Two years ago at a New Attitude Conference, one of the speakers recommended that we should study Bible Doctrine more and that Wayne Grudem's book Bible Doctrine was a perfect one for us to use. I looked at the book then, the price ($25 at the conference), and the number of pages (528) and decided that since I might not actually read the book I wouldn't get it. Well, after considering it occasionally for the last couple years and wishing that I had purchased it, I finally got a copy at this year's New Attitude Conference in May. Today (two months later), I finally took it off my shelf (or more precisely off the ledge of my window) and began reading.
This looks like a great book for me to study. It looks like it will help to make more concrete many Biblical doctrines. I want to be able to more fully understand and explain concepts that I either should know or do know but don't know how to articulate.
The book is broken into 34 chapters and each chapter contains review questions as well as questions for personal application, special terms and scripture memory. As I enjoy blogging, I intend to post my answers for at least the review questions on this blog. This is mostly for my benefit (so I can have it saved and easily found no matter where I am) though I hope reading what I write may help those who read this site to study Bible doctrine for themselves. I also hope that if I write something that you disagree with or have another take on that you will respond to the post so we can get even more in depth in that area.
So this is the first installment for Chapter 1- "Introduction to Systematic Theology"
Chapter 1 - Review Questions
1. Define systematic theology and discuss its relationship with other theological disciplines (historical theology, philosophical theology, apologetics, Old Testament theology, New Testament theology, and biblical theology).
According to this book, systematic theology is 'any study that answers the question, "What does the whole Bible teach us today?"' It endeavors to answer the question of what God desires for us to know and believe by looking at the teaching of the entire bible to understand each subject studied.
Although systematic theology my overlap other types of theology, there are distinct differences in focus. Historical theology examines how Christians in history have understood the Bible. Philosophical theology doesn't primarily use the Bible as it's text, but looks instead at philosophical tools and reasoning from observing the universe. Apologetics is focused on a defense of the truth of Christianity in order to convince those who don't yet believe. Old Testament or New Testament theology look at topics in the order they were presented in history or in the way a certain teacher or author address a subject in the Old or New Testament. Biblical theology does contain the Old and New Testament theology, but focuses especially on what individual authors taught and to each teaching in the "historical development" of the teaching as well as what the understanding was of the teaching to the original readers.
Systematic theology therefor concentrates on a carefully thought out and organized way on the collection of Biblical theology and "attempts to summarize the teaching of the Scripture in a brief, understandable, and very carefully formulated statement." It will use terms that may not be in the Bible but are useful in explaining things to summarize bible concepts in our current world. Practical application is necessary since systematic theology is looking at what the Bible teaches us today.
2. What is a "doctrine," and how does this relate to the study of systematic theology?
"A doctrine is what the whole Bible teaches us today about some particular topic." It is very similar to the definition of systematic theology, but narrows the systematic theology to one specific topic. So a doctrine is the teaching of systematic theology one topic at a time.
3. Give four reasons why Christians should study systematic theology
1) We ought to study so we can obey Jesus. He commanded his disciples to teach people to observe or obey everything that he told them to do. In order to teach others, we must first be able to collect and summarize what the Bible says on a particular topic so we understand his teachings ourselves. His teachings include the entire New Testament since it was written through the Holy Spirit as well as the entire Old Testament which must be understood in the ways it applies to the truths of redemption.
2) We should study systematic theology because it will "help us overcome our wrong ideas." It's easy to take something out of context and incorrectly apply that verse to many areas or to simply ignore teaching when it doesn't line up with how we prefer to think. A study of systematic theology will show us what the whole Bible teaches in a particular area.
3) A study of systematic theology will also help us to "make better decisions later". Questions may come from new controversies due to culture or from new situations we face in live due to life changes such as marriage, children, witnessing, or money. Since the Bible is useful in every area of life, an organized study of the topics will provide building blocks to base decisions on in the practical areas of life.
Question 4 to come sometime in the future.