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Types of Theology: 4 Basic Ways To Prove Your Faith

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Types of Theology: 4 Basic Ways To Prove Your Faith
Types of theology and how to use them. This practical order makes the most sense: Biblical, historic, systematic, and practical theology.



Types of Theology: 4 Basic Ways To Prove Your Faith



What are the types of theology?


Biblical theology is God’s theology as He has given it to us in the Bible. It is evident on every page of the Bible, in every book.


God gave it at a specific time to an individual He had chosen for the benefit of His people, those living at the time it was written but also for us today.


It is at once the simplest and deepest of the four types of theology we are looking at today.


Virtually everyone has some theology they learned from the Bible. Those who have not read it themselves have received it via the osmosis of cultural literacy.


Historical Theology


Historical theology is another Bible-based way of looking at our faith, paying specific attention to human history and how our doctrines and teaching have developed in the practices of the Church.


Systematic Theology


This an orderly way of looking at Christianity in a way that is logical, thorough, and focused. It is Bible-based and examines specific doctrines or teachings of the Bible in a complete and exhaustive way to bring the entire weight of God’s Word to a clearly defined truth on that single subject.


Westminster Theological Seminary describes Systematic Theology as “Doctrines from Scripture delivered to the church.”


Practical Theology


Lastly, practical theology builds on the other three to examine current Christian practices to see if they are sound or sinful, and reform, correct or discard them.


What is the purpose of these four types of theology?


They are tools to help us attain the fulness of theology, which is to know Jesus, to love Him more, and to live our lives more faithfully.


In our last blog article, we defined “theology” as How to Know Jesus & His Will for You. Here is a more thoughtful definition from an evangelical, Anglican theologian:


Theology is a serious quest for the true knowledge of God, undertaken in response to His self-revelation, illumined by Christian tradition, manifesting a rational inner coherence, issuing in ethical conduct, resonating with the contemporary world, and concerned for the greater glory of God. – John Stott.


What is the best way to use these types of theology?


To fully explore and understand Christianity and establish our faith.


Is there a method or sequence for using the four types of theology?


There are different methods and sequences depending on the goal, but it is always best to begin with the Biblical, then historic, next systematic, and finally practical.


A case study using all four types of theology on heaven and Hell follows.


Biblical theology is the springboard for the other three types of theology.


Heaven and Hell are important subjects everyone has an opinion about. What people know about the subject came from the Bible. Jesus* taught about these places many times. (An asterisk after a name means that person is one of the 200 short biographies in my book SPIRITUAL LIVES.)


His promise of eternal life in John 3:16 is juxtaposed to the phrase that we will not “perish,” meaning go to Hell.


He tells His disciples He will welcome His sheep to heaven and tell the goats


Depart from me, ye cursed, into everlasting fire, prepared for the devil and his angels: Matthew 25:41


From Jesus we get an explicit parable about what comes after dying:


The Rich Man and Lazarus


There was a certain rich man, which was clothed in purple and fine linen, and fared sumptuously every day:


And there was a certain beggar named Lazarus, which was laid at his gate, full of sores,


And desiring to be fed with the crumbs which fell from the rich man’s table: moreover the dogs came and licked his sores.


And it came to pass, that the beggar died, and was carried by the angels into Abraham’s bosom: the rich man also died, and was buried;


And in hell he lift up his eyes, being in torments, and seeth Abraham afar off, and Lazarus in his bosom.


And he cried and said, Father Abraham, have mercy on me, and send Lazarus, that he may dip the tip of his finger in water, and cool my tongue; for I am tormented in this flame.


But Abraham said, Son, remember that thou in thy lifetime receivedst thy good things, and likewise Lazarus evil things: but now he is comforted, and thou art tormented.


And beside all this, between us and you there is a great gulf fixed: so that they which would pass from hence to you cannot; neither can they pass to us, that would come from thence. – Luke 16:19-26


Now we have a clear idea of what we are studying. The Bible is always the best place to start. With this foundation, we can move on to the next step


Historical theology adds depth and time


Those examples above are from the New Testament. What does history tell us? What does the Old Testament teach?


The very first verse of the Bible tells us God created Heaven, but it does not specifically tell us that anyone went there.


The closest we have is Enoch’s* translation in Genesis 5:24: And Enoch walked with God: and he was not; for God took him.


Jacob* saw a ladder set up on the earth, and the top of it reached to heaven: and behold the angels of God ascending and descending on it. Gen_28:12


But we have no idea of what goes on in heaven until the book of Job, where we see Job 1:6


Now there was a day when the sons of God came to present themselves before the LORD, and Satan came also among them


There is a similar scene in 1 Kings 22:19 when


Micaiah saw the LORD sitting on his throne, and all the host of heaven standing by him on his right hand and on his left.


Shortly after this, the Bible shows us someone who did get into heaven:


And it came to pass, as they still went on, and talked, that, behold, there appeared a chariot of fire, and horses of fire, and parted them both asunder; and Elijah went up by a whirlwind into heaven. – 2 Kings 2:11


The unveiling of Hell takes a different path. Moses* gives us his eyewitness account of rebellious Israelites going live into Hell:


And the earth opened her mouth, and swallowed them up, and their houses, and all the men that appertained unto Korah, and all their goods.


They, and all that appertained to them, went down alive into the pit, and the earth closed upon them: and they perished from among the congregation. – Numbers 16:32-33


At the same time, fire came out from the Lord and killed 250 others. There is an ongoing understanding that Hell is beneath the earth and that the wicked go there.


The wicked shall be turned into hell and all the nations that forget God. -Psalm 9:17


There is a development in the understanding of both heaven and Hell here, and to understand that better we need to move on to the third of our four types of theology.


Systematic theology makes us look at the whole picture


One way to move ahead systematically is to look at how often the subject is mentioned. The word “heaven” appears 583 times and “Hell” 54 in the King James* Bible. It is an indication that the topic in not trivial.


Another question to ask is are these the only words used to describe “heaven and Hell?” We have already seen Hell called “the pit.” There are others, “lake of fire,” for example.


Different Hebrew and Greek words are translated as “Hell” in most English-language Bibles. These words include: “Sheol” in the Hebrew Bible, and “Hades” in the New Testament. Many modern versions, such as the New International Version, translate Sheol as “grave” and simply transliterate “Hades”. Jesus uses “Gehenna.”


In the Old Testament “heaven” can mean either the place where God dwells or simply the sky. Jesus refers not only to heaven but to “the kingdom of God,” “the Resurrection,” “Abraham’s Bosom,” “the New Jerusalem,” or “Paradise.”


Systematic theology analyzes all of this and clarifies/defines our terms. It is the most labor-intensive of the four types of theology and the least often used. But its use helps us be sure what we are talking about and gives us a sense of the weight of each issue.


Practical theology evaluates Christian practices


What do you believe personally about Heaven and Hell? Here are five questions to ask:


One question is “Are heaven and Hell real places?”


The Bible refers to them as real places.


Another is “Are heaven and Hell the only places in the afterlife?”


These are the only two the Bible mentions. Roman Catholics believe in “Purgatory,” an intermedial place for sinners to be purged of their sins before moving on to heaven. Dante devoted one book of the Divine Comedy to this place.


Does everyone go to one or the other?


Jesus simply says He that believeth and is baptized shall be saved; but he that believeth not shall be damned. -Mark16:16


When does one enter either, immediately after death or later?


Jesus and Paul speak to its immediacy. Jesus told the thief on the cross, “Today, thou shalt be with me in Paradise.” St. Paul teaches that to be absent from the body is to be “present with the Lord.2Co_5:8


Is assignment to one or the other permanent? This is Jesus’ teaching in the parable of the Rich man and Lazarus.



What is the best way to use the four types of theology?


Begin with the Bible, which is always our starting point. Most Christians never need to use any of the four types of theology until an issue arises that calls for further study.


When such an issue arises, the Bible will resolve it. It is, of course, necessary to fully exercise Biblical theology before going on to the other steps.


Checking with Church leaders or Christian friends will usually resolve most theological issues, but if not, the sequence above, Biblical, historic, systematic, and practical is the way to go.


Collaborating with other Believers in a small group is a powerful and edifying experience for all of us. Theology is a noble occupation with eternal rewards which begin to appear as soon as we begin to seek the Lord with our whole hearts.


More like the Master I would ever be,

More of His meekness, more humility;

More zeal to labor, more courage to be true,

More consecration for work He bids me do.


Refrain


Take Thou my heart, I would be Thine alone;

Take Thou my heart, and make it all Thine own.

Purge me from sin, O Lord, I now implore,

Wash me and keep me Thine forevermore.


More like the Master is my daily prayer;

More strength to carry crosses I must bear;

More earnest effort to bring His kingdom in;

More of His Spirit, the wanderer to win.


Refrain


More like the Master I would live and grow;

More of His love to others I would show;

More self denial, like His in Galilee,

More like the Master I long to ever be.


Refrain


Charles H. Gabriel, 1906


Take my yoke upon you, and learn of me; for I am meek and lowly in heart: and ye shall find rest unto your souls. Matthew 11:29



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