The following information is a portion of the content from our Mentor Program
Reporting for NACM: Michael Mooney, ministry practitioner
What is Theology?
Theology is defined as “the systematic study of the nature of God and God’s relationship with humanity and with the world. Although other religions may be said to have theologies, this is a matter of controversy within, for instance, Judaism, which holds that God is unknowable.” (Theology, 2008).
There is a fine line to be drawn between the subjects of theology and of philosophy. Both subjects have historically shaped the other. However, the distinction is observable in at least two categories:
1) Theology is expressed in the attempt to speak about God, using terms that are not a matter of everyday language; and
2) Theology is learned through critical thinking about God from within a community of believers (Theology, 1999).
In other words, Philosophy is contrasted by critical thinking about God without the guidance of an organized community of believers, and is free to speak of God in everyday language.
From these definitions we conclude that theology demands the use of technical language, and requires that its teachings are administered within the context of a community of believers.
Religious communities believe things about God. In other words, believing in God results in beliefs about who He is, and how He relates to His creation.
These beliefs are organized into conclusions about God that govern systems of beliefs. In other words, conclusions about God are formed by beliefs about who He is. These beliefs tend to be contingent upon the next, and therefore make all of them connected in order to be true. For example, we believe that God is Holy; therefore, He must also be honest. Therefore, He must also be a keeper of His word. Therefore, He must save those who believe in His name. Therefore, He must also punish those who do not. See how each of these conclusions are interconnected? God could not be Holy, but fail to keep His promises.
Religious communities use technical language to express their systems of beliefs. For example, God is omniscient (all-knowing), omnipresent (present in all places) and omnipotent (all-powerful).
Benefits of Studying Theology
- Knowing what you believe
- Knowing what you do not believe
- Knowing how those beliefs relate to the beliefs of others
- Knowing how to share your beliefs with others
- Improving the possibility of knowing God’s will for your life
- Having the potential to improve the quality of your life by applying the principles of godly living
- Having the potential to increase the blessings in your life by practicing sound faith
Possible Pitfalls of Studying Theology
- Developing an unhealthy pride and dependence upon your knowledge
- Becoming obsessed with correcting perceived false doctrines in the lives of others
- Losing sight of the fact that truth and love are interconnected and inseparable when applied. In other words, it is possible to speak the truth without love, but it is not possible to live the truth without love.
- Forgetting that the Bible is a book of revelation, without which it cannot be lived
- Developing blind spots of the true meaning of Bible passages because of biases toward doctrines
- Limiting faith in the power of God because of beliefs about His nature
- Acquiring a righteously indignant and judgmental attitude of others who may not share your views
- Losing the necessary balance between faith and reason
Step 1. Ask the Holy Spirit to guide your hearts during the following activities
Step 2. Discuss the following questions among your team-mates, within your team areas:
Why is the study of theology important?
How is theology different from philosophy?
How might theology benefit from philosophy?
Why are religious communities inseparable from the study of theology?
Step 3. After discussion, post a team mission statement explaining how you will hold one another accountable to avoiding the pitfalls of theology, while maximizing the blessings that may be received by its study?
It is very important to complete each step as a team.
Discuss the questions of step 2 in your team area. This discussion is assigned for your personal growth, and will only be evaluated by whether or not you participated.
Step 3 should be completed as a team and posted by one team member within your team area –in the same way the first assignment was posted.
Keep in mind that “sincerity” in participation is the most important thing that we evaluate. There are no grades, which means that there are no “fails.” Participants either advance to the next assignment, or in few cases asked to repeat an assignment.
The only way to fail is to quit, not participate without reasonable excuse, or develop an offensive attitude without repentance. You all should appreciate this policy because it is fair, and it does not require advanced intelligence or abilities.
References to Quoted Sources
Theology. (2008). In The Columbia Encyclopedia.
Theology. (1999). In Dictionary of Existentialism.