How Should We Study Theology?

Posted: August 14, 2008 in Uncategorized

Greetings from Richmond, Virginia. 

Let’s get back to Grudem’s Systematic Theology.

Dr. Grudem writes that we should study theology with prayer, humility, reason, praise, help from others and by collecting and understanding all the relevant passages of Scripture on any topic. Let’s break this down.

First of all, every Christian should pray before, during and after studying a particular doctrine.  It always important to remember, especially in our narcissistic culture, that only the Holy Spirit can truly give us proper insight (1 Cor. 2:14 and Eph. 1:17-19).

Second, the great and mysterious things of God must be approached with great humility (1 Peter 5:5).  Moreover, they must be proclaimed with humility as well (1 Cor. 8:1 and James 3:13, 17-18).

Third, we must stretch the great gift of reason God has given us to its limits.  How did Paul engage the Synagogue attendees? He reasoned with them every Sabbath (Acts 17:2, 17, etc.).  However, Dr. Grudem rightly cautions “we are free to use our reasoning abilities to draw deductions from any passage of Scripture so long as these deductions do not contradict the clear teaching of some other passages of Scripture.” At times this will produce a paradox (i.e., “a seemingly contradictory statement that may nonetheless be true.”). For example, God is three persons and one God! In the end, we always must remind ourselves that God’s thoughts are higher than our thoughts (Isa. 55:8-9).

Fourth, we should take advantage of the fine teachers and wise and humble Christians around us in our quest for truth. We are truly blessed that we have 2000 years of theological dialogue among some of the finest minds God has ever created to assist us.  True this may take digging into dry theology texts and thick church history books but hey, its only ultimate truth we are talking about!

Fifth, we need to search the Scriptures diligently for each relevant passage.  Now this is more difficult then just doing a concordance search for a certain word or clicking on, etc. Each passage must be studied in its proper historical, literary and theological context.  In other words, don’t rip a verse out of a paragraph for, as the late James Barr rightly reminded Biblical scholars, we don’t think only in words, but in sentences and paragraphs.  So, make sure you truly understand the verse as it is used by God in that particular book of the Bible.  As D.A. Carson reminds us, “a text without a context is a pretext for a proof text.”

Finally, study systematic theology with rejoicing and praise (Ps. 139:17) just as Paul does in Romans 11:33-36.  It is a great gift from God that we can study His ways.  It should bring us all to humble worship of the one true God who alone is worthy of praise.

Stay tuned as we move on to the Doctrine of the Word of God.



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