Theology is the grammar of the Christian faith. In other words, it is a set of rules, drawn from Scripture, that tells us the proper ways to conceive of, and thus to speak of, God and his works. Viewed from this perspective, false teaching “breaks the rules” of language about God and leads people astray from the true God, who has revealed himself to us in Scripture.
Pastors must be equipped in systematic theology, which is an inheritance passed down to us through two millennia of reflection on God’s revelation. By listening to the great teachers of the past and present and developing solid, biblical convictions on the various topics of systematic theology, a pastor will be equipped to lead his church faithfully in the task of discipleship as well as fight off the ever-present threat of false teachings and ideas.
Here are some resources that may be helpful for educating yourself in theology and tradition. Disclaimer: My recommendation of a resource does not entail my personal endorsement of everything in it.
The internet has many free resources available to you. Consider making a donation to an organization if you benefit from its resources.
Cornerstone Community Church has collected over the years videos from various cycles of our four-year systematic theology Sunday School rotation:
Core Theology I: Scripture and God
Core Theology II: Man, Sin, and the Person of Christ
Core Theology III: The Work of Christ and Salvation
Core Theology IV: The Holy Spirit, the Church, and Last Things
Courses from biblicaltraining.org include:
A Guide to Christian Theology, taught by Dr. Gerry Breshears
Systematic Theology I, taught by Dr. Bruce Ware
Systematic Theology II, taught by Dr. Bruce Ware
Essentials of Church History, taught by Dr. Gordon Isaac
Church History I, taught by Dr. Gerald Bray
Church History II, taught by Dr. Gerald Bray
The Medieval Church, taught by Dr. Carl Trueman
The Reformation, taught by Dr. Carl Trueman
SYSTEMATIC THEOLOGY TEXTS
Beginners in this field could profit from the following works:
Grudem, Wayne. Systematic Theology. Grand Rapids: Zondervan Academic, 1995. Published in an abridged for under the title Bible Doctrine.
Horton, Michael. Pilgrim Theology: Core Doctrines for Christian Disciples. Grand Rapids: Zondervan Academic, 2013.
Packer, J.I. Concise Theology. Carol Stream, IL: Tyndale House, 2001.
Historic church confessions and catechisms will not only help educate you in biblical teaching, but they will also enhance your understanding of the particular tradition they each represent. Here are some recommendations (many versions are available in print and online):
The Westminster Standards. These are 17th-century documents produced by English Presbyterians. The confession and catechisms produced by the Westminster theologians are some of the richest in the history of the church, and these documents have stood the test of time. They are a solid guide to the English-speaking Reformed tradition (i,e., Puritanism).
The Three Forms of Unity. Reformed churches on the European continent (as opposed to the island of Great Britain) developed a “flavor” of theology and tradition that is very similar to, though somewhat distinct from, the English Reformed churches. The three documents that make up this body of literature--the Belgic Confession, the Heidelberg Catechism, and the Canons of Dort--together constitute the doctrinal standards of the Dutch Reformed tradition. The Heidelberg Catechism in particular is well-known for its warm, uplifting, and encouraging form of questions and answers. The New City Catechism, on which you can follow my blog series, is a modern adaptation of the Heidelberg Catechism.
The Second London Baptist Confession. Officially publicized in 1689, this historic confession is an adaptation of the Westminster Confession of Faith, modified by Baptists who wanted to show their kinship with Reformed churches in England, while also making known their own unique Baptist convictions.
The Book of Concord. These documents represent the official teachings of the Lutheran tradition. In particular, you could profit greatly from reading Luther’s Small Catechism and Large Catechism, as well as the Formula of Concord, the mature confession of the Lutheran church.
For more advanced reading on the whole spectrum of systematic theology, these are works I recommend to have on your shelf:
Calvin, John. Institutes of the Christian Religion. 2 vols. Louisville: Westminster John Knox, 1960. Calvin was the fountainhead of the modern form of writing systematic theology. This work is arguably the most important work in the history of Protestant theology. The McNeill/Battles edition has become definitive for English readers. Abridged forms are available if you want to glean the most important material without reading it all.
Turretin, Francis. Institutes of Elenctic Theology. 3 vols. Phillipsburg, NJ: P & R, 1997. Written in the scholastic style of post-Reformation theology, this work engages with the depths and nuances of theological issues at a level you will seldom find elsewhere.
Bavinck, Herman. Reformed Dogmatics, 4 vols. Grand Rapids: Baker Academic, 2008. Of all the systematic theologies out there, this one is my favorite. Bavinck combines a keen sense for insight into the biblical text with an amazing depth of knowledge of historical theology, combined with an ability to apply historic Reformed teaching to the pressing issues of the modern world. At a time when Protestant Liberalism dominated the academies in Europe and America, Bavinck vigorously defended the faith once for all delivered to the saints. If you want to read the substance of Bavinck’s theology in summary form, I recommend Louis Berkhof’s Systematic Theology.
I am a Baptist by conviction, so I would be remiss to neglect the work of our greatest Baptist theologian, John Gill, whose Body of Doctrinal Divinity is a work of incredible breadth.
For an overview of the history of doctrine, I recommend the following:
Allison, Gregg R. Historical Theology: An Introduction to Christian Doctrine. Grand Rapids: Zondervan Academic, 2011.
Gonzalez, Justo. The Story of Christianity, vol. 1: The Early Church to the Dawn of the Reformation. San Franciso: HarperOne, 2010.
Gonzalez, Justo. The Story of Christianity, vol. 2: The Reformation to the Present Day. San Francisco: HarperOne, 2010.
McGrath, Alister E. Historical Theology: An Introduction to the History of Christian Thought. Hoboken, NJ: Wiley-Blackwell, 2012.
RESOURCES ON THE DOCTRINE OF SCRIPTURE
Carson, D.A. and John Woodbridge. Hermeneutics, Authority, and Canon. Eugene, OR: Wipf and Stock, 2005.
Carson, D.A. and John Woodbridge. Scripture and Truth. Grand Rapids: Baker Academic, 1992.
Frame, John. The Doctrine of the Word of God. Phillipsburg, NJ: P & R, 2010.
Geisler, Norman, ed. Inerrancy. Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 1980.
Henry, Carl F.H. God, Revelation, and Authority, 6 vols. Wheaton: Crossway, 1999.
Warfield, B.B. The Inspiration and Authority of the Bible. Phillipsburg, NJ: P & R, 2020.
Woodbridge, John. Biblical Authority: Infallibility and Inerrancy in the Christian Tradition. Grand Rapids: Zondervan Academic, 2015.
Also, don’t miss The Chicago Statement on Biblical Inerrancy.
RESOURCES ON THE DOCTRINE OF GOD
Barrett, Matthew. None Greater: The Undomesticated Attributes of God. Grand Rapids: Baker, 2019.
Frame, John. The Doctrine of God. Phillipsburg, NJ: P & R, 2002.
Reeves, Michael. Delighting in the Trinity: An Introduction to the Christian Faith. Downers Grove: IVP Academic, 2012.
Sanders, Fred. The Deep Things of God: How the Trinity Changes Everything. Wheaton: Crossway, 2017.
Schreiner, Thomas R. and Bruce A. Ware, eds. Still Sovereign: Contemporary Perspectives on Election, Foreknowledge, and Grace. Grand Rapids: Baker Academic, 2000.
Sproul, R.C. The Holiness of God. Carol Stream, IL: Tyndale House, 2000.
Tozer, A.W. The Knowledge of the Holy. San Francisco: HarperOne, 2009.
For more advanced reading:
Dolezal, James. All That Is In God. Evangelical Theology and the Challenge of Classical Theism. Grand Rapids: Reformation Heritage, 2017.
Dolezal, James. God Without Parts: Divine Simplicity and the Metaphysics of God’s Absoluteness. Eugene, OR: Pickwick Publications, 2011.
Holmes, Stephen R. The Quest for the Trinity: The Doctrine of God in Scripture, History, and Modernity. Grand Rapids: IVP Academic, 2012.
Letham, Robert. The Holy Trinity: In Scripture, History, Theology, and Worship. Phillipsburg, NJ: P & R, 2019.
RESOURCES ON THE DOCTRINE OF ANGELS AND DEMONS
This is a fascinating field of study, and it is one that needs a lot more attention. Here is a handful of works to consult:
Cook, William F., III, and Chuck Lawless. Spiritual Warfare in the Storyline of Scripture: A Biblical, Theological, and Practical Approach. Nashville: B & H Academic, 2019.
Heiser, Michael. S. Supernatural: What the Bible Teaches about the Unseen World--And Why It Matters. Bellingham, WA: Lexham Press, 2015.
Heiser, Michael S. The Unseen Realm: Recovering the Supernatural Worldview of the Bible. Bellingham, WA: Lexham Press, 2019.
Also, BibleProject has a helpful series of videos on spiritual beings.
RESOURCES ON THE DOCTRINES OF HUMANITY AND SIN
Blocher, Henri. Downers Grove: Inter-Varsity Press, 1997.
Grudem, Evangelical Feminism and Biblical Truth: An Analysis of More than 100 Disputed Questions. Wheaton: Crossway, 2012.
Hoekema, Anthony A. Created in God’s Image. Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1994.
Kline, Meredith. Images of the Spirit. Eugene, OR: Wipf and Stock, 1999.
Köstenberger, Andreas J. and Margaret Köstenberger, God’s Design for Man and Woman: A Biblical-Theological Survey. Wheaton: Crossway, 2014.
Piper, John and Wayne Grudem, eds. Recovering Biblical Manhood and Womanhood. Wheaton: Crossway, 2012.
RESOURCES ON THE DOCTRINE OF THE PERSON AND WORK OF CHRIST
Anselm. Cur Deus Homo: Why God Became Man. Scotts Valley, CA: Createspace Independent Publishing Platform, 2016. Many other editions are available.
Gibson, David and Jonathan Gibson, eds. From Heaven He Came and Sought Her: Definite Atonement in Historical, Biblical, Theological, and Pastoral Perspective. Wheaton: Crossway, 2013.
Emerson, Matthew Y. He Descended to the Dead: An Evangelical Theology of Holy Saturday. Downers Grove: IVP Academic, 2019.
Jeffery, Steve, Michael Ovey, and Andrew Sach. Pierced for Our Transgressions: Rediscovering the Glory of Penal Substitution. Wheaton: Crossway, 2007.
Morris, Leon. The Apostolic Preaching of the Cross. Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1955.
Owen, John. The Death of Death in the Death of Christ. Carlisle, PA: Banner of Truth, 1999.
Stott, John. The Cross of Christ. Downers Grove: IVP, 2006.
Wellum, Stephen J. God the Son Incarnate: The Doctrine of Christ. Wheaton: Crossway, 2016.
Wright, N.T. The Resurrection of the Son of God. Minneapolis: Fortress Press, 2003.
RESOURCES ON THE DOCTRINE OF THE HOLY SPIRIT
Brand, Chad Owen. Perspectives on Spirit Baptism: Five Views. Nashville: B & H Academic, 2004.
Carson, D.A. Showing the Spirit: A Theological Exposition of 1 Corinthians 12-14. Grand Rapids: Baker, 2019.
Cole, Graham A. He Who Gives Life: The Doctrine of the Holy Spirit. Wheaton: Crossway, 2007.
Ferguson, Sinclair. The Holy Spirit. Downers Grove: IVP Academic, 1997.
Grudem, Wayne. The Gift of Prophecy in the New Testament and Today. Wheaton: Crossway, 2000.
Turner, Max. The Holy Spirit and Spiritual Gifts. Grand Rapids: Baker Academic, 1997.
RESOURCES ON THE DOCTRINE OF SALVATION
Alexander, Donald, ed.. Christian Spirituality: Five Views of Sanctification. Downers Grove: IVP Academic, 1989.
Fesko, J.V. Justification: Understanding the Classic Reformed Doctrine. Phillipsburg, NJ: P & R, 2008.
Horton, Michael S. Covenant and Salvation: Union with Christ. Louisville: Westminster John Knox, 2007.
Morgan, Christopher W. and Robert A. Peterson, eds. Faith Comes by Hearing: A Response to Inclusivism. Grand Rapids: IVP Academic, 2008.
Murray, John. Redemption Accomplished and Applied. Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 2015.
Naselli, Andrew David. No Quick Fix: Where Higher Life Theology Came From, What It Is, and Why It’s Harmful. Bellingham, WA: Lexham Press, 2017.
Schreiner, Thomas. Faith Alone: The Doctrine of Justification. Grand Rapids: Zondervan Academic, 2015.
Schreiner, Thomas. Run to Win the Prize: Perseverance in the New Testament. Wheaton: Crossway, 2010.
Sproul, R.C. Getting the Gospel Right: The Tie that Binds Evangelicals Together. Grand Rapids: Baker, 2017.
Westerholm, Stephen. Justification Reconsidered: Rethinking a Pauline Theme. Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 2013.
RESOURCES ON THE DOCTRINE OF THE CHURCH
Allison, Gregg R. Sojourners and Strangers: The Doctrine of the Church. Wheaton: Crossway, 2012.
Clowney, Edmund P. The Church. Downers Grove: InterVarsity, 1995.
Dagg, J.L. Manual of Church Order. Gano Books, 1990.
Hammett, John. Biblical Foundations for Baptist Churches. Grand Rapids: Kregel Academic, 2019.
Jamieson, Bobby. Going Public: Why Baptism Is Required for Church Membership. Nashville: B & H Academic, 2015.
Leeman, Jonathan. Don’t Fire Your Church Members: The Case for Congregationalism. Nashville: B & H Academic, 2016.
Leeman, Jonathan. The Church and the Surprising Offense of God’s Love: Reintroducing the Doctrines of Church Membership and Discipline. Wheaton: Crossway, 2010.
Malone, Fred. The Baptism of Disciples Alone. Cape Coral, FL: Founders Press, 2007.
Schreiner, Thomas R. and Matthew R. Crawford, eds. The Lord’s Supper: Remembering and Proclaiming Christ Until He Comes. Nashville: B & H Academic, 2011.
Schreiner, Thomas R. and Shawn Wright, eds. Believer’s Baptism: Sign of the New Covenant in Christ. Nashville: B & H Academic, 2007.
RESOURCES ON THE DOCTRINE OF LAST THINGS
Augustine of Hippo. City of God. London: Penguin Classics, 2004.
Bock, Darrell L. Three Views on the Millennium and Beyond. Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 1999.
Hoekema, Anthony A. The Bible and the Future. Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1994.
Ladd, George E. The Presence of the Future: The Eschatology of Biblical Realism. Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1996.
Mathison, Keith. Postmillennialism: An Eschatology of Hope. Phillipsburg, NJ: P & R, 1999.
Sproul, R.C. The Last Days According to Jesus: When Did Jesus Say He Would Return? Grand Rapids: Baker, 2015.
Storms, Sam. Kingdom Come: The Amillennial Alternative. Mentor, 2015.