According to theologian, scientist and practicing priest Alister McGrath Christian theology (theology means “the study of God”) is “an attempt to make sense of the foundational resources of Christianity [e.g. revelation, reason, tradition and experience] in the light of what each age regards as first-rate methods” (1). It is the study of Christian belief (from the Old and New Testament scriptures) and practice (2).
The 13th century priest and philosopher Thomas Aquinas referred to theology as the “queen of the sciences” (Here, for Aquinas “science” simply meant knowledge). Theology is thus the theoretical engagement with reality through scripture as well as other theoretical academic disciplines such as philosophy, science, history, etc. Christian theology (as the medieval university once put it) works on the assumption “that all diverse particulars of knowledge discovered and analyzed in the specialized academic disciplines, found their coherence in God. It was the unifying power of theology that elevated her to the queen of sciences, being assisted by her handmaiden philosophy” (3).
Theologian David Ford explains that Christian theology recognizes that “if God is really related to the whole of reality, then they need to engage with not only what usually comes under religious studies, but also with many other disciplines [including] the natural sciences…” (4) Thus theology requires dialogue with the other academic disciplines. Christian theology is also committed to a high view of science; as philosopher Alvin Plantinga explains:
“Modern science arose within the bosom of Christian theism; it is a shining example of the powers of reason with which God has created us; it is a spectacular display of the image of God in us human beings. So Christians are committed to taking science and the deliverances of contemporary science with the utmost seriousness” (5).
It is not uncommon for theologians to talk about “two books of God.” One book being that of the Bible and the other being nature. If both these “books” come from God it makes sense to think that they would both provide necessary information about reality. Thus systematic theology attempts to formulate an orderly, rational and coherent account of the Christian faith and beliefs. Here, for instance, the doctrine of the trinity, revelation, biblical hermeneutics, divine providence etc. are considered in order to sketch a coherent portrait of Christian theism. This allows the Christian to better and more richly understand his faith, to promote Christian belief, and give a defence of such beliefs where needed.
1. McGrath, A. 2001. Christian Theology: An Introduction. p. 120.
2. Entwistle, D. 2010. Integrative Approaches to Psychology and Christianity. p. 148.
3. Sproul, R., Gerstner, J. & Lindsay, A. 1984. Classical Apologetics. p. 9-10.
4. Ford, D. 1999. Theology: A Very Short Introduction. p. 19.
5. Plantinga, A. 2006. For Faith and Clarity. p. 212.