What Is The Difference Between Systematic Theology and Biblical Theology?

a man in a church

Mar 10, 2021

Jeff Augustine is affiliate faculty for the School of Biblical and Theological Studies for the College of Adult and Graduate Studies at Colorado Christian University

What is Theology?

Theology is a widely used term. Theology in a Christian context seeks to understand the God revealed in the Bible. So, the study of God is a study of God’s revelation of Himself. Theology is essentially a study of scripture. Theology comes from combining two Greek words: theos, meaning God, and logos, meaning word or rational thought. So theology is God-thought or rational reasoning about God. It is the human effort to understand the God of the scriptures. We all have ideas and thoughts about God, so in a sense, we are all theologians. Theology is the activity of thinking and speaking about God. These God-thoughts are any reflection on the ultimate questions of life that involve God. Theology is for doxology (praise) and devotion (the practice of godliness).

In the broadest sense, theology encompasses a wide range of interrelated disciplines: exegetical theology, historical theology, practical theology, systematic theology, and biblical theology. 

The relationship between systematic theology and biblical theology is a close one. What is the difference?

What is Biblical Theology? 

Biblical theology focuses on the teachings of the individual authors and books of the Bible and places each teaching in the Scriptures’ historical development. It is a presentation of the Old and New Testament writers’ theological teachings within their historical setting. A Biblical theologian may ask, “What is the historical development of the teaching about the kingdom of God as it is seen throughout the history of the Old Testament and then of the New Testament?” The Biblical theologian analyzes the development of each doctrine through the historical development of scripture. They organize the topics historically and in the order that the bible presents the topics. Biblical theology’s main task is expounding the theology found in the Bible in its own historical setting and its own terms, categories, and thought-forms. The Biblical theologian seeks to learn what the biblical authors believed and taught in the context of their own historical setting. It is primarily a descriptive type of theology. It is not initially concerned with the final meaning of the Bible’s teachings or their relevance for today. This meaning and relevance is the task of systematic theology.

What is Systematic Theology?

Systematic theology uses Biblical theology, but it focuses on collecting and summarizing the teaching of all the biblical passages on a particular topic. The Systematic theologian may ask, “What does the entire Bible teach us today about heaven?” Systematic theology attempts to summarize the whole Bible’s teaching on a particular subject with a concise statement or definition. It aims to develop a logically coherent and rationally defensible system of biblical teachings on theological topics such as the Trinity, the Church’s doctrine, or spiritual gifts. Systematic theology is highly practical.

Biblical theology synthesizes the teachings of the Scriptures, and Systematic theology formulates these teachings for today. Biblical theology seeks to apply the Bible through the history of redemption, and systematic theology seeks to use the Bible as a whole for today.

Biblical theology is simply theology that is biblical and is based on the teachings of the Scriptures. Systematic theology will be contemporary biblical theology. The systematic theologian draws from the biblical theologian’s work. Biblical theology is the foundation from which systematic theology summarizes each doctrine as present-day followers of Jesus should understand it. The systematic theologian will sometimes use terms and concepts that the individual biblical writers did not use but are the proper result of combining the biblical authors’ teachings on a specific topic. The terms Trinity and incarnation are not found in the Bible, but they are helpful biblical concepts that summarize the Scriptures’ Biblical theology. 

Do you have a passion for theology, people, the church, or leadership? Colorado Christian University’s online Master of Arts in Theological Studies will provide you with a theological exploration of God, humanity, and human relationships to God and the world. This online Theology master's degree will prepare you for Christian ministry with knowledge and skills to strengthen your biblical understanding from a theological perspective. This degree in theology may also appeal to you if you desire personal enrichment and a deeper understanding of God's Word.

Share Now!