the source of theology

In two earlier posts, we have consider theology as science and attempted to define theology as ‘the science of God’.

This post continues our look at an essay by Warfield entitled "The Idea of Systematic Theology". Today our subject is the source of theology. In short, the source of theology is revelation. Without revelation, we could know nothing of God. Warfield earlier made the point that the fact of revelation by itself implies a personal God who is interested in His creatures. If there were no such person, there would be no revelation. There would be no idea of God if existence were truly random, uncaused, entirely by chance. The very ordered systems in which we live (water cycle, food chain, etc.) speak of an Orderer, not disordered random chance. If disorder were true, our world (if it could exist at all) would be chaos.

From these thoughts of the physical world, we find that revelation is not solely confined in Holy books. It is not merely written. Revelation is in ‘divers manners’. Revelation comes, Warfield says, from God’s ‘work or word’:

"Our reaching up to Him in thought and inference is possible only because He condescends to make Himself intelligible to us, to speak to us through work or word, to reveal Himself."1

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  1. Warfield, Works: Studies in Theology, p. 58 []

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.

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  1. Warfield, Works: Studies in Theology, p. 56. []

God save the queen

In Canada, this is something we sing and mean it. However, this post isn’t about her. It is rather about the “queen of the sciences”.

What is the queen of the sciences? Google it… and you will see the title claimed for either mathematics or theology. Who is the usurper here? How dare they! Which queen should we ask God to save?

Of course, you may guess that I am interested in the theological side of the question. I am doing a little reading in Warfield and thought I might muse on something he said in his essay, “The Idea of Systematic Theology”.

Warfield wrote the article in response to a somewhat sneering evaluation of the term ‘Systematic Theology’ in the 1894 Bibliotheca Sacra, where a Dr. Simon declared the term to be an “impertinent tautology”. Dr. Simon finds the tautological term offensive because it suggests that there are other departments of theology “which are not methodical.”

Dr. Warfield wrote in defense of the notion. I am just getting into this essay, I read Warfield when I have a few minutes here and there, so we will only progress on this at a snail’s pace (my favourite way). Warfield argues that the idea of systematic theology has to do with what is meant by its presentation, as a system of ideas (or a philosophy or science of theology) rather than as suggesting other types of theology are not methodological.

Now, I have been known to suggest that systematic theology is inferior to other forms of theology because it suffers a particular failing. Dr. Warfield, I find, is convincing me that I am perhaps too hasty, at least as far as the idea of systematic theology is concerned.

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