Everyone’s a Theologian
An Introduction to Systematic Theology
Reformation Trust; 335 pages
I own a few different systematic theologies. Most of them are “bug killers.” Imagine the scariest bug possible is in your room. Reach for a book. If that book is a) big enough in size that you do not need pinpoint accuracy to throw the book toward the bug on the floor and be confident you hit it, and b) the book is heavy enough to give you confidence that it will fracture whatever exoskeleton the bug may possess, then you are dealing with a “bug killer.”
Most systematic theology volumes are bug killers. In effort to address issues, as well as controversies and misapplications, the authors go to great pains to be detailed and thorough. They can be quite a helpful resource. In fact, their girth typically makes them just that, a reference tool. I know of no one who typically reads through a systematic theology book cover to cover. (Unless reading through it over the course of a year.)
Unlike most theologies, I read through Sproul‘s book cover to cover. The layout is favorable, with small, accessible chapters. Scripture passages are cited parenthetically, but not so frequent that they interrupt the flow. He also incorporates footnotes (all God’s people say, “Amen!”), yet sparingly. If you’ve heard Sproul, you expect the book to be peppered with latin phrases. However, this does not intimidate since Sproul defines the term either within the same or following sentence. His logic is also generally easy to follow and he provides some good everyday examples and illustrations. Though he does not claim this volume as a historical theology, he does a good job of wedding his teaching with orthodox tradition and history.
When Sproul addresses issues of Orthodox Christianity, there are few better. He’s clear, winsome, logical and even practical. This book is much the same. He clearly points out truth and contrasts it with Rome, liberalism or secular humanism. Yet, he does it in a way that clarifies his position, not in a way that seems like he has an axe to grind. This book excels in the areas of basic Christian doctrine.
But I’ve noticed another trend with Sproul. (And quite possibly I’m reading this trend into Everyone’s a Theologian.) Where Sproul addresses the particulars of his convictions, he loses some of his potency. It appears to me, that he simply assumes people will see things the same way as him, and therefore doesn’t address objections.
For instance, Sproul is clearly covenantal. He lays out the three main covenants (Redemption, Works, Grace) with little explanation. There are noticeably few Scripture references here. Obvious questions do are not addressed. Does a Perfect, Holy, Loving God needs to covenant within a Triune relationship? And if the covenant is for our sake (ala Hebrews 6), why wouldn’t that covenant be formally articulated in Holy Writ? I have to think these questions are standard questions that are asked by many others. Furthermore, Sproul simply acknowledges that believer’s baptism is practiced by some, but argues that history is on his side with paedobaptism (an argument I would not necessarily agree with). If it’s no problem to apply a “sacrament” like baptism before conversion, is it also permissible to apply the Lord’s Supper to a nonbeliever? If so, is this not at least some violation of 1 Corinthians 11? When presenting different views of the millennium, Sproul presents Postmillennialism as the only optimistic view of the gospel. Isn’t anything less than universalism a pessimistic view of the gospel’s impact, yet we recognize universalism as heresy?
It’s not like these positions surprised me. I knew ahead of time that these were Sproul’s convictions. But it seems to me that even if you are a Partial-Preterist Covenantal Presbyterian, this probably isn’t the book you’d want to pass out to defend your position. (And if it is the book you’d use, perhaps your position is weaker than I estimated!)
While I enjoyed reading through the book, it does make its application a bit confusing. It’s not even that I wouldn’t recommend the book. It just would need a particular setting. And quite honestly, I may simply be expecting too much out of RC. For a volume this short, it simply may not be possible to really dig into the details.
In the end, “Everyone’s a Theologian” serves well as a refresher. If you simply want to think more theologically, it’s quick and can help you get back in a “systematic flow.” But if you’re looking for RC Sproul to explain or defend his position on some secondary issues, you’re probably going to have to pick up a bigger, longer, bug squashing book.