I love Systematic Theology. Seriously, I read the stuff for pleasure. Systematic Theology has been my most favorite classes, conversations, and lessons to teach. I have seen Systematic FIRE UP students, but I’ve also seen it tear down relationships. Here are some thoughts on “Do Not Teach Students Systematic Theology If…”
First of all, we must answer the question, “What is Systematic Theology?” Think of playing a sport. Sports is not all about the game, but also includes practices. During those practices, coaches will separate out positions from one another to focus on their roles. The same can happen in an orchestra or band as the leader separates out instruments into proper sections for more intentional focus. In the same way, Systematic Theology is the separating out of Christian doctrines from the Scriptures to focus on them individually.
Just like in sports, the point of the separation in practice is for the unity of the team during the game. In music, the point of the separation is the harmony during the performance. In Systematic Theology, we must remember that the point of the separation is ultimately for the unity and harmony of all truth in Scripture that plays its part perfectly together display the glory of the Gospel. Do not teach students Systematic Theology if you do not wish to bring it back all together for the sake of the Gospel!
I’m going to be honest and say I’m guilty of thinking “If God would have written the Bible more as a Systematic Theology textbook, it would be more understandable and the church would be much better off!” Do not teach students Systematic Theology if it comes across as the highest or deepest truth to understand. We must remember that while all Scripture is breathed out by God, Systematic Theology is a man-made system. In His infinite wisdom, God certainly could have written His Word in the form of a Systematic text. God had a much more grand plan than a text book. Instead, God wrote us a storybook that ultimately points us to the glory of His Son, Jesus. So please, do not teach students Systematic Theology if every lesson, session, or doctrine doesn’t ultimately point to the person and work of Jesus!
The best way to understand Systematic Theology is by first and foremost having a solid grasp of the Storyline of Scripture which is called Biblical Theology. While Systematic Theology separates out truths for the sake of understanding doctrines, Biblical Theology journeys through the Storyline of Scripture to understand God’s reiteration of Gospel-centered interpretation. Do not teach students Systematic Theology without a grasp or priority on Biblical Theology in your student ministry.
Let me finish where I began. I ABSOLUTELY LOVE SYSTEMATIC THEOLOGY! I believe it is a phenomenal man-made system of understanding doctrine in a deeper way. But please, do not teach systematic theology to students if:
- You do not wish to bring it back all together for the sake of the Gospel.
- Every lesson, session, or doctrine doesn’t ultimately point to the person and work of Jesus.
- A grasp or priority on Biblical Theology is absent in your ministry.
- It does not create a deeper love for Jesus and others in ministry.
- It leads to more arguments and division rather than affection and unity.
- It does not lead your students to multiply in disciple making.
- It does not drive your students to missional living.
- It does not drive your students to serve in the church and build up the body of Christ.
- It does not lead your students to a more faithful life of following Jesus.
- It does not deepen your students faith to live for Jesus in more audacious ways.
With all that said, I’m teaching a group of students Systematic Theology this spring. My prayer is that this study will accomplish all 10 things above. I write this article to hold myself accountable to how I teach my students Systematic Theology. May it lead to a love for Jesus, the Gospel, the Scriptures, believers, the lost, making disciples, missional living, and the church (which I believe it was designed to do).