A Great Systematic Theology for Laypeople

Michael Horton's Pilgrim Theology: Core Doctrines for Christian Disciples is a good answer for where to start with systematic theology.

One of Horton’s strengths is that he can teach at both an academic and a popular level. This work of theology is presented in an accessible way for a wider audience of serious learners. And we should all want to be serious learners. Horton doesn’t water anything down, rather, he gives us the meat that he’s already tenderized and cut into manageable portions.

 
I’ve enjoyed Michael Horton’s The Christian Faith for some time now. However, it’s not exactly a book to recommend for someone new to adding a systematic theology to his or her library. Thankfully, Horton realized this as well and has done the work to make another version for the serious layperson. I’ve recently been able to look through his Pilgrim Theology: Core Doctrines for Christian Disciples, and will now be recommending it when asked about where to start with systematic theology.

First of all, I love that Horton’s introduction is an aim to answer the question, Why Study Theology? And in this description, he sets up the coordinates for the rest of the book: drama, doctrine, doxology, and discipleship:

All of our faith and practice arise out of the drama of Scripture, the “big story” that traces the plot of history from creation to consummation, with Christ as its Alpha and Omega, beginning and end. And out of the throbbing verbs of this unfolding drama God reveals stable nouns—doctrines. From what God does in history we are taught certain things about who he is and what it means to be created in his image, fallen, and redeemed, renewed, and glorified in union with Christ. As the Father creates his church, in his Son and by his Spirit, we come to realize what this covenant community is and what it means to belong to it; what kind of future is promised to us in Christ, and how we are to live here and now in light of it all. The drama and the doctrine provoke us to praise and worship—doxology—and together these three coordinates give us a new way of living in the world as disciples. (16)

With these coordinates in place, Horton gives us a pilgrim theology so that we too enter “into a long, ongoing conversation, one that we didn’t begin” (14).

One of Horton’s strengths is that he can teach at both an academic and a popular level. This work of theology is presented in an accessible way for a wider audience of serious learners. And we should all want to be serious learners. Horton doesn’t water anything down, rather, he gives us the meat that he’s already tenderized and cut into manageable portions. So the reader will learn new vocabulary, the important words in each chapter being boldfaced. At the end of each chapter are a review of key terms, key distinctions, and key questions for the individual reader or study group to work through for further understanding. He provides helpful charts and highlights these key distinctions in each chapter.

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