Which Systematic Theology to study first?

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monoergon

Puritan Board Freshman
I am going to buy my first systematic theology; I'm considering three options:

1. Geerhardus Vos - Reformed Dogmatics, Five Volume Set (link)

2. Herman Bavinck - Reformed Dogmatics, 4 Volume Set (link)

3. Charles Hodge - Systematic Theology (3 volume set) (link)

- Which one do you recommend for a first systematic theology?

- Which one is easier to understand and which of these theologians writes more clearly?

Thanks
 

Beezer

Puritan Board Freshman
All are highly recommended, but I recommend this one first. I find Hodges' writing style clear and easy to follow and for the price (~$100 less than the other two) you can't beat it.

3. Charles Hodge - Systematic Theology (3 volume set) (link)
 

Dachaser

Puritan Board Doctor
Agreed, and you can also find his work online for free...

Him and Berkoff were the 2 main theologies read while accepting reformed views regarding Sotierology!

I have the abridged one volume of #2, kave not yet gotten around to read it...
 

LilyG

Puritan Board Freshman
I'm working through Vos' Reformed Dogmatics right now and highly recommend it for a first. Surprisingly easy read, simple, logical format. Way easier than Bavinck. :)
 

BayouHuguenot

Puritanboard Amanuensis
Hodge is slightly more to the point than Bavinck, but the scope and magnificence of Bavinck can't be doubted. But I would probably start with Hodge first.

The format to Vos is beginning to appeal to me in its simplicity.

I would also get Richard Muller's Dictionary and just reread it over and over again.
 

Guido's Brother

Puritan Board Junior
If you have never read a Systematic Theology before, all of these are heavyweights. Instead, I would recommend Louis Berkhof's Systematic Theology. It's more recent and it is written in more easily understood English. By reading Berkhof, you also get the best of Bavinck. Berkhof was more or less summarizing Bavinck.
 

BayouHuguenot

Puritanboard Amanuensis
If you have never read a Systematic Theology before, all of these are heavyweights. Instead, I would recommend Louis Berkhof's Systematic Theology. It's more recent and it is written in more easily understood English. By reading Berkhof, you also get the best of Bavinck. Berkhof was more or less summarizing Bavinck.

And make sure to get the Eerdmans, not the Banner of Truth edition, as the former has an essay attached.
 

yeutter

Puritan Board Senior
Charles Hodge would be my pick. I used to keep four systematics handy, Hodge, Hoeksema, Kersten, and Calvin. I found that comparing them would open my eyes, and make me think through issues in a new way. Hodge goes through the themes that should be covered in a Systematics in an orderly, logical fashion.

Today I look at Jeffrey Khoo's Theology For Every Christian which is a compendium of Oliver Buswell's Systematics in addition to consulting Hodge. His treatment is warm. Frequently I am interacting with people here in South and Southeast Asia who come from Buswell's perspective.
 

Andrew P.C.

Puritan Board Junior
In all honesty, I'd suggest starting with one that is more precise.

Francis Turretin's Institutes of Elenctic Theology

The others aren't bad, per se, but it's important to strive for biblical accuracy.

Just my 2 cents.
 

Logan

Puritan Board Junior
Francis Turretin's Institutes of Elenctic Theology

Don't you think he is considerably more nuanced and laborious to read, especially for someone whose first language is not English or Latin? I mean, Turretin is great but I wouldn't consider it introductory or the easiest to understand.
 

yeutter

Puritan Board Senior
In all honesty, I'd suggest starting with one that is more precise.

Francis Turretin's Institutes of Elenctic Theology

The others aren't bad, per se, but it's important to strive for biblical accuracy.

Just my 2 cents.
That was the Systematics that Hodge used during his teaching days at Princeton. If I remember correctly, Charles Hodge wrote his own systematics upon his retirement.
 

monoergon

Puritan Board Freshman
Thank you all for the recommendations. I will probably study Charles Hodge's Systematic Theology. Vos' Reformed Dogmatics is too expensive for me; if it were cheaper, I would probably study it first.

Turretin will probably be a bit too advanced for a first study of a Systematic Theology.

I wish Berkhof would have dedicated a few more sections on the law of God; I came from a dispensationalist background and the subject of God's laws are fundamental for me. I think Charles Hodge dedicated more sections on the subject of the law(s) of God in his 3rd vol.
 

Dachaser

Puritan Board Doctor
Thank you all for the recommendations. I will probably study Charles Hodge's Systematic Theology. Vos' Reformed Dogmatics is too expensive for me; if it were cheaper, I would probably study it first.

Turretin will probably be a bit too advanced for a first study of a Systematic Theology.

I wish Berkhof would have dedicated a few more sections on the law of God; I came from a dispensationalist background and the subject of God's laws are fundamental for me. I think Charles Hodge dedicated more sections on the subject of the law(s) of God in his 3rd vol.

Dr Horton would be a nice Theology for you also....
 

BayouHuguenot

Puritanboard Amanuensis
Thank you all for the recommendations. I will probably study Charles Hodge's Systematic Theology. Vos' Reformed Dogmatics is too expensive for me; if it were cheaper, I would probably study it first.

Turretin will probably be a bit too advanced for a first study of a Systematic Theology.

I wish Berkhof would have dedicated a few more sections on the law of God; I came from a dispensationalist background and the subject of God's laws are fundamental for me. I think Charles Hodge dedicated more sections on the subject of the law(s) of God in his 3rd vol.

Dr Horton would be a nice Theology for you also....

Horton is unique. I like him more than most people like him, I think. He is good on some sections but he can't replace Hodge or Turretin. I tried to read Turretin as one of my first and I couldn't do it. I read him 12 years later and he nearly changed my life.
 

Dachaser

Puritan Board Doctor
I have read Dr Grudem and Dr Erickson , and while both not strictly reformed, good to overview past views on differing issues in theology!
 

C. Matthew McMahon

Christian Preacher
I'd suggest William Ames' Marrow of Theology. It's precise, and online in an updated format for free here. It was my first systematic.
My second was Calvin's Institutes, but I would hold that one off for later on. I would go with Charles Hodge second, while simultaneously reading Bavinck's Doctrine of God. Then I would read Berkhoff, and then Turretin.
Turretin's is the best, and Calvin is most practical. The others lay a good foundation (outside of the bible, and the WCF).
 

C. Matthew McMahon

Christian Preacher
On another note, in order to really let the material you read sink in, write a 1 page summary of every section of the work you read. Summarizing on paper solidifies your thinking about the subject matter especially if this is your first read through on a systemtic.
 

BayouHuguenot

Puritanboard Amanuensis
On another note, in order to really let the material you read sink in, write a 1 page summary of every section of the work you read. Summarizing on paper solidifies your thinking about the subject matter especially if this is your first read through on a systemtic.

That's the most important thing I've ever done in reading, except I do more of an analytical outline of each section
 

BayouHuguenot

Puritanboard Amanuensis
On another note, in order to really let the material you read sink in, write a 1 page summary of every section of the work you read. Summarizing on paper solidifies your thinking about the subject matter especially if this is your first read through on a systemtic.

That's the most important thing I've ever done in reading, except I do more of an analytical outline of each section

I've also found it helpful to do this on google drives. That lets me call together anyting I've written by search words.
 

monoergon

Puritan Board Freshman
On another note, in order to really let the material you read sink in, write a 1 page summary of every section of the work you read. Summarizing on paper solidifies your thinking about the subject matter especially if this is your first read through on a systemtic.

Good advice; I'll do that.
 

TheOldCourse

Puritan Board Sophomore
Dr Horton would be a nice Theology for you also....

His The Christian Faith reads more like a theological novel than a standard systematic theology. I have not read Pilgrim Theology, but it might be a good one for a first ST.

Yeah, I don't mind most of the content but I can't stand the format. One important part of studying a systematic theology is learning to think systematically and I don't think his does a good job of that. But then again, that may not be his intent.

Turretin is probably the best single work out there for training your mind to think biblically, precisely, and carefully but it's a challenge even for those whose first language is English since even the highly educated among us aren't trained to make carefully reasoned distinctions any more. There's a thought-process barrier as well as a language barrier. For a first ST I'd second the Hodge and Berkhof recommendations though at some point I think everyone should try and spend some time working with Turretin even if they can only get through parts of it.

Wilhelmus 'a Brackel's A Christian's Reasonable Service is another choice that is warm, pastoral and relatively easy to follow. John Brown of Haddington's is an exceptional single volume ST as well.
 

BayouHuguenot

Puritanboard Amanuensis
Dr Horton would be a nice Theology for you also....

His The Christian Faith reads more like a theological novel than a standard systematic theology. I have not read Pilgrim Theology, but it might be a good one for a first ST.

Yeah, I don't mind most of the content but I can't stand the format. One important part of studying a systematic theology is learning to think systematically and I don't think his does a good job of that. But then again, that may not be his intent.

Turretin is probably the best single work out there for training your mind to think biblically, precisely, and carefully but it's a challenge even for those whose first language is English since even the highly educated among us aren't trained to make carefully reasoned distinctions any more. There's a thought-process barrier as well as a language barrier. For a first ST I'd second the Hodge and Berkhof recommendations though at some point I think everyone should try and spend some time working with Turretin even if they can only get through parts of it.

Wilhelmus 'a Brackel's A Christian's Reasonable Service is another choice that is warm, pastoral and relatively easy to follow. John Brown of Haddington's is an exceptional single volume ST as well.

I see Horton as useful in rebutting and sidelining various modern challenges to the faith that have arisen since Hegel. But no, I certainly wouldn't go to him to learn to think systematically. That's what Turretin is for.
 

yeutter

Puritan Board Senior
Turretin is probably the best single work out there for training your mind to think biblically, precisely, and carefully but it's a challenge even for those whose first language is English since even the highly educated among us aren't trained to make carefully reasoned distinctions any more. There's a thought-process barrier as well as a language barrier.
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Princeton students worked through Turretin in Latin. Many of our brethren abroad still have mastery of Latin and may wish to tackle him in the original.
 

Dachaser

Puritan Board Doctor
Agreed, but he would be useful in refuting modern day departments from the faith,as would Dr grudem theology would be also...
 
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