In addition to our reading of Scripture, there are two important categories of Christian reading: doctrine and devotion.
Both are important, for if we have doctrinal knowledge to the exclusion of devotional warmth, we have only sterile, cold orthodoxy. On the other hand, if we have devotional warmth to the exclusion of doctrine, we will lack content to our faith.
In this blog, I will focus on doctrine. In a later blog, I will focus on devotion.
Two important goals for any believer to have are (1) to have a coherent Christian world view, and (2) to have answers for the non-Christian world around us.
One of the things I like about having a solid doctrinal foundation is that it gives us a complete framework to understand God and the world in which we live. Our task as believers is to think God’s thoughts and do God’s work here on earth. A proper doctrinal understanding allows us to make sense of our world, and arrive at a theologically correct understanding—to put things into divine perspective and to see things as God sees them.
Learning doctrine helps us to systematize our faith and bring all relevant Scripture passages to bear on central topics of our Christian faith. In this way, we frontload answers to life’s difficulties, societal issues, and to questions people may put to us. We are able to view smaller questions and issues within the totality of Scriptural truth.
Studying doctrine also equips us to sharpen our ability to be a “workman that needeth not to be ashamed” (2 Timothy 2:15).
There are different categories of doctrinal books: Systematic theology and Biblical theology are at the top of the list. Systematic theology is the topical study of God’s truth, typically involving the study of: Revelation, God, Man, Sin, Christ, Redemption, Salvation, the Church, and Last Things.
Biblical theology involves the study of theology through Bible books rather than through topics. Biblical theology may involve studying things like ‘Paul’s use of flesh/spirit in his epistles’, or ‘Isaiah’s portrayal of the Messiah in the Servant passages.’ Biblical theology helps us to trace and understand important themes in Scripture as they are unfolded within individual Bible books.
Which systematic theology books are good?
- Biblical Doctrine; A Systematic Summary of Bible Truth, by John MacArthur and Richard Mayhue, has just come out and promises to be an excellent choice
- A Systematic Theology of Biblical Theology, by Rolland McCune is a solid, readable work
- Systematic Theology, by Wayne Grudem is excellent
Which Biblical theology books are good?
- Biblical Theology of the Old Testament, Roy Zuck, ed. (written by professors at Dallas Theological Seminary)
- New Dictionary of Biblical Theology, by IVP
- New Testament Theology: Many Witnesses, One Gospel, by I. Howard Marshall
Lastly, I recommend using theology books as a springboard for prayer. The rich content and relevant Bible verses in a good theology book give much fuel for prayer. There are truths for which we can thank or praise God, truths which we can pray would be realized in our lives or in the lives of others, truths which we can use as petitions. In this way, we can pray back to God what we are learning and devotionalize the doctrine. We are loving God with all our mind as well as with all our heart.