Some in the emerging circles denigrate systematic theology. They (more or less) correctly point out that God gave us a story not a systematic theology. They also correctly point out a danger of systematic theology – some use it to reduce true religion to a set of propositions or facts to be believed.
The Christian religion is certainly more than a set of facts. It is a relationship with a person. It is a role in a grand story. But there are facts that need to be kept straight.
Yes, God gave us a story, but that story contains truths. He also gave us pastors and teachers and prophets; He gives some tremendous faith, others a special charity, and others a knack for administration. God likes variety, and His Church is full of variety. So we shouldn’t be afraid of a little variety in our dealing with the Bible.
Systematic theology has it’s dangers, but it also has a very useful purpose. Systematic theology takes the story and collects all of the facts that appear in it and tries to make sense of them. This is important because when we read part of the story, we can forget that it’s part of a larger whole.
When you’re buried deep in the Torah, it’s easy to focus on God’s justice at the expense of His mercy. When you’re buried in the Gospels, it’s easy to focus on God’s mercy at the expense of His justice.
Some parts of the Bible can, in isolation, cause confusion about the nature of Christ. Others can cause confusion about the nature of the Church.
The theologian gives us a tool to fight that error. When you’re reading Exodus, you’re reminded that the God who said “I am that I am” was the triune God. When you’re reading Luke, you’re reminded that the Shepherd who will leave the 99 is the same God who said, “I will by no means leave the guilty unpunished.” When you read in Acts about the believers holding everything in common, you’re reminded that “if a man will not work, he shall not eat.”
Systematic theology, like biblical theology and historical theology, like pastoral counseling and evangelism training, is a tool created by flawed, God-loving Christians for the service of the saints to the glory of God. It’s an important tool in the Christian faith, and its occasional misuse should not deter us from its regular use.