Sin and Christian Teaching: Journal Critique

Effect of sin

Sin, in its very essence, is contradictory to the nature of God, creating separation in the intimacy between God and man, but is ultimately conquered by God’s grace, in the ultimate redemptive plan, through Jesus Christ. Upon this foundational truth, Octavio Esqueda asserts a clear understanding of the relationship between sin and grace is necessary to fully appreciate the grace of God and to understand sin’s goal in opposing God and His holy character. The purpose of this critique is to assess Esqueda’s conclusion regarding God’s grace being the key to overcoming a life of sin and why grace is necessary in Christian teaching.

SUMMARY

Esqueda acknowledges the grace of God and the sin of man are two essential realities that define the Christian faith and that all humans are sinners in desperate need for God’s grace. This hypothesis is traced back to the original sin and Esqueda illustrates how, “Sin permeates our entire being and alienates us from ourselves, other people, our world, and most importantly from our Creator.”[1] As time has gone on, Esqueda explains how culture continues to play a more dominant role in determining what is right and wrong, and what should be viewed as being happy or sad. Next, Esqueda establishes sin’s role in fading God’s plan for His creation and its ability to corrupt and isolate, leading to a life of pride. Citing Dietrich Bonhoeffer, Esqueda emphasizes, “Perceiving God’s grace without an appropriate understanding of sin is meaningless and becomes cheap.”[2] After establishing a clear definition of sin and its effects, Esqueda uses the seven capital sins to define specific character traits that lead individuals away from God. Robert Kruschwitz identifies, “These sins are the harbingers of destruction; and they are the first in order of attack after pride and they bring in other sins that destroy people’s love for God and one another.”[3] Lastly, Esqueda explains the need for Christian teaching because any teaching, which fails to stress the importance of grace to sinners, is futile.[4]

CRITICAL INTERACTION

Esqueda does an excellent job of explaining the responsibilities of leaders and teachers in cultivating the spiritual growth of his or her students and he firmly believes the Holy Spirit is vital in the supernatural transformation of learners. By demonstrating the effects of sin and then establishing how Christ restores all of those broken relationships by grace, Esqueda reaffirms the apostle Paul’s message to the Romans and the church at Corinth being: “Christ died for all sinners and His righteousness is imputed to us by His grace, which overflows to the world much more than any effect of sin.” Grace over sin is a continuing theme throughout the Bible and one in which Esqueda has implemented in his strategy in Christian education and spiritual formation.

The overview of the seven capital sins was an interesting insertion and tracks with a modern-day culture that ranks and classifies various crimes on different levels. However, in God’s eyes, sin is sin, so any attempt to provide levels or grades to specific sins seems folly. This is partly the reason Esqueda believes, “Most Protestants rejected this list of capital sins because the Bible does not provide this classification of capital vices and Reformers were also concerned the list of virtues could become a way to earn salvation by works and not a gift by God’s grace.”[5] Despite this, it was very interesting looking at each individual sin in its attempt for: selfish gratification, selfish physical pleasure, attachment to material possessions, selfish sin against temperance, sadness for the glory of another, laziness, and desire for recognition and approval from others.[6] Esqueda seemed to approach this topic with some presuppositions, as he documents the introduction of the piñata in Mexico and Central America. He explains the piñata represented Satan who often wears an attractive mask to deceive humanity, and as temptation. Blindfolded participants represented blind faith, forcing them to look upwards towards heaven.[7]

God created the family and He also ingrained a longing for community inside everyone. Sin, which is often rooted in pride, stands opposed to both of these systems, in an attempt to deny love for one another and towards God. This was one area Esqueda could have covered in more detail, especially since his overall goal is reaching sinners with Christian teaching. Over time, sin erects a wall to further isolate individuals from any sense of hope and grace. While he does mention virtues, which when implemented lead to a regenerated life, his argument would have been strengthened with a solution of how to bridge the gap and tear down the walls of sin.

CONCLUSION

Esqueda does an excellent job explaining if a consequence of sin is isolation, then grace produces community. He illustrates, “When Christian leaders and teachers model grace, they foster a sense of community among their learners.”[8] This is the first step Esqueda successfully identifies in the spiritual transformation process. Esqueda’s conclusions regarding God’s grace being the key to overcoming a life of sin and why grace is necessary in Christian teaching is also shown to be true. He also correctly identifies the Holy Spirit’s role and provides ample Scripture references and multiple references from respected philosophers and theologians. Overall, Esqueda provided substantial content in the importance of grace in teaching and over sin.

BIBLIOGRAPHY

Betenson, Toby. “Evaluative Claims within the Problem of Evil.” Religious Studies 51, no. 3 (09, 2015): 361-77, http://ezproxy.liberty.edu/login?url=http://search.proquest.com.ezproxy.liberty.edu/docview/1703895888?accountid=12085 (accessed April 13, 2017).

Bonhoeffer, Dietrich. The Cost of Discipleship. New York, NY: Touchstone, 1995.

Boyd, Ian T. E. “The problem of self-destroying sin in John Milton’s Samson Agonistes.” Faith and Philosophy 13, no. 4 (October, 1996): 487-507. (accessed April 13, 2017)

Blass, Rachel B. “Sin and Transcendence Versus Psychopathology and Emotional Wellbeing: On the Catholic Church’s Problem of Bridging Religious and Therapeutic Views of the Person.” Spiritus 12, no. 1 (Spring, 2012): 21,42,156, http://ezproxy.liberty.edu/login?url=https://search-proquest-com.ezproxy.liberty.edu/docview/1019770875?accountid=12085 (accessed April 13, 2017).

Clendenin, Daniel B. “God is Great, God is Good Questions About Evil.” Ashland Theological Journal 24, no. 0 (1992): 35-48. (accessed April 13, 2017)

Crisp, Oliver D. “On Original Sin.” International Journal of Systematic Theology, 17, (June 2015): 252–266. doi:10.1111/ijst.12107 (accessed April 13, 2017).

Egan, Robert. “Epistemological Foundations for A Theology of Sin.” The Heythrop Journal, 57, (May 2016): 553–567. doi:10.1111/heyj.12318 (accessed April 13, 2017).

Elwell, Walter A. ed. Evangelical Dictionary of Theology. 2nd Edition. Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Academic Publishing Group, 2001.

Erickson, Millard J. Christian Theology. 3rd Edition. Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Academic Publishing Group, 2013.

Esqueda, Octavio Javier. “Sin and Christian Teaching.” Christian Education Journal 8, no. 1 (Spring 2011): 164-176. General OneFile http://ezproxy.liberty.edu/login?url=http://go.galegroup.com.ezproxy.liberty.edu/ps/i.do?p=ITOF&sw=w&u=vic_liberty&v=2.1&it=r&id=GALE%7CA254754469&sid=summon&asid=7cd444ab8fa87f29079655e13d84de39 (accessed April 21, 2017).

Frame, John M. Systematic Theology: An Introduction to Christian Belief. Phillipsburg, NJ: P&R Publishing, 2013.

Geisler, Norman L. The Problem of Evil, Baker Encyclopedia of Christian Apologetics. Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Academic Publishing, 1999.

Geisler, Norman L. and Ronald M. Brooks. When Skeptics Ask. Wheaton, IL: Victor, 1990.

Gockel, Matthias. “‘Be not overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good’: an orientational approach to suffering and evil.” Modern Theology 25, no. 1 (January 2009): 97-105. ATLASerials, Religion Collection, EBSCOhost (accessed April 13, 2017).

Groothuis, Douglas. Christian Apologetics: A Comprehensive Case for Biblical Faith. Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press, 2011.

Harrison, William K. (William Kelly). “Origin of Sin.” Bibliotheca Sacra 130, no. 517 (January 1973): 58-61. ATLASerials, Religion Collection, EBSCOhost (accessed April 13, 2017).

Haven, Joseph. “Sin, As Related To Human Nature And To The Divine Purpose.” Bibliotheca Sacra 020, no. 79 (July 1863): 445-488. (accessed April 13, 2017)

Himma, Kenneth Einar. “Eternally Incorrigible: The Continuing-Sin Response to the Proportionality Problem of Hell.” Religious Studies 39, no. 1 (2003): 61-78. http://www.jstor.org/stable/20008447 (accessed April 13, 2017).

Hume, David. Dialogues concerning Natural Religion. Edited by Henry D. Aiken. New York, NY: Hafner, 1948 [1779].

Köstenberger, Andreas. Encountering John: The Gospel in Historical, Literary, and Theological Perspective, 2nd Edition. Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Academic Publishing, 2013.

Kruschwitz, Robert. Reading Thomas Aquinas’s on Evil. Waco, TX: Author, 2010.

Moo, Douglas J. The New International Commentary on the New Testament – The Epistle to the Romans. Grand Rapids, MI: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co., 1996.

Pasternack, Lawrence. “Kant on the debt of sin.” Faith and Philosophy 29 no. 1 (January 2012): 30-52. (accessed April 13, 2017)

Sehon, Scott. “The Problem of Evil: Skeptical Theism Leads to Moral Paralysis.” International Journal for Philosophy of Religion 67, no. 2 (2010): 67-80. http://www.jstor.org/stable/25652862 (accessed April 13, 2017).

Venter, Dirk J. “Romans 8:3-4 and God’s resolution of the threefold problems of sin, the incapability of the law and the weakness of the flesh.” In die Skriflig 48, no. 1 (2014). Academic OneFile http://ezproxy.liberty.edu/login?url=http://go.galegroup.com.ezproxy.liberty.edu/ps/i.do?p=AONE&sw=w&u=vic_liberty&v=2.1&it=r&id=GALE%7CA406163579&asid=6a1e0a7a5321bc7b9c4c11a1a02b29d6 (accessed April 13, 2017).

Wilcox, David L. “A proposed model for the evolutionary creation of human beings: From the image of God to the origin of sin.” Perspectives on Science and Christian Faith 68, no. 1 (2016): 22-43. Academic OneFile http://ezproxy.liberty.edu/login?url=http://go.galegroup.com.ezproxy.liberty.edu/ps/i.do?p=AONE&sw=w&u=vic_liberty&v=2.1&it=r&id=GALE%7CA486164679&sid=summon&asid=e80c6aa2b9a2eae051ab74327ee96e56 (accessed April 13,2017).

Zacharias, Ravi and Norman Geisler. Who Made God? And Answers to Over 100 Other Questions of Faith. Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 2003.

[1] Octavio Javier Esqueda, “Sin and Christian Teaching,” Christian Education Journal 8, no. 1 (Spring 2011): 164. General OneFile. http://ezproxy.liberty.edu/login?url=http://go.galegroup.com.ezproxy.liberty.edu/ps/i.do?p=ITOF&sw=w&u=vic_liberty&v=2.1&it=r&id=GALE%7CA254754469&sid=summon&asid=7cd444ab8fa87f29079655e13d84de39 (accessed April 21, 2017).

[2] Dietrich Bonhoeffer, The Cost of Discipleship (New York, NY: Touchstone, 1995), 44.

[3] Robert Kruschwitz, Reading Thomas Aquinas’s on Evil (Waco, TX: Author, 2010), 11.

[4] Esqueda, “Sin and Christian Teaching,” 173.

[5] Ibid., 170.

[6] Esqueda, “Sin and Christian Teaching,” 167-169.

[7] Ibid., 170.

[8] Ibid., 175.

The Problem of Evil

The-problem-of-evil-1

As J. S. Feinberg explains, “The problem of evil is a problem of both theological and philosophical interest as well as a matter of religious import, [which] not only arises in Western religion and philosophy, but also in various other world religions.”[1] Millard Erickson asserts, “The most difficult challenge to the Christian faith is the problem of how there can be evil in the world, [because] if God is all-powerful and all-loving, how can evil be present in the world?”[2] David Hume takes the nature and presence of evil a step further when he wrote, “Is he willing to prevent evil, but not able? Then is he impotent. Is he able, but not willing? Then he is malevolent. Is he both able and willing: whence then is evil?”[3] Erickson further explains, “[While] the problem of evil will never be fully resolved within this earthly life, there are biblical teachings that help alleviate it.”[4] Erickson then offers several themes that account for the sin and fall of the human race (Genesis 3) and the sinfulness of each human, but Erickson also includes the incarnation of the Second Person of the Triune God, who became a sacrificial atonement for human sin, and made a way for eternal life beyond death.[5] Upon this premise Erickson offers the following themes as helps in dealing with the problem of evil: (1) Evil as a Necessary Accompaniment of the Creation of Humanity, (2) A Reevaluation of What Constitutes Good and Evil, (3) Evil in General as the Result of Sin in General, (4) Specific Evil as the Result of Specific Sins, (5) God as the Victim of Evil, and (6) The Life Hereafter.[6]

Of these themes, this writer believes it is important to first understand, as Feinberg illustrates, “There is no such thing as the problem of evil, for there are many problems of evil including the religious problem, the philosophical/theological problem, and also the degrees, intensities, and gratuitousness of evil.”[7] Erickson then properly illustrates, “The problem of evil must be thought of as a conflict involving three concepts: God’s power, God’s goodness, and the presence of evil in the world.”[8] Of the various themes offered, evil as a necessary accompaniment of the creation of humanity establishes God cannot do anything that violates His divine nature or moral attributes, so it was and is human’s free will to choose that made and makes evil a necessary consequence to choices. A reevaluation of what constitutes good and evil stipulates one must consider the divine dimension to God’s superior knowledge and wisdom, the dimension of time or duration, and the question of the extent of the evil. Paul’s letter to the Romans said, “I consider that our present sufferings are not worth comparing with the glory that will be revealed in us.” Ultimately, an eternal glory outweighs any momentary troubles and each person will have a different perspective, based upon past experience and beliefs. Evil in general as the result of sin in general asserts the entire race has sinned and is now sinful. Erickson raises an important question in regards to this theodicy: “If humans were created good, or at least without any evil nature, made in the image of God, and if the creation God had made was ‘very good’ (Genesis 1:31), then how could sin have occurred?”[9] This leads one to believe sin had to be caught or be infected by. However, Erickson clarifies, “For humans to be genuinely free, there has to be an option. The choice is to obey or to disobey God. In the case of Adam and Eve, the tree of the knowledge of good and evil symbolized that choice.” This affirms God did not create sin; He merely allowed humans the freedom to choose. Specific evil as the result of specific sin deals with reaping and sowing and violations of God’s law leading to consequences. The main focus of this theory revolves around the “why”. For example, why do bad things happen to good people and vice versa? Every action has a cause-and-effect relationship, and in some cases people get what is deserved, but in others like the blind man in John 9:2-3, no specific sin on his part or his family’s had caused his blindness.

The final two theories seem to provide the best explanation when dealing with the problem of evil. Erickson shows, God as the victim of evil demonstrates, “The Triune God knew that the Second Person would come to earth and be subject to numerous evils, [including His death, but] He did this in order to negate sin and thus its evil effects.”[10] This one act, by itself, shows the love of God, as Christ ultimately became the victim of all evils in the world. Lastly, the life hereafter establishes there will a great time of judgment when every sin will be recognized and the godly will also be revealed. Erickson further illustrates, “Punishment for evil will be justly administered, and the final dimension of eternal life will be granted to all who have responded to God’s loving offer.”[11] Sin, in essence is choosing to ignore God’s will and for anyone who chooses not to accept this gift of forgiveness and everlasting life, C.S. Lewis illustrates, “Throughout life, a person who says to God, in effect, ‘Leave me alone’ [in the end will get his or her wish.] Hell is the absence of God, and is God’s simply giving that person at last what he or she has always asked for. It is not God, but one’s own choice that sends a person to hell.”[12]

BIBLIOGRAPHY

Elwell, Walter A. ed. Evangelical Dictionary of Theology. 2nd Edition. Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Academic Publishing Group, 2001.

Erickson, Millard J. Christian Theology. 3rd Edition. Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Academic Publishing Group, 2013.

Frame, John M. Systematic Theology: An Introduction to Christian Belief. Phillipsburg, NJ: P&R Publishing, 2013.

[1] J.S. Feinberg, Evangelical Dictionary of Theology, 2nd Edition, ed. Walter A. Elwell (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Academic Publishing Group, 2001), 413.

[2] Millard J. Erickson, Christian Theology. 3rd Edition (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Academic Publishing Group, 2013), 383.

[3] David Hume, Dialogues concerning Natural Religion, part 10.

[4] Erickson, Christian Theology, 383.

[5] Erickson, Christian Theology, 394.

[6] Ibid., 394-401.

[7] Feinberg, Evangelical Dictionary of Theology, 414.

[8] Erickson, Christian Theology, 384.

[9] Erickson, Christian Theology, 398-399.

[10] Erickson, Christian Theology, 401.

[11] Erickson, Christian Theology, 401.

[12] C.S. Lewis, Problem of Pain, 119-120, 123, 128.

Inerrancy of the Bible

in-a-book

As P. D. Feinberg explains, “The question of authority is central for any theology, [so] biblical inerrancy is [a highly debated topic, which] views that when all the facts become made known, they will demonstrate that the Bible in its original autographs and correctly interpreted is entirely true and never false in all it affirms, whether that relates to doctrine or ethics or to any sciences.”[1] Millard Erickson similarly defines inerrancy as, “The Bible, when correctly interpreted in light of the level to which culture and the means of communication had developed at the time it was written, and in view of the purposes for which it was given, is fully truthful in all that it affirms.”[2] This writer believes the Bible makes no false or misleading statements about matters of faith and practice, but admits there are grounds to debate the infallibility of the church’s interpretation and teachings throughout the centuries. Human beings are flawed and Feinberg illustrates, “Human knowledge is limited in two ways: first, because of our finitude and sinfulness, human beings misinterpret the data that exists; and second, we do not possess all the data that comes to bear on the Bible.”[3] However, when it comes to the Bible, “the writers were under the supernatural influence of the Holy Spirit, which rendered their writings an accurate record of the revelation or that resulted in what they wrote actually being the Word of God.”[4] The main issue faced, throughout history, was how to preserve this revelation and for multiple generations, oral tradition was used, which certainly made it possible for specific details to be modified and/or changed. Because of this and other issues resulting in various scribes’ translations, this writer holds to more of a full inerrancy view. Absolute inerrancy has some questionable areas pertaining to history and science. For example, II Peter 3:8 says, “A day is like a thousand years to the Lord, and a thousand years is like a day.” When looking at the creation account, this verse is often cited to explain the carbon dating of objects, which seem to predate the account in Genesis. Undeniable proof and evidence is what people want, and that is what proponents of Evolution or Darwinism, also stated that when enough archaeological evidence was obtained, macroevolution would be proven, which the world is still waiting to see. However, despite the lack of evidence, this flawed theory is still being taught to children.

Feinberg demonstrates the debate over biblical inerrancy rests upon four arguments: (1) the biblical argument, (2) the historical argument, (3) the epistemological argument, and (4) the slippery slope argument. The biblical argument is rooted in five observations:

(1) The Bible teaches its own inspiration, and this requires inerrancy (II Timothy 3:16). (2) Israel is given criteria for distinguishing God’s message and messenger from false prophecies and prophets (Deuteronomy 13:1-5, 18:20-22). (3) The Bible teaches its own authority, and this requires inerrancy because something cannot be authoritative if it contains errors (Matthew 5:17-20; John 10:34-35). (4) Scripture uses Scripture in a way that supports its inerrancy and some arguments rest upon a single word’s translation. This can be observed by a careful study of the way New Testament authors cited Old Testament passages. (5) Inerrancy follows from what the Bible says about God’s character. Since God cannot lie, it makes sense that the Bible, which is God’s Word, should also be inerrant and infallible (Numbers 23:19; I Samuel 15:29; Titus 1:2; Hebrews 6:18).[5]

The historical argument for biblical inerrancy maintains this teaching has been the view of the church throughout history, so there is no reason to question it now. Both the biblical and historical arguments are more important than the epistemological argument, which asserts, “Knowledge claims must, to be justified, be indubitable or incorrigible”[6] and the slippery slope argument, which views inerrancy being so fundamental that those who give it up will soon surrender other central Christian doctrines.”[7] According to Feinberg, “The slippery slope argument is both the least important and most disliked by those who do not hold to inerrancy, [and] for many individuals and institutions, the surrender of their commitment to inerrancy has been a first step to greater error.”[8] When analyzing the epistemological argument, its logic means if a single error is present in the Bible then it contains no truth at all. This argument seems to be classified more as an over-belief and Feinberg cites two flaws: (1) while it is true that one error in Scripture would not justify the conclusion that everything else in it is false, it would call everything in Scripture into question, and (2) it does not account for all the issues involved in inerrancy.”[9]

Many who argue against the historical argument for biblical inerrancy believe this doctrine to be the formulation of Princeton theologians, in an attempt to counter the rising tide of liberalism in the nineteenth century, but as Feinberg points out, “These objections do not do justice to the evidence, [because] they fail to reckon with the host of clear affirmations of inerrancy by Christian theologians throughout the church’s history.”[10] Opponents of the biblical argument emphasize there is no place in the Bible that teaches its own inerrancy. Feinberg also cites another objection, “That inerrancy is unfalsifiable, [meaning:] either the standard for error is so high that nothing can qualify, or the falsity or truth of scriptural statements cannot be demonstrated until all the facts are know.”[11] Erickson sheds light on the various views and adds:

(1) Inerrancy pertains to what is affirmed or asserted rather than what is merely reported; (2) We must judge the truthfulness of Scripture in terms of its meaning in the cultural setting in which its statements were expressed; (3) The Bible’s assertions are fully true when judged in accordance with the purpose for which they were written; (4) Reports of historical events and scientific matters are in phenomenal rather than technical language; and (5) Difficulties in explaining the biblical text should not be prejudged as indications of error.[12]

            The doctrine of biblical inerrancy is very relevant to the church today, as Feinberg emphasizes, the Bible is a divine-human book so, “To deny the authority of the original is to undermine the authority of the Bible the Christian has today [and] to deemphasize either side of its authorship is a mistake.”[13] Additionally, biblical inerrancy does not explain how to interpret Scripture; that is the job of hermeneutics; however, it does assert, “Whatever statements the Bible affirms are fully truthful when they are correctly interpreted in terms of their meaning in their cultural setting and the [original] purpose for which they were written.”[14] Erickson adds, “Scripture inspired by God is necessary because it confirms the nature of God’s special revelations through Scripture”[15] and this is one of the primary ways God made Himself known to man. The argument for biblical inerrancy rests on the foundation that the Bible is the inspired Word of God or “God-breathed” (II Timothy 3:16). Additionally, as Erickson illuminates, “If the Bible is not inerrant, then our knowledge of God may be inaccurate and unreliable.”[16] The final argument for the inerrancy of the Bible is Jesus, Paul, and the apostles teaching Scripture as though it was authoritative, leading the church to continue that tradition and hold fast to the inerrancy of the Bible. Ultimately, it comes down to one’s belief in the power and authority of God’s Word and whether or not Scripture then leads a person to change his or her behavior and/or convictions. The presence of the Holy Spirit is a huge factor in one’s ability to read the Word and is vital in guiding believers into all truth, teaching believers all things, and bringing to remembrance all that Jesus had taught (John 16:13, 14:26).

BIBLIOGRAPHY

Elwell, Walter A. ed. Evangelical Dictionary of Theology. 2nd Edition. Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Academic Publishing Group, 2001.

Erickson, Millard J. Christian Theology. 3rd Edition. Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Academic Publishing Group, 2013.

Frame, John M. Systematic Theology: An Introduction to Christian Belief. Phillipsburg, NJ: P&R Publishing, 2013.

[1] P.D. Feinberg, Evangelical Dictionary of Theology, 2nd Edition, ed. Walter A. Elwell (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Academic Publishing Group, 2001), 156.

[2] Millard J. Erickson, Christian Theology. 3rd Edition (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Academic Publishing Group, 2013), 201-202.

[3] Feinberg, Evangelical Dictionary of Theology, 156.

[4] Erickson, Christian Theology, 169.

[5] Feinberg, Evangelical Dictionary of Theology, 157-158.

[6] Ibid.,158.

[7] Ibid., 157-158.

[8] Ibid., 158.

[9] Ibid.

[10] Feinberg, Evangelical Dictionary of Theology, 159.

[11] Ibid.

[12] Erickson, Christian Theology, 202-205.

[13] Feinberg, Evangelical Dictionary of Theology, 159.

[14] Erickson, Christian Theology, 206.

[15] Erickson, Christian Theology, 168.

[16] Ibid., 188.

Four Approaches to Theology

theology

While theology is the rational reflection on God/god(s) and every religion, regardless of simplicity or intricacy has a theology, Bruce Demarest defines systematic theology as, “the attempt to reduce religious truth to a coherent and relevant whole for the church [which serves to:] (1) edify the believing community, (2) allow the gospel in its fullness to be proclaimed, and (3) preserve the truth content and lived experience of the faith.”[1] Demarest further illustrates, “systematic theology concerns itself with God’s saving history with His people, the utterances of divinely ordained prophets and apostles, and supremely the life, teachings, death, and resurrection of Jesus Christ.”[2]

            In contrast, Demarest explains how, “biblical theology sets forth the message of biblical books by author or other scheme, while historical theology traces the church’s faith topically through various eras of history. [Then,] systematic theology incorporates the data of exegetical, biblical, and historical theology to construct a coherent representation of the Christian faith.”[3] Lastly, philosophical theology is also utilized by systematic theology and Millard Erickson highlights three contributions, “philosophy may: (1) supply content for theology, (2) defend theology or establish its truth, and (3) scrutinize its concepts and arguments.”[4] Philosophical theology prepares one to receive the special revelation revealed in Scripture and Erickson, explains how, “Philosophy also performs the second function of weighing the truth-claims advanced by theology and giving part of the basis for accepting the message.”[5]

When looking at each branch of theology, it is apparent systematic theology and biblical theology are closely connected, however, as Erickson demonstrates, “in biblical theology, there is no attempt to contemporize or to state these unchanging concepts in a form suitable for our day’s understanding, [but Erickson does recognize,] the systematic theologian is dependent on the work and insights of the laborers in the exegetical vineyard.”[6] Historical theology also contributes to systematic theology, as it makes one aware of his or her own preunderstanding or presuppositions, it always one to look back at how other theologians in the past approached a specific topic, tradition, or issue, and it also provides the ability to analyze a specific belief by looking back to exactly where and when it began, which allows today’s scholars the ability to see how people came to various professions of faith, conclusions, and/or deductions.

In a ministerial setting, an understanding of each field of study is necessary, but overall, systematic theology appears to provide the most benefit and context. Demarest demonstrates, “Although Scripture is inviolable, fresh theological understanding and reformation are required in every generation and for every culture, first, because the corpus of Christian truth must be clad in every distinctive cultural form and context, and second, because new issues and problems arise to challenge the church, [so] theologians need to be continually re-contextualized.”[7] Being proficient in systematic theology allows one the ability to openly communicate the gospel message while also being able to provide a relevant rationale why one should choose the Christian faith over other various belief systems. However, without an understanding of the other fields of theology, one will have a difficult time utilizing systematic theology to its fullest potential.

BIBLIOGRAPHY

Elwell, Walter A. ed. Evangelical Dictionary of Theology. 2nd Edition. Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Academic Publishing Group, 2001.

Erickson, Millard J. Christian Theology. 3rd Edition. Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Academic Publishing Group, 2013.

Frame, John M. Systematic Theology: An Introduction to Christian Belief. Phillipsburg, NJ: P&R Publishing, 2013.

[1] Bruce A. Demarest, Evangelical Dictionary of Theology. 2nd Edition, ed. Walter A. Elwell (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Academic Publishing Group, 2001), 1162-1163.

[2] Ibid., 1163.

[3] Ibid., 1164.

[4] Millard J. Erickson, Christian Theology. 3rd Edition (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Academic Publishing Group, 2013), 13-14.

[5] Erickson, Christian Theology, 14.

[6] Ibid., 10-11.

[7] Demarest, Evangelical Dictionary of Theology, 1162.