On Theology

by Henry Knapp

“Theology” is one of those words that kind of happens to you when you’re not looking.
You get involved in a church or Bible study, or you have grown up in the church, and pretty soon you’ve heard the term enough that you no longer question its meaning. If you’re not careful, you might even find yourself using it now and then.

Of course, that does not mean that we always realize the full import of the term. “Theology” is such a neat word, and useful in the church, precisely for the fullness of the meaning it captures. Simply put, “theology” is the combination of the Greek words, “theos” meaning “God,” and “logos,” meaning “word” or “speech.” Thus, theology means “words of God.”

Insight comes when we consider all that “words of God” might mean. For one thing, “theology” means “words about God”—that is, theology deals with issues and concepts concerning God. When you are talking about God, you are talking “theology.” Now, not always is that “theology” coherent, thought out, or even conscious, but when we use our language to discuss God, we are doing theology. Notice, theology here doesn’t assume good words about God, or even true words about God. Anytime one is talking about God, either truly or falsely, they are engaged in “theology.” Theology deals with God.

However, “words of God” may be taken in other ways. Not only does it mean “words about God,” but it also means, “words belonging to God.” That is, these are words which originate with God and come from God to us. Theology in this instance is that which we learn about God from God. He is the ultimate theological teacher. Theology originates with God.

Finally, “words of God” also mean “words to God.” Theology is not useless chatter, nor is it a compilation of useful facts about God. Theology has an end, a goal in mind. True theology moves a person toward God; it guides the theologian into a greater embrace with God. “Theology” separated from this goal is not true theology at all—for “words of God” always brings the hearer to God. Theology points to God.

Theology, then, originates from God, it deals with God, and it points to God. Or another way of capturing this: theology is taught by God; it teaches of God; and it leads to God.

Budding theologians! Join me as we explore the “words of God.”  --Henry