Systematic theology

Here’s a thought. Systematic theology has the unfortunate side effect of making some passages hard and others easy irrespective of the authors intent, underlying literary structures, or any other consideration apart from the actual word choice. Put another way, systematic theology can have the unfortunate effect of making the Bible harder to read.

For example, take the word justification and its normal reformed connotations. Now read James. Tough stuff, huh? Yet from my reading of the Old Testament, I cannot help but think that the book of James would have been extremely straight-forward to a first-century Jewish Christian. So what’s the problem. Enter systematic theology. I read the word justification, and I read into it a rather specific meaning. In the case of James, that meaning flails about in the context and cannot find its footing.

Now, does this imply systematic theology has no value? Absolutely not. But if true it does imply that systematic theology has its proper place and scope, a scope perhaps more limited than some are inclined to believe.

8 Comments

  1. Joel W
    Dec 28, 2001

    Amen. Read Sailhamer, BT is the best alternative to ST. And I don’t mean the Vos/Ridderbos Redemptive Theology nonsense either. Get JETS and let’s correct the nonsense of the scholastic method which warps our view of Scripture.

  2. scott cunningham
    Jan 15, 2002

    Nonsense? That’s kind of harsh don’t you think? What have you read of Vos and Ridderbos that makes you say that?

  3. Jay
    Jan 15, 2002

    Scott, I just read my post about 8 times looking for the word ‘nonsense’ before I realized you were directing your comments to Joel.

  4. joel w
    Jan 19, 2002

    Not at all Scott, it’s about text vs event; hard for me to explain here, so I won’t try. Vos and Ridderbos are highly intelligent, but their focus is on events, not text, the text as a window on events, not the text itself. Read Sailhamer’s Intro to OT Theology for a great view of this.

  5. joel w
    Jan 21, 2002

    Scott,

    here follow some comments from the BT list on the subject that my friend Jay wrote, maybe it helps illustrate the point: * Snipped by Jay (owner of cogito ergo blog, not the Jay referenced above) because it was goofing up Greymatter

  6. joel w
    Jan 21, 2002

    the whole thing didn’t make it in there, I’ll try email Scott…….

  7. joel w
    Jan 22, 2002

    I mailed it to Scott so no problem, I guess Greymatter can’t run with the big dogs!

  8. Jay
    Jan 22, 2002

    And that post of yours was a BIG dog…

    Actually, though I didn’t sort through it to figure the whole thing out, I’m willing to bet the problem was with some odd ASCII character combination.