Study of Theology

Study of Theology

Theology is the study of God, His character, actions concerning the universe, and especially God’s relationship to man.  The breadth and complexity of theology’s subject matter are unrivaled among human sciences.  This creates utterly unique challenges for theological reflection.  Over the centuries, theology schools have developed ways of organizing this complexity that make theology more manageable.  Presently, a common form of approaching this organization is to differentiate theology into several focus areas.  They include biblical theology, systematic theology (sometimes called dogmatic theology), practical theology, Natural Theology, Historical Theology, and Practical Theology.

This arrangement arrived relatively recently, only settling in during the 19th and 20th centuries. There is no consideration of the question of God concerning humanity; that is to say that the reality of God is assumed and does not need to be proven.

Our Colleges Utilizes Three Forms Of Theology

 CTM utilizes three forms of theology: Biblical Theology, Practical Theology and occasionally Systematic Theology.  We have outlined them for you to help you to understand their application.

You will find that Our Colleges prefers Biblical Theology and Practical theology in accredited studies for the most part.   For the Non-accredited or Recognized Studies, we use Biblical Theology and occasionally Systematic Theology.

What Is Biblical Theology?

Biblical theology is the study of the doctrines of the Bible, arranged according to their chronology and historical background, in contrast to systematic theology, which categorizes doctrine according to specific topics.  Biblical theology shows the unfolding of God’s revelation as it progresses through history.  Biblical theology may seek to isolate and express the theological teachings of a specific portion of Scripture, such as the theology of the Pentateuch (first five books of the Old Testament), or the theology contained within John’s writings, etc.  Or it may focus on a particular period of time, such as the theology of the unified kingdom years.  Another branch of biblical theology may study a specific motif or theme in the Bible: a study of “the remnant,” for example, might search out how that motif is introduced and developed throughout Scripture.

Many credit J. P. Gabler, a German biblical scholar, beginning the field of biblical theology.  As he was inaugurated to a professorship in 1787, Gabler called for a sharp distinction between dogmatic (systematic or doctrinal) theology and biblical theology.  For Gabler, biblical theology must be strictly a historical study of what was believed and taught in the various periods of biblical history, independent of modern denominational, doctrinal, philosophical, or cultural considerations.  In general, the principles that Gabler espoused were correct, and he influenced the development of biblical theology for many years to come.

Here is a primary difference between systematic and biblical theology: systematic theology asks, “What does the Bible as a whole say about angels?” and then examines every passage that concerns angelic beings, concludes, and organizes all the information into a body of truth called “angelology.” From Genesis to Revelation, the final product is the totality of God’s revealed truth on the subject.

Biblical theology asks, “How did our understanding of angels develop throughout biblical history?” and then starts with the Pentateuch’s teaching about angels and traces God’s progressive revelation of these beings throughout Scripture.  Along the way, the biblical theologian concludes how people’s thinking about angels may have changed as more and more truth was revealed.  The conclusion of such a study is, of course, an understanding of what the Bible has to say about angels, but it also places that knowledge in the context of the “bigger picture” of God’s whole revelation.  Biblical theology helps us see the Bible as a unified whole rather than a collection of unrelated doctrinal points.

Recommended Resource: GK.  Beale A New Testament Biblical Theology: The Unfolding of the Old Testament in the New Baker Academic; First Edition edition ISBN-10: 0801026938

What Is Practical Theology?

As its name implies, practical theology is the study of theology in a way that is intended to make it useful or applicable.  Another way of saying it is that it is the study of theology and is relevant to everyday concerns.  One seminary describes its Practical Theology Program as “being dedicated to the practical application of theological insights” and that it “generally includes the sub-disciplines of pastoral theology, homiletics, and Christian education, among others.” Another seminary sees the purpose of practical theology as helping to prepare students to translate the knowledge learned into active ministry to people.  Doing this involves personal and family life and the administration and educational ministries in the church.  They state that the goal of practical theology is to develop effective communicators of Scripture who have a vision for the spiritual growth of believers while being servant leaders.

Some consider practical theology to be a more technical name for the doctrine of the Christian life.  Its emphasis is on how Scripture’s teaching should affect the way we live today in this present world.  The focus of practical theology is not simply to contemplate or comprehend theological doctrines but to move beyond that to apply those doctrines in everyday Christian life so that we “contribute to the world’s becoming what God intends it to be.”

The premise behind practical theology programs is that future Christian leaders need to be equipped with theological knowledge and professional skills to minister effectively in the modern world.  Often these programs use preaching, Christian education, counseling and clinical programs to equip and prepare future Christian leaders.

Recommended Resource: The Moody Handbook of Theology by Paul Enns

What Is Systematic Theology?

“Systematic” refers to something being put into a system.  Therefore, systematic theology divides theology into systems that explain its various areas.  For example, many books of the Bible give information about the angels.  No one book provides all the information about the angels.  Systematic theology takes all the information about angels from all the books of the Bible and organizes it into a system called angelology.  That is what systematic theology is all about – organizing the teachings of the Bible into categorical and, as nearly as possible, coherent systems while striving to remove contradictions and ambiguities.

Examples of such are …

  • Theology Proper or Paterology (the study of God the Father) 
  • Christology (the study of God the Son, the Lord Jesus Christ) 
  • Pneumatology (the study of God the Holy Spirit) 
  • Bibliology (the study of the Bible) 
  • Soteriology (the study of salvation)
  • Ecclesiology (the study of the church) 
  • Eschatology (the study of the end times) 
  • Angelology (the study of angels) 
  • Christian Demonology (the study of demons from a Christian perspective) 
  • Christian Anthropology (the study of humanity) 
  • Hamartiology (the study of sin). 

Systematic theology is an important tool in helping us understand and teach the Bible in an organized manner.

Recommended Resource: The Moody Handbook of Theology Paul P.Enns Moody Publishers, 2008 ISBN 0802480187.

Other Forms Of Theology

There are several other forms of theology than the three outlined above.   While Our Colleges utilizes these three forms for relevance to our study programmers, it is not an indication of endorsement or disapproval of other forms of theology.  It is merely an indication of what is relevant to Colleges study programmers

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