What is Theology?
The word theology can be used many ways, the context will usually make it clear which way the speaker/writer has in mind. The word itself comes form two Greek words theos (God) and logos (word/idea/speech), so etymologically theology is a word about God (or the study of God). This strict, etymological definition is sometimes called theology proper.
The popular meaning of theology is broader and more inclusive. It can refer to the study of God, man, angels, demons, salvation, sin, forgiveness, repentance, and any other doctrine found in the Bible. Of course for a Muslim, a Hindu, etc. their theology will draw from their respective literature and religious experience. On this website, unless otherwise indicated, theology will generally be used to express the idea of biblical theology.
There is a good degree of overlap between philosophy and theology. Both disciplines handle ultimate issues that determine how people live, determine right from wrong, decide what to eat/drink, decide what to NOT eat/drink, how they express feelings, communicate, understand death, birth, sex, marriage, government, and the list goes on. What is amusing to me is when someone who openly engages in philosophy denies religion. Their beliefs are just as religious as a Muslim, a Christian, a Hindu or any other theist. This philosopher is doing theology under a different title, yet it is theology nonetheless.
Sources of Theology
There are a number of possible sources for doing theology. Some individuals and churches restrict their source to the Bible only, others will include other sources such as writings from early Christians, church councils, creeds, commentaries, personal experience, Popes, pastors, tradition, visions, intuition, etc. When doing theology one must be aware of what sources they are drawing from. If, for instance, a Christian does not examine their beliefs and where they come from, they may unwittingly form their understanding of God on the basis of a poorly preached sermon, their view of an absent father while growing up, or any other (bad) source.
It is my belief that the Bible ought to be the highest court of appeals when doing theology. In short, I subscribe to the protestant doctrine of sola scriptura. The Bible is not the Christian’s only source for theology, but it is our highest source. We can (and should) study church history, read theology books, commentaries, essays, articles, websites (like mine!) and listen to sermons. All of these things are good as far as they go, but the Bible stands over all of them to expose and correct errors. In other words, when a book, sermon, or anything else contradicts the Bible, the Bible is right and the other source is wrong, every time…
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|Recommended Resources: The Moody Handbook of Theology / Basic Christianity by John Stott (IVP Classics) / A Comedian’s Guide to Theology|