Note: Graphic by Dr. Gregg Allison, Historical Theology, 32.
As the church lives out the mission of Jesus there is necessary theological work that must be done so that we rightly understand his character, his purposes and his will. The following is a brief sketch of ways of doing theology keeping biblical revelation at the center. All are necessary for building up God’s people and sending them in the mission of Jesus in our time.
Exegetical Theology is responsible interpretation and understanding of biblical texts. Without exegesis you will miss the trees because they are in the forest. Key theme: understand the meaning.
Biblical Theology traces the major thematic teaching of scripture throughout the entire Bible and/or specified subsets or corpus. Without biblical theology you will miss the forest from the trees. Key theme: see the big picture and story.
Systematic Theology is the formulating of doctrine based on the teaching of the entire Bible on a particular topic/subject appropriately interacting with the cultural setting of the church. Without systematic theology you cannot teach about the trees or the forest. Key theme: teaching clearly.
Historical Theology is the study of the interpretation of Scripture and the formulation of doctrine by the church of the past. Without historical theology you may think that you are the first person walking in a forest and looking at trees. Key theme: humbly listen to others.
Practical Theology is the living out of biblical doctrine together as God’s people in the midst of his mission in space and time. Without practical theology you will not know the purpose for the forest or the trees. Key theme: all theology is practical and missional.