Written by Mike Ward. Media by Noah Henry.
Derived from the Greek words theos (God) and logos (words), theology quite literally means ‘to speak of God’. In Kelly Kapic’s work, A Little Book for New Theologians, he highlights how all who speak of God are consequently doing theology. Hence, contrary to Christian historic perception, theology is not a word designated just for those in scholasticism or academia, but also the common place. However, it is imperative to point out how the word theology has taken on its own life within the history of Christianity. Throughout Church history there have been multiple attempts to fully define theology. As a result, theology has become a loaded term. Thus, it is necessary to distinguish how theology, in its complexity, is also a word of the common, every day, mundane life of a Christian. Therefore, in its attempts to encompass the entire mystery and power at work in the Triune God, the word theology has become as equally difficult to define fully.
In Ancient Greece, the poets were referred to as theologians. In like manner, throughout Christianity the distinction of one who did theology was one who was in deep intellectual thought about God. This distinction is demonstrated by the Early Church’s characterization of theology as a “discipline that leads the soul to the contemplation of the divine” (Gonzalez, 170.) However, this definition likened theologians to mystics. Since, there have been a multitude of attempts to fully comprehend the modality of theology. Justo Gonzalez’s work, Essential Theological Terms, identifies three popular historical attempts. The first states that theology discovers new truth about God solely through reason. The second likens theology to the work of apologetics. The third states that theology is an intellectual practice whereby the faithful discover new depths of truths already believed (Gonzalez). While all three speak of God, all are incomplete depictions of the Christian experience, and thus, theology.
Conversely, when reflecting on the works of theologians, especially John Wesley, one comprehends that theology relies on four sources to speak about God. The four sources are: scripture, tradition, reason, and experience. Now known as the Wesleyan Quadrilateral, these four sources all separately reflect and speak of God. However, when thought of separate of one another, they do not fully depict the truth of God. When combined, however, these sources depict a full and comprehensive portrayal of God and His relationship with humanity. Thus, through the Quadrilateral we see that theology is a methodology and a source for humanity to better know God. Therefore, not only is theology an intellectual exercise, but also speaks to all sources available to mankind that better their relationship with God. Consequently, each of us are in a way are a theologian.