Christian Dogmatics: An Introduction

This one- volume systematic theology presents an accessible, orthodox overview of the Christian faith for students, teachers, pastors, and serious lay readers. Cornelis van der Kooi and Gijsbert van den Brink not only cover all the traditional themes-creation, sin, Jesus Christ, Scripture, and so on-but also relate those classical themes to contemporary developments like Pentecostalism, postfoundationalism, and evolutionary theory.

Consisting of sixteen chapters, the book is ideal for classroom use. Each chapter begins with engaging questions and a statement of learning goals and concludes with a list of recommended further reading. Written in a student- friendly tone and style and expertly translated and edited, van der Kooi and van den Brink’s Christian Dogmatics splendidly displays the real, practical relevance of theology to the complexities of our world today.

Dogmatic volumes are multiplying like bunnies on a farm in Spring. And many of them are what I would deem ‘niche’ volumes.  That is, there are volumes for feminists, volumes for Orthodox, volumes for Barthians, and volumes for agnostics (or at least that’s what they very much seem to be).

This volume is not a niche volume.  It is, as its title professes, an introduction to Christian Dogmatics.  Its appeal doesn’t lie in a narrow focus for a special interest group.  It appeals to all who wish to learn the basics of the Christian faith and in that respect reminds me of the widely ignored but immensely valuable dogmatics of Dale Moody titled ‘The Word of Truth’.

My fear is that the present volume, worthy of wide attention and a large readership will simply be ignored merely because the sea of dogmatics swells too full.  It is part of an ocean of volumes and unlike some of the flotsam and jetsam which occupies the shelves of too many students and pastors, it is brilliant.

The style of the volume is instructional.  That is, it seeks to be used in discussions.  Each chapter opens with a series of thought provoking questions and a series of ‘aims’ which are intended to be achieved.  Then follows all of the standard discussion about God, mankind, Scripture, evil, the Church, the Last Things, and all the rest.  But with a substantive difference: readers are offered options and then left to decide for themselves which they deem most sensible.  Also included are very useful bibliographies at the end of each section.

The authors are quite good at summarizing important doctrinal issues.  Indeed, the discussion of Theodicy is one of the most sensible in any dogmatics that I’ve encountered.  Similarly, the section on the Devil is also incredibly interesting, including the segment where the authors talk about the reality of demonic possession as a phenomenon far more common in the developing world than in the developed world.  Not only will this portion of the book raise eyebrows, it will raise pulse rates.

Readers will benefit too from the ample citations of other scholars and theologians but mostly readers will benefit from the cogent and sensible, as well as sensitive presentation of Christian faith.  Note along these lines especially the section on human sexuality and, intriguingly, the discussion of Millenialism.

The indices are quite thorough and the authors are to be commended for this as well.  Unfortunately, however, they are not to be commended for the accuracy of their citations in all cases.  For instance, on page 284 the authors tell us that ever since Calvin, Reformed theology has been sensitive to idolatry.  They cite as evidence for this the Institutes, 1.1.12.  The problem, of course, is that Book 1, Chapter 1 of the Institutes does not have 12 sections, it has but 3.

I do not wish to dwell overmuch on this aspect of the volume, but certainly it is worth reminding ourselves and one another that references should be checked.  Because somewhere someone is going to want to look up that source and if it isn’t accurately represented, sorrow will ensue.

Still, in spite of this shortfall, the volume really is just brilliant.  And again, I hope it will find a wide readership.  It genuinely deserves it.

One thought on “Christian Dogmatics: An Introduction

  1. rechtsgeschiedenis 10 Jul 2017 at 5:01 pm

    Thanks Jim for this announcement! The original Dutch edition appeared five years ago (“Christelijke dogmatiek. Een inleiding” (Zoetermeer: Boekencentrum, 2012), still in print). It received a lot of media attention, and there was general praise for their efforts, with also some critical notes about their view of the role of Scripture. It can indeed serve its purpose as a general introduction to Christian theology, even for lay readers. Its form invites discussion of and thinking about many questions.

    Best wishes,

    Otto Vervaart


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