Theology is a word not commonly used in many churches today. To speak the word is like saying we have a medical condition; people get curious but they don’t want to get near you for fear that it might be contagious. However, because of this lack of theology in many churches (and in indivitual christians as well), we see that many people avoid churches due to their lack of theological convictions. To better get an idea of what theology is, lets start with seeing what theology isn’t.
Is It Like Doctrine?
Doctrine is the word that is commonly used in churches, and even unbelievers use the word to present the idea of a body of teachings accepted by a group of people. Usually doctrine is given a bad rap because it is also normally used in the word “indoctrination” or otherwise known as brainwashing.
Its more common to hear the word “doctrine” in political circles or in religious circles but it isn’t limited to those two being that even secular society recognizes some forms of doctrinal stance.
If we look at the word doctrine, its etymological content shows that the word is used in many general settings. At the end of the 14th century the word doctrine was used to present a body of principles and dogmas of a religion or field of study. We can also say that doctrines are principles that are essential in whichever field of study. Doctrine presents the idea of a doctor or teacher of a specific subject establishing necessary principles for the continual study of a subject.
When we think of doctrine, what is normally thought of is that they are strict rules of conduct for highly religious people need to follow in order to be pious or present themselves as holy. Some use the idea of doctrine as a synonym for legalism. Legalism being the act of doing certain religious works in order to be more acceptable to God. This actually isn’t what doctrine is. A brief summary of what doctrine actually means is that it is a conjunction of ideas of a certain group that bring together main tenets of their core belief system into a redacted or summarized format which has its roots in a written document, person or event that the group deems important.
So we see that doctrine has its place in the Christian life, but is it the same as theology is the question?
Theology and doctrine can be used interchangeably but in actuality theology has its distinctions from doctrine. We see that there are doctrines of devils (1 Timothy 4:1), doctrines of men (Matthew 15:1-20), and sound doctrine (Titus 2:1). These present summaries of what is believes, theology though similar, is not exactly doctrine.
Theology is the discourse or study of works and person of God. A good way to look at it is that our theology produces our doctrine. Theology is the science of our faith. Theological ideas are the building blocks of what becomes our doctrine which produces our religion.
If a church or a christian for that matter doesn’t have a robust theology, their application of the Christian faith is found to be worthless. Theology is a unique field of study, because it takes what is unknowable and pulls us toward it so that we may see glimpses of the unfathomable.