A. A. Hodge composed Outlines of Theology for his congregation—making the tone of this succinct systematic theology more pastoral than dogmatic. Hodge credits his father’s theological wisdom, and acknowledges that conversations with his father, as well as material from his father’s sermons and lectures, has made its way into Outlines of Theology. This outline began as a series of popular lectures and sermons, which Hodge’s congregation urged him to publish for a broader audience.
Outlines of Theology attempts to orient theological discussion around a shared language. Hodge surveys the whole of theology concisely and succinctly. He covers the central doctrines, the most important moments in church history, as well as the purpose of divine revelation. Hodge also discusses ecclesiastical issues, such as baptism and the Lord’s Supper. Outlines of Theology is intended as a theological manual for preachers, a theological syllabus for students, and a clear and accessible summary of theology for those who lack the means or the time to read a more expansive systematic theology.
In 1878, a new edition of Hodge’s Outlines of Theology was finished. This expanded edition contains nearly fifty per cent more content than the first edition published in 1863. Five new chapters were added, and two were dropped. Several other chapters were rewritten or reorganized, and others were substantially enlarged. This edition also contains excerpts from relevant confessions, creeds, and classic theological works. It also benefits from fourteen years of scholarship during the intervening years.
[A. A. Hodge possessed] an acute mind; [was] interested in theological speculation; rethinking independently the old questions; analytic in his mental processes; full of scholastic subtleties; bold, confident, intense in his convictions; holding the Reformed faith as a sacred trust, and also as a personal possession; pervaded by this faith and living on terms of easy familiarity with it; able to distinguish between essence and accident, and knowing when harmless idiosyncrasy runs into serious doctrinal divergence; strong in his convictions, but not litigious; tenacious of principle, but never sticking in the bark: a sturdy, robust thinker, always ready to defend the faith, a brilliant thinker. . . . Beyond all question he takes his place among the great men of America and the great theologians of the world.
—Francis Landey Patton, in A Discourse in Memory of Archibald Alexander Hodge, 1887