Students dare not question the logic of logic—it is considered illogical and deserving of rebuke. Philosophically, there is no greater foundation commonly accepted than that which can be reasoned. The rationalizations from the human mind are considered the bedrock of reality, knowledge, and belief.
Christian belief is summarized and explained as theology. Theology is the categorized study of God. In other words, it is the grouping of thoughts and various details of belief which can be labeled and defined. Systematic theology, then, is the rational step-by-step approach to explaining those categories of belief in God.
By one online definition, Systematic Theology is: “a form of theology in which the aim is to arrange religious truths in a self-consistent whole.”
It is a reasoned method of building the explanations of what Christians ought to believe and understand. However, Systematic Theology has an Achilles Heel–a fatal flaw—that scholars and professors often don’t want anyone to recognize, because it is likely the same fundamental basis that props up their own authority to teach what to believe.
The basis of any logical system of thought is human rationalization: human reason. Following our Greek and Romanesque roots, Westernized science and philosophy typically accept no greater foundation than that which can be reasoned in a linear, one-two-three pattern.
The fundamental problem with human reason is the limitation of the human. This by no means is a recommendation for unreasonableness, but people are biased actors on the world stage, trying to measure their own performance. Human reason is self-limited.
It is a mental-progression fallacy, which suggests that each generation is building upon and thus progressing beyond former generations like some kind of evolutionary advancement, because it is ignorant of the deforming impact of sin. This is a fundamental error of systematic theology that inherently assumes that our educated systems are more sophisticated as interpretations and study builds over time. In reality, errors are even more powerful in compounding over time, and it only takes a little leaven to deform the entire loaf.
When it comes to theology, to the study of God, we are encouraged to come and reason with God: to use our God-given abilities to seek him. However, such reasoning is meant to be subordinated to approaches that reflect godly truth.
Theology ought to begin with and strive to be based upon forms that depend more on what comes from God than on what can be mustered up through mankind.
For example, why don’t God-professing institutions of higher learning promote classes on Faith Theology? Or how about Revelation Theology? Or maybe Foundation Theology? All would still use human reason to navigate through such approaches, for we certainly are not expected be be mindless, but their basis would be on things that come from God rather than on man-made patterns.
Approaching theology from a faith perspective would give more emphasis on how the study of God finds formation through trusting in God and his words more like a little child. The entire package of what Christians believe would build and show a logical development, not principally because of a rationalized explanation, but because of layers of acceptance in the promises and evidences and words from God.
Approaching theology from a revelation perspective would establish the entire development of what believers believe on what God has revealed of himself. It would take each revelation and stack it on that which came earlier. It would connect to each ah-ha under the assumption that God never disagrees with himself, so each discovery would be received as a building together of our theology.
Approaching theology from a foundational view would put primary credence on what the first eye-witnesses taught, rather than on subsequent interpretations. Forming such a package of theology would develop from a basis on what Paul taught was a done-deal. “No other foundation can be laid, but that which has already been laid”.
Systematic Theology is a tangent approach that is worth considering, but it should not be relied upon to establish Christian belief or practice, because it depends upon human reasoning to justify itself. The subtle value of systematic approaches to defining theology is that it can be easily manipulated to defend and teach denominational distinctions without openly declaring such bias. It is impressive, thorough, and difficult to identify assumptions from absolutes.
Academically we like systematic approaches because we can control them with our own mind. The other suggested approaches all require dependence and submission to what God offers and expects. Intellectual humility goes against human nature and is why the systematic approach tends to dominate all other ways of trying to teach truth.
So the question. Is your belief in God founded on faith or formula? Is your preaching submissive or systematic based? Is your hope in life ultimately explainable or full-of-wonder?
As our Lord declares: “Trust me in this and see if I will not open the flood gates of heaven and pour out such a blessing that you will not have room enough to contain it all”.