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Schools of Theology

The word theology comes from two Greek words that combined mean the study of God. Christian theology is simply an attempt to understand God as He is revealed in the Bible. It is amazing how our understanding of the Bible sometimes is more influenced by the opinions of men than by the Word of God itself.

It is amazing how much our Bible understanding and interpretation is influenced by the opinions of other men. Most of this influence comes from things we read and hear. We need to be aware that there are a number of schools of theology (methods of Bible interpretation). A writer or teacher/preacher has been influenced by one of these schools of thought. It is important that we gain as much understanding about the schools of theology below, the more we understand about the major schools of theology the better we will be at overcoming our biases (faulty understanding)and become better at Bible interpretation.  This article is just an introduction to this important concept. Each of these is covered in more detail in later articles. However we suggest that you do additional research on these schools of thought.

1)Dispensationalism - As a current Christian theology among many Protestant and other Conservative Christian groups, Dispensationalism is a form of pre-millennialism which teaches biblical history, the present, and the future as a number of successive "economies" or "administrations", called "dispensations", each of which emphasizes the discontinuity of the covenants God made with His various peoples.

2)Covenant - The standard description of covenant theology views the history of God's dealings with mankind in all of history, from Creation to Fall to Redemption to Consummation, under the framework of three overarching theological covenants the covenants of redemption, of works, and of grace.

The above two schools of theology are usually contrasted for example in the context of Christianity, dispensationalism is an interpretive or narrative framework for understanding the overall flow of the Bible, and is frequently contrasted with opposing interpretation of Covenant Theology. These two views differ in various points in their understanding of the relationship between the Church and Israel.

One issue often discussed is supersessionism, which teaches that the Christian Church has replaced the Jewish people as "God's People", and that there is only one people of God, joined in unity through Jesus Christ. It is maintained that since the Jewish people have largely refused to accept Jesus as Christ, "the Messiah of Israel", and since He is their only means of salvation, those individual Jews that reject Him, reject his atoning sacrifice for sins, and have in effect rejected the only provision God has offered for divine forgiveness, are no longer considered as the true Israel. Christians, thus, have become the "New Israel". This view is also often referred to as "replacement theology"; in that according to this theology, the Church from its very inception has replaced the Jewish people as God's "chosen people" and "holy nation", now and forever.

Let us not be hasty in choosing one of these over the other, but try to allow the Scripture to progressively build a case for one are the other. But be aware that in a framework for biblical interpretation, covenant theology stands in contrast to dispensationalism in regard to the relationship between the Old Covenant with national Israel and the New Covenant in Christ's blood.

Many of our commentaries and Bible Study helps are influenced by these two major schools of theology, because the writers have attended a theological seminary where one of these schools of theology was the approved theology of the seminary.

3) Biblical Theology is a third school of theology that seeks to understand a certain passage in the Bible in light of all of the biblical history leading up to it. Biblical theology is a discipline within Christian theology which studies the Bible from the perspective of understanding the progressive history of God revealing God's self to humanity following the Fall and throughout the Old Testament and New Testament. It particularly focuses on the epochs of the Old Testament in order to understand how each part of it ultimately points forward to fulfillment in the life mission of Jesus Christ. It sees the Bible as one story focused upon mystery (redemptive plan of Christ) of God planned before the world was created.

The basis of all theologies find their beginning in the book of Genesis. It is important for a Bible student to stop randomly as they study to not only meditate upon the immediate Scripture, but also how does this particular Scripture relate to these major schools of theology and the theories of Calvin and Arminius.

I have found that as I meditate on Scripture if I will relate all scripture to the character and characteristics of God it helps me to come to a consistent understanding. For example if God is unchanging then there should not be a change in His dealing with man. If He is impartial then there should be no favorites. When there seems to be conflict in Scripture we need to reassess our understanding and look for agreement.

If you undertake our Bible study program you will see that after each module of study we ask you to meditate upon what you have studied and look for consistencies from the first page of Genesis to that point in your study.

For example in the study of Genesis did God allow Adam, Noah, Abraham, Lot, Isaac, Jacob, Joseph, etc to freely choose or did He force them to make a decision? For example many teach that Abraham was given an unconditional promise. Is this true or was there an implied condition that he must leave and follow God's will to receive the promise?

Also are the dispensations or covenant revelations in Genesis stand alone are are they unified as one? For example what (revelations & requirements) covenant promises or punishments given to Adam, Noah, and Abraham by God are no longer in effect? This question has an implication to both Dispensational and Covenant theology.

These questions and others that we add later should be revisited at every step as we progress through the Bible.

Do Internet searches on the above topics. Read with an open mind about all these schools of thought, but never forgetting that the Bible is inerrant and that Jesus Christ Crucified is the single thread that runs from Genesis to Revelation.

4)Systematic Theology is another term you need to be familiar with, however this topic is different from the above three in that it is a method of organization of study (grouping Scripture by topic) instead a focus on interpretation and is therefore used by most Bible scholars regardless of their school of theology. However, some view that this is a system rather than a method. If viewed as a system it sometimes leads to ignoring the interaction of major Biblical doctrines such as grace, faith and works, etc.