Systematic Theology – an introduction
‘Theology’ comes from the two greek words: “theos” (θεος) meaning “God” and “logos” (λογος) meaning “words” or “speech” – and thus means a discourse or speech on the topic of God. A more technical definition would be, “The discovery, systematizing and presenting of truth about God.”
False and True Systems of Theology:
- Deism – This system acknowledges that there is a God, but denies that God sustains the creation. “God is the Maker, but not the Keeper.”
- Atheism – Those who hold to this belief exclude God altogether. To the atheist, the universe is perpetually evolving and regenerating itself. There is no evidence, however, even with modern science, that this theory is true. Thus, the Bible says, “The fool has said in his heart, ‘There is no God.’” (Psalms 14:1 & 53:1)
- Skepticism and Infidelity – Skeptics and infidels are full of doubt and disbelief with regard to God, especially the God of Biblical revelation.
- Agnosticism – This school of thought does not deny God, but denies that God can be known.
- Pantheism – Everything is God, and God is everything. Everything you see is God. God is in everything. God and creation are synonymous.
- Polytheism – This is belief in many Gods. There are various gods over us; these in turn have gods over them; and these have gods over them, and so on.
- Tritheism – This is the doctrine of three Gods.
- Dualism – This is the belief in two Gods; a God that is Good, and a God that is Bad. They are both equal in power and persuasion.
- Theism – The belief in the existence of a personal God is known as theism. Just being a Theist does not ‘save’ anyone, for one must know who God is, what His name is, and what He has done for us in order to trust Him.
- Monotheism – This is the doctrine of one God. Christians are monotheists. So are Jews and Muslims. But just believing in one God does not lead to salvation. “You believe that there is one God. You do well. Even the demons believe—and tremble!” (James 2:19).
I. There are three branches of Theology:
- Historical Theology – The study of the historical development of doctrine as recorded in the writings of individuals and church councils.
- Systematic Theology – The study of truth about God from any and every source presented in a systematic way and organized by crucial topics that have risen to importance throughout history.
- Biblical Theology – The study of truth about God found in Scripture and organized by the topics emphasized by biblical authors. (Historical and Systematic Theology are dependent upon Biblical Theology.)
II. Presuppositions of Theology:
- A knowledge of God is possible, because –
A) Man is rational.
B) Man is relational.
C) Man is spiritual.
D) God can communicate with Man.
E) Communication through language is adequate (although not exhaustive).
2. God has revealed Himself through –
A) General revelation (Nature, History; Man). “The heavens declare the glory of God; and the firmament shows His handiwork.” – Psalm 19:1 (NKJV) (See also, Romans 1:19-20.)
B) Special revelation (Angels, Prophets, Jesus His Son; Inspiration of the Bible). “God, who at various times and in various ways spoke in time past to the fathers by the prophets, has in these last days spoken to us by His Son, whom He has appointed heir of all things, through whom also He made the worlds;” – Hebrews 1:1-2 (NKJV) (See also, 2 Peter 1:20-21.)
C) Because God has revealed truth through revelation, this truth should impact our lives.
III. Theology is necessary.
- Theology is needed to understand God and what He has revealed to Man (by organizing God’s revelation of truth into a logical system).
- Theology is needed to define Christianity.
- Theology is needed to defend Christianity.
IV. Our first task: Satisfying our doubts.
“Jesus said to him, ‘If you can believe, all things are possible to him who believes.’ Immediately the father of the child cried out and said with tears, ‘Lord, I believe; help my unbelief!’” – Mark 9:23-24 (NKJV)
- Before we can proceed to systematize God’s revelation of Himself, we must first satisfy our doubts and questions about the validity of His revelation:
A) Did nature ‘evolve’ or was it created by God?
B) Is the Bible true?
C) Was the Bible inspired by God?
D) Can the Bible be understood if interpreted plainly, like any other form of literature?
V. The relationship between Exegesis and Theology.
- Exegesis begins with the premise that the Bible, as God’s revelation, can be understood when interpreted literally and plainly, as you would any other literature.
- Exegesis assumes that, because Scripture is inspired by God, it must therefore be authoritative and true.
- Exegesis analyzes; Theology correlates.
- Exegesis interprets; Theology interrelates.
- Exegesis focuses on what God has revealed in Scripture; Theology focuses on all truth.
VI. Biblical and Historical Theology can be organized systematically into about fourteen categories of doctrine; this is called ‘Systematic Theology’.
- Systematic Theology – An Introduction.
- Prolegomena – Preliminaries to the Study of Theology.
- Hermeneutics – The Science of Interpreting the Bible.
- Bibliology – A Study in the Doctrine of Scripture.
- Theology Proper – A Study in the Doctrine of God the Father.
- Christology – A Study in the Doctrine of God the Son.
- Pneumatology – A Study in the Doctrine of God the Holy Spirit.
- Angelology – A Study in the Doctrine of Angels and Demons. (Note: Sometimes Angelology and Demonology are treated separately.)
- Anthropology – A Study in the Doctrine of Mankind.
- Hamartiology – A Study in the Doctrine of Sin.
- Soteriology – A Study in the Doctrine of Salvation.
- Ecclesiology – A Study in the Doctrine of the Church.
- Eschatology – A Study in the Doctrine of Last Things.
- Apologetics – Defending the Faith.