“Biblical Doctrine” – A Review

I tend to shy away from reviewing books by authors that I hold in such high regard, for fear of placing myself as an adjudicator of their expertise and biblical knowledge. I have such utmost respect for the ministry of Dr. John MacArthur, noting the influence his teaching has had on my life, and the many years that Dr. Mayhue has faithfully served the body of Christ in wisdom. My prayer is that this will offer a helpful perspective for those who have not yet encountered this volume as a reference tool.

John MacArthur owes no allegiance to any creed or theological system, and refreshingly so. Teaming up with Richard Mayhue (Research Professor of Theology at The Master’s Seminary), the approach to theology in His recent book is refreshingly biblical. Both men unequivocally believe that the Bible teaches not only a system of doctrine, but they also defend the truth that our theological systems must always be vetted against Scripture.

This book is the culmination of years of faithful ministry from these two men, and is the theological volume to which I have been eagerly looking forward. It is academically thorough, but also devotionally accessible for the lay reader. Since truth must always lead to living, and preaching must always lead to praise, I think this is a great formula used in this volume.

biblical doctrine2The most popular evangelical systematic theology used today is Wayne Grudem’s Systematic Theology. For lay people who hold to similar doctrinal conclusions as John MacArthur, Biblical Doctrine was written for you. It is accessible, expositional, and practical. It will help you know why you believe what you believe, and it will help you defend and address the most common alternative views. And even if some aspects of their systematics are not in line with your own theological framework (for me it’s primarily their eschatology and pneumatology), others are simply valuable and helpful, and overall, Biblical Doctrine is truly a system that at least seeks to be faithful and subservient to Scripture as its authority and origination.

Biblical Doctrine also answers questions that a student actually has when reading the Bible rather than simply trying to defend a particular theological position, making this volume thoroughly pastoral.

Perhaps my one disappointment with this book is the writing itself. While the intent appears to be concise and clear in its definitions and explanations, this at times leads to weak writing, using phrases that simply have very little impact upon the depth of what is being discussed. This can be noted by the repeated use of the phrase “it is” which is often the first sign of weak writing. I realize this is a minor point of contention in the panoramic view of the effort to write this work, but it has continued to jump out at me as I read.

Additionally, if you disagree with a number of MacArthur’s conclusions as I do, this systematic theology will probably lose some of its luster. Grudem’s systematic theology presents each topic with a great deal of balance. While some might view a more balanced presentation as a weakness, I would earnestly contend that it is far easier to use Grudem in the classroom setting where doctrinal views may differ.

Biblical Doctrine is thoroughly comprehensive. I can quibble where more space should have been dedicated for deeper discussion. But overall, every major doctrinal topic is adequately and respectfully addressed.

Check out this interview with Dr. MacArthur, as he gives perspective on why he wrote this volume.  You can also preview the first 67 pages at Crossway.

I’d also recommend that you check out Dr. David’s Steele’s review on Amazon.com.

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