Systematic vs. Biblical Theology

Systematic vs. Biblical Theology

Systematic theology is a method that pulls Scriptures from across the Bible into organized topical categories. Biblical theology seeks to summarize the teaching of a biblical author or text without imposing systematic categories on the text of Scripture by allowing it to speak for itself in its’ original context separate from contemporary concerns. Christian students of the Bible will use both theological methods. The question is: Which should hold precedent?

At present, I am 50 years of age, have been a Christian since age 19, and have been teaching and preaching through books of the Bible as a senior pastor since age 25. I hold biblical theology in higher regard than systematic theology and have tried to come to my convictions by studying books of the Bible in detail and examining Scriptures in their context. Admittedly, a biblical theological method will result in systematic theological convictions.

The problem with every systematic theological tradition is that the Bible does not neatly fit our categories and each team has to emphasize some Scriptures, and minimize or explain away others, to make everything fit because the Bible is a lot less tidy than some Bible teachers. God, it seems, likes to remind us that, “our knowledge is partial and incomplete” (1 Corinthians 13:9 NLT) since “Now we see things imperfectly, like puzzling reflections in a mirror, but then we will see everything with perfect clarity. All that I know now is partial and incomplete, but then I will know everything completely, just as God now knows me completely.” (1 Corinthians 13:12 NLT)

The reason all of this matters is because we want to search the Scriptures to learn what God says, not make the Scriptures say what we want. The ancient craft of origami is known for its ability to keep folding a page of paper until it is turned into something entirely different. Sadly, some people treat pages of the Bible in a similar fashion and we all have this temptation when we find teachings we do not like and wish were different. For this reason, humility is key to approaching the Bible so that when we disagree, we assume we are wrong, and when we do not understand, we trust the One who does.

Why is it important to be familiar with the Bible and use it as the foundation for everything in our lives?

This is an excerpt from Pastor Mark’s Romans 8-9 commentary Duck Duck Doom. You can get a free e-book copy by clicking here or get a physical copy for a gift of any amount during the month of March here.

To find the new, free Romans 6-11 digital study guide for individuals and small groups, hear Pastor Mark’s entire sermon series on Romans, or find a free mountain of Bible teaching visit or download the Real Faith app.

Mark Driscoll
[email protected]