Systematic theology is a discipline which addresses theological topics one by one (e.g. God, Sin, Humanity) and attempts to summarize all the biblical teaching on each particular
subject. Sometimes called constructive theology or even dogmatic theology, the goal is to present the major themes (i.e. doctrines) of the Christian faith in an organized and ordered overview
that remains faithful to the biblical witness.
Systematic theology integrates biblical, historical and sometimes philosophical theology into its methodology. Its main goal is to draw a clear description
of what the Bible teaches about a particular doctrine. Furthermore, systematic theology not only looks to biblically construct individual doctrines of the Christian faith, but remains aware of the cause-effect
relationship of each doctrine. That is, on the one hand, if one doctrine is changed, effects will take place in other areas of doctrine. On the other hand, each doctrine has implications for other doctrines. For example, within the doctrine of Christ (i.e., Christology) the belief in Jesus' resurrection means that we are not left in our sins (cf. 1 Cor 15:17). Jesus has conquered sin, and those who are in Christ also experience this victory (cf. Rom 6). Moreover, Christians have a future hope
that they too will be resurrected and experience eternal life. These are just a few of many other examples of how each doctrine is interrelated to one another. In the end, systematic theology should naturally flow into
practical theology where the conclusions drawn from Scripture are made applicable to the Church.
General areas of systematic theology
- Prolegomena - the study of methods and presuppositions before one does systematic theology (sometimes this involves the study of how God reveals himself).
- Bibliology - the study of the Bible.
- Theology Proper - the study of the doctrine of God.
- Christology - the study of Jesus.
- Pneumatology - the study of the Holy Spirit.
- Anthropology - the study of humanity.
- Soteriology - the study of Salvation.
- Ecclesiology - the study of the Church.
- Eschatology - the study of last things or end times.
- Angelology - the study of the angelic beings.
The systematic presentation of the Christian faith is not a new concept. Wolfhart Pannenberg writes that "systematic theology... emerged long before the term came into common use. Materially the systematic presentation
of Christian teaching is very much older. It was already the object of Gnostic systems in the 2nd century, and although it remained merely implicit in the works of the early Apologists, and anti-Gnostic fathers like Irenaeus,
Origen presented his work on origins (peri-archon) in the form of a systematic presentation of the Christian doctrine of God." ^^
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Interpreting the Bible
Systematic theology also has major implications in the area of interpreting scripture. For example, the doctrine of the Trinity is not gathered from one passage of the Bible. Instead, the Trinity is an authoritative
interpretation of what all of scripture says. Or, as David Yeago puts it, scripture contains "a pattern of implicit and explicit judgments concerning the God of Israel and his relationship to the crucified and risen Jesus of Nazareth."^
^ Although some passages in the New Testament may appear to show a clear distinction between Jesus and God the Father (e.g. John 17), other passages
that clearly teach
monotheism (e.g. Ex. 20:3; Deut. 6:4) must be taken into account before a final interpretation can be concluded. A correct interpretation of scripture must take into account all relevant passages in the Bible,
and this is done through the method of a systematic reading of scripture.
See main page: Interpretation of the Bible
- J.I. Packer, Knowing God. InterVarsity Press, 1973.
- Wayne Grudem, Systematic Theology (Zondervan, 1994.
- John Frame, Salvation Belongs to the Lord: An Introduction to Systematic Theology. P&R, 2006.
- Alister McGrath, Christian Theology: An Introduction, 4th ed. Blackwell, 2006.
- Millard Erickson, Christian Theology, 2nd ed. Baker, 2003.
- Norman Geisler, Systematic Theology, 4 volumes. Bethany House, 2002-2004.
- Stanley Grenz, Theology for the Community of God. Eerdmans, 1994.
- Thomas Oden, Systematic Theology, 3 volumes. Prince Press, 1987-1992.
Intermediate and advanced systematic theologies
- Robert Reymond, A New Systematic Theology of the Christian Faith, 2nd ed. Word Publishing, 1998.
- Louis Berkhof, Systematic Theology. Eerdmans, 1996.
- Charles Hodge, Systematic Theology, 3 volumes. Eerdmans, 1960; also published by Hendrickson
- Karl Barth, Church Dogmatics, 13 volumes. T&T Clark, 1956-1975.
- Robert Jenson, Systematic Theology, 2 volumes. Oxford, 1997-1999.
- Wolfhart Pannenberg, Systematic Theology, 3 volumes. Eerdmans, 1988-1993.
- James Leo Garrett, Jr., Systematic Theology: Biblical, Historical and Evangelical, 2 volumes. Eerdmans, 1990-1991.
- ↑ Wolfhart Pannenberg, Systematic Theology, vol. 1 (Eerdmans, 1988), p. 19.
- ↑ David S. Yeago, "The New Testament and the Nicene Dogma: A Contribution to the Recovery of Theological Exegesis" in The Theological Interpretation of Scripture: Classic and Contemporary Readings. Ed.
Stephen E. Fowl (Oxford: Blackwell, 2001), 87-100.
Online systematic theologies
- Christian Theology Reading Room, Online resources maintained by Arnold Neufeldt-Fast, Tyndale Seminary
- An Introduction to Christian Belief: A Layman's Guide, by Greg Herrick (bible.org)
- Abstract of Systematic Theology, by James Boyce
- Systematic Theology (PDF), by Vincent Cheung
- The Summa Theologica, by Thomas Aquinas
- The Role of Exegesis in Systematic Theology (PDF), by D.A. Carson
Branches of Theology
Biblical theology | Historical theology | Philosophical theology | Systematic theology | Practical theology