The term “theology,” or even worse “systematic theology,” have bad names among Old and New Testament specialists. The primary reason for this is bad manners: these sorts of scholars intend to be specialists in history and exegesis and don’t want theological questions cluttering up their quest for what the text really says. In other words, and I confess to having participated in these bad manners myself on many occasions, the order is first Bible and only then (if ever) theology and systematics. This needs to be challenged.
The study of the text at the level of exegesis only, of merely analysis leading to description in context, whether historical or canonical, is not enough. So, we can ask the exegetes, you’ve determined the structure of Romans — what’s the point? Once again, this is not to depreciate the value of studying the text carefully.
But study of the text is not enough. Scripture is to be read both informationally and formationally. Knowing the Bible is not enough. Knowing Augustine or Aquinas or Luther or Calvin or Zwingli or Cranmer or Barth or Pannenberg or Moltmann is not enough.
I think the Emerging movement has its hands around this issue pretty well. Its purple theology that transcends the conservative red theology and the liberal blue theology is a theology that is essentially the pursuit of wisdom. Theology serves wisdom, but it is not the same as wisdom. Purple theology is wisdom.
Theology and systematic theology, however, are also not enough. The goal of Scripture according to 2 Tim 3 is to teach, rebuke, correct and train in righteousness so that we may be equipped for good work.
In other words, Scripture is given to make us wise so we will act in love and wisdom in all we do.
To this end, I will devote the next five posts to John Franke’s The Character of Theology. Join me in reading a chapter a day if you wish.