THIS work is the outcome of the lectures that I delivered to theological students, first as Professor of Dogmatic Theology in King's College, London, and then as Regius Professor of Divinity in the University of Oxford. This defines its character. It is intended to be a manual of theology for those who desire to enter the Christian ministry in the Church of England. This will also explain and perhaps excuse some of its defects. I have not thought it necessary to remove all traces of the lecture room. It does not profess to be a literary work, nor does it profess to be a complete treatise on Christian theology. It is limited in its scope to what it seemed to me important that the average student should attempt to learn.
During the greater part of the time when I delivered these lectures I was engaged on heavy administrative work. That often prevented me from preparing the lectures as thoroughly as I ought, but it had I think one good result. They never became stereotyped. There was no full record of them, and when they were repeated they were often quite new. Each year there were new problems that had to be discussed. Some of the difficulties raised may appear obsolete to the student of the present day, as there has been much change in contemporary thought, but I do not think that an acquaintance with the problems of twenty or thirty years ago will really be harmful.
One apology I must make. In reading through the completed work, I have been conscious of a certain amount of repetition. It arose originally from the desire to make each lecture complete in itself, and perhaps readers also may find it a useful defect.
A lecturer on theology nowadays requires a considerable acquaintance with science and philosophy. I had the advantage during ten years of my life of living in daily intercourse with teachers in almost all the subjects taught in a modern university, and of being able to obtain first-hand information on any branch of knowledge that I wished to discuss. I am grateful for all the help that I received, and I hope that it may mean that my scientific knowledge is a little less erroneous than it might be. But I have sufficient warning of the need of humility when passing beyond the limits of my own subject, for I find that the theology and the philosophy of the modern man of science is often strangely to seek.
The present work may be looked upon as complete in itself. It discusses somewhat fully the sources of our theological knowledge and the Christian doctrine of God, which represents the fundamental Christian belief. It is, however, my purpose, if I have the leisure and strength to do so, to add a second volume, in which I should discuss the subsidiary subjects of Creation, Redemption, Grace, and the Doctrine of the Christian Church and Sacraments. I have much material ready, but how far I shall be able to accomplish my purpose, I cannot say.
If I were to begin to express my obligations to others who have helped me by their books, their lectures, or their personal comments, I should find the task somewhat exacting, and I must confine myself to thanking all those who consciously or unconsciously have assisted me in my work, and must send out this book with a knowledge of its imperfections and a hope that it may be of some utility in the service of the Christian Church.
I should like to express my thanks to the Rev E. C. Prichard and the Rev. G. S. Wamsley for the help that they have given me in revising the proofs.
Chapters I-IV and VI and VII have already been published in the Church Quarterly Review. I must express my gratitude to the Proprietors of that Review for allowing me to republish them.
A. C. GLOUCESTR: Ascension Day, 10 May 1934.
The study of theology | Definition of theology | Historical and dogmatic theology | Theology and religion.
MY purpose is to formulate and to expound systematically and intelligently our theological knowledge. If Christianity has any meaning or reality it is an explanation of human life and its conditions, a statement of what is ultimately true about our own lives and environment, and the ultimate purpose of all theological study is to understand accurately and to put forth clearly that explanation.
That is the end of theological study, and to that object the whole course of our learning is directed. There are certain preparatory studies necessary; a study of languages, Latin, Greek, Hebrew, so as to be able to interpret the original record; a study of history so as to understand its environment; and then the direct study of that record, the Old and New Testaments, Church history, and historical theology. Then, as another line of preparation, we must have some knowledge of logic, the method of human reason; of psychology, the workings of the human mind; of natural science, our knowledge of the external world; of philosophy, the explanations that have been offered of the reality of things; of ethics, the science of human conduct. These studies give our material. On this basis we have to construct our system of religious thought. That is what we are now attempting. Systematic theology may be divided into doctrinal theology and Christian ethics, the one teaching what we ought to believe, the other what we ought to do, as Christians. Our present purpose is to formulate our Christian belief; to examine the source from which our knowledge comes, and to expound it in such a way as to justify that belief.
What do we mean by theology? Theology is the science which teaches us about God. The term may be used in a limited sense to mean the knowledge of God in himself, and is thus distinguished from other branches of religious knowledge such as soteriology or the science of human redemption; but more generally it is used for the science of God in the widest sense, so as to mean not only our knowledge of his being and nature, but also of his relation to the world and to man, of man's relation to him, and of the relation of men to one another as dependent upon their relation to him. It therefore embraces the whole of human life and experience as viewed in relation to God. In the ordinary use of the word, theology is concerned with the conception of one God. The term might of course be used of the heathen conceptions which imply a belief in more than one God, but ordinarily the term mythology would be so employed. It can be used quite correctly for such monotheistic conceptions as those of Mohammedanism, and also for the theistic systems which have represented the highest attainments of human speculation or have grown up under the influence of Christianity. Ordinarily, however, it signifies Christian theology, which may be defined as the science of God as revealed in Christ.
Theology may be historical or dogmatic. The former concerns itself with the history of the various beliefs and opinions which have been held in the past, or prevail at the present time: it confines itself to a description of belief or at most to a systematization. Dogmatic theology attempts to define what is true. It discusses the reasons for believing in God, the knowledge that can be attained of his nature, his work in creation, his relation to mankind, and the relation of mankind to him. On all these and similar questions it aims at arriving at correct opinions; it discusses not what has been believed, but what ought to be believed. A knowledge of historical development is of course necessary both to understand the questions that are asked and to supply the material for arriving at an answer; but in studying dogmatic theology the history should always be subordinate. Its duty is to state with all humility and reverence what is believed to be true concerning all the most momentous questions of human life.
Theology is the intellectual basis of religion. Religion in its most complete sense means a disposition of the whole life of man. It always implies a belief in a power or powers outside mankind on which man is dependent, and it is perhaps hardly correct to use the word except in relation to a personal being or beings. In any case religion is a 'life', a disposition of a man's whole being. It implies therefore, on its intellectual side, an interpretation of life. Theology is this interpretation of life on the basis of a belief in God, a belief which is of course an essential part of Christianity, which seems to be generally if not universally characteristic of all higher religious thought, and may be represented as the goal to which all earlier thought tends. In relation to life religion gives the rule for the conduct of life as a whole. Further, as a necessary result of that attitude of dependence on an unseen power which is, as has been suggested, a necessary characteristic of religion, one of its essential features is 'worship', which is often considered to be the specifically religious branch of conduct. It is, of course, true that many representations of religion are imperfect. In some the intellectual side is dormant, in others the relation of religion to moral conduct is obscured; in some the sense of worship may be deficient, in others it may be exaggerated and uncontrolled. We are concerned, however, with religion and theology in their higher developments, and we may be satisfied, therefore, with our definition, that religion is the interpretation of life as a whole, both as regards knowledge and conduct: that, as the true interpretation of life is that which represents man as dependent upon God, it implies a system of human conduct deduced from this attitude of dependence, and as its intellectual basis a theology or science of God, his nature, his relation to the world, and the relation of man to him.