Like philosophy, theology often amounts to studying everything under the sun in order to try to make sense of God, life, the universe and everything.

Christian theology is wierdly fragmented at present. Some theologians try to consider the classic questions considered by Augustine, Aquinas, Anselm, Martin Luther, and John Calvin. Others consider things from a minority, feminist, ethnic, liberal, fundamentalist, or whatever perspective.

the X that can be Y is not the true X = T = theory

theology n.

1. Ironically or humorously used to refer to religious issues. 2. Technical fine points of an abstruse nature, esp. those where the resolution is of theoretical interest but is relatively marginal with respect to actual use of a design or system. Used esp. around software issues with a heavy AI or language-design component, such as the smart-data vs. smart-programs dispute in AI.

--Jargon File, autonoded by rescdsk.

Theology is the attempt to communicate articulate statements about God. For our purposes, God is infinite and not one element within a larger system.

The problem with theology is that it attempts to leap two infinitely wide bridges. Since the human mind is finite and God is infinite, we can never really create an accurate concept of God. And since words are an extremely inaccurate way to communicate concepts, what we communicate is only a rough approximation of what we think. As a result, theologians are supposed to keep in mind that their efforts aren't getting at the truth about God in the same way that physicists are getting at the truth about elements of the physical universe.

What theology can do is provide a continuing translation of the underlying principles of a religion into terms that communicate to the people of a given time and place. Most (but not all) of the critiques of religion on Everything are really attacks on bad theology (which has its own node).

In their book Who Needs Theology?, professors Roger E. Olson and Stanley J. Grenz informally break theology up into five types, depending on how seriously it's applied and how accessible the thinking is. While not an "official" breakdown, it's useful to see the entire spectrum, since any two people may use different definitions as their own idea of "theology".

  • Folk Theology is the most widespread and least "logical" kind. It advocates blind faith and and emotional spirituality, and tends to be very faddish, rejecting tradition and long-held truths in favor of whatever is popular. Folk theology doesn't just avoid analytical thinking, it resents it and considers it "unspiritual" or downright sinful. My own term for this is "armchair theology."
  • Lay Theology is the theology of the layman. It involves critical thinking and logical study, but not necessarily beyond widely accessible books and texts. It seeks to answer spiritual questions using the actual religious documents and strives for internal consistency. It relies on an informal study of religious truth rather than a formal one and seeks to answer questions rather than reject them as showing a lack of faith.
  • Ministerial Theology is the kind most people expect from community religious leaders and missionaries. It requires a formal study of theology, with a highly critical eye and a good knowledge of the background of the religious texts. Ministerial theology is thorough and practical, dedicated to answering the questions of the lay theologian. It is both broadly informed and highly relevant to others.
  • Professional Theology is less oriented toward discipleship than ministerial theology, but is more informed about the specifics and nuances of spiritual questions common and rare. It's dedicated to formal study of source texts and a rigorous exploration of religious truth. It writes the books ministerial and lay theologians read, exploring their questions but leaving it to others to share them with the untrained believer.
  • Academic Theology is the most intellectual and least accessible sort of theology. It's not intended for "common people", but for professional and other academic theologians. This is the kind most people use when constructing a negative image of theology: concerned with the fine details of religious history and truth, often extrapolating widely to connect different ideas. Just because it's not accessible doesn't mean it's not important, however. Academic theology works to ensure that religious teaching is consistent from the past through the present to the future.

The*ol"o*gy (?), n.; pl. Theologies (#). [L. theologia, Gr. ; God + discourse: cf. F. th'eologie. See Theism, and Logic.]

The science of God or of religion; the science which treats of the existence, character, and attributes of God, his laws and government, the doctrines we are to believe, and the duties we are to practice; divinity; (as more commonly understood) "the knowledge derivable from the Scriptures, the systematic exhibition of revealed truth, the science of Christian faith and life."

Many speak of theology as a science of religion [instead of "science of God"] because they disbelieve that there is any knowledge of God to be attained. Prof. R. Flint (Enc. Brit.).

Theology is ordered knowledge; representing in the region of the intellect what religion represents in the heart and life of man. Gladstone.

Ascetic theology, Natural theology. See Ascetic, Natural. -- Moral theology, that phase of theology which is concerned with moral character and conduct. -- Revealed theology, theology which is to be learned only from revelation. -- Scholastic theology, theology as taught by the scholastics, or as prosecuted after their principles and methods. -- Speculative theology, theology as founded upon, or influenced by, speculation or metaphysical philosophy. -- Systematic theology, that branch of theology of which the aim is to reduce all revealed truth to a series of statements that together shall constitute an organized whole. E. G. Robinson (Johnson's Cyc.).


© Webster 1913.

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