Review Of Michael Bird, Evangelical Theology: A Biblical And Systematic Introduction -- By: Michael S. Horton

Journal: Southeastern Theological Review
Volume: STR 06:2 (Winter 2015)
Article: Review Of Michael Bird, Evangelical Theology: A Biblical And Systematic Introduction
Author: Michael S. Horton

Review Of Michael Bird, Evangelical Theology: A Biblical And Systematic Introduction

Michael S. Horton

Westminster Seminary, California


It is a credit to systematic theology that a biblical scholar of Michael Bird’s rank would take dogmatics as seriously as he has with this volume. It may be sufficient cause to have his credentials at SBL checked at the door. Nevertheless, it represents a healthy and hopefully growing conversation between these fields. In what follows, I will present brief bullet points of engagement, which will be followed by two larger areas for further discussion.

  • I’m not a fan of “central dogmas” and I don’t see the gospel as “the canon within the canon,” but rather as the central announcement from Genesis to Revelation. One danger of this sort of method is that it often leads to distortion more than integration. The search for chief divine attributes threatens divine simplicity. On the atonement, he goes so far as to say that Christus Victor “is the crucial integrative hub of the atonement because it provides the canopy under which the other modes of the atonement gain their currency” (p. 414). Yet don’t the seminal Christus Victor passages (e.g., Col. 2:13-15 and 1 Cor. 15:56-57) treat Christ’s victory over Satan, death, and hell as the result of his “having cancelled out the certificate of debt” and removing the sting of death by taking away the curse of the law? And why must we choose between a participatory view of salvation (union with Christ) and the Christ’s work of meriting our salvation, imputing his righteousness to us?
  • A further concern I have with Bird’s method has to do with his assumptions and assertions regarding Protestant scholasticism. On one hand, he can be quite generous to Karl Barth, whom he describes “decidedly orthodox and Reformed in his basic stance…” (p. 191). On the other hand, he reduces traditional Reformed theology to caricature in a number of places throughout this volume, as early

as the line he draws from the Reformation (especially the Protestant scholastics) to Enlightenment rationalism—and, of course, to Charles Hodge (p. 34, p. 37, p. 61) .

  • I appreciated the author’s warning against a “naïve biblicicism” in many evangelical theologies: “Theological Sausage Maker 3000” (p. 77), “a theology derived from a concordance” (p. 78). In that vein, I appreciated his integration of the historia salutis and the ordo salutis, although I did wonder if, like Scott McKnight, he tends to exclude the “pro no...
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