Wednesday, January 14, 2009

Moody Handbook of Theology

The thing I like most about this book is that it gives the various viewpoints related to the topics it covers. There are plenty of similar works that give one side to a controversy and then act like there is no room for discussion. In this handbook, the author may lean a certain direction but he won’t push you there. You are given room to think for yourself. The handbook is written from a conservative, orthodox, evangelical perspective.

The book is broken down into five areas of theological study: biblical, systematic, historical, dogmatic, and contemporary. Here is an idea of what each section covers.

Biblical theology is the study of the Bible itself and how God has revealed himself to man. Old Testament to New Testament, creation, the fall to redemption, it’s broken down into eras such as Edenic, Mosaic, Patriarchial, Prophetic, Acts, Paul, Hebrews, John, etc.

Systematic Theology deals with a system of Christian thought. It attempts to give an orderly, rational, and coherent account of the Christian faith and beliefs. It draws on sources outside the Bible such as sacred texts, history, philosophy, science and ethics. It covers subjects such as the origin, inspiration and interpretation of the Bible, God, Christ, man, angels, salvation, the church, and last days.

Historical theology shows how Christian theology has unfolded through the centuries. It explains how cardinal doctrines were developed and how they have changed. The four main divisions would be ancient, medieval, reformation and modern theology. Subjects covered are things like God, Christ, the Holy Spirit, salvation and the church. Various controversies during each period are covered as well.

Dogmatic theology is a body of belief held by an organized church body. Some of the theologies covered would be Calvinistic, Arminian, Covenant, Dispensational and Roman Catholic.

Contemporary theology covers theologies such as liberal, neo-orthodox, radical, socialist and movements in modern conservative theology such as evangelicalism, fundamentalism, neo-evangelicalism and neo-fundamentalism.

Does that sound like light bedtime reading? Not for most of us. For me it’s a great resource to use when I hear of a particular belief and want to look into the background of it. As I have been using this handbook I have found that it does a good job of giving me the various views surrounding theologies, doctrines and controversies.

I have the Moody Handbook of Theology on my Palm PDA so it’s easy to look things up wherever I am and searching is done in a flash. I really like having my questions answered as they arise. I use the version from Olive Tree.

Here is my recommendation on how to use a book like this. I think we need to be Bible fluent first. We need to get into the Bible with child-like eyes. In Mark 10:15 Jesus said, Truly, I say to you, whoever does not receive the kingdom of God like a child shall not enter it. Now I know that Bible study can be hard work at times but my first rule has always been to wonder what a child would take a passage to mean. What does it simply say? I carry that over to theology and doctrine as well.

There are certain doctrines and dogmas that I have come across that are so complicated that it takes a tutor and a pair of magic glasses to understand what is being presented. The teacher speaks rapid fire throwing out verse references that “prove” what he is presenting. If you slow down and read each verse you find that there are long leaps between what someone says a verse means and what it actually says.

My point is that if you don’t have a fluency in simple Bible you can be led astray very easy. You can pick up a book on doctrine or theology or listen to a message and it will sound great. It may or may not be.

Another rule of mine is that living is more important than knowing. You can have a big head or a big heart. (I’m not saying I have this down).

Some years ago, a group of people invaded a church I was a part of. They were big on doctrine but small on Christian living. They studied a particular Systematic Theology book as if it was Scripture. They used the word doctrine in most of their sentences. But they were some of the biggest liars and thieves I have ever known. Ethical living was off their radar. They could quote chapter and verse but it was misquoted and their lives were rarely touched by love or truth. They left a wake of destruction behind them and never looked back.

Do you get what I’m talking about? A book like the Moody Handbook of Theology is an excellent resource when used right. First, you need a basic Biblical understanding. Otherwise, you will bounce from belief to belief with little foundation. Second, we need to learn, so we know how to live. As Paul said, “knowledge" puffs up, but love builds up.

That said, I highly recommend this book. There are places where I might disagree with the author’s views but I will understand why and how he believes what he does. I will also gain a better understanding of what I believe and be able to examine if it lines up with God’s word. Oh, I almost forgot to mention, the handbook has a great glossary of theological words and concepts. Great if you were wondering what trichotomous means. If you are, click on the above picture to see.


For better and easier Bible study check out the links below.

Moody Handbook of Theology

Olive Tree has products for Palm, Pocket PC, Smartphone, Blackberry and iPhone. Over 150 of the resources are free.

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