Erickson is a respected statesman of evangelicalism, a senior scholar, a prolific writer, a Baptist churchman, an experienced theological educator, and a Christian gentleman. This work is his magnum opus, and one that has been well received and widely used for several decades. The first edition of this work was published in three volumes in 1983–1985. This new (third) edition is “substantially updated and revised throughout . . . with added material on the atonement, justification, and divine foreknowledge” (back cover).
This edition is similar to the second in layout and structure, but with a change of font and color of paper, it is easier to read than the earlier edition. As in the second edition, each chapter of the third begins with a list of “Chapter Objectives,” a “Chapter Summary,” a short list of “Study Questions,” and an “Outline.” The “Subject Index” has now been divided into an “Author Index” and a “Subject Index.” These features make it student and teacher friendly.
The most significant change in this new edition appears to be in the section on prolegomena. The material has been rearranged and rewritten, not surprisingly now including extensive discussions of postmodernism, truth, and the nature of language. A section on “Contextualizing Theology” has been added, although much of the material is based in the earlier “Contemporizing the Christian Message.” New material on atonement, justification (particularly an expanded defense of the doctrine of forensic justification in response to the New Perspective on Paul), and divine foreknowledge, is minimal. Throughout the work, Erickson has updated the sources cited and interacted with current literature. These changes are beneficial.
The strengths of Erickson’s work remain in this edition. He presents alternative views fairly and accurately. His theological conclusions are well supported from Scripture and the Christian tradition. His writing is understandable and clear, accessible to those without theological training, and also helpful to those who do have such education. He deals with the doctrines of the Christian faith with significant breadth and depth.
If a student, pastor, teacher, or educated layperson one does not own a single-volume evangelical systematic theology text (and everyone should), this is the one to buy. It is comprehensive, clear, and encompassing of the essential doctrines of Christianity. Erickson also represents the diversity within the Christian tradition with integrity and grace. What if one already owns the second edition? Are the changes in this one substantial enough to warrant the significant investment of the third edition? Probably not.
About the Contributors
Prior to teaching at DTS, Dr. Kreider served as Director of Christian Education and then as Senior Pastor in Cedar Hill, TX. His research and writing interests include Jonathan Edwards, theological method, theology and popular culture, and our eschatological hope. Dr. Kreider believes that grace really is amazing; it is a thought that will change the world. He is married to his best friend, Janice, and they have two grown children, a son-in-law, and one granddaughter, Marlo Grace. He and Janice enjoy live music, good stories, bold coffee, and their five rescue dogs—two pugs, a chihuahua, a terrier named Chloe, and a black lab, Carlile.