I don’t know if you’re anything like me, but there are some words that often get tossed around in Christian circles that can easily intimidate me. I’ve often heard these words described as “Christianese”—terms or phrases that are used by many Christians yet sound completely foreign to outsiders, almost as if the believers who use such terms are speaking a different language.
Early in my faith, this included words like sanctification, justification, and even grace, for example. And for a long time, it also included the phrase systematic theology.
To me, any mention of systematic theology sounded inherently complex, confusing—and probably not worth my time to try to figure out. But in recent years, I’ve become more and more interested in the topic of systematic theology. And the more time I have invested into learning about systematic theology, the more I can feel myself growing deeper in my understanding of who God is and what He has done.
So, if you’re curious to learn more about systematic theology but are intimidated by the prospect, here are a few things to keep in mind.
What Is Systematic Theology?
Simply defined, theology is the study of God—who He is and what He has done. There are several different types of theology (including biblical, historical, and practical theology), but in this blog post, we will specifically focus on systematic theology.
How is systematic theology different from the other approaches? In short, systematic theology takes an orderly, systematic approach to the study of God. It looks at specific topics across the entirety of God’s Word to help us develop a robust, biblical understanding of that topic. Good systematic theology flows directly from God’s Word and helps us apply the truths we learn from Scripture to our everyday lives.
Some (but certainly not all) of the different topics studied within systematic theology include Christology (the study of Jesus Christ), soteriology (the study of salvation), ecclesiology (the study of the Church), and eschatology (the study of the end times).
Why Does Systematic Theology Matter?
While it might be easy to assume systematic theology is only really important for pastors and theologians, this couldn’t be further from the truth! In fact, everyone—yes, everyone—has a theology, even if they don’t realize it. This is because everyone has some sort of fundamental belief about God. Even an atheist has a theology because even an atheist holds deeply-held beliefs about God—even if those beliefs are that God does not exist and thus has no relevance for daily life.
A. W. Tozer describes this phenomenon by writing, “Every man lives by faith, the nonbeliever as well as the saint; the one by faith in natural laws and the other by faith in God.” Because we all place our faith in something, we all live with some sort of functional theology.
Taking this a step further, R. C. Sproul writes, “It is not a question of whether we are going to engage in theology; it is a question of whether our theology is sound or unsound.” I don’t know about you, but I don’t want to leave my understanding of God and His Word unexamined. I don’t want my theology to be unsound! Instead, I want to know what I believe and why I believe it. And systematic theology helps us do just that. It gives us a structured approach to understanding and applying the truths of Scripture.
What’s more, our study of systematic theology is not merely an intellectual pursuit—it has practical applications for our everyday lives. This is because what we believe about God and His creation affects not only our understanding of the Bible but also how we treat other people. It affects the way we worship. It shapes our thoughts, our actions, our desires, and our choices. It speaks to our vocations and relationships, our finances and our decision-making. Systematic theology is not just about acquiring knowledge about various religious topics; systematic theology helps us learn how to love God and live faithfully in the world He has created.
Truly, systematic theology is for everyone—not just the pastor or the theologian but also the college student, the stay-at-home mom, the business executive, and the barista. Systematic theology is for us all.
Systematic Theology: A Worthy Pursuit
So, as we set out to grow in our love for God and His Word, let us not be intimidated by big “Christianese” words like systematic theology. Instead, let us see the value in taking an orderly, systematic approach to understanding God’s character and purposes—His plan for the world and for our individual lives. It is a worthy pursuit, and it is for you, whether you feel equipped to engage in it or not.
God desires for us to know Him—indeed, that is why He has given us His Holy Word. So let us study it with great joy as we come to better understand who He is and all that He has done.
Recommended Resources for Further Study
Are you ready to take the plunge into learning more about systematic theology? The Theology Handbook from The Daily Grace Co.® is a great place to start! This reference book covers a wide variety of topics within systematic theology, presenting each concept in a way that is easy to understand and apply to our everyday lives.
Some other resources on systematic theology you might find helpful include:
- Everyone’s a Theologian: An Introduction to Systematic Theology by R. C. Sproul
- The Knowledge of the Holy by A. W. Tozer
- Systematic Theology: An Introduction to Biblical Doctrine by Wayne Grudem