Why Systematic Theology?
“[Systematic theology] is like the box top of a jigsaw puzzle, and every believer is a theologian in the sense of putting the pieces together. If we fail to recognize there is a box top (i.e., a unified whole) to Scripture, we will have only a pile of pieces.”
In the words of LeCrae Moore, "I was a drug baby...," meaning, my grandmothers drug me to church. I was raised in an environment that was purportedly Christian. It’s still murky to me as to how much of that was based in cultural norms rather than Biblical imperatives. As I got older my allegiance to the latter became more pronounced--it all seemed a proper exercise of my free will. Looking back, though, now that I’m older, wiser, and more Biblically informed, I understand that this was a sovereign work of God's Spirit.
Over time my hunger for good teaching grew, and so did my discontentment with my spiritual diet. I was dissatisfied with my ability to weave all of my theological beliefs into a cohesive whole. Unlike many who come to the Doctrines of Grace through the study of the Scriptures, it was this "study" itself which I pursued. "How do I study the Bible so I that can be convinced of the verity of the concepts taught therein?"; "How do I know what the concepts are?"; "How do I walk someone through my belief system from point A to point B to point C, etc."; "How does what I believe about God relate to what I believe about man?” And, “How does that relate to what I believe about atonement, forgiveness, sin, the Law, the Old Testament?,” and so on.
Without knowing the term, I was in pursuit of "systematic theology.” A number of years ago I was introduced to the Heidelberg Catechism and was struck by the way each question naturally flowed into the next. "What comfort do we have...?” “What knowledge is necessary to avail oneself of this comfort?” “From where do you know these things?” “What is required of us?” Is this possible?..." I knew shortly after discovering this treasure that I had found what I was looking for.
If you have a desire to improve your understanding of the Bible, then learning how to systematize Scripture’s teachings is a great place to start. The historical, orthodox creeds of the Church can help you do just that, as well as resources available from Logos Bible Software. Here are a few titles now available for download:
- John Calvin’s Institutes of the Christian Religion
- Francis Turretin’s Institutes of Elenctic Theology
- Geerhardus Vos’ Reformed Dogmatics
- Millard J. Erickson’s Christian Theology, 3rd ed.