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The Potter's Clay

Scripture, Theology, the Christian worldview, and other ramblings.

04 June 2005

The Nature of Theology


The word THEOLOGY refers to the study of God. When used in a broader sense, the word may include all the other doctrines revealed in Scripture. Now, God is the supreme being who has created and even now sustains all that exists, and theology seeks to understand and articulate in a systematic manner information revealed to us by him. Thus, theology concerns itself with ultimate reality. Since it is the study of the ultimate, nothing is more important. Because it contemplates and discusses the ultimate, it in turn defines and governs every area of life and thought. Therefore, as long as God is the ultimate being or reality, theological reflection is the ultimate human activity.

This book is a presentation of several major biblical doctrines that come under the study of systematic theology. A doctrine consists of a set of propositions relating to a certain theological topic – it is the biblical teaching on a given subject. Theology then refers to the study of Scripture or the systematic formulation of doctrines from Scripture. A truly biblical doctrine is always authoritative and binding, and a system of theology is authoritative only to the extent that it reflects the teaching of Scripture.

Many warn against studying theology for its own sake. The anti-intellectual spirit of the age has so infiltrated the church that they refuse to believe that any intellectual activity possesses intrinsic value. To them, even knowing God must serve a greater purpose, probably a pragmatic or ethical one. Although the knowledge of God ought to affect one's conduct, it is nevertheless a mistake to think that the intellectual enterprise of theology serves a purpose that is greater than itself. Christians should affirm that since to study theology is to know God, and knowing God is the highest purpose of man, theology therefore possesses intrinsic value. Jeremiah 9:23-24 says:

This is what the LORD says: "Let not the wise man boast of his
wisdom or the strong man boast of his strength or the rich man
boast of his riches, but let him who boasts boast about this: that he
understands and knows me, that I am the LORD, who exercises
kindness, justice and righteousness on earth, for in these I delight,"
declares the LORD.

There is no higher purpose for which the knowledge of God intends to reach, and there is no higher purpose for man but to know God. Theological knowledge produces moral demands and other effects in one's life, but these are not higher purposes than the theological task of knowing the verbal revelation of God.

--Vincent Cheung, Systematic Theology


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