Doctrines from Scripture delivered to the church
In systematic theology classes at Westminster, you will study the doctrines revealed in Scripture. These doctrines have also been developed and defended by the church. Systematic theology gathers together all of what Scripture teaches on a particular topic and makes a claim based on that data. As a discipline, systematic theology is both constructive and descriptive. As a constructive discipline, it organizes the content of God’s revelation under appropriate topical headings, seeking to structure the teaching of Scripture as a whole. As a descriptive discipline, it accounts for how past and present theologians have organized the Bible’s content; this study of historic systematic theology texts fosters humility and critical thinking in the student as he considers how other Christians have understood the teaching of Scripture.
What Is Westminster’s Approach to Systematic Theology?
Westminster follows in the footsteps of the great Reformed theologians: John Calvin, Herman Bavinck, and Geerhardus Vos. In his book Biblical Theology, Vos distinguishes between biblical theology, which traces the development of a theme in redemptive history, and systematic theology, which gathers together all of what Scripture teaches on a given topic and makes a claim based on that data (16).
Vos goes on and says that systematic theology “transforms” the biblical data of Scripture. It states the same truth in a different way. Now, just what sort of transformation does systematic theology carry out on Scripture? Vos says that the principle of this transformation “is one of logical construction” (Biblical Theology, 2). What did he mean by that?
Take those two words apart, and then put them together again. Logical—following a coherent sequence of thought that leads to the truth or falsehood of a proposition. Construction—a putting together of parts. Logical construction is a coherent sequence of thought that draws parts of history (Scripture, historical theologians, doctrinal relationships) together in support of a proposition. And in the Reformed tradition, that proposition and its logical construction emerge from the gathered “parts” of Scripture. That’s how Westminster approaches systematic theology.
We can break down the demands of systematic theology into reading and writing. See the sections on each area for more information.