When I was a student in Romania, I cut my teeth on Millard Erickson’s Christian TheologyIt was one of the few systematic theology textbooks translated into Romanian, and I had a copy in both languages.

Erickson Theology 3rdErickson’s theology has always been my “go-to” textbook for systematics. Though I appreciate and often consult Wayne Grudem’s Systematic Theology, which may have surpassed Erickson in popularity among conservative evangelicals, I prefer Erickson for a variety of reasons (perhaps I will elaborate on those in another blog post). For an overview of Erickson’s theology, I recommend the chapter on Erickson written by Bradley Green in Theologians of the Baptist Tradition (edited by David Dockery and Timothy George).

The third edition of Christian Theology has just been released, a revision that builds upon the 1998 version. (The first edition was published in 1983.) Three decades after Erickson’s monumental work first appeared, we now have a new edition that adds a lot of new material.

Here’s what’s new (or different) in the third edition of Erickson’s Christian Theology:

1. Additional Engagement on Issues Related to Postmodernism

The first part, “Studying God,” emphasizes issues related to postmodernism. Chapter 7 in the 1998 version – “Postmodernity and Theology” has been revamped and moved up to Chapter 2, under a new title, “The Possibility of Theology.” Considering the epistemological discussions in contemporary discourse, it’s not surprising that Erickson would consider it necessary to provide a defense of doing theology earlier in his work.

Other examples of Erickson’s engagement with postmodern objections to Christianity include a section on “the possibility of knowing God” in the chapter on God’s special revelation, and his addition of the postmodern objection to biblical foundationalism in the chapter on inerrancy.

2. Reflecting Contemporary Missiological Discussion

Some of Erickson’s changes reflect shifts in terminology. For example, “Contemporizing the Christian Message” has been changed to “Contextualizing Theology,” reflecting the missiological conversations of the past decade.

Other changes are more substantive, such as Erickson’s inclusion of “transplanters” as a third approach to contextualization (next to “translators” and “transformers”). Likewise, in a post 9/11 world, it’s interesting to see him add a section on The God of Islam vs. the God of Christianity in his chapter on God’s goodness.

3. Dealing with Recent Evangelical Theological Developments and Debates

  • Erickson adds a brief summary of recent debates over subordinationism within the Trinity in his chapter on the Triune nature of God.
  • He also updates his historical overview of the Quest for the Historical Jesus by adding a section on the Third Quest.
  • He briefly describes the intelligent design movement as he discusses “God’s originating work” of creation.
  • The most significant addition to a chapter is his response to recent objections to penal substitution. He interacts with objectors who cast doubt on God’s character (Steve Chalke, etc.) or claim that substitution stems from an overly individualistic view of salvation.
  • Erickson interacts briefly with the New Perspective on Paul, and N. T. Wright’s view of justification.
  • There is a brand new chapter on recent issues regarding the person and work of the Holy Spirit, where Erickson elaborates on the nature of prophecy, Pannenberg’s understanding of the Spirit and science, other religions, and other “spirits.”
  • Likewise, Erickson includes a section on the Eastern doctrine of “theosis” in his chapter on sanctification. The global perspective on display in these additions is one of the reasons Erickson’s work is so valuable.

If you are looking to add a solid, substantive theological textbook to your shelf, I recommend you get the newest edition of Christian Theology.


“This book is a very learned presentation of Christian doctrine on the basis of Scripture, but in continuing conversation with the tradition of the church as well as with modern philosophical and theological contributions. While affirming the divine inspiration and inerrancy of the Bible, its form of argument is not fundamentalist but open and available to everyone interested in the issues of Christian doctrine. The author takes account of critical historical exegesis. His book constitutes an excellent example of the evangelical outlook on the Christian faith and a basis for dialogue with other theological positions.”
Wolfhart Pannenberg, University of Munich

Christian Theology has established itself as the most widely used and most generally useful of modern Protestant surveys of Christian truth. Robustly evangelical, essentially conservative, thoroughly contemporary, firmly Baptist, gently Calvinistic, and cautiously post-tribulationist premillennial, its fair-minded breadth and meticulous analysis of options have won it consistent praise. It is altogether a masterly piece of work.”
J. I. Packer, Regent College

“Millard Erickson’s Christian Theology is irenic in tone while incisive in critique, readable in format while substantial in content, and always faithful to Scripture and to the service of God’s church. The third edition will guide another generation through the ever-changing context in which theology must be done.”
Gerry Breshears, Western Seminary, Portland

“For many years I have known and honored Millard Erickson. What a consummate joy to see this third edition of his widely influential Christian Theology. The incomparable mix of a work of serious theological reflection yet such readability that a biblically literate layperson can grasp its message makes the volume special.”
Paige Patterson, Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary, Fort Worth, Texas

“Erickson has again given the church a clear-minded, well-stated, comprehensive expression of evangelical orthodoxy that is thoroughly informed for ministry in the twenty-first century. We are surely in his debt.”
John D. Morrison, Liberty University and Liberty Baptist Theological Seminary