Hardcover: 912 pages
Publisher: Zondervan (October 30, 2013)
Product Dimensions: 7.6 x 1.7 x 9.4 inches
A few years back, while residing in St. Louis, MO, when I heard that NT scholar and blogger Michael F. Bird was going to be lecturing at Covenant Theological Seminary, I had to make time to be there and meet him in person. I did. I met the redhead Australian professor. In our conversation, Mike revealed that his Evangelical Theology would be coming out later that Fall. Sure enough it did. I bought it, and after a few months with it, I read it in its entirety. Below is my review.
Style and Overview
According to Mike Bird, the purpose of his work on Christian theology is “to produce a textbook for Christians that represents a biblically sound expression of the Christian faith from the vantage point of the evangelical tradition,” a tradition which he goes on to define. Over the years I’ve read my share of Systematic Theologies, whether in college, seminary, pastorate, or personal enrichment. While I’ve enjoyed their contents for the most part, they did not always flow well. Some were simply dry and dull. Not Mike Bird’s Evangelical Theology. It flows. It’s a lively. Throughout are charts, diagrams, and other visuals. Embedded in the text are further discussions pertinent to the subject matter. At the end of each section is a summary in the form of What to take Home? and Study questions for individuals and groups.
The work is divided into eight parts around the evangel, the gospel. It does not follow the usual order of other systematic theologies. Mike provides a reason. Of special note is the fact that Mike describes himself as an ex-Baptist post-Presbyterian Anglican. He writes from a Reformed/Calvinist perspective. However, according to Mike, “I am more than willing to part company with Calvin and the Reformers when I feel compelled to in the light of biblical evidence and Christian tradition.
For the most part, Mike’s work is a breath of fresh air, displaying a willingness to challenge and reframed traditionally held beliefs, even within his own Reformed tradition. I find this especially true in Part 5, “The Gospel of Salvation,” where Mike convinced me of Christus Victor and so on. Some readers would not be pleased with Mike’s generous and irenic spirit when it comes to such controversial subjects as biblical inerrancy and the historical Adam. Parts 2, 4, 7, Trinity, Christology, and Pneumatology, respectively, are quite solid. This is not to discount the other sections, but these I found to be more refreshing.
In Part 2, section 2.6, “God’s Purpose and Plan.” While it appears promising, i.e., Mike’s willingness to depart from Reformed covenant theology’s “covenant of works” and covenant of grace,” it fell short. It proved to be more about semantics, as one works through the larger work. Neither was I convinced about his arguments for the historic premillennial position–simply a rehearsing of the same old unconvincing arguments. I expected to be challenged here. While there are bright spots in Part 8, “The Community of the Gospelized,” for the most part it was deja vu–I’ve been here before, especially when it came to church government and baptism. However, his discussion on the Lord’s Supper stands out.
All in all, Evangelical Theology is a well-researched work. Mike’s knowledge and interaction with the Church Fathers, the Reformers, and modern theologians throughout the work are quite impressive. As a footnote, Mike Bird is not even 40 as yet. So in the next 10 to 15 years, I would really like to see where he would be theologically in light of this work. At any rate, I commend Evangelical Theology, a systematic theology from a New Testament scholar.