This post is part of the series Knowledge
I am ending my series on knowledge by examining each form of theoretical knowledge in detail. Theology can be understood in two ways. It is either the science of existence or the science that begins with the testimony of God. Since the existence of God is not a matter that can be settled by the senses, theology begins by showing that God exists. Theology is the knowledge of God built on the testimony of God.
Theology and philosophy are distinct sciences. Philosophy studies substance in general. Since philosophy studies substance and substance is the basis for everything that exists, philosophy will also study existence. This is the reason why there are proofs for God’ s existence that are demonstrations. Demonstrations begin with sense experience and use deduction based on that sense experience. So if theology were merely knowledge of existence as such then it would overlap with philosophy.
Theology uses a different method than philosophy. Rather than beginning with sense experience, theology begins with what God has told us in a revealed text or mystical experience. This means that theology begins with three distinct problems. The first problem is proving the existence of God. Without God there is no such thing as theology. The second problem is showing that a particular text or kind of mystical experience is from God. Merely showing that God exists is not enough. Finally, the third problem is showing that other candidates for revealed text or mystical experience are not from God. Theology begins by dealing with all three of these problems.
Theology is distinct from the other sciences because of its method. Theology is the only science that does not begin with sense experience as such. Instead, it begins with the testimony of God. This means that apart from divine testimony, there is no way to learn anything new apart from beginning with sense experience.
Theology must also be distinguished from various studies in the modern university that may seem similar to it. Theology is not religious studies. Religion is a division of ethics, which is a practical science. Theology is a theoretical science. Furthermore, religion can be studied without a commitment that God exists, that he revealed anything or even that a particular religion is true. I have already said that theology is not philosophy, but philosophy begins with reason and sense experience. If we begin with revelation, then we are doing theology instead. Finally, theology is not about the social practices or history of a particular religion. Those are sociology and history respectively.
Theology is the highest science simply because it is capable of giving us knowledge that we could not find out on our own. However, determining the value of theology is a paradoxical activity. In order to claim that theology is valuable, we must know that God has revealed something to us. Without that, theology is worthless. But investigating that also falls within theology. So we do not know the true value of theology without doing theology.
Continue reading this series:
The Science of Natural Science