - Reformed Dogmatics, Five Volume Set (link)

    2. Herman Bavinck - Reformed Dogmatics, 4 Volume Set (link)

    3. Charles Hodge - Systematic Theology (3 volume set) (link)

    - Which one do you recommend for a first systematic theology?

    - Which one is easier to understand and which of these theologians writes more clearly?

  2. Beezer

    Beezer Puritan Board Freshman

    All are highly recommended, but I recommend this one first. I find Hodges' writing style clear and easy to follow and for the price (~$100 less than the other two) you can't beat it.

    3. Charles Hodge - Systematic Theology (3 volume set) (link)
  3. Dachaser

    Dachaser Puritan Board Doctor

    Agreed, and you can also find his work online for free...

    Him and Berkoff were the 2 main theologies read while accepting reformed views regarding Sotierology!

    I have the abridged one volume of #2, kave not yet gotten around to read it...
  4. LilyG

    LilyG Puritan Board Freshman

    I'm working through Vos' Reformed Dogmatics right now and highly recommend it for a first. Surprisingly easy read, simple, logical format. Way easier than Bavinck. :)
  5. BayouHuguenot

    BayouHuguenot Puritanboard Amanuensis

    Hodge is slightly more to the point than Bavinck, but the scope and magnificence of Bavinck can't be doubted. But I would probably start with Hodge first.

    The format to Vos is beginning to appeal to me in its simplicity.

    I would also get Richard Muller's Dictionary and just reread it over and over again.
  6. Guido's Brother

    Guido's Brother Puritan Board Junior

    If you have never read a Systematic Theology before, all of these are heavyweights. Instead, I would recommend Louis Berkhof's Systematic Theology. It's more recent and it is written in more easily understood English. By reading Berkhof, you also get the best of Bavinck. Berkhof was more or less summarizing Bavinck.
  7. BayouHuguenot

    BayouHuguenot Puritanboard Amanuensis

    And make sure to get the Eerdmans, not the Banner of Truth edition, as the former has an essay attached.
  8. Ask Mr. Religion

    Ask Mr. Religion Flatly Unflappable

  9. Hamalas

    Hamalas whippersnapper

    Is English your second language? That could affect your decision.
  10. yeutter

    yeutter Puritan Board Senior

    Charles Hodge would be my pick. I used to keep four systematics handy, Hodge, Hoeksema, Kersten, and Calvin. I found that comparing them would open my eyes, and make me think through issues in a new way. Hodge goes through the themes that should be covered in a Systematics in an orderly, logical fashion.

    Today I look at Jeffrey Khoo's Theology For Every Christian which is a compendium of Oliver Buswell's Systematics in addition to consulting Hodge. His treatment is warm. Frequently I am interacting with people here in South and Southeast Asia who come from Buswell's perspective.
  11. Andrew P.C.

    Andrew P.C. Puritan Board Junior

    In all honesty, I'd suggest starting with one that is more precise.

    Francis Turretin's Institutes of Elenctic Theology

    The others aren't bad, per se, but it's important to strive for biblical accuracy.

    Just my 2 cents.
  12. Logan

    Logan Puritan Board Junior

    Don't you think he is considerably more nuanced and laborious to read, especially for someone whose first language is not English or Latin? I mean, Turretin is great but I wouldn't consider it introductory or the easiest to understand.
  13. yeutter

    yeutter Puritan Board Senior

    That was the Systematics that Hodge used during his teaching days at Princeton. If I remember correctly, Charles Hodge wrote his own systematics upon his retirement.
  14. monoergon

    monoergon Puritan Board Freshman

    Thank you all for the recommendations. I will probably study Charles Hodge's Systematic Theology. Vos' Reformed Dogmatics is too expensive for me; if it were cheaper, I would probably study it first.

    Turretin will probably be a bit too advanced for a first study of a Systematic Theology.

    I wish Berkhof would have dedicated a few more sections on the law of God; I came from a dispensationalist background and the subject of God's laws are fundamental for me. I think Charles Hodge dedicated more sections on the subject of the law(s) of God in his 3rd vol.
  15. Dachaser

    Dachaser Puritan Board Doctor

    Dr Horton would be a nice Theology for you also....
  16. BayouHuguenot

    BayouHuguenot Puritanboard Amanuensis

    Horton is unique. I like him more than most people like him, I think. He is good on some sections but he can't replace Hodge or Turretin. I tried to read Turretin as one of my first and I couldn't do it. I read him 12 years later and he nearly changed my life.
  17. Dachaser

    Dachaser Puritan Board Doctor

    I have read Dr Grudem and Dr Erickson , and while both not strictly reformed, good to overview past views on differing issues in theology!
  18. C. Matthew McMahon

    C. Matthew McMahon Christian Preacher

    I'd suggest William Ames' Marrow of Theology. It's precise, and online in an updated format for free here. It was my first systematic.
    My second was Calvin's Institutes, but I would hold that one off for later on. I would go with Charles Hodge second, while simultaneously reading Bavinck's Doctrine of God. Then I would read Berkhoff, and then Turretin.
    Turretin's is the best, and Calvin is most practical. The others lay a good foundation (outside of the bible, and the WCF).
  19. Reformed Covenanter

    Reformed Covenanter Puritanboard Commissioner

    His The Christian Faith reads more like a theological novel than a standard systematic theology. I have not read Pilgrim Theology, but it might be a good one for a first ST.
  20. C. Matthew McMahon

    C. Matthew McMahon Christian Preacher

    On another note, in order to really let the material you read sink in, write a 1 page summary of every section of the work you read. Summarizing on paper solidifies your thinking about the subject matter especially if this is your first read through on a systemtic.
  21. BayouHuguenot

    BayouHuguenot Puritanboard Amanuensis

    That's the most important thing I've ever done in reading, except I do more of an analytical outline of each section
  22. BayouHuguenot

    BayouHuguenot Puritanboard Amanuensis

    I've also found it helpful to do this on google drives. That lets me call together anyting I've written by search words.
  23. monoergon

    monoergon Puritan Board Freshman

    Good advice; I'll do that.
  24. TheOldCourse

    TheOldCourse Puritan Board Sophomore

    Yeah, I don't mind most of the content but I can't stand the format. One important part of studying a systematic theology is learning to think systematically and I don't think his does a good job of that. But then again, that may not be his intent.

    Turretin is probably the best single work out there for training your mind to think biblically, precisely, and carefully but it's a challenge even for those whose first language is English since even the highly educated among us aren't trained to make carefully reasoned distinctions any more. There's a thought-process barrier as well as a language barrier. For a first ST I'd second the Hodge and Berkhof recommendations though at some point I think everyone should try and spend some time working with Turretin even if they can only get through parts of it.

    Wilhelmus 'a Brackel's A Christian's Reasonable Service is another choice that is warm, pastoral and relatively easy to follow. John Brown of Haddington's is an exceptional single volume ST as well.
  25. BayouHuguenot

    BayouHuguenot Puritanboard Amanuensis

    I see Horton as useful in rebutting and sidelining various modern challenges to the faith that have arisen since Hegel. But no, I certainly wouldn't go to him to learn to think systematically. That's what Turretin is for.
  26. yeutter

    yeutter Puritan Board Senior

    Princeton students worked through Turretin in Latin. Many of our brethren abroad still have mastery of Latin and may wish to tackle him in the original.
  27. Dachaser

    Dachaser Puritan Board Doctor

    Agreed, but he would be useful in refuting modern day departments from the faith,as would Dr grudem theology would be also...
  28. BayouHuguenot

    BayouHuguenot Puritanboard Amanuensis

  29. Shimei

    Shimei Puritan Board Freshman

  30. Ask Mr. Religion

    Ask Mr. Religion Flatly Unflappable

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