CHAPTER 1: Christian Theology; Its Several Branches; And Their Relation to Other Departments of Human Knowledge
1. What is Religion? And what is Theology in its Christian sense?
Religion, in its most general sense, is the sum of the relations which man sustains to God, and comprises the truths, the experiences, actions, and institutions which correspond to, or grow out of those relations.
Theology, in its most general sense, is the science of religion.
The Christian religion is that body of truths, experiences, actions, and institutions which are determined by the revelation supernaturally presented in the Christian Scriptures. Christian Theology is the scientific determination, interpretation. and defense of those Scriptures, together with the history of the manner in which the truths it reveals have been understood, and the duties they impose have been performed, by all Christians In all ages.
2. What is Theological Encyclopedia? and what Theological Methodology?
Theological Encyclopedia from the Greek ejgkuklopaidei>a (the whole circle of general education), presents to the student the entire circle of the special sciences devoted to the discovery, clarity, and defense of the contents of the supernatural revelation contained in the Christian Scriptures, and aims to present these sciences in those organic relations which are determined by their actual genesis and inmost nature.
Theological Methodology is the science of theological method. As each department of human inquiry demands a mode of treatment peculiar to itself; and as even each subdivision of each general department demands its own special modifications of treatment, so theological methodology provides for the scientific determination of the true method, general and special, of pursuing the theological sciences.
And this includes two distinct categories: (a) The methods proper to the original investigation and construction of the several sciences, and (b) the methods proper to elementary instruction in the same.
All this should be accompanied with critical and historical information, and direction as to the use of the vast literature with which these sciences are illustrated.
3. To what extent is the scientific arrangement of all the theological sciences possible? And on whataccount is the attempt desirable?
Such an arrangement can approach perfection only in proportion as these sciences themselves approach their final and absolute form. At present every such attempt must be only more or less an approximation to an ideal unattainable in the present state of knowledge in this life. Every separate attempt also must depend for its comparative success upon the comparative justness of the general theological principles upon which it is based. It is evident that those who make Reason, and those who make the inspired Church, and those who make the inspired Scriptures the source and standard of all divine knowledge must severally configure the theological sciences to the different foundations on which they are made to stand.
The point of view adopted in this book is the evangelical and specifically the Calvinistic or Augustinian one, assuming the following fundamental principles: 1st. The inspired Scriptures are the sole, and an infallible standard of all religious knowledge. 2nd. Christ and his work is the center around which all Christian theology is brought into order. 3rd. The salvation brought to light in the gospel is supernatural and of FREE GRACE. 4th. All religious knowledge has a practical end. The theological sciences, instead of being absolute ends in themselves, find their noblest purpose and effect in the advancement of personal holiness, the more efficient service of our fellowmen, and THE GREATER GLORY OF GOD.
The advantages of such a grouping of the theological sciences are obvious, and great. The relations of all truths are determined by their nature, whence it follows that their nature is revealed by an exhibition of their relations. Such an exhibition will also tend to widen the mental horizon of the student, to incite him to breadth of culture, and prevent him from unduly exalting or exclusively cultivation any one special branch, and thus from perverting it by regarding it out of its natural limitations and dependencies.