Systematic theology

Systematic theology is a discipline of Christian theology that formulates an orderly, rational, and coherent account of the doctrines of the Christian faith. Subdisciplines are dogmatics, ethics and philosophy of religion.[1]

Systematic theology draws on the foundational sacred texts of Christianity, while simultaneously investigating the development of Christian doctrine over the course of history, particularly through philosophy, science and ethics. Inherent to a system of theological thought is that a method is developed, one which can be applied both broadly and particularly. Using biblical texts, it attempts to compare and relate all of scripture and create a systematized statement on what the whole Bible says about particular issues. There are ten basic areas (or categories) of systematic theology; however, the exact list may vary slightly.



The setting out of the varied ideas of Christianity (and the various topics and themes of the diverse texts of the Bible) in a single, coherent and well-ordered presentation is a relatively late development. In Eastern Orthodoxy, an early example is provided by John of Damascus's 8th-century Exposition of the Orthodox Faith, in which he attempts to set in order, and demonstrate the coherence of, the theology of the classic texts of the Eastern theological tradition. In the West, Peter Lombard's 12th-century Sentences, in which he collected thematically a large series of quotations from the Church Fathers, became the basis of a medieval scholastic tradition of thematic commentary and explanation – best exemplified in Thomas Aquinas's Summa Theologica. The Lutheran scholastic tradition of a thematic, ordered exposition of Christian theology emerged in the 16th century, with Philipp Melanchthon's Loci Communes, and was countered by a Calvinist scholasticism, exemplified by John Calvin's Institutes of the Christian Religion.

In the 19th century, primarily in Protestant circles, a new kind of systematic theology arose: the attempt to demonstrate that Christian doctrine formed a more tightly coherent system grounded in some core axiom or axioms. Such theologies often involved a more drastic pruning and reinterpretation of traditional belief in order to cohere with the axiom or axioms. Friedrich Daniel Ernst Schleiermacher, for instance, produced Der christliche Glaube nach den Grundsätzen der evangelischen Kirche (The Christian Faith According to the Principles of the Protestant Church) in the 1820s, in which the core idea is the universal presence amongst humanity (sometimes more hidden, sometimes more explicit) of a feeling or awareness of 'absolute dependence'; all theological themes are reinterpreted as descriptions or expressions of modifications of this feeling.

Contemporary usage

There are three overlapping uses of the term 'systematic theology' in contemporary Christian theology.

In all three senses, Christian systematic theology will often touch on some or all of the following topics: God, trinitarianism, revelation, creation and divine providence, theodicy, theological anthropology, Christology, soteriology, ecclesiology, eschatology, Israelology, Bibliology, hermeneutics, sacrament, pneumatology, Christian life, Heaven, and interfaith statements on other religions.

Notable systematic theologians


Middle Ages (West) and Byzantine period (East)

Reformation, Protestant and Anglican from 1517-present

Roman Catholic from the Counter-Reformation to the present

Post-Byzantine Eastern Orthodox


See also



  • St. Augustine of Hippo (354–430). De Civitate Dei
  • Barth, Karl (1956–1975). Church Dogmatics. (thirteen volumes) Edinburgh: T&T Clark. (ISBN 978-0-567-05809-6)
  • Berkhof, Hendrikus (1979). Christian Faith: An Introduction to the Study of the Faith. Grand Rapids: Eerdmans. (ISBN 978-0-8028-0548-5)
  • Berkhof, Louis (1996). Systematic Theology. Grand Rapids: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co.
  • Bloesch, Donald G. (2002–2004). Christian Foundations (seven volumes). Inter-varsity Press. (ISBN 978-0-8308-2753-4, ISBN 978-0-8308-2754-1, ISBN 978-0-8308-2755-8, ISBN 978-0-8308-2757-2, ISBN 978-0-8308-2752-7, ISBN 978-0-8308-2756-5, ISBN 978-0-8308-2751-0)
  • Calvin, John (1559). Institutes of the Christian Religion.
  • Chafer, Lewis Sperry (1948). Systematic Theology. Grand Rapids: Kregel
  • Chemnitz, Martin (1591). Loci Theologici. St. Louis: Concordia Publishing House, 1989.
  • Erickson, Millard (1998). Christian Theology (2nd ed.). Grand Rapids: Baker, 1998.
  • Fruchtenbaum, Arnold (1989). Israelology: The Missing Link in Systematic Theology. Tustin, CA: Ariel Ministries
  • Fruchtenbaum, Arnold (1998). Messianic Christology. Tustin, CA: Ariel Ministries
  • Geisler, Norman L. (2002–2004). Systematic Theology (four volumes). Minneapolis: Bethany House.
  • Frame, John. Theology of Lordship (ISBN 978-0-87552-263-0)
  • Grenz, Stanley J. (1994). Theology for the Community of God. Grand Rapids: Eerdmans. (ISBN 978-0-8028-4755-3)
  • Grider, J. Kenneth (1994). A Wesleyan-Holiness Theology (ISBN 0-8341-1512-3)
  • Grudem, Wayne (1995). Systematic Theology. Zondervan. (ISBN 978-0-310-28670-7)
  • Hodge, Charles (1960). Systematic Theology. Grand Rapids: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co.
  • Jenson, Robert W. (1997–1999). Systematic Theology. Oxford: Oxford University Press. (ISBN 978-0-19-508648-5)
  • Melanchthon, Philipp (1543). Loci Communes. St. Louis: Concordia Publishing House, 1992. (ISBN 978-1-55635-445-8)
  • Miley, John. Systematic Theology. 1892. (ISBN 978-0-943575-09-4)
  • Newlands, George (1994). God in Christian Perspective. Edinburgh: T&T Clark.
  • Oden, Thomas C. (1987–1992). Systematic Theology (3 volumes). Peabody, MA: Prince Press.
  • Pannenberg, Wolfhart (1988–1993). Systematic Theology. Grand Rapids: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co.
  • Pieper, Francis (1917–1924). Christian Dogmatics. St. Louis: Concordia Publishing House.
  • Reymond, Robert L. (1998). A New Systematic Theology of the Christian Faith (2nd ed.). Word Publishing.
  • Schleiermacher, Friedrich (1928). The Christian Faith. Edinburgh: T&T Clark.
  • Thielicke, Helmut (1974–1982). The Evangelical Faith. Edinburgh: T&T Clark.
  • Thiessen, Henry C. (1949). Systematic Theology. Grand Rapids: William B. Erdsmans Publishing Co.
  • Tillich, Paul. Systematic Theology. (3 volumes).
  • Turretin, Francis (3 parts, 1679–1685). Institutes of Elenctic Theology.
  • Van Til, Cornelius (1974). An Introduction to Systematic Theology. P & R Press.
  • Watson, Richard. Theological Institutes. 1823.
  • Weber, Otto. (1981–1983) Foundations of Dogmatics. Grand Rapids: Eerdmans.
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