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Christian Belief

ST outline

Systematic Theology Outline.

Introduction to Christian Theology.

The purpose of this course is to set the scene theologically for a life long study of the greatest story ever told i.e. the Gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ. It is the desire of the editor to provide a basic understanding of the nature of theology and what is meant by and included in Systematic Theology.

Various definitions and meanings can be given to an understanding of what Systematic Theology really is but it will surfice to say that it is the comprehension of the whole of the Christian Faith and its arrangement in an orderly way.

The various subjects in Christian Theology are closely connected with each other and arise from each other and so the argurment moves logically forward. This will be seen more clearly as we proceed in our investigation into this great and glorious faith that we call Christian. 

This introductry section will tackle some of the important issues that need to be clearly understood as our adventure of faith, our pursuit of knowledge and understanding becomes the solid ground for present and future ministry.

There is no subsitute for "rightly dividing the word of Truth." That being the case, guess work is not the order of the day for ministry nor the pursuing of a pet theme. As Christians workers no matter what role we have, to commuicate the message delivered by God in Christ to this world and revealed to us in the word of God, calls us to meditate upon it day and night.

If we are unclear as to what God is saying about Himself, His purposes for His created order, how can we ever communicate with clarity. In the light of that we begin this series of studies with six important facts that we need to reflect upon.

1.The necessity of Theology.

       The study of theology is important, many people say I`m not a theologian nor am I interested in doctrine. That for me is a contradiction in terms, for as soon as I begin to share my Christian faith in what ever form that might take, I am teaching theology and doctrine, for I am communicating how I understand God, his will and purposes in my life.

So theology is not only important but imperative that I have a balanced understanding of Biblical truth. The teaching of the Bible has to be discovered, systematized and clarified by comparison of scripture with scripture.

Great Christian Saints and Scholars throughout the centuries have given the fruit of their thought and devotion in their own interpretation of the Scripture and this great treasure house of knowledge cannot be ignored.

We cannot ignore the foundations that have been already laid, neither is it likely that the basic doctrines of the Christian faith that have stood the test of centuries of thinking, can be overthrown in this generation.

There will be some Christians who believed that the knowledge of Christ as a personal saviour is all that is required and that doctrines, dogmas and creeds are unnecessary. This is clearly an untenable position. We cannot teach anyone anything about Christ without stating our beliefs and our beliefs are the doctrines, dogmas and creeds. To be able to help others we must be able to state our beliefs clearly.

The whole matter is well illustrated in "Beyond Personality" by C.S.Lewis. Lewis tells the story of a RAF officer who approached him with these words.

" I`ve little use for all that stuff. But mind you, I`m a religious man too. I know there`s a God. I`ve felt him; out alone in the desert at night; the tremendous mystery. And that`s why I don`t believe in all your nice little dogmas and formulas about him. To anyone who has met the real thing they all seem so petty and pedantic and unreal."

C.S.Lewis goes on to explain that there was partial truth in what the man said and that experience and theology are like the sight of the Aglantic and a map of it. The map seems so much less real than the thrill of seeing its waves and expanse. But the map is based on the experience and thrills of thousands who have sailed the real Aglantic. The map fits all the glimpses. You don`t need the map while you walk on the beach but you won`t get far across the Aglantic without it.

Doctrines and theology are like the map. They are based on all the experiences of the past which you cannot afford to neglect. You need them to advance further and to guide others in their advance.

Those who want to understand their faith and who wish to teach others must, to some extent, be theologians. To profess to teach others and yet to disclaim interest in and knowledge of theology is to be false to our calling.

It was this kind of attitude that stirred a certain person to remark that the next time he heard a minister say, "of course, I`m not a theologian" he would reply " then you`re no more use to me than a doctor who isn`t medically trained."

Therefore, theology is important for two reasons, firstly, to enable us to systematise the truths of scripture and to sort out the various teaching. Secondly, to produce clarity of thought for our own good and to enable us to teach others.

Theology is practical and the result of experience. Samuel Chadwich once said that, "Experience does not wait for theology, but theology is the inevitable result of experience." Theology is also based on the scriptures and so it is necessary to continually relate our theological study to the study of the bible and to our lives.

Theology is a difficult study which needs careful thought and concentration. In as much as the Infinite God is far superior to our finite minds, truth concerning Him must be revealed and not everything will be able to be fully comprehended from an intellectual point of view. At the same time the human reason is a reflection of God`s great mind, though sadly warped and weakened by sin and therefore there is nothing that is contrary to reason.

The Divine revelation is supernatural and so there must be constant dependance on the Holy Spirit for understanding. Our spiritual experience makes a great deal of difference. When there is dissobedience or sin allowed in the life, there is bound to be a certain amount of blindness and darkness in our approach to the truth of God.

For the study of theology we need a clear experience of God`s saving grace, a heart open to God, an utter dependence upon the Holy Spirit, an insatiable desire for God and His truth and a disciplined and persevering mind.

In this introductory section we shall give brief consideration to the meaning and nature of Christian Theology and also to its scope  and the sources from which we draw when studying it. We shall also give some account of the purpose of a course on Systematic Theology and of the scope and method of this present course.   

2.The meaning and nature of Christian Theology.

The term "theology" comes from two greek words, "theos" and "logos" meaning "God" and "word" respectively. The Greek word "logos" has come to mean more than "word" and included the meanings "discourse","subject matter" and "teaching".

Theology therefore strickly speaking means teaching about God. But as God can hardly be thought of by humankind apart from His relationship to the world, theology means teaching about God in His relationship to the world. It is more than mere teaching, however; it is the systematization of such teaching.

But God`s relationship with the world is centered in Jesus Christ. Christian Theology is therefore the discovery and systematization of the revelation of God in Jesus Christ as found declared in the scriptures. The nature of Christian Theology has been described in various ways, Dr. A.H.Strong suggests that "theology is the science of God in is relationship to the universe."

It has been objected to that theology is not a science because it subject matter is not drawn from knowledge but from faith and it therefore lacks certitude. If we compare the two, however, we find that the objection is not really sound. Science is the logical arrangement of certified truth. It deals with the analysis, synthesis and sytematization of certain facts.

Theology does the exact thing. Even though the facts are of a different kind, they are still objective facts, and when theology ceases to deal with the great objective facts of the Christian faith it ceases to be true Christian theology.

It is true that, in the study of theology, faith has to be exercised to a large extent, but this is also the case with the other sciences. Science, to obtain its facts, acts by faith on a supposition and then proves it.

It likewise takes for granted many self evident, axiomatic truths, e.g. our existence, an orderly world whose facts may be systematized and the power of the mind logically arrange facts presented to it. Science assumes many metaphysical truths i.e. space. time, cause and effect and trustworthiness of mind.

Therefore if theology is to be overthrown because it starts from some primary terms and propositions, then all other sciences are overthown with it. Theological mysteries are no greater than many philosophical and metaphysical mysteries. Theology  assumes the consciousness of self and of God who is neither self nor world. Even if they cannot be mathematically proved, these truths may all be demonstrated but must be postulated nefore they can be demonstrated.

The great difference theology and the physical sciences is that it is not merely theoretical, it is also moral. Christian dogmatics is not only a science of faith but also a knowledge grounded in and drawn from faith. Thus the method is the same as in the physical sciences and suppositions which are accepted by faith and proved by and dependent upon moral disposition and not merely physical phenomena.

Because theology is a science it is necessary in the more important points of Christian revelation to be sure that our terminology is as exact as language will allow. In such matters as the Trinity, the Person of Christ and the Atonement, it is important that the doctrine be stated with that exactitude of language which will help to safeguard against error and wrong thinking.

For this reason the terms used need to be carefully defined and it is important to remember that the definition is that which applies to theology and may not hold in every realm.

3.The scope of Christian Theology.

a. General Scope.

Dr.Pope, a systematic theologian, suggests in his definition of the scope and limitations of Christian theology that it is the "science of God and divine things" and secondly it is based upon the revelation made to mankind. It is concerned with the things of God as related to man and his destiny. This reveals the limitation of theology. " "The relations of the vast universe and of other creatures in it, are included only as far as they concern humankind. The responsibility of theology is restricted to one subject.

Those who study it must submit to this restriction. This is the answer by anticipation to many objections of the sceptical spirit. We have a leaf out of an enormous book; its page begins and ends, so to speak in the middle of a sentence. Here after we shall see much more of this book, now we see in part." (Pope, Compendium of Christian Theology, Vol.1 Page 8).

These truths, however are related to mankind and are given by divine revelation, therefore we can be sure that nothing we need to know will be hidden; and because they are for man, the revelation will be given in a language that man can understand.

This is the reason for the anthropomorphisms of the Bible. Thirdly, this revelation is in Jesus Christ. Christology is theology. He is the centre of all. In Him, "are hid all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge." (Col.2:3) Christ is "God manifest in the flesh" (1 Timothy 3:16). He is the one and true revelation of God. "I am the truth" said the Lord. (John 14:6) "Neither is there salvation in any other"(Acts 4:12). Thus all teachers and teaching which reject Christ`s authority are discredited and themselves rejected.

b. The particular divisions of Theology.

Christian theology is usually considered under four divisions or branches according to the method of study which is followed.


There is a careful study of the scriptures themselves to discover their meaning and the doctrines which they teach. It includes Biblical Introduction which is the study of the background, date and historical setting of the Biblical writings as well as of the laws and principles underlying correct interpretation. It also includes Biblical exegesis which is the discovery of the exact meaning of the scriptures by the study of the original languages and by comparing scripture with scripture.


This is the study of the history of Christian doctrine in Biblical times and since and also of its influence on the life of the church.


In Systematic Theology the materials gathered in the previous branches are arranged in logical order and in such a way as to show the relation to each other of the various doctrines of the Christian faith, so that the doctrines of the faith can be seen as a logical and connected whole.

Since Systematic Theology spans the whole area of Christian teaching it could almost be called a philosophy of the Christian life.This branch includes Apologetics, which is the defence of ther Christian faith at the bar of human reason; Dogmatics which is the study of the actual contents of the Christian doctrines; and Ethics, which is the study of the way in  which the Christian faith works out in daily living and of the principles by which the Christian life should be governed in a sinful world.

Not all would include ethics in this division but rather in the next. It seems, however, fitting that a general view of Christian theology should include a section on the effect of doctrine on life.


This is concerned with the application of the truths discovered in the preceeding branches and their practical use in the fellowship of the church and the service of God. It covers such subjects as Homiletics, pastoral Theology, Church policy and organisation, etc.

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