In studying theology, we must initially consider what our assumptions are, and what our presuppositions are concerning our faith. This awareness or the act of being awake to our own beliefs (prior to the study) will help us to understand our biases and therefore lead to the removal of barriers to new perspectives.
An assumption is a belief or standpoint we may take for granted or a belief that we have taken possession of. A presupposition, on the other hand, is something that we presume, assume, or surmise before we accumulate knowledge or gain experience.
Our assumptions prior to studying Systematic Theology must be: (1) the Bible is True/is the only absolute standard of truth, (2) God exists, and (3) God is who the Bible says He is – He created the heavens, the earth, and all things in the earth. These assumptions must be distinguished from presuppositions, which vary in that presuppositions signify deep embeddedness in belief systems that create barriers rather than bridges.
For example, if I already believe 1 Corinthians 13 is specifically about the love experienced in marriage, I am not going to even think to consider it in its context. And if I do not think to consider Scripture in its specific context, then I am not going to know how to apply it outside my presupposed understanding.
A lot of this can be avoided by reading Scripture as a narrative, rather than skipping around from verse to verse looking for Scripture to satisfy my questions on a topic, or to defend what I want it to say (i.e., read Scripture for what I want it to say, rather than what it actually says). Reading Scripture as one book at a time, for example, will stimulate a desire to read more and will give us a clearer understanding of the flow and meaning of Scripture.
Presuppositions are preconceptions that we must beware of, as everything we consume will be viewed through that lens; however, the three assumptions aforementioned must be sternly believed and understood as a foundation in order to build on the framework of those beliefs. We must seek self-awareness so that our biases do not cloud our understanding or articulation of Scripture.
Why seek to study Scripture accurately? Our mental health depends on our sword– the Word of God, cutting through the deep dives of affliction, depression, and desperation!
Stay tuned for our next blog! We will be discussing the topic of doctrines: which are of primary/major importance (i.e., doctrines we must believe in order to have the assurance of our salvation) and which are of secondary/minor importance (e.g., infant vs adult baptism).