The AAR’s ‘Holy Ritual of Conclusion’

When you attend AAR they end their meeting giving their members a very much needed shower.  Most of them will not experience the sensation of water touching either their skin or clothes again until next year in San Antonio.  This is a big deal for them.

Systematic Theology

thiseltonEerdmans have sent an examplar for exam-

In this concise, one-volume systematic theology, celebrated scholar Anthony Thiselton comprehensively covers the spectrum of Christian doctrine with an eye to practical application for Christian discipleship. Written with students and busy ministers in mind, this book is readable and accessible, comprising fifteen chapters of relatively equal length, with each chapter containing five evenly balanced subsections for teaching and learning convenience. Rather than setting out an abstract system, Thiselton explores theology as a living, organic whole. The book thus includes biblical foundations, historical thought, contemporary writers, and practical implications. Expertly incorporating biblical exegesis, philosophy, conceptual grammar, and hermeneutics, this work is the most succinct multidisciplinary systematic theology available.

I previously reviewed his Companion to Theology.

Thiselton’s approach is noticeably different from the majority of classic systematic theologies in that he approaches topics from a rather idiosyncratic point of view.  So, for example, while his chapters may follow the tried and true progression from method through God, Christ, the Spirit, the Church, and last things, he plops in various modern concerns along the way.    So, in his discussion on creation he deals with the problem of evil and between his discussion of creation and supernatural beings and non human beings he diverges and engages in a description of atheism.  I’m not sure this relatively haphazard and at heart disorganized arrangement really helps his case or tends to lead readers into a maze from which they find it difficult to extricate themselves.

His interest, as well, seems to focus more primarily on anthropology than on theology proper.   God ‘gets’ chapters two and three, Jesus ‘gets’ chapters eight and ten, and the Holy Spirit ‘gets’ chapters eleven and twelve.  Humanity gets chapters one, four, five, six, seven, nine, thirteen, fourteen, and fifteen.  Perhaps the title could more accurately be ‘Systematic Anthropology’ with a dash of God in his trinitarian manifestation hither and yon.

There is another problem with the book and that is made clearest in a little snippet Thiselton offers concerning Zwingli:  Thiselton is rather free with the historical facts and – worse – inclined to cite secondary sources when he has little interest in the thinker with whom he is interacting.  T. writes, in his very brief and singular mention of Zwingli

Zwingli rejected the three views of Aquinas, Luther, and even Calvin [regarding the Lord’s Supper] as “falsehoods,” which “go beyond Scripture.”  (p. 335).

If true, that would be quite a trick because Zwingli was dead in 1531 and no one had so much as heard of Jean Cauvin at that point.  Calvin had certainly not written on the Supper and accordingly there was nothing of Calvin’s thought to reject.  Is Thiselton unaware of the chronology of the Reformation or is his source?  Because, as hinted at above, Thiselton doesn’t bother to read Zwingli’s own views.  Instead, he gleans this flash of insight from a collection of Calvin’s theological treatises (as note 100 bears witness).

Citing secondary sources is ok as long as primary sources are consulted first.  Thiselton does cite primary sources (even if they are in translation) for Luther and Aquinas.  He could at least have shown Zwingli the same consideration.

Others will find the book, in the words of Oliver Crisp, who blurbs it, ‘learned and judicious’ or in the phrase of Malcolm Yarnell, ‘important and beautiful’ and ‘an enduring masterpiece’ (an odd claim given that the volume has just appeared) and naturally they are free to do so.

For myself, I simply found it mildly interesting (cf. his treatment of the problem of evil which, to be sure, contains hints of brilliance) but mostly regretfully annoying.  I had hoped for a theological fireworks display to rival anything on the Fourth of July and instead I found a few sparklers such as smallish children are allowed to hold and wave around for a few brief seconds.  I hoped for more Theology and in a Systematic format.  I got anthropology in a disorganized series of ramblings.

Animals, Without the Decency

Teenage gang set dog on fire, broke his neck and fed him drugs

So the headline in the Telegraph.

Chunky the Chihuahua was attacked for hours in one of the most disturbing cases an RSPCA officer had ever seen.


Chunky the Chihuahua was given drugs by the gang, set on fire and had his neck broken, the Thanet Gazette reports. Miraculously, the canine survived the ordeal after being dumped near a rubbish tip by the teenagers in Margate, Kent, in February.

I’m not what you would call an animal lover but people who do these kinds of things are so utterly despicable that words fail (or rather, proper public words do). There’s sociopathic evil in the souls of such teens and they need to be put away for life before they do to a person what they did to this little helpless dog.

Animals act with more humanity that these beasts.