Biblical vs Systematic Theology

What is Theology?

While the term Theology simply means, “the study of God” there are many varying definitions that often get thrown into the mix, and many variations on theological approach. There are, however, two primary “forms” of theology that must be examined, as they are often used interchangeably or in tandem with one another. The terms to which I am referring are Biblical Theology and Systematic Theology.

There is much that could be said on the field of theology. Indeed, many, many volumes have been written on historical, theoretical, practical, and systematic theology, among other various approaches. We will dive into each of these in time, but this post is intended to make the argument that Biblical and systematic theology are two sides of the same coin, and should be approached as such.

Biblical Theology

Biblical theology refers what the Bible says about a given topic, say salvation. The Bible, through both testaments, talks a great deal about salvation. In the Old Testament it was the freeing of Israel from slavery, the establishment of the Jewish nation, and the cyclical story of God’s redeeming His chosen people. In the New Testament the Bible talks about salvation from the slavery and bondage of sin, the establishment of God’s eternal Kingdom, and Christ going to the cross to redeem His creation and make a way for sinners to be reconciled to the sinless Father.

These parallel redemptive stories span 66 books, many authors, hundreds of years, and multiple continents. Yet, they surround the same event, the birth and life of Christ. Moreover, the doctrine of salvation is taught through the lives of those revealed in Scripture. There are no special callouts, headers, or warnings in the text itself (it’s worth noting many have been added in the publishing of the various translations) that would clue the reader in on what doctrine was being taught. Just ask your pastor, any seminary student or graduate, or peruse the table of contents of a book about theology/doctrine and you will find that there are numerous doctrines taught in the Bible.

The Bible is the ultimate source for truth, especially when seeking truth about doctrine. However, there exists in the original manuscripts no organized way of teaching doctrine. Doctrine, in the pages of the Bible, is taught organically. All we need for a deep, thorough understanding of doctrine is contained in Scripture. So why the need for a systematic approach?

Systematic Theology

Systematic theology exists to be an organized approach to study Biblical theology, or Biblical doctrine. Think about your favorite fiction book, I’m going to use The Lord of the Rings as an example. Frodo, Samwise, and the rest of the Fellowship set out on a quest to destroy the one ring. Along the way their paths part, each party faces increasingly overwhelming odds of success, and each member of the Fellowship learns more about themselves and their character. You learn about Frodo’s unwavering commitment, Samwise’s unfaltering loyalty, and Aragorn’s innate leadership skills. But, we don’t read about these in a chart, or a section, or even a chapter of the books. We read about them as the story unfolds. How helpful would it be if Tolkien had included character bios for each character in the book? We would know right away that Aragorn was the rightful king of Gondor. We would know quickly that Legolas and Gimli would become great friends. We would know at first mention that Saruman was working to bring about the destruction of Middle Earth. More than all of the character bios, what if Tolkien had listed the lessons he envisioned each character teaching.

That is what Systematic theology does. Systematic theology takes the doctrines, or some of the doctrines (depending on which volume you are reading), and organizes them in a way that makes them easier to understand. Let’s revisit our example of the doctrine of salvation. In academic terms, we would call this soteriology, of the study of salvation. A good, reliable systematic theology work will look the whole of Scripture, both Old and New Testaments, and will derive its teaching on salvation from the Bible itself. For example, Norman Geisler, in his work “Systematic Theology in One Volume” points out teachings and mentions of salvation from both testaments. However, he lays them next to one another and organizes them in a way that make it easy for a reader to glean a deeper understanding of the doctrine of salvation.


As this is meant to a brief argument that Biblical and Systematic theology are two sides of the same coin, I will not go any deeper. What is the point of this post, other than to make an argument, I hope that it sparks in you a desire to go deeper into the doctrinal beliefs of Christianity. There are certainly many sects within the Christian approach to life, but, if fleshed out Biblically, they should all point the reader back to the truths of the Bible and to the person and work of Christ.

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