On this blog I often reference theology and the impact it has on leadership. Because theology is an integral part of understanding what the Bible says it is important to share with you how I define theology.
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Here are five points that define theology for me:
1. Theology is something done by everyone that helps them to think about and understand God.
Even though theology is done by anyone who thinks about God, often it is attributed to a specific belief in God and Christianity. In his book, Christian Theology: An Introduction, Alister McGrath writes, “‘theology’ now often designates the study of religion from a committed perspective.” Dr. Glenn Kreider, Professor of Theological Studies at Dallas Theological Seminary defines theology as “we do theology as Christians not so that we believe, but because we already believe.” He also adds that “theology is faith seeking understanding.”
2. Theology is deeply (but not only) rooted in the Bible.
McGrath states that “the ultimate source of Christian theology is the Bible, which bears witness to the historical grounding of Christianity in both the history of Israel and the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus Christ.”
3. Because theology is shaped by our values and culture, every person approaches theology with a specific bias.
McGrath states that “Christianity often unconsciously absorbs ideas and values from its cultural backdrop.” The issue is not whether or not we have a bias toward theology. Instead, we need to be aware of those biases as we study theology and seek to interpret it within the context of our own life and our culture.
4. Theology is also something that changes over time, which means it is a never ending process formed through traditional and historical theology.
This deals with the issue of Historical Theology which McGrath defines as: “The branch of theology that aims to explore the historical situations within which ideas developed or were specifically formulated. It aims to lay bare the connection between context and theology.” Theology is a never ending process because our study of it will never lead to a position where we “completely” know God. Additionally, the practice of theology will never be perfect, thus we must always be doing theology in an effort to get it right. 1
5. Theology’s ultimate and final quest is to know God.
Question: How do you define theology?
- See John R.W. Stott, “Theology: A Multidenominational Discipline,” in Doing Theology for the People of God, ed. by Donald Lewis and Alister McGrath (Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press, 1996), 5. See Stott’s definition of “tradition” theology for further distinction between “tradition” theology and “historical” theology. Stott, “Theology: A Multidenominational Discipline,” 9. ↩