Sunday, 21 December 2008

Reforming Always (ATB McGowan, editor)

This thought-provoking volume is a collection of essays by several prominent Reformed theologians who teach in various theological seminaries and colleges, mainly in the United States. The topics dealt with come under Systematic Theology, and the subjects considered include the Trinity (Gerald Bray), Christology (Robert Reymond), the atonement of Christ (A.T.B. McGowan), Covenant (Henri Blocher), the relationship between Biblical Theology and Systematic Theology (Richard Gamble), union with Christ (Richard Gaffin), justification (Cornelius Venema), and the church (Derek Thomas).

Each contributor considers the present situation regarding his topic, points out developments concerning it, and assesses whether or not they can help the contemporary church come to a greater biblical understanding of the particular doctrine. For example, the chapter on the doctrine of justification includes an assessment of recent discussions between some evangelicals and some Roman Catholics as well as the effects of the new perspective on Paul. Each of the chapters is well written. The authors assume that readers will be familiar to some extent with their topics, which means that the book is primarily suitable for those who have such an awareness. Nevertheless, this volume will be of interest to those wanting information concerning recent theological discussions of these important doctrines.

I suspect more readers in our denomination will be interested in the editor’s comment that we need new Confessions of Faith that will be more relevant to the current situation than the seventeenth-century Confessions to which most modern Reformed denominations subscribe. Of course, a short book review is not the place to deal adequately with this suggestion, whether for it or against it. Yet given the range of opinions found within Reformed denominations, I suspect it would be virtually impossible to produce another Confession that would be satisfactory to all. In a sense, this interesting volume only highlights this dilemma because it reveals the breadth of theological ideas that would have to be proved or refuted. And despite its age, I did not sense that the Westminster Confession is inadequate for helping us to assess modern developments in systematic theology, including the ones dealt with in this volume.

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