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Particularly among Protestant traditions, it is common to classify books and classes that cover broad looks at theological issues as either "Biblical' or 'Systematic'. Sometimes this is even extended to categorize theologians.

What is the difference between these arrangements or systems? Are they in conflict or competition with each-other or are they complimentary in some way?

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Big question. Huge. But it's a great one. I hope to have some time to work on an answer to this one later this afternoon. –  Ray Oct 10 '11 at 10:34

3 Answers 3

Biblical and systematic theology are two different ways of studying the Bible. The main difference is what the theologies study.

Biblical theology is focused on studying a portion of the Bible and how that relates to the rest of the Bible. An example may be specifically studying a portion of Isaiah. The person studying may look back at what led up to one of Isaiah's prophecies and how that prophecy is fulfilled in Christ.

Systematic theology focuses on different topics and studies what the Bible says about that topic. An example here may be studying the attributes of God. A person studying the attributes would start by finding all the scripture which mentions the attributes of God. After having all the scriptural references, they could then build a doctrine based on that scripture.

These methods of theological study are complimentary. While biblical theology may give you insight into a specific portion of scripture, it may not be the best way of building a doctrine since it may not give you all that scripture says on a specific topic. On the other hand, systematic theology can give you a very detailed view on a topic, but that view can be enhanced by providing even more context to the specific scripture which discusses a view.

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I like to think of it as: Biblical: Story; Systematic: Dictionary. Both are 100% equally useful; you can't understand the story unless you look up the words it uses, but the dictionary is useless unless you read the story (of God's redeeming his people) –  Thomas Shields Apr 5 '12 at 15:32
It would be great if you reference where you got your knowledge. It would make an even greater answer –  Tony Jays Mar 16 at 8:03
@TonyJays My understanding of the different theologies came from a class on systematic theology which used Wayne Grudem's "Systematic Theology" as the reference. goodreads.com/book/show/255458.Systematic_Theology –  a_hardin Mar 17 at 16:45

Biblical Theology studies the Bible focusing on how God progressively revealed truth in it. It looks at it in chronological order showing how each new text adds to the ones before, sometimes in obvious agreement, sometimes in seeming contradiction. For example, Biblical Theology is crucial to understand how Christians should relate to the Old Testament Law - that Jesus came to fulfil it, that the sacrificial system is a shadow of the cross, that its prophesies focus on Jesus.

Systematic Theology studies the Bible as a system of interconnecting doctrines from the perspective that God's revelation has been completed and the Bible contains all we need to know. It answers questions like "What does the Bible say about money?" or "What is God's nature?" Done well Systematic Theology needs to rely on Biblical Theology in order to come to the correct conclusions. Done poorly it takes Bible passages out of their progressively revealed context and treats them all equally.

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Biblical theology is the ground or the foundation on which systematic theology is standing. Systematic theology is built upon Biblical theology.

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Welcome to C.SE. When you get the chance, please check out how we are different than other sites. In particular, this answer is really too short and lacking in detail to add much. You are on the right track, but fleshing this out with examples would go a long way to wards making this a better answer. –  Affable Geek Sep 23 at 17:22
Welcome to the site. We are glad you decided to participate. The community here prefers longer answers. Please see Guidelines for writing effective answers and What is a well-sourced, dispassionate answer? After that, please edit this post to make it better. I hope to see you post again soon. –  fredsbend Sep 23 at 17:42

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