Nineteenth century Princeton-trained theologian and founder of Southern Baptist Theological Seminary James P. Boyce gives first the spirit for studying theology and then the advantages for studying theology in his Abstract of Systematic Theology:
These facts show with what spirit we should study Theology:
1. With reverence for truth, and especially for the truth taught in the Word of God.
2. With earnest prayer for Divine help.
3. With careful searching of heart against prejudice.
4. With timidity, as to the reception and propagation of new doctrine.
5. But with a spirit willing and anxious to examine, and to accept whatever we may be convinced is true.
6. With teachable humility, which, knowing that God has not taught us in his word all the truth that exists, not even all the truth on many a single point, accepts with implicit faith all that he has taught, and awaits his own time for that more full revelation which shall remove all our present perplexities.
The advantages of studying theology systematically are several.
1. We thus ascertain all that nature and the Scriptures teach on each point.
2. We compare all these teachings one with another and are enabled to define their mutual limitations.
3. We are brought face to face with the fact that our knowledge is bounded by God’s Revelation, and are led to acknowledge it as its source.
4. We are consequently warned not to omit any of the truth ascertained from any source, nor to add to it anything not properly embraced therein. A departure from this rule will lead into inevitable error.
5. The harmony, and consistency, which will be found in all God’s teachings, from whatever source we may draw them, will become conclusive proof of the divine origin of revelation. This will result, not only from a comparison of what Reason and Nature teach, with the revelations of God’s Word, but of each of the several books of the Bible with the others, and especially of the body of the Old Testament as one book, with that of the New Testament as another.
6. We are thus led to value each of the doctrines of the word or God. Each is true. Each has been revealed that it might be believed. We cannot therefore omit any one, because of its forbidding aspect, or its seeming unimportance, or its mysterious nature, or its demand for great personal sacrifice, or its humiliating assertions, or requirements, or the free terms upon which it assures of life and salvation.