[Common Places] Endings and Beginnings

Michael Allen on December 17th, 2015. Tagged under ,.

Michael Allen

Michael Allen (Ph.D., Wheaton College) is the John Dyer Trimble Professor of Systematic Theology at Reformed Theological Seminary in Orlando. He is the author of numerous books and articles and serves as a Presbyterian teaching elder. With Scott Swain, he serves as general editor for the New Studies in Dogmatics series published by Zondervan Academic.

0As 2015 comes to its conclusion, we mark a year of posts here at Common Places. Much territory has been covered with a number of contributors sharing their insight. And as the year turns to 2016, we anticipate new things. We want to reflect briefly on where we have been and where this column will be going in days ahead.

First, the year of 2015 has seen a number of series appear on Common Places. Our New Voices in Theology series introduced a number of exegetical, historical, and dogmatic works. Each of the books was written by a junior academic, and its significance was expounded by a senior academic in that discipline. We hope that these volumes find their way onto your Christmas lists and facilitate your own pursuit of greater wisdom. We not only introduced readers to recent dissertations (e.g. the work of Taylor Ruiz-Jones) but also offered a series later in the year which reflected upon the inaugural volume of Kate Sonderegger’s Systematic Theology. Assessing her work from various vantage points, these posts considered her exegetical, theological, historical, and pastoral/rhetorical work in attesting the one true God.

We then turned to introduce the New Studies in Dogmatics series, offering snapshots of various books in progress by a number of its contributors. These posts took various forms, manifesting the diversity found even within the space occupied by broadly evangelical and Reformed dogmatics, but they all demonstrated the pilgrimage that marks theological exploration and writing, wherein the pathway of divine instruction always involves a journey of intellectual discipleship. Thus, authors spoke regularly of surprises that marked their preparation and reshaped their approach to their subject. And the year concluded with a series focusing upon the first volume to appear in this series, Christopher Holmes’s The Holy Spirit. Contributors assessed various facets of his book, ranging from his exegetical breadth to his interaction with Karl Barth.

Second, fundamental commitments for Common Places will continue, albeit in a new way in 2016. We will continue to focus upon dogmatics, to reflect on significant texts, to retrieve the riches of the past for the sake of present renewal. We will draw on some of our previous contributors, while also recruiting some fresh voices. We are very excited to announce two new ventures that will appear in the early months of 2016. We will be hosting a symposium on James K. A. Smith’s “Cultural Liturgies” series, which thus far includes the influential books Desiring the Kingdom and Imagining the Kingdom. These books have had massive impact in the worlds of Christian worship and in Christian higher education (and, by my estimation, in many ways deservedly so), however they have not yet received sustained analysis from the lens of Christian dogmatics. We want to offer a charitable and critical conversation about them. We will also be posting monthly reading guides to various doctrinal topics, wherein a noted theologian suggests the best classical and modern texts that ought to be studied on a particular theme and explains the significance of them by providing an annotated bibliography of sorts. So you will notice each month that our posts alternate between an ongoing series of studies and a reading guide related to that series in some way.

Common Places seeks to foster public conversation regarding the subjects of classical Christian dogmatics. In these recent forays as well as anticipated series, we seek to resource the discussions that happen in coffee shops and cyberspace, in fellowship halls or in community groups, in classroom settings or in Twitter discussions. Further, we seek to continue to extol the value and significance of careful textual study of the great theological texts of the past and present by focusing upon notable books, not just ideas or questions in the abstract.

The editors wish to thank those who have interacted with our posts in various media (whether on Facebook, Twitter, blogs, or in our comment boxes). Common Places, as a title, points not only to key themes in Christian dogmatics, upon which we certainly do wish to fix our attention, but also to a conversation and communal task or space which we inhabit with others in the shared quest for divine instruction and true spiritual wisdom. And we invite you to continue to join us in our journey.


Michael Allen (PhD, Wheaton College) is Associate Professor of Systematic and Historical Theology at Reformed Theological Seminary. Michael is a Presbyterian teaching elder and is the author of several books, including Reformed Catholicity: The Promise of Retrieval for Theology and Biblical Interpretation (with Scott Swain) and Justification and the Gospel: Understanding the Contexts and Controversies, as well as many articles on Christian doctrine and historical theology.


Common Places is a regular column on the Zondervan Academic blog with a focus on systematic theology. The loci communes or “common places” of Christian theology, drawn out of the Scriptures and organized in a manner suitable to their exposition in the church and the academy, have functioned historically as common points of reference for theological discussion and debate. This column will focus upon the classical loci of systematic theology, not as occasions for revision, but as opportunities for entering into the ongoing conversation that is Christian systematic theology. We invite you to join and dialog with us on the first and third Thursdays of every month. For more about Common Places, read the column introduction.

Michael Allen and Scott Swain, editors