The following is an excerpt from, The Basics of Our Belief: A Primer on Christian Theology, by Devin Peterson. Follow the link for further insight.
Definition of Theology
The most basic definition of Theology is, “The study or Science of God.” However, this casts a rather cold and impersonal shadow on a discipline that is intended to draw us nearer to God. As was stated prior, theology is unlike other sciences in that the ultimate goal is not to toil over facts and figures – meaningless rhetoric – but rather to find a real and living God who loves the seeker and has provided a plan for his redemption. Other studies are intended to enable the student to understand the subject better; theology is meant to enable to student to better know the Subject. Of course, theology can be minimized to a tiresome practice that deadens the passion of the individual, but this is the fault of the theologian, not theology. The life of the discipline is found in the subject matter - once extracted it brings one face to face with its implications. All that is left at that point is rejection of the truth or acceptance of a full life.
Etymology of Theology
As will be quickly seen through studying the content of the Bible, much can be learned from identifying the original language and seeking its insights as the context for your study. The word, “Theology,” derives from two Greek words: θεός (Theos) meaning God, and λόγος (Logos) meaning, “word,” “speech,” or “Rational expression.”
θεός (Theos): "God."
Technically, the word θεός is not restricted to meaning the God of the Bible – Greek
philosophers and poets used it in reference to the gods of Mount Olympus. Through the rise of the Catholic Church, the term Theology came to mean the study of the Christian God exclusively.
λόγος (Logos): "Word," "Speech," or "Rational Expression."
The word λόγος (transliterated as “ology”) is not uncommon in the English language. It
has come to mean, to the English speaker, “the study of.” Once again, considering theology a study tends to minimize its efforts – nonetheless, this is the most basic understanding of the word.
Theology in a Narrow Sense
When understanding theology in a narrow sense, it is referred to as “Theology Proper” – The study of God or the study of doctrines associated directly (and exclusively) to God. There can be some confusion when using theology in a narrow sense and a broad sense. Simply stated, theology proper deals with topics directly related to God’s nature, character, and activities. That is to say, doctrines such as anthropology (the study of man) would not be a part of theology proper.
Theology in a Broad Sense
In a broader sense, whereas the term is primarily used, we should understand theology as consisting of many religious curiosities and topics. These subjects include theology proper; as well it's components. It also includes all religious ideas that draw from theology proper but do not relate directly to it.
God (Theology Proper)
As was mentioned before, this is the study of God and doctrines that are exclusively
related to Him. Topics may include theism, Providence, God's attributes, and revelation. This term is also generally used when referring to the study of the First Person of the Trinity – the Father – as He is typically primarily thought of when one thinks of God.
The Study of the Second person of the Trinity focuses its attention on Jesus Christ: His
nature, personality, and ministry. Christology is typically the most heavily considered doctrine by Christians, as He is the central figure of the Faith. This study encompasses His pre-existence, divinity, humanity, and unity with the other two persons of the God-head.
The Holy Spirit (Pneumatology)
Study of the Third Person of the Trinity focuses on the Spirit of God as He relates to His
counterparts in the Trinity as well as to the believer. The most ambiguous study within theology, pneumatology is a relatively recent doctrine in relationship to the others. That is because Scripture is not as explicit when referring to the Holy Spirit as it is with the Father and the Son.
The Scriptures (Bibliology)
While the Incarnation is the most complete form of God's revelation, the Bible is the
most comprehensive form of all venues of revelation. This is because the Bible is a historical record that allows the modern day reader to observe the different forms of God's revelation as he flips through the pages of Scripture. Bibliology studies the inspiration of the Bible, the authority of the Bible, the inerrancy of the Bible, and the work of illumination, which is the work of the Holy Spirit emphasizing the truth of Scripture to the believer.
Angels (Both holy and fallen) (Angelology)
Angels are usually categorized among a plethora of other mythical creatures. However, unlike centaurs and nymphs, angels are mentioned – in relatively great detail – throughout the Bible. While belief in their existence may or may not seem to be of much consequence, the faithful student of theology will consider the full scope of truth as presented in Scripture. This is to say since the Bible teaches it, it must be considered. This study includes their nature, their work, and their relationship to the believer. In all three cases, this includes angels who are holy and angels who are fallen (demons).
Anthropology is a scientific study, which focuses on mankind. In a theological context,
this study focuses on man – the creature – and his relationship to God – man the worshiper. The objective here is not to make man the subject, but rather to identify the God as the subject as He is reflected through man.
One would have little success studying the condition of man without acknowledgment of
his rebellion against God – namely sin. Hamatiology, the study of sin, focuses on the nature of sin and its effect on mankind.
The central theme of the Bible is one of salvation and redemption. Without this focus, the story of God’s judgment would be quite bleak. The thread of salvation runs through the entire Bible. Those in the Old Testament looked forward to the redemptive work of Jesus, and those of the New Testament looked back and remembered it.
The Church (Ecclesiology)
What resulted from Jesus' ministry and sacrifice was a body of regenerated believers who
took the world by storm. The Church is not a unitary building or local organization; it is an organism that encompasses all believers, both past, and present.12 It is important for ecclesiology to be studied so that modern believers can see what it means to be the Church.
Last Things (Eschatology)
Finally, the Bible is full of prophetic and apocryphal writings that predict future events –
some of which were fulfilled during the writing of the Bible; others are yet to come. Those which are in the future are the subject matter for eschatology.
Theology’s Primary Source Material
The primary source material of Christian Theology comes from the Bible. Although this fact alone has caused many to question the validity of Christianity’s objectivity, theologians have (and have had) sound reasoning for this conviction. The Bible has been historically proven (by Christian and non-Christian historians alike) to be an authentic record. This makes the content of theology as valid as any other historical document or collection. These records are also the best collection of Jesus’ teachings that we have today. To the Christian, this makes them the most influential source available. Jesus also confirmed several sections of the Old Testament (the Law, the Writings, and the Prophets) thus confirming that they too could be beneficial in understanding His teachings. The Scripture itself confirms that it is inspired by God and useful for everything that we will experience in life.13 While there are some others sources used (i.e. other historical records and resources from related sciences), the Bible is the primary source.
The following is an excerpt from, The Basics of Our Belif: A Primer on Christian Theology, by Devin Peterson. Follow the link for further insight.
Devin Peterson is a passionate writer with a strong gift for teaching. His education in theology, Bible, and Biblical languages gives him incredible insight into the wisdom of Scripture.