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What Is Spiritual Theology?

Laura M. Sands
Laura M. Sands

Spiritual theology is the practice of studying theology in tandem with living out the tenets of a particular faith. Whereas spirituality involves faith and living a lifestyle in accordance with this faith, and theology involves studying a certain religion or faith, spiritual theology is a combination of both of these. Those who practice spiritual theology do not identify with a separation between what is written in the holy texts of a particular faith and what is lived by a believer of these texts.

Theology courses may be attended by people who believe in a certain religion or those who do not, but wish to study a faith from a scholarly perspective. Many people also consider themselves to have a spiritual faith, but do not put much credence on the study of theology. Spiritual theology, however, is practiced when a person or a group of people both believe in a certain theology and pattern their lives after the teachings of that theology.

Praying plays a part in spiritual theology.
Praying plays a part in spiritual theology.

While there are many types of theology, most often the label of spiritual theology is applied to evangelical Christians and Catholics who espouse a belief in the literal interpretation of the Bible and structure their lives around its contents. Christian university students pursuing a theology degree are often exposed to theology courses designed to explore the meaning of spiritual theology. While learning theology from a formal point of view, students are also expected to more closely analyze their own personal relationships with God and with the world around them. In addition to a theology education, habits, missionary work, relationships and worldviews are all closely scrutinized in an effort toward improvement.

The lighting of candles occurs along with many religious rites.
The lighting of candles occurs along with many religious rites.

Individuals combining spirituality and theology maintain that such builds their overall sense of morality. Prayer and study are intended to have practical application in a practitioner’s daily life. Such also extends to personal and professional relationships, as well as political affiliations.

Experts in spiritual theology maintain that the emphasis on related study is not merely scholarly, but it is also intended to help shape true adherents. An example of one dedicated to the practice of spiritual theology may be found in the Catholic Saint Teresa of Avila, who is also known as the patron saint of headache sufferers. Canonized in 1622, she is one of only two women bearing the esteemed title of Doctor of the Church for her dedicated service and work, which includes establishing a convent at a time when women didn’t engage in such activities, as well as teaching and writing about prayer.

Discussion Comments


@ddljohn-- That's right, someone is a spiritual theologian if they study a religion and use what they have learned to shape their practice of that religion. So doing only one of these is not considered spiritual theology.

@ankara-- I do agree with you that with many religions, it's difficult to practice that faith without doing any study of the theology whatsoever. Usually, these two go hand in hand.

For example, Islam is one such religion. Adherents to the faith often say that Islam is not just a religion but a way of living. And studying the theology-- the Qur'an and the sayings and doings of the Prophet-- is a part of practicing the faith.

One of the requirements of Islam, which is praying to God, requires the knowledge and recitation of verses from the Qur'an. I personally think that this is a great example of spiritual theology.


@ankara-- So what you referred to in the last part-- learning theology without practicing, or practicing without learning theology-- is not considered spiritual theology right?

I do enjoy learning about different belief systems. I have read about Christianity, Judaism, Islam and Buddhism but I don't practice any of these. I like to understand the tenets of these faiths and compare them to one another. I think religion is very interesting and teaches us a lot about the history of mankind. But since my family has not taught me to practice a particular faith, I never have.

Just wondering, am I considered a spiritual theologian or not?


I personally think that theology and practice should go together. I cannot separate the spiritual and theological aspects of a religion. Because theology teaches us not only what to practice and how, but why we do it as well. So practicing something without learning and understanding the theology behind it seems futile.

And usually practicing a religion inevitable requires and entails studying some theology too. For example, if you practice Christianity by going to church and celebrating the religious holidays, you will certainly hear and learn excerpts from the Bible.

But it is definitely possible to practice something without learning theology. It's also possible to learn about theologies different than the one you practice like the article said. I guess it's up to the individual to decide which route they want to take.

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    • Praying plays a part in spiritual theology.
      Praying plays a part in spiritual theology.
    • The lighting of candles occurs along with many religious rites.
      By: Hugh O'Neill
      The lighting of candles occurs along with many religious rites.
    • Spiritual theology focuses on the literal interpretation of the Bible.
      By: justinkendra
      Spiritual theology focuses on the literal interpretation of the Bible.