Before discussing the value of systematic theology, it needs to be said up front that systematic theology is not done because of the practical benefits derived from doing it. As Van Til writes,
When we speak of the value of systematics, or, for that matter, of the value of any other theological discipline, we do not take the pragmatic position. The question of value is not the first question we should ask. The question of truth and of duty is primary (21).
Having laid that fundamental foundation of why we do systematic theology, Van Til goes on to offer the practical benefits and fruit that come from doing systematic theology, which are summarized as follows (pages 21-25):
- Systematic theology prevents us from becoming spiritually and theologically one-sided due to focusing on “hobby horses” that appeal to our temperament.
- Systematic theology prevents preachers from preaching error/heresy (though often from ignorance rather than being intentionally subversive) and empowers the preacher to combat heresy.
- Systematic theology empowers preachers to preach theologically, viz. the whole counsel of God. Preaching the whole counsel of God guards the church from the twin errors of worldliness and otherworldliness.
- Systematic theology prevents the church from being led astray by false teaching, especially because much false teaching is based on appealing to isolated Scripture verses. As Van Til says, “One-text Christians simply have no weapons of defense against these people.”
- Systematic theology gives the Christian the best apologetic defense, because the apologetic encounter involves two rival systems/worldviews.
- Systematic theology will enable the minister to be an apologist to his flock, and especially the young adults in his church who will hear competing/rival worldviews in school (e.g. naturalistic evolution).
- Systematic theology best enables the church to propagate the truth, because a church with a solid system is like a well-ordered army. Not only effective on the defense, but especially on the offense.
- Systematic theology provides the depth in our evangelism, something entirely lacking in the “jerky evangelism” (Van Til’s words) of Revivalism.