Theology is literally the study of God (Greek θεος, theos, "God", + λογος, logos, "study"). By extension, it also refers to the study of other religious topics. The term theology originated in Christianity, but it can also be used to refer to the study of the beliefs of other religions. This is sometimes seen as a form of philosophy.
Theology assumes the truth of at least some religious beliefs and therefore can be distinguished from the philosophy of religion, which does not presume the truth of any religious beliefs. The philosophy of religion, when it seeks to study these topics, uses reason and experience as its sources; while theology can also use religious sources such as scriptures (e.g. the Bible), traditions, etc. This is not, however, to say that one must have religious belief in order to be a theologian - though agnostic or atheist theologians are very rare. In Eastern Christianity, there is more emphasis on prayer than on intellectual thought and study as a means to learn about God. Studying God without any kind of relationship or desire for relationship with God is considered by some almost meaningless, but others would argue that one can engage with issues in terms of notions around "God" as an exercise in history, anthropology, and/or sociology, yet not have any desire for engagement in terms of the personal God offered in terms of certain forms of religion. Many of the early church fathers described the theologian as a person who "truly prays."
In response to the horrors of the Holocaust, many theologians (especially Jewish theologians) were prompted to take a harder look in terms of issues around theodicy; the theological works that were created as a response to the Holocaust have been termed Holocaust theology.
Theology is divided into several subdisciplines:
- theology proper - God, his attributes, nature, and relation to humanity. See the nature of God in Western theology.
- theodicy - Attempts at reconciling the existence of all the evil and suffering in the world with the premise that God is omnipotent, omniscient and omnibenevolent.
- eschatology - literally, the study of 'last things' or 'ultimate things'. Covers subjects such as death and the afterlife, the end of history, the end of the world, the last judgment, etc.
- anthropology - nature of man
- apophatic theology - describe what God is not
- Comparative religion - comparing common themes among different religious traditions
- christology - Christ, the nature of Christ, the relationship between the divine and human in Christ
- bibliology - the Bible, the means of its inspiration, etc.
- pneumatology - the Holy Spirit
- missiology - missions, evangelism, etc.
- soteriology - sins and atonement
- ecclesiology - the church
- angelology - angels,the unseen world
- demonology - satan, demons, evil spirits
- "Theology is the effort to explain the unknowable in terms of the not worth knowing." - H.L. Mencken
- "An authentic theology will not allow man to be obsessed with himself." - Thomas F. Torrance in Reality and Scientific Theology