Thursday, January 26, 2017

The Importance of Theology

“Systematic theology” is a label with admittedly clinical connotations. It conjures a picture of the theologian as someone who takes in hand the living Word of God only to dissect and dismember the body of biblical truth into various pieces so that he might label (often in Latin!) and arrange those pieces in categories of his own meticulous devising. Though such a connotation of systematic theology is not uncommon in popular Christian culture, it does not represent what most Christian theologians have intended by the label. Far from attempting to divide the seamless garment of biblical truth, systematic theology considers what “the whole counsel of God” (Acts 20:27) teaches on any given topic and reflects upon the divinely revealed relations between the Bible’s various topics.

In systematic theology, we not only ask, “What does the Bible teach about salvation?” or “What does the Bible teach about good works?” We also ask, “How does the Bible relate salvation and good works?” The Bible’s answer to the latter question, of course, is that salvation does not follow from good works (Eph. 2:8–9). Rather, salvation precedes good works (v. 10). That salvation precedes rather than follows good works is just as vital for understanding the nature of salvation and good works as it is for understanding salvation and good works as isolated topics. Indeed, one cannot have a biblical understanding of either topic without understanding the relationship between them.

Systematic theology thus contemplates the body of biblical teaching as a living organism, offering loving attention to its various members and tracing their organic relations to each another. Ultimately, systematic theology helps us better understand God and all things in relation to God, a relation that is encapsulated in the living bond between Jesus Christ, “the head,” and the church, “which is his body” (Eph. 1:22–23). In what follows we will consider how systematic theology may serve the church and inform the Christian life: (1) by shaping a mind characterized by wonder and (2) by directing a life characterized by worship and witness. Read More

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