Why is theology necessary?
This is a question many Protestants have found themselves asking. They ask it because they like to say that religions is a personal affair, and they dislike the attempts of church leaders to tell them what is or is not permissible.
And theology looks like an attempt to reduce their personal freedom to construct their own religious understanding. It produces rules and regulations which they dislike to follow. So people are tempted to reject it. This is too unfortunate because the rejection of theology leads to collapse of religious standards and the eventual death of the religion.
Theology is necessary for the construction of religious doctrines. Religious doctrines are required in order to ensure that people behave in accordance with God’s plan. They do this by setting standards for morality and truth. These standards are necessary to ensure a people’s continued existence.
Now, many of the objections to theology take the position that the study is concerned foremost with religion and not with God. These objections are not new. What follows is a review of the arguments of the subject asserted by Thomas Aquinas in his Summa Theologiae.
Don’t worry, they’re easier to read than their source material.
Objection # 1: Theology Cannot Concern Itself with God
The purpose of theology cannot be to enhance knowledge of God. This is because sciences must know the nature of their subject if they are to study it. In other words, a person cannot study human anatomy unless they already have already some notion of what a human is. Yet God is said to be unfathomable. His essence is also claimed to be beyond definition.
Therefore, theology cannot be the study of God. We do not know what God is, and we cannot define it, so we cannot study it.
Objection #2: Theology Concerns Itself with Things Aside from God
Theology is concerned with many subjects. These subjects include:
- Family structures
- And many others
None of these topics with which theology is concerned are God.
In fact, most of the things theology concerns itself with are unrelated to God. Therefore, theology is not about the study of God.
A Definist Argument in Favor of Theology Being about God
Theology is defined as the study of God. Therefore, it must be concerned with the study of God. Some people may study things unrelated to God and call it theology. They are misnaming their own study. A chemist may study the movement of gas particles and call it theology, but he would be mistaken. And even if observers believed him, then both he and they would be in error. The arguments given in the previous point are examples of this error
Religious Study Aquinas’ View on the Purpose of Theology
The purpose of theology is to study God.
This does not mean that theology is unconcerned with other fields, nor does it mean that the study of other fields detracts from the study of God.
When a person studies music, they are really studying audition. Yet a person who fails to recognize music as a subset of hearing may believe that the former exists where the latter does not.
Now, theology is concerned with all things. This is because all that is, all that has ever been, and all that ever could be exists within God’s creation. God is the umbrella beneath which all else exists.
So theology asserts itself in all fields, and theologians issue rulings therein. Meanwhile, it is still fixated on God.
Yet people who do not study religion will also be active within those fields. They will see the intrusions made by priests into their area of study as an overreach made by people who lack understanding of the subject matter. This then creates conflict between the parties involved.
This conflict is the reason why modern people often believe that science and religion are opposed to one another.
And the rise of this conflict moves people to create boundaries between things which they believe are supposed to be separate. They start to say that religion is one thing and that biology is another, so they reject and ignore the insights people from the religious sphere insert into the empirical.
Aquinas on the Inability to Define God
It is not possible for a human to define God. It may not be possible for anything else either. This is because the human brain is not designed to do so.
So the impossibility of defining God makes the study og Him difficult.
Difficult, but not impossible.
Man may study God through His effects and deduce His nature thereby.
This is analogous to how an astronomer may study a black holes by observing distortions in the light around it, even though the object itself cannot be seen.
And the most apparent effect which God had produced is the existence of the universe.
The universe exists, and it probably had a beginning. If it had a beginning, then it arose from a state of non-existence. So it could not have created itself; a thing which doe snot exist cannot bring about its own existence. So something aside from the universe must have created it.
That something is God.
And the rules which govern creation, e.g., the laws of physics, math, and reason, are indicators of God’s nature. That God has made them one way and not another provides insight into His being. For example, the fact that the rules governing the universe do not change randomly means that God must not do things randomly.
God has set consistent rules, so God must value consistency.
The Proper Attitude to Have on Our Subject
People often fail to understand how theology pertains to other topics.
Christians should not do this. When theology is divorced from other fields, it tends to be set as an equal or inferior to them. Those other fields are then allowed to overrule the decrees of theologians, and they produce terrible effects because of it.
Westerners have been permitting this for two-hundred years,a dn the result has been the collapse of religious institutions and general civilizational decline.
The following list will help you think about theology and its proper role relative to the other fields.
- God exists.
- Theology is the study of God.
- God cares about everything in His creation.
- So theology must concern itself with everything.
- So theologians must form views on subjects which seem unrelated to religion.
- Those things only seem unrelated because the viewers do not understand what theology is.
- Or because they reject the religion altogether.
- So priests may enter conflict with the secular members of those other fields.
- When the priests and the secularists are in conflict, it is better that the priests win.
- This is because their chief concern is with God and man’s relationship with Him.