Biblical and Systematic Theology

Biblical theology aims at tracing the themes and individual theologies that are situated in and run through a particular biblical writing. Once this is accomplished the next crucial task is to integrate that material across the entire Bible.[1] A biblical theological approach initially focuses on the historical and literary context of a writing and then relates that epoch to the epochs of writings that precede or follow.[2] According to Gerhard Hasel,

the task of biblical theology is to provide summary explanations and interpretation to the final form of these blocks of writings, with a view to letting their various themes emerge, to indicate their dynamic interrelationship, including their continuities and discontinuities with one another, and to expose the progressive revelation of divine matters.[3]

Systematic theology, as the name implies, focuses on organizing the message of the Bible according to a particular system.[4] The aim is to determine the theological facts of the Bible and then arrange them into a logical system.[5]  John Frame writes, “Systematic theology seeks to apply scripture by asking what the whole Bible teaches about any subject.”[6] Also, systematic theology utilizes outside sources such as other ancient jewish writings and ancient faith creeds while incorporating philosophical and logical techniques.

In view of these definitions, the presenting challenges in relating biblical and systematic theologies revolves around the ordering of principles─biblical theology is diachronic and systematic theology is synchronic. Also, the hermeneutical goals pursued by each presents relating challenges in that biblical theology is committed to an inductive interpretative process whereas systematic theology engages in a topical, logical and hierarchical interpretive process. Lastly, biblical theology is limited in its cultural engagement due to its literary focus whereas systematic theology is closer to cultural engagement due to its use of diverse rationalities. [7]

[1] Marvin C. Pate, et al. The Story of Israel: A Biblical Theology. (Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity, 2004), 12. [2] Gregory K. Beale.  A New Testament Biblical Theology: The Unfolding of the Old Testament in the New. (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Academic, 2012), 9.[3] Gerhard F. Hasel. Old Testament Theology: Basic Issues in the Current Debate. (Grand Rapids, Mich: W.B. Eerdmans, 1998), 112. [4] D.A. Carson. “Systematic Theology and Biblical Theology.” New Dictionary of Biblical Theology, edited by Alexander, T. Desmond, and Brian S. Rosner, (Leicester (England): Inter-varsity, 2000, pp. 89-104), 101. [5] Bruce K. Waltke and Charles Yu. An Old Testament Theology: An Exegetical, Canonical, and Thematic Approach. (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 2007), 51. [6] John M. Frame. Systematic Theology: An Introduction to Christian Belief. (Phillipsburg, NJ: P&R Publishing, 2013), 8. [7] Carson, Systematic, 102-103.

General and Special Revelation (Revisted)

From a Judeo-Christian perspective, an unseen God has revealed himself to humanity through the created universe (“…maker of heaven and earth, of all that is, seen and unseen”)[1], which is often referred to as general revelation.  This type of revelation is clear and certain and is always bestowed upon humanity. “There is no environment where [humans] can flee to escape the revelational presence of God (Ps. 139:8). God’s natural revelation goes out to the end of the world (Ps. 19:1-4) and all people see His glory (Ps. 97:6).”[2]

However, general revelation gives a limited understanding of God and of his relationship with humanity, and so God provided further revelation or special revelation through the God-man, Jesus Christ, in order to communicate his salvation plan to humanity (“…For us and our salvation he came down from heaven: by the power of the Holy Spirit he became incarnate…”)[3]

Moreover, God provided other special revelation by communicating in human language (“…He has spoken through the prophets…”)[4]. He revealed himself in written form where, on a few instances, he physically wrote on stone tablets the words he wanted to communicate (Ex 24:12; Ex 31:18). On other occasions, God verbally dictated to human writers his words for them to write (Ex 24:24; 34:27-28). He also used more collaborative means in the process by speaking through the words of human writers in order that humanity would have “the whole counsel of God concerning all things necessary for His own glory, humanity’s salvation, faith and life.”[5]

[1] Nicene Creed;

[2] Greg L. Bahnsen, Always Ready: Directions for Defending the Faith. (Texarkana, AR: Covenant Media Foundation, 1996), 38.

[3] Nicene Creed;

[4] Nicene Creed;

[5] Westminster Confession of Faith, ch. I Of the Holy Scriptures, pt.VI


Many events in the life of David could be argued as a defining moment of his reign (e.g. his covenant with God or his quick repentance after being confronted by Nathan), but one could argue that his most defining moment occurs before he takes the throne. From this perspective, likely events might include his kingly appointing and anointing by God or his triumph over Goliath; however, while both events display David’s humility and trust in God, they actually prepare him for a greater event that would define David’s reign and have a lasting impact on the people. Actually, it is two similar events─David sparing Saul’s life at Engedi (1 Sam 24:1-25:1) and at Hachilah (1 Sam 26:1-25).

fayum-4After Saul declares David as his enemy and tries to kill him, David escapes from Saul and is forced into hiding. David wrote several psalms (Pss. 18, 52, 53, 57) during this time, and they all portray the danger he faced due to Saul’s evil corruption. These psalms also describe David’s trust in God in the midst of his distress. On the occasion where he was close enough to kill Saul, he showed great restraint, humility and faith in God. He believed that despite Saul’s pride and evil, God would raise up a humble and faithful king for the people. David believed that God would deliver him from Saul without him having to murder Saul. He was not going to ascend to the throne by violence or by his own strength, but rather by the same radical trust, humility and courage he showed at his anointing and his swift battle against Goliath.  

2 Samuel 1 brings the scene full circle when David hears of Saul’s (and Jonathan’s) death. David tore his clothes, mourned, wept and fasted, and he did this with honesty and integrity before God showing his true kingly character. Before David’s call to king, the prophet Samuel had warned the Israelites after Saul’s disobedience that the only way to experience the success and benefits of a king is by having a king who is humble and faithful. Thus, Saul is rejected as king, and the shepherd boy is exalted as king. The beginning of David’s reign revealed God’s standard for a king and was to be an example for all future kings. David could not ultimately sustain God’s kingly standard, and so his life shows that he is not the final deliverer for the Israelites, but rather a more qualified king will come from his line. A messianic king who will live in perfect faithfulness, humility, obedience and courage. This was a defining hope that would bless the future generations.