Systematic vs. Biblical Theology

Discussion in '2000-02 Archive' started by Don, Nov 13, 2001.

  1. Don

    Don
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    Working on some studies, looking at systematic vs. biblical theology.

    In one section of the study material I'm using, we're encouraged to learn theology systematically; and later, we're encouraged to use biblical theology over systematic theology (caveat being, each has strengths, each has weaknesses).

    Definitions they're using are:

    biblical theology looks at context

    systematic theology puts theology in categories

    I've seen the term systematic theology used on this message board before, a few months back. I guess what I'm looking for from y'all is your thoughts on the different types of theological study, and why one form should be used over another.


    *** Don, please do not use Moderators, Administrators, or names of Members as a topic for your thread. I changed on this one to reflect the summary of your text, as it should be. If you want to get the attention of those people you listed then kindly send them a private message or email. Thank you. Barnabas [​IMG]

    [ November 13, 2001: Message edited by: Barnabas ]
     
  2. jmbertrand

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    Don,

    Biblical theology is interested in studying the diverse (but not divided) 'theologies' of the various books of the Bible. In the context of biblical theology, you might find yourself discussing Paul's theology, or John's. This work would, ideally, be closely based on exegesis. Systematic theology is concerned with making larger connections -- basically, "large-scale plot analysis." It should be based on the insight gained from exegesis and biblical theology. So rather than privileging one form of study over another, we should understand each as necessary to the best practice of the other.

    My guess is that a person who would argue in favor of biblical theology *against* systematic theology probably has an issue with the unity of Scripture -- i.e., they disagree that we can properly speak of a theology in Scripture, instead of rival 'theologies.' Some would go even farther, as Dietrich Ritschl does in THE LOGIC OF THEOLOGY, and argue that even biblical theology is not possible, since it presupposes a systematic intent with a particular book.

    Anyway, I hope this is helpful....

    Mark
    [email protected]
     
  3. Don

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    Actually, as I said, the individual who defined systematic theology (in this regard) defined it as placing theology into categories, or even topics.

    His emphasis was placing the Bible in context, whether that be each verse, passage, chapter, book, or even the Bible itself.

    I'm not actually defending him. I see your point about using both, and can see the inherent "danger" with fixating on only one method.

    The Ritschl book sounds interesting; I'll see if I can find that somewhere....
     
  4. Chris Temple

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    Actually, biblical theology is an attempt to determine theology via the Bible, without the necessity of a presupposed system. The father fo this movement was Geerhardus Vos
    (1862-1949):"To take God as source and end of all that exists and happens, and to hold such a view suffused with warmth of genuine devotion, stands not only related to theology as the fruit stands to the tree: it is by reason of its essence a veritable theological tree of life."
    (The Pauline Eschatology, p. 61)

    See
    Biblical Theology and Redemptive Historical Hermeneutics and FAQs

    [ November 14, 2001: Message edited by: Chris Temple ]
     
  5. Pastor Larry

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    <BLOCKQUOTE>quote:</font><HR>Originally posted by Chris Temple:
    biblical theology is an attempt to determine theology via the Bible, without the necessity of a presupposed system.<HR></BLOCKQUOTE>

    This seems a bit misrepresentative. Systematic theology is not an attempt to determine theology without the Bible as might be inferred from your statement. ST is not about determining theology per se. It is about correlation of the truth. If we believe in the unity of God, then we believe that he only gave one truth system. Therefore, all truth must correlate together. ST is that correlation of truth. Biblical theology runs the risk of isolationism -- isolating one text from the large corpus of revelation. It then runs the risk of coming to a conclusion that is clearly contradictory. Chris, you should know as well as anyone that a doctrine like the OV of God is a demonstration of the weakness of biblical theology. If you do not correlate, you come up with unbiblical positions. To me, biblical theology without systematic theology is useless; a good systematic theology necessarily grows from a right biblical theology.

    Let me hasten to add that some view ST as proof-texting or as a philosophical system. ST rightly done considers each verse in its context and then places it in the appropriate theological category or categories.
     
  6. Don

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    <BLOCKQUOTE>quote:</font><HR>Biblical theology runs the risk of isolationism -- isolating one text from the large corpus of revelation.<HR></BLOCKQUOTE>Indeed, Pastor Larry, that was one of the weaknesses listed (in my studies) of biblical theology. The other two being, but also related, that a person runs the risk of accepting one author while excluding another (placing emphasis on Isaiah while de-emphasizing Joel, for instance); and forgetting the "dual authorship" of the Bible (i.e., getting so caught up in Isaiah that we forget the second author of that book: God).

    Now, I know I'm going to get into systematic theology more later in the studies I'm taking; in the meantime, can y'all explain a little more about "doing ST 'right'"?

    For instance, the statement "ST rightly done considers each verse in its context and then places it in the appropriate theological category or categories" seems to presuppose that there are certain theological categories already in place; in my feeble mind, it seems like a better stance to say that we systematically look at verses, passages, etc. and determine if they're related to other verses, passages, etc., and develop categories that way.
     
  7. Pastor Larry

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    <BLOCKQUOTE>quote:</font><HR>Originally posted by Don:
    For instance, the statement "ST rightly done considers each verse in its context and then places it in the appropriate theological category or categories" seems to presuppose that there are certain theological categories already in place; in my feeble mind, it seems like a better stance to say that we systematically look at verses, passages, etc. and determine if they're related to other verses, passages, etc., and develop categories that way.<HR></BLOCKQUOTE>

    You are absolutely right. I did not mean to imply otherwise. At the present, ST is divided into essentially ten (I think) categories though some have others: Bibliology, Theology Proper, Angelogy, Pneumatology, Anthropology, Christology, Hamartiology, Soteriology, Ecclesiology, and Eschatology.

    I may have missed one here. I am going off the top of my head. The categories have been developed over time but they are not imposed on Scripture as much as they are taken out of Scripture. IN looking at a verse in context, we are seeing how it relates to other verses and categorizing it with those verses. Then we attempt to define the relationship between all the verses on a given topic.
     
  8. Chris Temple

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    I was neither endorsing nor condemning BT, nor trying to misrepresent anything. I was merely trying to articulate what the professors of BT mean by it. Vos was very conservative, not like OVs, and probably the site I noted could explain it better than I could.
     
  9. Pastor Larry

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    <BLOCKQUOTE>quote:</font><HR>Originally posted by Chris Temple:
    I was neither endorsing nor condemning BT, nor trying to misrepresent anything. I was merely trying to articulate what the professors of BT mean by it. Vos was very conservative, not like OVs, and probably the site I noted could explain it better than I could.<HR></BLOCKQUOTE>

    Good enough ... just wasn't sure.
     
  10. Don

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    Crimeny.

    Now, as some of y'all know, I'm not nearly as smart as I'd like to think I am.

    I'm gonna have to chew on all of this for a while, especially seeing as the course of study I'm going through doesn't seem to address any of these particular areas of ST.
     

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