Systematic Theology

The quest for Systematic Theology follows right along after the Historical Approach. It is where scholars make their goal an attempt to explain the entire bible, a piece at a time and bring all of the elements into interpretative unity.

Consider this quote.

As students our task is to ascertain the meaning of Scripture by seeing each statement within its original social, linguistic, religious and political setting. We must then consider all other statements on the same subject, thus bringing all Scripture into an interpretive unity. And it will not matter whether we study the end times from Mathew 24, Ezekiel, Daniel or Revelation. If we understand any one of them correctly, all the others will tell the same story, although perhaps from a slightly different perspective. Ted Noel

Is there any scripture offered to support this? No. The Bible says:

Romans 11:33 ... how unsearchable are his judgments, and his ways past finding out!

Here he is looking to ascertain the meaning of Scripture by academic methods, and bring it into interpretive unity. His final sentence here mentions correct understanding. The problem is the assumption that one can fully ascertain the meaning of scripture, and that once we understand a part correctly the others will fall into place. So eventually it's possible to have a unified interpretation of the whole bible. All we have to do is figure out what each piece means and fit them together. There are at least two problems with this. One it assumes that the meaning of scripture can be found on the basis of study, without taking into account the guidance of the Spirit. See my articles The Dispute and Why You Can Never Agree for more on this topic.

Next it assumes that the scripture is two dimensional. Like the jigsaw puzzle analogy, just find where each belongs and soon you will have it all figured out. Truth is that there are multiple levels of meaning in God's word. It's not two dimensional at all. There are multiple meanings, multiple correct interpretations, and multiple fulfillments in lots of cases. Also look back at where he quotes Isaiah.

Isa 28:9 Whom shall he teach knowledge? and whom shall he make to understand doctrine? them that are weaned from the milk, and drawn from the breasts.

10 For precept must be upon precept, precept upon precept; line upon line, line upon line; here a little, and there a little: KJV

Verse 9 tells us that He teaches doctrine and gives understanding. It does not come from our own efforts. And that he does this to those that are mature in the word, not babes. Verse 10 uses upon or on depending on the translation to show a method of learning. It suggest the idea of building or stacking things here and there. This goes against the image of the jigsaw puzzle, picturing things in three dimensions. When there are multiple meanings, then each revelation one receives can become the foundation for a new revelation. Each one building on the previous, yielding higher levels of understanding that could not be had directly. With the literal and historic approaches, there can be only one level of meaning. These approaches will never get you into the deeper things of the word.

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