Mar 16, 2009 David Lang

Looking for Verses Theologically

Last week I was working on a writing project, and I mentioned a particular doctrine which I wanted to support from Scripture. Okay, I admit it, I was proof-texting. Worse still, I was in a hurry.

When you're in a hurry to find verses from which a particular point of theology is derived, you can go about it a number of ways. One way is to do a word search for key words or phrases. For example, if I were dealing with the doctrine of sanctification, I could search the text of the Bible for the word "sanctification," for phrases like "made holy," or for related concepts like "maturity" or "completeness." The problem with this approach is that it casts a fairly wide net, and it depends upon my ability to think of how the Bible expresses the point of theology I'm looking for.

Another approach would be to do a topical search. Accordance offers several topical resources which list Scripture references related to a particular topic, such as Nave's Topical Bible or Torrey's New Topical Textbook. By searching one of these resources for the topic you want to find, you can then scan the listed references for appropriate verses. If you would rather read all the references in a full-size window, as opposed to previewing each verse in the Instant Details box, just command-click one of the references, and all the verses in that paragraph will be displayed in a text window.

While a topical resource may be a good place to look for passages related to a particular theological topic, the way a topical resource lists and classifies those topics is usually very different from the way systematic theologies deal with those topics. They also are not as likely to cover the finer points of a particular doctrinal concept. For those reasons, I chose instead to turn to a couple of theological resources. I knew that the point of theology I was searching for is covered in a particular confession, and that the confessions generally list Scriptures in support of their assertions. So I opened the Creeds module and scanned the browser for the section of a confession dealing with that point of doctrine. When I found the right section heading, I clicked it in the browser and was taken to that point in the confession. This particular confession gives Scriptural support in its footnotes, so I simply clicked the footnote reference to be taken there. I then began scanning the Scripture references until I found the ones best suited to my purpose.

After I was done, it occurred to me that an actual Systematic Theology such as Grudem, Hodge, or Strong might have offered more thorough Scriptural support.

Finally, I could have just used the Search All window to search through all of my tools for the theological topic I was looking for. This would have led me to the appropriate entries in my topical resources, theological works, and even resources I might not have thought of.

The point of all this is that there are usually numerous ways to skin the proverbial cat. While you'll typically use the Creeds and Theology modules in other ways, they can nevertheless be used as a quick way to find verses related to a particular doctrine: sort of a theological cross-reference.

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Archived Comments

chad brooks

March 16, 2009 3:38 PM

When I was taking a Patristic preaching class and an ethics class I used the IVP dictionary set in accordance to great success.  I used to start off light research with wikipedia, and then have to verify the content, but the IVP set allows me to bypass my usual first step in writing theologically.


March 16, 2009 9:10 PM

Argh, you abandoned your blog feed in December, and resurrected it at a new location. The correct thing to do is put in a HTTP redirect which news readers can pick up and auto-update the feed address.

Oh, and the new feed seems to have lost the little lamp icon when viewed in a blog reader.



David Lang

March 16, 2009 9:58 PM

As I understand it, we did include an http redirect, and for some reason, it has never seemed to work. I'm sorry for the frustration. No one is more frustrated than I am with the technical issues we've faced since moving the blog to the new server.