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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. Its 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 Quran, 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 allloving 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 Gods 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 Gods 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.

The study of theology is concerned with speech about God, with the speech of God, and with the experiences that are said to derive from Him. We now understand the sources of theological reasoning as well as the value of this kind of study. In this post, we turn to examine the various types of Christian theology. [1] This post will be a little more complicated than the others, but we should persevere. We are well on our way to understanding the breadth of theological study! When we speak of the various types of Christian theology we refer to its disciplines and traditions. However, before we begin to explore these disciplines and traditions, it may be helpful to suggest an analogy. Lets propose that Christian theology acts as the grammar of faith. [2] Just like the rules of grammar help us to structure language, theological study informs the order and cogency of belief. To continue this linguistic analogy, the disciplines and traditions of Christian theology may be understood in terms of punctuation and accent. In what follows were going to explore this analogy more deeply. The various disciplines of Christian theology constitute the punctuation of theological study. Just like a full stop or a semi-colon arranges our sentences, these disciplines inform the arrangement of Christian theology and the way in which its various sources are presented. We may list five examples. (1) Biblical Theology As we discussed in the previous post, revelation is one of the central sources of Christian theology. When we speak of Biblical theology, we dont mean to suggest that the other disciplines fail to consult the Bible. Rather, Biblical theology uses the Scriptural data to paint a big picture. For example, a Biblical theology of the Eucharist may start with the observation that in Genesis 14:17-20, Melchizedek the High Priest gives Abram a gift of bread and wine as a sign of Gods blessing. It would proceed to note that in Hebrews 7:17, Jesus is regarded as a fulfilment of Melchizedeks priesthood, and that in the Last Supper narratives, He is seen offering bread and wine as a symbol of Israels blessing through His own body and blood. A big picture is thereby painted through which our doctrine of the Eucharist may be given greater clarity and new textual/theological connections may be made. [3] (2) Historical Theology As we discussed in the previous post, tradition is also one of the sources of Christian theology. Historical theology attempts to speak of doctrine according to its development throughout Christian history. In this regard, its a discipline thats in constant dialogue with Church tradition. For example, a student doing historical theology may have an interest in the doctrine of justification. She may begin by performing a thorough investigation of the NT data, and proceed to trace its reception amongst the early Church. She may observe how Augustine influenced Luthers reading of Romans with regards justification by faith alone. Nearly 500 years later, E.P. Sanders sought to reinterpret the doctrine minus the Lutheran spectacles that had influenced so much of Western theology since the Reformation. Historical theology is concerned with this sort of investigation. It constructs an account of doctrinal development throughout Church history. [4] (3) Mystical Theology Weve established that Christian theology is concerned with the experiences that are said to derive from God. Mystical theology is especially interested in these experiences as a source of theological reflection. Ones encounters with God in prayer, worship, visions or mystical ecstasy are used to inform ones theological understanding. Mystical theology may use these encounters in a way that complements Church tradition and the Bible, or in a way that disregards both as inferior. [5]

(4) Contextual Theology Like mystical theology, this is another discipline that is concerned with experience but in a rather different way. The contextual theologian insists that praxis should instruct theological reflection. In particular, the circumstances and experiences of different social groups (especially marginalised or oppressed ones) are used to inform the conclusions of contextual theology. Liberation thought is one example of this discipline at work. Sensing the Biblical mandate to champion the poor and oppose injustice, liberation theologians highlight the local needs and experiences of varying demographics throughout the world, such as the impoverished within Latin America. A liberation understanding of Jesus, for example, would emphasise His mission to liberate the captives and bind up the broken. According to the aforementioned example, a Latin American Jesus would be constructed; one who was on the side of and identified with the regions oppressed. Instead of being constructed directly from Scripture or the creeds of tradition, an understanding of Jesus is crafted using the experiences of those within a specific situation. This is the nature of contextual theology. [6] (5) Systematic Theology It may be suggested that the systematic theologian has to be the jack of all trades. Systematic theology is concerned with the broad tapestry of Christian theology. It seeks to construct an account of Christian theology using a variety of sources and methods. It may even consult the conclusions of all the disciplines listed so far. Its aware of the various ways in which the subjects of theology inter-connect with one another and it hopes to produce a cogent model or system, one that accounts for these diverse theological expressions. We may speak of a specific systematic doctrine, one that produces a cogent model of a particular theology in the manner described, or of a general systematic theology, one that speaks from within a tradition about the nature of its theology as a whole. [7]