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Exploring Theology: A Guide for Systematic Theology and Apologetics

Clarence H. Benson and Robert J. Morgan, Exploring Theology: A Guide for Systematic Theology and Apologetics (Wheaton: Crossway Books, 2007).

Exploring Theology is a compilation of three books originally written by Clarence H. Benson (1879-1954), who helped found the Evangelical Training Association in 1930 and was a Presbyterian minister for many years. The three-in-one volume is compiled and edited by Robert J. Morgan. Exploring Theology begins with God, exploring his nature, character, and work. The first five chapters regard the Father, the next seven chapters regard the Son, and the following two chapters within the first section regard the Spirit. Readers of The Pneuma Review will immediately notice that the explicit coverage of the Spirit in no manner equals that of either the Son or the Father. Perhaps this thin coverage is attributable to Benson’s Presbyterian/Reformed roots, which seemingly emphasizes the Son’s role within the Trinity at the expense of the other members of the Godhead. Nevertheless, in the two chapters covering the Spirit, one will find numerous assertions that are agreeable and welcomed by those who value the contemporary ministry of the Spirit. For example, Benson highlights that the Spirit has the characteristics of personhood, including intelligence, purpose, and activity. Moreover, Benson notes that the Son himself recognizes the Spirit as a person in that Christ uses personal pronouns in referring to the Spirit. Additionally attesting to the personhood of the Spirit, Benson notes that the Spirit is mentioned within the baptismal formula in Matt. 18:19 and in the benediction by Paul in 2 Cor. 13:14. Further, Benson highlights that the Spirit speaks to believers, prays to the Father for believers, guides believers, commands believers, and teaches believers, actions that clearly point to the personhood of the Spirit. Most importantly, Benson notes, the Spirit empowers believers to live lives that are in accordance with God the Father’s will. So then, despite the somewhat paltry coverage of the Spirit, this text nonetheless contains a helpful explanation of the Trinity.

Compiler and editor, Robert J. Morgan

In the second of the three books included within this volume, Benson provides a concise and pointed presentation of twelve basic beliefs that serve to separate Christianity from other religious faiths. In the third book included within this volume, Benson examines and depicts the historical and physical evidence for the Christian faith by elucidating the creation of the world, Christ’s resurrection, prophecy fulfilled by the life and death of Jesus of Nazareth, and the historical reliability of the Bible.

At the end of each chapter there are discussion questions and application points for readers to ponder, which is well-suited for use in small group studies. Overall, this volume is logical and accessible in its presentation of systematic theology and apologetics from a Reformed theological perspective. That this writer is Reformed in theology (i.e., Calvinistic) may be of importance to some of the readers of The Pneuma Review. His Reformed perspective, for example, influences his argumentation for propitiation (appeasement) in reference to Jesus’ sacrificial atonement, his support of verbal plenary inspiration of the Bible (i.e., that every word of the Bible is exactly what God desires it to be), as well as advocating predestination. One will likewise find within this book dated references to generally perceived Fundamentalist theologians, but this aspect is to be expected because of its original composition date. All in all, I recommend this book for readers of The Pneuma Review.

Reviewed by Bradford McCall

 

Publisher’s page: https://www.crossway.org/books/exploring-theology-tpb/

 

This review was originally published on the In Depth Resources index of the Pneuma Foundation website on May 23, 2008. The Pneuma Foundation is the parent organization of PneumaReview.com.

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Category: In Depth, Summer 2017

About the Author: Bradford L. McCall, B.S. in Biology (Georgia Southwestern St. University, 2000), M.Div. (Asbury Theological Seminary, 2005), grew up on a cotton farm in south Georgia. A graduate student at Holy Apostles College and Seminary, Bradford has particular interest in teleology, causation and early modern philosophy.

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