Again, contra Johannus Weslianus, here I am talking about music again. When I played the Liszt b minor Sonata on my senior recital, it was only after my teacher and I had struggled to understand the piece as a whole. There were serious difficulties in the way: the piece was half an hour long without a break, the piece could easily be sectioned off into movements if one desired to do so, and the piece was very demanding of both performer and audience. So, how to make the piece understandable was a question that burned in both my teacher’s mind, and in my own.
This is very analogous to theology. It is extremely easy to cordon off various parts of theology to suit our fancy. Most of the time these days, it is exegetes who sniff at systematic theologians, thinking that systematic theology has no bearing on how to interpret a text. Au contraire. Pardon my French. But when you come to a text that says, “God repented,” do we allow other Scripture to weigh in on this? Do we say that Scripture has no errors or contradictions? God does not lie. When He says at one point that He does not change like shifting shadows, and then elsewhere that God cannot lie, then we need to allow knowledge of those texts to influence how we read the statement, “God repented.” If we do not do this, then open theism might be the result. Open theism is the belief that God is open to the future, and that if plan A does not work, then God goes to plan B.
Of course, this interaction of systematic theology and exegesis must not be allowed to flatten out biblical history. God did not drop Scripture out of heaven all at one time. There is a progression. Systematic theology and exegesis are inseparable yet distinct. Those two words seem to be watchwords in Reformed theology. They apply to the Trinity, Jesus’ divine and human nature, the benefits we have in union with Christ, and probably many other vitals of the Christian faith. Systematic theology must take into account the biblical progression of revelation. Apologetics must not be forgotten, nor must church history, or practical theology. They are all like spokes of a wheel, interrelated yet distinct.