Reply to discussion comments theo 525 anglela turbain format | THEO 525 – Systematic Theology I | Liberty University
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When studying a subject involving religion or ministry, one term often heard is theology. There are many different types of theology. What exactly is theology? How is theology useful and what is the difference between the variations?
Systematic Theology, as defined by B.A. Demarest, is the “attempt to reduce religious
truth to a coherent and relevant whole for the church” (Elwell 2001, 1163). Its purpose is to expound upon Biblical truth, discovering the authentic meaning and presenting it in a way that is comprehendible and applicable to the church as a whole. This also means that over the years it will need to be re-evaluated as society continually changes and the relevance of teachings may need to be modified. The truth of the word never changes however, the way it is applied may be a variable. Being able to expound upon the biblical truths, in a way others can easily comprehend can allow new followers to grasp onto the fundamental principles of who God is, and our role in relationship with Him. Maintaining relevancy to current times and trials will allow adaptation of biblical principles to present day issues.
Biblical Theology, although a type of theology, was also seen as a movement. Its meaning can be presented in two differing ways. As Erickson describes, the first meaning involves two approaches: a “purely descriptive approach” or presentation of the teachings of the New Testament writers and a “pure biblical theology”, which is the “isolation and presentation of the unchanging biblical teachings that are valid for all times” (Erickson 2013, 11). Biblical theology is obtained by simple facts of the Bible, stated in original form, unchanged, and with timeless validity. In relation to systematic theology, biblical theology is concerned more with breaking down the Bible to discover the authentic meaning in individual sections or topics, while systematic theology may use biblical theology to develop a truth that can be more easily presented and understood by the masses. The meaning does not change, however the context or delivery may vary dependent on the current culture of the audience. Systematic theology may break down biblical truths into layman’s terms, to more effectively reach a large people.
Historical theology is concerned with studying the systematic theology of a particular time or era in history, or may also study a particular subject area or doctrine of the Bible over time. These can also be referred to as the synchronic and diachronic approach (Erickson 2013, 12). In this relationship between historical and systematic theology, the historical theology is looking at a long range of systematic theology based either over a period of time or specific subject matter. Historical theology can aid in finding the true, authentic meaning. As the Bible has been studied over the centuries, culture has changed which can cause a shift in interpretation. Erickson refers to this as “preunderstanding” or “presupposition” (Erickson 2013, 13). When these variations due to preunderstanding are acknowledged, the underlying, true and authentic meaning, can be discovered in the commonality that is sewn throughout each century’s interpretation.
Greek thinkers were the first to refer to themselves as philosophers or “lovers of wisdom” Elwell 2001, 920). What role does philosophy play in theology? According to Erickson, there are three main ways philosophy contributes to theology. It can supply content for theology, defend theology or establish its truth, and scrutinize its concepts and arguments (Erickson 2013, 14). Philosophy brings further study to scripture, a deeper interpretation, as well as the ability to translate century old scripture into a modern and contemporary application. It can challenge or validate systematic theology. Philosophical theology and systematic theology can work together to construct authentic, doctrinal beliefs that will allow believers and followers of Christ to come to a stronger relationship with God.
When someone is saved and commits to Christ that is only the beginning. To truly become a disciple the relationship needs to be developed and nurtured. The various forms of theology can be used by the believer to expound upon the rooted meanings in scripture as they study the Bible.
At this moment, I feel biblical theology is the most beneficial to me. I still consider myself to be in the early stages of my walk and discipleship with Christ. While I am also a small group leader, I am still learning myself. Understanding the basic Biblical principles will be key not only to my own growth, but also to those I am leading. Beginning with the basic biblical theology will provide a firm foundation on which to grow.
Elwell, Walter A. Evangelical Dictionary of Theology. 2nd ed. Grand Rapids: Baker Academic, 2001.
Erickson, Millard J. Christian Theology. 3rd ed. Grand Rapids: Baker Academic, 2013.