Systematic Theology, the greatest of the sciences, has fallen upon evil days. Between the rejection and ridicule of it by the so-called progressives and the neglect and abridgment of it by the orthodox, it, as a potent influence, is approaching the point of extinction.
It is a significant fact that of the upwards of two score accredited and notable works on Systematic Theology which have been produced in this and other countries, an exceedingly small portion is now in print and the demand for these works is negligible. The unchanging emphasis in the Scriptures upon doctrine, which subject is referred to in the New Testament more than forty times and is that to which a Christian is to “take heed” (1 Tim. 1:3; 4:6, 16; 2 Tim. 3:10, 16; 4:2, 3), stands as a silent rebuke, whether heeded or not, to all modern notions which belittle the importance of Dogmatic Theology, and also stands as a corrective to those who neglect any portion of it.
It is no secret that the average minister is not now reading Systematic Theology, nor will such writings be found to occupy a prominent place in his library. Shocking indeed this condition would have been to ministers of two generations ago—men whose position was respected in their day because of their deep knowledge of the doctrinal portions of the Bible and whose spoken ministries and writings have gone far toward the upbuilding of the Church of Christ.
The present situation is not one of passing moment. As well might might a medical doctor discard his books on anatomy and therapeutics as for the preacher to discard his books on Systematic Theology; and since doctrine is the bone structure of the body of revealed truth, the neglect of it must result in a message characterized by uncertainties, inaccuracies, and immaturity… Few clergymen’s libraries will include even one work on theology, but a medical doctor will assuredly possess a worthy work on anatomy. A form of modern thinking tends to treat all matters of doctrine with contempt.
No substitute will ever be found for the knowledge of the Word of God. That Word alone deals with things eternal and infinite, and it alone has power to convert the soul and to develop a God-honoring spiritual life. There is a limitless yet hidden spiritual content within the Bible which contributes much to its supernatural character…
Acquiring the knowledge of the spiritual content of the Bible is a life task. The great preachers who have moved the hearts of men with divine power have been saturated with Bible truths secured through a first-hand, daily study of its text. General facts of human learning may be acquired by the usual means, but spiritual truths are apprehended only as taught to the individual heart by the Spirit.
No student of the Scriptures should be satisfied to traffic only in the results of the study of other men. The field is inexhaustible and its treasures ever new. No worthy astronomer limits his attention to the findings of other men, but is himself ever gazing into the heavens both to verify and to discover; and no worthy theologian will be satisfied alone with the research of other theologians, but will himself be ever searching the Scriptures…
—This was taken from the Preface of L. S. Chafer’s Systematic Theology, (Kregel: Grand Rapids, 1948, 1976).