a definition of theology

More Warfield today….

Warfield moves on in his discussion of theology to give us this definition:

A science is defined from its subject-matter; and the subject-matter of theology is God in His nature and in His relations with His creatures. Theology is therefore that science which treats of God and of the relations between God and the universe.1

Warfield says the simple phrase ‘the science of God’ can be used as a sort of shorthand for this definition, since it implies the notion of God as God and God in relation to His creatures. (By the way, this ‘relation to creatures’ is essential for there to be a theology at all – if the Deists were right there could be no theology for God would have no interest or part in his creatures, if they could be called that. It seems to me that theistic evolutionists have something of the same problem.)

Terms like ‘the science of faith’, however, or ‘the science of religion’ or even ‘the science of Christian religion’ confuse the issue and are inadequate as definitions of theology. Why is this so? They are inadequate primarily because they are subjective.

What do we mean by subjective? The terms ‘science of faith’ or of ‘religion’ are focused on the effect, not the cause. They have to do with what happens in man in response to theology.

This leads ultimately to a confusion of the two distinct disciplines of theology, the subject-matter of which is objective, and the science of religion, the subject-matter of which is subjective; with the effect of lowering the data of theology to the level of the aspirations and imaginings of man’s own heart.2

Looking at theology as the science of faith or religion thus has the problem of producing theology according to the theological prejudice rather than according to revelation.

A similar problem comes when theology is considered the ‘science of Christian religion’, although here is added the historical element of Christian theology considered in light of and in contrast with relatively equal competing theologies – Muslim theology, Buddhist theology, etc. When considered this way, theology becomes

one of the many theologies of the world, parallel with, even if unspeakably truer than, the others with which it is classed and with which  it furnishes us with a full account of religion.3

If we will know God correctly, theology must be theo-centric. Even to skew our understanding of theology as centered in Christ will warp our understanding of theology.

He that hath seen Christ, hath seen the Father; but it is one thing to make Christ the center of theology so far as He is one with God, and another thing to organize all theology around Him as the theanthropos and in His specifically theanthropic work.4

This last point certainly precludes making the Holy Spirit the center of theology as well, a point the charismatics profoundly miss. It would seem that a charismatic viewpoint cannot produce a truly Christ-centered life because their view of God is twisted.

In all our study, then, in all our internet wrangling, let us be people who make God supreme, who are related to him through His Son, and who are kept for him by His Spirit. Truly, to God alone be the glory!



  1. Warfield, Works: Studies in Theology, p. 56. []
  2. Warfield, Works: Studies in Theology, p. 57. []
  3. Warfield, Works: Studies in Theology, p. 57. []
  4. Warfield, Works: Studies in Theology, p. 58. []