Five Areas of Theology
“In pointing out these things to the brethren, you will be a good servant of Christ Jesus, constantly nourished on the words of the faith and of the sound doctrine which you have been following.” – 1 Timothy 4:6
Since we started our look into theology, I have had the specific goal in mind to focus on the area of theology called, Systematic Theology. Now that we have given ourselves a brief introduction to theology in general, hopefully in the next few weeks we will be able to delve into the specific study of Systematic Theology. In this post though, I want to take some time to briefly talk about systematic theology and the other four divisions of theology that, when put together, make theology a whole.*
(I) Exegetical Theology: Perhaps the simplest form of theology is exegetical theology. Exegetical theology is merely taking the Bible verse by verse and explaining what it means. By doing this it helps people understand what the Bible is saying about a certain passage of Scripture. It simply gives the verse, and then gives its meaning. It interprets the text of the bible.
(II) Biblical Theology: The second area of Theology that is performed by the Christian is that of Biblical Theology. Biblical Theology is the study of the Biblical Text itself. It takes one section of Scripture and exhausts its resources. In his Systematic Theology, theologian John Frame describes Biblical Theology in this way, “Biblical theology expounds Scripture as a history of God’s dealings with us. It therefore focuses on Scripture as historical narrative. But if it is theology, it cannot be pure narrative. I must be application, dealing with the meaning that narrative has for its hearers and readers.”1
(III) Systematic Theology: The third area of Theology is what we will be looking at is known as systematic theology. Systematic theology, takes all the work of biblical theology and systematizes it. To systematize something simply means that you arrange it, or order it. Systematic Theology takes every single verse of the bible and orders it in doctrines. While Biblical theology may take one verse that speaks of election, and exegetes it, systematic theology takes all the verses that speak about election, arranges them, and then seeks to teach and explain the doctrine of election. A simpler way to define systematic theology is by simply saying it is the study and organization of biblical doctrine. Some categories of systematic theology would be; Christology (the doctrine of Christ), Ecclesiology (the doctrine of the Church), or Angelology (the doctrine of angels). Systematic Theology is the most comprehensive treatment of the Bible and a life spent studying it, will reward the student with a grasp on what the Lord teaches in His Word. Understanding the Word of God and how it applies to one’s life is perhaps the most important thing for the Christian. Therefore Systematic Theology is intensely practical and not confusing or abstract as it is sometimes described to be.
(IV) Historical Theology: Historical Theology is the fourth category of theology. This particular area of theology plunges into what Christianity has learned from the past 2,000 years. It goes back to the time of Christ and leads into the present day. Thiessen writes, “Historical theology…deals with the origin, development, and spread of the true religion, and also with its doctrines, organizations, and practices. It embraces biblical history, church history, history of missions, history of doctrine, and the history of creeds and confessions.”2
(IV) Practical Theology: Practical theology is the natural outflow of the four previous areas of study. It answers the question, “Now that I know all this about the Bible, Doctrines, and History, how then should I live today as a Christian?” Practical theology seeks to apply theology to life. If it were to be grouped with another area of theology it would go hand in hand with systematic theology. It is the natural answer to the question that Systematic theology raises. Systematic Theology gets an entire view of the Word of God and then asks, “So what?” Practical theology answers that question by applying the truths of systematic theology to everyday life.
- John Frame, Systematic Theology, Pg. 13
- Henry Thiessen, Lectures in Systematic Theology, Pg. 20