Christianity is founded on truth. An earnestness must accompany every person, class, church, or seminary that seeks to define and defend a sound theology. We must have a resolute determination to be God-honoring theologians. God is not properly glorified where He is not rightly known.
Everyone is a theologian. This is not to say that everyone is a good theologian. It only means that whenever someone asserts a truth about a topic dealt with in the Bible, they are stating a theological proposition. I assume most reading this article, however, are seeking to be good theologians. How can we study theology in the most faithful and fruitful manner?
Here are eighteen specifications on how we should study theology.
1. Scripturally. That’s to say that we derive our views of God and truth from the Bible. The Scriptures are the gateway to true knowledge of reality. Everything must be proven by the Word of God and proper interpretation of it. The Bible alone is authoritative in life and doctrine
2. Contextually. Our reception of the truth and our interpretation of biblical texts cannot be separated. To understand any passage, one must grasp what God was saying through the specific author to the specific recipient. In other words, the meaning of a given passage is determined by its context–literary and historical.
3. Grammatically. Some of you might be unconvinced on this point. I hope though that Andy Naselli’s statement on grammar might change your mind. He writes, “Grammer matters because God chose to reveal himself to us with grammar. So paying attention to grammar is a way to pay attention to God. The more accurately you understand grammar, the more accurately you can understand God.” Grammer guards the gospel. To understand a text is to understand how words and phrases relate to one another.
4. Biblically. More concretely, I mean we should to study biblical theology to be overall better theologians. Being aware of the major turning points of the biblical story will help to orient us on seeing the parts of Scripture in light of its whole. Biblical theology can be studied in different ways: a single book; a corpus; one of the Testaments. The discipline of biblical theology is helpful because it analyzes and synthesizes the whole Bible on its own terms. It is concerned with how the New Testament uses the Old Testament and how biblical themes progress canonically.
5. Systematically. Systematic theology seeks to discern how a topic or theme within a particular passage theological coheres with the whole Bible. The benefit of studying theology systematically is that it can address contemporary issues, make logical inferences, and identify doctrinal tensions because it can provide an accurate theological grid. For new students of the Bible, systematic theology can efficiently package what the whole Bible teaches.
6. Historically. We should consult faithful saints of old to see how they rendered passages and communicated truths. Historical theology gives us guardrails for orthodoxy. Before moving from exegesis to systematic theology, we should pause and consider how exegetes and theologians have understood the Bible and theology.