Isn’t it redundant and a waste of time to continue to read and write more theology books? Don’t we already have enough that should last us for, say, the next 150 years? Didn’t Calvin nail it with his Institutes? Come on, let’s get on to something more worthwhile…
And so the comments go. Perhaps you’ve heard them, too. Perhaps you’ve thought them. Bruce Demarest, in his systematic theology on the doctrine of salvation, The Cross and Salvation, helps us navigate through such an issue. In fact, he poses the question himself:
Why another series of works on evangelical systematic theology? This is an especially appropriate question in light of the fact that evangelicals are fully committed to an inspired and inerrant Bible as their final authority for faith and practice. But since neither God nor the Bible change, why is there need to redo evangelical systematic theology? (xv)
Demarest seeks to answer that question by pointing us to the reality that in each era, there are specific issues that face the church and must be dealt with. He continues,
….whereas the task of biblical theology is more to describe biblical teaching on whatever topics Scripture addresses, systematics should make a special point to relate its conclusions to the issues of one’s day. This does not mean that the systematician ignores the topics biblical writers address. Nor does it mean that theologians should warp Scripture to address issues it never intended to address. Rather it suggests that in addition to expounding what Biblical writers teach, the theologian should attempt to take those biblical teachings (along with the biblical mindset) and apply them to issues that are especially confronting the church in the theologian’s own day. For example, 150 years ago, an evangelical theologian doing work on the doctrine of man would likely have discussed issues such as the creation of man and the constituent parts of man’s being. Such a theology might even have included a discussion about human institutions such as marriage, noting in general the respective roles of husbands and wives in marriage. However, it is dubious that there would have been any lengthy discussion with various viewpoints about the respective roles of men and women in marriage, in society, and in the church. But at our point in history and in light of the feminist movement and the issues it has raised even among many conservative Christians, it would be foolish to write a theology of man…without a thorough discussion of the issue of the roles of men and women in society, at home, and the church. (xvi)
So why more theology books? Because the church will always need to bring the light of timeless, Biblical truth to shine on the issues of today. Far from a waste of time, the writing and reading of new (good) theology books is a noble endeavor that will enable and motivate us to diligently apply God’s Word to our lives and the lives of others. So “Take up and read”…and write.