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What Is The Purpose Of Theology? Best Belief Advice

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What Is The Purpose Of Theology? Best Belief Advice
The purpose of theology is to know Jesus better, see His great love through the message of the cross, and to help us build His Kingdom.

What is the purpose of theology?

God has a purpose for us and His creation, and He wants us to know it. He put His purpose in the Bible, and there we find the “Best Belief Advice!”

The purpose of theology is to know God.

The word is simply a combination of the Greek words for God and "word, thought, principle of speech" and has a long history.

While the principal purpose of theology has always been to know God, that purpose has been narrowed or focused on shorter timeframes over the centuries when different issues assumed prominence.

1500 BC: God had a purpose before theology

The first “God words” were given to Moses*(1571 -1452 BC) around 1500 BC, before there was anybody doing “theology.” Although the Old Testament is the resource of theology to come, its purpose is to reveal God as He wants His people to see Him. (* means this person is included in my book SPIRITUAL LIVES.)

Here we see He created the world, loves His people, and hates sin.

He lives apart from men but speaks and acts to fulfill His purpose.

380 BC: The purpose of the first theology was to define God

Plato*(424-348) first used the Greek word theologia (θεολογία) with the meaning “discourse on God” around 380 BC. Plato’s purpose was to define God; to investigate what or who God is.

But the theology of the Greeks was based on the gods of mythology, idealized and immortal beings but not connected with the morals of people.

Plato’s concept of God was of an ideal, not a person, and the Greek gods & goddesses lived in their own mythological world apart from the lives of men & women.

Of course, the essential difference between the Bible and the philosopher’s ideas is the LORD, who is conspicuously absent from Plato’s thought. Plato dealt in ideas and lived a thought-life, a life of the mind, devoid of the life-giving breath of the living God.

5 – 67 AD: The purpose of the first Christian theologian:

Paul of Tarsus* (5-67) was the first and greatest Christian theologian. His theology came from revelation and has become a part of the New Testament.

He took the eyewitness testimony of Jesus’ disciples and his own encounter with the risen Savior to show that Jesus of Nazareth is the Son of God.

The purpose of his theology is the revelation of Jesus as the Son of God.

100 to 454: The great purpose of these years was to build the Church.

Irenaeus* (130-202) saw Paul’s theology that rightly centered in Jesus and realized that His purpose was the church. It was called into existence because of Him:

For inasmuch as He had a pre-existence as a saving Being, it was necessary that what might be saved should also be called into existence, in order that the Being who saves should not exist in vain. –Against Heresies, III.22.3.

Origen* of Alexandria (c. 184 – 254) was the first great Bible teacher. He saw both the Old and New Testaments as the inspired Word of God and wrote 6,000 books giving him enormous influence. The purpose of his theology was to see that the Bible was the foundation of the Church.

He insisted on the plainly stated doctrines of the Bible, such as the Virgin Birth, the atonement of Jesus on the Cross, and His bodily Resurrection.

Constantine*(272-337) had a different purpose in his theology: to make Christianity the official religion of Rome and unite the whole church under his rule.

He called for a council of bishops to deal with the heresy of Arianism. (He invited all 1800 bishops in the Roman World, but only 318 came to the site in what is now Turkey.)

The result was the Council of Nicaea in 325 which defined orthodoxy via the Nicene Creed based on the doctrine of the Trinity.

Jerome*(347-420) purposed to join the Old Testament and the New in a single Bible in Latin, the language of the people.

That Bible is still used today in the Roman Catholic Church.

Augustine of Hippo (354 –430) used Jerome’s Bible and the work of Plato and St. Paul to build church doctrine.

Among those he advanced were “original sin,” salvation by grace, and predestination.

These doctrines established the purpose of his theology, giving the Church a solid theological foundation.

Boethius* (c. 477–525) “the last Roman,” translated the works of Aristotle and Plato into Latin with a commentary of his own. His purpose was to write on the nature of Christ and the Trinity in terms that would be intellectually challenging.

He adapted the idea of the Great Chain of Being to Christianity, where it became universally accepted as a reality during the Middle Ages.

The purpose of Boethius’ theology was to introduce God and the Christian concepts of authority into the structure.

500-1000: Purpose of theology? – to build church worship and ministry

Gregory the Great (540–604) had a strong theological purpose: to strengthen the Papacy and to encourage missionary efforts in northern Europe.

The pagan Anglo-Saxons in Britain were converted, and the church of England was revitalized.

He made liturgical reforms and standardized worship throughout the West. John Calvin called him “the last good Pope.”

Bede* (672/673–735) is “the father of English history.” His life’s purpose was recording the history of the church in the Anglo-Saxon language.

Bede became a pioneer in the long stream of faithful men whose lives were dedicated to putting God’s Word into the language of the common people.

The two men below had the same purpose in their theology, to know God through the Lord’s Supper, but came out with different conclusions. This divide exists today, between Roman Catholic and Protestant Churches.

Paschasius Radbertus (785–865) asserts that Jesus’ words “this is My body” are to be taken literally and that the Lord’s Supper, or Eucharist, contains the actual body and blood of Christ.

At first, this was a matter of theological discussion/debate with those who saw the Lord’s Supper as symbolic,

but later his understanding of transubstantiation became a dogma of the Roman Catholic Church and acceptance of it as necessary for salvation and that anyone who denies this doctrine is to be anathema (cursed).

During the Inquisition denying Transubstantiation was a capital offence!

Johannes Scotus Eriugena (810–877), or John the Scott, saw the Eucharist as symbolic.

Olga of Kiev*(890-969) was a Viking princess who became a Christian in the face of great opposition.

Olga persisted in her faith and brought up her grandson in the faith.

When he took the throne, 19 years after her death, Russia adopted Christianity as the state religion.

Olga decided to follow Jesus, even though her people remained pagans.

She was faithful even when her son rejected our Lord, but she persevered, and through her testimony, the door was opened for hundreds of millions of Russians to come to Jesus!

Her theology was her faithful life and testimony.

1001-1500 Purpose of theology? – build church doctrine, institutions, and theology

These five hundred years stretched from the huddling of people of learning in monasteries through the construction of magnificent gothic cathedrals and on to the light of reawakening learning and the brilliant art of the Renaissance and faith of the Reformation.

Anselm* (1033–1109) was a brilliant scholar and founder of Scholasticism. He approached life’s issues with this governing principle:

For I do not seek to understand in order to believe, but I believe in order to understand.
For I believe this: unless I believe, I will not understand.

The purpose of his theology was to use thought and reason to magnify God and show the strength of Christian teaching.

Thomas Aquinas* (1224–1274) was the foremost scholar and philosopher of the Middle Ages. The purpose of his theology was meant to be a starting point for his students,

but his work has become the foundational basis for Roman Catholic theology and doctrine to the present time.

Catherine of Siena (1347–1380) was a writer, mystic, and influential teacher in the Roman Catholic Church. She had her first vision of Christ when she was 5 or 6 and shortly after purposed to live her whole life for God.

She wrote of her “mystical marriage with Christ” at age 21 and lived in silence at times eating nothing but the Eucharist in her desire to attain “incorporeal union with God.”

She was canonized and made a Doctor of the Church. She opened the door to mysticism in the church.

1501-1800 purpose of theology? Purifying the church

The purpose of the theology of these centuries was to re-examine the last thousand years of Christian history and reform the Church. Both Protestants and Roman Catholics shared this purpose.

These were centuries of reformation, revolution, and sudden change. The Age of Faith was followed by the Age of Reason, then Enlightenment and Romanticism. Skepticism and unbelief were followed by evangelism and revival and modernism by charismatic outpourings of blessings and faith.

Martin Luther*(1483-1546) was a Roman Catholic priest and professor who saw the Bible as the final authority and refused to recognize the Pope.

He began the Protestant Reformation in 1517 asserting faith alone is the basis of salvation.

Francis Xavier (1506-1552) was a brilliant scholar from the Kingdom of Navarre and a founder of the Jesuits in 1540. Their purpose was to encourage

“whoever desires to serve as a soldier of God,to strive especially for the defense and propagation of the faith, and for the progress of souls in Christian life and doctrine.”

Xavier was a missionary to Asia, especially to those in the Portuguese Empire, first in India, later to Japan, Borneo and the Maluku Islands. He died on Changchun Island on his way to preach the Gospel in China. He is the greatest missionary since Paul and led over a million Asians to Jesus.

John Calvin*(1509-1564) was another Roman Catholic scholar who became convinced of the absolute authority of the Bible. A brilliant writer and the greatest modern theologian, Calvin’s theological purpose was to set forth the essential doctrines of the Reformed faith as T.U.L.I.P.

  • Total Depravity (also known as Total Inability and Original Sin)

  • Unconditional Election

  • Limited Atonement (also known as Particular Atonement)

  • Irresistible Grace

  • Perseverance of the Saints (also known as Once Saved Always Saved)

John Wesley (1703–1791) was the greatest preacher of his time. An evangelical Anglican, he and his brother Charles ministered to the common people and encouraged others to preach the Gospel, often in fields and out of doors. He also ministered to the social needs of the people, those in poverty, in prison, and about to be executed.

He opposed Calvinism and preached that “whosoever will” may come to Jesus and be saved.

Today there are over seventy-five million Methodists but millions more in the groups inspired by him like the Holiness movement, Pentecostalism, and the Charismatic Christians of all denominations.

1800-2000 purpose of theology =growing the church

The “growing the church” purpose was driven first by Calvinism and later Wesley’s evangelical teaching. With the 19th century, evangelist D.L. Moody used music to preach the Gospel. Fanny Crosby changed the tone of the presentation, stressing the comfort and compassion of Jesus as well as His salvation and appealing to the heart as well as the head.

Fanny Crosby* (1820 – 1915) changed the world and the nature of Christian worship with her 8,000 hymns and Gospel songs. Some have called her the “mother of congregational singing.”

Her blindness motivated her to write to win “1 million souls for Jesus.” Jesus used her to do this. Praise God!

Albert Benjamin Simpson (1843–1919) was a great leader, organizer, writer, and theologian. After Jesus healed him, he gave his life to minister within the Holiness movement.

He proclaimed divine healing as a promise of the scriptures and a gift of the Spirit active today.

The purpose of divine healing is to show that Jesus Christ is the same, yesterday, today, forever!

William Seymour*(1870-1922) was attacked and hated all his life because of his race. Born into a family of former slaves, he was saved in 1895 in the Methodist Episcopal Church but soon moved on to the Church of God, seeking sanctification through the Baptism of the Holy Ghost.

He led a small group of seekers in a mission on Azusa Street in Los Angeles. The Holy Spirit fell in April of 1906 with speaking in tongues, divine healing, and clouds of glory.

The purpose of this theology is to demonstrate that God is “no respecter of persons.”

All that the Father giveth me shall come to me; and him that cometh to me I will in no wise cast out. – Jesus in John 6:37

The revival spread worldwide resulting in over six hundred million Pentecostal/Charismatic Christians by 2019.

Aimee Semple McPherson*(1890-1944) came out of the Salvation Army to be a missionary and later a Pentecostal evangelist. The purpose of her theology was to preach the Gospel across North America

A fearless opponent of Darwinism, she took the Gospel to saloons and had remarkable success in a divine healing ministry.

Crowds flocked to see her, and she became the most famous person in America.

She took Los Angeles by storm and founded the Foursquare Gospel Church that grew to eight million members in 140 countries.

Billy Graham*(1918 -2018) started his ministry as an evangelist for “Youth for Christ,” and traveled the United States and Europe preaching.

He also began a radio program and a series of evangelistic meetings he called “crusades.” He delivered the Gospel to over two hundred million, lacing his sermons with the words “the Bible says.”

For many years he was the most admired man in America.

Francis Schaeffer (1912-1984) was a Presbyterian pastor and writer described as ‘the last modern theologian” but opposed to modernism. He stood by the historic faith of the Reformation, the inerrancy of the Bible, and its power to speak to all the problems of our modern age:

“If Christianity is true, it involves the whole man, including his intellect and creativeness. Christianity is not just “dogmatically” true or “doctrinally” true.

Rather, it is true to what is there, true in the whole area of the whole man in all of life.” – (Art and the Bible)

While speaking strongly against abortion and other social evils in What Ever Became of the Human Race? he saw comfort and strength in the church and believed that beauty and art had a vital purpose in the Christian life.

Wayne Grudem (born 1948) is a scholar, theologian, author, and Bible editor. (ESV) He has written a systematic theology advocating Calvinism, the inerrancy of the Bible and complementarianism.

He believes the gifts of the spirit are available and active today and advocates reuniting the Calvinist, evangelical and charismatic churches.

2001 – 2022: the purpose of theology: to know and love Jesus in our daily life

God continues to use theology to help us know Him better. But within that general purpose, He has used other focused theologies to grow His church. His purpose is to draw all of us to Jesus and that has always been the essential message of the cross is still working today.

In the 21st century we see Him reaching outside the church to minister to those who need Him in new ways. I think of football player Tim Tebow* kneeling on the football field and displaying John 3:16 on his eye black.

I see Chris Tomlin* using his music to call crowds to worship Jesus, and Colin Buchanan using his music and creativity to teach children about “Jesus, Strong and kind.” It thrills me to see such creative young people taking the Gospel to the “post-literate” generations of today with podcasts, YouTube, and digital ministries new to our century tell the old, old story of Jesus and His love. How true this is to the great purpose of theology, to know Jesus better and love Him more.

He is a wonderful Savior whose Word is Truth and whose promises we can trust:

In my Father’s house are many mansions: if it were not so, I would have told you.

I go to prepare a place for you.

And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again, and receive you unto myself; that where I am, there ye may be also. John 14:2-3

O God, our help in ages past, view/listen HERE:

our hope for years to come,

our shelter from the stormy blast,

and our eternal home:

Under the shadow of your throne

your saints have dwelt secure;

sufficient is your arm alone,

and our defense is sure.

Before the hills in order stood,

or earth received its frame,

from everlasting you are God,

to endless years the same.

A thousand ages in your sight

are like an evening gone,

short as the watch that ends the night

before the rising sun.

Time, like an ever-rolling stream,

soon bears us all away;

we fly forgotten, as a dream

dies at the op’ning day.

O God, our help in ages past,

our hope for years to come,

still be our guard while troubles last,

and our eternal home!

Isaac Watts (1719)

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