M. Bird: “We need to set out the gospel at the beginning of theology because…
(1) our reception of the gospel is the point where we first experience the soteriological benefits of being in a redemptive relationship with God;
(2) it brackets out perversions of the gospel caused by either a liberalism (a truncated social gospel) or a fundamentalism (gospel + works) which might otherwise infiltrate our theological thinking;
(3) setting out the gospel insulates our further theological reflection from either a pietistic reductionism (e.g. God loves you and has a wonderful plan for your life) or from an equating the gospel with one particular doctrine (e.g. the gospel of justification, the gospel of the pre-tribulation rapture, the gospel of egalitarianism, etc); and
(4) Paul’s epistle to the Romans (although most definitely not a systematic theology, it is still the most ‘systematic’ of Paul’s letters) itself starts with a statement of the gospel in Rom. 1.3-4.
In this light, Romans sets us a ‘template’ to follow in doing theology, a theology that is rooted in and originates with the gospel itself.”