Thursday 3 April 2008

Theology: The What and How's - An Essay

Theology: The What and How's

The question of what is theology is one what has plagued the christian church, almost since it's beginning's. In this paper I will outline a few views of what theology is. I will then give my view about what theology is. I will then give my view about what theology is and also how to go about studying it.

There are probably as many definitions of what theology is as there are theologians. From Erickson's Christian Theology, "theology will also seek to understand God's creation, particularly man and his condition, and God's redemptive working in relation to man kind." This view is probably the closest to my own, but I will share some others that are also relevant and close to my views.

First I would like to look at Karl Rahner's definition, which is that of: "theology is the science of faith. It is the conscious and methodical explanation and explication of the divine revelation and grasped in faith." This is central to my view, theology is always in relation to faith. This is vitally important to my world view. I look at the world through theocentric lenses. God is central to my life and all I do. His word has central relevance in all that I do. Thus one has to be participating in the experience of religion in order to seriously study theology. It can not just be head knowledge but must also be applicable or heart knowledge, in our daily lives.

This view is also echoed by John MacQuarrie's definition; "theology may be defined as the study which, through participation in and reflection upon a religious faith, seeks to express the content of this faith in the clearest and most coherent language available".

As we can see from this sampling theology is the science of God. The Word itself comes from the Greek "theos" and "logos", the study of God, literally. It is study of what we can know and what we can not about God. Thus we return to Erickson, he lists 5 things that modern theology is, or should be:
  1. Theology is biblical
  2. Theology is systematic
  3. is also related to the issues of general culture and learning
  4. must be contemporary
  5. is to be practical
These 5 points will outline and guide how we do theology. Which is what we will now do in the next section.

The approaches to theology vary as much as do the definitions of what it is. Yet I believe that a many fold approach is needed t
o have a well rounded and well grounded theology. There have been many different phases of theology and many fads as well.

The first 2 of Erickson's points for me are intertwined, and interdependent. Systematic Theology according to Websters is; "a branch of theology concerned with summarizing the doctrinal traditions of a religion especially with a view to relating the traditions convincingly to the religion's present day setting", biblical theology on the other hand is theology concerned with the theology of the new and old testaments. The bible is our first source. Our primary source. Or our beginning and end of all theological debates. Theology must also be of social relevance. It must be applicable to all area's of our life.

Thus it has to be relevant to our culture, it must have relations to other area's of learning. It has to be approachable by anyone interested in the pursuit of truth or knowledge. It must be contemporary so that it can relate to the cultural setting that it is in. but in being so it must not loose it's focus on Christ, God, Redemption.

Theology must also be practical, "Practical Theology is the study of the institutional activities of religion (as preaching, church administration, pastoral care , and liturgy ...). To me this is the ultimate end of all theology. It is where the knowledge gained in study, gets put into practice. Where we apply what we learn.

The questions of what and how about theology, will never be answer to full agreement here on earth. But we must each work out what our views on these are. To summarize then Theology is the study of God's relations and interactions with man. We go about this in a lot of ways, but we must combine them to have a complete and useful approach.

End Notes

1 Christian Theology p.21
2 Christian Theology an Introduction p. 143
3 Christian Theology an introduction p. 142
4 Christian Theology an introduction p. 141
5 Christian Theology p. 21
6 Websters On Line Dictionary


McGrath, Alister E.
Christian Theology an Introduction
Oxford: Blackwell, 1997

Erickson, Millard J.
Christian Theology
Grand Rapids: Baker House 1985

Websters On Line Dictionary

(First Written for RS100K Introduction to Theology Fall 1998.)

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