What are some of the important aspects of systematic theology? Speaking primarily of Evangelical systematic theology, there are at least four important aspects in addition to it being derived primarily from God’s written Word. 1. It is comprehensive, 2. it involves coherent organization, 3. it should be applicable to today’s Christian, and 4. it should all be done for the Glory of God.
This simply means that systematic theology looks to see what scripture as a whole teaches about certain topics. Exegesis asks, what does this passage teach, Biblical theology asks, what does this author, book, or genre of literature teach within the progression of revelation, and systematic theology attempts to look at the whole and put it all together.
2. Coherent Organization
This aspect of systematic theology looks at all the pieces that scripture gives us and attempts to see how they are all tied together. The systematic theologian is not allowed to alter the pieces or leave any out. This aspect of coherence is sometimes frowned upon by those who think that the word of God cannot be understood as any kind of system. But this objection seems to miss the fact that there is nothing in the word of God that contradicts itself. This simply means that God revelation to us is unified and not contradictory, which means we should be able to look and see how it all goes together. One of the ways it is usually organized is as follows…
Bibliology- The Doctrine of the Word of God
Theology Proper- The Doctrine of God
Anthropology- The Doctrine of Man
Harmatology- The Doctrine of Sin
Christology – The Doctrine of Christ
Soteriology- The Doctrine of Salvation
Ecclesiology – The Doctrine of the Church
Eschatology – The Doctrine of Last things or the future.
Looking at this list we can see a logical progression. First we study the doctrine of the Word of God, which tells us who God is. From there we can move to God’s creation and learn about mankind who is made in His image. Looking at mankind we then study sin, which relates to mankind by showing us who we are and what sin is. From there we learn about the God-man Jesus Christ who was free from sin and how he saves sinful mankind. Because we are saved we become part of His kingdom called the Church so we study ecclesiology. From there we can move to the future of and the consummation of this Church, which is eschatology.
Some may arrange them differently, but what we begin to see is how it is all connected. In doing this we begin to understand the “total weight of truth,” as Millard Erickson puts it, realizing that doctrines do not stand alone to be easily picked off by secular arguments. They are logically interwoven into each other, and a cord of many strands is not easily broken.
3. Applicable to Today’s Christian
There are many aspects of being a Christian that never change, such as God, sin, salvation, the Church, etc. But there are certain issues which become pressing for Christians to deal with at different times in history. If someone were to write a systematic theology today and spend most of their peripheral time arguing that the Catholic Church should not be selling indulgences, they would not really be making theology bear on the issues today, simply because this is not a major issue anymore, even though it is still true that indulgences should not be sold. Millard Erickson does a great job of addressing contemporary issues in his book on Christian doctrine, by addressing issues such as postmodernism.
4. Done for the Glory of God
Finally we must realize the systematic theology is done for the Glory of God. This is not done for us to get puffed up with knowledge, and it should always be done with humility. We are to let God’s Word inform us, instead of us informing scripture. We desire to be followers of Christ, and systematic theology along with Biblical theology and exegesis asks, what does it mean to be a follower of Christ? The more we understand the more we will be able to live our lives in a God glorifying manner, and teach others all that Christ commanded. In this we glorify God and enjoy Him forever.