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What is Theology?

Mary McMahon
Updated May 23, 2024
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Theology is a term which literally means “the study of God,” but is taken more generally to refer to the study of religious doctrine, the experience of religion, and the relationship between the faithful and their God. Some people use the term specifically refer to Judeo-Christian religions, while others may expand it to talk about any world religion. There are a number of ways to approach theology, and it is a very diverse field of study. Many colleges and universities offer training in theology, including seminary training for people who intend to become religious officiants.

Religion is something which tends to be experienced before it is studied. Early religions arose naturally from the societies they originated in, and over time, complex layers of belief and doctrine have informed the nature of faith. For lay members of a religious faith, texts such as religious texts and discussions of religion are available for study. For theologians, a much wider field of documents pertaining to religious faith may be used to have an informed discourse about the nature of faith.

A theologian may be a religious officiant interested in delving more deeply into a religion, including a religion the officiant does not practice. Theologians can also be practicing members of various religious faiths, as opposed to officiants, and some may be atheistic or agnostic. Theologians may be interested in the historical role of religion, cultural shifts occurring in a religion, and a variety of other tactics which will have an impact on how they approach their studies.

In addition to studying religious texts such as the Bible, theology also includes the study of historic texts about religion, including transcriptions of lectures, speeches, and debates. Theologians may be interested in studying the opinions of people outside the religion, especially during its formative years, and they may pursue early influences on religious doctrine. Theology can also include the study of religious art, including works of music, architecture, sculpture, painting, and theater.

The study of faith and religion can be quite deep and very complex. Religious faith plays an integral role in many societies, ranging from secular nations with a strong religious component to religious states in which religious doctrine informs the very structure of the law. In addition to providing information about religious faith and its followers, theology can also offer insight into historical events, different cultures, and some of the underlying beliefs of human society.

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Mary McMahon
By Mary McMahon

Ever since she began contributing to the site several years ago, Mary has embraced the exciting challenge of being a Language & Humanities researcher and writer. Mary has a liberal arts degree from Goddard College and spends her free time reading, cooking, and exploring the great outdoors.

Discussion Comments
By JavaGhoul — On Jan 19, 2011

I think that theology should be kept in the churches, and not be brought out to be imposed upon the rest of the world.

By SilentBlue — On Jan 17, 2011


I think I agree that there is a necessary separation of personal interpretation of God and lawmaking, but nevertheless, a country's laws are based upon that country's belief system, and the belief system of the west has enabled it to make laws which are more free and helpful to its citizens than any ruling empires of the past. There is freedom of speech and personal obligation which is simply not found in many other places.

By Renegade — On Jan 14, 2011


I worry about the necessary separation of church and state when you say that theology is supposed to affect every area of study. If theology does not keep to religion, what is to stop a theocracy from reigning over the western world like it does in certain areas? We have seen the profoundly dangerous consequences of such thinking.

By GigaGold — On Jan 13, 2011

For the theologian, theology is much more than just the "study of religion." It is the study of an all-encompassing order to the universe, the works and attributes of God. This mind-blowing concept is the pursuit of religious people for all of eternity, and everyone feels a longing to know God. Understanding Jesus as God is also an important topic for the Christian believer.

Mary McMahon
Mary McMahon

Ever since she began contributing to the site several years ago, Mary has embraced the exciting challenge of being a...

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