My Definition of Systematic Theology

August 8, 2013 — Leave a comment

In my last post I defined theology. Today’s post shares my definition of systematic theology. Why is systematic theology important for leadership? Because it helps us better understand God, his character, and how he relates to us. This eventually leads us to more accurate Bible study and proper understanding of how God wants us to lead.

My Definition of Systematic Theology

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Here’s my definition of systematic theology.

Systematic theology: 1

1. Is the neat and efficient organization of categories about God
Systematic theology attempts to fit the study of God into categories while also being open and flexible to new revelations that might not fit into the pre-organized system.

2. It is the organization of thoughts about the study of God.
See Alister McGrath’s book, Christian Theology: An Introduction, for more info on this.

3. Uses every source available for revelation about God.
“Every source” is not limited to scripture, but can and should include personal testimonies, answered prayers, historical and traditional theologies, and cultural interaction. Through this presentation of interdependent studies of the nature of God, systematic theology is able to present a clear picture of who God is, how He relates to us, and how we relate to Him. 2

4. Is interdependent because none of the categories (of systematic theology) can be carried out on their own because each thought about God is interdependent with other thoughts. 3

5. Is always developing in order to relate the different thoughts to each other. 4

6. Allows theologians to better understand God.
I am using the definition of a theologian as anyone who thinks about God and seeks to understand him. Grenz and Olson would categorize this into: (1) Folk Theology, (2) Lay Theology, (3) Ministerial Theology, (4) Professional Theology, and (5) Academic Theology. Anyone participating in these various levels of theology would be considered a “theologian.” See my post, Review of Who Needs Theolgy? for more on this topic.

Question: How would you define systematic theology?

Notes:

  1. It should be noted that the study of God often begins in our response to God and our belief in Him. Because we believe in Him and want to learn more about Him, we use systematic theology as a way to assist us in that pursuit.
  2. Kenneth S. Kantzer, “Systematic Theology as a Practical Discipline,” in Doing Theology for the People of God, ed. by Donald Lewis and Alister McGrath (Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press, 1996), 24-25.
  3. Ibid., 4
  4. Dr. Glenn Kreider, Professor of Theological Studies at Dallas Theological Studies has taught me this

Christopher L. Scott

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Christopher Scott is Small Groups Pastor at Rocky Hilly Community Church in Exeter, CA. He has more than ten years of experience leading volunteers, running nonprofit programs, and teaching the Bible in small group settings. He holds a bachelor’s degree from Fresno Pacific University and master’s degree from Dallas Theological Seminary.

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