Bible - Interpretation

What Is Systematic Theology & Why Is It Important?

By Dr. Paul M. Elliott
Rejecting or neglecting systematic theology leads to wrong attitudes toward the Bible that can lead to unbelief.

From the TeachingtheWord Bible Knowledgebase

Systematic theology is a method of studying God's Word that opens up His well-ordered, consistent, and unchanging system of doctrine for believers to see. When systematic theology is rejected, neglected, or done poorly, this leads to wrong attitudes about the Word of God that in turn will lead to unbelief.

Definition

Systematic theology is a method of studying the Bible founded on the principle that the Scriptures reveal a single God-ordained, well-ordered, coherent, and unchanging system of doctrine.

Modern-Day Rejection

Both the old liberalism of the 19th and 20th centuries, and the postmodern theologies of the 21st century, reject this idea. This leads to false, dangerous notions about the Bible. For example, many ministers today are trained to believe that God's Word contains contradictions, or that the Bible contains no essential doctrines. This kind of thinking leads to the problems of unbelief that we see in many Evangelical churches today.

How Systematic Theology Works

The discipline of systematic theology looks at the Bible topically, collecting and organizing - not capriciously, but according to sound principles of interpretation - all the Scriptures pertaining to a particular question. For example, what does all of Scripture say about the nature of God? What does all of Scripture say about the nature of Scripture itself? What does all of Scripture say about the way of salvation? What does all of Scripture say about the covenants? And, how are those doctrines progressively revealed as we move through the Old Testament and into the New Testament?

Systematic theology, properly practiced, does not impose a human system upon Scripture, but rather seeks to understand and articulate the system of doctrine that the God-breathed Scriptures already contain.

Vital Principles

Practicing systematic theology well requires a proper approach to Scripture, one that recognizes several facts that Scripture tells us about itself:

  • God the Holy Spirit is the Author of every word of the Book, and He infallibly employed human writers as His instruments.
  • The Bible, as a divine Book, is therefore inerrant and internally consistent from beginning to end.
  • The Bible, as the only divine Book, is therefore its only infallible interpreter. Traditions and the words of men are not.
  • God's Word is intelligible. God intended to communicate truth to mankind at large, and to instruct His church specifically, through His Word and through the illumination of Scripture by the Holy Spirit.
  • God did not communicate in an analogous or indirect manner. He communicated His own thoughts directly. Man can understand such direct communication of God's thoughts because he is created in God's image.

The approach to Scripture which recognizes these facts requires submission to God, an attitude of servanthood toward His Book.

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