What Is Systematic Theology?


Definition of Systematic Theology

According to Dr. Wayne Grudem, Systematic Theology “involves collecting and understanding all the relative passages in the Bible on various topics and then summarizing their teachings clearly so that we know what to believe about each topic” (Systematic Theology, page 21). Systematic Theology then, is a “whole of the Bible” summary of what the Scriptures teach regarding the major doctrines of Scripture, including:

  • The doctrine of the Bible
  • The doctrine of God
  • The doctrine of Man
  • The doctrine of Christ
  • The doctrine of the Holy Spirit
  • The doctrine of the Redemption of Man
  • The doctrine of the Church
  • The doctrine of the Last Things

Difference between Systematic Theology and Biblical Theology

There is often-times a rivaly between Systemic and Biblical theologians. But, of course, all Christian theology is ‘biblical’ in that it is derived from the Bible. Biblical theologians study the scriptures in terms of how particular Biblical doctrines are developed over time or during particular epochs of revelation. A Systematic theologian, on the other hand, studies doctrines based on an all-of-the-Bible summarizing approach. In fact, the two methods are not opposed to each other, but rather go hand in hand. The task of Biblical Exegesis cannot proceed without some systematic understanding of the nature of God and man. Conversely, the systematic theologian cannot begin his summarizing work without first analyzing each of his texts within their historical context.

Difference between Systematic Theology and Bible Doctrine

There is no real distinction between Systematic Theology and Bible Doctrine. According to Webster, doctrines are principles that are taught. Bible Doctrines, then, are the various topics that the Bible teaches on. In fact, Dr. Grudem says that a Bible doctrine is “simply the result of the process of doing systematic theology with regard to one particular topic” (Systematic Theology, page 23).

Why Should Christians Study Systematic Theology

Every Christian has a ‘system’ of theology in that every believer believes ‘something’ about the major topics of Bible Doctrine: God, Man, Sin, and Salvation. Whether this collection of beliefs is well-researched, carefully organized, and set down; or whether they are comprised of a disorganized, inconsistent, and private collection of shallow proof-texting and tradition – each Bible student must has some ‘system’ of beliefs (whether he is willing to admit to it or not).

The Bible doctrine of the nature of God, for example, must make use of a “whole of Bible” approach in order to come to a complete understanding. The Bible teaches that God is love, but it also teaches that he has righteous indignation against sin. The Bible teaches that God is merciful and gracious, but it also teaches that He is perfectly Holy and Seperate from sinners. The Scripture, on one hand, teach that prayer changes man’s circumstances, but it also teaches that God’s plans are not subject to change and emotion. Simple proof-texting, or mere Evangelical sentimentalism is not sufficient to summarize everything the Scripture teaches on this and all other doctrines and without detailed study, leaves the Bible student unbalanced and shallow.

How Should Christians Study Systematic Theology

According to James P. Boyce, Bible students should study the Bible’s doctrines:

  1. With reverence for truth, and especially for the truth taught in the Word of God.
  2. With earnest prayer for Divine help.
  3. With careful searching of heart against prejudice.
  4. With timidity, as to the reception and propagation of new doctrine.
  5. With a spirit willing and anxious to examine, and to accept whatever we may be convinced is true.
  6. With teachable humility, which, knowing that God has not taught us in his word all the truth that exists, not even all the truth on many a single point, accepts with implicit faith all that he has taught, and awaits his own time for that more full revelation which shall remove all our present perplexities.

Thy testimonies have I taken as an heritage for ever: for they are the rejoicing of my heart. (Ps 119:111)

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