A Book Review from Books At a Glance
By Ryan McGraw
Theology is about knowing God. In studying theology, it is important to start out on the right foot. This short book, which is the first in a series of Short Studies in Systematic Theology, introduces students to proper theological method. Grounding his counsel in Scripture, the author shows readers how to move from the biblical text to theological reflection, in conversation with church history, exercising biblical wisdom to think and live well.
In introducing the study of systematic theology, the author seeks to shape what students believe, what they value, and how they live (15-16). His audience is “pastors, theological students, college students, and interested layfolk” (17). Proceeding in five steps, he shows that Scripture is both the ground of and the final word in theological reflection, the need for conversation with historical theology, the importance of situating our theology in the context of a fallen world, the necessity of wise and prayerful reflection on theology, and “putting it all together” in the context of living lives of worship to the Triune God. Every chapter appeals to the doctrine of the Trinity as a test case. This is a useful way of showing how to move from the biblical text to theological formulation in a way that is sensitive to historic creeds. His order of proceeding also shows why the Trinity is practical and vital to the gospel, especially in light of communion with God in prayer. In its own right such Trinitarian reflection will deepen the faith of readers by showing believers why Christian experience differs so widely from its counterparts, such as Islam. However, Cole reminds us that we should not take his five steps as a rigid method to follow in order (104). Instead, they are a guide illustrating what is involved in addressing theological and practical questions in the Christian life.
There is little controversial material in this short book. It is a straightforward and useful introduction to studying systematic theology responsibly. The brevity, simplicity, and especially the devotional tone of the work make it a refreshing read to all who are interested in pursuing the knowledge of God wisely and responsibly. Cole hits his target audience well, setting them off in the right direction.
Ryan M. McGraw
Greenville Presbyterian Theological Seminary
Buy the books
FAITHFUL THEOLOGY: AN INTRODUCTION, by Graham A. Cole