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THEOLOGY. The common impression that the theological climate of late medieval and early modern Europe was monolithic is far from the reality. On the eve of the Renaissance and Reformation, theology was marked by a pluralism that created a state of ambiguity. The various theological schools of the daynominalism, Scotism, Thomism, Augustinianism, Franciscanism, humanism, and othersvied for influence and dominance. On many levels, the differences among these schools were minimal, while on others they were profound, resulting in significant disagreements over church teaching.

As the changes of Renaissance society began to take hold, the theological approach of the Middle Ages no longer met the needs of the times and the spiritual longings of the people. The spirit of renewal that characterized the Renaissance called for an adaptation of traditional teaching, an appreciation of the historical context in the study of the Scriptures and the church fathers, and the application of the Gospel to the personal needs of the faithful. Scholasticism, which sought to bridge the gap between faith and reason by bringing reason to bear on theological matters, seemed to many in the Renaissance to be out of touch with contemporary realities. As Scholasticism immersed itself in dialectical speculations, it became more irrelevant, failing to move individuals to a more genuine living out of their Christian commitment. It was Scholasticism's orientation toward the abstract that drew the criticism of Renaissance thinkers such as Francesco Petrarch (13041374) and Desiderius Erasmus (1466?1536), who proposed the "New Learning" associated with humanism as a means of revitalizing theology. For Erasmus, learning was to lead to virtue, scholarship to God, and thus, the restoration of theology was to be the means toward the revival of a living and lived Christianity.


Besides the humanist critique, Scholasticism also came under assault by the Protestant reformers. The Summa Theologica of Thomas Aquinas (12251274) was criticized for its treatment of Aristotle and the Holy Scriptures. Ironically, the polemical engagement with Scholasticism that came to characterize the Renaissance and the Reformation resulted in a rehabilitation of Thomism itself. Leading this rebirth of Thomism was the Dominican Jean Capréolus (c. 13801444), whose defense of the theology of Thomas sparked a new interest in his thought in the late fifteenth century. More important for this revival of Thomism was the work of another Dominican, Tommaso de Vio (14691534), known as Cajetan. Between 1507 and 1520 Cajetan wrote what was to become an extremely influential commentary on the Summa Theologica of Thomas, which exhibited a refreshing originality.

Thomism received a powerful stimulus and a wide dissemination from the Salamanca School, especially with the work of the Spanish Dominican Francisco de Vitoria (1486?1546), who based his teaching largely on the Summa Theologica. Vitoria evolved his own method by considering questions rather than particular sayings of the Summa Theologica, initiating a new school of Thomistic thought. The popularity of his lectures and conferences allowed him to have far-reaching influence.

The new Scholasticism that resulted from the revival of Thomism sought, like its medieval counterpart, to reconcile faith and reason. But, unlike the abstractions and speculations of late medieval Scholasticism, it sought a theology that was simpler, clearer, and more relevant to the lives of people. In many ways it was more practical as it reexamined the method of theological proof, confronted the issues raised by the reformers, sought answers to the ethical issues raised by the colonization of the New World, and emphasized popular religious instruction and preaching. By the middle of the sixteenth century, Thomism seemed to have triumphed over other theological schools. Not only did Thomists dominate the Spanish universities, but at the Council of Trent (15451563), Thomism was clearly in ascendancy. Many of the Tridentine decrees reflected the teaching of Thomas, as did the Roman catechism and the theological manuals used by the seminaries. Many of the new religious orders of the period, especially the Society of Jesus, declared Thomas to be their official teacher. The constitutions of the society legislated Thomas, along with the Bible, as the basic text in theology. Given this Thomistic emphasis within the Society of Jesus, many of the leading Thomists of the late sixteenth-century were JesuitsRobert Bellarmine (15421621), Francisco de Toledo (15151582), and Francisco Suárez (15481617). The climax of this Thomistic revival came with the declaration of Thomas as a "Doctor of the Church" by Pope Pius V in 1567.


Humanism's critique of Scholasticism along with its desire for a scripturally based theology led to the development of dogmatic theology as a distinct theological discipline. The major figure in this development was the Dominican theologian Melchior Cano (15091560). In his De Locis Theologicis (1563), he put forth the essential role of what he called auctoritates ('positive sources') in the work of theologyScripture, the church fathers, and the councils. He demonstrated that theology took its principles from these sources. Thus, the quality of the conclusions in theology was determined by the quality and certitude of these sources. Cano's work looked to formulating these sources, establishing the criteria for assessing their value, and to positing the conditions under which they best served their purpose. The work created a theological methodology that was decisive in the development of a dogmatic theology that was positive in nature.

Dogmatic theology received an important impetus from the Council of Trent, which saw the need to provide an organized body of common doctrine. This need, together with the concern for the sources and the strong sense of dogma emerging from Trent, constituted the first stage of a recognizable dogmatic theology. The first aim of such a theology was to present the actual teaching of the church together with the theological note proper to it, followed by the exposition of that teaching. Hence its aim was pedagogical.


Humanism's call for a return to the sources opened up new possibilities for theology. The importance placed on the study of the Bible, along with the revival of the writings of the church fathers, had a significant effect on theology in the Renaissance and the Reformation. In the Scholastic approach to theology, the Scriptures had lost their centrality and were relegated to an arsenal of evidence called upon to buttress the speculative arguments of the theologians. However, for the humanists, the concern was to restore Scripture to its place of centrality from which theology itself would emerge. For this to happen, theology needed to rely not on the Latin Vulgate, but rather on the original text of the Scriptures. Erasmus, in Education of a Christian Prince (1516), argues that the great weapon of the Christian is the knowledge of Holy Scripture, since it is the wellspring of Christian piety. Through a return to Scripture, theology would be reformed. In turn, this scriptural revival would lead to a reform of Christian life and society.

The recovery of the patristic sources was an equally important contribution of humanism to theology. Here again, Erasmus played a significant role. He saw the fathers as engaged in genuine theology as opposed to the theologians of the day. Their authority derived from their closeness in time as well as in spirit to the divine source, and their chief value lay in their interpreting and helping to understand the Scriptures. Moreover, the writings of the fathers instructed and inspired individuals in living a Christian life. This reflects Erasmus's understanding of theology as practical in nature, as a guide to life rather than a subject for debate, and as a matter of transformation rather than speculation. Since Erasmus saw in the church fathers a more authentic and effective transmission of the teachings of Christ, he sought to make them better known through his patristic editions.

Besides the restoration of theology, the writings of the church fathers became the arsenal for controversial theology. This form of theology, which was seen as a first step toward the renewal of Catholic theology, developed as an answer to the doctrinal novelties of the reformers. The fathers provided the necessary witnesses for those aspects of Catholicism that were being challenged by the reformers. Controversial theology set a clear line of demarcation between the Catholic faith and the teachings of the reformers. Consequently, the teaching of theology entailed discriminating the true from the falsethat is, that which is Catholic from that which is hereticalin order to prepare for the battle against the adversary. Controversialists rose up not only in Germany with Johann Eck (14861543) and Peter Canisius (15211597), but also in England with John Fisher (14691535) and Cardinal Reginald Pole (15001558). The most famous of the controversialists was Robert Bellarmine, who held the chair in controversial theology at the Roman College run by the Society of Jesus. Bellarmine's method was highly influential as he surveyed the whole field of Protestant-Catholic differences. A similar approach was employed by Francisco Suárez, who also taught at the Roman College. Suárez made clear distinctions between traditional church teachings and the novelties of the reformers. Suárez, along with Bellarmine, came to symbolize the long line of controversialists who championed the cause of the Counter-Reformation.


Another offshoot of the return to the sources was the deepening of mystical theology. The renewed interest in Pseudo-Dionysius (c. 500 c.e.), along with the scriptural revival, particularly of the Old Testament, fostered the mystical theology of the Renaissance. The mystical theologian focused on those Christians who, having conquered sin and its evil inclinations, and having grown in grace, drew near to Christ and were united to him. Mystical theology was not concerned with the good or the better so much as what was the best, which consisted in intimate union with God. Thus, mystical theology emphasized conforming the human will to the will of God through the successive stages of purgation, illumination, and contemplation. Mystical theology was especially vital in the life of St. Teresa of Ávila (15151582) and St. John of the Cross (15421591).


Throughout the Middle Ages practical handbooks for confessors were always available to assist the faithful in the living out of a good life. The Thomistic revival of the fifteenth and sixteenth centuries was a step of considerable importance in the evolution of moral theology, which differed from its medieval counterpart. Moral theology came to be understood as the science of Christian life and action. It treated of the last end of the human person, of the morality of human acts, of natural and positive law, and of ecclesiastical sanctions within the context of theological reflection. Thus, it became a science distinct from dogmatic or speculative theology, embodied in a new literary genre, the Institutiones morales (Moral instructions).

Distinct from moral theology is ascetical theology, which is less concerned with the good and the evil, the licit and the illicit, the permitted and the forbidden, but is more interested in the greater and lesser good. The proper function of this branch of theology is to deal with the illuminative way.

MARTIN LUTHER (14831546)

Overthrowing the Scholasticism that he knew, which was mostly nominalist in orientation, Martin Luther went back to the Scriptures to rediscover the message of salvation. Distrustful of human reason in fallen humanity, he sought to substitute for Scholastic theology a theology that was devout and scriptural. Proceeding from the authority of Augustine, Luther initiated a movement for reform of Christian doctrine and life that shattered the unity of Christendom.

The theological reformation initiated by Luther resulted from a rediscovery of God through Christ in the Scriptures. This rediscovery culminated in the twin banners of the Protestant Reformationsola fide (by faith alone we receive Christ and his righteousness) and sola scriptura (authority resides in the Bible alone). The problem that plagued Luther was the concept of the iustitia Dei, which he understood as a punitive justice. In his view, God was a stern judge who weighed merit against sins. It was impossible, in Luther's mind, for sinners to stand before God in righteousness. This was the theological dilemma that culminated in the tower experience, so called because his new insight into the Gospel came to him in the tower of the Augustinian monastery in Wittenberg. The insight he gained in this experience led Luther to understand God's righteousness not as a demanding justice, rather as his mercy. The righteousness of God is no longer a demanding justice before which an individual may stand by virtue of his or her own good works and the forgiving grace of God. The righteousness of God is now primarily the grace which transforms and makes one righteous. Human activity no longer has any part in the ultimate determination of one's destiny. Grace alone enables one to stand before the righteousness of God. Humanity is righteous before God because of the atoning sacrifice of Christ. Belief in that act makes one just.

The essence of Luther's theology rested upon a different conception of the relationship between God and humanity. From his view of salvation based on faith grew most of the other doctrines of Protestantism. Good works played an important role in Luther's theology, but always as a result of faith, not the cause of it. Faith frees the individual by separating works from salvation. Once freed from the continual concern over salvation, the true believer could devote his or her life to doing good out of gratitude to God and not because it would contribute to salvation. Therefore, faith is not the end of Luther's theology, rather its beginning. From faith grows love, the active expression of the true Christian's faith. Thus, many elements of Catholicism were rejected as unnecessary.

JOHN CALVIN (15091564)

The heart of John Calvin's theology, the core of which he acquired from Luther, was belief in the transcendent majesty and absolute sovereignty of God. The knowledge of God was the ultimate aim of life for Calvin. This knowledge was not an abstract knowledge, rather knowledge of God in relation to humanity; it could be acquired through creation and through Scripture. In the Scriptures we know God through Jesus and thus, Calvin understood the Bible as the only authority for our knowledge of God, which reveals all that should and can be known about Him.

However, Calvin insisted that the essence of God is inscrutable and that an infinite chasm separates the divine from the human. Due to the Fall, all humanity is corrupt and spiritually deformed. Therefore, humans are worthless in the sight of God. Yet, despite humanity's depravity, God did not abandon humans. The only mediator possible between God and humanity is Jesus. Through his atoning death on the cross, reconciliation was made possible. Through the redemptive grace of Christ and the gift of faith received from the Holy Spirit comes a spiritual union with Christ. This union brings about a regeneration or sanctification that renders the believer "born again," becoming a new creature in Christ and the inheritor of salvation. This results not from any human merit or effort but from faith in Christ.

Calvin took this idea one step further. The justifying grace of Christ is not for everyone, only for those whom God preelects. God's word germinates only in the elect, those whom he has already chosen for salvation even before their creation. Only on these individuals does Christ's redemption have any effect. The rest of humanity is predestined to perdition.


Despite the critiques launched against the church by many Renaissance humanists, most remained within the institutional framework of Catholicism. Lutheranism and Calvinism diverged from the mainstream of the Renaissance when it exaggerated the Augustinian focus on the depravity of humanity and the servitude of the human will.

See also Bellarmine, Robert ; Bible ; Calvin, John ; Calvinism ; Catholicism ; Catholic Spirituality and Mysticism ; Church of England ; Erasmus, Desiderus ; Humanists and Humanism ; Luther, Martin ; Lutheranism ; Methodism ; Pietism ; Reformation, Catholic ; Reformation, Protestant ; Scholasticism .


Althaus, Paul. The Theology of Martin Luther. Translated by Robert C. Schulz. Philadelphia, 1966.

Bagchi, David V. N. Luther's Earliest Opponents: Catholic Controversialists, 15181525. Minneapolis, 1991.

Dowey, Edward A. The Knowledge of God in Calvin's Theology. New York, 1952.

George, Timothy. Theology of the Reformers. Nashville, 1988.

Gritsch, Eric, and Robert W. Jenson. Lutheranism: The Theological Movement and Its Confessional Writings. Philadelphia, 1976.

Kaiser, Edwin G. Sacred Doctrine: An Introduction to Theology. Westminster, Md., 1958.

MacKenzie, R. A. F. "The Concept of Biblical Theology." Catholic Theological Society of America Proceedings 10 (1955): 4873.

Niesel, Wilhelm. The Theology of Calvin. Translated by Harold Knight. Philadelphia, 1956.

Olin, John C. Six Essays on Erasmus and a Translation of Erasmus' Letter to Carondelet. New York, 1979.

Pelikan, Jaroslav. The Christian Tradition: A History of the Development of Doctrine. 5 vols. Chicago, 19711989.

Wendel, François. Calvin: Origins and Development of His Religious Thought. Translated by Philip Mairet. Reprint. Durham, N.C., 1987.

Francesco C. Cesareo

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392. Theology

See also 43. BIBLE ; 59. BUDDHISM ;69. CATHOLICISM ; 80. CHRISTIANITY ; 135. EASTERN ORTHODOXY ; 151. FAITH ; 183. GOD and GODS ; 203. HELL ; 205. HERESY ; 227. ISLAM ; 231. JUDAISM ; 332. PROTESTANTISM ; 349. RELIGION .

a student or supporter of the theological ideas of Albertus Magnus, 13th-century German Scholastic philosopher.
the theological doctrine that states that the wicked have no afterlife. annihilationist , n.
the doctrine that denies the fall of man. antilapsarian , n.
the belief that Christians are freed from the moral law by the virtue of Gods grace. antinomian , n., adj.
the study of the methods and content of defenses or proofs of Christianity. apologetical, adj.
1. the doctrines and ideas of St. Augustine, 5th-century archbishop of Hippo, and the religious rule developed by him.
2. the support of his doctrines.
3. adherence to his religious rule. Augustinian , n., adj.
the belief that Christ will return to earth in visible form and establish a kingdom to last 1000 years, after which the world will come to an end. Also called millenarianism . chiliast , n. chiliastic, adj.
an advocacy of the maintenance of a confession of faith as a prerequisite to membership in a religious group. confessionalian , n., adj.
the doctrine that the substance of the body and blood of Christ coexist in and with the substance of the bread and wine of the Eucharist. Cf. receptionism, transubstantiation, virtualism .
the doctrine stating that in ecclesiastical affairs the state rules over the church. Erastian, n., adj.
any set of doctrines concerning final matters, as death, the judgment, afterlife, etc. eschatological , adj. eschatologist, n.
1. the theories of John Hutchinson, an 18th-century Yorkshireman, who disputed Newtons theory of gravitation and maintained that a system of natural science was to be found in the Old Testament.
2. the tenets of the followers of Mrs. Anne Hutchinson, an antinomian who lived in the early days of the Massachusetts Colony. Hutchinsonian, adj.
1. the unique nature of the Godhead and hence the Holy Trinity.
2. any of the three parts of the Holy Trinity.
3. the personality of Christ separate from his dual nature, human and divine. hypostatic, hypostatical, adj.
the theological doctrine that the body and blood of Christ are present in the bread and wine after they are consecrated.
1. Obsolete, a person who believes that the vowel-marks on the word Jehovah in Hebrew represent the actual vowels of the word.
2. the name given to the author(s) of the parts of the Hexateuch in which the sacred name is written Jehovah, instead of Elohim. Jehovistic, adj.
worship of the highest order that can be offered only to God.
the doctrines of Georg Major, a German theologian who believed that good works, being a necessary product of Christian faith, are necessary for salvation. Majorist, n., adj.
1. the introduction of new, especially rationalistic, views or doctrines in theology.
2. such a view or doctrine. Also neologism. See also 236. LANGUAGE . neologist, n.
the 19th-century movement by Catholic scholars to reinstitute the doctrines of the Schoolmen in their teachings. Neo-Scholastic , adj.
1. the precepts and ideas of William of Occam, 14th-century English Scholastic.
2. support of his precepts. Occamist, Occamite , n. Occamistic, adj.
1. the doctrines and precepts of Origen of Alexandria, 3rd-century Christian theologian and teacher.
2. adherence to his doctrines. Origenist , n. Origenian, Origenistic, adj.
1. Obsolete, all that is contained in theology.
2. a comprehensive, synthetic theology that covers all gods and religious systems. pantheologist , n. pantheologic, pantheological, adj.
1. Also patristics. the branch of theology that studies the teachings of the early church fathers.
2. a collection of the writings of the early church fathers. patrologist , n. patrologic, patrological, adj.
a branch of theology that studies the doctrine of evil. See also 146. EVIL .
the belief that a race of men existed before Adam. pre-Adamite, n. pre-Adamitic, adj.
a belief in predestination. predestinarian, n., adj.
1. the action of God in foreordaining from eternity whatever comes to pass.
2. the doctrine that God chooses those who are to come to salvation.
the belief that the second coming of Christ will usher in the millennium. premillennialist , n. premillennian, adj.
the doctrine that in the communion service the body and blood of Christ are received but the bread and wine remain unchanged. Cf. consubstantiation, transubstantiation, virtualism. receptionist, n.
the doctrines of the schoolmen; the system of theological and philosophical instruction of the Middle Ages, based chiefly upon the authority of the church fathers and on Aristotle and his commentators. Scholastic, n., adj.
the belief of a sect that arose in the 4th century that the substances of the Father and Son were similar but nonetheless different. semi-Arian , n., adj.
the theological doctrine that faith insures salvation, irrespective of good works. solifldian, n.
soteriology, soterialogy the doctrine concerning the means and possibility of salvation. soteriological, soterialogical , adj.
the belief that the bread and wine consecrated in the Eucharist are subject to natural processes, as decay. stercorarian, stercoranist , adj.
a doctrine concerning heil and punishment in the afterlife.
Rare. a quack or spurious theologian; a charlatan of theology.
1. any theological speculation.
2. the assumption that other disciplines, as philosophy or science, are inferior to theology.
the doctrine that the consecrated elements of the communion only appear as bread and wine, for they have been converted into the whole substance of the body and blood of Christ. Cf. consubstantiation, receptionism, virtualism. transubstantiationalist, n.
division into three parts, especially the theological division of mans nature into the body, the soul, and the spirit. trichotomic, trichotomous. adj.
the doctrine attributed to Calvin and other reformers that the bread and wine of the communion remain unchanged but are the vehicle through which the spiritual body and blood of Christ are received by the communicant. Cf. consubstantiation, receptionism, transabstantiation .

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theology (thēŏl´əjē), in Christianity, the systematic study of the nature of God and God's relationship with humanity and with the world. Although other religions may be said to have theologies, this is a matter of controversy within, for instance, Judaism, which holds that God is unknowable. This article will therefore confine itself to Christian theology.

The development of theology in Christendom arose from the need for educated Christians of the ancient world to express their ideas in terminology familiar in current thought. Hence arose the close relation of Christian theology with Greek philosophy formulated by the Greek and Latin Fathers of the Church. St. Augustine, a Latin Father and one of the greatest theologians, introduced and standardized in his writings teachings that became central to Christian theology. Augustine's influence was paralleled in the East by that of Origen.

The great theological problems of the early church involved the relationship of the first and second persons of the Christian Trinity, the relationship of the divine and human in Jesus, and the relationship between God and humanity. One important struggle was over Arianism, the heresy that denied the true divinity of Jesus. The nature of grace was also debated during the Middle Ages and the Protestant Reformation; the heretical Pelagians (see Pelagianism) contended that a human being has the ability to take the first steps necessary toward salvation apart from divine grace. Augustine insisted, against the Pelagians, that humanity is totally dependent on grace for salvation.

Scholastic theology (see scholasticism) sought to illuminate matters of religious faith through intellectual understanding. Scholastic theologians such as Thomas Aquinas attempted to reconcile seeming contradictions in revealed truths by presenting a doctrine with supporting argument, contradicting argument, and a solution. Aquinas' Summa Theologica is often regarded as the greatest work of Scholasticism. Scholastics differentiated carefully between theology and philosophy by confining theology to the field of the systematization and investigation of revealed truths; in this distinction philosophy is to proceed always from reason and does not investigate the truths that transcend reason. The distinction is maintained explicitly by Roman Catholic thinkers and implicitly by conservative Protestants. According to this differentiation Calvinism and Lutheranism are theologies, not philosophies.

As a result of the 18th-century Enlightenment, especially the work of Immanuel Kant, a new rational theology arose in the 19th cent. This must be carefully distinguished from the "rationalism" of scholasticism, because 19th-century rational theology assumes as axiomatic the ability of reason to criticize adequately every truth. The theological school of Tübingen was the center for the extreme "rationalistic theologians," and there the "higher criticism" of the Bible, which revolutionized much of Protestant thought, was brought to its first fruition. The most profound of 19th-century Protestant German theologians, and perhaps the most influential of the new rationalists, was Friedrich Schleiermacher. The new rationalistic theology developed very rapidly, and hardly any two theologians of it agree in detail; there are various systems of modernism.

In the 20th cent. the Protestant neoorthodoxy movement emerged in Europe and America. It owed much to the theology of Karl Barth and Reinhold Niebuhr. The movement, which accepted the methods and findings of modern biblical criticism, interpreted religion as only one aspect of contemporary life and emphasized faith and revelation as divine gifts. Among Roman Catholics in the 20th cent., liberation theology, which originated in Latin America, has emphasized the importance of fighting oppression and aiding the poor through active roles in political affairs; since the 1980s it has been strongly criticized by the church hierarchy. Under Pope John Paul II, the Roman Catholic Church strongly reasserted its control over the teaching of theology by Catholic theologians, removing official sanction from Hans Küng and others who deviated from church doctrine.

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Theology (Gk., theos, ‘god’, + logos, ‘discourse’). Reflection on the nature and being of God. Initially, in Greek, the word was reserved for poets such as Hesiod and Homer who wrote about the gods. A distinction was then made between their myth-based theology and the kind of philosophical enquiry undertaken by Aristotle. The term is not natural to the Jewish understanding of God unfolded in scripture (though Philo, with his Greek leanings, called Moses theologos, the spokesman of God). The term was introduced by the Church fathers, but not yet as a separate discipline of human enquiry and reflection. Theologia means more naturally ‘speaking of God’, i.e. praise. The systematic organization of theology began especially with the scholastics, as with the concern of Aquinas to show that revealed truths were not believed unreasonably, and was taken in different (more Bible-controlled) directions by the Protestant reformers. Theology, especially as a university discipline, and systematic theologies became increasingly valued, being, in time, broken up into different disciplines, e.g. dogmatic, doctrinal, systematic, pastoral, historical, biblical, etc. Theology thus developed as a highly coded and formal system, in which rules of appropriateness are generated within the system. Attempts to break out of the circularity (some have said sterility) of such a strongly coded system (e.g. in liberation theology, or plural ‘theologies of … ’) are unlikely to return theology to the human community of knowledge, since they themselves are evaluated from within the circle; but see political theology.

The same is (so far) true of individual attempts to reconnect theology with life, e.g. of K. Rahner, or of T. F. Torrance, who saw in modern science an exemplary way in which truth is achieved or attempted, not by detachment from reality, but by a relationship to reality which evokes new attempts; thus both theology and science begin with faith, understood as a rational, intuitive, but nevertheless cognitive apprehension of what is real. ‘What is real’ in the case of theology is God, who gave himself in an act of grace to be known in the Word made flesh. Theology develops the methods and constructs (e.g. creeds) appropriate to its subject-matter, but it remains integrated to the whole endeavour of human enquiry and wisdom. Outside Christianity, ‘theology’ is not isolated from life in the same way, though kalām in Islam came under suspicion of leading in that direction.

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Theology is the cognate of the ancient Greek word theologia, meaning discourse or study of the gods or divine things, as in Plato's Republic. The term was retained when monotheistic conceptions of God became much more abstract than references to an individual god, as in neo-Platonic conceptions of the One, the Thomistic act of Esse (being), and twentieth-century theologian Paul Tillich's Ground of Being. In contemporary usage, the term refers to the comparative discourse among religions, some of which, such as Buddhism and Confucianism, do not have serious conceptions of gods but rather alternatives to monotheistic notions.

See also Theology, Theories of; Thomas Aquinas

robert cummings neville

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theology Systematic study of God or gods. In its narrowest sense, it is the investigation or expression of the beliefs and precepts of a religion. In a much broader sense, theology is intricately related to philosophical and historical studies and strives to achieve an understanding of various beliefs. Such preoccupations exercise the minds of theologians of Islam, Hinduism and most other religions, including Christianity.

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the·ol·o·gy / [unvoicedth]ēˈäləjē/ • n. (pl. -gies) the study of the nature of God and religious belief. ∎  religious beliefs and theory when systematically developed: in Christian theology, God comes to be conceived as Father and Son | a willingness to tolerate new theologies. DERIVATIVES: the·ol·o·gist / -jist/ n.

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theology The systematic study of religious beliefs and systems of thinking about God (or gods), often from within a given tradition, such as Judaism or Catholicism. Theology is not far removed from philosophy and the sociology of religion when considerations of meaning and empirical manifestations of religion are primary.

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theology XIV. — (O)F. théologie — L. theologia- Gr. theologíā f theólogos one who treats of the gods. f. theós god; see -LOGY
So theologian XV. — (O)F. théologien. theological XVI medL.

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"theology." The Concise Oxford Dictionary of English Etymology. . (December 18, 2017).

"theology." The Concise Oxford Dictionary of English Etymology. . Retrieved December 18, 2017 from


theology •haji • algae • Angie •argy-bargy, Panaji •edgy, sedgy, solfeggi, veggie, wedgie •cagey, stagy •mangy, rangy •Fiji, gee-gee, squeegee •Murrumbidgee, ridgy, squidgy •dingy, fringy, mingy, stingy, whingy •cabbagy • prodigy • effigy • villagey •porridgy • strategy • cottagey •dodgy, podgy, splodgy, stodgy •pedagogy •Georgie, orgy •ogee • Fuji •bhaji, budgie, pudgy, sludgy, smudgy •bulgy •bungee, grungy, gungy, scungy, spongy •allergy, analogy, genealogy, hypallage, metallurgy, mineralogy, tetralogy •elegy •antilogy, trilogy •aetiology (US etiology), amphibology, anthology, anthropology, apology, archaeology (US archeology), astrology, biology, campanology, cardiology, chronology, climatology, cosmology, craniology, criminology, dermatology, ecology, embryology, entomology, epidemiology, etymology, geology, gynaecology (US gynecology), haematology (US hematology), hagiology, horology, hydrology, iconology, ideology, immunology, iridology, kidology, meteorology, methodology, musicology, mythology, necrology, neurology, numerology, oncology, ontology, ophthalmology, ornithology, parasitology, pathology, pharmacology, phraseology, phrenology, physiology, psychology, radiology, reflexology, scatology, Scientology, seismology, semiology, sociology, symbology, tautology, technology, terminology, theology, topology, toxicology, urology, zoology • eulogy • energy • synergy • apogee • liturgy • lethargy •burgee, clergy •zymurgy • dramaturgy

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"theology." Oxford Dictionary of Rhymes. . 18 Dec. 2017 <>.

"theology." Oxford Dictionary of Rhymes. . (December 18, 2017).

"theology." Oxford Dictionary of Rhymes. . Retrieved December 18, 2017 from