The term theology, according to its etymological features, is a compound of two Greek words—Θεός (Theos, 'God'), and λόγος (logos, 'speech' or 'expression'). Both Christ as the Living Word, and the Bible as the Written Word are the Logos of God. They are to God what expression is to thought and what speech is to reason. Theology is therefore a Θεο·λογία (Theo-logia) or discourse upon one specific subject, namely, God. However, since no consideration of God will be complete which does not contemplate His works and ways in the universe which He has created, as well as His Person, theology may be extended properly to include all material and immaterial realities that exist and the facts concerning them and contained in them. Though it is highly impractical to encumber the science of theology with extended discourse covering all the "ologies" of the universe, it remains true, nevertheless, that the basic fact underlying each and every science is its relation to the Creator of all things and His purpose in creation. Though not usually included in the science of theology, the other sciences which engage the thoughts of men would be both sanctified and exalted were they to be approached, as they should be, with that awe and reverence which recognizes in them the presence, power, and purpose of the Creator. Great injury has resulted, it is obvious, from the modern tendency to divorce all subjects which border on the natural from every divine relationship when, in reality, there is no basis upon which these "ologies" can rest other than that of the original purpose of the Creator.
Though not found in the Sacred Scriptures, the word theology, being the compound of two familiar Bible words, is Scriptural in character. In Romans 3:2 the words τὰ λόγια τοῦ θεοῦ (ta logia tou Theou, 'the oracles of God') occur; in 1 Peter 4:11 the words λόγια θεοῦ (logia Theou, 'oracles of God') occur; and in Luke 8:21 the phrase τὸν λόγον τοῦ Θεοῦ (ton logon tou Theou, 'the word of God') appears.
Within the whole encyclopedia of its import, the term theology is used with various restricted meanings. When recognition of the first exponent of a theological system is desired, the individual's name is combined in the term, as, Augustinian Theology, Calvinistic Theology, Lutheran Theology, Arminian Theology. When the source of its material is in view, specific terms are employed, as, revealed Theology, natural Theology, Catholic Theology, and Evangelical Theology. So, likewise, theology may be classified by the place of its origin, as, Genevan Theology, Mercersburg Theology, Oxford Theology, New England Theology, or Oberlin Theology. When the particular content of a given theology is in view it may be named accordingly, as, Biblical Theology, Fundamental Theology, Historical Theology, Homiletical Theology, Ethical Theology, Practical Theology, or Pastoral Theology. In like manner, various theologies may be classified by the method they employ, as, Dogmatic Theology, Exegetical Theology, New Theology, Polemic Theology, Rational Theology, or Systematic Theology.
Among these general classifications there are several forms of theology which call for particular definition.
1. Natural Theology. Natural Theology designates a science which is based only upon those facts concerning God and His universe which are revealed in nature.
2. Revealed Theology. This term designates a science which is based only on those facts concerning God and His universe which are revealed in the Scriptures of Truth.
3. Biblical Theology. Biblical Theology designates a science which aims to investigate the truth about God and His universe in its divinely ordered development and historical environment as set forth in the various books of the Bible. Biblical Theology is the exposition of the doctrinal and ethical content of the Bible. It is not a substitute for Doctrinal or Ethical Theology, but is their historical counterpart. It is the consideration of Biblical truth as originally given in its prophetic proclamation.
4. Theology Proper. By this term is designated a limited science which contemplates only the Person of God—Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, and without reference to the works of each.
5. Historical Theology. A science which traces the historical development of doctrine and is concerned, as well, with the distinctly sectarian variations and the heretical departures from Biblical truth which have appeared during the Christian era.
6. Dogmatic Theology. Theological truth held with certainty.
7. Speculative Theology. Theological truth held in the abstract and apart from its practical import.
8. Old Testament Theology. So designated because it is restricted to the portion of Scripture indicated.
9. New Testament Theology. So designated because it is restricted to the portion of Scripture indicated.
10. Pauline, Johannine, and Petrine Theologies. So designated because they are restricted to the writings of the persons indicated.
11. Practical Theology. Concerned with the application of the truth to the hearts of men.
12. Systematic or Thetic Theology. A science which follows a humanly devised scheme or order of doctrinal development and which purports to incorporate into its system all the truth about God and His universe from any and every source. Systematic Theology may be distinguished from Natural Theology in that Natural Theology draws its material only from nature; from Biblical Theology in that Biblical Theology draws its material only from the Bible; and from Theology Proper in that Theology Proper is restricted to the consideration of the Person of God, excluding His works.
In defining Systematic or Thetic Theology, certain misleading and unwarranted terms have been employed. It has been declared to be "the science of religion" ; but the term religion is in no sense a synonym of the Person of God and all His works. Likewise, it has been declared to be "the scientific treatment of those truths which are found in the Bible" ; but this science, while drawing the major portion of its material from the Scriptures, does, nevertheless, draw its material from any and every source. Again, Systematic Theology has been defined as the orderly arrangement of Christian doctrine; but as Christianity represents only a mere fraction of the whole field of truth relative to the Person of God and His universe, this definition is inadequate.
Dr. W. Lindsay Alexander defines Systematic Theology as "the science of God ... a summary of religious truth scientifically arranged, or as a philosophical digest of all religious knowledge" (Biblical Theology, I, 1).
Dr. A. H. Strong defines Systematic Theology as "the science of God and of the relations between God and the universe" (Systematic Theology, p. 1).
Dr. Charles Hodge declares Systematic Theology has for its object "to systematize the facts of the Bible, and ascertain the principles or general truths which those facts involve" (Systematic Theology, I, 18).
Dr. W. H. Griffith Thomas states: "Science is the technical expression of the laws of nature; theology is the technical expression of the revelation of God. It is the province of theology to examine all the spiritual facts of revelation, to estimate their value, and to arrange them into a body of teaching. Doctrine thus corresponds with the generalisations of science" (Principles of Theology, p. xxi).
Dr. W. G. T. Shedd defines Systematic Theology as "a science that is concerned with both the Infinite and the Finite, with both God and the Universe. The material, therefore, which it includes is vaster than that of any other science. It is also the most necessary of all sciences" (Dogmatic Theology, I, 16).
Augustine denotes Theology to be "rational discussion respecting the deity" (Shedd, ibid., p. 18).
The following definition is submitted by the author: Systematic Theology may be defined as the collecting, scientifically arranging, comparing, exhibiting, and defending of all facts from any and every source concerning God and His works. It is thetic in that it follows a humanly devised thesis form and presents and verifies truth as truth.
The individual who engages in the pursuit of the science of Systematic Theology is properly a θεολόγος (Theologos) or 'theologian.' Should the Greek term θεολόγος be used actively as indicated by its accent, it would denote one who speaks for God, but should it be used passively it would refer to one to whom God speaks. That both of these conceptions inhere in the accepted use of the term theologian is obvious. However, of necessity, certain requirements are laid upon the theologian and certain qualifications must be found in him if he is to make any worthy progress in the task committed to him.
1. The Inspiration and Authority of the Scriptures are Assumed. Though as an apologist the theologian may be called upon, as occasion may demand, to defend specific truths which belong to the domain of his distinctive science, and though among the doctrines which he defends is that of the authority and trustworthiness of the Sacred Writings, he is not primarily engaged with the critical task of proving the inspiration and divine character of the Scriptures, but rather in arranging and exhibiting the positive truth the inspired Scriptures set forth. The Bible being the chief source of all the material which enters into his science, the theologian is called upon to arrange the God-given material in its logical and scientific order. He is a Biblicist, namely, one who not only regards the Bible as the sole rule of faith and practice, but as the only dependable source of information in realms wherein divine revelation speaks. As a chemist will make no advance in his science if he doubts or rejects the essential character of the elements which he compounds, so a theologian must fail who does not accept the trustworthiness of the Word of God. It is the work of the reverent critic to discover and defend the essential character of the divine revelation; but to the theologian is committed the task of systematizing and declaring that divine revelation as it is given.
Because of the fact that the science of Systematic Theology must proceed upon the certitude that the Scriptures are the Oracles of God, this modern, rationalistic age with its doubts as to verbal inspiration, revelation, and Biblical authority, is not concerned with the science of Systematic Theology and is even turning from it with contempt. Granting the fact of the divine revelation, the science of Systematic Theology is both possible and required, and at once is discovered to exceed all other sciences as the Creator exceeds His creation.
2. The Laws of Methodology are as Essential in the Science of Systematic Theology as in Any Other Science. The theologian creates none of his materials any more than the botanist creates the flowers or the astronomer orders the stars. It is given to the theologian, as to other scientists, to recognize the character of his material and to give to it an orderly arrangement. He should not misrepresent or change the truth committed to him, even by so much as a disproportionate emphasis. If it is to exist at all, scientism, of necessity, repels untruth, part truth, and every form of unfounded prejudice or preconceived notion. The importance of ascertaining and holding the truth in its absolute purity and right proportions cannot be overestimated. This end can be secured only by a systematic method, a scientific attitude, and extended labor.
As the meaning of the truths of Scripture is best expressed in the original languages, it is essential that the theologian shall be an exegete in these languages and thus informed as fully as possible concerning the precise character of the message of God with which he is to deal. It is irrational for any scientist to disregard or underestimate the essential value of any portion of the material with which his science is concerned. In like manner, the science of Systematic Theology will be incomplete and misleading to the extent that it disregards or misinterprets any portion of the divine revelation. The worthy student of Systematic Theology, were he not qualified for the higher and more inclusive title of theologian, would be entitled to recognition as a superscientist, which he is.
Of the two methods of dealing with the truth of God's Word—deduction, by which a theme is expanded into its details of expression, a method belonging largely to the sermonic field, and induction, by which various declarations upon a subject are reduced to one harmonious and all-inclusive statement—induction is distinctly the theological method. Inductions are either imperfect or perfect. Imperfect inductions result when some but not all the teachings of the Scripture are made the basis of a doctrinal statement. A perfect induction is formed when all the teachings of the Scripture, according to their precise meaning, are made the basis of a doctrinal statement. It is evident that to finite minds the perfect induction is more or less ideal, and the fact that varying and imperfect inductions are secured accounts, in some measure, for the wide divergence in doctrinal belief among men of equal sincerity.
3. Finite Limitations Must Be Recognized. Were it not for the fact that God has made a suitable revelation of Himself to men and that He expects them to give attention to it, it would seem to be unwarranted presumption for the finite mind to seek to comprehend that which is infinite. The theologian should never lose sight of the fact that he, as no other scientist, is called upon to deal with things supernatural, with things which transcend the boundaries of time and space where no unaided human thought can penetrate, and with unseen beings, including the three Persons of the Godhead and the angels. Confronted with such subjects as these, he should ever be in quietude of holy reverence, as was Moses before the burning bush, and ever impressed with the futility of dependence upon mere human opinion, as well as of the disastrous consequences which such dependence may induce. In the simplest of terms, God has spoken of Himself, and of things infinite and eternal. The Bible is that message and, while man cannot originate any similar truth, he, though finite, is privileged by the gracious illumination of the Spirit to receive, with some degree of understanding, the revelation concerning things which are infinite.
4. Spiritual Illumination is Necessary and is Provided. While, as has been stated, the Bible is couched in the simplest of terms, its message, in many particulars, transcends the range of human understanding; but divine provision is made whereby these human limitations may be overcome. The Spirit of God is given to every saved person as an indwelling Paraclete, thus providing a limitless resource both for understanding and teachableness. Christ wrought thus in the hearts of the two who walked with Him on the Emmaus road. The text declares that He not only opened the Scriptures to them but that He opened their understanding that they might understand the Scriptures (Luke 24:27-32, 45). Likewise, the second Paraclete would minister in behalf of all in whom He dwells. A vital condition, however, is imposed which involves the question of peronal piety and surrender to the will and mind of God. It is in those only who "walk not after the flesh, but after the Spirit" that the whole will of God is wrought (Rom. 8:4), and it is the spiritual Christian who discerns all things (1 Cor. 2:15). Thus, there is introduced into the pursuit of the science of Systematic Theology a pedagogical law which is foreign to other laws of research, namely, that divine illumination, by which alone the revelation may be comprehended, is made to depend on a state of heart which is not only yielded to God, but is ever ready to be conformed to the Word He has spoken. Though the historical and hortatory portions of the Bible are comprehensible to the unregenerate man and the unspiritual Christian, the doctrines are, to a large degree, sealed to them; and as Systematic Theology has largely to do with doctrine, that vast science is closed to multitudes who are not lacking in education and culture, but who are lacking in that inward personal adjustment to God, which alone insures a spiritual understanding. The church is ever in peril—and never more so than now—of the disaster which must follow when she allows men of distinction in the sphere of human attainments, who are unregenerate or unspiritual, to dictate as to what her beliefs shall be. It therefore naturally follows that in addition to the prerequisite discipline of mind, every student of Systematic Theology should, before entering this limitless supernatural field of research, give indisputable evidence that he has been born of God, by which birth he has become possessed of the Holy Spirit, the divine Teacher, and that he is yielded to the mind and will of God, not alone as to truth itself but as to personal piety. Apart from such preparation, study in this science will be to little or no purpose. However, should a student lacking this essential preparation be allowed to graduate and go forth with the man-imposed authority to preach, the results would be no less than a calamity on an infinite plane and he himself would be in danger of the unrevoked anathema of God (Gal. 1:7-9).
5. Patient and Tireless Study is Required. As one might venture farther and farther on a shoreless sea with no hope of ever reaching its outer boundaries, so the theologian is ever confronted with limitless material in the realm of the doctrines of the Scriptures. It has been customary for the theologian to spend at least three years in classroom introduction to the science of Systematic Theology and under the instruction of those who through patient study and experience are able to guide him in this introductory research. However, the study of Bible doctrine is a life undertaking and ever makes its claims upon time and strength. Happy indeed is the student who secures a full rounded introduction to the vast science of Systematic Theology, but thrice blessed is he who with unrelenting purpose pursues his study to the end of his days on earth. Nothing need be said here of the tragedy which is enacted by a student of Systematic Theology who, for one reason or another, has failed to be introduced to the field of his science, and who therefore continues to preach only on the lower plane of human conduct and never, for lack of requisite understanding, expounds a soul-transforming doctrine of the Scripture.
Many generations have passed since the pulpit has held lower ideals of doctrinal preaching than it holds today. Nevertheless, the human heart is unchanged and God's remedy for sin-sick and unspiritual souls is the same, and the servant of God who would minister to these needs with true efficiency will discover the importance of unceasing study that he may himself prove to be unto God a workman that needeth not to be ashamed, rightly dividing the Word of Truth (2 Tim. 2:15).
6. Faith. As has been stated, the student of Systematic Theology is called to enter the field of things supernatural. His research is almost wholly restricted to the one Book which is God-breathed and the power to comprehend the message which this Book presents is gained only as he is enabled and taught by the Spirit of God. Not only are these things true; but his high and holy service as exponent of this Book, whether by word of mouth or by worthy embodiment of its truths into his daily life, will be advantageous and effective only as he ministers that Word in the power of God. The Bible is not understood nor received by unregenerate men (1 Cor. 2:14), nor can its deeper revelations be grasped by carnal Christians (1 Cor. 3:1-3). No more decisive statement could be made on this qualifying truth than is found in Hebrews 11:3, "Through faith we understand." Due importance should be given to the value of native mental powers and to the virtue of unceasing diligence, but these standing alone avail but little in a science which is supernatural in all its parts. Over the door entrance of no other science is it written as it is over the door of Systematic Theology, "Only men of that faith which has secured their regeneration and led them on to a complete self-dedication to God need seek to enter here." No pedagogical law is more unyielding than that set forth in the words, "If any man will do his will, he shall know of the doctrine" (John 7:17), and "He that is spiritual judgeth [discerneth] all things" (1 Cor. 2:15). Again, "The same anointing teacheth you of all things" (1 John 2:27).
7. Systematic Theology Should Be Unabridged. Like every true science, Systematic Theology is interdependent and interrelated in all its parts. The astronomer or chemist would not attempt to organize his materials or to reach dependable conclusions with a third of the elements or facts pertaining to his science unaccounted for. Nor should the theologian expect to reach any true estimation of his various doctrines when vast fields of the divine revelation have been eliminated from his consideration. Theologians, more than any other scientists, are apt to be bound by tradition or mere sectarian prejudice. The field of investigation is no less than the entire Bible, which field extends beyond the boundaries of creeds and that limited body of truth which was recovered in the Reformation. Published systems of theology too often omit the dispensational program of God; the Pauline revelation concerning the Church which is Christ's Body; the entire field of life truth; Angelology with satanology and demonology; prophecy, which alone occupies more than one-fifth of the text of the Scriptures; typology; and the present ministry of Christ in heaven. Considering the interdependent and interrelated character of theological doctrine, the theologian, having eliminated all or any part of this great field of revelation, cannot hope to hold truth in its right perspective or to give to it its right emphasis. The aim of every theologian should be to hold the entire divine revelation in a true balance of all its parts and free from fads and inaccuracies.
While there are many attitudes on the part of men toward the Bible, these may be presented in four general classifications.
1. Rationalism. The rationalistic attitude toward the Scriptures is subject to a twofold division:
a. Extreme. Extreme rationalism denies any divine revelation and represents the beliefs or unbeliefs of infidels, atheists, and agnostics. Though the extreme rationalists were numerous in past generations, their number is greatly increasing at the present time and is destined to increase to the end of the age (Luke 18:8; 2 Tim. 3:13).
b. Moderate. Moderate rationalism admits a revelation, but accepts only such parts of the Bible as personal reason approves. The reasons why the moderate rationalist rejects parts of the text of the Scriptures may be based on the supposed findings of higher criticism or upon mere personal prejudice. To these men the Bible becomes no more than a book of errors from which each and every one is free to eliminate any portion he chooses to reject, or to honor as being divinely authoritative in any portion he chooses to receive. The moderate rationalistic attitude toward the Scriptures is that held by the so-called modernists of today and includes all classes of liberals from those who merely deny verbal and plenary inspiration to those who reject the whole text of the Scriptures as being a divine revelation.
2. Mysticism. Mysticism is subject to a twofold classification:
a. False Mysticism. The theory that divine revelation is not limited to the written Word of God, but that God bestows added truth to souls that are sufficiently quickened by the Spirit of God to receive it. Mystics of this class contend that, by self-effacement and devotion to God, individuals may attain to immediate, direct, and conscious realization of the person and presence of God and thus to all truth in Him. False mysticism includes all those systems which teach identity between God and human life—Pantheism, Theosophy, and Greek philosophy. In it are included practically all the holiness movements of the day; also, Spiritism, Seventh Day Adventism, New Thought, Christian Science, Swedenborgianism, Mormonism, and Millennial Dawnism. The founders and promoters of many of these cults make claim to special revelation from God upon which their system is built. With far less complication with error and untruth a false mysticism is discernible in the beliefs and practices of the Friends or Quakers. In presenting their doctrine of the "inner light," they say that, having the indwelling Spirit, the individual Christian is in contact with the same One who inspired and gave the Scriptures and that the Spirit is not only able to impart added truth beyond that already given in the Bible, but that He is appointed by Christ to do so according to John 16:12, 13, "I have yet many things to say unto you, but ye cannot bear them now. Howbeit when he, the Spirit of truth, is come, he will guide you into all truth." The church generally has believed that this promise is fulfilled in two ways: (a) by the ability given to the men to whom Christ spoke whereby they were able to write the New Testament Scriptures; and (b) by the ministry of the Spirit in teaching the apostles and all in every age who are yielded to Him, the truth now contained in the Bible.
No voice could speak with more authority for the Quakers than Robert Barclay whose Apology was published in 1867. He states: "Moreover, these divine inward revelations, which we make absolutely necessary for the building up of true faith, neither do nor can ever contradict the outward testimony of the Scriptures, or right and sound reason. Yet from hence it will not follow, that these divine revelations are to be subjected to the examination, either of the outward testimony of the Scriptures, or of the natural reason of man, as to a more noble or certain rule or touchstone: for this divine revelation and inward illumination, is that which is evident and clear of itself" (Barclay's Apology, pp. 13-14).
In earlier times this form of mysticism was voiced in the teachings of Francis de Sales, Thomas à Kempis, Madam Guyon, Archbishop Fénelon, and Upham. Montanus advanced these conceptions as early as the second century. They were later sustained by Tertullian and became a vital issue among the Reformers. The extreme spiritual mysticism is known as Quietism, which proposes death to self, disregards the attractions of heaven or the pains of hell, and ceases from petitions in prayer or thanksgiving lest self be encouraged. Likewise, those forms of spirituallife teachings are to be included which impose upon the Christian a duty of self-crucifixion in place of the recognition of the fact that self was crucified with Christ, and that the values of His death are now to be received by faith in that which was accomplished on the cross rather than by any human accomplishment. The Word of God teaches that the spiritual life is wrought by the Spirit in the heart of the yielded believer, and the Spirit is made righteously free to annul the works of the flesh on the ground of the fact that Christ died unto the sin nature, and not on the ground of human achievement in the way of self-effacement or self-crucifixion.
b. True Mysticism. True Mysticism contends that all believers are indwelt by the Spirit and thus are in a position to be enlightened directly by Him, but that there is one complete revelation given, and that the illuminating work of the Spirit will be confined to the unveiling of the Scriptures to the mind and heart. False mysticism ignores the statement found in Jude 1:3 that there is a faith or system of belief "once delivered unto the saints," and that when the Spirit is promised to "guide into all truth" (John 16:13), it is only the truth contained in the Scriptures (cf. 1Cor. 2:9, 10). There is a unique knowledge of the mysteries or sacred secrets of God accorded to those who are taught by the Spirit of God, but these sacred secrets are already contained in the text of the Bible.
3. Romanism. One of the greatest errors of the Church of Rome is that of making the church, and not the Bible, the immediate and final authority in all matters of divine revelation. Her claim is that the church's authority is restricted to matters of faith and moral conduct, and is not found in the fields of science, art, and history. She argues that there were many things which Christ and the apostles taught which were not recorded in the Bible (John 20:30, 31 and 21:25), but these, it is asserted, have been preserved by the church and are as binding as are those precepts which are written. It is also assumed by the Church of Rome that the voice of her pope is the voice of God, and to his declaration the same obedience should be given as to God Himself. These communications through the supposed vicar of Christ thus become, to the Romanist, as authoritative as are the unrecorded words of Christ and the apostles, which the Roman Church claims to have conserved, or, as authoritative as the written words of Scripture. That the Church of Rome deems the decisions and rules of the church to be infallible and authoritative above the written Word of God is proven by many of her decisions and judgments.
In reply to these unfounded claims, it may be observed that the church has preserved nothing of spiritual value, nor have her traditions added any vital element to that now preserved by God in the Holy Scriptures. Truth did have its saving and sanctifying power in the early church before any word of the New Testament was written, but the saving and sanctifying truth was incorporated into the Bible and, beyond this, the traditions of Rome accomplish nothing but multiplied errors and misleading contradictions.
The theologian is here confronted with the fact and scope of tradition. He should examine the Scriptures on this point with care (2 Thess. 2:15; 3:6; Gal. 1:14), and remember that Christ came into the world at a time when the Word of God was encrusted with the "traditions of men" to the point that the authority of God was, to a large degree, annulled. Christ disregarded the traditions of men and for this was condemned by the religious leaders of His day.
4. The Orthodox Protestant Faith. Certain well-defined articles of faith concerning the Scriptures have been and are held by the orthodox Protestants:
a. The Bible is the infallible Word of God.
b. The Bible is the only rule of faith and practice.
c. Human reason and knowledge should be wholly subject to the Scriptures.
d. There is no inner light or added revelation ever given beyond what is contained in the Bible. The ungoverned character and danger of the doctrine of individual divine revelation, being without standards by which to test various claims, is obvious; and its susceptibility to gross error is demonstrated on every hand by the claims of those who hold these views. The Spirit does guide the individual in matters of conduct and service, but not in the formulating of doctrine which might be superimposed upon the Word of God.
e. No authority relative to the forming of truth has ever been committed to the church or to men beyond that given to the New Testament writers.
1. Bibliology. A consideration of the essential facts concerning the Bible.
2. Theology Proper. A consideration of the facts concerning God—Father, Son, and Spirit, apart from their works.
3. Angelology. A consideration of the facts concerning the angels, unfallen and fallen.
4. Anthropology. A consideration of the facts concerning man.
5. Soteriology. A consideration of the facts concerning salvation.
6. Ecclesiology. A consideration of the facts concerning the Church.
7. Eschatology. A consideration of all in the Scripture which was predictive at the time it was written.
8. Christology. A consideration of all the Scripture concerning the Lord Jesus Christ.
9. Pneumatology. A consideration of the Scriptures concerning the Holy Spirit.
10. Doctrinal Summarization. An analysis of each major doctrine in its individual character including various important tenets which, because of their independent character, do not appear even in an unabridged treatment of Systematic Theology.
The study of Systematic Theology has its limitations because of the incapacities of the finite mind; yet its study is both profitable and necessary for all who would be filled with the knowledge, of God and His will, and who, because of that knowledge, would walk worthy of the Lord. Human thought has no objective comparable to the Person of God. As John Dick has said (Lectures on Theology, p. 6): "To know this mighty Being, as far as he may be known, is the noblest aim of the human understanding; to love him, the most worthy exercise of our affections; and to serve him the most honourable and delightful purpose to which we can devote our time and talents."
In his address to theological students, Dr. Dick states (ibid., p. 7):
Theology is not one of those recondite subjects, which it is left to the curious to investigate, and in the contemplation of which, speculative and reflecting men may spend their hours of leisure and solitude. Its claim to universal attention is manifest from the succinct account which has now been given of its nature. Its instructions are addressed to persons of every description, to the learned, and to the unlearned, to the retired student, and him who is engaged in the bustling scenes of life. It is interesting to all, as furnishing the knowledge of God, and his Son, which is the source of eternal life. But in your case, there is a particular reason, besides a regard to your personal welfare, why it should not only engage a share of your thoughts, but be made the principal object of your inquiries. Theology is your profession, as medicine, is that of a physician, and law of a barrister. It should be your ambition to excel in it, not, however, from the same motives which stimulate the diligence of the men of other professions, the desire of fame, or the prospect of gain, but with a view to the faithful and honourable discharge of the duties of the office with which you expect one day to be intrusted. "These men are the servants of the most High God, who shew unto us the way of salvation."
Thrice solemn is the responsibility laid on the student of Systematic Theology to know what may be known of the vast field of divine revelation: (a) It is the desire of God that all may come to the knowledge of Himself. (b) This Knowledge is essential if the manner of life which will adorn the doctrine that we profess is to be lived. (c) This knowledge is essential, being, as it is, the distinctive message committed to those who would "preach the word."