Think about it for a moment. Systematic theologians organize and distill the Bible (a diverse library of literature composed over many centuries) into one structure. The constant danger for systematists is to improperly exegete scripture to make it fit, not unlike trimming a puzzle piece to force it into place. The best systematic theologians are faithful to scripture and treat their own edifice as provisional. I appreciate Gunton’s acknowledgement in the preface: “the Christian faith cannot without falsification be systematized” (xi).
Gunton has done a remarkable job at condensing the heart of the Christian faith into less than 200 pages. He writes with concise precision. Structurally, he uses the tripartite division of the creeds to focus on the Father and creation, the Son and salvation, and the Spirit and eschatology. Gunton’s theology is deeply trinitarian.
Most helpful is Gunton’s understanding of eschatology. Eschatology is not something that only happens in the future when this world is over. Eschatology is the in-breaking of the Spirit of God in the midst of our time in order to bring all creation to its rightful end. This has powerful implications for us. A right understanding of Spirit baptism leads us to reject escapist fantasies that place all hope in the future. Instead, we value the present as the time when we experience God’s perfecting power in our daily lives.
[The Spirit] teaches us to find perfection in the ordinary and power in weakness. That is the way things are transformed this side of the end. (172)
The Christian Faith is nothing to be nervous about. Colin E. Gunton has provided a clear and concise overview of the Trinity and His creation.
—Colin E. Gunton, The Christian Faith: An Introduction to Christian Doctrine (Malden, MA: Blackwell Publishing, 2002).