Religion, in its most general sense, is the sum of the relations which man sustains to God, and comprises the truths, the experiences, actions, and institutions which correspond to, or grow out of those relations.
Theology, in its most general sense, is the science of religion.
The Christian religion is that body of truths, experiences, actions, and institutions which are determined by the revelation supernaturally presented in the Christian Scriptures. Christian Theology is the scientific determination, interpretation, and defence of those Scriptures, together with the history of the manner in which the truths it reveals have been understood, and the duties they impose have been performed, by all Christians in all ages.
Theological Encyclopædia, from the Greek ἐγκυκλοπαιδεία (the whole circle of general education), presents to the student the entire circle of the special sciences devoted to the discovery, elucidation, and defence of the contents of the supernatural revelation contained in the Christian Scriptures, and aims to present these sciences in those organic relations which are determined by their actual genesis and inmost nature.
Theological Methodology is the science of theological method. As each department of human inquiry demands a mode of treatment peculiar to itself; and as even each subdivision of each general department demands its own special modifications of treatment, so theological methodology provides for the scientific determination of the true method, general and special, of pursuing the theological sciences. And this includes two distinct categories: (a) The methods proper to the original investigation and construction of the several sciences, and (b) the methods proper to elementary instruction in the same.
All this should be accompanied with critical and historical information, and direction as to the use of the vast literature with which these sciences are illustrated.
Such an arrangement can approach perfection only in proportion as these sciences themselves approach their final and absolute form. At present every such attempt must be only more or less an approximation to an ideal unattainable in the present state of knowledge in this life. Every separate attempt also must depend for its comparative success upon the comparative justness of the general theological principles upon which it is based. It is evident that those who make Reason, and those who make the inspired Church, and those who make the inspired Scriptures the source and standard of all divine knowledge, must severally configure the theological sciences to the different foundations on which they are made to stand.
The point of view adopted in this book is the evangelical and specifically the Calvinistic or Augustinian one, assuming the following fundamental principles: 1st. The inspired Scriptures are the sole, and an infallible standard of all religious knowledge. 2d. Christ and his work is the centre around which all Christian theology is brought into order. 3d. The salvation brought to light in the gospel is supernatural and of Free Grace. 4th. All religious knowledge has a practical end. The theological sciences, instead of being absolute ends in themselves, find their noblest purpose and effect in the advancement of personal holiness, the more efficient service of our fellow men, and the greater glory of God.
The advantages of such a grouping of the theological sciences are obvious, and great. The relations of all truths are determined by their nature, whence it follows that their nature is revealed by an exhibition of their relations. Such an exhibition will also tend to widen the mental horizon of the student, to incite him to breadth of culture, and prevent him from unduly exalting or exclusively cultivating any one special branch, and thus from perverting it by regarding it out of its natural limitations and dependencies.
1st. Is there a God? 2d. Has God spoken? 3d. What has God said? 4th. How have men in time past understood his word and practically, in their persons and institutions, realized his intentions?
It is evident that as the Supernatural Revelation God has been pleased to give has come to us in an historical form, that history, and that of the Christian Church, is inseparably connected with all human history more or less directly. Further, it is evident that as all truth is one, all revealed truths and duties are inseparably connected with all departments of human knowledge, and with all the institutions of human society. It hence follows that theological science can at no point be separated from general science, that some knowledge of every department of human knowledge must always be comprehended in every system of Theological Encyclopædia as auxiliary to the Theological sciences themselves. Some of these auxiliary sciences sustain special relations to certain of the theological sciences, and are very remotely related to others. It is, however, convenient to give them a position by themselves, as in general constituting a discipline preparatory and auxiliary to the science of theology as a whole.
I. Sciences Auxiliary to the study of theology.
II. Apologetics—embracing the answers to the two questions—Is there a God? and Has God spoken?
III. Exegetical Theology—embracing the critical determination of the ipsissima verba of the Divine Revelation, and the Interpretation their meaning.
IV. Systematic Theology—embracing the development into an all-embracing and self-consistent system of the contents of that Revelation, and its subsequent elucidation and defence.
V. Practical Theology—embracing the principles and laws revealed in Scripture for the guidance of Christians (a) in the promulgation of this divine revelation thus ascertained and interpreted, and thus (b) in bringing all men into practical obedience to the duties it imposes and (c) into the fruition of the blessings it confers.
VI. Historical Theology—embracing the history of the actual development during all past ages and among all people of the theoretical and practical elements of that revelation (1) in the faith and (2) in the life of the Church.
1st. As underlying and conditioning all knowledge, we have Universal History, and as auxiliary to theological science especially the Histories of Egypt, Babylonia, Assyria, Greece, Rome and of Mediæval and Modern Europe.
2d. Archælogy in its most comprehensive sense, including the interpretation of inscriptions, monuments, coins, and remains of art, and the illustrations gathered thence and from all other available sources, of the geographical distribution and physical conditions, and of the political, religious, and social institutions and customs of all peoples, of all ages.
3d. Ethnology—the science of the divisions of the human family into races and nations, and of their dispersion over the world—which traces their origin and affiliations and their varieties of physical, intellectual, moral, and religious character, and the sources and modifying conditions of these variations.
4th. Comparative Philology, the science which starting from the natural groups of human languages, traces the relations and origins of languages and dialects, and transcending the first dawn of human history, traces the unity of races now separated, and the elements of long extinct civilizations, and the facts of historic changes otherwise left without record.
5th. The Science of Comparative Religion, the critical study and comparison of the history, beliefs, spirit, principles, institutions, and practical character of all the Ethnic religions, tracing the light they throw upon (a) human nature and history, (b) the moral government of God, and (c) the supernatural revelation recorded in Scripture.
6th. Philosophy, the ground and mistress of all the merely human sciences. This will include the history of the origin and development of all the schools of philosophy, ancient, mediæval, and modern—a critical study and comparison of their principles, methods, and doctrines, and the range and character of their respective influence upon all other sciences and institutions, especially upon those which are political and religious, and more especially upon those which are definitely Christian.
7th. Psychology, or that department of experimental science which unfolds the laws of action of the human mind under normal conditions, as exhibited (a) in the phenomena of individual consciousness and action, and (b) in the phenomena of social and political life.
8th. Æsthetics, or the science of the laws of the Beautiful in all its forms of Music, Rhetoric, Architecture, Painting, etc. and the principles and history of every department of art.
9th. The Physical Sciences, their methods, general and special; their history, genesis, development, and present tendencies; their relation to Philosophy, especially to Theism and natural religion, to civilization, to the Scriptural records historically and doctrinally.
10th. Statistics, or that department of investigation which aims to present us with a full knowledge of the present state of the human family in the world, in respect to every measurable variety of condition—as to numbers and state, physical, intellectual, religious, social, and political, of civilization, commerce, literature, science, art, etc. etc.; from which elements the immature forms of social science and political economy are being gradually developed.
This department falls under two heads: (1.) Is there a God (2.) Has He spoken; and includes—
1st. The proof of the being of God, that is of an extra mundane person transcendent yet immanent, creating, preserving, and governing all things according to his eternal plan This will involve the discussion and refutation of all Antitheistic systems, as Atheism, Pantheism, Naturalistic Deism, Materialism, etc.
2d. The Development of Natural Theology, embracing the relation of God to intelligent and responsible agents as Moral Governor, and the indications of his will and purpose, and consequently of the duties and destinies of mankind, as far as these can be traced by the light of Nature—
3d. The evidences of Christianity, including—
(1.) The discussion of the proper use of reason in religious questions.
(2.) The demonstration of the à priori possibility of a supernatural revelation.
(3.) The necessity for and the probability of such a revelation, the character of God and the condition of man as revealed by the light of nature, being considered.
(4) The positive proof of the actual fact that such a revelation has been given (a) through the Old Testament prophets, (b) through the New Testament prophets, and (c) above all in the person and work of Christ. This will involve, of course, a critical discussion of all the evidence bearing on this subject, external and internal, historical, rational, moral, and spiritual, natural and supernatural, theoretical and practical, and a refutation of all the criticism, historical and rational, which has been brought to bear against the fact of revelation or the integrity of the record. Much that is here adduced will of course necessarily be also comprehended under the heads of Systematic and of Exegetical Theology.
If the facts (1) That there is a God, and (2) that he has spoken, be established, it remains to answer the question, "What has God said?" Exegetical Theology is the general title of that department of theological science which aims at the Interpretation of the Scriptures as the word of God, recorded in human language, and transmitted to us through human channels; and in order to this, Interpretation aims to gather and organize all that knowledge which is necessarily introductory thereto. This includes the answer to two main questions: (1) What books form the canon, and what were the exact words of which the original autographs of the writers of these several books consisted, and (2) What do those divine words, so ascertained, mean.
The answers to all questions preliminary to actual Interpretation, come under the head of Introduction, and this is divided (1) into General Introduction, presenting all that information, preliminary to interpretation, which stands related in common to the Bible as a whole, or to each Testament as a whole, and (2) into Special Introduction, which includes all necessary preparation for the interpretation of each book of the Bible in detail.
1st. The Higher Criticism or the canvass of the extant evidences of all kinds establishing the authenticity and genuineness of each book in the sacred canon.
2d. The Criticism of the Text, which, from a comparison of the best ancient manuscripts and versions, from internal evidence, and by means of a critical history of the text from its first appearance to the present, seeks to determine the ipsissima verba of the original autographs of the inspired writers.
3d. Biblical Philology, which answers the questions: Why were different languages used in the record? and why Hebrew and Greek? What are the special characteristics of the dialects of those languages actually used, and their relation to the families of language to which they belong? And what were the special characteristics of dialect, style, etc., of the sacred writers individually.
4th. Biblical Archæology, including the physical and political geography of Bible lands during the course of Bible history, and determining the physical, ethnological, social, political, and religious conditions of the people among whom the Scriptures originated, together with an account of their customs and institutions, and of the relation of these to those of their ancestors and of their contemporaries.
5th. Hermeneutics, or the scientific determination of the principles and rules of Biblical Interpretation, including (1) the logical and grammatical and rhetorical principles determining the interpretation of human language in general, (2) the modification of these principles appropriate to the interpretation of the specific forms of human discourse, e. g., history, poetry, prophecy, parable, symbol, etc., and (3) those further modifications of these principles appropriate to the interpretation of writings supernaturally inspired
6th. Apologetics having established the fact that the Christian Scriptures are the vehicle of a supernatural revelation, we must now discuss and determine the nature and extent of Biblical Inspiration as far as this is determined by the claims and the phenomena of the Scriptures themselves.
7th. The History of Interpretation, including the history of ancient and modern versions and schools of interpretation, illustrated by a critical comparison of the most eminent commentaries.
Following the laws of grammar, the usus loquendi of words, the analogy of Scripture, and the guidance of the Holy Ghost, Exegesis seeks to determine the mind of the Spirit as expressed in the inspired sentences as they stand in their order.
There are several special departments classed under the general head of Exegetical Theology, which involve in some degree that arrangement and combination of Scripture testimonies under topics or subjects, which is the distinctive characteristic of Systematic Theology.
1st. Typology, which embraces a scientific determination of the laws of Biblical symbols and types, and their interpretation, especially those of the Mosaic ritual as related to the person and work of Christ.
2d. Old Testament Christology, the critical exposition of the Messianic idea as it is developed in the Old Testament.
3d. Biblical Theology, which traces the gradual evolution of the several elements of revealed truth from their first suggestion through every successive stage to their fullest manifestation in the sacred text, and which exhibits the peculiar forms and connections in which these several truths are presented by each inspired writer.
4th. The Development of the principles of Prophetical Interpretation and their application to the construction of an outline of the Prophesies of both Testaments.—"Notes on New Testament Literature," by Dr. J. A. Alexander.
As the name imports, Systematic Theology has for its object the gathering all that the Scriptures teach as to what we are to believe and to do, and the presenting all the elements of this teaching in a symmetrical system. The human mind must seek unity in all its knowledge. God's truth is one, and all the contents of all revelations natural and supernatural must constitute one self-contained system, each part organically related to every other.
The method of construction is inductive. It rests upon the results of Exegesis for its foundation. Passages of Scripture ascertained and interpreted are its data. These when rightly interpreted reveal their own relations and place in the system of which the Person and work of Christ is the centre. And as the contents of revelation stand intimately related to all the other departments of human knowledge, the work of Systematic Theology necessarily involves the demonstration and illustration of the harmony of all revealed truth with all valid science, material and psychological, with all true speculative philosophy and with all true moral philosophy and practical philanthropy.
It includes—(1.) The construction of all the contents of revelation into a complete system of faith and duties. (2.) The history of this process as it has prevailed in the Church during the past. (3.) Polemics.
I. The construction of all the contents of revelation into a complete system. This includes the scientific treatment (a) of all the matters of faith revealed, and (b) of all the duties enjoined.
In the arrangement of topics the great majority of theologians have followed what Dr. Chalmers calls the synthetical method. Starting with the idea and nature of God revealed in the Scriptures, they trace his eternal purposes and temporal acts in creation, providence, and redemption to the final consummation. The Doctor himself prefers what he calls the analytic method, and starts with the facts of experience and the light of nature, and man's present morally diseased condition, leads upward to redemption and to the character of God as revealed therein.
Following the former of these methods all the elements of the system are usually grouped under the following heads:
1st. Theology proper: including the existence, attributes, triune personality of God, together with his eternal purposes, and temporal acts of creation and providence.
2d. Anthropology: (doctrine of man) including the creation and nature of man, his original state, fall, and consequent moral ruin. This embraces the Biblical Psychology, and the Scriptural doctrine of sin, its nature, origin, and mode of propagation.
3d. Soteriology: (doctrine of salvation) which includes the plan, execution, and application and glorious effects of human salvation. This embraces Christology (the doctrine of Christ), the incarnation, the constitution of Christ's person, his life, death, and resurrection, together with the office-work of the Holy Ghost, and the means of grace, the word and sacraments.
4th. Christian Ethics: embracing the principles, rules, motives, and aids of human duty revealed in the Bible as determined (a) by his natural relations as a man with his fellows, and (b) his supernatural relations as a redeemed man.
5th. Eschatology (science of last things) comprehending death, the intermediate state of the soul, the second advent, the resurrection of the dead, the general judgment, heaven and hell.
6th. Ecclesiology (science of the Church); including the scientific determination of all that the Scriptures teach as to the Church visible and invisible, in its temporal and in its eternal state; including the Idea of the Church—its true definition—its constitution and organization, its officers and their functions. A comparison and criticism of all the modifications of ecclesiastical organization that have ever existed, together with their genesis, history, and practical effects.
II. Doctrine-History, which embraces the history of each of these great doctrines traced in its first appearance and subsequent development, through the controversies it excited and the Confessions in which it is defined.
III. Polemics, or Controversial Theology, including the defence of the true system of doctrine as a whole and of each constituent element of it in detail against the perversions of heretical parties within the pale of the general Church. This embraces—(1.) The general principles and true method of religious controversies. (2.) The definition of the true Status Quæstionis in each controversy, and an exposition of the sources of evidence and of the methods, defensive and offensive, by which the truth is to be vindicated. (3.) The history of controversies.
Practical Theology is both a science and an art. As an art it has for its purpose the effective publication of the contents of revelation among all men, and the perpetuation, extension, and edification of the earthly kingdom of God. As a science it has for its province the revealed principles and laws of the art above defined. Hence as Systematic Theology roots itself in a thorough Exegesis at once scientific and spiritual, so does Practical Theology root itself in the great principles developed by Systematic Theology, the department of Ecclesiology being common ground to both departments: the product of the one, and the foundation of the other.
It includes the following main divisions—
1st. The discussion of the Idea and Design of the Church, and of its divinely revealed attributes.
2d. The determination of the divinely appointed constitution of the Church, and methods of administration, with the discussion and refutation of all the rival forms of Church organization that have prevailed, their history, and that of the controversies which they have occasioned.
3d. The discussion of the nature and extent of the discretion Christ has allowed his followers in adjusting the methods of ecclesiastical organization and administration to changing social and historical conditions.
4th. Church membership, its conditions, and the relation to Christ involved, together with the duties and privileges absolute and relative of the several classes of members. The relation of baptized children to the Church, and the relative duties of Parents and of the Church in relation to them.
5th. The Officers of the Church—extraordinary and temporary; ordinary and perpetual
(1.) Their call and ordination; their relations to Christ and to the Church.
(2.) Their functions—
A. As Teachers—including—
(a.) Catechetics, its necessity, principles, and history.
(b.) Sunday-schools. The duties of parents and of the Church in respect to the religious education of children.
(c.) Sacred Rhetoric. Homiletics and pulpit elocution.
(d.) Christian literature. The newspaper, and periodicals and permanent books.
B. As Leaders of Worship, including—
(a.) Liturgies, their uses, abuses, and history.
(b.) Free forms of prayer.
(c.) Psalmody, inspired and uninspired, its uses and history.
(d.) Sacred Music, vocal and instrumental uses and history.
C. As Rulers—
(a.) The office, qualification, duties and Scriptural Warrant of Ruling Elders—
(b.) The office, qualification, duties, mode of election, and ordination, and Scriptural Warrant of the New-Testament Bishop or Pastor.
(c.) The Session, its constitution and functions. The theory and practical rules and methods of Church discipline.
(d.) The Presbytery and its constitution and functions. The theory and practical rules and precedents regulating the action of Church courts, in the exercise of the constitutional right of Review and Control in the issue and conduct of trials, complaints, appeals, etc., etc.
(e.) The Synod and General Assembly and their constitution and functions. The Principles and policy of Committees, Commissioners, Boards, etc., etc.
This leads to the functions of the Church as a whole, and the warrant for and the uses and abuses of Denominational distinctions, and the relations of the different Denominations to one another.
1st. Church Statistics, including our own Church, other Churches, and the world.
2d. Christian, social, and ecclesiastical economics, including the duties of Christian stewardship, personal consecration, and systematic benevolence. The relation of the Church to the poor and to criminals, the administration of orphan asylums, hospitals, prisons, etc. The relation of the Church to voluntary societies, Young Men's Christian Associations, etc., etc.
3d. The education of the ministry, the policy, constitution and administration of theological seminaries.
4th. Domestic Missions, including aggressive evangelization, support of the ministry among the poor, Church extension and Church erection.
5th. The relation of the Church to the state, and the true relation of the state to religion, and the actual condition of the common and statute law with relation to Church property, and the action of Church Courts in the exercise of discipline, etc. The obligations of Christian citizenship. The relation of the Church to civilization, to moral reforms, to the arts, sciences, social refinements, etc., etc.
6th. Foreign Missions in all their departments.
See "Lectures on Theological Encyclopædia and Methodology," by Rev. John M'Clintock, D.D., LL.D., edited by J. T. Short, B.D.; and "Bibliotheca Sacra," Vol. 1, 1844; "Theological Encyclopædia and Methodology," from unpublished lecture of Prof. Tholuck, by Prof. E. A. Park.
According to the logical evolution of the whole contents of the theological sciences, the Interpretation of the letter of Scripture, and the construction of the entire System of related truths and duties revealed therein, must precede the History of the actual development of that revelation in the life and faith of the Church. Just as the fountain must precede the stream which flows from. it Yet, as a matter of fact, in the actual study of the family of theological sciences, History must precede and lay the foundation for all the rest. History alone gives us the Scriptures in which our revelation is recorded, and the means whereby the several books and their ipsissima verba are critically ascertained. We are indebted to the same source for our methods of interpretation, and for their results as illustrated in the body of theological literature accumulated in the past; also for our creeds and confessions and records of controversies, and hence for the records preserving the gradual evolution of our system of doctrine. In the order of production and of acquisition History comes first, while in the order of a logical exposition of the constituent theological sciences in their relations within the system, History has the honor of crowning the whole series.
Historical Theology is divided into Biblical and Ecclesiastical. The first derived chiefly from inspired sources, and continuing down to the close of the New Testament canon. The latter beginning where the former ends, and continuing to the present time.
Biblical History is subdivided into—1st. Old Testament History, including (1) the Patriarchal, (2) Mosaic, and (3) Prophetical eras, together with (4) the history of the chosen people during the interval between the close of the Old and the opening of the New Testament. 2d. New Testament History, including (1) the life of Christ, (2) The founding of the Christian Church by the Apostles down to the end of the first century.
With respect to Ecclesiastical History several preliminary departments of study are essential to its prosecution as a science.
1st. Several of the auxiliary sciences already enumerated must be cited as specifically demanded in this connection These are—(1.) Ancient, Mediæval, and Modern Geography. (2.) Chronology. (3.) The Antiquities of all the peoples embraced in the area through which the Church has at any period extended. (4.) Statistics, exhibiting the actual condition of the world at any particular period. (5.) The entire course of General History.
2d. The Sources from which Ecclesiastical History is derived should be critically investigated. (1.) Monumental sources, such as (a) buildings, (b) inscriptions, (c) coins, etc. (2.) Documental, which are—(a.) Public, such as the Acts of Councils, the briefs, decretals, and bulls of Popes; the archives of governments, and the creeds, confessions, catechisms, and liturgies of the Churches, etc., etc. (b.) Private documents, such as contemporary literature of all kinds, pamphlets, biographies, annals, and later reports and compilations.
3d. The History of the literature of ecclesiastical history from Eusebius to Neander, Kurtz, and Schaff. The methods which have been and which should be followed in the arrangement of the material of Church History.
The actual Method always has been and probably always will be a combination of the two natural methods—(a) chronological, and (b) topical.
The fundamental principle upon which, according to Dr. M'Clintock, the materials of Church History should be arranged, is the distinction between the life and the faith of the Church. The two divisions therefore, are (1) History of the life of the Church, or Church History proper, and (2) History of the thought of the Church, or Doctrine-History.
1st. The History of the Life of the Church deals with persons, communities, and events, and should be treated according to the ordinary methods of historical composition.
2d. The History of the Thought of the Church comprises—
(1.) Patristics, or the literature of the early Christian Fathers; and Patrology, or a scientific exhibition of their doctrine.
These Fathers are grouped under three heads—(a) Apostolical, (b) Ante-Nicene, and (c) Post-Nicene, terminating with Gregory the Great among the Latins, a. d. 604, and with John of Damascus among the Greeks, a. d. 754. This study involves the discussion of (a) the proper use of these Fathers, and their legitimate authority in modern controversies; (b) a full history of their literature, and of the principal editions of their works; and (c) the meaning, value, and doctrine of each individual Father separately—
(2.) Christian Archæology, which treats of the usage, worship, discipline of the early Church, and the history of Christian worship, art, architecture, poetry, painting, music, etc, etc.
(3.) Doctrine-History, or the critical history of the genesis and development of each element of the doctrinal system of the Church, or of any of its historical branches, with an account of all the heretical forms of doctrine from which the truth has been separated, and the history of all the controversies by means of which the elimination has been effected. This will, of course, be accompanied with a critical history of the entire Literature of Doctrine-History, of the principles recognized, the methods pursued, and the works produced.
(4) Symbolics, which involves—(a.) The scientific determination of the necessity for and uses of public Creeds and Confessions. (b.) The history of the occasions, of the actual genesis, and subsequent reception, authority, and influence of each one of the Creeds and Confessions of Christendom. (c.) The study of the doctrinal contents of each Creed, and of each group of Creeds separately, and (d.) Comparative Symbolics, or the comparative study of all the Confessions of the Church, and thence a systematic exhibition of all their respective points of agreement and of contrast.
M'Clintock's "Theological Encyclopædia"; "Notes on Ecclesiastical History," by Dr. J. A. Alexander, edited by Dr. Alexander.
Hodge, A. A. (1878). Outlines of Theology: Rewritten and Enlarged (pp. 15–28). New York: Hodder & Stoughton.
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