An Amazon reviewer of J.I. Packer’s fine book Concise Theology (IVP) complains that the sub-title (‘A Guide to Historic Christian Beliefs’) is misleading, because the book does not deal with the historical development of Christian doctrine.
But Packer does not set out to write a guide to historical theology, but rather historic theology. And that’s a rather different aim. By ‘historic Christian beliefs’, he means the ‘classic mainstream’ beliefs as set out in the Westminster Confession and similar documents. Packer has written a number of books on ‘historical’ theology, but this is not one of them.
Behind this attention to ‘historic’ doctrinal standards is a determination to read theology out of Scripture, rather than merely out of the seething mass of human speculation and opinion.
Packer has, I think, achieved his aim superbly well. I know of no other book which provides such a clear summary of the basic doctrines of the Christian faith. Packer was (and is) an exceptionally fine scholar, and brings great learning and wisdom to his task.
Then again, this book is simple, but not simplistic. I like what Packer says about this in his preface:-
Remembering that the Lord Jesus Christ called those he wanted fed sheep rather than giraffes, I have aimed to keep things as simple as possible. Archbishop William Temple was once told that he had made a complex issue very simple; he was hugely delighted, and said at once: “Lord, who made me simple, make me simpler yet.” My heart goes with Temple’s, and I have tried to keep my head in line with it.