When you refer to someone as a "theologian", it sometimes depicts the individual as one who seems to have it all figured out. As a kid, I marveled at the teachings of such people. In fact, I would wear them out with relentless inquiries of the divine mysteries. I figured, why waste time trying to decode King James english (the only version permitted in my Pharisaical upbringing) when I could just go to the right theologian, shoot the question, and curl up at their sacred feet as if I were Mary Magdalene. As I grew older I attended Bible college where one would expect to encounter an army of Biblical intellect. (though the school I attended was about a rung higher than a sunday school teacher) Nevertheless, It was in college where I first heard the term "Systematic Theology". I was quite intrigued by this style of Bible exposition. I would read the books of well regarded systematic theologians. These guys were real smart when it came to scripture. Anyone who writes volumes of commentaries would have to be considered as such.
I do believe that an intellectual knowledge of scripture is profitable (Paul to Timothy). The church should not be so quick to discount what we often refer to as "head knowledge". A "head knowledge" that informs you of a speed trap on the highway, if you act accordingly, is profitable as it will prevent you from paying a huge traffic citation. A systematic approach to reading scripture is beneficial for understanding the meaning of God’s will much the same way science is helpful in understanding the solar system. You could say systematic theology is a type of scientific approach.
In light of this, has the sytematic approach actually inflicted harm to our faith? Probably not, but the better question is this: "has our obsession with systematic theology inflicted harm to our personal faith in Jesus Christ?" I think there is no doubt it has! One looks no further than the constant sniping and hateful attitudes on various Christian blogs. (especially in the Calvinistic themed) It doesn’t really matter who argues what. The venom spews from both sides. The danger with the systematic obsession, I think, is that the pride of knowledge puffs up in people, and as a result the love of Christ is nowhere to be seen! Why do so many understand the meaning of 1 Corinthians 13, yet refuse to live by it? There are so many chefs in the kitchen preparing their recipes of a gospel meal while leaving out the main ingredient of love! The dictionary defines "systematic" as "Purposefully regular; methodical". I think the key word to focus on is "method". Our method(s) have taken over God’s creation in the most subtle of ways. "Method" itself isn’t inherently evil. God created us as intellectual beings with the ability to be methodical. (I’m sure Adam had a systematic approach to naming the animals). Our problem begins when we make the methods our own and use them outside the Kingdom of God (or rule of God). His Kingdom is defined by love, not method. God can be pretty methodical or systematic himself, but His methods are always effective, because they are ALWAYS "love affected".
It’s good to have a method to our madness in just about everything we do because pointless meandering is never a good option. I think a great example of this is football. Yes, football! Right or wrong, football is a bit of a religious experience (especially in Texas). I must confess to having a real passion for the sport. I’ve been in a fantasy football league for 6 years, and in my quest to win a championship, I’ve developed a systematic approach to drafting, choosing lineups, trading, and so on. (by the way, my methods have failed thus far). Often times I fall into pointless arguments with other league members about strategies, players and so forth, and I must admit to experiencing a puffed up pride from time to time. I know whenever my obsession takes over, the joy of playing this game quickly fades. I often have to take a step back and remind myself that it’s only a game and it’s supposed to be fun. (I know why they call it "fantasy football" now)
I love football not because I study statistics, trends, and players, in other words, my systematic approach. In fact, the passion for the game of football began long ago when I was an 8 year old kid watching a miraculous comeback by the Dallas Cowboys quarterbacked by the heroic persona of Roger Staubach. My systematic approach to fantasy football is a natural outflowing of my passion for football.
Admittedly, many who read this will find fantasy football and my approach to it as being foolish, pointless or a colossal waste of time, to which I will not necessarily disagree with. But everyone appreciates passion, even in the case of trivial matters. "You gotta love his passion" we often say about some misguided soul. I have to wonder if the systematic approach to scripture from some theologians is a natural outflowing of their passion for Christ or a passion for themselves and their quest for correctness!
The point is, let it be our passion and our love that motivates us in our systematic or otherwise approach to scripture. Let’s not forget that it was the unknowledgeable types who Jesus made a point to open the doors of the Kingdom to. The systematic theologians of Jesus’ day (Pharisees) were ones he told the crowds to basically do as they say, not as they do. He made this statement because in spite of all of their knowledge, their hearts were loveless.
In this postmodern world, don’t read my message to be one that minimizes doctrinal correctness. The point is to not allow our desire to be correct govern our need to love.
Love never ends. As for prophecies, they will pass away; as for tongues, they will cease; as for knowledge, it will pass away.