Some Thoughts on Systematic Theology
“You therefore, beloved, knowing this beforehand, be on your guard so that you are not carried away by the error of unprincipled men and fall from your own steadfastness, but grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. To Him be the glory, both now and to the day of eternity. Amen.” – 2 Peter 3:16-17
As we begin to wrap up our discussion on, “An Introduction to Theology” I want to take some time to put some of the finishing touches on our look at systematic theology. As we saw in last week’s post, Systematic Theology is the organization of all that the Bible teaches on a particular subject (such as Jesus Christ) and describing and teaching it as a doctrine. If the topic of choice was Jesus Christ then systematic theology would take all that the Bible teaches on Christ, organize it in a neat and comprehensive way, and define it as the doctrine of ‘Christology’. Systematic theology is any study that answers the question, “What does the whole Bible teach us today?” about any given topic.1 But Systematic Theology is more than just the organization of doctrines, it gives us a theology that is useful for all of life. In this post I want to show a few ways in which our study of systematic theology will benefit us in our knowledge of God and our walk with Christ. We must never come to the study of the Word of God with a purely academic attitude. Rather, through our study of theology and our understanding of the Word of God, we must grow into the image of Jesus Christ our Lord.
(I) Systematic Theology Applies to All of Life: Before we begin looking at the specifics, we must understand that systematic theology applies to all of life. Although it is not titled as ‘practical theology’, the step from the study of systematic theology to practical theology is an easy one to take. Systematic theology answers questions such as “What does the whole Bible teach about prayer?” or “What does the whole Bible teach about salvation?” or even “What does the whole Bible teach about the Lord’s return.” Upon merely reading these questions one can easily see how, after through study of the prayer, salvation, or the second coming, the application to life is almost endless. Take prayer for example. After learning what the entire Bible teaches on prayer, what should be the normal natural response for the Christian? He should immediately ask himself, “What does the Bible teach me about how I am supposed to pray to God?” In this question we see how the study of doctrine is immediately applied to the Christian life. What a beautiful way in which the saints grow into the image of Christ through their study of theology! Systematic theology therefore takes those first steps of understanding the Word, and practical theology begins to run with the Word, applying it to life. Studying systematic theology in the right way then will result in a closer, deeper, and richer walk with the Lord! What a great blessing this is!
(II) How we do Systematic Theology in everyday life: Based what we looked at above, one may realize that we actually do systematic theology every day. Think of how often you summarize the Bible when you speak to others. You may say, “The Bible teaches the trinity, the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit are all God.” Or you may say, “The Bible teaches that you must believe the gospel to be saved.” Or “The Bible teaches that Christ will reign upon the earth.” Each of these statements in and of themselves are ‘systematic theology’ statements because they summarize a teaching that is found throughout the whole Bible. Whether it is a pastor, parent, teacher or layman, the Christian is constantly asking and answering the question “What does the Bible teach us about today?” The child of God should live this way, constantly seeking to know what the Bible says about a given topic so they can understand Him more and also so they can apply what they learn to their lives.
Systematic Theology is practical for your life and for that reason alone, the Christian should be willing to set aside time to study theology. In next week’s post I hope to delve into several others reason for why you should study systematic theology, but for now I leave you with this: If you want to grow as a Christian, if you want to behold your God, if you want to know Him, know His Word, know His commands and honour Him with your life, then you need to study theology. Without it your faith will be a shallow faith that can easily be lead astray. Study theology and study it passionately. If for no other reason than to attempt the grasp at a knowledge of God. And may your life be changed as you do so.
Wayne Grudem, Systematic Theology, Pg. 21