Theology Overview

“Study to show thyself approved unto God, a workman that needeth not to be ashamed, rightly dividing the word of truth.”
II Timothy 2:15 KJV

Theology Overview

With hyperlinks to Wikipedia articles.

(With the help of Information Age technology, and following an outline of study like this one, the 21st century Christian has access to Biblical and Theological knowledge at a rate not previously available to any generation.)

Useful Wikipedia Portals: [Bible portal] [Christianity portal] [Judaism portal].

Prologue – Having the right attitude.

In 1 Corinthians 8:1 (NIV) the Apostle Paul wrote, “… We know that ‘we all possess knowledge’. But knowledge puffs up [that is, ‘makes conceited’] while love builds up.”

As students of God’s Word and revelation of Himself to Mankind, we must guard ourselves from becoming arrogant and conceited because of what we learn.

Consider the following:

“In reading this, then, you will be able to understand my insight into the mystery of Christ, which was not made known to people in other generations as it has now been revealed by the Spirit to God’s holy apostles and prophets. This mystery is that through the gospel the Gentiles are heirs together with Israel, members together of one body, and sharers together in the promise in Christ Jesus.” – Ephesians 3:4-6 (NIV)

In Christian theology, a “mystery” is defined as, “a religious belief based on divine revelation; especially one regarded as beyond human understanding.”

The Apostle Paul, who, as Saul of Tarsus, was trained as a Rabbi in Jerusalem under Gamaliel (one of the most noted rabbis in Jewish history) is said to have had an education equivalent to two PhDs.

Yet, in this passage, he calls Christ a “mystery”!

This should serve to humble and remind us, that, no matter how educated we may become in the subject of theology, we will never “arrive”, but will always be “learners” until Christ returns.

“Dear friends, now we are children of God, and what we will be has not yet been made known. But we know that when Christ appears, we shall be like him, for we shall see him as he is.” – 1 John 3:2 (NIV)

Introduction What is theology?

  • The study of God (Greek: theos).
  • A particular school or system of religious thought.
  • A learned profession acquired by specialized religious studies.
  • A systematic study of the nature of God and religious truth.

Part 1: Theology as a particular school or system of religious thought.

Main Traditions within Christianity:

Main Traditions within Protestantism:

  • Lutheran.
  • Anabaptist.
  • Presbyterian & Reformed.
  • Episcopalian & Anglican.
  • Congregational & Baptist.

Main Controversies in the history of Christian Theology:

Part 2: Theology as a learned profession acquired by specialized religious studies.

Professional levels in Theology:

  • President/Professor
  • Senior Pastor
  • Christian Counselor
  • Teacher/Principal
  • Associate/Youth Pastor
  • Para church Ministry

Academic levels in Theology:

  • Doctorate
  • Masters
  • Bachelors
  • Associate
  • Certificate

Part 3: Theology as a systematic study of the nature of God and religious truth.

Theological Method.

Systematic theology seeks to summarize biblical teaching on particular topics in order to draw definitive conclusions. The theological process must include careful exegesis of passages that are relevant. Exegesis should be done with great sensitivity to the historical context and the progressive nature of revelation in the passages being studied.

The Theological Process.

The theological process involves collecting, synthesizing, and understanding all the relevant passages in the Bible on various topics, and then summarizing their teachings clearly.

Academic Disciplines in Theology:

History & Archaeology:

Biblical Languages:

Related Languages:

OT & NT Studies:

  • Original author, audience.
  • Date, location, situation.
  • Literary theme, structure.
  • Historical, textual background.

Hermeneutics:

The process of seeking to determine the correct meaning of a particular passage of Scripture.

  • Exegesis – Art & science of interpretation.
  • Grammatical & semantic analysis.
  • Historical & cultural analysis.
  • Literary & genre analysis.
  • Thematic & theological analysis.

Biblical Theology:

The study of scriptural revelation based on the historical framework presented in the Bible.

  • Looks at the theology of an individual author or period of time.
  • Looks at how an author or period developed over time.
  • Looks for important themes, characteristics, perspectives.
  • Old Testament Theology – Edenic Era, Noahic Era, Patriarchal Era, Mosaic Era, Monarchical Era, Prophetic Era.
  • New Testament Theology – Synoptic Gospels, Acts, James, Paul, Hebrews, Peter and Jude, John.

Systematic Theology:

A study that answers the question, “What does the whole Bible teach us today about a given topic?”

Historical Theology:

The study of how believers in different eras of the history of the church have understood various theological topics.

(1) Church History.

  • Important people, places, events in the history of Christianity.
  • Provides solutions to problems.
  • Helps to avoid errors, mistakes.
  • Understand other groups, views.

(2) Doctrinal History.

  • The development of theological teaching through time. (Ancient Theology, Medieval Theology, Reformation Theology, and Modern Theology.)
  • Understand the factors that influence doctrinal development.
  • Understand the direction of theological thought.

Dogmatic Theology:

The study of the official theology recognized by an organized Church body or denomination.

Contemporary Theology:

The study of new developments in Theology.

Philosophical Theology:

The study of theological topics primarily through the use of the tools and methods of philosophical reasoning and information gained from nature and reason (“general revelation”) apart from the Bible.

Practical Theology:

The study of how to best apply theological truths to the life of the church and the world (including preaching, Christian education, counseling, evangelism, missions, church administration, worship, etc.).

(1) Spiritual Formation.

  • AKA discipleship.
  • Theory and practice of spiritual disciplines, personal growth.
  • Prayer, study, meditation, fasting, service, character development.

(2) Homiletics.

  • Sermon preparation and delivery.
  • Exegetical study of the text.
  • Identify spiritual principles.
  • Proper application in modern setting.

(3) Christian Education.

  • Process of teaching, instruction.
  • Understanding students needs.
  • Curriculum development.
  • Instruction techniques.
  • Lesson planning.

Apologetics:

The study of theology for the purpose of defending Christian teaching against criticism and distortion, and giving evidences of its credibility.

  • Greek: apologia – to offer a defense.
  • Deals with defending or proving the truthfulness of Christianity.
  • Answers objections/criticisms.
  • Clarifies misconceptions.
  • Supports evangelism.

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