I'm not a systematic theologian, you might have noticed. But I would hazard a guess that works of Systematic Theology are often bought by pastors. We need a deep grasp of the 'whole counsel of God' if we are to be effective ministers of the Word. We also need the stimulus of reading the big, wide-ranging Systematic Theologies. So, I am a stakeholder in the world of Reformed Dogmatics and I think that some issues need to be addresses by the theologians.
1) Reformed Dogmatics must be contemporary
Was Robert Reymond's New Systematic Theology of the Christian Faith (Nelson, 1998) really that 'New'? He spent pages refuting old-style dispensationalism, but said nothing at all about the New Perspective on Paul. Some of the leading lights in modern Systematic Theology like Robert Jensen, Colin Gunton and T. F. Torrance do not even merit a mention in the index. Pastors need to be kept up-to-date with what is going on in the field of systematic theology and we expect to some help in this area when we invest in a large and expensive volume of Reformed Theology. Robert Letham shows how this can be done in his The Holy Trinity (P&R, 2004), where he discusses the views of Barth, Moltmann and Pannenberg amongst others. Letham also takes on the challenges of postmodernism and Islam as they impact on the doctrine of the Trinity. IVP's multi-volume, multi-author Contours of Christian Theology series is also excellent in this respect, with outstanding contributions from Gerlad Bray on The Doctrine of God (1993), Robert Letham on The Work of Christ (1993), Paul Helm's The Providence of God (1994), Edmund Clowney on The Church (1995), Sinclar Ferguson on The Holy Spirit (1996), Charles Sherlock on The Doctrine of Humanity (1996), Donald Macleod The Person of Christ (1988) and Peter Jensen on The Revelation of God (2002).
Reymond cannot be blamed for not interacting with Vanhoozer as his book was published before the latter published some of his major work. But Reformed Dogmatics must take account of Vanhoozer's critique of some of the traditional methods of doing Systematic Theology. Reformed Theology cannot be reduced to a set of "dedramatised propositions" that do not help the people of God to participate fittingly in the drama of redemption. In his The Drama of Doctrine, (WJK, 2005) Vanhoozer argues that the theologian is to act as a 'dramaturge', whose task is to assist pastor-directors understand the Biblical script. With this deepened understanding pastors can help the people of God to play their roles in a way that is faithful both to the ancient Scriptures and the contemporary setting.
There is no point in Reformed Dogmatics just regurgitating the same old themes in the same old way. Systematic theologians must help pastors to grapple with the challenges of the contemporary world. Reformed theologians have eminently fulfilled this mandate in some of their single-subject works. But its seems to me that we still await a full Systematic Theology that is truly contemporary.
2) Reformed Dogmatics must give due place to the resurrection of Christ
In the traditional schema, attention moves from the cross of Christ straight to the application of redemption as if we could be saved by a dead Jesus. Christ's resurrection hardly gets a mention, let alone the prolonged theological reflection it deserves. Yet it has been exactly 30 years since Richard Gaffin challenged the status quo in his Resurrection and Redemption (P&R, 1977, second edition 1987). Gaffin builds on the insights of Vos and Ridderbos to argue that the resurrection of Christ takes centre stage in Paul's theology. Reformed theology claims to be Pauline theology. This claim cannot be substantiated unless the dogmatic signifigance of Christ's resurrection is given due recognition. Reymond has certainly failed us in this regard.
3) A truly contemporary Systematic Theology please!
Who will rise the to daunting task of producing such a work? Gaffin, Ferguson, Letham, Macleod and Vanhoozer amongst others have the requisite gifts and erudition. Be bold, you men and publish!
Unless a new Reformed Systematic Theology takes the above considerations into account, I'm going on strike. I won't buy it, no way. Do you agree with my strictures, dear reader? And who would you like to see writing a full, up-to-date Reformed Dogmatics?