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Theology

religion, ethnic, systems, christian, broader and god

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THEOLOGY, the science of religion. This term, together with the corresponding personal term, antedates the Christian era, having been used by classic writers both Greek and Roman. In the view of Aristotle, Cicero and others the man who appeared to be specially conversant with the divine nature was fitly called a the ologian. Among those honored with this name were Pherecydes of Syros and Epimenides of Crete.

Definition and In the modern use of the term a narrower and a broader signifi cation may be distinguished. The former, pay ing special respect to the etymology of the word, includes in theology simply discourse about God. It was in this restricted sense that the word was employed by the classic writers and a corresponding usage had place in the first Christian age, when, for example, the evangelist, John, on the ground of his relatively full refer ence to the divinity of the Christ, was called "the theologian.° It was understood that the subject matter of theology pertains to such tran scendent themes as the Logos and the Trinity. In the broader signification theology includes not only discourse about God, but also an ex position of whatever in man's nature seems to bring him into distinct relation with God; like wise an exposition of whatever in man's ex perience and destiny may be regarded as founded on this relation. In this sense it is the theoretical counterpart of religion, and corresponds very well to the following descrip tion by Gladstone: "Theology is ordered knowl edge, representing in the region of the intellect what religion represents in the heart and life of man." While resort is still occasionally made to the restricted sense, as when, for in stance, theology is put in antithesis with anthro pology, the broader signification is far more commonly the one intended in current usage. It is evidently, therefore, the signification which should give the standard for the present dis cussion.

In a precise determination of the scope of theology a question will arise, in the first place, as to the measure of consideration which it is appropriate to bestow upon the ethnic religions.

Manifestly, if theology is the theoretical coun terpart of religion, it will not do to neglect so large an area of religious facts as is included in the ethnic systems. A secure and well-rounded theory of religion must take account of all ac cessible religious facts, whether inside or out side of the pale of historical Christianity. At the same time it is to be noticed that the central tenets of Christianity, as they appear in the sacred oracles and have generally been held, unmistakably presume upon the pre-eminence and finality of the Christian religion. Anyone, therefore, who regards himself as scientifically obligated to accept these tenets, on the score of a clear preponderance of evidence in their be half, will of necessity be convinced that he ful fils the demands of a scientific theology in tak ing subordinate account of the ethnic systems, that is, so far as respects formal recognition of them within his own theological structure. It is not needful, indeed, that he should deal with these systems in a tone of radical dis paragement. As a matter of fact, the indus trious research which for the last quarter of a century or more has been bestowed upon the great ethnic religions, such as Zoroastrianism, Buddhism, Brahmanism and Confucianism, has served distinctly to enlarge appreciation for their contents. At the same time, the farther this research has proceeded the more indubitable has it made the proof that Christianity has no occasion to look to any outside religious prov ince for an appreciable supplement to its teach ings. The conclusion follows that the Chris tian theologian deals normally with the ethnic systems when he simply accords to them a place in branches auxiliary to some of the main divisions of theology. In so far as they have modified Christian history they make matter for a branch auxiliary to historical theology. In so far as they supply data for a philosophy of religion they help to constitute a branch auxil iary to systematic theology.

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