What is Theology?
Simply put, theology is speaking about God. The term ‘theology’ comes from two Greek words: theos (God) and logos (word). That finite beings can even speak of God at all is something of a miracle, made possible by God’s self-revelation culminating in Jesus Christ, the Word (revelation of God) made flesh.
As theologians, we aim to speak well of God in light of the fullness of divine revelation so that we can worship rightly. Medieval theologian Thomas Aquinas captures the heart of the task well: “Theology is taught by God, teaches of God, and leads to God.” As such theology is not just talking about our triune God but an encounter with him as Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.
According to a search in the Thesaurus Lingua Graecae, the Greek word theologia (“theology”) is first attested in Plato’s Republic (379a; ca. 370s BCE), where it means something like “things to do with the divine realm” or “doctrines of the gods.” The word also occurs in e.g. the first-century Jewish historian Josephus. However, we owe its first attestation in Christian sources—again according to the Thesaurus Lingua Graecae—to Clement of Alexandria’s Protrepticus (4.53P; ca. 200 CE), where it means much the same thing as it had meant in Plato’s Republic. Its Latin equivalent, theologia, was also taken up and used extensively in the works of the great western thinker, Augustine of Hippo (354—430 CE). It’s not surprising, therefore, to find that the word and the related concept made their way into various traditions and languages and not least those major ones of the modern west: German (theologie), French (théologie), and English (theology).
In these three modern traditions in particular, “theology” encompasses not just a detailed and systematic study of “the divine” but of the whole philosophical network of a “worldview.” But theology is, of course, principally concerned with the nature of the divine and with the way in which the divine relates to all other reality. And in the Christian tradition in particular, theology is the church’s exegetical and theological exploration, explication, and appropriation of the Bible at various times and in various places throughout its long history.
But why should the average person (as if there were such a thing) care about theology in general and, indeed, about Christian theology in particular? The answer is: there are many reasons, but perhaps one general reason stands out among them.
Christian or otherwise, one simply cannot understand the epistemological, philosophical, religious/spiritual, political, economic, artistic, musical, and socio-cultural contours of our contemporary world—and not least our contemporary western world—without understanding something about the Bible and about its impact upon that world.
Everyone has a theology, and our theology has practical implications for how we live. Theologian A.W. Tozer writes, “What comes into our minds when we think about God is the most important thing about us.” Our theology determines our beliefs about truth, reality, ethics, and meaning and purpose in life, among other things.
Learn More About Theology
Houston Christian University offers several degrees where you can study theology and how it applies to your life.