this was a recent summary I submitted in a class discussion assignment based upon Grenz and systematic theology...feel free to read in full, half, or not at all
Systematic theology is ‘the reflection upon one’s faith’. In the past, I had seen systematic theology as a set of doctrinal beliefs able to be sealed perfectly within a square package thus opened, signed and posted upon reception. The problem with this is that there is more than one recipient, more than one interpreter, more than one culture; all of which are involved in un-packaging this brown box of faith. I am one of many within a community of believers who is committed to exploring the magnificence of God and all that His beauty reveals as it flows into all people and all contexts. Systematic theology is what it means to follow Jesus Christ. Systematic theology is allowing Jesus Christ the freedom to teach along the ‘way’.
Faith in God is the primary action of humanity absolved from all obstacles resulting in a discovery of what this belief system flows into; systematic theology. Systematic theology is the articulation of beliefs within a particular context. Since there is more than one context in which this package of faith is being opened and discussed there is room around this box of faith that allows all of us, as believers, the freedom to communicate with one another what is inside this box of faith. Systematic theology helps all of us to root a Christian identity deep into the Biblical narrative of salvation and then watch it grow into the relevant branches of ‘today’. My branches of faith might be different from another’s branches of faith; still they are branches of faith. The goal of systematic theology is to create the connection between the Biblical expression of what life and faith mean to the contemporary expression of what life and faith mean; contextualization.
Faith will either draw us toward Jesus Christ or it will pull us away. Every human being places their faith in a belief system whether it glorifies God or not. This primary step of faith, in regards to Christianity, will inevitably call forth a systematic theology. This ‘reflection’ is the process beginning immediately after the statement, ‘I believe’. I believe, yes, but what is it exactly that I believe? The mind searches for an understanding of what this statement is connected with in order to form a cohesive and comprehensive Christian ‘identity’. Systematic theology is the articulation of faith coming out of the community’s interpretation of character, virtue and values. It is a product of one’s environment among countless environments.
We engage systematic theology for the benefit of the Christian community because ultimately, systematic theology is practical. Christian theologians help make sense of what it means to live out this Christian odyssey in a personal and communal context. It is important to remember that all theologies are a human construct therefore are limited. The goal of systematic theology is not to answer the mysteries of revelation but rather to ask those important questions with hopes of discovering practical answers which infuse our identity. Systematic theology is listening to the Holy Spirit in light of Scripture and constructing a healthy Christian belief system.
Another reason for systematic theology is accomplished through they type of model used to interpret a belief in God. We look at the history of systematic theology and its journey through history so that we are able to avoid some of the mistakes that have been made on behalf of theology but also to build upon some of its accomplishments as well. The old adage, ‘hindsight is 20/20’ is true in regards to systematic theology. It was not meant to be rigid and limiting as seen in some occasions in the past and we can look back and read about the division and cruelty that have been perpetuated by what presuppositions we have seen regarding systematic theology and consequently now able to avoid these ‘pitfalls’.
Systematic theology is also important in teaching new Christ followers what this new found faith means. It is not my intent to define systematic theology as a subjective discipline. Instead, it is a community discipline of the church; there is accountability. The role of the church is to be a place where disciples are discipled which is accomplished by, besides by life, laying out a foundation of the few indispensable beliefs that structure the 'foundation. Systematic theology is not handing an exhaustive list of dogma to the new believer; instead it is the commitment to listen to God as he reveals Himself to the ‘church’ continually. The sooner we are able to realize that the conclusions and results we come to are not always cross-cultural, meaning there is a lot out there for all of us to learn from one another, the stronger 'the church' will become. It is my goal to engage systematic theology in order to build bridges not to burn them. I believe that we have a lot more in common than not and it is my goal to hopefully illuminate the beauty of Christ in all packages and in all receivers.