Systematic theology

Replies: Read your classmates’ threads and post a reply to at least 2 other classmates’ threads (200–250 words) by 11:59 p.m. (ET) on Sunday of Module/Week 2. Provide thoughtful analysis and evaluation of the threads. Also, make sure you interact theologically and critically to the posts.

Using the definition of systematic theology given by B. A. Demarest in Elwell’s Evangelical Dictionary of Theology, explain how it relates to 3 other disciplines of theology: biblical theology, historical theology, and philosophical theology. Which of the four approaches is the most important in your current or future ministry context?

According to B. A. Demarest, in Elwell’s Evangelical Dictionary of Theology, systematic theology is defined as: “An integrating discipline that studies how the church may bear enduring, timely, and truthful—that is wise—witness to the Triune God revealed in Jesus Christ.” (Elwell, 853-855)  With regards to biblical theology, the emphasis is on “pursuing historical and literary understanding of Scripture’s parts and whole.” (Elwell, 855)  According to Erikson, the natural, necessary, movement of theology must be “exegesis—biblical theology—systematic theology,” in identifying that biblical theology is the necessary second step towards systematic theology. (Erikson, 53)  With regards to historical theology, is concerned with “detailed interpretation of texts and Christian history on one hand, and doctrinal integration on the other.” (Elwell, 855)

With regards to philosophical theology, the idea is that philosophers utilize philosophical methods, in an academic discipline, to analyze and evaluate religious beliefs. This is a distinct discipline from systematic or dogmatic theology.  (Elwell, 665-667)  Of the identified approaches relating to systematic theology, the most important or applicable discipline, as it relates to my current or possible future ministry context is systematic theology, as an integrating discipline (with exegesis and biblical theology as prerequisites).  As opposed to taking a more specific approach, systematic theology will likely be more practically useful to me, in that it appears to be more universal and general in its application.

As Elwell aptly identifies, “Theological disciplines are better treated as opportunities for spiritual discernment than as discrete scholarly guilds,” and thus will likely be best utilized, for me, as I go forward as differing lenses for approach to the same significant theological questions.  (Elwell, 855) Although the pursuit of knowledge, especially as it pertains to biblical discussion, for its own sake, is a worthwhile endeavor, I think translation of this knowledge, discerned through these various disciples, to practical actions, be it evangelical, missionary, or other, will probably be the most applicable significance in my life.  As identified by Paul, however, “See to it that no one takes you captive through hollow and deceptive philosophy, which depends on human tradition and the elemental spiritual forces of this world rather than on Christ.” (Col 2:8 in Elwell, 665)

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