When I teach the Bible, I focus on five disciplines:
- Exegesis analyzes what the authors who wrote the Bible intended to communicate. The authors of the Bible make arguments, and the best exegetes are simply good readers who accurately trace arguments.
- Biblical theology makes organic, salvation-historical connections, especially regarding how the Old and New Testament integrate. How do major themes like covenant and law and the people of God progress throughout Scripture? How much continuity and discontinuity is there?
- Historical theology surveys and evaluates how significant exegetes and theologians have understood the Bible and theology. The attitude that “all I need is just me, my Bible, and the Holy Spirit” is arrogant because the Holy Spirit has illumined the minds of so many others.
- Systematic theology builds on the former three disciplines to draw systemic conclusions (organized on atemporal principles of logic) with reference to the whole Bible. What does the whole Bible teach about _______ (fill in the blank)?
- Practical theology applies the other four disciplines to help people glorify God.
It’s impossible to completely separate any one discipline from the others in such a way that the others have no affect on it. For example, you can’t do exegesis in a vacuum entirely apart from biblical or systematic theology, and systematic theology that isn’t based on accurate exegesis is bad theology. Ideally, biblical theology builds on exegesis, and systematic theology builds on biblical theology. But all five of these disciplines interrelate. And they culminate in doxology. (On this theological method, I’m following my mentor, Don Carson.)