What is the definition of theology?

Question: "What is the definition of theology?"

The word “theology” comes from two Greek words that mean "the study of God." Christian theology is simply an attempt to understand God as He is revealed in the Bible. No theology will ever fully explain God and His ways because God is infinitely and eternally higher than we are. Therefore any attempt to describe Him will fall short (Romans 11:33-36). However, God does want us to know Him insofar as we are able, and theology is the art and science of knowing what we can know and understand about God in an organized and understandable manner. Many people try to avoid theology because they believe it is divisive. Properly understood, though, theology is uniting. Theology is organizing the teachings of God's Word in an understandable way. Proper, biblical theology is a good thing; it is the teachings of God's Word (2 Timothy 3:16-17).

The study of theology, then, is nothing more than digging into God’s Word to discover what He has revealed about Himself. When we do this, we come to know Him as Creator of all things, Sustainer of all things, and Judge of all things. He is the Alpha and Omega, the beginning and end of all things. “For from Him and through Him and to Him are all things” (Romans 11:36). When Moses asked who was sending him to Pharaoh, God replied “I AM WHO I AM” (Exodus 3:14). The name I AM indicates personality. God has a name, even as He has given names to others. The name I AM stands for a free, purposeful, self-sufficient personality. God is not an ethereal force or a cosmic energy. He is the almighty, self-existing, self-determining being with a mind and a will—the “personal” God who has revealed Himself to mankind through His Word, and through His Son, Jesus Christ.

To study theology is to get to know God, in order that we may glorify Him through our love and obedience. Notice the progression here: we must get to know Him before we can love Him, and we must love Him before we can desire to obey Him. As a byproduct, our lives are immeasurably enriched by the comfort and hope He imparts to those who know, love, and obey Him. Poor theology and a superficial, inaccurate understanding of God will only make our lives worse instead of bringing the comfort and hope we long for. Dr J.I. Packer summed it up most eloquently: “Knowing about God is crucially important for the living of our lives. . . . We are cruel to ourselves if we try to live in this world without knowing about the God whose world it is and who runs it. The world becomes a strange, mad, painful place, and life in it a disappointing and unpleasant business, for those who do not know about God. Disregard the study of God, and you sentence yourself to stumble and blunder through life, blindfold, as it were, with no sense of direction and no understanding of what surrounds you. This way, you can waste your life and lose your soul.”

All Christians should be consumed with theology—the intense and personal study of God—in order to know, love and obey Him with whom we will spend all eternity.

Recommended Resource: The Moody Handbook of Theology by Paul Enns.

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Related Topics:

What is systematic theology?

What is Old Testament theology?

What is dogmatic theology?

What is practical theology?

What is New Testament theology?

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What is the definition of theology?