Approaching The Podium Of Theology

Abstract of “Approaching the Podium of the theology”

Theology is a complicated word, let alone a whole field of study. It is essentially a subject of sacred things. But it has been given a bad rap as of late. The integration of religion has become common place, and even interchangeable. The distinction of God from religion must be made. What are the sources of study – who/what were their original others? What are the branches of theology? What are some of the points that are included in a the material? What are the implications of studying this material? How much of other fields of study potentially become relevent with the study of by God and the results effects of religion among men? Is there honestly any field that can interact entirely seperate from what claims the existence of man and the universe?

Zach Baldwin

Kingdom Society Research

December 28th, 2013

Approaching The Podium Of Theology

DEFINITION

Words get their meaning from a multitude of factors. Some are defined more by the trendy, cultural-connotation they hold, while many remain true to their etymological roots. This is a case where the latter is a true. Theo, coming from “Theos” (Strong’s 2316 θεός), in Greek means “God”, and logy, being a variant of “logos” (Strong’s G3056 λόγος), means words, or study. It is literally translated “The study of God” by many, but definitions are a dime a dozen these days, and an official definition holds only the power that the language-consenting society gives it. Webster defines Theology as: “Divinity; the science of God and divine things; or the science which teaches the existence, character and attributes of God, his laws and government, the doctrines we are to believe, and the duties we are to practice. Theology consists of two branches, natural and revealed. Natural theology is the knowledge we have of God from his works, by the light of nature and reason. Revealed theology is that which is to be learned only from revelation.1i (Webster) Dictionary.com defines it this way: the field of study and analysis that treats of God and of God’s attributes and relations to the universe; study of divine things or religious truth; divinity.”ii

DISTINCTION FROM RELIGION

There must be a distinction made between theology and religion. Webster defines religion as: “Religion, in its most comprehensive sense, includes a belief in the being and perfections of God, in the revelation of his will to man, in man’s obligation to obey his commands, in a state of reward and punishment, and in man’s accountability to God; and also true godliness or piety of life, with the practice of all moral duties. It therefore comprehends theology, as a system of doctrines or principles, as well as practical piety; for the practice of moral duties without a belief in a divine lawgiver, and without reference to his will or commands, is not religion.” Yet Webster constructed this definition nearly 187 years prior to the time of this writing. A more modern definition might better grasp it’s properly implied use of today. One source defines it this way:

“1. a set of beliefs concerning the cause, nature, and purpose of the universe, especially when considered as the creation of a super human agency or agencies, usually involving devotional and ritual observances, and often containing a moral code governing the conduct of human affairs.

2. a specific fundamental set of beliefs and practices generally agreed upon by a number of persons or sects…” (Dictionary.com)iii

Religion is the human construct focusing on sacred actions generally associated with a deity or deistic capacity at some level. Theology reaches outside of the human realm and actually attempts to observe God, or some deistic form(s). It looks at man’s relationship with God. It looks to define who or what God is.

ACADEMIC THEOLOGY

In today’s society, knowledge is a respected commodity. It’s pursuit is considered a noble act. Yet formal, institutional scholarship is shifting more towards producing strictly application-based results. People who enter jobs are usually looking to acquire the degree, and land a job in the market somewhere. The pursuit of knowledge for personal enrichment seems to be on it’s way out in some regard. Tara Isabella Burton, in her article “Study Theology, Even If You Don’t Believe In God”, said: “As Oxford’s Dr. William Wood, a University Lecturer in Philosophical Theology and my former tutor, puts it: “theology is the closest thing we have at the moment to the kind of general study of all aspects of human culture that was once very common, but is now quite rare.” (Burton) There is philanthropic justifications being made to keep the academic version of theology present in liberal university curriculum. Burton’s quotes her mother in saying, subsequent to hearing the bachelor degree program chosen: ““Theology, she (the author’s mother) insisted, was a subject by the devout, for the devout; it had no place in a typical liberal arts education.” (Burton) While knowledge of the historical endeavors of men and women attempting to define God is significant, the literal core of the subject is being missed, even when studying from the Scriptures containing points of theology. Having said this, if historical accounts open up the student to philosophy-caliber questions, or questions that jostle the very nature of religion, or a present view of God(s), then something beyond mere academics is being achieved. As a student applies him/herself to diligent scholarship, discovers the arguments of the past theologians and philosopher’s, then character development is clear in that student.

SACRED SCRIPTURE SOURCES

For the Hindu, the Veda’s, for the Muslim, the Qur’an, for the Christian, the Holy Bible. These sources are considered sacred. They are said to be acquired directly from the deity in their religion. Yet, what is given Scriptural authority? Are other sources permitted to hold the same credence? Nicholas Heer, in his “PAPERS ON ISLAMIC PHILOSOPHY, THEOLOGY, AND MYSTICISM”, makes this quote:

Islam thus possesses two sources of revealed truth, the

first being the Qur’an, which is the record of God’s message to mankind through

the Prophet, and the second being the hadıth, or collected sayings and acts of the

Prophet. It is from these two sources that the basic religious beliefs of Muslims are

derived.”(Heer)iv

He also makes this statement:

“Hadith,” (traditions, written by the prophet himself) “are as authoritative in religious matters as the Qur’an itself.” (Heer)

For the Christians, many sources could be considered inspired by revelation – “The apostles Creed”; “Nicene Creed”; many of Augustine’s works; John Calvin’s “Institutes of Systematic Theology”; The words of the Pope “EX CATHEDRA”. How does man know what is given directly from God? The Canon of the Judeo-Christian Holy Bible is established at about 380 A.D.v Yet, this refers to the compilation that Jerome entitled “the holy library”. This may have included the “Gnostic Gospels”, and certainly the Apocrypha elements present in the catholic bible today. Certainly, logistically-historical information is beneficial as a resource for study, such as Josephus’ accounts of “Antiquities of the Jews”, and “War of the Jews”, Jewish Rabbinic texts of tradition such as the “Talmud”, and the writings of the Prophet Mohammad in the “Hadith”. But to elevate these resources to the authority of direction from God Himself is taking many of those words out of context, and perhaps even contradicting the motivation of the author’s themselves.

THEOLOGICAL GENRE’S

Webster gave two modifying adjectives in his definition of theology – “Natural”, and “Revealed”. Natural, as similarly-applied to the Natural Sciences, suggests the study of God by His creation. It is an empirical study method, capable of employing human measurement devices to determine elements, or theory’s of God based on what is seen. Revealed theology would be discovered with less externally-logistical support. It originates out of the internal revelation of God to

man. This of course, may come by many forms. It may come by Scripture, by memory, by another directly or indirectly voicing the words of God, or dramatic situations etc. John Calvin, in inking his “Institutes of Systematic Theology”, makes clear conclusions as to who God is, how He interacts with man, the nature of man, and the like. While his academic labor is noble, what evidence is there that his conclusions were revealed by God, and not simply logical conclusions based on his finite-mind’s research?

POINTS OF THEOLOGY

The actual meat of theology seems be buried a level or two below the surface, as many theologians are pastor’s, while the other type are professors. C. W. Booth, in his blog “Know What you Believe”, wrote: “I transitioned from full-time pastoral ministry to full-time graduate school. The experience left me with the distinct impression that much of academic theology did not always translate easily into the life of the church.” The problematic situation is that the purpose of *Christian* is to be presented for consideration to the church in order to evangelize, and disciple them. If the church, instead becomes an academic institution, then the very foundations of Christianity are misunderstood.

Booth goes on to say this, (when he re-entered the pastorate):

“I wanted to do more than study theology; I wanted to write theology.” (Booth)

Theological points include: the Nature of God (His attributes of essence), His character (his actions based on those attributes), Foreknowledge (which suggest considers time), Determination vs. Free will, (among others). Ironically enough, man’s perception of God greatly influences his view of himself. Burton say’s, “It requires a willingness to look outside our own perspectives in order engage with the great questions—and questioners—of history on their own terms.” (Burton) God (in Genesis 1:26-27)vi chooses to make man in His image. This statement has more potential that appears at first glance. First, The concept of God choosing seems contradictory to many, since God choosing implys He had not already figured everything out down to the minute detail before the creation of the world. It is a question of God’s “Foreknowledge”, and “Free Will”. Has God defined all of history down to the minute detail? If so, what is left of free choice by man, and for that matter, Himself. The will is a very extraordinary concept, yet it is at the core of humanity. Choice. What would the world be without it? As we think about Free will on the human level, is it conceivable in the God of the universe? What does a God who has not only the ability of free choice, but a mind to think, consider, plan, and emotions to feel and experience?

As men consider concepts of deity, history records evidence that man has placed the title of “god” on other people. While there is evidence of deities throughout history, in such cases as the Egyptians, the Greeks, the Romans, The Celts, Norway, there is also a concept horrifically realized that shouldn’t have: the “god-king”. One of the first examples of this is Pharaoh. Caesar was another. A more recent example (though indirect, and much more subtle), was the Pope. The Roman Catholic Church would never call the Pope “God” by any means, but he may be viewed as God’s “Viceroy” here on Earth. As tradition would say that Jesus appointed Peter as “…the rock upon which He would build His church…” (Matthew 16:18), two authoritative elements developed out of the human religion of Christianity: Apostolic Tradition, and Holy Scripture. Certainly there is Scriptures that can be interpreted to back this union up. In reality, A third element is crucially missing here: The direct, spoken word of God. The third person of the triune Godhead should be sought during each reading of His word – as He, we believe – orchestrated it. “I learned to read the Bible in both Greek and Hebrew, to analyze the minutiae of language that allows us to distinguish “person” from “nature,” “substance” from “essence.”” (Burton) Burton makes the connection that the subject, even academically, opens mankind up to something deep inside deep inside of all of us. “…when scores of people were willing to kill or die to defend such beliefs—hardly a merely historical phenomenon—it’s worth investigating how and why such beliefs infused all aspects of the world of their believers.” (Burton)

INFLUENCE ON OTHER SUBJECTS

The subject of God does not blow through our present, historically-minded society without raising some kind of idea’s, and emotions. The concept of God obviously is clear in history, philosophy is theology’s specialty, and sociology is the indirect evidence of theology at work at some level in men’s hearts and minds. Science is not exempt, as God is made evident, (by Judeo-Christian Scripture) as the divine originator of all existence. Civil government is a testament to the great and mighty throne not only the Christian God sits on, but Allah of Islam, and the other deity’s that man has consented to rule over them, and attribute daily ritualistic worship too. Deity has a high image in man’s mind. For the atheist, the concept of “godlessness” is one hold viciously, or carelessly – yet, the concept of God does not evade him entirely.

INTREPID SUBJECT

As discussion on the boundaries and limits, and definitions of God are made, is “fear and trembling…”(Philippians 2:12) apart of it? As man, with his limited, finite capacity of understanding approaches the one concept that transcends himself, what conclusions can be firmly settled upon? The terms used, the methods of study suggested, the aesthetic perspective of the theologian should not be misunderstood: this subject, above and beyond any other – is the most dangerous to man. In 2nd Samuel 6:6-9, God struck down Uzziah for reaching out to merely catch the Ark of the Covenant when the oxen stumbled. Another case of God’s extreme justice is in Acts 5:1-11. “Ananias and Sapphira” is a popular story of actual Christians that had chosen to lie “…to the Holy Spirit…” (Acts 5:3) Not to mention the more severe movements of God towards man, like the worldwide flood (Genesis 7), the raining of fire and surfer down on Sodom and Gomorrah (Genesis 19:24).

As the topic of understanding God in the minds of some is “clear”, others would find is approachable only in small, humble quantities. One term given the give the ‘room to breath’ is called “Open Theology”. This concept suggest that God has the ability to feel, to think, and make His own choices, just as man does. It does, however, mean that God “might not know everything that ever will happen, or could.” There is a popular quote in the Christian church that when I first heard, I laughed at – because it’s so ridiculously simplistic. It is this: “God is God of the possible”, (as opposed to God of the impossible). One question that this answer was given in response to was the classic: “Can God make a rock to big for him to lift?” It is a non-nonsensical question, contradictory in itself. It is as if the question was asked, “Can cold be hot?”, or “can dark be light?”. The simplistic “God can do anything, because He is God will not satisfy honest curiosity here. In conclusion, theologian’s are simply those who ask questions of God. Who wrestle with Him, as Jacob did (Genesis 32:24). God welcomes our honest curiously, and confusion. Never stop asking questions.

References:

1Not exhaustive

i. Webster, Noah. An American Dictionary of the English Language. 1828 ed. New York: S. Converse, 1828. E-sword.

ii“theology.” Dictionary.com Unabridged. Random House, Inc. 27 Dec. 2013. <Dictionary.com http://dictionary.reference.com/browse/theology>.

iii“Religion.” Dictionary.com Unabridged. Random House, Inc. 28 Dec. 2013. <Dictionary.com http://dictionary.reference.com/browse/Religion>.

ivHeer, Nicholas. “PAPERS ON ISLAMIC PHILOSOPHY, THEOLOGY, AND MYSTICSM.” Faculty.washington.edu. University of Washington, 2009. Web. 27 Dec. 2013. <http://faculty.washington.edu/heer/papers.pdf&gt;.

vSmith, William, Dr “Definition for ‘Canon of Scripture, The’ Smiths Bible Dictionary”. 
bible-history.com – Smiths; 1901. 

viScripture quotations are from The Holy Bible, English Standard Version, copyright ©2001 by Crossway Bibles, a publishing ministry of Good News Publishers. Used by permission. All rights reserved.”

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s