Theology

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You wish to be great, begin from the least. You are thinking to construct some mighty fabric in height; first think of the foundation of humility. ~ Augustine of Hippo

Theology is the study of a God or, more generally the study of religious faith, practice, and experience, or of spirituality.

Quotes[edit]

  • All my theology is reduced to this narrow compass — "Jesus Christ came into the world to save sinners."
    • Archibald Alexander, p. 580. Quote in Josiah Hotchkiss Gilbert, Dictionary of Burning Words of Brilliant Writers (1895).
  • When all is said and done, science is about things and theology is about words. Things behave in the same way everywhere, but words do not. ...Theology works in one culture alone. If you have not grown up in Polkinghorne's culture, where words such as "incarnation" and "trinity" have a profound meaning, you cannot share his vision.
  • It is a curious accident of history that the Christian religion became heavily involved with theology. No other religion finds it necessary to formulate elaborately precise statements about the abstract qualities and relationships of gods and humans. ...The idea that God may be approached and understood through intellectual analysis is uniquely Christian. ...It is probably not an accident that modern science grew explosively in Christian Europe and left the rest of the world behind. A thousand years of theological disputes nurtured the habit of analytical thinking that could also be applied to the analysis of natural phenomena. On the other hand, the close historical relations between theology and science have caused conflicts between science and Christianity that does not exist between science and other religions.
  • The common root of modern science and Christian theology was Greek philosophy. The historical accident that caused the Christian religion to become heavily theological was the fact that Jesus was born in the Eastern part of the Roman Empire at the time when the prevailing culture was profoundly Greek.
  • Die Theologie ist die Anthropologie.
  • We can no more have exact religious thinking without theology, than exact mensuration and astronomy without mathematics, or exact iron-making without chemistry.
    • John Hall, p. 580. Quote in Josiah Hotchkiss Gilbert, Dictionary of Burning Words of Brilliant Writers (1895).
  • The theological systems of men and schools of men are determined always by the character of their ideal of Christ, the central fact of the Christian system.
    • Josiah Gilbert Holland, p. 580. Quote in Josiah Hotchkiss Gilbert, Dictionary of Burning Words of Brilliant Writers (1895).
  • Comparative theology testifies that Jesus Christ, who is not less truly the incarnation of the Christian's theology than of the Christian's God, is indeed the desire of the nations, but not their product, their invention, or their discovery.
    • George D. B. Pepper, p. 580. Quote in Josiah Hotchkiss Gilbert, Dictionary of Burning Words of Brilliant Writers (1895).
  • A man must have a stout digestion to feed upon some men's theology; no sap, no sweetness, no life, but all stern accuracy, and fleshless definition. Proclaimed without tenderness, and argued without affection, the gospel from such men rather resembles a missile from a catapult than bread from a Father's hand.
    • Charles Spurgeon, p. 580. Quote in Josiah Hotchkiss Gilbert, Dictionary of Burning Words of Brilliant Writers (1895).

Quotes about theologians[edit]

  • We are, the great spiritual writers insist, most fully ourselves when we give ourselves away, and it is egotism that holds us back from that transcendent experience that has been called God, Nirvana, Brahman, or the Tao.
    What I now realize, from my study of the different religious traditions, is that a disciplined attempt to go beyond the ego brings about a state of ecstasy. Indeed, it is in itself ekstasis. Theologians in all the great faiths have devised all kinds of myths to show that this type of kenosis, or self-emptying, is found in the life of God itself. They do not do this because it sounds edifying, but because this is the way that human nature seems to work. We are most creative and sense other possibilities that transcend our ordinary experience when we leave ourselves behind.
  • Theologe – einziger Experte ohne Ahnung von seinem Forschungsobjekt.
    • Theologian — the only kind of scholar who has no knowledge whatsoever of his supposed object of study.
    • Karlheinz Deschner (born 1924) Bissige Aphorismen, S. 29.
  • I am saying to modern scientists and theologians: don't imagine that our latest ideas about the Big Bang or the human genome have solved the mysteries of the universe or the mysteries of life. Here are Bacon's words again: "The subtlety of nature is greater many times over than the subtlety of the senses and understanding". In the last four hundred years, science has fulfilled many of Bacon's dreams, but it still does not come close to capturing the full subtlety of nature.
  • I am neither a saint nor a theologian. To me, good works are more important than theology. We all know that religion has been historically, and still is today, a cause of great evil as well as great good in human affairs. We have seen terrible wars and terrible persecutions conducted in the name of religion. We have also seen large numbers of people inspired by religion to lives of heroic virtue, bringing education and medical care to the poor, helping to abolish slavery and spread peace among nations. Religion amplifies the good and evil tendencies of individual souls.
  • Since Jesus came to the earth the first time 2,000 years ago as a Jewish male, many evangelicals believe the Antichrist will, by necessity, be a Jewish male. This belief is 2,000 years old and has no anti-Semitic roots. This is simply historic and prophetic orthodox Christian doctrine that many theologians, Christian and non-Christian, have understood for two millennia.
    • Jerry Falwell, quoted in "Religion, Politics a Potent Mix for Jerry Falwell" by Steve Inskeep in Morning Edition on NPR (30 June 2006).
  • No lesson seems to be so deeply inculcated by the experience of life as that you should never trust experts. If you believe doctors, nothing is wholesome: if you believe the theologians, nothing is innocent: if you believe the soldiers, nothing is safe. They all require their strong wine diluted by a very large admixture of insipid common sense.
  • They say the religion of your fathers is good enough. Why should a father object to your inventing a better plow than he had? They say to me, do you know more than all the theologians dead? Being a perfectly modest man I say I think I do. Now we have come to the conclusion that every man has a right to think. Would God give a bird wings and make it a crime to fly? Would he give me brains and make it a crime to think? Any God that would damn one of his children for the expression of his honest thought wouldn't make a decent thief. When I read a book and don't believe it, I ought to say so. I will do so and take the consequences like a man.
    • Robert G. Ingersoll Speech on Religious Intolerance as presented at the Pittsburgh Opera House (14 October 1879).
  • According to the theologians, God, the Father of us all, wrote a letter to his children. The children have always differed somewhat as to the meaning of this letter. In consequence of these honest differences, these brothers began to cut out each other's hearts. In every land, where this letter from God has been read, the children to whom and for whom it was written have been filled with hatred and malice. They have imprisoned and murdered each other, and the wives and children of each other. In the name of God every possible crime has been committed, every conceivable outrage has been perpetrated. Brave men, tender and loving women, beautiful girls, and prattling babes have been exterminated in the name of Jesus Christ.
  • "This is an exceedingly strange development, unexpected by all but the theologians. They have always accepted the word of the Bible: In the beginning God created heaven and earth... [But] for the scientist who has lived by his faith in the power of reason, the story ends like a bad dream. He has scaled the mountains of ignorance; he is about to conquer the highest peak; [and] as he pulls himself over the final rock, he is greeted by a band of theologians who have been sitting there for centuries."
    • Robert Jastrow, God and the Astronomers [New York: W.W. Norton and Co., 1978], 116. Professor Jastrow was the founder of NASA's Goddard Institute, now director of the Mount Wilson Institute and its observatory).
  • Although Jesus is widely considered mankind's greatest moral teacher, the greatest Christians, not to speak of scholars, have never been able to agree what his moral teachings were. Matthew, and he alone, reports that Jesus said: "Let your Yes be Yes, and your No, No." But the four Evangelists agree in ascribing to Jesus evasive and equivocal answers to plain questions, not only those of the high priest and Pilate; and quite generally the Jesus of the New Testament avoids straightforward statements, preferring parables and hyperboles. Some of the parables are so ambiguous that different Evangelists, not to speak of later theologians, offer different interpretations. ... On concrete moral issues, Jesus can be, and has been, cited on almost all sides.
    • Walter Kaufmann, in "The Faith of a Heretic" in Harper's Magazine (February 1959).
  • Theologians themselves dispose of the matter by calling everything they do an act of religion, including even such operations as bedizening themselves with high-sounding titles and dignities, superior to any ever claimed by Christ, and laying taxes upon the faithful for their own aggrandizement.
  • Their [the theologians'] earliest forerunners... were aware of no difference between magic and religion, but practiced both with easy consciences.
    • H.L. Mencken (1930) Treatise on the Gods. Ch. 1: The Nature and Origin of Religion.
  • The concept of a single omnipotent god, reigning in the heavens in solitary grandeur... was probably devised, not by theologians, but by metaphysicians. They proved there could be but one god, not by bringing up any overt evidence to that effect, but simply by appealing to what they conceived to be the logical necessities. The human race, on its more refined and exalted levels, accepted these proofs with the head, but never with the heart.
  • Paradoxically, some of the sources of disbelief are to be found amongst the arguments of believers. … Theologians often formulated the most dangerously skeptical arguments in their efforts to test the impregnability of their own faith, and in doing so, they unknowingly furnished atheists with ready-made weapons.
    • Jonathan Miller (2004) Atheism: A Rough History of Disbelief. Episode one: "Shadows of Doubt".
  • There were academics and theologians who spent hours calculating what they thought was the precise age of the Earth, on the basis of the Biblical account of it. And as early as 1650, James Ussher had come to the startlingly precise conclusion that the Earth was created in 4004 B.C. on October the 22nd – in the evening, apparently. What God had been doing that morning is still open to conjecture.
    • Jonathan Miller (2004) Atheism: A Rough History of Disbelief. Episode three: "The Final Hour".
  • Plainly as the direct or instantaneous Creation of animals and plants appeared to be taught in Genesis, Augustine read this in the light of primary causation and the gradual development from the imperfect to the perfect of Aristotle. This most influential teacher thus handed down to his followers opinions which closely conform to the progressive views of those theologians of the present day who have accepted the Evolution theory. In proof of this Greek influence we find that Augustine also adopted some of the Greek notions of the spontaneous generation of life. In the Middle Ages analogous views were held by Erigena, Roscellinus, William of Occam, Albertus Magnus; and Augustine was finally followed by Aquinas, who is now one of the leading authorities of the Church. Bruno struck out into an altogether different vein of thought.
  • ... it is not my object to pursue the theological question; and having used it as a logical example I drop it, without caring to anticipate the theologian's reply. I only desire to point out how impossible it is that we should have an idea in our minds which relates to anything but conceived sensible effects of things.
  • The theologian could rewrite the Epic of Evolution by expanding on the story told by the scientist. The theologian could declare that this evolutionary story has had a plot all along. When God created the world in the beginning, according to this option, God placed a potential into creation which now through evolution is becoming actualized.
    • Eugenie Carol Scott (2005) Evolution Vs. Creationism: An Introduction, University of California Press, page 235.
  • The beauty of science and the nature of scientific revelations constiture part of the modern theologian's perspective and toolbox.
    • Joseph Silk (2007) "The Dark Side of the Universe" in: Astronomy and Geophysics, April 2007. p. 2.30.
  • "If complex organisms demand an explanation, so does a complex designer. And it's no solution to raise the theologian's plea that God (or the Intelligent Designer) is simply immune to the normal demands of scientific explanation. To do so would be to shoot yourself in the foot. You cannot have it both ways. Either ID belongs in the science classroom, in which case it must submit to the discipline required of a scientific hypothesis. Or it does not, in which case get it out of the science classroom and send it back into the church, where it belongs."
    • The Guardian, "One side can be wrong", 1 September 2005.
  • In the course of my research I learned (to my surprise) that biblical chronology played almost no role in the 19th- century controversies, since most theologians had already accepted geological evidence for the age of the earth and re-interpreted the days in Genesis as long periods of time.
  • Among the early fathers of the Church this general view of creation became fundamental; they impressed upon Christendom more and more strongly the belief that the universe was created in a perfectly literal sense by the hands or voice of God. Here and there sundry theologians of larger mind attempted to give a more spiritual view regarding some parts of the creative work, and of these were St. Gregory of Nyssa and St. Augustine. Ready as they were to accept the literal text of Scripture, they revolted against the conception of an actual creation of the universe by the hands and fingers of a Supreme Being, and in this they were followed by Bede and a few others; but the more material conceptions prevailed, and we find these taking shape not only in the sculptures and mosaics and stained glass of cathedrals, and in the illuminations of missals and psalters, but later, at the close of the Middle Ages, in the pictured Bibles and in general literature.

See also[edit]

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