You’ve decided to get serious about your studies—wonderful! So where do you get started? We’ve already looked at a few basics surrounding study Bibles, but there are a few more tools that a student of the Word should have in his or her tool belt. One of the most helpful? A good systematic theology.
What is a systematic theology?
The term “systematic theology” is a scary one for a lot of people. It sounds cold and mechanical. But a good systematic theology can help inspire a greater love for the Bible and the God who inspired its writing.
Systematic theology, in broad strokes, seeks to compile everything that the Bible says about a particular doctrine (such as the Trinity, penal substitutionary atonement, the attributes of God, creation, etc.) into an orderly and rational form. More simply, “systematic theology is any study that answers the question, ‘What does the whole Bible teach us today?’ about any given subject.”1
While some are uncomfortable with the idea of systematic theology, thinking of it as being a divergence from biblical theology (a critique usually made by folks who are opposed to doctrinal certainty of any sort), a good systematic theology seeks to avoid importing man-made ideas and go no further than Scripture itself. While it doesn’t ignore the historical development of doctrine or philosophical ideas surrounding them, these fields lack the authority of Scripture.
In other words, consistent systematic theology is biblical theology.
Why do I need one?
The primary reason to have a systematic theology in your reference library is so that you can gain a better understanding of and appreciation for Christian theology. We are commanded to love the Lord with all of our minds, as well as our hearts, souls and strength, and therefore the study of theology should lead us not simply to gain knowledge, but lead us to praise God for who He is.
How do I use it?
As with all things, systematic theologies should be studied prayerfully and carefully. Keep your Bible handy, check references and make sure that what is there aligns with what Scripture clearly says. Further to that, a systematic theology is not a weapon—unless you need something to defend your home (some of these things are pretty hefty!).
Studying and referencing a systematic theology is not to be an exercise in showing off intellectual prowess. If the knowledge lies merely in your head, but doesn’t move to your heart, then it’s time wasted. Continue Reading…