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What Does Theology Mean?

what does theology mean
Theology is simply how we think about God. We're not saved or damned by theology, but it informs & guides us in how to live. Jesus Saves!

Broadly speaking, theology is simply how we think about God. It makes a huge difference, between life and death, heaven and Hell, and choosing God or self as the focus of our lives. We are not saved or damned by theology, but it informs and guides our hearts and minds in the way we should live.

As you read on, you will learn more about theology and its history. You will see its reliance on the Bible as the Word of God teaching us the way of salvation and leading us to a personal relationship with the Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ.

The Etymology of Theology

The word “theology” itself means knowledge of God, just as “biology” means knowledge of life and “cardiology” knowledge of the heart. It would be accurate to use “science” rather than knowledge which is exactly what “science” means in King James’ English.

When we use this word today, we think of learned men in seminaries or universities asking deep questions and writing long answers that are often too intricate and deep for us to understand. But how did we get to this place?


Plato first used the term in 380 BC in his Academy in Athens, but since the ancient Greeks were polytheistic, his theology was superseded by that of Christianity, first articulated by St. Paul in the New Testament. The church fathers discussed theological issues in their works, but the first professional theologian was Tertullian (c. 155 – c. 240 AD[1]), called “the founder of Western theology.”

It was really St. Augustine whose theology set forth in his “Confessions” and “The City of God” that established the foundation on which almost all later Christian thinking was based.

Boethius (477 – 524 AD) linked ancient Greek thought to Christian teaching and established theology as an important element of education in the Western world. He also was a link between ancient times and the middle ages when theology was closely linked with philosophy in the monasteries and universities and then ascended to the position of “Queen of the Sciences.”

During the 13th century, Thomas Aquinas (1225 – 1274) wrote his seminal work “Summa Theologica,” a summary and compendium of all the teaching of the Catholic church which has served as a starting point for all later theology, Catholic and Protestant.

Theology became the most important subject in the European world during the Protestant Reformation (1517-1648) when the reforms of Martin Luther (1483-1546) and especially the theology of Jean Calvin (1509-1564) took center stage.

This Reformation Theology was built on the idea of sola scriptura, “only scripture,” rejecting the role of tradition and church teaching as essential to salvation. This Bible-centered theology held sway in universities and intellectual circles until the early 19th century.

Theology and Spiritual Warfare

Theology and God Himself were challenged by Enlightenment thinkers. David Hume (1711-1776) made atheism acceptable. Jean Jacques Rousseau (1712-1778) saw man as sinless. Julius Wellhausen (1844-1918) denied the authority and truth of the Bible, and Harry Emerson Fosdick (1978-1969) imported these ideas into Protestantism.

But God had champions of His theology in place. Soren Kierkegaard (1813-1855) accused Christian scholarship of striving to defend itself from the Bible. Aimee Semple McPherson (1890-1944) fought a life-long battle against Darwinism, J. Gresham Machen (1881-1937) denounced the liberalism of Fosdick and pulled out of Princeton Seminary to found Westminster Seminary on the truth of the Gospel. Later Francis Schaeffer (1912-1984) became the leading evangelical theologian expressing his theology in these words.

When a man comes under the blood of Jesus his whole capacity as a man is refashioned. His soul is saved, yes, but so are his mind and body. True spirituality means the lordship of Christ over the total man.

What Are We to Make of All This Theology?

Everyone rests between these two understandings of theology:

This is the doctrine that we preach; if a man be saved, all the honor is to be given to Christ; but if a man be lost, all the blame is to be laid upon himself. You will find all true theology summed up in these two short sentences, SALVATION IS ALL OF THE GRACE OF GOD, damnation is all of the will of man.- Charles Spurgeon (“The Prince of Preachers”, 1834[1] – 1892)

I stand with Spurgeon as all Christians must. But how sad it is to see the views of today’s unbelievers, intellectually brilliant though they may be:

What has ‘theology’ ever said that is of the smallest use to anybody? When has ‘theology’ ever said anything that is demonstrably true and is not obvious? What makes you think that ‘theology’ is a subject at all?Richard Dawkins (evolutionary biologist and university professor, author of The God Delusion, 1941- )

What a sharp contrast, the Believer saved by grace and now in heaven, and the mocker, “without hope in this world.”

Everyone Has A Theology; What’s Yours?

We all come from God and are born believers, having received life from Him. Children in or out of the womb are totally dependent on God for every need. Their faith is unquestioning and their expectation they will be cared for is endless and innate.

And yet so many turn away from God and the faith we are born with. What is that all about? Unbelievers say we just grow up or learn to face reality. Some say we are formed by our environment others that we are the valueless products of chance or evolution. But Christian theology teaches us that GOD CREATED US AS GOOD and sinless so that we could live in fellowship with Him.

Sadly, we have an enemy who long ago appeared as a serpent and deceived Adam and Eve into choosing their own will and breaking their intimacy with God. THAT ENEMY IS AT WORK RIGHT NOW, attacking every person God has created for fellowship with Him with darts of deception and snares to lead us into evil.

But our theology shows us that there is more to the story, a wonderful plan of God drawn before there was a world. God chose us to be saved from this enemy by His Son Jesus, a perfect divine Being who left His place in eternity to come and save us from perdition.

Jesus paid the debt for all our sins on the cross of Calvary and washed them all away with His blood. He is waiting for us to join Him in the wonderful place He is preparing for us where we will see the beauty and truth of this theology that leads to Him and everlasting life.

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