01/02/2016 in: App Tipson
Out of all the works that a Christian can read, systematic theologies are some of the most daunting. While some might have a volume or two on their bookshelf just for looks, about the only people you find reading them are pastors and seminary students. Why is that? More often than not, these titles are seen as dense and hard to understand. That is usually reason enough for the average Christian to leave these titles alone. Having read through several sets and volumes, I would argue that all Christians should own a systematic theology or two and reference them often in their studies. Let me share a few reasons why Christians should study theology and why it doesn’t have to be a daunting task.
I will use John Frame’s Systematic Theology for illustration.
Bible+ Makes it Easy
Like commentaries, a systematic theology title can be a big book, or even span multiple volumes. Trying to carry that around with other books can quickly become unwieldy. Bible+ alleviates this problem by allowing you to fit an entire Bible study library in the palm of your hand. This is reason alone to consider buying a systematic theology in Olive Tree.
Portability aside, Bible+ also makes systematic theology titles easy to use. The first way they are made easier to use is by turning Bible references into links. Instead of needing a Bible nearby to lookup references, you can tap on the verse and quickly read it. With the Bible open in a pop-up, you can read the verse referenced, or scroll up/down & get the verse’s surrounding context.
The same is true for footnotes and end notes. Instead of flipping back and forth or having a page cluttered with footnotes, Bible+ puts all that info out of the way. If all you want to do is read the text, you can do that uninterrupted without breaking the flow of text. Want to read the footnotes? Just tap on them and they instantly appear.
One final way that systematic theology titles are easier to use in Bible+ is search. Searching a physical book is near impossible. Sure, you may get an index that’ll help you find certain topics or words, but it may not give you everything you’re looking for. In Bible+ you can search for a word or phrase and find every occurrence and do so with ease.
You Don’t Have to Read it Cover to Cover
One common misconception about systematic theology titles is that you need to read them cover to cover. Nothing could be further from the truth. Yes, there are some that you may want to read straight through, but you won’t do that with most of them, even in seminary. Many theology titles are best used as a reference work alongside a Bible dictionary or encyclopedia. Let’s say you’re studying a topic like the Trinity. If you consult your Bible dictionary you may only get a few paragraphs or a page or two of information, and maybe a handful of Bible verses. What do you do if you want to dig a little further? This is where a systematic theology can be of huge benefit. All you have to do is open your favorite systematic theology and find its chapter or section on the Trinity and you’ll get any and everything you wanted to know, and nearly (if not every) supporting passage in Scripture. If we look at Frame’s Systematic Theology you’ll see that he dedicates three entire chapters to the subject of the Trinity.
Systematic theology titles are also useful if you have a friend who has questions about a particular doctrine. Sometimes instead of trying to explain it all myself I’ll have them read a section discussing the topic at hand, and then we can follow up our discussion in a more focused manner. More often than not, the systematic theology will do a better job of explaining things than I ever could & will answer most of their questions.
Great for Small Groups or Sunday School
Finally, systematic theology titles can be great to use for small group or Sunday school curriculum. While many are formatted like textbooks, there are a handful that are written in such a way that they easily lend themselves to this use, Frame’s being one of them & Grudem’s being another. At the end of each chapter in Frame’s Systematic Theology you will find 3 things: key terms discussed in the chapter, study questions, and memory verses. With this information in hand, one could easily put together a lesson and facilitate a discussion on each chapter.
This type of content is helpful in keeping the reader focused as they’re reading, while also making it less daunting because they can know what to look for ahead of time.
While theology can delve into the deep, it can still be accessible to all, and these types of resources make that possible.