A Short, Partially Annotated List of Arminian Systematic Theologies

, posted by

by Brian Abasciano

Unfortunately, there are not a lot of good options for a contemporary comprehensive Arminian systematic theology text. Arminians tend to focus on exegesis more than systematic theology. So there are a number of distinguished biblical scholars/commentators publishing commentaries, but not many publishing major systematic theologies. Before moving on to the short list, let me mention this long list maintained by one of our members: http://www.amazon.com/Arminian-Systematic-Theology/lm/R1AKAGTE4TJTEI/ref=cm_lm_byauthor_title_full.

Now, on to the best possibilities that strike me:

John Miley’s 2 volume work. Wayne Grudem says this is probably the most scholarly and extensive of Arminian systematic theologies. It was written in the 1890’s, so that is a drawback if you want something that is abreast of
theological developments over the last century. It also takes a governmental
view of the atonement, which I would count as a drawback, but some others will not.
However, those who count it a drawback could supplement Miley’s text with reading from the penal substitution perspective, such as I. Howard Marshall, “The Theology of the Atonement” (article available on SEA). Miley’s volumes may be found online for free here:

Volume 1

Volume 2.

William Burt Pope’s 3 volume work from around 1875 is reputed to be excellent, but again, it is dated. I ran across this comment about it: “Pope’s three volume work is both scholarly and easy to read. It is grounded throughout in scripture. . . . Wayne Grudem . . . writes that, ‘This work … is one of the greatest systematic theologies written from a Wesleyan or Arminian perspective.’” I have also heard that this would be Arminian theologian Fred Sanders’ top choice. I would probably go with Pope as well. All three volume can be found online for free:

Pope Volume 1: http://wesley.nnu.edu/wesleyctr/books/2401-2500/HDM2404.PDF

Pope Volume 2: http://wesley.nnu.edu/wesleyctr/books/2401-2500/HDM2405.PDF

Pope Volume 3: http://wesley.nnu.edu/wesleyctr/books/2401-2500/HDM2406.PDF

Richard Watson’s 2 volume Theological Institutes from the 1800’s – I ran across this comment about it: “Watson’s work, published in two volumes, is a well-written work which, though very biblical, has a philosophical bent.” It can be found online for free here: http://wesley.nnu.edu/other-theologians/richard-watson/theological-institutes-by-richard-watson/.

H. Orton Wiley’s 3 volume work was written in the 1940’s and is considered by Grudem to be the best Arminian systematic theology from the past century, but not reaching to the level of Miley’s. I saw someone else say that it also did not have the depth of Pope or Watson. I am not sure of his view of the atonement. It may be found online for free here: http://wesley.nnu.edu/other-theologians/henry-orton-wiley/christian-theology-by-h-orton-wiley/.

Looking to more recent works (these are not readily available for free online):

J. Kenneth Grider, A Wesleyan-Holiness Theology – I believe this also comes from a governmental theory perspective.

Jack Cottrell 3 volumes on “What the Bible says about . . .” — He is
generally very good, thoughtful, clear, and articulate. One concern is that
he is from a tradition (and believes) that baptism is necessary for
salvation (as in one is not “saved” until baptized), which some might think
is a sort of works-righteousness or at least verges on it. He is also Semi-Pelagian, not holding to total depravity. He also has a one volume systematic theology entitled The Faith Once for All: Bible Doctrine for Today. Another possible concern is that he comes out strongly as a cessationist/against the gifts of the Spirit being for today. Many will find that a drawback, others a positive characteristic.

Dale Moody, The Word of Truth: A Summary of Christian Doctrine Based on Biblical Revelation, which is a 1 volume work. Unfortunately, it does not cover pneumatology and possibly baptism.

Thomas Oden’s 3 volume work (though also available in an unabridged 1 volume edition). Oden’s theological method is to express nothing new, nothing not understood by the ancient church. In Oden’s words, “My aim has not been to survey the bewildering varieties of dissent, but to identify and plausibly set forth the cohesive central tradition of general lay consent to apostolic teaching. I will spend little time trying to knock down other’s cherished views.” So this work is heavy on tying into the early church and perhaps a bit less on grounding in Scripture. I have heard that he eschews controversial questions of soteriology a bit. But this is probably the best contemporary option for now. For a descripton of Oden’s theological method, see Eric Landstrom, “Thomas Oden’s Paleo-Orthodoxy.”

J. Rodman Williams, Renewal Theology: Systematic Theology
from a Charismatic Perspective, originally 3 volumes but now collected into
1 volume. He is supposed to be very good but a bit muddied on issues of soteriology. He disavows being Arminian, but he rejects unconditional election and believes in the possibility of apostasy! So he is certainy more of an Arminian than a Calvinist given the actual content of what he argues. Of course, he comes from a charismatic stance.

There are also what amount to 4 point Arminian texts, which would agree
with the traditional Arminian position, but hold to perseverance of the
saints (that apostasy is impossible).

An excellent choice of this sort would be Stanley Grenz, Theology for the
Community of God. It is a 1 volume work.

For a more extensive one that is supposed to be excellent but erring on the
side of covering others’ views more than arguing his own position, there is
the 2 volume work by James Leo Garrett.

While there does not seem to be anything ideal in the realm of a modern comprehensive systematic theology text, there are still some good options. But hopefully we will see some solid Arminian systematic theology texts published in the not too distant future.