What is Theology? And Why You Should Care …
January 8, 2012
What is theology? Literally Theo=God & Ology=Study; so it is the Study of God, in case you didn’t know. One of the things about theology, that I think some misunderstand—and why for some there is a dichotomy placed between it and biblical studies—is because some seem to think that theology, as its own sub-discipline, tends to, if not overtly engages in ‘creative’ thinking about God and what the Bible teaches. Creative, not simply meaning constructive, but creative in a way that theology (even ‘good’ theology) ends up going beyond the logic of scripture, and thus engages in fanciful thinking that does not help but hampers in the process of knowing God, and knowing the Scriptures. And so many—pastor and lay person alike—leave theology for the Theologian, and they simply think that they will take the more noble path of simply studying the Bible. Of course, and this is what I am trying to clarify through this post; good theology, which should be creative, constructive, and christocentric, simply is seeking to provide a grammar for speaking about what the ‘inner-logic’ of scripture demands for the thinking Christian. In other words, it indeed is a false dichotomy to play biblical studies/exegesis off against the doing of theology. And yet we see folks majoring in one of these two areas to the neglect of the other. I am not saying that someone can’t or shouldn’t be a Hebrew scholar or a Systematic Theology; all I am saying is that these are complementing realities. And thus, it would do the Old Testament Scholar, the New Testament Scholar, and the Systematic Theologian well to take the time to spend time in all three of these sub-disciplines; to one degree or the other. And it would do pastors and lay people good to equally do the same; i.e. to study all of these areas, to one degree or the other (which is rather subjective). But it doesn’t do anyone any good to assume that can be a straight biblical studies guy or gal, and not a systematic theology guy or gal; all this will mean is that this kind of biblical studies guy or gal will most probably engage in bad theological method and form. And the same is true vice versa.
So why am I writing this? Because I just wanted to clarify that theology is inextricably related to biblical studies. And in fact, when someone does biblical exegesis, ultimately they are doing theological exegesis (even if they simply follow something like the LGH or do lexical analysis or word studies). I say this because the scriptures demand this, since they presuppose theological realities in order to communicate the things they do; like about God (so the Trinity, etc.). Theology is simply providing a grammar and a creative way to talk and think about the God of the Bible from the Bible’s own witness to the God of the Bible revealed in Christ.