Systematic Theology 1: Introduction

Posted by Worldview Warriors On Friday, January 6, 2023 0 comments

by Charlie Wolcott

These days if someone hears of systematic theology and knows what it is, R.C. Sproul will likely come to mind. For the longest time, I would hear the term “systematic theology” and not knowing what it was, I would be thinking “boring seminary junk.” However, let me be clear: you cannot do the Christian life without doing theology. Some may say, “I don’t have a religion, I have a relationship.” Guess what? That relationship requires theology – studying and knowing God. For more on why to study theology, check out this blog post that introduced Katie Erickson’s series on systematic theology.

My first exposure to systematic theology was Todd Friel and Steven Lawson’s series called “Drive by Theology.” It is basically 36 twenty-minute sessions about the major categories of systematic theology. Then I heard R.C. Sproul’s 60-session teachings on systematic theology. And it’s not this giant monster that people tend to think it is. Systematic theology is simply the major “systems” or “themes” that are seen throughout the Bible. Depending on who organizes them, there are perhaps ten major units to systematic theology.

Bibliology: The study of the origins, authority, and transmission of Scripture
Theology Proper: The study of God the Father
Christology: The study of God the Son, Jesus Christ
Pneumatology: The study of God the Holy Spirit
Anthropology: The study of mankind and the identity of man
Hamartiology: The study of sin – its effects, nature, and causes
Soteriology: The study of salvation
Ecclesiology: The study of the church
Angelology: The study of angels and demons
Eschatology: The study of the end times

One that that greatly surprised me about this list: Creation, or Cosmology, is not on the list. Eric Ludy included it on his list of seven in his sermon “Christophany,” but he was listing seven debate points that have a tendency of missing the central focus: Jesus Christ. He also included some terms he made up such as “Sabbathology” (the study of the Sabbath day of rest), “Ettiquitology” (the study of etiquette – moral appearance and clothing) and “Powerology” (gifts of the Spirit including speaking in tongues).

In my personal studies, I have seen creation being completely foundational to every other doctrine, where every single statement about the faith has some root or foreshadow laid down in Genesis. I have heard many preachers make such comments, but to this day, I have not heard or or read any study that actually goes through each of the major doctrines or tenets of the faith to showcase the critical role that Genesis plays. So, I’m working on writing a book that goes through the Apostles Creed and Nicene Creed statements and showcases where those have their foundation in Genesis. Worldview Warriors Publishing is aiming to release that book in summer 2023.

In March 2022, The Master’s University launched The Math3ma Institute Journal, which is a full peer-reviewed journal that intends to showcase both science and theology together. The opening article is from Dr. Abner Chao titled “The Queen of the Sciences: Reclaiming the Rightful Place of Theology and Creation.” In this article, Chao showcases the rightful place of theology, creation, Scripture’s revelation, what general revelation actually is, and what man’s knowledge is. It’s a spectacular way of saying the things I’ve been trying to say all along, however he really nailed it when he went through all ten of these systematic theology categories and in one paragraph each, addressing what happened when one gets creation wrong and how it will lead to getting the rest of it wrong.

So, over the next ten weeks, I am going to look at each of these ten major systems, or categories, of central theological topics that are covering throughout the Bible and are central to Christian thought. Why Creation is left out might be because Creation had never been attacked prior to the development of these “systems” (Sproul did not come up with them; he’s just the most well-known teacher of them) and/or because the doctrines of Creation are so intertwined with each of these systems that all ten still cover creation when properly and deeply enough explored.

Another thing I will emphasize is how often all these topics overlap. That’s one thing I love about the Bible. It releases bits and pieces of each doctrine to the point where you cannot ignore or remove even a single verse without affecting something else or in best case scenario, at least having that teaching echoed elsewhere. Never is a single doctrine taught in only one place.

The systems of systematic theology are basically major themes through which we can examine the faith and doctrines and teachings. They give us a structure in how to do our studies and to help keep us on track. Through this series, I simply want to help us with the core structures of the Bible and Christianity because when we understand these systems properly, as much as our finite minds can handle, we will be able to discern true and false doctrines as they come in and out from both friendly and unfriendly sources.

We’ll start by examining Bibliology because one thing Todd Friel pointed out is that in nearly every creed or confession of church history, they always started with the Bible and drew every statement and tenet from Scripture. If we do not give the Bible the place it deserves, we will drift off to who knows where, but it won’t be the truth. And do not be deceived; many profess to believe the Bible when they most certainly do not. That is why Jesus was far more interested in obedience to the Word, not just hearing it. Tune in next week.

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