I love how Geerhardus Vos explains the differences between Biblical Theology and Systematic Theology. He writes,
“In Biblical Theology the principle is one of historical, in Systematic Theology it is one of logical construction. Biblical Theology draws a line of development. Systematic Theology draws a circle.” (Biblical Theology, 16).
If these two clarifications adequately summarize the differences between these two disciplines, shouldn’t we agree that both disciplines are equally important? We need both the historical storyline and the logical conclusions, right? We need lines and circles, circles and lines. These two disciplines are both important not only for scholars, but also for the common person sitting in the pew. Why? Because some tend to be more linear in their thinking and others like stories (drama).
For a bit more help, and a longer discussion of Biblical Theology (as contrasted with systematic theology), and a survey of both the Old and New Testaments through the discipline of Biblical Theology, read Kenny’s posts here and here.
Luke is a pastor-theologian living in northern California, serving as a co-lead pastor with his life, Dawn, at the Red Bluff Vineyard. Father of five amazing kids, when Luke isn’t hanging with his family, reading or writing theology, he moonlights as a fly fishing guide for Confluence Outfitters. He blogs regularly at LukeGeraty.com and regularly contributes to his YouTube channel.
Just a thought… Historical theology should be in here as well. Without historical theology many people assume that our dogmas and systematics come from a simple reading of scripture. Historical theology gives us the ability to see that much of our faith has been wrought on the anvil of discussion, arguments, examination and reasoning. It is through discussion, arguments, examination and reasoning that our faith has progeny and the ability to defend itself against new errors.
Totally agree! And I would venture to suggest that Practical Theology is also very important!
Although I want to make sure that all of these disciplines flow out of a strong exegetical theology…
I agree about the exegetical theology. The plurality of dogmatic conclusions coming from strong scholarly exegesis is humbling though at least in evangelical circles and more so if you include pre-reformation. I wrote to my brother a couple of days ago that I am trying to avoid two ends of the spectrum in my biblical theology 1. The star ship enterprise (rugged individualism) 2. The Borg (assimilating collectivism) He is a Jehovah’s Witness… needles to say he never responded LOL.
I am very new to understanding Practical Theology.
I have a book on my shelf called Everyday Theology by Vanhoozer, Anderson, and Sleasman.
I have been meaning to read it… I have heard a lot about Vanhoozer.
Have you read it?
Would you recommend any solid books on the subject?
Did you just mention Vanhoozer?!?!?!?!?!?!? Okay, sorry. Was getting geeked out.
Yes, I actually love that book (Everyday Theology). It’s a collection of essays from a variety of theological thinkers. I loved the essay on eminem. It was about really fascinating, especially from the perspective of being involved in hip hop for so long. I like Vanhoozer a lot and his thoughts on hermeneutics are always insightful.
Practical Theology is somewhat new to me as well. I think the subject should be approached like any other theological discipline… find good authors and buy individual books instead of buying complete series’ or anything like that. Since Practical Theology is such a large topic, the skies the limit. Books on prayer, biblical counseling, marriage, fasting, evangelism, etc. are everywhere…. but not all of them are good and yet there are some real helpful gems!
Are you familiar with the works of David Powlison? Or the late Edmund Clowney? Those two come immediately to mind. Powlison is big in the “Biblical counseling” world and Clowney wrote a lot on practical theology (from a Presbyterian perspective… but super helpful).
I love Powlison I am a class away from one of those CCEF counseling certificates through correspondence. CCEF teaching has helped my pulpit ministry immensely. Powlison, Tripp, Welch I enjoy these guys I guess I was not aware that this fell under the category Practical Theology. If so I guess I may be more familiar with it than I am aware of.
I am familiar with Clowney I have the book heralds of the king (great book) and I have taken some classes from Art Azurdia who is a protege of Clowney or at least spoke highly of the impact Clowney played in his life.
I guess I will need to put Everyday Theology on deck now.
Thanks for the heads up.
CCEF is a great resource. I’d love to do some training with them. I have a few people in our congregation that I’ve been gently encouraging to do that too. I love Powlison!
Yeah, Applied Theology is generally intricately connected with Practical Theology, so it includes pastoral counseling, homiletics, spiritual formation, and basically anything having to do with church praxis.
At least that’s what I’ve been told/taught. There’s basically a type of theology for everything, right?
I am currently tempted to look into some Coffee Theology but I’m afraid I won’t go to sleep at a decent hour and 6am comes quickly!
Please Luke write something on the exegetical, thats my thing and my bias.
Yeah, I think peops just run from one side to the other trying to correct theology that they found harmful/lacking. They say, oh, a bunch of THESE sorts of theologians caused all the trouble, so I’m going to curl up in this corner and just focus on this approach. And the next gen will do the opposite, lol.