Review: A Faith to Live By by Donald Macleod

As part of my quiet times this year I decided to read some basic systematic theology books. Most of the time I systematically study Bible books, but this can mean that I lose the picture of what the Bible as a whole says about a particular theme, which is the value of systematic theology. One book that has been on my reading list for quite a while is A Faith to Live By by Donald Macleod who was the Principal of the Free Church College. It's published by Christian Focus and was recommended when I was doing the Cornhill Training Course. Two features make it stand out from the crowd. First it may be described as 'theology on fire,' by which I mean that this is no dry and academic theology. The content is theologically excellent, biblically faithful and very stimulating, but it is applied to the Christian life (as the title suggests). As quiet time material, this made it excellent. Secondly, Macleod's writing is superb. I think most of the book is actually transcribed talks and that often comes across. However, it is simply one of the most enjoyable and straightforward theological books I have read. In particular, instead of making theological statements and providing a list of verse to back up the point, Macleod takes a smaller number of passages and expounds them, often quoting instead of forcing the reader on a chase round the Bible. At least for this reader, that is a very helpful approach. It is unlikely that one will ever agree with everything in a book on systematic theology. Macleod's chapter on the Trinity for example focused on the equality of the persons and, to my mind, did not address the issues of role that are currently so significant in the discussion of gender. In reading it, one would find support for the egalitarian position I think. Furthermore, Macleod's approach does not lend itself to completeness, either in coverage of topics or in reviewing relevant passages (although I think this is largely a strength in an introductory level book – however, one can contrast Packer's Concise Theology to see a way of covering more topics). A final issue is the very definite Free Church context. Some may be put off by the focus on Scottish theologians, the Westminster Confession and Presbyterian polity, but Macleod can hardly be blamed for this, especially as the original talks were to his constituency. These issues are, I think, minor. This is an excellent book for those who want to go deeper into their faith in a biblically faithful, doctrinal way. It both stretched my thinking and increased my passion, so I thank God for the book and for Donald Macleod.

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