We’ve been thinking through some of the issues of a preliminary nature that need to be discussed before we get into the major areas of Christian doctrine. How one defines faith, the reality of heresy, the need for good philosophy, etc. are important topics to touch on before tackling the categories of God, the Bible, the Church, etc.
As we look at the material of the Bible, how ought we to organize and summarize what we find? There are essentially two ways to approach the biblical “data.” One way is to begin at Genesis and read straight through the Scriptures, collecting the truths we find, for example, on the doctrine of God. This is looking at the biblical material chronologically, sometimes called “biblical theology.”
“Biblical theology” is a term used by some in other ways, but we are referring to the collecting of Scriptural truth as it is progressively revealed in the 66 books of the Bible. There is value in seeing how, for example, the doctrine of the atonement (how God saves us) is gradually unfolded in the pages of Scripture (beginning, of course, with the proto-evangelium in Gen. 3:15).
Our approach in these posts, however, is called systematic theology. With a systematic theology approach, doctrines are looked at from a logical perspective. The data of Scripture are collected into logical categories (everything the Bible says about the Person of Christ, for example) and analyzed.
I don’t believe one approach is better than the other. They are just different ways of collecting the same material. The real question is what does the Bible as a whole say about the doctrine of __?
Some would say that the Bible might contain some examples of systematic theology, such as I Timothy 3:16 where we read, “Beyond all question, the mystery from which true godliness springs is great: He appeared in the flesh, was vindicated by the Spirit, was seen by angels, was preached among the nations, was believed on in the world, was taken up in glory.” (I Tim. 3:16)
Regardless of which approach one takes, aren’t you thankful for the many truths about our wonderful Savior?