Millard Erickson's `Christian Theology' is both massive and massively impressive: it is easily the longest book I've ever attempted to read cover-to-cover so it needed to excel in every way. And so it does.
Erickson divides this work into twelve large parts containing sixty chapters (if ever a book needed Amazon's excellent `Search Inside' feature, this is it!):
Part 1: Studying God
Part 2: Knowing God
Part 3: What God is Like
Part 4: What God Does
Part 5: Humanity
Part 6: Sin
Part 7: The Person of Christ
Part 8: The Work of Christ
Part 9: The Holy Spirit
Part 10: Salvation
Part 11: The Church
Part 12: The Last Things
After a brief introduction, Erikson begins Part 1 by defining theology generally before emphasising how important the great schools of philosophical thought are to theological study. They are very effective foils for each other and theology, literally, grows and develops because of philosophy's criticisms. Part 1 continues to around page 170, and while this part is informative and very valuable, I found it the most difficult, boring and complicated part of the whole book! I needed real perseverance here because once Erickson moves onto the biblically focused parts (i.e. all the rest), `Christian Theology' becomes a much more palatable, very rewarding read.
By the time we get to Part 2, we find discussion on God's revelation of himself - directly (i.e. personal, or `Particular') and indirectly (i.e. through the Bible, or `Universal') - and how authoritative that may or may not be. Later Erikson deals with such thorny issues as:
`The Trinity' (chapter 16)
`Evil in God's World' (chapter 20)
`The Image of God in the Human' (chapter 24)
`The Deity [and Humanity] of Christ' (chapters 33 & 34)
`The Means and Extent of Salvation' (chapter 49)
`The Second Coming' (chapter 58)
So we see that Erickson does not side-step tricky subjects, which is nothing more than we should expect from a 1300 page book on theology. However, these are greatest strengths of Erikson's work:
* It's breadth and depth of coverage
* Most importantly - it's accessibility: it is very easy to read indeed (after the first 170 pages!)
* Although this is a huge, modern work, it is very modestly priced
* Unlike some theological books `Christian Theology' is set out very well indeed: each Part has it's own title page with each chapter & title listed; chapter headings are in large, bold type with small bold sub-headings (`Chapter Objectives', `Chapter Summary', etc.) all clearly and easily identifiable beneath. If these sub-headings are further divided later in the text then they're italicised, indented but still bold so it's easy to navigate precisely (as the next reviewer down notes).
I should add one more, surprising (to me) but essential element: it is also remarkably powerful spiritually. Erickson is much more evangelical than I had expected; I might describe this work as conservative - even almost fundamentalist - which was a shock and perhaps all the more welcome because of it! It means that anyone with even a modicum of Holy Spiritual infusion will be positively influence by this book - perhaps whether they want to be or not...
While this wonderful and extraordinary work will be considered too large for most (I would never have considered it had I not been studying an academic Bible course), that's a shame as it's a gem which offers amazing value for money. There's tons and tons of information here but don't let that lull you into thinking that it's all dry academia; it's not. Reading this will certainly aid & stretch you intellectually but it will also - inevitably! - advance the Kingdom of God in your life. Whole heartedly recommended.
This book is comprehensive and far sighted, but also simple in presentation and terminology. Erickson presents the positions of major theologians on all the issues and critiques fairly the opinions of modern philosophers and early church fathers. He is encouragingly insightful and original. The best thing about this book is that it's well indexed and easy to use as reference. Simple chapters and sub-headings make it easy to 'dip' in and out!
Erickson's language may be simple, but not simplistic. Interfaith theology students will find the book absent of theological "good guys" and "bad guys." The book creatively presents "hard core" theology in plain, contemporary language. Students of theology from non-English speaking countries may happily find Erickson's sources adequate for thesis writing!
Erickson's Christian Theology is an excellent resource for the Seminary student and for anyone who wants to understand the different issues in Christian doctrines and theories. Erickson does well in showing different views and theories surrounding doctrines, summing up each chapter with his own synthesized opinion. My only criticism is the length of each chapter. They all seem to be about 20 pages. While some topics need to be looked at more in depth others are drawn out. I couldn't help but think that I was being short-changed on some topics.