Introduction to
Systematic
Theology
DEFINITION:
• THEOLOGY
– qeo,j, theos- God
– lo,goj, logos- word, study, discourse
• SYSTEMATIC
– suni,sthmi, sunista’,nw-- Synistemi, Synistanocomprehend, put together, organize
• Systematic Theology is “that department or
section of theology which is concerned with
setting forth systematically, that is to say, as a
concatenated whole, what is known concerning
God.” Warfield, Studies in Theology, 91.
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THEOLOGICAL ENCYCLOPEDIA:
• Apologetics, “How can we know Christianity is
right?”
• Exegetical Theology, “What does the text
say?”
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Canonics
Textual Criticism
Biblical Languages
Biblical History/Archaeology
Hermeneutics
Exegesis Proper
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THEOLOGICAL ENCYCLOPEDIA:
• Biblical Theology, “What does the Bible teach
about ______?”
• Systematic Theology, “What is true about
______?”
• Historical Theology, “What has the Church
believed about ______?”
• Practical Theology, “How does the Church live
its belief about ______?”
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Pastoral Care/Counseling
Christian Education
Homiletics/Liturgics
Evangelism/Missions
Church Administration
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VALUES OF SYSTEMATIC
THEOLOGY:
•We are individuals who think
systematically
– Is there a relationship between fact A and fact
B or fact C?
– Since our minds think systematically, we must
reflect on the data of scripture systematically
– Cornelius Van Til reminds us, “it's with our
God-created minds which are systematic that
we think and inevitably rework the content of
revelation.”
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VALUES OF SYSTEMATIC
THEOLOGY:
•Systematic Theology holds before
us the full panoply of scriptural truth
– This helps us to maintain a proper
balance theologically and biblically
– It also helps us to avoid tendencies
toward emotionalism or
intellectualism
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VALUES OF SYSTEMATIC
THEOLOGY:
•What is beneficial for the minister, for
the trained theologian, is also beneficial
for the individual believer and the church
as a whole
– As we study, we come to certain conclusions
about truth
– We are able to convey those conclusions to others
within the Church
– They, in turn, are fortified against false doctrine
and heresy. So the studied conclusions of
Systematic Theology enable us to strengthen our
parishioners
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VALUES OF SYSTEMATIC
THEOLOGY:
•Those who study the scriptures
systematically will inevitably preach
theologically: i.e., the whole counsel of
god- thus attaining a balance in ministry
•Systematic Theology leads to accuracy
and precision
– Machen, What is Faith?, 163, “In religion, as well
as in other spheres a precise terminology is
mentally economical in the end; it repays amply
the slight effort required for the mastery of it.”
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VALUES OF SYSTEMATIC
THEOLOGY:
•It provides the Best Defense of the Faith
– Cornelius Van Til: “The best apologetic defense will be
made by him who knows the truth in the Scriptures
best. For the fight between Christianity and nonChristianity is, in modern times, no piecemeal affair.”
It is “a life and death struggle between two mutually
opposed world and life views.”
– Those outside the Christian faith are themselves
systematic in the development of their dogmas
– Those who engage in Systematic Theology are better
able to provide a consistent Christian world and life
view to answer the question, “What does it mean for
Jesus Christ to be Lord of all?”
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VALUES OF SYSTEMATIC
THEOLOGY:
• Benjamin B. Warfield, in The Indispensableness of
Systematic Theology to the Preacher, said, “It has been
argued that the business of the preacher is to make
Christians not theologians and that for this he needs not
a thorough systematic knowledge of the whole circle that
is called Christian doctrine but chiefly a firm faith in Jesus
Christ as savior and a warm love towards him as Lord.”
But, Warfield said, “We cannot preach at all without
preaching doctrine and the type of religious life which
grows up under our preaching will be determined by the
nature of the doctrines which we preach.”
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LIMITATIONS OF THEOLOGY:
• Presupposition: “Finitum non capax infiniti.” That is to
say, the finite is not capable of the infinite.
• Theology deals with mystery at every hand
• Limitations (A.H. Strong, Systematic Theology, I, 34ff)
– Necessary Mysteries: The Trinity, by definition, is beyond our
comprehension and not subject to the laws of logic
– Accidental Mysteries: Sometimes there are insufficient facts, so
that we do not have access to all the data we might need to
answer all the questions that arise. The opening chapters of
Genesis are sufficient for their purpose, but do not provide all the
data we might find desirable
– Inadequacy of Language: The terms, “Substance,” “Person,”
“Eternity” all tell us something about significant theological
debates. But, in spite of all they tell us, there are many
shortcomings due to the limitations of words and their ability to
reflect concepts that defy comprehension
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LIMITATIONS OF THEOLOGY:
• Limitations (A.H. Strong, Systematic Theology,
I, 34ff), cont.
– Incomplete Knowledge of Scripture: We do not know
all parts of Scripture and the parts we know we do not
know equally well
– Silence of Revelation (Deut. 29:29): There is much
that God has not seen fit to reveal; there is much we
are incapable of receiving
– Lack of Spiritual Discernment (I Cor. 2:14): “A
theologian is not fitted for his undertaking unless he
knows the power of the redemptive provision of which
Scripture is the revelation.” John Murray, “Systematic
Theology,” Collected Writings, IV, 4
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SUBJECT MATTER OF THEOLOGY:
• “CONSCIOUSNESS” THEOLOGIANS
– The proper subject matter of theology is the
experience of the individual believer.
– F. D.W. Schleiermacher: He says, “ . . . the
doctrines in all their forms have their ultimate
ground so exclusively in the emotions of the
religious self-consciousness, that where these
do not exist the doctrines cannot arise.”
The Christian Faith, E.T., 78.
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SUBJECT MATTER OF THEOLOGY:
– Albrecht Ritschl: The proper subject matter of theology is
Jesus Christ as experienced by the Church
• “Two characteristics are perceptible in religious conceptions
which must be stated at the very outset. They are always the
possession of a community and they express not merely a
relations between God and man, but always at the same time a
relations toward the world on the part of God and those who
believe in Him.” A. Ritschl, Justification and Reconciliation, E.T.,
27.
• “If, therefore, justification and reconciliation of sinners are the
leading features of the Christian religion, they can be correctly
examined and explained in the case of the individual only when
at the same time we take note of his place in the Christian
community.” J & R, 28.
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SUBJECT MATTER OF THEOLOGY:
• REFORMED THEOLOGIANS
– Benjamin B. Warfield, of Old Princeton Seminary: the
proper subject matter of theology is “God in his
nature and in his relations to his creatures,” or “the
facts concerning God and his relations to his
creatures.” Warfield, Studies in Theology, 58. Cf.
Shorter Catechism Q. 3. “What do the Scriptures
principally teach?” A. “The Scriptures principally
teach what man is to believe concerning God and
what duty God requires of him.”
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SUBJECT MATTER OF THEOLOGY:
• REFORMED THEOLOGIANS
– Donald Bloesch, retired professor of theology at
Dubuque, “Its [i.e., theology’s] norm is Scripture, but
its field or arena of action is the cultural context in
which we find ourselves. It is engaged in reflection not
on abstract divinity or on concrete humanity but on the
Word made flesh, the divine in the human.” Bloesch,
Word and Spirit, 114.
– Gordon Spykman, retired professor of theology at
Calvin Seminary says, “The key position in a threefactor view of reality belongs to the Word of God. It is
the religious bond, the unbreakable link which binds
the Creator and his creatures together in covenant
partnership.” Gordon Spykman, Reformational
Theology, 76.
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Introduction to
Systematic
Theology
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