An Approach to Doing Theology (Part 5)

01 Apr

Our last several blogs have been on the issue: How ought we to “do” theology?   As I’ve mentioned before, this semester I’m teaching a course entitled “Theological Methods and Issues.”

Dr. Robert Ferris

My upper-level seminary students are presenting research papers on two topics of their choice.

They are following an eight-step method articulated by my friend Dr. Bob Ferris.

We’ve noticed the following STEPS:

STEP #1 is STATING THE TOPIC. We are to clearly identify the underlying issue, then state the topic which we are addressing.

STEP #2 involves FRAMING THE QUESTION which leads to a process of inquiry.


The FOURTH STEP in our THEOLOGICAL METHOD is SURVEYING THE HISTORICAL OPTIONS.  What we mean by this step is that most questions we research have had their predecessors.  That is, prior eras have grappled with many of the same issues that plague or confound or challenge us.

For this reason we can benefit from the work of theologians of past generations.  One writer says, “We must remember that the Holy Spirit too has a history.”  What he meant was that God the Holy Spirit has led and illumined God’s people in studying critical issues of the Word.

The FIFTH STEP in our theological method involves EXAMINING THE BIBLICAL DATA.  You might be saying, “Finally!  We’re getting to the Scriptures!”  I appreciate the fact that we all want to start with the Word of God, but the previous steps are helpful in defining and developing an interest in the topic at hand.

If God’s Word is the final and sufficient source of truth for faith and practice, then we must treat it with the utmost respect.  If “doing theology” does not fundamentally rest on examining the Scriptures carefully, then we are only engaged in human speculation and conjecture.  And there is enough of that already!

2 Timothy 3:16 tells us that “all Scripture is inspired of God and is profitable.”  We must not ignore 75% of God’s Word, Philip Yancey says in his book The Bible Jesus Read, if we want to learn the mind of God on an issue.  He was of course referring to the Old Testament.

The collecting, organizing, and outlining biblical data brings great rewards.  Even though we affirm the principle of progressive revelation, the idea that God did not give us all He wanted us to know about a doctrine at one point, this should not lead us to viewing the “Old” Testament as less inspired than the New, or to some kind of “Red Letter edition” view (the idea that the words by Jesus — printed in red in some Bibles — are more authoritative).  We must see the entire canon of Scripture, all 66 books, as God’s Word and profitable / useful for “teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness, 17 so that the servant of God may be thoroughly equipped for every good work.” (2 Tim. 3:16-17).


1.  What topics have you studied throughout Scripture, gathering the biblical data into logical categories and drawing certain conclusions?

2.  In this method, how do we keep from proof-texting?


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