Living Theology (Introduction)

by Garrett Glende

The applications of systematic theology is a difficult subject to introduce. How do you begin to write about such a topic and its practical application to daily life? Do you dive head first into the weighty doctrine, or do you ease into it, providing the reader with a sense of purpose and direction? This article will do a bit of both, as it is the introduction to what is intended to be a series based on the book Systematic Theology by Wayne Grudem. In the coming weeks we’ll look at each of the book’s chapters, seeking to understand the doctrine and how it can transform our lives.

A few months ago JR and I began to walk through Grudem’s book during our weekly discipleship meetings. We chose to do so after I pointed out that I saw a disparity between my knowledge and my living. I wanted to continue to sharpen my understanding of what the Bible teaches about who God is, how He has redeemed us, and all the necessary effects. Our goal in going over Grudem’s book was to strengthen our theology, but more importantly to attempt to have it change the way we live every day.

This series will simply be an extension of the meetings that I have with JR. I probably won’t have much to say that is completely original, as I’m going to be stealing from either Wayne Grudem or JR (two men who are much smarter and godlier than I). My hope is that those who read these articles will be challenged in not only their understanding of who God is, but also in their personal lives as they strive to conform to Christ-likeness daily.

Why are we doing this? Everyone has seen the book. It’s big. It’s blue. It’s intimidating. Besides its sheer mass, its subject matter doesn’t always stimulate much excitement. This all makes Systematic Theology a very hard book to tackle. But should it be this way? Why are we put off by these things? Should we not be excited that there is so much to learn about our glorious God? And it’s so nicely formatted and organized in one place for us! Having a firm grasp of the deep truths about God is vital to living the Christian life in a manner that is pleasing to Him. In fact, the way in which we live our lives will often reflect what we believe about Him. Thus, we must gain a proper understanding of who God is so that we can live accordingly.

The first eleven chapters of the book of Romans are completely devoted to building a strong doctrinal foundation so that Paul has a basis for the commandments laid out in the rest of the book. He wanted his readers to know the reasons behind his practical exhortations. Jesus said that the Father is seeking true worshipers to worship Him in spirit and in truth (John 4:23-24). The knowledge of the true God should affect our hearts so that our worship can be offered up to God in truth. Do we not distort the character of God when we live in contradiction to what we confess? For example, John tells us that “if God so loved us, we also ought to love one another” (1 John 4:11). When we do not love one another, we demonstrate that we don’t really know the truth about God – that He is love (1 John 4:8). It does us absolutely no good to intellectually assent to orthodoxy, for “even the demons believe – and shudder” (James 2:19). This all goes to say that as we let the truth of God’s word sink into our hearts, we will live more godly lives because of it.

I should say a few more words about what systematic theology actually means. Grudem defines it as “any study that answers the question, ‘What does the whole Bible teach us today?’ about any given topic.” The particular method of study includes gathering all relevant passages for a specific topic and coming to a conclusion based on their understandings. A systematic theology is also organized in such a way so that no one topic is over or underemphasized. It also seeks to harmonize each aspect so as to come to a coherent and non-contradictory conclusion. The order creates a structure that allows each doctrine its appropriate weight. While no single topic is independent of any other, the divisions will help us scrutinize our own lives more closely in relation to a specific doctrine.

If you are passionate about living for God, then you should be passionate about knowing who He is. The two cannot be separated. I’m writing this in hopes that it will force me to further examine my own life first, to see where my living doesn’t match with my thinking, and to encourage you all to do the same so that, as a body, we all might worship God with all our hearts, souls, and minds.

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The Beacon is the monthly newsletter for Lighthouse Bible Church in San Diego, California. It covers a variety of subjects including LBC events, church history, current events from a Christan perspective, ministry profiles, and messages from our pastors and elders. To join the Beacon ministry, please contact Stephen Rodgers.

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