Theology Today - V 50, No.1 - April 1993 - BOOK REVIEW - Refor...

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136 - Reformational Theology: A New Paradigm for Doing Dogmatics

Reformational Theology: A New Paradigm for Doing Dogmatics
By Gordon J. Spykman Grand Rapids, Eerdmans Publishing Co., 1992. 584 pp. $39.95. Spykman's volume is only the latest in what has been a remarkable flowering in the writing of systematics volumes in recent years. This one, though, is a little different. It is self-consciously launched as a neo-Calvinist tome. While it is rooted in Calvin himself, it deliberately eschews the Reformed scholastics who followed him and then seeks to repristinate the wisdom of Dutch thinkers like Abraham Kuyper and Herman Bavinck, who straddled the turn of the century, and more recently Herman Dooyeweerd and Herman Ridderbos. Tradition, the author says, "is the bearer of a community's identity, the stimulus for its enterprising spirit, the shaper of its habits of thought, the forum for its theological reflections." This Dutch neo-Calvinism is Spykman's tradition. At the same time, however, he has adopted a form for his theology that is deliberately much closer to the contours of biblical thought than to the older scholastic rendering, which, in a volume like Louis Berkhof's Systematic Theology, produced something a bit like a telephone directory for those needing to look up some divine information. This recasting of his inherited Calvinism was undoubtedly an act of courage. Spykman's volume, which is written in a crisp, no-nonsense style, has five main sections: prolgomena, creation, sin and evil, salvation, and the consummation. Knowing the angle from which this author writes is a good tip-off as to what his conclusions will be. On all of the important matters, they are conventionally Reformed, but the reader encounters them within a framework that has some surprises. For example, there is no sustained discussion of God, though a traditional view of God's triunity, character, and attributes is everywhere assumed; the Bible is likewise assumed to be the "revelational norm," but there is no
138 - Reformational Theology: A New Paradigm for Doing Dogmatics

discussion of biblical inspiration; the usual distinction between revelation that is natural and that which is special is discarded; the section on the person and work of Christ, though completely orthodox, is remarkably short; and the discussion on the Christian liferegeneration, justification, sanctification, perseverance, and electioncomes toward the end of the book as a sub-topic under the church. Despite the firmly traditional cast to the volume, then, it is not without innovative flourishes. These innovations are not, however, the grounds for the claim of the subtitle, that this book advances a new paradigm for doing theology. This rests on the author's contention that theology has been hobbled over the centuries by a bifurcation between the two spheres of sacred and secular (and confused by those who merge the spheres into a monism), that this is what has set theology and philosophy marching down different and competing paths, and that the time is now ripe for a fresh realignment. The point of integration between the two spheres, the way in which theology and philosophy can again work together cooperatively, needs to be found through a common point of identity in the written Word of God that is "the religious bond, the unbreakable link, which binds the Creator and his creatures together in covenant relationship." This is the new paradigm. Spykman's observations about the disintegrating field of knowledge in the modern world and the need to find a way of thinking more comprehensively are correct. For him to suggest, however, that his solution constitutes a new paradigm stretches the meaning of the words a bit. It is not really a paradigm and it certainly is not new. After all, is this not what Jonathan Edwards and a host of others have attempted, even if they did not have the Kuyperian nuances that the author favors? Perhaps Spykman, who has a foot

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Wells Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary. No. comparatively little persuasive argument offered.. There is a sense of proportion missing here. It is a mistake. South Hamilton. and often parochial debate. and modern thought is largely ignored. is a new paradigm for doing theology..April 1993 . For that reason. however. This book is really written for those who have already given their consent to the Belgic Confession. Those.htm Generated by Foxit PDF Creator © Foxit Software http://www.Refor. who want their traditional. Dutch Calvinism in more deliberately biblical form.com For evaluation only. for Dooyeweerdians have been relentlessly hostile to theology.edu/apr1993/v50-1-bookreview7.1 .Theology Today . MA 2 de 2 11/15/2010 9:49 PM . David F.ptsem. who want it simply and directly spelled out. however. is here reflecting the internecine warfare that has gone on for years in this corner of modern Calvinism. to imagine that a peace proposal presented in the context of an extremely obscure.V 50. there are many assumptions made. ol http://theologytoday. in the Dooyeweerdians' world. will find this an excellent treatment.BOOK REVIEW .foxitsoftware.

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