Five Reasons to Dust Off a Theology Book

Frequently I encourage my congregation to pick up a theology book and to slowly work through it.

Reading a good systematic theology will help you to know God. Systematic theologies are filled with biblical references and teach the reader how to connect the proverbial dots in the Word of God. This practice, for the believer, will aid in devotion to and in contemplation of the God of the Bible.

 

“What are your working on?”

“My latest Gentle Reformation article.”

“What’s it about?”

“Why to read systematic theology.”

“Ugh.”

True story.

Really.

Recently I started reading a set of books that have been on my shelves for years. Francis Turretin’s Institutes of Elenctic Theology is a massive tome of over 2300 pages laid out in three hefty volumes. I had read parts of the book—even large parts—while in seminary, but I wanted to dig deeper and to learn more from Turretin, so here we are. I am half way through the second volume after 2 months of slow reading.

Frequently I encourage my congregation to pick up a theology book and to slowly work through it. Why would I encourage them to that end? What is the value of a dusty old theology book to the average worshiper of God? I believe there are several reasons that you should get your hands on a good sound systematic theology, and I am going to share five of them with you.

Knowing What You Believe

Many reformed Christians know a lot about theology and about the Bible. But why do you know that? When I was a young Christian, the woman that led me to the Lord was fond of saying, “You don’t believe anything unless you own it.” Can you say that you own what you believe, or have you merely inherited a system of Christian belief? Working through a good and recommended systematic theology will aid in you understanding what you believe and more importantly, help you to know why you believe it. Recently my 14 year-old daughter was having a conversation about multiplication and telling her hearer why something times zero is zero. Truthfully (disclosure: If you know me, I am not a math guy), I had never questioned it—I only knew that zero times something is zero. Reading a systematic theology will help you along those lines—what do I believe and why? Even if you disagree with the conclusion on a point, it will help you to better understand the position and help you to be able to articulate the why. Know what you believe.

Knowing God

Secondly, and of primary importance in the Christian life, reading a good systematic theology will help you to know God. Systematic theologies are filled with biblical references and teach the reader how to connect the proverbial dots in the Word of God. This practice, for the believer, will aid in devotion to and in contemplation of the God of the Bible. This may be something that is, as my old seminary professor was fond of saying, “better felt than telt” so I would encourage you to pick up a well-loved systematic theology to help you to know God in ways that you have yet to know him.

Defending the Faith

Peter tells us to always be ready to give an answer for the hope that is within us. That goes beyond knowing the Bible stories. When you begin to fill your mind with the renewed riches and depth of Christian doctrine, you will be better equipped at sharing the gospel with your neighbors as well as talking through some of the ethical questions of the day—all from the teaching of God’s Word. This is true for the student in the classroom and the mother in the home and the father at the office—or any other combination thereof. Systematic theology will bring you in contact with answers to questions that your post-Christian neighbors have about your faith and why it is that you believe certain truths.

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