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Systematic Theology “Such is the constitution of the human mind that it cannot help endeavoring to systematize and reconcile facts which it admits to be true. In no department of knowledge have men been satisfied with the possession of a mass of undigested ideas. ” ~ Charles Hodge, Systematic Theology, vol. 1: 2. www. prshockley. org
“Systematic”? Before we explore the nature, form, and content of “Systematic Theology”, we need to have some idea what “systematic” means. In essence, “systematic” comes from the Greek verb “sunistano”, which means “to stand together” or “to organize. ”
“Systematic”? Consider the following from Dr. Wayne Grudem: “…the adjective systematic in systematic theology should be understood to mean something like ‘carefully organized by topics, ’ with the understanding that the topics studied will be seen to fit together in a consistent way, and will include all the major doctrinal topics of the Bible. Thus ‘systematic’ should be thought of as the opposite of ‘randomly’ arranged’ or ‘disorganized. ’ Systematic Theology, 24.
What is Systematic Theology? Generally “Systematic Theology” has been used in both a narrow and broad sense. In a narrow sense we may define “Systematic Theology” as follows: “Systematic Theology is any study that answers the question, ‘What does the whole Bible teach us today? ’ about any given topic. ” Wayne Grudem, Systematic Theology, 21.
Coherence of Systematic Theology Prolegomena Hermeneutics Eschatology Bibliology Demonology Theology Proper Satanology Anthropology Angelology Sanctification Hamartiology Soteriology Israelology Pneumatology Christology
What is “doctrine”? Doctrine is simply what the WHOLE Bible teaches about a particular topic. We have to be careful not to allow the word “doctrine” to become “plastic. ” Therefore, a proper qualifier in stating what is “doctrine” or what is “doctrinal” is whether the particular topic is taught by the whole Bible. Please don’t attach the word “doctrinal” if it is not what the whole Bible teaches. Some people attach “doctrine” to a particular opinion in order to give it “authority. ” They cloak their notions with religious authority.
Benefit of Systematic Theology: Balance Systematic Theology protects one from making erroneous exegetical interpretations. Inductive exposition of Scripture formulates Systematic Theology
3 Major Criticisms of Narrow ST: 1. Reductionism Systematic Theology is organized around a particular central theme (e. g. , sovereignty, free will, or social liberation). Systematic Theology fails to do justice to the “multiplicity of information” outside of the biblical text (e. g. , culture, history). Systematic Theology ignores the historical development of theology.
3 Major Criticisms of Narrow ST: 2. Closed System: Systematic Theology tends to be a “closed system. ” Therefore, a particular system is not open to “new discoveries from God’s Word or God’s world. Systematic Theology becomes a system of indoctrination. Systematic Theology fails to engage culture in light of contemporary personal and social issues; it tends to be an inward focus.
3 Major Criticisms of Narrow ST: 3. Perspectivalism: Proponents tend to bear a priori assumptions that are not scrutinized or justified. Proponents tend to commit eisegesis. Rather than actually exegeting the Scripture, some tend to “download” their doctrinal views upon a particular passage. Fixed biases (presuppositions) and preunderstandings (moldable influences) tend to be unchallenged Can easily lend itself to elitism, arrogance, dogmatism, and theological superiority.
What is Systematic Theology? In a broad sense we may define Systematic Theology as follows: “Systematic Theology may be defined as the collecting, scientifically arranging, comparing, exhibiting, and defending of all facts from any and every source concerning God and His works. ” Dr. Lewis S. Chafer, Systematic Theology, 1: 6.
What is Systematic Theology? Consider Dr. Millard Erickson’s Definition: “that discipline which strives to give a coherent statement of the doctrines of the Christian faith, based primarily on the Scriptures, placed in the context of culture in general, worded in contemporary idiom, and related to the issues of life. ” Christian Theology, 1: 21.
Broad Version of Systematic Theology: Apologetics Philosophical Theology Natural Theology Dogmatic Theology Elenctic Theology Exegetical Theology BIBLE Christian Ethics OT. & N. . T. Theology Biblical Theology Practical Theology Historical Theology Systematic Theology
All truth as God’s truth: The integration of special and natural revelation: This view incorporates narrow version of S. T. as a starting point & final point for doing S. T. The Bible is the final and ultimate authority. Logic, metaphysics, epistemology, and ethics. Arguments & Evidences of “true truth” from external world (e. g. , hard sciences, church history, natural law, etc). UNITY WITHIN DIVERSITY: If a particular doctrine is true it will always stand the scrutiny of reexamination.
Biblical Doctrine is Final Point All Truth as God’s Truth Natural Revelation Humanities Biology Chemistry Physics Bible Biblical Doctrine is Starting Point Special Revelation
Broad view of Systematic Theology Historical • Examines the alternative answers in historical theology • Critically tests proposition against church history Synthetic • Recognizes the ultimate author of natural & special revelation • Draws upon relevant lines of evidence from God’s external world. Interrelated criteria of truth • Logical non-contradiction • Empirical adequacy • Affirmable without hypocrisy
Two Benefits of All Truth as God’s Truth: Explanatory Power & Cohesive Worldview regarding creation, culture, & thought. History Logic Apologetics BIBLE
Criticisms While this approach is not afraid to reexamine any doctrine, it is liable to displace the priority of special revelation in favor of other fields of study-if coherence is not implemented. While this view rejects a closed system, there is the possibility that theology will develop in light of the powerful impact of ideas-unless coherence is not implemented. In the effort to become theologically relevant, there is the fear that theology may become irrelevant (not distinctly Christian), esp. if coherence is not implemented.
Comparison: N. V. B. V. Central motif Seeks coherence with established truths. Catechetical Determinate but always open to further inquiry Closed System Exegetical claims are tested not only theologically but historically, philosophically, and ethically. Doctrinal Purity Purposefully & critically interacts with contemporary issues in society.
Consider the following quote: “If, therefore, theology be a science, it must include something more than a mere knowledge of facts. It must embrace an exhibition of the internal relation of those facts, one to another, and each to all. It must be able to show that if one be admitted, others cannot be denied…. So the Bible contains the truths which theologian has to collect, authenticate, arrange, and exhibit in their internal relation to each other. This constitutes’ the difference between biblical and systematic theology. The once of the former is to ascertain and state the facts of Scripture. The office of the latter is to take those facts, determine their relation to each other and to other cognate truths, as well as to vindicate them and show their harmony and consistency. This is not an easy task, or one of slight importance. ” ~ Charles Hodge, Systematic Theology, 1: 1.