Recently, my middle daughter shared with me that she and her husband were reading through Wayne Grudem’s “Systematic Theology.” I was impressed, to say the least! She said it was not difficult reading.
That conversation spurred me to think through the whole subject of theology. We might have a tendency to think of it as dull, difficult or boring. But good theology is very important if it is applied to life. Theology is more than just a grouping of topics or doctrines from Scripture. It is a perspective or worldview that enables us to see and interpret life more accurately. It organizes important truths in a way that helps us to better understand our Lord. Jesus said, “You shall know the truth and the truth shall make you free.” Good theology that develops out of a belief in God’s unerring Word will make a big difference in how we live – if we apply it to our daily lives.
In 1857, John Dagg published his “Manual of Theology.” He stated that “to study theology for the purpose of gratifying curiosity is an abuse.” We should study theology in order to become better servants of Christ.
In an interview, Grudem described systematic theology this way: “Take all the appropriate verses (of Scripture) to see what God wants us to believe about a specific topic. The Bible is internally consistent, not contradictory.” He further points out that the danger in simply studying theology is that it can become nothing more than an intellectual activity. He said that after studying a topic, we should ask, “How does that apply to my life?”
John Frame, Grudem’s mentor, pointed out that systematic theology is “the application of God’s Word by persons to all areas of life.” The goal of Bible study is to practice what we learn.
It is a consistent theme among the best theologians, from ancient times to the present era, that theology is designed not simply to inform us but to inspire us to live lives that obey God’s truth and glorify God’s Son.
The best way to interpret Scripture is with Scripture – comparing Scripture with Scripture. Good theology books do that, and a good personal theology seeks to live according to the Scripture.
Today, we can become somewhat confused by the different prefixes assigned to theology.
The two most prominent types of theology are biblical theology and systematic theology. Geerhardus Voss in “Biblical Theology” wrote in 1948, “Biblical theology is systematic and systematic theology is biblical. The Scriptures constitute the sole material from which the science of theology can deal.”
It is possible to have a good theology or a bad theology. One good test to determine if what we believe is true is to test it with Scripture. As John MacArthur states, “The true test of doctrine is to drag that doctrine through every text in Scripture.”
Theology simply means “the study of God.” What we can know about God with certainty is found in Scripture. The Word of God is our base of authority for knowing God. Albert Einstein stated, “Intellectual growth should commence at birth and cease only at death.” Our growth as Christians should begin with our new birth and continue throughout this life and beyond.
My daughter has inspired me. I think I will read Grudem’s “Systematic Theology” this summer. Even though I have read several theology books and even taught theology classes, I have a long way to go. Our pilgrimage as followers of Christ is to learn His truth and live it. That is a never-ending process.
The real power of theology is not only knowing it but applying it.