Review: Michael Horton on The Christian Faith

A review of Michael Horton, The Christian Faith: A Systematic Theology for Pilgrims on the Way, Zondervan, 2011

The Christian Faith is Michael Horton’s 1052-page systematic theology. Horton is the J. Gresham Machen Professor of Systematic Theology and Apologetics at Westminster Seminary in California and well known for his polemic writings calling the church to be truly gospel-centred. For the record The Christian Faith is evangelical, Reformed, amillennial, paedobaptist, but always irenic in tone.

What I love about The Christian Faith is the way Horton sets each topic in the context of biblical and historical theology. This gives it a great advantage over the natural point of comparison, Wayne Grudem’s Systematic Theology. Grudem’s book is a good reference book, but it tends to involve ‘doing theology by making lists’ with proof texts. Horton is ‘doing theology by telling a story’ – the story of the Bible and the story of the church wrestling with the biblical record. This makes it a far more engaging read.

My complaint with The Christian Faith is that sometimes it can get complicated quite quickly. There are times when to understand the argument you need prior knowledge, but if you have that prior knowledge then you are likely to be after something a bit more advanced than The Christian Faith.

The Christian Faith, then, is a great resource for any pastor. But it’s not the first systematic theology I would give to someone. And don’t ask me which is the first I would give, because I’m not sure. Any suggestions?

The Christian Faith is available here from amazon.com and amazon.co.uk.

8 thoughts on “Review: Michael Horton on The Christian Faith

  1. Thank you for the review. I can’t go past “Systematic Theology” by Louis Berkhof. Great foundation and then you apply it with Francis Schaeffer et al.

  2. I find Stan Grenz’s “Theology for the Community of God” a good read, and includes biblical and historical theology well in his chapters. I don’t think it gets overly complicated – but not sure it would be the first theology I’d recommend simply because of its size…I guess that depends on the person we’re recommending it to.

  3. what do you think of Millard Erickson’s systematic theology? I found it to be good at engaging with contemporary issues, such as postmodernism. Like you said, I think Grudem is a great reference book — if you want to find every bible verse about a certain topic, he’s the place to go. I’d like to read Horton, but I am intimidated by the size.

  4. Not that it’s a “Systematic Theology” as such, but the Westminster Standards with Prooftexts. I have often wondered why there weren’t any Systemacic Theologies by committee, but this fits the bill.There’s a nice hardbound copy here: http://www.opc.org/publications.html . If you’d prefer a more modernized version, Confessions of Our Faith is a very good choice: http://www.amazon.com/Confessions-Our-Faith-Brian-Kinney/dp/0979371805/ref=wl_it_dp_o?ie=UTF8&coliid=I1V857LTG7GAYR&colid=FSOV8YC9DAY7 . Berkhof is good, too – but for an introduction I would go with his condensation, Manual for Christian Doctrine, or his further condensations, Summary of Christian Doctrine.

  5. Robert Culver’s “Systematic Theology” is seriously under appreciated. It’s ridiculously detailed and addresses so much more than many of the “introductions” that are out there. I really enjoy it.

    Grudem is obviously one of the best introductions to the subject, and I’ve also come to really enjoy Horton’s latest… along with Garrett’s (three volumes) and Williams’ (Renewal Theology). Good stuff.

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