We shall not concern ourselves in this course with the distinctions usually made between various kinds of theology; nor the history of the usage of the term theology. Any comprehensive work on the subject of systematic theology will furnish this data for ready reference without burdening the mind with much that is just as readily forgotten. We might merely name some of the intricate distinctions usually made just to illustrate:
There is that of natural and revealed, sometimes called natural and supernatural.
There is the distinction between True and False Theology; Theoretical and Practical; Dogmatic and Noral; Thetic and Antithetic; Didactic and Polemic; Critical and Electric; Subjective and Objective; Scholastic and Positive. This is enough for our purpose.
The study of Christian Doctrine is the foundation of all Bible study. It forms a firm bedrock for all other Bible studies or subjects. It should straighten our loose thinking, strengthen our faith, increase our love of the Word of God, and formulate into one coherent system all of our beliefs so that the Word of God will reveal itself as One Grand Harmony.
Many have derided the study of Doctrine as unnecessary and particularly deadening to religious life; when in. truth the very opposite is true. A tree is known by its fruit. A good tree like the systematic study of the Word of God must only bring forth good fruit. Any constant handling of the Word of God; any deep study in the Word of life must of necessity strengthen, and nourish that new life of God in the soul. Peter says that it is "the sincere milk of the Word? that causes the growth in our spiritual life. By way of illustration, one may note within any given congregation, the ratio of real meaty Bible exposition, is the index of spirituality in the hearers. I have heard several times the boast by a preacher, "I do not have any doctrine in my sermons." How any man can preach the Word of God and not include doctrine is a mystery. If by doctrine he means great theological definitions and vagaries 1 could give a hearty Amen, but we shall see by our definition of what we sincerely believe true Systematic Theology to include, a man cannot preach the Word of God and not include doctrine.
Most opposition to the study of Doctrine may be traced to a desire to get away from the restrictions it would place upon unbridaled thinking and license of speculation. As far as doctrine formulating a creed, every man must have a creed. It may be negative or positive. It may be a creed denying the possession of a creed but nevertheless it is a creed.
If it is the soul's belief, whether positive or negative, then it is the man's creed. It is the regulator of his life. Someone has aptly said, "A creed is like a backbone, a man doesn't need to wear his backbone in front of him, but he must have one and that a correct one." It holds the figure erect and gives shape to the body. Such is the underlying purpose of the study of Doctrine.
We dedicate these tapes to the Glory of our Great God and Saviour Jesus Christ. May God bless you in the study and reveal more of His word to you.