What is theology?

What is theology?

Theology is derived from the Greek words, “theos” for God and “logos” for word, or subject, or topic of discourse.  The combination of these two words forms the word theology.  Theology from these two words has the means, “the study of God.”  In Called to Believe: A Brief Introduction to Christian Doctrine, edited by Steven P. Mueller, theology is defined as “words about God.”

It’s important to note that there are many different theologies because there are many different views of God.  Theology will be approached in a completely different manner depending on which h words about God are being studied.   If a Hindu sacred text is being studied, then the study of the “words about God” will be very different from the “words about God” from the Islamic Qur’an, the Jewish Talmud, or the Christian Bible.  Theology can be approached from many different worldviews also, such as, atheism or feminism.

Christian theology is the study of how God has revealed himself to mankind from the Bible.  It mainly focuses on how God has acted towards his creation, us, and what he wills and wants for us in our lives.  Within Christianity there are numerous branches of study.

Historical Theology – This branch of theology looks at the history of the church and the various theological movements in teachings, emphasis, and practice within the life of the church.

Exegetical Theology – This branch of theology “brings out” the truths of scripture by discovering what the message would have meant to its original audience.  To accomplish this aim, the historical and cultural context of the writing must be examined, as well as the literary context and type of writing and the original language needs to be examined, as well as interpreting each passage of scripture with other passages of scripture.  Once the original message, purpose, and intent of any given passage of the Bible is determined, then exegesis is properly prepared to apply that timeless truth of scripture to a modern day audience.

Pastoral Theology – This branch of theology focuses on the day to day application of theology in the lives of Christians.

Apologetics – This branch of theology focuses on defending the faith.  Many people ask complicated questions concerning the Christian faith, such as, how can you trust the bible to true, or why would an all-loving God send people to hell?  Or how about, all religions are just different paths that lead to the same God, so why must Jesus be the only way?  These questions and many others are asked both within Christendom, but Christians, and by people who are outside of the church, so this branch although often times ignored within certain groups of Christianity plays an important role in the church.

Missiology – This branch of theology focuses on the study of missions.  How should the church go about spreading God’s word?  How should the kingdom grow?  Answers are in scriptures, but answers also lie in studying cultures, psychology, trends, history, and through analyzing demographics.

Systematics – This branch of theology is essentially what the “What does the Bible Teach?” section of OC Apologists centers around.  Systematics is taking the whole of the Scriptures and putting the word of God into understandable categories to form doctrines.  Doctrine is simply an organized, system, of instruction.  That is what systematic is, taking the bulk of God’s word and narrowing the scope of an individual topic, such as sin or the nature of God, and siphoning it down into concise bullet points of information.

And what is the purpose of Theology?

The main purpose of Christian theology is to proclaim the Gospel of Jesus Christ.  This should be the ultimate aim of Christian theology, to always point to the work of Jesus Christ for the salvation of mankind.

The secondary purpose of Christian theology is to produce growth in a Christian’s life in the realm of knowledge and understanding of God.  This isn’t however just head knowledge.  An example would be a sports fan knowing all the stats of his favorite quarterback from high school to the NFL.  However, if he sees that quarterback on the street, does he know the quarterback?  Does the quarterback know him?  No.  The knowledge is just intellectual, and it’s not intimate.  The goal in the growth of knowledge of God in theology is to produce growth in the intimate knowing of God.  Just as a husband and wife grow to know one another deeply, and in a way that no one else knows them, so to the Christian theology when strives to seek a continual, intimate knowing of the Lord in the lives of Christian believers.

The Source of Christian Theology

The source of Christian theology should be scripture alone.  The Bible is the word of God and all Christian teachings should align with it.  Everyone can have multiple sources of information concerning God, such as pastors, parents, friends, church denominations, traditions, experiences, and even human reason.

These other sources can be very helpful.  Learning from standing on the shoulders of Christians that have gone before or who have studied a certain topic more than us should not be condemned.  However, the teachings of certain people and groups differ from one another, and they can’t all be correct.  Sometimes traditions can lead us astray from God and become trappings of religion, especially if the original intent and purpose of the tradition has been lost in time.  Experiences can be very deceiving, especially since not everyone will share the same experiences in their relationship with God.  Reason as a tool is necessary; just read through the list of various theological branches of study, they all require the use of the mind.  However, the mind and human reason is tainted with sin, and the wisdom of God is foolishness to the wisdom of man.  Therefore these other sources of theological information must always be subject to scripture.

Scripture alone should be the ultimate source and norm of our theology!