Aaron writes, “God himself is the greatest treasure imaginable, and theology, the study of God, is the greatest treasure hunt imaginable.” (11)
Aaron provides us with a great treasure map as he introduces his readers to systematic theology. He explains briefly what theology is, why we must study it, and then takes us through it, topic by topic.
He writes this book from an evangelical perspective, believing that the Bible is what it claims to be, the Word of God without error. He believes Jesus is who he claims to be – fully God and fully man. He believes Jesus died and was resurrected and that he is the only way for sinners to be accepted by God.
This is a great introduction to theology. He presents all the theological views where evangelicals differ in generally a very balanced way. I think, over all, he has done a great job. I felt he did a good explanation of the views on election. On the subject of the atonement (limited or unlimited), he introduced a “third view” that was new to me. His explanation on the views of the Lord's Supper was excellent, too. (I do note a couple of places below where I think he failed to maintain objectivity.)
Aaron writes that he has tried to fairly represent views he does not hold himself and has tried to keep his own theological opinions from showing too much. I noted a couple of places where he failed to maintain his objectivity. In the chapter, “Do Humans Have Parts?”, he gives the three possible views: monism, dualism or dichotomism, tripartism or trichotomism. He writes, “The best view seems to be a combination of monism and dichotomism.” (82) This may come as a surprise to readers as he notes that tripartism is more popular among lay people.
Another place Aaron shows his bias is in the chapter on original sin. He writes regarding the view “that all people are totally unable to help themselves and so are totally dependent upon the grace of God,” as “a hard position to embrace.” (93) He then muddies the waters, I think, when he says of the “basically Arminian view,” “...we are not totally powerless; however, we are unable to reach out to God for help, so God must take the initiative. When he provides the help we need, then we can and must respond.” (93) It is not until several chapters later he explains this as “prevenient grace” that is given to all humans. (153)
On the chapter, “How Does a Person become Saved?”, he gives the order of salvation (ordo salutis) as follows: Conviction, Calling, Divine Grace, Repentance, Saving faith. Why he gives that order is strange when he makes a point of noting that spiritually dead humans cannot make the saving decision unless God enables them to do so by his grace. (153) So why not list Divine Grace first?
Considering the breadth of this book, I think Aaron has done well. This is a very readable introduction to the various aspects of systematic theology. The chapters are short, about four or five pages, just right for reading one a day.
Daryl Aaron spent fourteen years in pastoral ministry and now teaches at Northwestern College, where he is Professor of Biblical and Theological Studies. He and his wife live in Mounds View, Minnesota.
Bethany House (a division of Baker Publishing Group), 217 pages.
I received a complimentary copy of this book from the publisher for the purpose of this review.