By C.L. Bolt
Like in my previous series, An Informal Introduction to Covenantal Apologetics, I do not intend to write an exhaustive account of the subject matter involved in systematic theology. However, it has come to my attention, and I have suspected for some time, that a brief overview of systematic theology may be of some benefit to the readers especially as they study and use apologetics. A proper understanding of God, the world, and ourselves is absolutely essential to an effective apologetic and is especially pertinent to the Van Tilian variety of covenantal or presuppositional apologetics.
The plan is to write this series from memory as opposed to turning to sources and I do not intend to go back and make corrections. The series is written in a rough manner at an introductory level rather than in an academic way. There will, of course, be disagreements with readers as I proceed, but there should be significant and sufficient agreement for a theological framework from which to further develop one’s own understanding of theology and to engage more truthfully and effectively in apologetics.
It should be made abundantly clear at the outset that this is not primarily an exegetical work. My understanding of theology in general necessarily includes the three interrelated areas of biblical theology, exegetical theology, and systematic theology. Biblical theology provides unity through diversity in the metanarrative or overarching story of Scripture summed up in Jesus Christ and hence serves as a guide to both exegetical and systematic theology. Exegetical theology provides the content of meaning of the text as understood through particular words, syntax, context, and other elements obtained through a sound hermeneutic that the theologian must work with if he is to faithfully understand these “trees” in relation to the “forest” and apply the great truths of Scripture to the world and his person. Systematic theology incorporates what is learned through biblical and exegetical theology in application to the world and the self. Those familiar with the work of theologian John M. Frame will no doubt see his influence in the aforementioned understanding of the task of theology. More will be said concerning systematic theology in the next chapter.
Finally, there is a sense in which everyone is a theologian, whether they want to admit it or not. Everyone has some view on God. Some views of God are better than others, because God’s view is best. Insofar as a person follows after God in His thoughts about Himself, that individual has sound theology. Rejecting God’s view of Himself as revealed to us constitutes sin and constitutes it in (at least) the form of bad theology. Even the atheist says things about God in thought, word, and deed. The atheist not only possesses knowledge of God as He has revealed Himself to humanity, but thereby engages in the study of God. The study of God is perhaps the most basic definition of theology, but it will be seen that systematic theology involves a number of features and implications that are only alluded to in the aforementioned definition in the most cursory fashion. Since the world is fallen it is riddled with sin and sin’s consequences. It follows from what has been stated that there are no perfect theologians in this world. The work presented here is no exception to the rule that our theology is imperfect. Sometimes our theology is deeply flawed and even unorthodox. By God’s grace I hope to present an imperfect work which will whet the appetites of those who are only now coming to feast upon the deeply satisfying truths of Scripture as expressed through systematic theology, serve as a reminder to brothers and sisters who are much more mature in the faith than I am that God is great and greatly to be praised, demonstrate the richness of the Christian worldview to non-believers, and do so while remaining squarely within orthodoxy that does not neglect orthopraxy. To God alone be the glory for anything accomplished with respect to this goal.