In my first post I defined systematic theology as “the organized study of God and His relationship to humans and the world,” and in my second post I listed the major doctrines or areas of study that comprise systematic theology. Implied in those posts is that it is important for us to know what the Bible says about those doctrines.
The systematic theology that my family and I are reading, Wayne Grudem’s Systematic Theology, is more explicit. It argues that to fulfill the Great Commission we need to know systematic theology. Here is what Jesus commanded the eleven and thus us to do in that commission: “Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. And behold, I am with you always to the end of the age.” (Matthew 28:19-20, ESV).
Grudem explains that for us to teach “all that I have commanded you” involves not only knowing what the Gospels record of Jesus’ oral teaching but also the Old Testament which Jesus assumed his listeners knew and what he would reveal to them later through the Holy Spirit and they would record in the rest of the New Testament.
Sure we could learn what the Bible teaches about a doctrine by reading through the Bible to see what it says about the doctrine instead of by studying systematic theology. But suppose I want to know what it says about spiritual gifts. If I were to start at Genesis 1:1, I’d have to read a long time before I’d find the answer in 1 Corinthians 12-14. It’d be much easier if I could refer to what a systematic theology says about them.
In his Systematic Theology Grudem suggests some additional benefits to us of studying systematic theology:
– It helps us to overcome the wrong ideas that we may have acquired through our reading of parts of the Bible or from others.
– It helps us to make better decisions on questions of doctrine that we may meet later.
– It helps us to grow as Christians.
– It helps us to distinguish between major doctrines, doctrines that we should seek agreement on, and minor doctrines, doctrines which we may differ on.