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Systematic theology flows out of (1) exegetical decisions regarding the theological meaning of individual passages, (2) the collation of the meaning of passages on an issue of biblical theology, and (3) the use of models (good and bad) provided by a study of the history of dogma on the issue. In constructing a theology for today, four components form the “raw materials” – Scripture, tradition (both the creedal traditions of the church as a whole and the individual traditions of the theological systems), experience (personal experience, corporate experience in a local church, and the community of scholars whose works challenge and inspire us), and reason (ways of organizing the data into coherent patters for the current culture). Tradition, experience, and reason together form our preunderstanding, that set of hermeneutical awareness and beliefs that guide us when we study a text and draw theological meaning from it. This compendium of the reader’s strategies must he held consciously, lest they become an a priori that determines the textual meaning rather than a perspective from which we make decisions. Once again, the competing schools of thought are oru friend, for they force use away from presuppositional readings.

There is general agreement that Scripture must provide the basis for all theological formulation. The debate centers upon what part it must play and what place we gtive to church tradition in developing our belief system. The thesis of this essay is that Scripture has absolute primacy, and tradition is supplemental, informing us and providing models for the way Scripture has been utilized through the centuries, but not determining our present system.

Grant Osborne, “Hermeneutics and Theological Interpretations,” in Understanding the Times: New Testament Studies in the 21st, ed. Andreas J. Kostenberger and Robert W. Yarbrough (Wheaton: Crossway, 2010), 83-84.