What is Theology: God Knowledge as Defined by God

What is Theology: God Knowledge as Defined by God

Introduction

The question what is theology and why would I care about it, is probably one of the most important questions a Christian can ask. Theology is coming to know God the way God wants to be known, and it must be done with the intent to honor God the way He deserves. Though the norm of theology will always be the scriptures, the theologian uses reason, experience, and tradition in whichever theological discipline they find themselves. After theology is defined the next logical step is to discover the purpose of theology, and since theology is about God, its uses are as diverse as the areas of life that God touches. In other words, theology pertains to every part of life. Because the uses of theology are as numerous as there are parts of life, it is necessary to narrow the scope of the question and this can be accomplished by comparing theological disciplines. Focusing in one, the discipline of systematic theology, will help to make as clear of a statement as possible about the nature and purpose of theology. Theology is pertinent to every part of life because it is about knowing God as He is revealed by himself, and systematic theology is especially relevant to the Christian because of its attempts to systematize this knowledge of God into clearly defined topics, that are reasonable, analyzed, and consistent with logical experience.

What Theology Is

Theology is simply defined as the study of God. A Christian theologian, however, cannot stop at this definition because it lacks certain criterion for the task. A theologian will approach theology by applying, reason, tradition, and experience to the scripture to produce a coherent definition of Christian doctrine. However, in the case of reason for example, as Ron Highfield said, “Christian theology insists that reason remain a servant. It must not be allowed to determine the content of revelation, judge its truth, or limit God’s power to reveal himself.”[1] All the theologian’s tools are normed and subject to scripture. So then, theology, by Christian definition, is the study of God, to come to the knowledge of God, in the way that God defined in scripture.

The Purpose of Theology

Theologies purpose is as Highfields defines it, “… is the church’s self-examination with respect to its speaking and living.”[2] When the word church is used here it should not be thought of as some invisible or intangible thing, but rather as the ongoing daily activities of the daily lives of the believers that are the visible body of Christ. Therefore, theology is an ongoing discipline by which the believer examines Christians doctrine and seeks to practically apply it to their lives. The ongoing process is important to note, and that process is where theology has its greatest value. The theologian can continue that process in his time standing on the shoulders of those that came before; since God is infinite, the idea of theology has to start with an understanding that is it a process that will never end: there will never be a time where everything that can be known about God is known.

The Relationship of Systematic Theology to Other Theological Disciplines

John Calvin in his Institutes of the Christian Religion said, speaking on Christian doctrine that “some are so necessary to know that they should be certain and unquestioned by all men as the proper principles of religion.”[3] The theologian’s concern is to define all doctrines, make clear which are the “so necessary” ones and make them all accessible to the church. There are serval disciplines that make up the study of theology and they are generally labeled: systematic, historical, biblical, and pastoral. There are others and each one of these can have multiple subdisciplines. Systematic theology seeks to take the churches current theological position and refine it, expand it, and make it more applicable today. Historical theology is different from systematic theology in that it is concerned with why the church or a certain group held certain positions in the past. Biblical theology articulates God’s actions or learns about God’s purpose in the context of time, while systematic theology is more concerned with the individual concepts themselves and not with how they unfolded in time. Pastoral theology is also called practical theology because it seeks to take theology and practically apply it in a church setting, practical theology is often more concerned with taking the systematic, historical, and Biblical and seeking God’s method for applying them to the church.

Why we Should Care About Systematic Theology

Theology is about condensing all of the information about God from scripture, from history, from general revelation, from experience, from tradition, and using reason, make coherent statements that receive their authority from no other place than scripture, and adequately expressed the Christian doctrines in contemporary language. Systematic theology is the discipline that most seeks to make clear the doctrines of Christianity as a whole. These doctrines include, the ontology of God, the Trinity, atonement, incarnation, ecclesial governance, and many more. Often, Highfield points out, “believer so often object to theology for its coldness and rationalism.”[4] However, Highfield answers this objection with these words “… the reality to which the words give witness.”[5] This is what make systematic theology in particular valuable; it seeks to be a consistent witness to the reality of all that God has revealed about himself.

Conclusion

            The word theology means Theo (God) and logy (knowledge). God knowledge is exactly what the theologian seeks to get for themselves and ultimately for all believers to build up the church in the doctrines of Christianity. The Christian theologian always practices these tasks with scripture as the norm, however, the theologian also uses all the tools that he has available to him, reason, logic, tradition and experience. The task of the theologian is to develop theology because knowing God as He has revealed himself is something that is pertinent to every believer; systematic theology systematizes this knowledge of God, clearly defining the doctrines that make up how the church understands herself, in the light of revelation, with a goal of consistency and clarity.

 

 

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[1]. Ron Highfield. 2008. Great Is the Lord: Theology for the Praise of God. Grand Rapids, MI: William B. Eerdmans Publishing. 45.

[2]. Ron Highfield. 2008. Great Is the Lord: Theology for the Praise of God. Grand Rapids, MI: William B. Eerdmans Publishing. 61.

[3] John Calvin, Institutes of the Christian Religion & 2, ed. John T. McNeill, trans. Ford Lewis Battles, vol. 1, The Library of Christian Classics (Louisville, KY: Westminster John Knox Press, 2011), 1026.

[4]. Ron Highfield. 2008. Great Is the Lord: Theology for the Praise of God. Grand Rapids, MI: William B. Eerdmans Publishing. 58.

[5]. Ron Highfield. 2008. Great Is the Lord: Theology for the Praise of God. Grand Rapids, MI: William B. Eerdmans Publishing. 61.

 

Bibliography

 

Calvin, John. Institutes of the Christian Religion & 2, ed. John T. McNeill, trans. Ford Lewis Battles, vol. 1, The Library of Christian Classics. Louisville, KY: Westminster John Knox Press, 2011.

Highfield, Ron. 2008. Great Is the Lord: Theology for the Praise of God. Grand Rapids, MI: William B. Eerdmans Publishing.

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