What about Norman Geisler’s Systematic Theology?

What about Norman Geisler’s Systematic Theology?
by Jack Cottrell (Notes) on Wednesday, September 16, 2009 at 1:47pm

Someone asked me for my opinion of Norman Geisler’s four-volume systematic theology.

My opinion of Geisler in general is that he is a much better apologist than theologian. I like his works in the area of apologetics quite a bit and have made use of them often. I don’t agree with him on some things, e.g., his attempt to explain the presence of evil in the world (without evil we could not appreciate the good). Still, I don’t use any of his apologetics works as textbooks; the one best book for an apologetics text is William Craig, “Reasonable Faith: Christian Truth and Apologetics.”

In the area of theology, though, I think Geisler is sometimes in over his head. I came to this conclusion when I read his book “Chosen but Free,” in which he attempts to refute Calvinism but winds up with a confusing amalgamation of the Calvinist and Arminian views. (He calls himself a Calminian.) It was pretty bad.

I have not done a lot with his big four-volume work on systematics. Of course, a lot of it is standard evangelical theology, and one can learn from it. (I have the first three volumes, but have not sprung for the fourth one.) But there are other more trustworthy evangelical systematic theologies, especially Millard Erickson and Wayne Grudem (but watch out for Grudem’s Calvinism, premillennialism, and charismatic leanings). (If my objectivity could overcome my modesty, I would recommend my own systematic theology, “The Faith Once for All,” College Press, c. 600pp.)

One place where Geisler and I have interacted is with regard to the doctrine of salvation. When Geisler was writing his volume on salvation, he called me with a question (we are sort of friends). He wanted the names of some Restoration Movement books or authors that spelled out the traditional RM “plan of salvation,” i.e., faith/repentance/confession/baptism. The only thing I had immediately at hand was my own “Faith Once for All” (see chs. 19-20), so I told him about it.

I never thought much about it; but when his book came out, I found that he used my material as an example of this (to him) “false doctrine of salvation” as found in the RM. Especially, he ripped me up one side and down the other for violating the (to him) infallible doctrinal principle of “sola fide,” or faith only. I thought his exegesis of various texts was poor, and I know for sure that he misrepresented me in a number of ways.

The only place I have tried to respond to his view on this is in an informal presentation I gave on the CCU campus a couple of years ago called “The Tyranny of the Paradigm.” It can be found on the following website: http://www.ccuniversity.edu/seminary/acacemics/faculty/ . I have also incorporated this material in some of my “Reflections” articles that I am writing for publication in “Christian Standard” sometime toward the end of next year.

The bottom line is that I would not spend my money on the set.

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