Systematic Theology

Thiselton, Anthony C.
SPCK (2015)
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When reading a work of systematic theology, checking the index is by no means an infallible guide but it more often than not exposes authorial bias more graphically than the bland table of contents and what one immediately notices about this index is that there are twice as many references to Augustine than to Aquinas and even, given the author's known preferences, only a large handful for Barth. Not surprisingly, given Thiselton's track record, the Epistles constitute the backbone of the work and because of this there is the inevitable and most regrettable down-grading of the core mission of Jesus and, subsequently, His Church. It is as if the Gospel of socio-economic justice is an optional extra which, of course, throughout most of Christian history it has been; and, like most contemporary works, the emphasis is too heavily skewed towards the individual and away from the corporate. After all, if we survey our lives, our failures to honour Jesus are almost always corporate omission rather than individual commission.

Thiselton is much too fond of slipping in little phrases like "quite correctly" without giving reasons for his preferences but, given the macro bias in favour of the modern, if he has to have a strong preference for Wolfhart Pannenberg (more than 40 references) all I can say is that he might have done a lot worse.

The text is dense, as it must be to encompass the whole subject in just under 400 pages but at times the book reads like a compendium of what the author happens to have read rather than the result of careful preparatory reading.

The underlying structure is good and there is enough in the content to provide a decent starting point but I could not help wanting to reach for my pocket Aquinas or, on more difficult subjects, Lonergan on Aquinas which immediately reveals my bias. The problem with my preference is that it tends to focus on the logically consistent whereas Thiselton's reliance on Paul (and the rest) is that whatever he was, he certainly wasn't a systematic theologian. Sadly, both approaches do not pay proper respect to Jesus who is our best guide to the nature of God, Church and mission.