What is "Theology"?

Discussion in 'Theological Forum' started by Mikey, Jun 4, 2016.

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  1. Mikey

    Mikey Puritan Board Freshman

    Over the years, I have read many books and chapters on Theology, but I cannot recall ever coming across a precise and satisfactory one/two line definition of what "Theology" is. I know what Theology is, but defining it is a tricky task. So I put the question before you friends, What is the best definition of "Theology"?

    Thank you in advance for your responses.
  2. Parakaleo

    Parakaleo Puritan Board Sophomore

    Some notes of mine (derived in part from Dr. James A. Anderson, RTS Charlotte):

    Definition #1: “The study of God” – Seemingly narrow definition; really very broad.
    Definition #2: “The knowledge of God” (Abraham Kuyper) Knowledge implies a target, an answer, a two-way street. Scriptures frame theology in the “knowledge” context. (Ex. 9:29, Isa. 43:10, Matt. 9:6, 1 John 5:13)
    Definition #3: “The application of God’s Word by persons to all areas of human life.” (John Frame)

    Theology is practical. It has to make a difference in our lives. Some will make a distinction between theoretical theology and practical theology. This is not helpful; all theology should be practical because all theology should be relevant to our lives.

    Theology is authoritative. If theology is the application of God’s Word, if it is done rightly it carries all the authority of God Himself. A good theology should and must be believed, celebrated, and obeyed.

    Theology is personal. Not something done in abstraction from personal lives of human beings; we do theology as an individual person with our own personal characteristics.

    Theology is comprehensive. No area of human life that is not impacted by theology. At the most general level, Paul tells us we should do everything to the glory of God. (1 Cor. 10:31)

    Theology is pastoral. It must address the deepest needs of broken human beings. Right theology will lead, feed, and protect people just as the Chief Shepherd. (Ecc. 12:11)

    Theology is intellectual. Persons have minds. We must think and reason well when we do theology. We are to love God with our mind. (Matt. 22:37)

    Theology is emotional. An unemotional theology is no theology at all. It must inform and shape the whole of the person.

    Theology is biblical. Countless examples of biblical authors who engage in theology as they preach, teach and reveal God’s nature and character.

    Types of Theology
    (1) Biblical Theology
    Starting Point: The historical progression of God’s self-revelation and redemptive plan in the Word of God.
    General Question: “How did God’s self-revelation and redemptive plan unfold over the course of history?”
    Assumption: God has progressively revealed Himself and His plans over time. Eph. 3:8-9, something hidden coming now to light; Col. 1:26, “now revealed”; 1 Pet. 1:10 “Concerning this salvation, prophets searched and inquired carefully”; Gal. 4:4-5 “When the fullness of time had come, God sent forth His Son…”
    Examples: How has the doctrine of the Trinity been progressively revealed? How is the Gospel prefigured in the book of Genesis/Ruth/Jonah?

    (2) Systematic Theology
    Starting Point: Particular subject areas or questions of interest to us.
    General Question: “What does the whole Bible teach us about this subject?”
    Assumption: The Bible is a coherent unity and relevant to all of life. Psalm 12:6 “Words of the Lord are pure words, like silver refined seven times.” Psalm 19 “The Law of the Lord is perfect, the commandment of the Lord is pure.” Romans 15:4 “For whatever was written in former days was written for our instruction." Titus 1:2 “The hope of eternal life which God, who never lies, promised before the ages began." The Scriptures are consistent.
    Example: How does God’s sovereignty relate to human responsibility?

    (3) Historical Theology – What has the church taught throughout history? How and why have these ideas developed?

    (4) Practical Theology – Matters of particular concern in our experience.
    Examples: What is the biblical view of preaching? How should we do evangelism?
  3. Guido's Brother

    Guido's Brother Puritan Board Junior

    Here's a good one from the Leiden Synopsis of 1625: "...we define theology as the knowledge or wisdom of the divine matters that God has revealed to people in this world through ministers of his word inspired by the prophetic Spirit, and that he has adapted to their capability, to lead them to knowledge of the truth which accords with godliness and renders them wise unto their own salvation and God's eternal glory."
    Last edited: Jun 4, 2016
  4. jwithnell

    jwithnell Moderator Staff Member

    The study of God, the primary science.
  5. rickclayfan

    rickclayfan Puritan Board Freshman

    "True theology, therefore is nothing but the disciplined efforts of the student's intellect (directed according to the rule of Scripture) to enhance and improve those inner spiritual gifts and saving light which constitute true, heavenly wisdom" (Owen, BT).
  6. Guido's Brother

    Guido's Brother Puritan Board Junior

  7. Guido's Brother

    Guido's Brother Puritan Board Junior

    William Perkins: "Theology is the science of living blessedly forever."
  8. Contra_Mundum

    Contra_Mundum Pilgrim, Alien, Stranger Staff Member

  9. Reformed Thug Life

    Reformed Thug Life Puritan Board Freshman

    Is there anything unsatisfactory in the standard definition of "the study of God"?
    That is what I have always meant by it.

    Sent from my SM-G920V using Tapatalk
  10. rickclayfan

    rickclayfan Puritan Board Freshman

    "The study of God" by definition is theology proper.

    Considering theology in general, its subject-matter is spiritual truths. The purpose of study is also to be realized and kept in mind, which is spiritual edification, not just intellectual growth.
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