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Question: "What is the definition of theology?" Answer: The word “theology” comes from two Greek words that combined mean “the study of God.” Christian theology is simply an attempt to understand God as He is revealed in the Bible. No theology will ever fully explain God and His ways because God is infinitely and eternally higher than we are. Therefore, any attempt to describe Him will fall short (Romans 11:33-36). However, God does want us to know Him insofar as we are able, and theology is the art and science of knowing what we can know and understand about God in an organized and understandable manner. Some people try to avoid theology because they believe it is divisive. Properly understood, though, theology is uniting. Proper, biblical theology is a good thing; it is the teaching of God's Word (2 Timothy 3:16-17). The study of theology, then, is nothing more than digging into God’s Word to discover what He has revealed about Himself. When we do this, we come to know Him as Creator of all things, Sustainer of all things, and Judge of all things. He is the Alpha and Omega, the beginning and end of all things. When Moses asked who was sending him to Pharaoh, God replied “I AM WHO I AM” (Exodus 3:14). The name I AM indicates personality. God has a name, even as He has given names to others. The name I AM stands for a free, purposeful, self-sufficient personality. God is not an ethereal force or a cosmic energy. He is the almighty, self-existing, self-determining Being with a mind and a will—the “personal” God who has revealed Himself to humanity through His Word, and through His Son, Jesus Christ. To study theology is to get to know God in order that we may glorify Him through our love and obedience. Notice the progression here: we must get to know Him before we can love Him, and we must love Him before we can desire to obey Him. As a byproduct, our lives are immeasurably enriched by the comfort and hope He imparts to those who know, love, and obey Him. Poor theology and a superficial, inaccurate understanding of God will only make our lives worse instead of bringing the comfort and hope we long for. Knowing about God is crucially important. We are cruel to ourselves if we try to live in this world without knowing about God. The world is a painful place, and life in it is disappointing and unpleasant. Reject theology and you doom yourself to life with no sense of direction. Without theology, we waste our lives and lose our souls. All Christians should be consumed with theology—the intense, personal study of God— in order to know, love, and obey the One with whom we will joyfully spend eternity. Question: "What
is systematic theology?"
Answer: “Systematic” refers to something being put into a system. Systematic theology is, therefore, the division of theology into systems that explain its various areas. For example, many books of the Bible give information about the angels. No one book gives
all the information about the angels. Systematic theology takes all the information about angels from all the books of the Bible and organizes it into a system called angelology. That is what systematic theology is all about—organizing the teachings of the Bible into categorical systems. Theology Proper or Paterology is the study of God the Father. Christology is the study of God the Son, the Lord Jesus Christ. Pneumatology is the study of God the Holy Spirit. Bibliology is the study of the Bible. Soteriology is the study of salvation. Ecclesiology is the study of the church. Eschatology is the study of the end times. Angelology is the study of angels. Christian Demonology is the study of demons from a Christian perspective. Christian Anthropology is the study of humanity from a Christian perspective. Hamartiology is the study of sin. Systematic theology is an important tool in helping us to understand and teach the Bible in an organized manner. In addition to systematic theology, there are other ways that theology can be divided. Biblical theology is the study of a certain book (or books) of the Bible and emphasizing the different aspects of theology it focuses on. For example, the Gospel of John is very Christological since it focuses so much on the deity of Christ (John 1:1, 14; 8:58; 10:30; 20:28). Historical theology is the study of doctrines and how they have developed over the centuries of the Christian church. Dogmatic theology is the study of the doctrines of certain Christian groups that have systematized doctrine—for example, Calvinistic theology and dispensational theology. Contemporary theology is the study of doctrines that have developed or come into focus in recent times. No matter what method of theology is studied, what is important is that theology is studied. Systematic theology is a discipline of Christian theology that attempts to formulate an orderly, rational, and coherent account of the Christian faith and beliefs. Inherent to a system of theological thought is that a method is developed, one which can be applied both broadly and particularly. Systematic theology draws on the foundations of the sacred texts of Christianity, and also looks to the development of doctrine over the course of history, philosophy, science, and ethics to produce as full a view and as versatile a philosophical approach as possible. Question: "What is Old Testament theology?" Answer: Old Testament theology is what God has revealed about Himself in the Old Testament. The system of Old Testament theology takes the various truths that the Old Testament books teach us about God and presents them in an organized fashion. God's revelation of Himself begins in Genesis 1:1: "In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth." That is a presupposition that all believers accept by faith and is based on the study of God throughout all the Scripture from Genesis to Revelation. Since the Bible is true in all of its aspects, then all of it, as it comes from God, is true and eternal. It never passes away nor will it ever deny itself in any of its parts. God said, "My Word is true...it is eternal...it will never pass away." God Himself is true: Jesus said, "For I am the Way, the Truth, and the Life..." (John 14:6). John 1:1-3 state:
"In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God; the same was in the beginning with God." Paul wrote in 2 Timothy 3:16: "All Scripture is given by inspiration of God (God-breathed)." Second Peter 1:21 states: "But men spoke from God as they were carried along by the Holy Spirit." Since God revealed Himself, His character, His attributes, etc., then a theological study is made of the Old Testament and it is discovered that the Old Testament (Old Covenant) gives us an application of theology to a relationship that God established with a created people, the Jews. We must relate the word “theology” to the word "testament" or "covenant." All through this Old Testament there is a progressive revelation of God to his people in order that they might learn who He is, what He is, and what He was doing in the world, especially with them. The application of the word “testament” carries one beyond the simple fact of books or writings to their main theme. Into the very heart of the Old Testament is woven the idea of a Covenant between God and man, first made with Adam, then with Noah, also with Abraham, the nation of Israel and with David. The Scripture refers again and again through the history, the psalms and proverbs and prophecy, to this covenant into which God entered with His chosen people. In Jeremiah, prophecy reaches its height in the sublime prediction of the New Covenant, a prediction declared by the writer of the letter to the Hebrews to be fulfilled in Jesus Christ. Question: "What is dogmatic theology?" Answer: Dogmatic theology gets its name from the Greek and Latin word dogma which, when referring to theology, simply means “a doctrine or body of doctrines formally and authoritatively affirmed.” Basically, dogmatic theology refers to the official or “dogmatic” theology as recognized by an organized church body, such as the Roman Catholic Church, Dutch Reformed Church, etc. While the term dogmatic theology is thought to have first appeared in 1659 in the title of a book by L. Reinhardt, the term became more widely used following the Reformation and was used to designate the articles of faith that the church had officially formulated. A good example of dogmatic theology is the doctrinal statements or dogmas that were formulated by the early church councils who sought to resolve theological problems and to take a stand against heretical teaching. The creeds or dogmas that came out of the church councils were considered to be authoritative and binding on all Christians because the church officially affirmed them. One of the purposes of dogmatic theology is to enable a church body to formulate and communicate the doctrine that is considered essential to Christianity and which, if denied, would constitute heresy. Dogmatic theology is sometimes confused with systematic theology, and the two terms are at times used interchangeably. However, there are subtle but important differences between the two. To understand the difference between systematic theology and dogmatic theology, it is important to notice that the term “dogma” emphasizes not only the statements from Scripture, but also the ecclesiastical, authoritative affirmation of those statements. The fundamental difference between systematic theology and dogmatic theology is that systematic theology does not require official sanction or endorsement by
a church or ecclesiastical body, while dogmatic theology is directly connected to a particular church body or denomination. Dogmatic theology normally discusses the same doctrines and often uses the same outline and structure as systematic theology, but does so from a particular theological stance, affiliated with a specific denomination or church. Question: "What is practical theology?" Answer: Practical theology, as its name implies, is the study of theology in a way that is intended to make it useful or applicable. Another way of saying it is that it is the study of theology so that it can be used and is relevant to everyday concerns. One seminary describes its Practical Theology Program as “being dedicated to the practical application of theological insights” and that it “generally includes the sub-disciplines of pastoral theology, homiletics, and Christian education, among others.” Another seminary sees the purpose of practical theology as helping to prepare students to translate the knowledge learned into effective ministry to people. Doing this involves both personal and family life as well as the administration and educational ministries in the church. They state that the goal of practical theology is to develop effective communicators of Scripture who have a vision for the spiritual growth of believers while being servant leaders. Some consider practical theology to simply be a more technical name for the doctrine of the Christian life. Its emphasis is on how all the teaching of Scripture should affect the way we live today in this present world. The emphasis of practical theology is not simply to contemplate or comprehend theological doctrines but to move beyond that to applying those doctrines in everyday Christian life so that we “contribute to the world’s becoming what God intends it to be.” The premise behind practical theology programs is that future Christian leaders need to be equipped not only with theological knowledge but also with the necessary professional skills to minister effectively in the modern world. Often these programs use preaching, Christian education, counseling and clinical programs to provide opportunities to equip and prepare future Christian leaders. Question: "What is New Testament theology?" Answer: New Testament theology is what God has revealed about Himself in the New Testament. The system of New Testament theology takes the various truths that the New Testament books teach us about God and presents them in an organized fashion. The New Testament discloses the coming of the predicted Messiah in the Old Testament (Isaiah 9), the birth of the New Testament Church (the body of Christ), the Church age, the Gospel of Jesus Christ, the rejection of the Messiah by Israel, and the doctrinal beliefs applied to the believer in Jesus Christ as Savior and Lord. The phrase "New Covenant (Testament)" was spoken by Christ at the Last Supper, and is claimed by Paul as the substance of the ministry to which he was called. He preached the Good News, the Gospel of Jesus Christ for salvation. New Testament doctrines were primarily for believers to be instructed and learn how to live lives that would be pleasing
to Father God. The Old Testament deals with the record of the calling and history of the Jewish nation, and as such it is the Old Covenant. The New Testament deals with the history and application of the redemption provided by the Lord Jesus Christ on the Cross, and, as the New Covenant, it supersedes the Old. The application of theology to the New Testament is the same as that of the Old Testament. It is the study of the progressive revelation that God gave through the New Testament writers. The study of the major doctrines of the Bible makes up a systematic theology for the believer, following the progressive revelations that God made to man from the beginning to the end of the prophetic book of Revelation. Again, theology is the gathering of facts concerning God and His Son Jesus Christ and the work of God the Holy Spirit in all the historical, present, and future events spoken of in the Bible.
Christian theology is discourse concerning Christian faith. Christian theologians use Biblical exegesis, rational analysis and argument to understand, explain, test, critique, defend or promote Christianity. Theology might be undertaken to help the theologian understand Christianity more truly, make comparisons between Christianity and other traditions, defend Christianity against critics, facilitate Christianity's reform, assist in the propagation of Christianity, draw on the resources of the Christian tradition to address some present situation or need, or for a variety of other reasons. Christian theology has permeated much of Western culture, especially in pre-modern Europe.
Divisions of Christian theology
There are many methods of categorizing different approaches to Christian theology. For a historical analysis, see the main article on the History of Christian theology.
Christian theologians may be specialists in one or more theological sub-disciplines. These are the kinds of phrases that one finds in certain job titles such as 'Professor of x', 'Senior Lecturer in y':
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Apologetics/polemics—studying Christian theology as it compares to nonChristian worldviews in order to defend the faith and challenge beliefs that lie in contrast with Christianity Biblical hermeneutics—interpretation of the Bible, often with particular emphasis on the nature and constraints of contemporary interpretation Biblical studies—interpretation of the Bible, often with particular emphasis on historical-critical investigation Biblical theology—interpretation of the Bible, often with particular emphasis on links between biblical texts and the topics of systematic or dogmatic theology
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Constructive theology—generally another name for systematic theology; also specifically a postmodernist approach to systematic theology, applying (among other things) feminist theory, queer theory, deconstructionism, and hermeneutics to theological topics Dogmatic theology—studying theology (or dogma) as it developed in different church denominations Ecumenical theology—comparing the doctrines of the diverse churches (such as Eastern Orthodox, Roman Catholic and the various Protestant denominations) with the goal of promoting unity among them Exegesis—interpretation of the Bible Historical theology—studying Christian theology via the thoughts of other Christians throughout the centuries Homiletics—in theology the application of general principles of rhetoric to public preaching Moral theology—explores the moral and ethical dimensions of the religious life Natural theology—the discussion of those aspects of theology that can be investigated without the help of revelation scriptures or tradition (sometimes contrasted with "positive theology") Patristics or patrology—studies the teaching of Church Fathers, or the development of Christian ideas and practice in the period of the Church Fathers Philosophical theology—the use of philosophical methods in developing or analyzing theological concepts. Pragmatic or practical theology—studying theology as it relates to everyday living and service to God, including serving as a religious minister Spiritual theology—studying theology as a means to orthopraxy: Scripture and tradition are both used as guides for spiritual growth and discipline Systematic theology (doctrinal theology, dogmatic theology or philosophical theology)—focused on the attempt to arrange and interpret the ideas current in the religion. This is also associated with constructive theology Theological aesthetics—interdisciplinary study of theology and aesthetics / the arts Theological Hermeneutics—the study of the manner of construction of theological formulations. Related to theological methodology.
These topics crop up repeatedly and often in Christian theology; composing the main recurrent 'loci' around which Christian theological discussion revolves.
Bible—the nature and means of its inspiration, etc.; including hermeneutics (the development and study of theories of the interpretation and understanding of texts and the topic of Biblical law in Christianity) Eschatology—the study of the last things, or end times. Covers subjects such as death and the afterlife, the end of history, the end of the world, the last judgment, the nature of hope and progress, etc.
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Christology—the study of Jesus Christ, of his nature(s), and of the relationship between his divinity and humanity; Creation myths Divine providence—the study of sovereignty, superintendence, or agency of God over events in people's lives and throughout history. Ecclesiology (sometimes a subsection of missiology)—the study of the Christian Church, including the institutional structure, sacraments and practices (especially the worship of God) thereof Mariology—area of theology concerned with Mary, the Mother of Christ. Missiology (sometimes a subsection of ecclesiology)—God's will in the world, missions, evangelism, etc. Pneumatology—the study of the Holy Spirit, sometimes also 'geist' as in Hegelianism and other philosophico-theological systems Soteriology—the study of the nature and means of salvation. May include Hamartiology (the study of sin), Law and Gospel (the study of the relationship between Divine Law and Divine Grace, justification, sanctification Theological anthropology—the study of humanity, especially as it relates to the divine Theology Proper—the study of God's attributes, nature, and relation to the world. May include: o Theodicy—attempts at reconciling the existence of evil and suffering in the world with the nature and justice of God o Apophatic theology—negative theology which seeks to describe God by negation (e.g., immutable, impassible ). It is the discussion of what God is not, or the investigation of how language about God breaks down (see the nature of God in Western theology). Apophatic theology often is contrasted with "Cataphatic theology."
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