I wanted to spend some time unpacking two types of study that hopefully can help you in your understanding of the bible.
There are two main types of theological study.
Systematic and Biblical theology
Systematic theology groups theological study into specific topics. So if you were studying theology in a systematic way you would likely study, atonement theory, the doctrine of salvation, doctrine of the Holy Spirit, Eschatology and the doctrine of the church. You will begin by searching the bible for everything it says on a topic and then sharing views and opinions on it. It runs through the beautiful story of the bible drawing threads together to form a viewpoint and an opinion.
I’m not convinced that studying a systematic theology is a good way to learn about the Bible. It has it’s uses but it also limited. It is a bit like a big net, you will pick up a lot from a systematic study but the net has holes and a lot is missed.
God speaks to us in a story, His revelation to us is anything but systematic.
The story is messy, it’s complicated, it tells the story of people who mess up, of God who gets involved in the life of his creation. The Bible narrative is compelling; sometimes exciting, sometimes hard and complicated but it is not systematic. God did not give us a system, he gave us a story. Trying to force something that has so much life into a system can squeeze the life out of it. It’s His Story
Biblical theology looks at the story of the bible as a whole, it examines the truth of the bible in it’s historical and contextual position. Biblical theology recognises that the there is a progressive revelation of the nature of God throughout the story. Strong biblical theology puts us in the context of the writer and the reader and asks the question “What would this have meant to the writer?” “What would this have meant to the reader?”
Biblical theology helps us see the Bible as a unified narrative, rather than as a collection of unrelated points.
When studying the bible I believe we need to
1 . Have a solid historical and contextual interpretation.
2. Understand that God is revealed progressively throughout the bible.
As you read and study the word of God, ask God to reveal himself in it. Recognise the process of the nature of God being revealed to the writer as it is written. Ask yourself what would this passage have meant to the writer and the reader at the time and how does this help me understand the big picture of the story of God.