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Studies in Doctrine Paperback – June 24, 1997
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This work is a collection of four smaller introductory works by Prof. McGrath: (1) UNDERSTANDING DOCTRINE; (2) UNDERSTANDING THE TRINITY; (3) UNDERSTANDING JESUS; and (4) JUSTIFICATION BY FAITH. I think UNDERSTANDING DOCTRINE is the best because it makes a persuasive case for why doctrine -- and not just feelings -- matter.
One problem I have with this work, like some of Prof. McGrath's works, is that he frequently discusses Karl Barth (1886-1968) the well-known Swiss Reformed theologian. Barth was the principal player within the school known as "neo-orthodoxy." To some he is a towering writer of a more or less Evangelical bent, to others he is something of a modernist. Some traditional Calvinists, such as Gordon Clark and Cornelius Van Til, wrote works criticizing Barth from the Calvinist perspective. I'm not competent to say how faithful Barth was to the Reformed tradition, but Prof. McGrath owes it to his readers to point out that there is quite a controversy about this. Unfortunately he doesn't. (See, e.g., McGrath, HISTORICAL THEOLOGY, 238-39.) For a discussion of Barth from an admirer of Van Til, see John Frame: CORNELIUS VAN TIL: AN ANALYSIS OF HIS THOUGHT, 353-69.
This book isn't a "mini" systematic theology. There are all sorts of important topics that Prof. McGrath doesn't discuss (such as ecclesiology and eschatology). Nonetheless, taken as a whole, it is a good introduction to Christianity from a Protestant perspective.
It also seemed to me that the author does not exactly conform to an absolutely orthodox or creedal Trinitarianism. At times, he takes positions that sound modalistic, reasoning that the three "persons" of the Trinity are actually three "personas." But then, he goes on to contradict himself, which is not completely surprising as the doctrine is inherently contradictory, but left me unusure what he was really trying to say.
If you believe in the Trinity and want a fellow believer to meander around in speculations, some orthodox, some not, in a futile attempt to explain the incomprehensible to the lay reader, then it may be of some value to you. If you are looking for a book to prove the doctrine, either to yourself or someone else, that is not the author's intent.