Theology: the study of religious faith, practice, and experience: the study of God and God's relation to the world; a system of religious beliefs or ideas. (Merriam-Webster online dictionary)
The word ‘theology’ derives from two ancient Greek words that translate in English as ‘theos’ (meaning “god”) and ‘logos’ (literally meaning “word”). Thus, if we go by these Greek roots, theology may be roughly understood as “god words” or “words about god.” In contemporary English, “ology” means the “study of” something; therefore, a more accurate definition of “theology” is the study of God. Therefore, persons of all faiths, Christians, Jews, and Muslims are “theologians” to some extent. They are seeking a deeper understanding of their faith.
Are you a theologian?
The answer is an emphatic YES! (Don’t worry, it doesn’t hurt!) All Christians are theologians simply because they are Christians. You are a theologian because you “have a faith that seeks understanding” (St. Anselm). The question really is how adequate your theological reflections are in relationship to the faith you profess. Your theology, or understanding of your faith, is affected by your circumstances, past and present. Your life experiences, interaction with Scripture and fellow believers, form and reform your theological world view. Theological development for the non-professional (of which I am one) occurs in the context of congregational life: worship, Bible study, Sunday school, etc. Most of us do not spend our lives in deliberate, systematic reflection of theology. We look to the professionals (Martin Luther, St. Augustine, Thomas Aquinas, John Calvin, Dietrich Bonhoeffer, and Walter Bruggeman, among many, many others) for that. But as “ordinary” Christian theologians, we must be guided by our traditions, Holy Scripture, worship, and service in the world. We must always remain open to letting the Holy Spirit stir up our faith and deepen our understanding of the faith that we profess. Oh, and, be willing to be a theologian!
Martin Luther on Theology
“If, however, you feel and are inclined to think you have made it [gained a complete understanding of Scripture], flattering yourself with your own little books, teaching, or writing, because you have done it beautifully and preached excellently; if you are highly pleased when someone praises you in the presence of others; if you perhaps look for praise, and would sulk or quit what you are doing if you did not get it—if you are of that stripe, dear friend, then take yourself by the ears, and if you do this in the right way you will find a beautiful pair of big, long, shaggy donkey ears.
“Then do not spare any expense! Decorate them with golden bells, so that people will be able to hear you wherever you go, point their fingers at you, and say, “See, See! There goes that clever beast, who can write such exquisite books and preach so remarkably well.” (Luther's Works, Vol. 34, ed. Lewis W. Spitz 1960, Muhlenberg Press)
Thinking about God,