I just read a gem of an essay by J.I. Packer called "Theology & Bible Reading" in The Act of Bible Reading edited by Elmer Dyck. It is a collection of essays by faculty of Regent College from 1996.
Packer's thesis is that theology and bible reading go hand in hand. He believes this now (but didn't in his youth, which was some time ago). The argument that theology (thought and speech about God) is elitist is attacked quite vigorously. Anyone who speaks about God is in a sense, a theologian, so why not be a good one by coupling theology with bible study? It is an interesting circle: theology gives you the framework to understand what God has said to us, but bible reading gives you the message itself.
Packer discusses the disciplines of theology. Starting with exegesis of a passage (the original meaning of the passage), Packer walks you through organizing exegetical findings (biblical theology), study of what past Christians made of the passage (historical theology) and developing a disciplined framework (systematic theology). Apologetics (defense of the faith), ethics (ideals of Christian behavior), missiology (fulfillment of ministering tasks appointed us by God), spirituality) life in communion with God) and liturgy (worship of God) follow. The disciplines wrap up with practical theology, how to do god's work and glorify His name in our particular serving roles and situations.
Packer talks briefly about how the liberal theological views coming out of the enlightenment led to a distrust of traditional theology. It took a resurgence of fundamentalist scholarship to get us where we are today.
Packer then follows with relating bible reading and theology in four tasks:
1) Receptive – noting all that is said about what God has done, is doing or will do.
2) Critical – relating historical Christian positions to the biblical language.
3) Applicatory – drawing practical guidance from God's revelation for contemporary life.
4) Communicative – finding ways to edify believers, instruct unbelievers correct notions and rebut antagonistic positions.
Packer wraps up with why everyday folks should be concerned with theology. How it shows us a coherent, consistent approach to the bible and how it sets out the substance of the bible. In essence, how theology keeps bible reading a "He" exercise and not a "me" exercise.
I would recommend this essay to anyone as an immensely readable and thoroughly enjoyable read.