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Stated Question: «What are your thoughts? Is there an important role for the discipline of systematic theology? What does it look like to do systematics well?»
As a new believer, my first book besides the Bible was Norman Geisler's Systematic Theology (ST) vol.1. This tome was probably the most influential book in mylife outside of sacred Scripture. Why is that? As a non-Christian who was new to the world of the Bible, ST gave me logical categories inwhich I could understand the Bible. When I read the Gospel of Matthew for the first time at the age of 16, I understood, based upon the doctrine of Scripture contained in Geisler's volume, that the authors wrote from different perspectives to make a point. I also could note that Jesus had an high view of OT Scripture himself and we ought to also because He did. Given at the time, I had no doctrine of the Church (this was back in the early 2000s before 9 marks became popular lol) nor sunday school so ST helped me read my bible better. I had no catechical instruction, so ST provided it for me. Because that is all what ST is: in depth catechism.
Of course, the downside is that you come to scriptures (as I did) with preconceived notions of right and wrong and it is not arrived from the text. However, we are all born into a certain culture and context and thus it is unavoidable. Noone just reads the Bible. ST gives us a guide to keep us within the bounds of Orthodoxy. I look forward to reading Horton's and I pray it will serve some 15 year old in a similar way that Dr. Geisler's served me!

We all do systematic theology as believers, whether we call it that or not. Far better that we actually study the different views inside the Faith and determine which one is best supported by the Scriptures. Wayne Grudems ST opened my eyes wide to many truths I had not seen (or that were blurry) in the Bible. Just got Horton's in yesterday so look forward to comparing the two books.

In the wrong hands, "theology" becomes a method of negating the obvious, but objectionable, texts of scripture.

In the right hands, it provides a way to get at the meaning of a text based on other, related texts.

Is there an important role for the discipline of systematic theology?

Answer: Yes. It helps indoctrinate Christians to the teachings of the faith in a orderly, progressive and indepth way. This way Christians can both share what they believe, why they believe and to defend their faith.

What does it look like to do systematics well?

It looks like Christians who can do evangelism well. They will be able to share the gospel to both the religious and pagan in an effective way.

It looks like Christians who are equipped to do apologetics to give a ready and for those who ask them for the hope that they have. They will be able to show why a relationship with God through faith in Jesus is better than being a part of religion or joining a cult.

It looks like Christians who serve God out of a pure heart motivated by a love for God out of knowing Him better. By knowing Him...the Christian will know His heart for those who are in need.

It looks like Christians who worship the Godhead in the Church He sent His Son to purchase with His own blood. They will walk in the Spirit resisting the devil from influencing them. They will fellowship with other saints in the Church with love, holiness righteousness and purity.

Systematic theology done well will have a proper balance of orthodoxy with orthopraxy.

The first several commenters have it right, there is no such thing as not having a systematic theology, everyone organizes the Bible thematically in their head. Therefore the important question is, how best can we do systematic theology? I'm keen to hear people's thoughts.

I wonder...
In some sense every discipline has its systematics. Whether systematic theology, systematic biology, systematic anthropology, all disciplines are sequentially ordered within a framework from which to understand the subject. I suspect it's not merely for heuristic or pedagogical ends, but as image bearers we have imprinted upon our rational human faculties a sense of orderliness, symmetry, design.

Just thinking.....discursively that is (wink)

I think you effectively articulated the problem of systematic theology when you said, "Often I feel like the constructs of systematics do violence to the texts to make them all speak with one voice." and I think you succinctly articulated its value when you said, "All of us end up constructing a big picture, an overarching narrative of what the Bible is saying and where the Story is going, so we may as well wrestle with that picture and try to shape it well."

I have taught both writing and philosophy, and in both instances I have told students that it is deeply human to make meaning, to somehow synthesize the various domains and bits of information we receive into some kind of larger picture or coherent narrative. Systematic theology is the formal discipline that embodies this impulse, and as other commenters have indicated, we already on some informal level do systematically theology when we read the Scriptures and attempt to make sense of it for our lives. This being the case, a formal approach, one that is methodologically conscientious and thereby remains sensitive to the challenges of constructing a coherent picture from biblical texts, will be more nuanced and attentive to the limits of the constructive process. It will help believers be more aware of points of tension and perhaps ameliorate uncritical dogmatism, while at the same time allowing them to passionately uphold convictions that are central to the Christian faith.

Yeah, brother, I resonate with your lament of the trajectory that systematic theology has often (always!) taken. A few thoughts...

For me, if there is indeed a God Who has chosen to communicate with/to us through a body of literature that effectively reveals what He wants us to know about Him, His world, and ourselves, then we should approach it very seriously..it should be our starting point and foundation (it is for me).

However, as I read the Bible I see that it is not a texbook or encyclopedia...it is literature...a tapestry of snapshots of God and His actions. There is a certain 'unevenness' (for lack of better word) that requires careful thought and analysis and an eventual 're-construction' into a whole of what it is that God wants me to 'get' and to put into practice today. And that is where a Systematic Theology that is good and wise and appropriately implemented begins.

@Jgrig2 - Thanks for sharing your story. As a book marketer, I love to hear about how books positively influence people. :-)

@Paul Adams - I agree with you. It's within our God-created minds to want to create order out of what we don't understand. I would add that another benefit to Systematic Theology is that with it we attempt to do synthesize even the incomprensible mysteries that we can't fully understand this side of Heaven (i.e. the Trinity).

AR with Z Academic

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