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Christian theology

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Christian theology is the study of God by the reading and interpretation of the Bible (revealed theology) and scientific or philosophical investigations into the universe, nature and biological systems (natural theology). Christians and churches formulate beliefs from Scripture, but both revealed and natural theology concern themselves with systematizing a coherent case for Biblical Christianity allowing the core doctrines to be explained and defended.[1] Historical theology concerns the study of the interpretation and application of Scripture by Christians and churches of the past.[2] Theology in the general sense of the term attempts to understand the nature, characteristics, and attributes of the divine, be it one god (monotheism) or many gods (polytheism).

The English word theology is derived from the Greek word theologia (θεολογία), theos (θεός) meaning god and logos (λόγος) meaning reasoning or logic.[3]

History

Ancient

Paul teaches natural theology within Romans 1. Because natural theology being taught by Paul is found within an authoritative text from which revealed theology would gain its understanding, it can be interpreted that both are acceptable in forming Christian theology so that reason may be found within faith.

18 For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men who suppress the truth in unrighteousness, 19 because that which is known about God is evident within them; for God made it evident to them. 20 For since the creation of the world His invisible attributes, His eternal power and divine nature, have been clearly seen, being understood through what has been made, so that they are without excuse. 21 For even though they knew God, they did not honor Him as God or give thanks, but they became futile in their speculations, and their foolish heart was darkened. 22 Professing to be wise, they became fools, 23 and exchanged the glory of the incorruptible God for an image in the form of corruptible man and of birds and four-footed animals and crawling creatures. Romans 1:18-23 (NASB)

Augustine of Hippo (Born::November 13, 354Died::August 28, 430) was a substantial Christian apologist in ecclesiastical history. He defined the Latin equivalent of theologia within his monumental work titled City of God in this regard;

For I have not in this work undertaken to refute all the vain opinions of the philosophers, but only such as pertain to theology, which Greek word we understand to mean an account or explanation of the divine nature.[4]

Modern

Within the modern history of Christian theology there have been and continue to be numerous challenges, but atheism in public discourse and debate is seemingly the new trend. Atheism essentially maintains a militant antagonist relationship with Christian theology whenever the discussion and ideas are presented. Darwinian evolution and especially theistic evolution is taking on more credibility in the secular academic setting. Whole campaigns of misinformation have also begun by major institutions and names like Richard Dawkins to essentially misrepresent the stances of both Intelligent Design and Creationism. The New Atheists as they are called have set the tone that media and establishment types continue, that denies separating and drawing conclusions properly from different realms of epistemology (either revealed or natural theology). Many fail to ever grasp the distinction and then go about labeling inferences of natural theology like Intelligent Design as merely a dressed up form of revealed theology (creationism).[5][6]

Revealed Theology

Main Article: Revealed theology

Revealed theology can also be called biblical theology and is Christian theology founded in the Bible by presupposing its authority. Under a historical-critical exegesis underpinned by a systematic methodology verses are found throughout the Old Testament and New Testament of the Bible that contain similar and consistent teachings about the nature of God and His revelation to humanity. Jesus Christ is the central figure that guides revealed theology within Christianity by presupposing His life, death and resurrection as the fulfillment of prophecy. It is in this light that exegesis proceeds and allows the practice of sound hermeneutics.

Natural Theology

Main Article: Natural theology

Natural theology is a realm of Christian theology that expounds on beliefs about the nature of God by nature through excluding divine revelation in holy scriptures as authoritative for theology.[7] Appeal to the authoritative truth from the Bible is called revealed Christian theology and it forms theological doctrines about the nature of God on completely different sets of criteria. This is achieved by exegesis of verses found in the Old Testament and New Testament and deep investigations into the background of the authors. Alternatively natural theology bases itself within the realm of science and philosophy. The natural world is given epistemological authority as a way to know theology. The assumption is that the human mind is rational and able to know and understand nature, but because nature has been created by a rational creator.[8] Philosophical argumentation and scientific evidences are the means by which natural theology is articulated and systematized. Not to falsify specific theories as such but to probe the nature of nature. To show logically that inference to transcendent cause over matter is the necessary being God.

Liberal Christian Theology

Main Article: Liberal theology

Liberal Christianity, liberal Christian theology or just liberal theology are the terms used to articulate and define assumptions of eisegesis that have been historically inherited by celebrating mans reason alone as the sole authority. Embraced during The Age of Enlightenment or what is also called the Age of Reason, during the 18th and 19th century, a time when the superior view of mans reason encroached into everyday life welcomed with broad adoption of its philosophical principles lifting man up to a point which he was ultimate.[9] Inevitably introduced into all realms of life including religious, enlightenment radically changed cultural, social and political milieus that ran counter to the reason of man. Thus governments adopted a secular mindset that pushed further into religious institutions and faith based organizations, attaching separate political institutions with overarching roles that allow co-mingling of values and ideals.

Liberal theology practices an entirely different set of philosophical axioms to inform its religious movement and attempts to reinterpret established doctrines of Christianity.

Christian Doctrine

According to the Merriam-Webster dictionary the word doctrine is defined as, "a principle or position or the body of principles in a branch of knowledge or system of belief."[10] Christian doctrine is the body of principles which inform Christian theology, or what is the exploration of the nature of God by Christians since its founding by Jesus Christ in the first century AD.

Doctrine of Scripture

Main Article: Biblical canon

A biblical canon is a collection of books that is accepted as authoritative Scripture within a Christian or Hebrew group. While the canon (from the Greek word kanon, meaning a measuring rule or standard) that is used by a particular group can vary considerably, this article is primarily concerned with the Protestant Canon, the Canon espoused by CreationWiki. The typical Protestant Canon contains 66 books (though two of the books, Esther and Revelation, are sometimes given a quasi-Canonical status) written by at least 43 different authors over a period of 1500 years (from Moses to John the Apostle).[11]

Inerrancy of Scripture

Main Article: Biblical inerrancy

Biblical inerrancy is a belief and a doctrinal stand that the Bible, both the Old Testament and New Testament is without error. Such belief or trust in the truths of the Bible weigh heavily into Christian epistemology, and ultimately faith in salvation. Although some point to alleged contradictions, biblical inerrancy is a position held because external evidences can be found in many forms; extra biblical attestation, prophetic prediction and fulfillment, scientific foreknowledge before the exact science was known, and verification by archaeology. A similar but contrasting view known as substantive accuracy holds that the Bible is accurate, but not wholly inerrant. It is believed that the scriptures were written by wise and intelligent men who either observed the things they recorded, or based their accounts on reliable and accurate sources.

Interpretation of Scripture

Main Article: Hermeneutics
A Latin Bible handwritten in 1407 AD.

Hermeneutics is the science or practice of understanding text (theory of interpretation). Although there are secular applications, the term was used originally to stand for the field of biblical interpretation.[12] The philosophy or methodology assumes the Bible remains as written, but that its interpretation changes between historical periods, across cultures, etc. It is a qualitative research tradition that uses these diverse experiences of people as a tool for understanding the social, cultural, political, and the overall historical context in which interpretations occur.

The Oxford Companion to the Bible defines hermeneutics as;

inquires into the conditions under which the interpretation of biblical texts may be judged possible, faithful, accurate, responsible, or productive in relation to some specified goal.

Doctrine of God

Main Article: God
Various name of God as described in the Bible.

God is the single, omnipotent, omniscient, and omnipresent deity as described in monotheistic religions — the sole creator and ruler of the universe.

God has many names and titles, most notably Yahweh or Jehovah (Hebrew: יהוה, Yāhwēh; Greek: Ἰαουέ, Iaouē; Latin: Iahveh) in Christianity, Lord (Hebrew: אֲדֹנָי, ʼAḏōnāy) in Judaism, and Allah (Arabic: الله, Allāh) in Islam. Most theists hold that God is perfect, omnipotent, omniscient, and benevolent. Questions regarding the existence and nature of God falls under the branch of philosophy known as metaphysics.

Various views on the ontology of God:

  • Deism: God as separate from the physical universe, and not interacting with it;
  • Theism: God as separate from our physical universe, and interacting with it;
  • Immanentism: God as inseparable from the universe itself;
  • Corporealism: Jehovah as a corporeal being, head of the council of Benei Ha'Elohim

Existence of God

Main Article: Existence of God

There are dozens of arguments for the existence of God that have been put forth by philosophers and theologians for thousands of years. Usually in discussions, debates and apologetic materials for Christian theism there are five such rational arguments for the existence of God. These arguments have gone through popular treatments and technical analyses by many prominent philosophers and believers such as William Lane Craig, Charles Taliaferro, Richard Swinburne and Alvin Plantinga. The arguments are considered positive for the case of Christian theism specifically and that must have their premises refuted through positive arguments for the atheist or agnostic case for belief. The arguments for the existence of God can be used by Christians and theists alike to build a cumulative case for the existence of a transcendent, timeless, spaceless, personal creator of the universe. Being logically sound the conclusion that God exists must necessarily follow from the premises.

Trinity

Main Article: Trinity

The trinity is a specifically Christian ontology of God. The word originates from the Latin Trinitas, meaning "threeness." A wholly unique variety of theism that is strikingly different from Islamic and Jewish Unitarianism. Trinitarianism holds that God is revealed in three unique persons. Although unique they do have relationship and within the biblical text are referred to metaphorically as; Father, Son (namely Jesus Christ) and Holy Spirit. Each personal nature of God is with independent purpose and dependent relationship with the other, all united within, what is sometimes referred to by theologians as the Godhead.

Christians are distinguished from other theists by their understanding of the Godhead as both one and three, and by their belief that God has redeemed the world through Jesus of Nazareth.[13]

Doctrine of Humanity

Main Article: Human

Humans or human beings are any of the species or races within the genus Homo. The Biblical worldview of humans is governed by the doctrine or belief that humans were created in the image of God and consist of a physical body and an immortal soul. This view is philosophically opposed to evolutionism or traducianism.

The human body is the physical or biological component of the human being. Humans are arguably the most complex organism on Earth. Billions of microscopic parts, each with its own identity, work together in an organized manner for the benefit of the total being.[14] Such is the body that God has created for us. In Psalm 139, David declares his body is wonderful evidence of God's creative love. Its wonderful design serves to provide evidence of God's creative power and the love He has for us.

For You formed my inward parts; You wove me in my mother's womb. I will give thanks to You, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made; Wonderful are Your works, And my soul knows it very well. Psalm 139:13-14 (NASB)

Doctrine of Christ

Main Article: Jesus Christ
Agony in Gethsemane by Heinrich Hofmann.

Jesus Christ or Jesus of Nazareth (Hebrew: יהושע, Yehōshūaʻ; Aramaic: ישוע, Yēshūaʻ; Greek: Ίησους, Iēsous; Latin: Iesus; "Name means::YHWH is Salvation") is the Hebrew Messiah and the physical incarnation of God—the Son of God (meaning that he is God the Son, the Second Person of the Holy Trinity, of the same essence of and co-eternal with God the Father and God the Holy Spirit, but distinct in Person). He came to earth as a man, yet being both fully Man and fully God, to provide salvation and reconciliation by His death for the sins of mankind. He was born in the reign of Augustus Caesar (about Born::5 BC) in Bethlehem, Judea to the virgin Mary and was raised in Nazareth in Galilee by his mother and foster-father, Joseph, whom He followed in becoming a carpenter. He was executed by crucifixion in about Died::April 34 AD, after condemnation by Pontius Pilate, the fifth procurator of Judea. Through Jesus' incarnation, life, death and resurrection within history, He began what is now the largest religion in the world, Christianity.[15]

In The Cambridge Companion to Jesus introduction written by Markus Bockmuehl, the impact of Christianity and Christ particularly on humanity are described;

Two thousand years have come and gone, but still his remains the unfinished story that refuses to go away. Jesus of Nazareth, a Jew from rural first-century Galilee, is without doubt the most famous and most influential human being who ever walked the face of the earth.

...
The followers of Jesus live in every country of the globe. They read and speak of him in a thousand tongues. For them, the world’s creation and destiny hold together in him, the wholly human and visible icon of the wholly transcendent and invisible God. He animates their cultures, creeds and aspirations.[16]

Doctrine of the Holy Spirit

Main Article: Holy Spirit
The Holy Spirit depicted as a dove in the stained glass window behind the Cathedra Petri in St. Peter's Basilica, Rome.

The Holy Spirit (Hebrew: רוח הקודש, Rūakh HaQōdesh; Greek: Άγιον Πνεύμα, Agion Pneuma; Latin: Spiritus Sanctus; also called the Holy Ghost) is the Third consubstantial Person of the Holy Trinity or the Godhead, in Christian religions which trace their roots to belief in Christ and abide by the Nicene Creed.

Doctrine of the Church

Main Article: Church

The earliest Christian church is in the third-century at Dura Europos, near the Euphrates river. It was a house that was remodeled as a church, but destroyed by Sassanians around 256 AD.[17] There are several different definitions within the wider public regarding what church actually means.

A church is either:

  1. A place of worship, and more specifically a place of Christian worship.
  2. A building to house a Christian religious service.
  3. A corporate organization that concerns itself with the staffing of places of worship, the training of pastoral or other staff, and the discipleship of lay worshipers.
  4. The entire body of Christ, the definition given in the Bible.

Doctrine of the Future

Main Article: Eschatology

Eschatology (Greek εσχατος or eschatos the last and λογος or logos a word) is the study of the last things that the Bible predicts will happen to the world and mankind.[18] Jesus Christ made repeated reference to a sorting-out of saved and lost people at "the end of the world." Moreover, most of the prophets whose writings survive today made some reference to prophecies that would not be fulfilled within the time frame of the Bible--including many that, many commentators suggest, remain unfulfilled to this day.

Specifically, the church has historically believed in a personal, visible, sudden, and bodily return of Jesus Christ - called his "second coming" to distinguish it from his first advent two thousands years ago - for which believers should eagerly long. Although enjoying great agreement about the fact of this event, Christians have had significant disagreement over "specific details leading up to and immediately following Christ's return. Specifically, they disagree over the nature of the millennium and the relationship of Christ's return to the millennium, the sequence of Christ's return and the great tribulation period that will come to the earth."[18]

Notable theologians

References

  1. "it is to address the issue of the probability that revealed theology can be reconciled with reason."What is Natural Theology? By Gifford Lecture Series
  2. Gregg R. Allison, Historical Theology: An Introduction to Christian Doctrine (Zondervan, 2011), page 23
  3. Charles H.H. Scobie, “New Directions in Biblical Theology,” Themelios 17.2 (January/February 1992): 4-8.
  4. City of God Book VIII. Chapter 1.— That the Question of Natural Theology is to Be Discussed with Those Philosophers Who Sought a More Excellent Wisdom. [1]
  5. Reuters Gets It Wrong: Intelligent Design Isn't Creationism By Anika Smith. July 26, 2011 for Evolution News and Views
  6. Revealed Theology, Natural Theology, and the Darwinist Concoction of “ID/Creationism.” By StephenB for Uncommon Descent blog
  7. William Lane Craig and J. P. Moreland, The Blackwell Companion to Natural Theology (Blackwell Publishing 2009), pg. 1
  8. Has Science buried God? The quote is: "I believe the Universe is rationally intelligible precisely because there is a Creator-God behind it. How do you account for the rational intelligibility of the Universe? "
  9. Age of Enlightenment By Wikipedia
  10. Merriam-Webster Dictionary, "Doctrine". Accessed June 18, 2017. [2]
  11. Johnson, John (2015), SWORD [3], pp. 103-136
  12. It Does Not Matter What the Bible Means to You by C Michael PattonMay 17th, 2009
  13. Charlers Taliaferro, Paul Draper and Phillip L. Quinn, A Companion to Philosophy of Religion (Wiley-Blackwell, 2nd Edition 2010), pg. 59
  14. Introduction to the Human Body SEER Training Modules, National Cancer Institute.
  15. The Historical Jesus - Ancient Evidence for the Life of Christ By Gary Habermas. College Press Publishing Company (1996)
  16. The Cambridge Companion to Jesus, edited by Markus Bockmuehl. "Introduction" by Markus Bockmuehl, pg. 1. Cambridge University Press, 2003
  17. Larry W. Hurtado, The Earliest Christian Artifacts: Manuscripts and Christian Origins (William B. Eerdmans Publishing Company 2006), pg. 2
  18. 18.0 18.1 Gregg R. Allison, Historical Theology: An Introduction to Christian Doctrine (Zondervan, 2011), page 683

See Also