The Study of God

Been spending the last few days preparing lectures for our introduction to Christian theology course which starts next week. Great way to realise just how little you know!

I came across a few quotes in the process which I thought I’d share, along with a couple of questions.

I have spent most of my ‘theological’ study to biblical studies rather than systematic theology and so sometimes I have failed to see just how exciting – not to say important – the study of theology (and perhaps systematic theology in particular) actually is. One of our basic premises in the Christian faith is that God has made himself known through both the natural world and in his Word – and ultimately in Jesus. So studying theology is really about getting to know God better – and especially getting to know God better through coming to know Jesus better. Tertullian (c. 160 – c. 225 for something about him, click here) expresses something of this when he says,  “But God does not cease to be, nor can he be other than what he is: and the Word is God, and “the Word of the Lord remains for ever,” that is, it continues in the same form… It follows that his incarnation means that he comes to be in flesh and through flesh is revealed, seen and touched.”

Am I wrong in thinking that this approach to what theology is about is more appealing than a slightly drier, but perhaps more traditional, way of defining theology as “the study of God, of religious doctrines and of matters pertaining to Divinity”? (K J Conner in The Foundations of Christian Doctrine)

It is perhaps for similar reasons that I like Erikson’s comment in his Christian Theology where he says, “There is a sense in which theology is an art as well as a science, so it cannot follow a rigid structure.” I’d be interested in your thoughts on this. Clearly, for theology to be systematic in any way it has to be structured and logical in its presentation and thought, but I think there must be room for the ‘artistic’ within it; some way in which the reality of our faith as being about a person becomes part of our study of that faith as doctrine.

Wayne Grudem touches upon this as well, reminding us in his Systematic Theology that theology needs to be studied not only with reason and Bible study and prayer, but also with humility and rejoicing. Further, that theology needs to be relevant; a theology that answers the questions of yesterday is not a theology for today. So we come to the common issue of how we ensure that timeless truths are communicated in relevant ways. That’s the task for our classes in the coming week or so.

“He that has doctrinal knowledge and speculation only, without affection, never is engaged in the business of religion.” – Jonathan Edwards

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