Context: theology, evangelicalism, doctrine, dogmatics

Confer: biblical theology, historical theology

Systematic theology is a branch of theology that attempts to organise (or "systematise") religious truth into a categorical system. Within evangelical Christianity, systematic theology organises the Bible's teachings into a system of topics, ranks them in importance, and shows the interrelationships within each of the topics.

Topics within systematic theology can be classified in two broad categories: (a) topics that are raised by the Bible itself (e.g. the nature of the Trinity), and (b) topics that are raised by people (e.g. what does the Bible say about work?). While (a) is generally easier to work with, by virtue that the Bible says a lot about it for it to be a topic, (b) is more common in practice, not least because of apologetics.

The development of a systematic theology on a particular topic is a science, as it uses a form of the scientific method. A hythothesis about the topic is formulated, and then tested with biblical data. If the hypothesis is found wanting, it is rejected and a new hypothesis developed. If the hypothesis fits with all of the biblical data, then it is accepted.

Examples of Systematic-Theological Classifications

Examples of such classifications are generally found in two sources:

Books on Systematic Theology

  • John Calvin. 1559. Institutes of the Christian Religion
    1. The Knowledge of God the Creator
    2. The Knowledge of God the Redeemer in Christ, first disclosed to the Fathers under the Law, and then to us in the gospel.
    3. The Way in which we receive the Grace in Christ: what benefits come to us from it, and what effects follow
    4. The external means or aids by which God invites us into Society of Christ and holds us therein
  • Bruce Milne. 1998. Know the Truth, 2nd ed. Leicester: Inter-Varsity Press
    1. The final authority in matters of faith
    2. The doctrine of God
    3. Humankind and sin
    4. The person and work of Christ
    5. The person and work of the Holy Spirit
    6. The church
    7. The last things

Creeds and Doctrinal Statements

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