Mention “theology” and you may have just opened up a can of worms. Many Christians are afraid of theology; some are almost hostile. With Trinity Sunday coming up, we might explore why that is and how we can answer some common objections.
Theology is hard – it is for those who went to college or who have degrees and speak Latin.
As an academic discipline, theology is not harder than many other subjects. Much of theology is very accessible and the rewards of theology are great. We are to love God with our minds as well as with our hearts. No matter what language you speak, someone is doing theology in that language.
Theology is a complication. (“The Gospel is simple, let’s just stick to that”.)
Just about anything can be appreciated on many levels. Eating a meal is simple, but the sciences of nutrition and of the chemistry of food are complex subjects that fascinate many good minds. Besides, what do you do after someone has received the Gospel? Eph. 3: 14-19, 4:14, 15; Heb 5: 12-14.
Theology is unnecessary. (“Christ is essential, that’s all we need.”) What is “essential” as Christian doctrine is not the same as what is “essential” for salvation. What is “essential” is not the same as what is “central”.
Theology causes arguments. (“Doctrine divides; Christ unites.” or “No creed but Christ.”)
Theology, like any other area of knowledge, progresses by the process of making propositions and offering refutation. This is biblical. See Mat. 16: 13-18; 1 Cor. 15:12-20. The spirit in which it is done matters: In essentials, unity; in opinions, liberty; in all things, charity. Theological arguments do not have to turn into religious wars; instead they can be the means by which honest-hearted persons grapple with the truth.
And while we are on the subject: Who is Christ and how does he unite? How can you answer that without doing theology?
Therefore, if we recognize theology as the study of God, coming to know God, then theology is something the Church has to do and something every Christian is doing. There is no question of doing it; the question is whether or not we are doing it well. Theology is neither esoteric nor optional. Theology is what the Church does and has always done.
Here are the names of some of the branches of theology – that thing that you are doing as you get to know God better each day:
The study of religious beliefs is called “theology”. There are many sub-categories.
“Biblical theology” – doctrines of the Bible, rules of interpretation.
“Dogmatic theology” – body of doctrine received in the Church.
“Moral theology” – ethics, principles for conduct
“Soteriology” – study of salvation.
“Eschatology” – study of death, afterlife and endtimes.
“Anthropology” – study of the nature of man.
“Theology proper” (often just called “theology”) is the study of the nature of God.
“Christology” is the study of Christ.