Biblical and Systematic Theology

My last three posts are examples of a church-history long debate. One on the merits and primacy of systematic theology verses biblical theology. (Being trained at a liberal seminary, I also recognize it as the way liberals pit bible passages against others)

Whether they realize it or not, most Christians and churches are always in the midst of this debate. It certainly isn’t new but it does have a new charge behind it now because of the increased interest in the discipline of biblical theology in America (as opposed to the systematic theology which has dominated reformed evangelicalism).

On one side are those who rightly charge that everyone has a framework and we are best to identify ours and line up with church history – through creeds (i.e. Athanasian), confessions (Westminster) and systems/movements (Arminianism, Calvinism, Pietism, etc). But repeated appeals to these in the place of the Bible have pushed people to the other side.

On that side are those who are fed up with labels and creeds and confessions and “just want the Bible”. Graeme Goldsworthy’s chapter one in According to Plan has a great treatment on how that is not enough.

I certainly won’t settle the issue. Many of you may come down quite differently than where you will infer I am from my previous posts.  Fair enough. I am an infant in exploring the complexities and interplay of both disciplines.

But, some good writing has been done on the issue.  Let me point you to some helpful books and resources on the topic.

New Dictionary of Biblical Theology has an article that is easy to find because it is titled “Systematic theology and biblical theology.”  Moreover, it was written by Don Carson who has spent much of his academic career wrestling with these issues.

Peter and Phillip Jensen’s articles in Preach the Word: Essays in honor of Kent Hughes.The Jensen brothers come from what many people call the homeland of modern reformed biblical theology (most known to North American readers because of Moore College and Graeme Goldsworthy). The Jensens offer a charge for a commitment to systematic and biblical theology for the sake of preaching and teaching the Bible.

Phillip Jensen and Paul Grimmond’s book The Archer and the Arrow. This book is not just a book for preachers. It is for anyone who wants to read the Bible and teach it faithfully. He includes specific discussion on the role of biblical and systematic theology.

The Themelios interchange between Carl Truman and Graeme Goldsworthy in 2002 is quite good. Two thoughtful and accomplished men discuss whether too much biblical theology is a bad thing.

Good preaching. In the end, the best way to learn to handle the Bible is to see/hear it being handled well.  Listen to good preachers who interweave biblical and systematic theology properly. Listen to preachers who keep your eyes in the text, show you the surprises, but teach you that the surprises are right in front of your eyes. We should be grateful and use God’s gift of technology to access such quality preaching.  The two guys I would point people to are Phillip Jensen and Vaughan Roberts.

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