How To Study The Bible Effectively

About Thinking Theology

In the pursuit of studying the Bible effectively, a working knowledge of doctrines defined by systematic theology can be most beneficial.

  • Systematic Theology concentrates on the contemporary articulation of Christian faith.
  • Systematic Theology attempts to organize, to systematize, theological reflection.
  • Systematic Theology topics are not structures found in Scripture, but emerge out of one system or another.
  • Systematic Theology seeks to be faithful to Scripture.

Some examples of major doctrinal topics are:

  • God or Theology (as in The Doctrine of God)
  • Jesus or Christology
  • Holy Spirit or Pneumatology
  • Salvation or Soteriology
  • Trinity

Examples of minor categories are:

  • Scholasticism
  • German Liberalism
  • Nihilism
  • Nominalism
  • Death
  • Purgatory

These few examples display the difference between major and minor topics. The major doctrinal concepts are those which permeate the Scriptures. The others do not.

For example, the theology of death is important to Christians, and important when studying certain passages. However, it does not permeate the Scriptures as does the Holy Spirit or salvation.  Also, an Evangelical may not incorporate the doctrine of purgatory in their belief system, unlike a Catholic brother or sister. But knowing about purgatory is beneficial in order to understand Martin Luther and the Reformation in general.

To sum so far, systematic theology contains major topics articulating the faith. And it contains other topics which also articulate the faith, or something related to the faith, which can be more or less useful depending on the subject under study, whether it be a particular passage, a particular time in Christian history, or based on denominational leaning.

People And Places Of Study

Systematic theology also contains the topics of people or places of study. Generally, these are places where, or persons who, developed a theological teaching, made a particular doctrine popular, or whose writings were deemed heretical or at least invoked some level of critique from theologians. Examples are:

  • Nestorius
  • Friedrich Nietzsche
  • Immanuel Kant
  • Cyril of Alexandria
  • Alexandrian School
  • Frankfurt School
  • Synod of Dort

Christian Movements, Declarations, Creeds, Confessions, And Heresies

Finally, Systematic Theology contains the topics of Christians movements, declarations, confessions, and other documents of the faith. Counter to that, it also contains heresies.

  • Ecumenical Movement
  • Berlin Declaration
  • Donatism
  • Montanism
  • Gnosticism

Now certainly some subject(s) will not fit neatly into the categories of doctrines, people, places, movements, declarations, confessions, and heresies.  But the point here is not to provide a full list of all topic categories found in systematic theology, but to give a listing of subjects generally considered as belonging to the discipline of systematic theology.

What Is RDRD’s “Thinking Theology” Post Category?

Thinking Theology are short posts that contain systematic theological teachings. They will neither go into depth explaining the doctrines, nor present a historical development of the doctrines. They will provide a nugget of information that will serve as a reminder or as a basis to build on.

In the course of study and research, you will be hard-pressed to read books, articles, and other materials related to the Bible that do not mention some systematic theological subject(s). Having some idea of what they mean, helps study immensely.

Now I am not saying that you must be able to recite the entire doctrine, its historical development, detractors’ positions, and the birthplace of everyone who adheres to the doctrine. All I am saying is to know something about it, until the opportunity comes, if it comes, that you can study it thoroughly.

Why Should I Know About Doctrinal Concepts?

When studying the Bible, and especially when reading the works of others, having an understanding of Christian doctrine planted firmly in your mind is like swimming in the ocean with a lifesaver. It provides something to hold on to as you navigate smooth or treacherous waters.

Why Should I Study Heresies?

Many times systematic theological definitions have been worked out in order to refute heresies.  They always sound very similar:

  • Doctrine: And the LORD God commanded the man, saying, “You may surely eat of every tree of the garden, 17 but of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil you shall not eat, for in the day that you eat of it you shall surely die.” Genesis 2:16-17
  • Heresy: “Did God actually say, ‘You shall not eat of any tree in the garden’?” Genesis 3:1

The heresy always contains some error. The fallacy will be shown when taken to its logical outcome, though on the surface it may sound legitimate.

However, when a doctrine is viewed under a magnifying glass while comparing it, at the same time, with a heretical, but similar teaching, the truth displays with clarity.

As you know, it is easy enough to read something abstract, but does it make an impact on your heart, mind, and soul?  But when you read the same thing while delineating its differences with something else, wow! You get it! It is so easy to see. And you have just made an impact on your heart, mind, and soul.

Let Me Know What You Think

And as always, let me know what you think about these posts. Leave a comment or send an email.  (I promise not to spam you!)


Soli Deo Gloria!

RDRD Bible Study