In my prior post, XYZ Theology, I mentioned a paper I prepared for the GodBlogCon on theology and blogging. As I mentioned before, my intention was to share this with the class, get feedback and maybe some editorial help, revise it and then publish it.
But in the spirit of the blogosphere I want to follow a suggestion of Tod Bolsinger's that pastor's view blogging as a kind of workshop for ideas, where they lay them on the table, get feedback and allow the community to help shape the ideas. I am sure Tod will blog on this soon, won't you Tod (how's that for a subtle hint?)?
So, I've actually gotten a bit of feedback already and thought I would go ahead and start serializing the paper here so that everyone can help me out.
I'll mention up front that most of my thoughts on theological method have been shaped through a class I took at RTS Orlando called "Intro to Pastoral Theological Studies," taught by Richard Pratt. I suppose it is proper to say that Richard shouldn't be blamed for any of my misrepresentations of his views. But then again, I had an impressionable young mind when I studied under him so, if I have become heretical in any way it's probably because he led me astray.
This post is a part of the introduction and discusses a definition of theology.
Theologians Defining Theology
Theology seems like a simple matter to define, and it is, at least until you start reading the many different definitions offered by theologians throughout the years.
Here is a sampling of how some theologians have defined theology.
Thomas Aquinas - "Sacred doctrine (theology) is a unified science in which all things are treated under the aspect of God either because they are God Himself or because they refer to God."
Charles Hodge - "The science of the facts of divine revelation so far as those facts govern the nature of God and our relation to Him."
Paul Tillich - "The methodological explanation of the contents of the Christian faith."
Emil Brunner - "The study of the development of dogma."
If you wanted to place these definitions into different sections of an academic encyclopedia it seems that Aquinas, Hodge, and Tillich are defining theology in scientific terms and Brunner is defining it in historical terms.
Whether the last paragraph rightly parses the statements of the theologians, one thing seems clear - each of these men view theology primarily as study. There is a distinct academic ring to their definitions of theology. This is understandable since each of them were academics.
In addition, the very word "theology" implies study. The word is a compound of two Greek words, "theos" meaning "God," or "divinity," and "logos" meaning "study." Hence, theology has traditionally been associated with study.
But such a definition has weaknesses. It de-emphasizes our experiential relationship to God and emphasizes conceptual orthodoxy, or as one theologian has put it, "notional correctness." To be sure, theology does not have to do this, but it often does.
As a reaction to this, some have broadened the definition of theology.
And we will see this broadened definition in the next post . . .