This video tribute to Wayne Grudem’s systematic theology text was produced by some college students in the U.K. My favorite part is the dance move from “Thriller” near the end.
For those of you who haven’t heard of Wayne Grudem, he is the author of what is one of the most widely-read evangelical systematic theology texts in the world. At 1,291 pages, it is no small book, and that is in part what these students are lampooning. Nevertheless, it’s a classic, and if you don’t own it you should buy a copy now and read it.
(HT: Jon Bloom)
Saw that earlier – hilarious!! Last year I thought I had lost my copy of Systematic Theology and tweeted it. A couple of hours later my best friend posted a picture of a book that he was going to be selling on eBay. Funny guy…. forgot I loaned it to him!
With all due respect to Mr. Grudem and the effort it took to produce such a volume, I believe the criticism of systematic theology voiced by many is mainly directed toward the methodology and conclusions of works like Grudem’s. I have used it as a source before, but mainly I get the sense that I’m just being bombarded with proof-texts whenever he makes a proposition. I found his section on “election” to be about the opposite of what the Bible communicates about the term, and his certainty and assurance about everything is somewhat troubling after studying some of the issues and realizing how complex they are. It seems very modernistic. I do appreciate that he makes it devotional though and seeks to get beyond mere cognitive knowledge.
I think biblical theology and systematic theology can exist harmoniously (even though there is a huge rift and much tension presently between the two disciplines, with biblical theology clearly being the most popular), but I have yet to find a text that does justice to what systematic theology should be. For the budding theologian, I say start with some of the good OT & NT theologies (e.g. Goldingay, Childs, Marshall, Schreiner, etc.). Any good theology should be preceded by a knowledge of the text, so just reading Grudem or others won’t cut it. Read the Bible, do exegesis, read some OT & NT theologies, and then critically interact with the systematicians.
Just a side note: given that Grudem is a charismatic, I find it incredibly ironic that such a text is so embraced by conservative, reformed baptists who usually only stick to their own. Could somebody elaborate on this? I grew up in a southern baptist church that hated all things charismatic, was cessationist, and demonized anybody who would entertain the thought of some of the spiritual gifts continuing.
The great strength and major weakness of Grudem’s ST is that he is strictly biblicist in his approach. That video made me laugh and cringe.
The great benefit of this text to women is that it spells out subordination as a helping role to be compared with Dr. Grudem himself helping a young neighbourhood boy fix his bike. Just as Dr. Grudem is subordinate to that boy, so is God to man, and also woman to man.
I think that this style of argument helps to make the subordination of women more easily understood.
Actually, conservative reformed types are some of the most welcoming to other parties (as long as they are doctrinally sound). Go to any big Reformed conference and the speakers are usually quite varied across the theological landscape (to a limit). Go to a unitarian universalist convention and you find 100 people saying and thinking the exact same thing. Same goes for a gathering of Emergent types… it’s one big echo chamber.
I hope you’re right, I really do, but it’s just not been my experience. Let’s just take the recent T4G conference in Louisville as an example. Yeah, there were 7,000 people there. Yeah, some of the speakers are a little more charismatic than others. However, they are still all reformed, (mainly) white, complementarian (mainly) males. Calling this “Together for the Gospel” is an oxymoron. Would they have welcomed an N.T. Wright, Ben Witherington, David DeSilva, Joel Green, John Goldingay, or William Lane Craig? Not hardly, even though all of the above of faithful followers of Jesus Christ and proclaim his Gospel. Evidently their “Gospel” is not the true Gospel though. Furthermore, take the books that are published. The T4G guys only blurb one anothers’ books, and rarely will you ever see a blurb by a conservative reformed individual on another author’s work who is not conservative and reformed.
Again Darius, I hope you’re right, and maybe there is more of a push for an ecumenical mindset in conservative reformed circles. I pray this is so. But from where I’m sitting, it looks as partisan and bounded as it ever was. Seldom if ever do you even hear the theme of unity in the church brought up, despite the fact that it’s the major recurrent theme throughout all of Paul’s letters. In practice I can’t point to many who truly abide by these things, but I don’t even detect it in the rhetoric of the conservative reformed types. To me, that’s kind of troubling, and it’s why I’m so surprised at the embrace of Grudem. Maybe being charismatic is not the unpardonable sin anymore. Now, it’s being non-Calvinist, egalitarian, and adhering to annihilationism. I guess Grudem passes the test.
I had no idea that you attended UU conferences, Darius. Maybe I’ll bump into you sometime! And I love that you explained the conservative reformed welcome extends to anyone “as long as they are doctrinally sound.” Are non- conservative reformed people “doctrinally sound”? Is this this sort of like “We welcome all those of any view as long as their view is the same as ours”?
LOL Love the energy and creativity
I think this is the statement which makes Grudem so popular. He writes,
“It is right for Christians to attempt to persuade governments to make laws that protect families and private property and the lives of human beings – laws that both outlaw and punish murder, adultery, theft, and the breaking of contracts) things that violate the Ten Commandments), as well as prohibit homosexual conduct, drunkenness, drug abuse, aborton, nd other things that are inconsistent with the biblical standards of morality.”
I read an appeal in the newspaper this morning for those Americans who went to Uganda and provided encouragement for anti-homosexuality legislation, to go back to Uganda and say that homosexuals are human beings whose rights should be respected.
Dr. Grudem needs to be aware of how many homosexuals and women suffer violent crimes linked to scripture exposition.
Great video! His book is one of my favorites! I had to laugh though when they sang about using his book as a doorstop…I have been guilty of using it as a paperholder or a bookend.
A few years ago, I repented and it now rests in a revered space on my bookshelf.
I think that the new Calvinists have a new set of Shibboleths. They probably do include Calvinism and complementarianism, but also other basic evangelical boundaries such as inerrancy. Things like church polity and the gifts of the Spirit have basically been located as second order doctrines (although Mark Dever still won’t have communion with a lot of the participants). I’m not sure if you are aware of this or not, but John Piper is fairly charismatic as well (at least in theory), and then of course you have the whole Sovereign Grace crowd.
On your original comment about systematic theology, I wonder if you have read any of the recent works by Kevin Vanhoozer? He sets out a plan/methodology/theology of systematic theology in his book The Drama of Doctrine, and his first extensive theological proposal has just been published on the doctrine of God, entitled Remythologizing Theology. You might enjoy giving his works a read; I’d love to hear your thoughts if you already have. I found them immensely helpful.
Vanhoozer is an exception when it comes to ST (in my opinion). I haven’t read more than a few pages of his major works, but I’ve read some of his dictionary & journal articles, as well as listened to him speak a few times. He definitely sticks out and I pray that his tribe increase. I particularly like his emphasis on seeing doctrine as drama b/c I think it gets past the old traditional propositional model that is cold and dead and often leads to heresy hunting. He also seems to be up to date on things like linguistics which is really cool. His methodology seems much more healthy than guys like Grudem because he doesn’t just pound the reader with 50 proof-texts ripped from their contexts. In short, I think Vanhoozer is great and would love to see the discipline follow in his footsteps.
Perhaps the charismatic issue is not as big of a deal for the up & coming generation of conservatives. This is a good thing, but I am worried of what will, or is, replacing it. It appears that a strict confession of reformed theology & complementarianism are taking its place. I have great respect for people who hold such views, but the respect starts to dwindle once they exclude the fellowship and speak in a derogative manner of those who don’t see eye to eye on those difficult issues. I hope you understand my concern. When I look on the back of a book authored by one of the neo-reformed movement & only see blurbs by other neo-reformed, that just doesn’t sit right with me. An ecumenical spirit is really not a bad thing, so long as we don’t make it a complete relativistic spirit. I have known conservative reformed churches to stop attending events and conferences because (and I quote), “they were a little too ecumenical.”
Really? When John 17 (and all of Paul’s letters) are ripped out of the canon, then I’ll jump on board with it. Until then, it will always trouble me.
I’m glad to hear that you like what you have seen from Vanhoozer.
I think I understand your concern about unity, and I sympathize with it, to a degree. There are distinguishing points that need to be made, though. You said that your respect starts to dwindle when the neo-reformed exclude fellowship or speak in a derogative manner about those who don’t agree on reformed theology or complementarianism. Regarding the latter, it concerns me as well when I hear people speaking of fellow believers in a derogatory manner, although I think that “derogatory” and “critical” need to be clearly distinguished. For instance, in John Piper’s book on Tom Wright’s views of justification, he was highly critical, but I don’t remember his tone or comments being derogatory. Nevertheless, I have spent enough time reading blogs to know that derogatory speech is a clear and present danger from the neo-reformed and just about every other group that has a distinctive identity.
On the fellowship issue, there are a lot of difficult questions and distinguishing factors to be held in mind. The leader whose ministry I am most familiar with is John Piper, so perhaps I will take him as an example again. At Piper’s church, you do not have to be reformed or a complementarian in order to become a member. They do not exclude from fellowship those who disagree. Although the church has not made this move, Piper would even like to broaden membership to include those who disagree with him on baptism. He thinks that the door to the local church should be as broad as the door to salvation, and would probably want to admit anyone who believes in the Trinity and trusts in Jesus’ death and resurrection as their only hope for salvation (I’m sure he’d want to qualify that a little, but seeing as he’s radio-silent for now, it will have to do). Leaders in the church, however, are expected to have much greater theological acumen and uniformity. There is an extensive doctrinal statement that the elders must affirm that basically functions as the standard for teaching in the church. There, you have reformed theology, a clear affirmation of believers’ baptism, complementarianism, and all of that sort of thing (including a denial of cessationism!). So, within the church, there is no exclusion of fellowship for those who differ on those types of issues, but there are role limitations. At another level is the question of with whom Piper will speak at a conference. Now, he mostly does speak at events with other Reformed complementarians, but he does not always limit his own conferences to people who agree on these issues. For instance, Roger Nicole, an egalitarian, was the keynote speaker at his pastor’s conference one year. Piper also does seem to be concerned about the potential isolationism of the Reformed community that you feel, and he mentioned that as one of the reasons why he invited Rick Warren to speak at his national conference this year. Anyway, the point of this long recounting of Piper’s practices of fellowship is to say that there are different levels of unity, and I think that Piper’s desire to include any credible confessing Christian in his church says a lot about the importance he gives to John 17. He just has different standards for different types of fellowship, largely because of the degree to which conferencing together in certain types of conferences implies a certain level of tacit approval of another’s teaching.
Finally, on your trouble over the fact that books by the neo-reformed are endorsed only by other neo-reformed, I doubt that people who disagree with them on their reformed theology really want to endorse their books. I think that is really just a matter of the actual endorsement of the ideas within the book, and it doesn’t surprise me that those outside of the reformed camp don’t endorse books that largely promote reformed theology or approach things from that perspective.
Anyway, I’ve rambled on for far too long. Although I share your desire to be fairly ecumenical due to John 17, I understand why reformed folk don’t necessarily think that conferencing together with those who disagree on issues they think are very important may not be the best way to pursue that.
Whoops, last sentence should read:
“I understand why reformed folk don’t necessarily think that conferencing together with those who disagree on issues they think are very important is the best way to pursue that.”
Good point about recommendations, Andrew. Of course, Grudem does have nice “blurbs” (not sure if I’d consider them recommendations or not) from Paige Patterson (no fan of Calvinism) and Jack Hayford (a classical Pentecostal) on the back of his book!