Tuesday, August 25, 2009

Theological Reflections - why I don't like systematic theology

Well a whole summer has passed since I last posted, so I'm not sure if anyone reads this anymore. If you are looking for up to date information and important discussions on topics like "what's on John's mind right now" (that's a joke) I regularly post low-thought updates on my facebook page. But I am am going to make a quasi-valiant effort to get back to posting on this site.

I am attempting to post a series of theological reflections. I have no idea how long this series will last. The subject matter (God) is infinite and therefore the limiting factors will be not the lack of things to ponder but my ability or lack thereof to ponder them coupled with my lack of discipline.

I ask you to please challenge me and interact with what I post as much as possible. Hopefully this will be a fruitful journey for us all.

The idea for this series comes from my realization that I feel like systematic theology is one of the weakest areas of my life. There are probably many reasons for this but here are a few I could think of:

1. All systematic theologies have an inherent bias in them. The Bible is not a systematic theology book. Systematic theology requires the filter of a human mind and therefore can and most likely will have fallibilities in them. Wading through the muck of the author's presuppositions can often be daunting.

2. There is a strong temptation when studying theology to make it only academic. Every fiber of my being loathes studying just for studying's sake (although I too often fall into that trap). For that reason I have tended to deemphasize systematic theology. I remember being frustrated in seminary when the practical things I was experiencing in inner city ministry didn't seem to find a place in the systematic theology syllabus we were being taught. Part of that I believe was the personal bias' and perspectives of the professors who were not concerned/exposed to the issues of the inner city. Most of it was my failure to convert orthodoxy into orthopraxy.

3. I love expository preaching/studying. I have strong convictions that the expository method is the best and most faithful way to understand and explain the Word of God. Systematic theology done bad has all of the pitfalls of a bad topical sermon, namely taking verses out of context and eisegesis.

4. The Bible is not a systematic theology textbook, and I really like the Bible.

5. Systematic thinking is very much a western concept. Does that make it necessary for understanding and living out the truth of Scripture?

6. Good systematic theology books are huge and I am a lazy, slow reader.

7. I prefer reading narratives to didactic writing.

Well that's it for now
Next up: What I like about systematic theology and why I think it is essential

Shalom in Jesus

1 comment:

BeholdCamels2463 said...

Here comes a comment from someone who loves Systematic Theology. So, my bias being out in the open, I would give a couple thoughts to counter what you've said.
1. Systematic Theology is in a sense expository as long as we lot the texts inform us on the topic, and not the topic determine our texts. And also as long as we include all relevant texts on the topic.

2. In a sense, New Testament authors would do Systematic theology by using several verses from different places in the Old Testament to support their arguments. (Like Hebrews 1 on the supremacy of Christ).

3. Systematic Theologies done rightly can help us overcome our biases. We have a tendency to be blind to areas we do not like in the Bible when reading through a narrative. But when we see that same issue addressed over and over in many places in Scripture it opens our eyes to see the clarity of something that seemed obscure to us before. In my view, this commonly happens with understanding God's sovereignty.

Love you John. I need to grow in my ability to follow through a text and get what the author/Author is doing, as I tend towards Systematic Theology.