Systematic Biblical Doctrine
That's the title of a course I teach at the undergraduate level at Lipscomb University. I don't particularly like the title. Here's why.
"Doctrine" rings hollow at best for most students and creates hostile suspicion for many. The word has a polemical ring in the ears of many such that it conjures up images of dueling antagonists engaged in heated debate where the loser goes to Hell.
"Systematic" sounds, well, too systematic. It sounds like we are going to put the Bible into its "proper" order--an order that we impose through a preconcevived "system" (an order perhaps borrowed from some philosophical construct). This prioritizes "system" over text; it postulates an "order" to which the text must conform. This is the discipline of onto-theology so that theology is shaped by a prior commitment to an ontology. Theology then becomes a form of philosophical anthropology, which means it is not theology at all but "anthropology in a loud voice" (so Barth's critique of classic liberalism).
So, "Systematic Biblical Doctrine" sounds like a code word for imposing my system upon the biblical text in order to draw boundaries that define the "right" group. Consequently, I don't like it. It is not what I think theology should do.
Rather, I would rather proceed with a more narrative approach where theology is the exploration of the biblical plot--to trace the redemptive-historical work of God through creation, Israel, Christ and Church into the Eschaton. It follows the plot line. Theology tells the story and seeks to absorb the contemporary world into the plot of the story.
Is there something systematic about theology? Well, of course. There is an order. But, it seems to me, that order is best understood as redemptive-historical plot, or drama, or story, or narrative. The order is not that of a "system" or a philosophical/metaphysical grid, but the order of a narrative plot in which we live or a drama that we perform.