A Guide to Christian Theology - Lesson 1

Introduction to Systematic Theology

There are two approaches to systematic theology: the deductive approach and the inductive approach. Find out how these two approaches differ and you need to understand each one.

Gerry Breshears
A Guide to Christian Theology
Lesson 1
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Introduction to Systematic Theology

I. THE Approaches to SYSTEMATIC Theology

A. The Deductive Approach

B. The Inductive Approach

II. EXAMPLE: The Jerusalem Council

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Class Resources
  • There are two approaches to systematic theology: the deductive approach and the inductive approach. Find out how these two approaches differ and you need to understand each one.

  • We serve a personal God who speaks, telling us about himself and ourselves and the world around us. There are two types of ways that God reveals himself: general revelation and special revelation. In this lecture, you'lll discover what God says about himself through creation and your conscience.

  • Special revelation is a combination of the life of God revealed in his works and the words of God that tells us the significance and meaning of those acts. Discover how God reveals himself through special revelation and what we can know about him.

  • You will gain knowledge and insight into the nature, formation, transmission, and interpretation of scripture, including its definition, canons of the Old and New Testaments, and the principles of hermeneutics.
  • Learn how to deal with ambiguous passages in the Bible, why the Bible is silent on many issues, and whether God still speaks today.

  • Discover the significance of God's names in the Bible, explore the different names of God in the Old and New Testaments and their theological implications, and learn how knowing and worshiping God through His names can have practical applications in your life.
  • In this lesson, you will gain a comprehensive understanding of the characteristics of God, including their definitions, biblical support, and implications and applications.
  • As you study the Characteristics of God in this lesson, you will gain a comprehensive understanding of the attributes that define God's nature, including aseity, transcendence, immanence, and omnipresence. You will also explore the concepts of God's omnipotence, sovereignty, holiness, justice, and love, and learn how these attributes shape our understanding of who God is and how we should relate to Him.
  • In this lesson, you will gain a comprehensive understanding of the doctrine of the Trinity, including its biblical foundations, the personhood and works of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, and the significance of the Trinity in the life of the Church.
  • You will gain a comprehensive understanding of the theological concepts of free will, the sovereignty of God, and election, as well as the theological positions of Arminianism, Calvinism, and Molinism. You will also learn about the biblical support for each position and the implications for Christian life and ministry.
  • Explore the origins of the biblical concept of election, its development in the New Testament, different views of election, and how they impact Christian life in this lesson.
  • As you explore this lesson on creation, gain a comprehensive understanding of biblical and theological perspectives, examining the historical and cultural context, interpretations of the creation narrative, and implications of creation for God's character and nature, relationship with creation, and human responsibility and stewardship.
  • You will gain an understanding of the concept of Providence and its biblical basis, as well as various historical and contemporary views on the topic. You will also learn about the practical implications of this doctrine, including how it provides comfort and guidance in daily life.
  • Exploring various theological views and problematic issues surrounding the concept of providence, we will gain a comprehensive understanding of the role of prayer in providence, as well as the compatibility of God's sovereignty and human responsibility.
  • You will gain knowledge about anthropology and its biblical foundations, creation of human beings and the image of God in humans, fall and sin and their implications on human nature, redemption and sanctification, and human destiny and eschatology, including views on heaven and hell and the return of Christ.
  • By exploring the concept of the "image of God" in Christian theology, you will gain a extensive understanding of its biblical evidence, theological reflections, and practical implications for ethics, community, and worship.
  • Learn about the concept and historical context of sin, the doctrine of original sin, and its spiritual, psychological, and social consequences, along with recognizing sin and the hope of redemption.
  • You will gain a thorough understanding of sin, including its nature, origin, effects, power, and ways to overcome it through the provision of God and the way of salvation.
  • In this lesson, you will gain insight into the study of the person and work of Jesus Christ, the historical development of Christology, the preexistence and incarnation of Christ, Jesus as the Son of God and the Son of Man, and the practical applications of Christology in your life.
  • Through this lesson, you will gain an understanding of the person and work of Christ, including the importance of his humanity and divinity, the hypostatic union, his offices, and the atonement, resurrection, and second coming.
  • In participating in this lesson, you will explore the concepts of the virgin birth, Jesus' death on the cross, and the atonement of sins through substitution in the Bible.
  • In this lesson, you will learn that although the Holy Spirit has been a divisive issue among evangelicals due to different views, there is a developing consensus on many of these issues as different denominations and traditions begin to relate and talk to each other, and most evangelicals agree that all Christians are indwelt and sealed by the Holy Spirit and are gifted for service and worship, while the Holy Spirit teaches, illuminates, guides, and empowers prayer and worship in believers.
  • This lesson will provide you with an understanding of the Holy Spirit in the New Testament, early church, modern era, and contemporary theology, including different views and roles of the Holy Spirit in theological traditions.
  • Gain an understanding of the gifts of the Spirit mentioned in the Bible, their definition, purpose, and categories, as well as their modern-day importance and usage guidelines.
  • In this lesson on salvation, you will gain understanding of salvation, including its definition, historical perspectives, different views, process, means, and results, and learn that salvation is a process consisting of conversion, justification, regeneration, sanctification, and glorification, with means including faith, repentance, baptism, and communion, and results including assurance, joy, peace, and love.
  • As you explore this lesson on grace, you'll gain a deeper understanding of the concept, including its biblical context, relationship to salvation and the Christian life, and its place within theological debates.
  • In this lesson you will learn about conversion, regeneration, and justification. You will learn that conversion involves a change of heart, mind, and behavior as a person turns to God and begins to follow him. Regeneration refers to the spiritual renewal that takes place in a person's life when they become a Christian, while justification is the act of God declaring a sinner to be righteous on the basis of faith in Jesus Christ.
  • This lesson will help you understand the theological concept of sanctification, including its definition, distinction from justification and glorification, scriptural basis and themes, process and means, and practical implications for holiness, growth, and ministry.
  • Dr. Breshears teaches about perseverance and security in the Christian faith, exploring historical views and examining biblical support, as well as learning about the practical implications of these doctrines.
  • You will gain understanding of the Church, including its definition, purpose, historical and cultural context, biblical foundation, nature, structure, leadership, ministry, sacraments and ordinances, worship, and discipleship.
  • You will gain knowledge and insight into the nature, marks, purpose, structure, and sacraments of the Church and learn about the different views and definitions used to define it.
  • This lecture discusses the leadership offices of a church, including eldership, deacons, and church members, and how they function according to biblical principles of polity, which prioritize following what the Bible prescribes, closely following what it describes, and using wisdom and being Spirit-led in matters it is silent about, all with the aim of effectively sharing the Gospel and achieving unity and focus.
  • In this lesson, you will explore baptism's significance, modes, and theological perspectives, and learn its role in church membership, unity, discipleship, and spiritual growth.
  • This lesson provides an overview of the historical, biblical, and theological aspects of Communion, including practical considerations for its practice.
  • You will gain a good understanding of death and its theological implications, including the biblical view of death, consequences of death, and resurrection and the afterlife. The lesson covers the definition of death, cultural views, and the portrayal of death in the Old and New Testaments. You will also learn about the physical and spiritual consequences of death, as well as the Bible's teachings on resurrection and the afterlife.
  • From this lesson, you gain insight into the biblical concept of God's Kingdom, its significance in Christian theology, and its impact on eschatology, social justice, and the Church's role.
  • In this lesson, you gain insight into eschatology, examine biblical perspectives, explore key events like the Rapture, Tribulation, Millennium, and Final Judgment, and learn the significance of eschatology for today's believers.
  • By studying the eternal state, you gain insights into the new heaven and earth, resurrection, judgment, and eternal life, deepening your understanding of Christian hope and assurance.
  • Through this lesson, you gain insight into the crucial role of church leaders, their essential qualities, and the challenges they face, while discovering the importance of support and encouragement for their growth and effectiveness in ministry.
  • In this lesson, you gain an understanding of the nature of Scripture and learn to interpret the Bible within its historical, literary, and canonical contexts while addressing challenges in biblical interpretation.

Understand the core topics of systematic theology, from what we know about God to the future state of humankind. Special emphasis is given to such topics as Christ, salvation, the church, and the future.

Course: A Guide to Christian Theology

Lecture: Introduction to ST

This is the 1st lecture in the online series of lectures on a Guide to Christian Theology by Dr Breshears. Recommended Reading includes: Biblical References within the Course and Study Guides 1 – 39.

(Any slides, photos, study guides or outlines that the lecturer refers to should be down loaded separately. If they are not available, you may be able to find something similar using the Google© search engine.)

I. Introduction

Welcome to the basic introduction to what we believe as Christians; we call it systematic theology. This is a fancy term for what the Bible teaches about various topics. This course assumes that you don’t have any particular background. Of course you will need a Bible. When we think about what we believe as Christians, first of all, I am thinking attitude wise. So if I look at Palm 139, a well-known Psalm. There are a couple of verses that relate to what I will talk about in terms of doctrine. Read the following in verse 17 & 18:

"How precious to me are your thoughts, O God!
How vast is the sum of them!
If I would count them, they are more than the sand.
I awake, and I am still with you."

That idea that God has revealed himself to us so that we can have a relationship with him, not just an intellectual relationship but a truly personal relationship; with a person who talks and responds and answers prayer yet he is beyond comprehension. There is more to him that he can ever reveal to us. But those things that he has revealed are incredibly powerful. Deuteronomy 29:29 says that ‘the secret things belong to the Lord our God, but the things that are revealed belong to us and to our children forever, that we may do all the words of this law.  These things are revealed to us, we are going to be entranced and deepened by them. Titus 1:5, a passage that is talking about the qualifications of an elder; he finishes up here by saying that they must hold firm to the trustworthy word as taught so that he may be able to give instruction in sound doctrine and also to rebuke those who contradict it. So I hope that you will learn what this trustworthy word teaches and that you will be able to instruct others in what the Bible actually teaches and you will be able to refute those who disagree with what is being taught. This is a role of leaders in the church.

II. Approaches to Learning Theology

A. The Deductive Approach

In thinking about the approach of learning theology consider a deductive approach which many new learners do. This approach involves going to a trusted leader and ask them about the topic. For example, the topic of election or security of the believer or the baptism of the Holy Spirit; you see in Hebrews 13:17 that you are to obey your leaders and submit to them, for they are keeping watch over your souls, as those who will have to give an account. So speaking to leaders he reminds us that we are ones who give an account to God for those under us. But for those who are under it, they are to obey and submit; so going to a leader and asking them is a really good thing to do. The limitation of this method is that leaders simply may not know and in some areas Christians disagree with each other. So if a person has made a mistake and we repeat that mistake and worse yet we don’t have personal conviction of these things; so we just end up repeating those you talked to about it. Start by asking leaders, which is a good thing but that is not the only way to approach learning theology.

B. The Inductive Approach

Another approach that is often done is inductive Bible study. So instead of going to a leader, go to the Bible and see what it says, then you come to your own conclusion and then analyze what others say about it. The Bible as an authority is absolutely critical; however the Bible is a big book. Note that I was raised with the idea that a person was made up of body, soul and spirit; this is called a trichotomy. So I went to 1st Thessalonians 5:23 which says that your whole spirit and soul and body be kept blameless at the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ. So I saw that it being three parts of a person; it’s really simple. I believe it. Then, much later, a person who had a different view commented that Mark 12:30 says that you shall love the Lord God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength, thus saying that the heart, soul and mind are three parts of the body as a way of describing the whole person. This was very similar to 1st Thessalonians 5:23 that said: spirit, soul and body. So this is also relevant to the idea of the trichotomy of the person. So we just don’t know enough about any one topic or idea.

There are passages that tell us how we deal with theology. The first being Acts 17 Paul has had to leave Thessalonica heading down to Berea in verse 10. In arriving, he finds the Jews more ‘noble’ than those in Thessalonica. They received the Word with eagerness and examined the Scriptures to see whether what Paul was saying was true or not. This is a way people studied theology and this is often used in inductive Bible Study. But look again; they first listened and then examined what it said in the Old Testament. So this is not really inductive Bible Study. It is actually using Paul as a teacher and then critiquing him against Scripture.

III. The Jerusalem Council and the Matter of Circumcision

In Acts 15, there was a controversial issue of circumcision that had to be dealt with by the Jerusalem Council. Some people in Jerusalem were upset that gentiles were coming to Christ and not being circumcised. This was especially so by those believers who were members of the party of the Pharisees, as they were the first people to speak. These were people really serious about following God and the Bible. They went back to Genesis 17:12 where it says that those of eight days old need to be circumcised. It was then that Peter explained that God has chosen that the gentile should hear the Gospel and believe. After this, Barnabas and Paul explained about the signs and wonders God did among the gentiles. The next person was James who talked about the Book of Amos; all of them testing Scripture yet first listened to four different views. This is the best way to do theological exploration. So there were people who expressed different views quoting key passages as to why they believe what they do. In doing this, you are seeking to understand what people say and what the Scriptures say. You shouldn’t consider a critical view to understand a view as this will not provide the best picture. So we talk to people that hold certain views.

IV. Conclusion

So method and theology is absolutely committed to the authority of Scripture. As far as possible, you should look at different views first hand and evaluate what you believe and why you believe it and what key passages you use to support it. State how you interpret controversial passages and then ask yourself which approach accounts for the most data with fewest difficulties. You will find things that are absolutely clear while there are some things that differ between Christians to the point that we can’t work together very well. Barnabas and Paul were like that; they had an argument and ended up going separate ways in separate ministries. There are issues that seem to divide people and then issues that become non-issues. Note that the fundamental teachings on issues don’t change.

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