Theology in Outline (SBD 1)

Next week I will begin teaching a three week Maymester class at Lipscomb University.  The undergradaute course is entitled “Systematic  Biblical Doctrine.”  I don’t much like the title–as I will explain later, but it is a course where I introduce students to a narrative reading of theology for the sake of the church.  Over the next few weeks I hope to share on my blog something of what I share with them which is a primer course in Christian theology. 

Below is the basic outline I use in both my undergraduate and graduate systematic theology courses. I constantly debate with myself whether I should embed the hermeneutical and methodological assumptions into the narrative itself or address them as prolegomena.  I think I prefer speaking of them within the story; for example, discussing the nature/function of Scripture as part of the story of Israel and Church. But there is value in laying out my assumptions at the beginning and orienting students to the journey we will take together.

The outline includes some “focus” texts, narrates theology in the light of redemptive history (Creation to Eschaton–my six “Cs”), and summarizes key moments within the story by brief declarative statements.  My intent in the course is to unpack those statements as part of the narrative of God’s active, redemptive and loving pursuit of humanity and his creation. We are called to participate in that pursuit–both in response to God’s own initiative and as partners with God in his work.

Here is the brief outline.  I hope it whets your appetite for a bit of theology over the next three weeks.  🙂


Participating in God’s Story:
A Narrative Reading of Theology for the Church

Living within the Story: Hermeneutical and Methodological Assumptions.

Texts: Titus; Acts 17; Romans 1; 2 Timothy 3:13-4:2; 2 Peter 1:20-21; Ephesians 3:1-6

1. The task of theology is to guide the people of God in their journey as divine imagers who mirror God’s own life and community.

2. The resources of theological reflection are Scripture (the norming norm), creation (general revelation and history) and experience (communal [tradition] and personal [existential]).

I. Creation: The Beginning of God’s Story with Us.

Texts: Genesis 1-2; Psalms 8, 104; Isaiah 44:24-28; 45:18-19; John 17:20-26

3. The divine community seeks communion with the created community and rejoices over creation.

4. God partners with humanity as divine representatives within the shalom-filled creation.

II. Crisis: The Emergence of a Rival Story

Texts: Genesis 3-11; Psalm 10; Romans 1:18-3:20

5. Humanity degenerates through a series of crises.

III. Covenant: God’s Redemptive Pursuit in the Story.

Texts: Genesis 12; Deuteronomy 4-6; Psalms 105-107; Isaiah 42:5-9;  Hosea 1-3, 11; Nehemiah 9; Matthew 23:37-39; Romans 9-11

6. God acts for the nations by creating Israel through which the holy love and redemptive intent of God are revealed.

7. God acts among the nations to shape Israel into a redemptive community that images God as a light to the nations.

IV. Christ: The Presence of the Future within the Story.

Texts: Isaiah 9:1-8; John 1:1-18; Matthew 4:12-25; Luke 4:14-30; Mark 10:35-45; Luke 24; 1 Corinthians 15:20-28, 44-49; Ephesians 1:3-14.

8. God, the Logos, becomes incarnate in order to bring light into the darkness as the Father’s Elect One.

9. The ministry of Jesus is the inbreaking of the future by the already present kingdom of God that culminates in his eschatological death and resurrection.

V. Church: A Spirit-Filled Community as Ongoing Story.

Texts: Acts 2:14-47; Galatians 3:26-4:7; 1 Corinthians 10:1-13; 1 Corinthians 12:12-31; 1 Peter 3:8-4:11; Romans 6-8.

10. God, through the ascended reigning Christ, pours out the Spirit upon the believing community (church) for communion, transformation and empowerment.

11. The church is a community of redeemed humanity (salvation as past experience–Baptism).

12. The church is a community of transformed humanity (salvation as present experience–Table ).

13. The Spirit is at work to redeem and transform all creation through the church (missional ministry).

VI. Consummation: The End as New Beginning for the Story.

Texts: Isaiah 65:17-25; Romans 8:18-27; Revelation 21-22

14. God has always moved his story toward a cosmic goal (salvation as future experience).

7 Responses to “Theology in Outline (SBD 1)”

  1.   Jr Says:

    Few things as I would react as a student to this presentation.

    1) What are the text books for the course?

    2) I see Romans 6-11 being addressed. Will be interesting to see how you approach it.

    3) Will be interested on how Kingdom “now” and “not yet” is presented. Seems to be a hot topic again nowadays.

    4) The hijacked post-modern fluffy terminology (story, journey) turns me off immediately (like you care, I know). I don’t disagree, necessarily, with its use – it’s just overused nowadays – by the wrong people for the wrong reasons.

    5) My appetite feeds on theology daily. I’ll be here to learn!

    •   John Mark Hicks Says:

      The main text for the undergraduate course is Stanley Grenz’ “Created for Community.” It is a bit on the “sophmoric” side for Juniors/Seniors, but it gives me the materials for discussion. Then there are assorted readings.

      I do not think of “story” as fluffy terminology though it may have a postmodern tinge to it–which is one reason I like it. 🙂 If it communicates, I don’t mind overusing it. 🙂

  2.   eirenetheou Says:

    If i am reading rightly, the Bible is the textbook — as it should be. That clears away most of the Dogma — depending, of course, on what we may import into it.

    i don’t see Brother Paul’s “new creation” here, although i see some hints of it. i’m looking for it.

    As “story,” theology is still happening, still going on, still evolving, still in contact with real people in the midst of the world. It is neither static nor stagnant.

    As your moving finger writes on this virtual chalkboard, i’ll be watching with some interest. It looks like a book coming on.

    God’s Peace to you.


    •   John Mark Hicks Says:

      Don, you are quite right…the text–and its redemptive-historical unveiling of God–is the textbook.

      As for “new creation,” I hid it under “cosmic goal” with Romans 8 as the text…the new heavens and new earth. But the church is itself a new creation, a transformed humanity–at least in process toward such but redeemed nevertheless.

      Thanks for your interest, Don. You are one of my heroes in the faith.

  3.   Terrell Lee Says:

    Makes me long for a refresher course under your guidance.

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