Theology and Christian Theology

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, my family and those whom God loves,

Theology…What comes to mind when you hear this word? Some people consider it to be an academic pursuit, limited to those with a higher education. Others view it with suspicion, believing it to be a source of divisiveness and perhaps even, unbiblical ideas. Some would say it’s just plain boring, irrelevant or theoretical. Perhaps though, you’re one of those who consider “theology” to be an opportunity to grow deeper in God’s word and thereby, enrich your confession of faith. All of these views are held by people, but what is theology really?

Of course, the word “theology,” like many words, can mean different things to different people, but its root meaning (Greek theologia – θεολογία) is words (logos – λόγος) about God (theos – Θεός). Theology is simply how people put into words their understanding of who God is, what God is about and what that means for life.

Everyone has a theology, a view on God, god or gods because everyone has a god of some kind. Martin Luther best described a “god” in this way:

A god means that from which we are to expect all good and in which we are to take refuge in all distress. So, to have a God is nothing other than trusting and believing Him with the heart. I have often said that the confidence and faith of the heart alone make both God and an idol…Now, I say that whatever you set your heart on and put your trust in is truly your god. – Luther’s Large Catechism Part I:2-3

In this sense, even “atheists” have a god (perhaps themselves) and a theology that speaks against (a) a theistic view of God (theism). We all have a “God” or gods and a theology that goes along with that focus, whether we formalize that belief or let it guide us informally.

This word has a long history even though it has been primarily used within Christianity. As early as 380 BC Plato used the word theologia as he wrote about his “discourse on God” in The Republic (Book ii, Ch. 18). Ever since that time, people have continued to discuss and write about the God or gods in their lives.

Christian theology is unique in its confession of God and is the study of the way this God has revealed Himself. Christian theology is broken up into topics, some of which include who God is, the origin of life, the human condition, and salvation, to name just a few. Although Christian theology considers how humans are to respond to God, the focus is primarily on Almighty God and Jesus Christ, the clear revelation of God.

This website divides Christian theology into four simple headings (in bold) which each represent a more technical part of Christian theology. These are listed below along with a brief explanation.

  • Bible (Exegetical theology) – The study and interpretation of the Bible as God’s Word.
  • Theology (Systematic theology) – Christian doctrine or teaching that summarizes God’s Word within specific topics.
  • History (Historical theology) – The study of historical movements of Christian thought occurring after the apostolic era as the Church wrestles with God’s Word in a fallen world.
  • Life Together (Practical theology) – How the mission and ministry of the Church is expressed within local congregations based on a confession God’s Word in living life together, bearing witness to Christ and serving the neighbours.

The primary purpose of all aspects of theology is to proclaim the Gospel of salvation in Jesus Christ that all may believe and have life in his name (John 20:31). The secondary purpose is to grow in our knowledge and understanding of God’s truth in Christ (1 Peter 2:2-3) that we may be equipped for the work of ministry as St. Paul writes (Ephesians 4:12-14):

for building up the body of Christ, 13 until we all attain to the unity of the faith and of the knowledge of the Son of God, to mature manhood, to the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ, 14 so that we may no longer be children, tossed to and fro by the waves and carried about by every wind of doctrine, by human cunning, by craftiness in deceitful schemes.

and as St. Peter also records (1 Peter 3:15) …

(to be) prepared to make a defense to anyone who asks you for a reason for the hope that is in you…

To be able to proclaim the Gospel of salvation and defend the hope that is in us requires study and growth in the knowledge (theology) of the Christian faith. This sounds too challenging for many who would rather have a Christianity which is more simplistic, moralistic and focused on what we do and can get rather than on what God has done in Christ and calls us to. This doesn’t mean that the Christian faith and its theology should be overly complex.

Christian theology, as confessed in its faith is both simple and challenging. It is simple in that even a child can receive and confess faith in the Jesus who died and rose for all. The sacrificial love of Christ whereby God has restored relationship with people is the simple truth of our theology and faith. At the same time, many of the teachings of Scripture are challenging to both our faith and the life we live in this world. However, it is these very challenges of discipleship that can lead us as God’s children to maturity in Christ Jesus.

Theology, therefore, is simply a summary or confession of what God’s Word in Holy Scripture has revealed. Christian theology is not to venture into speculating or saying anything more than what God has revealed in Christ and through the Holy Spirit. With this in mind, this website will study and interpret the Bible as God’s Word, summarizing it around particular topics, exploring how the Church has understood, and at times, misunderstood the truth of the Gospel, and how God’s Word comes to life in the mission and ministry God has called the Church to.

Grace be with you,

By PT Graff

A baptized child of God's, called to be a son, husband, father, citizen of Canada and heaven and a pastor.