Prolegomena

Posted: June 29, 2011 in Uncategorized

Theology has many loose definitions. Many do not want anything to do with theology because of how intimidating it seems to them. A proper definition and working out of theology should be applied to each and everyone’s lives.
Systematic Theology Definition:

Wayne Grudem defines Systematic Theology as follows: “Systematic theology is any study that answers the question, ‘What does the whole Bible teach us today?’ about any given topic (Grudem 21).

The Importance of Systematic Theology

What is systematic theology? Why learn it? Who cares?

Theologian Wayne Grudem says the definition above indicates that systematic theology involves collecting and understanding all the relevant passages in the Bible on various topics and then summarizing their teachings clearly so that we know what to believe about each topic.”
“The duty of a theologian is, not to please the ear with empty sounds, but to confirm the conscience by teaching things which are true, certain and profitable. “- John Calvin
Grudem also says “…systematic theology focuses on summarizing each doctrine as is should be understood by present-day Christians…Defining systematic theology to include ‘what the Bible teaches us today’.”
Why should believers study theology? Why isn’t just reading my Bible sufficient enough?

“…systematic theology somehow can ‘improve on the Bible by doing a better job of organizing its teachings or explaining them more clearly that the Bible itself has done. Thus we may begin to implicitly to deny the clarity of Scripture or the sufficiency of Scripture (Grudem 27).”
How are we to fulfill the Great Commission (Grudem 27)? Yes, Bible reading will and must be done to be effective and to spend time with God. But to have the most impact, you need to know theology with the backup of scripture to answer questions some may have. Even if a believer asks you a question, you will be able to help them and minister to them because you know the Bible.
Also, when we study theology, it helps us overcome the wrong ideas of or ideas about God. If we had no sin in our lives we could read God’s Word back to back, and we wouldn’t actually need God’s Word, we could just talk to God in person. We would learn everything about Christ, God, Holy Spirit almost instantly. Studying theology helps us make better decisions for our lives. You may ask how. Well, the reason is being that you know what God wants and what his will is on any topic (some topic just takes prayer and meditation with supplication). Whatever doctrinal issues come about over the years, we will have learned theology/scripture to defend whatever issues that may arise. Another reason for studying theology is that we will grow to be more like Christ and that should be our number 1 desire as true Holy Spirit filled believers. The more we know, the more we will trust in Him.
“In fact, the Bible often connects sound doctrine with maturity in Christian living: Paul speaks of ‘ the teaching which accords with godliness'(1 Timothy. 6:3) and says that his work as an apostle is ‘to further the faith of God’s elect and their knowledge of the truth which accords with godliness'(Titus 1:1). By contrast, he indicates that all kinds of disobedience and immorality are ‘contrary to the sound doctrine'(1 Timothy 1:10) (Grudem 29).”
Many scholars think systematic theology fits together to ‘neat’. As believers then must ask the objector to tell us the exact part he or she disagrees with in the light of scripture. Ask what have I misinterpreted. Be open to our possible mistake, then deal with the misunderstanding. Sometimes they may object to nothing that is in scripture and then what do you do? The only thing I would say to do is to talk to them and use scripture to defend what you said that cause controversy.
It has to be said that God’s own mind and the nature of reality itself, true facts and all ideas are always consistent with each other. So, if we accurately interpret the scriptures, then the conclusion would be that it all fits together perfectly.

The Theology Method

“We should study systematic theology with prayer (Grudem 33).” Study theology is studying God’s Holy Scriptures, so therefore we should do what the Psalmist says and pray. (Psalm 119:18)(1 Corinthians 2:14)
No matter how smart the student is, if they stop praying, stop seeking God with a humble heart, then scripture will be a misunderstood and believe in many doctrinal errors (James 5:16-17).
Why study with humility? Peter tells us to in 1 Peter 5:5. You will learn many things of the teachings of God’s Holy Word. You may also come to understand things your leaders in the church don’t know. We should study with other people or at least talk with someone else about theology (1 Corinthians 12:28). Believers have different gifts, so we all can learn from one another.”We should study systematic theology by collecting and understanding all the relevant passages of Scripture on Any topic (Grudem 33-35).”
How does Systematic Theology relate to the other kinds of Theology?
Systematic Theology does relate to the other forms of theology. It would be best if we defined these first. Historical Theology is “a historical study of how Christians in different periods have understood various theological topics” and philosophical theology may be defined as “studying theological topics largely without the use of the Bible, but using tools and methods of philosophical reasoning and what can be known about God from observing the universe (Grudem 21). Biblical theology may be defined as what a specific book or author says about a particular subject (Grudem 22).
Now that we have the definitions, how does systematic theology relate (using the above definition that Wayne Grudem gave)? Systematic Theology capitalizes on Biblical Theology. Instead of looking at one book or author, Systematic Theology aims at understanding what the entire Bible teaches on that subject while still applying the hermeneutics used in Biblical Theology (Grudem 23).
Systematic Theology tries to understand the mistakes made in the past and apply the whole Bible so we do not make the same errors we once made. Philosophy helps us understand the current train of thought in our culture. While these are important, systematic theology mainly builds on the Biblical Theology (Grudem 22). Scripture must remain our final authority in our lives!
While it is clear that theology is of importance, it should change our lives to be more and more like Jesus, the God-man. If we lose focus of the Cross, then Theology is of little purpose. “If theology does not shape your life, then you do not understand it” is one of the best quotes about this very subject, which was spoken at a New Attitude conference back in 2008, I believe (www.thisisnext.org).

Works Cited
Grudem, Wayne A. Systematic Theology: an Introduction to Biblical Doctrine. Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 2000. Print.
MacArthur, John. The MacArthur Study Bible: English Standard Version. Wheaton, IL: Crossway Bibles, 2010. Print.

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Comments
  1. David Ketter says:

    Actually, Biblical theology is much broader than that. Most of the theological work that I’ve done, and that I particularly enjoy doing, is in the biblical stream. I’m not as much a fan of systematics, just be preference, though I’ll acknowledge it has its uses. Biblical theology is about the story and narrative of Scripture itself, and our role in it. I have some papers on scribd that would show the method. 🙂

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