On Systematic Theology

July 3, 2013

One of the things that university did for me was teach me how to think, despite some of the best efforts of my thesis advisor. Because I was interested in being a forensic investigator when I first started university, I took biology as an elective – and lost my heart to the subject of life in all its diversity and magnificence. In my second year, I switched programs. I changed my declared major from criminology to biology. What it taught me is what we referred to as the “scientific method.” I use the term scientific a bit loosely, because what they said it was and what they wanted from us were really two different things. What they really wanted was for us to learn to parrot their own erroneous conclusions. My thesis advisor was a staunch evolutionist, and didn’t think there was any room for a Creator, not even from a theistic evolution point of view. He was big on “following the data,” unless of course it didn’t fit his own concocted version of events. Needless to say, I took it as an opportunity to learn all about evolutionary theory and doctrine (oh yes, doctrine – and these guys practice it like a religion too – and if you don’t believe, you are branded as a heretic and drummed out of post-graduate studies or even lab employment opportunities – anywhere!), as opposed to fighting the clear error that it was, and that’s just considering thermodynamics, but that is seriously off topic. This desire for me to parrot his own flawed so-called science was driven home to me the day he found me in the university cafeteria reading the Bible with some friends. From that moment on, he had a new mission – to drive me out of the program or to see that I was held from further advancement after I graduated. Unfortunately for him, he did his job a little too well – he had taught me to question conclusions based on the evidence that was already discovered. I give all this background because it is necessary to understand that a system of thinking is a good thing sometimes. You cannot always be bound by it, and you will not always be right, but categorizing things can help you to remember important facts and arrive at truth and reality.

Theology is literally “The Study of God.” These days I fear it is more the study of the study of God at some cemeteries – uh, that’s seminaries – but I will try to keep an open mind about that. Such worthy study of such critical information needs to have a way of studying it, does it not? Enter Systematic Theology as the “scientific method” for studying aspects of God and things around him. Although this is NOT the only way to learn about God, it is a disciplined way of doing it, and things can be gained from it. I want to say this before I go further – systematic theology will not increase your faith or your maturity in Christ. What it will increase is your head knowledge of God and related topics of study. It is USELESS for growing in Christ, and is NO substitute for a devotional life with God. Lessons in the Bible and statements from Jesus Himself tell us that mere head knowledge and doctrine, no matter how orthodox, are not nearly enough. In Revelation 2:1-7, Jesus upbraids the church at Ephesus for leaving their first love, even though He had earlier praised it for getting the doctrine part right. We must love Him, and that love should inspire us to learn more about him, not the other way around. That is cart-before-horse thinking and never ends well (every cult that has ever arisen has done so because of a combination of a desire to do or be a certain way that is unpleasing to God and the need of the individual to justify it from the Bible). If you want to learn more about a devotional approach to the Lord, then I will point you to my eBook Practical Discipleship, available on amazon.com. If all you are interested in is learning what the Bible says for your own purposes, please go somewhere else and do that. I am not interested in useless debate or vain strivings (and will ignore all such attempts at drawing me into these kinds of discussions). If you love the Lord and want to learn more about Him and what the Bible says so we can better serve Him, then welcome to The Berean Nation! I will also say that I am likely not all 100% right about the things you will find here. I am open to correction – but you need to state your case in a way that makes sense and persuasively. So if we can agree on that, then let’s continue.

I break Systematic Theology into 12 areas of study so that I can gain a better understanding of everything that is involved in the Study of God and everything related to the story. The first three are the study of God Himself – Paterology, the study of the Father; Christology, the study of the Son; Pnematology, the study of the Holy Spirit. Because God describes Himself as a trinity, or three in one, the study of the persons of the Godhead should be studied in this context. The second set of three areas of study are about the beings involved in the story that aren’t God. Those are Angelology, the study of Angels; Demonology, or the study of fallen angels known as demons; Anthropology, the study of mankind and how we fit into the story. If you want to read the story, you have to know the cast of characters, right? The third group relate to the elements of the story, starting with Bibliology, the study of the Bible (design as well as content); Hamartiology, the study of sin (again, the design and detail as well as the consequences and content); Soteriology, the study of salvation (also design and content) in the context of the story being told. The final set of categories have to do with understanding three basic things about the story. Israelology, the study of the nation of Israel – without this, one cannot understand the Old Testament at all, or even some of the New Testament in context; Ecclesiology, or the study of the church, the body of Christ – without understanding the purpose and calling of the church, one cannot understand aspects of Soteriology, Christology, or Anthropology; Eschatology, the study of end times, or “last things,” which is essential for understanding what the whole story is all about in the first place.

These are just broad categories. Yes, I know, they have intellectual-sounding names, but the names are not mine, I’m just borrowing them because they are common to most versions of Systematic Theology out there. I am not trying to intimidate anyone by using big words. If there is a word you don’t understand and you have trouble looking up the meaning yourself, please ask, I will be more than happy to define a term for you. I might also add that there may be other categories we could study. I would not presume to think my list is definitive or exhaustive. Again, if you have an area you want to study, let me know. Maybe we can add it to the list! 🙂

Gerry @ The Berean Nation

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