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What Is Theology?

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In this essay, I am going to explain one definition of theology together with a definition from a few great theologians. Everyone has their own thoughts on what theology means. We all do theology; we don’t learn it or find it in a book or on television or at Church on a Sunday. Theology is something we all can do.

What is Theology?
Some people would define theology as the study of God but they are wrong. God is a spiritual being who knows all about us, what we are doing and what we are thinking. In my opinion, it is very difficult to study something that you can’t see. The wind blows but you can’t see it but you can see the trees swaying and the sea crashing against the rocks. This is the action of the wind even though it is invisible. God is like this. Even though God cannot be seen, God is portrayed in the beauty of God’s creation.
Theology means to talk about God. It comes from the Greek Theos meaning God and Logos meaning word or talk. It doesn’t just mean theologians talking about God or ministers and priests talking about God or God talking about God; it means that every individual can talk about God. Indirectly, everyone has their own experience of God. Everyone has an understanding about theology and their different experiences of God and may have something to offer within their communities. Doing one’s own theology is far better than learning it.

Many questions are asked when talking about God, what does God look like? No-one has ever seen God. Moses asked God if He would reveal himself but God said, “ I will cause all my goodness to pass in front of you and I will proclaim my name, the Lord, in your presence. I will have mercy on whom I will have compassion. But”, he said “you cannot see my face, for no-one may see me and live”. (Exodus 33:19-20 NIV). Even though we cannot see God we can experience his presence through the beauty of His creation. God’s presence is in the trees, flowers, grass, sea and sky and every living thing.
God can be imagined as an old man because he seems to have lived forever but how can anyone know? God is an eternal being who can be thought of as wise and knowledgeable. Surely if God is all powerful and knows everything, God can be whatever God wants to be.
The big question is, how does anyone talk about God as if God was an object? If God were a friend, neighbour, relation, at least He would be known and could be seen, but God is very different. The experiences that people have with God are totally different from the experiences they have with human beings.
Reason tells us that God is infinite, humans are finite and therefore it is difficult to talk about someone who is immeasurable. If God is so unique, how can any human being say anything that would be worthy of Him? God could be described as transcendent, a greatness beyond all other. Immanent, a God who has power over the entire universe. God is omniscient, knows everything and omnipresent, God is everywhere.

Limited Language
The Old and New Testaments refer to God as “Father”. This is not father in the sense that God is a biological father but that God is someone who takes care of His people and watches over them. God is good and compassionate and all forgiving. God isn’t only good; He is the typical meaning of good.
When talking about God, it may not seem appropriate to use human terms but God sent Jesus, His Son, in human form to live on the earth and therefore it seems fitting and not out of context to speak of God in human terms. In fact all we have is human language. Even the eternal Word of God appeared to us as a human being, a human word.
Everyone has experiences of God, even atheists. They profess to not believe in God but they walk in God’s world, enjoy the beauty of God’s creation. They help a neighbour, tell someone that they love them, this is their theology and they are therefore experiencing God working through them even if they don’t profess to know.
Everyone needs to talk about God in order to understand how God is acting in their lives. The whole point of talking about God is to find the truth about God. The Bible tells about God together with experiences and discussions with communities. By sharing these experiences, God may reveal Himself.
Even though Jesus taught the people about God, God is still a mystery. God isn’t a mystery that can be proved by a scientific theory but a mystery that can be experienced by living. God revealed Himself in the flesh coming to earth as Jesus but it is still very hard to understand who God really is.

While people are talking about God, the question of ‘who’ made God will arise at some point. For a person to ask this question it could be assumed that there must be a straight forward answer just like proven theories in science but there isn’t. The ‘who’ is a ‘Being’ in philosophy and to Christians the ‘Being’ is God, therefore God made God.

Karl Barth, was a protestant theologian born in Switzerland in 1886. He believed that the being of God is only recognised in revelation and that theology does not come from thoughts. The correct way to have a conception of it is through God revealing himself to man by His word. He also said that God reveals Godself and because of this the Trinity is the beginning of Christian Theology and answers questions about who God is, how can we know God, and whether He exists at all.

Karl Rahner, born in 1904 a theologian believed that all humans are open to everything and that they are never completely satisfied and always seeking fulfilment and meaning. Rahner said that people are ‘drawn towards the holy mystery’ and are endlessly looking for meaning to the infinite question regarding the human spirit and the overwhelming conversation that God has with God through Jesus Christ, His Son.

Hans Urs von Balthasar born 1905 in Switzerland was a much acclaimed theologian. He is known for the theology of divine immutability (meaning absolution) and believed in a systematic theology. God’s immutability was a very personal issue for Balthasar. It involves the nature of God’s commitment with His world, who God is, who Christ is, what role mankind has, and mankind’s relationship with God interceded by Christ.

I have talked about my theology and then briefly looked at the understandings of three theologians’ theology. Theology is talking about God and it is hard to do this in a systematic way as Balthasar believed but his idea of immutability is right because God is absolute. Rahner on the other hand seems to have a more lucid approach to theology thinking that people are always looking for meanings and fulfilment in their lives. Karl Barth believed that theology comes only through revelation and doesn’t come through reason. From looking at different approaches to theology, I feel that they all need to be combined.
Everyone has their own idea of what theology is but no-one can dispute the fact that the beauty of God’s creation has to be at the top of the list. When people talk about their loved ones, when they remark on a beautiful flower or tree, when they say “I love you”, they have something to theologise about because God is at the centre of everything and therefore talking about these things is doing theology.

Bible., Exodus 33:19-20: New International Version.

Jungel, E., 2001. God's Being Is in Becoming. Edinburgh Scotland: T & T Clark Ltd.

O'Hanlon, G. F., 1990. The Immutability of God in the Theology of Hans Urs Von Balthasar. London UK: Cambridge University Press.

Rahner, K., 1993. Theologian of the Graced Search for meaning. Edinburgh Scotland: T & T Clark.

Tunnicliff, J. S., 2006. Why Isn't God Red: How Do We Talk About God?. [Online]
Available at:
[Accessed 13th November 2013].

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