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Introduction to Theological Studies Prof. Felix Just, S.J. What Is Theology? (revised Jan. 27, 2005). Theology < Greek Theos + Logos. Theos = “God” not a personal name, but a generic title for the divine being “God” vs. “gods” (more on this below)

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introduction to theological studies prof felix just s j

Introduction to Theological StudiesProf. Felix Just, S.J.

What Is Theology?

(revised Jan. 27, 2005)

theology greek theos logos
Theology < Greek Theos + Logos
  • Theos = “God”
    • not a personal name, but a generic title for the divine being
    • “God” vs. “gods” (more on this below)
  • Logos = “Word; Phrase; Speech; Reason”
    • Not just a single w-o-r-d, but any language-based thought
    • “Talking about…” ; “Study of…”
      • Anthropo-logy = “Study of Humans”; Bio-logy = “Study of Life”
      • Geo-logy = “Study of the Earth”; Zoo-logy = “Study of Animals”
  • Theology = “Study of God”; “Talking about God”
    • God’s being, essence, nature, and/or attributes
    • God’s relation to human beings and the whole world
philosophy greek philos sophia
Philosophy < Greek Philos + Sophia
  • Philos = “Love; Friendship”
    • Four Greek words for “love”: eros, philos, agape, storge
    • Philadelphia = lit. “Love of Brothers” (“City of Brotherly Love”)
    • Philanthropy = lit. “Love of Human Beings” (i.e. Charity)
  • Sophia = “Wisdom”
    • Wisdom vs. intelligence vs. knowledge vs. understanding
  • Philosophy = “Love of Wisdom”
    • Socratic Method: asking questions!
    • Not just reading books, but dialogue between persons
    • About what? Everything! Including “God”?
love of wisdom talking about god quest for knowledge search for truth
Love of Wisdom / Talking about GodQuest for Knowledge / Search for Truth
  • Ancient World:
    • Classical Greece: Philosophers
    • Ancient Israel: Prophets & Priests
    • Other Cultures: Magi, Physicians, Kings, etc.
    • No separately specialized “Theologians”
  • Medieval Universities:
    • Four Disciplines: Philosophy, Theology, Medicine, Law
  • Modern Universities:
    • Liberal Arts, Humanities, Social Sciences, Natural Sciences, Engineering, Arts, Business, Education, Religious Studies…
types of belief in god s lots of isms
Types of Belief in God(s) – lots of “-isms”
  • Theism
  • Atheism
  • Agnosticism
  • Gnosticism, Polytheism
  • Pantheism, Deism
  • Henotheism, Monotheism
  • Paganism, etc.
types of belief in god i
Types of Belief in God (I)
  • Theism
    • Belief in the existence of a God or any gods
    • The generic term, of which other –isms are subcategories
  • Atheism
    • The opposite: Belief that God and/or gods do “not exist”
  • Agnosticism
    • “Not knowing” whether God exists; overall non-belief
  • Gnosticism
    • A religious system that believes salvation comes through “knowledge” (Gk. gnosis) of one’s divine origin and destiny
types of belief in god ii
Types of Belief in God (II)
  • Polytheism
    • Belief in the existence of “many” (Gk. poly) gods
      • Egyptian: many gods, mostly in animal form
      • Greek & Roman: a large family of gods, on Mount Olympus
  • Pantheism
    • Belief that divinity resides “everywhere” (Gk. pan)
      • The whole universe is divine; divinity is within everything that exists
      • But there is no “God” separate from or external to the world
  • Deism
    • Belief that God created the world, but then abandoned it
      • God exists, created us, but exerts no further influence on the world
      • Based on 18th-century rationalism (e.g. Thomas Jefferson)
types of belief in god iii
Types of Belief in God (III)
  • Henotheism
    • Allegiance to “one” god over the others
      • All nations have their own “gods”; “Our god is better than your gods”
  • Monotheism
    • Belief in the existence of “only” one God
      • What others call “gods” are at most spirits, but not divine
    • Christians believe in one God, but Jesus & Spirit also divine
      • “Trinity” = one divine “nature,” three divine “persons” (not 3 diff. gods)
  • Paganism
    • Religions of “others” who don’t believe in “our” God/gods
      • Popular connotations negative: pagans, heathens, unbelievers
      • Academic meaning neutral: all non-Jewish, non-Christian religions
identifying god titles names
Identifying God (Titles & Names):
  • Generic Titles:
    • God / god, Deity, Divine Power, El, Elohim, etc.
    • Father, Mother, Creator, Lord, King, etc.
  • Proper Names:
    • Jewish: YHWH (Yahweh? Jehovah?); Ya/Ja
    • Mesopotamian: Asherah, Baal; Ishtar, Marduk, Tiamat, etc.
    • Egyptian: Aten, Horus, Isis, Osiris, Ra, Seth, Thoth, etc.
    • Greco-Roman / Olympian: Zeus=Jupiter; Athena=Diana; etc.
    • Muslim: Allah
talking about god philosophically
Talking about God (Philosophically):
  • God is Absolute (positive & negative):
    • ALL: omnipotent (all powerful); omniscient (all knowing); omnipresent (everywhere); omni-benevolent (all merciful)
    • NOT: invisible (not seen); immutable (unchanging); immortal (not dying); infinite (not limited); etc.
  • Language is Limited (analogies & opposites):
    • God is transcendent (beyond) & immanent (internal)
    • So God-talk is possible, but always analogical / inadequate
    • Both/and Approach: via positiva & via negativa
summary review
Summary / Review
  • Philosophy & Theology
    • Philosophy < Greek Philos + Sophia
    • Theology < Greek Theos + Logos
  • Types of Belief in God (“-isms”)
    • Theism vs. Atheism vs. Agnosticism
    • Deism vs. Pantheism vs. Polytheism
    • Henotheism vs. Monotheism (incl. Trinitarian Christianity)
  • Talking about God
    • Generic Titles vs. Proper Names
    • Analogical Language: absolutes & opposites
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