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What is Theology?
Theology Definition

Simply put, theology is speaking about God. The term 鈥榯heology鈥 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鈥檚 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: 鈥淭heology is taught by God, teaches of God, and leads to God.鈥 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聽Thesaurus Lingua Graecae, the Greek word聽theologia聽(鈥渢heology鈥) is first attested in Plato鈥檚聽Republic聽(379a; ca. 370s BCE), where it means something like 鈥渢hings to do with the divine realm鈥 or 鈥渄octrines of the gods.鈥 The word also occurs in e.g. the first-century Jewish historian Josephus. However, we owe its first attestation in Christian sources鈥攁gain according to the聽Thesaurus Lingua Graecae鈥to Clement of Alexandria鈥檚聽Protrepticus聽(4.53P; ca. 200 CE), where it means much the same thing as it had meant in Plato鈥檚聽Republic. Its Latin equivalent,聽theologia, was also taken up and used extensively in the works of the great western thinker, Augustine of Hippo (354鈥430 CE). It鈥檚 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 (迟丑茅辞濒辞驳颈别), and English (theology).

In these three modern traditions in particular, 鈥渢heology鈥 encompasses not just a detailed and systematic study of 鈥渢he divine鈥 but of the whole philosophical network of a 鈥渨orldview.鈥 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鈥檚 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聽尘补苍测听reasons, but perhaps one general reason stands out among them.

Christian or otherwise, one simply聽肠补苍苍辞迟听understand the epistemological, philosophical, religious/spiritual, political, economic, artistic, musical, and socio-cultural contours of our contemporary world鈥攁nd not least our contemporary western world鈥攚ithout understanding聽蝉辞尘别迟丑颈苍驳听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, 鈥淲hat comes into our minds when we think about God is the most important thing about us.鈥 Our theology determines our beliefs about truth, reality, ethics, and meaning and purpose in life, among other things.

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