How Theology (the study of God) can be possible.
“Oh, the depths of the riches both of the wisdom and knowledge of God! How unsearchable are His judgements and unfathomable His ways! For who has known the mind of the LORD, or who became His counselor? Or who has first given to Him that it might be paid back to Him again? For from Him and through Him and to Him are all things. To Him be the glory forever. Amen.” – Romans 11:33-36
The topic of theology just like any other topic, it had to have a beginning somewhere. When we begin to take the first steps in a study as vast and as wide as Theology one must wonder where this comprehensive subject came from and how it is made available to us. Last Thursday, we saw that at its core, theology is the study of God and His relationship to our universe. We asked why one would desire to study theology, and found the answer to this question twofold: The first reason being, because God commands it, the second reason, being the desire to have a knowledge of God.
But as we took a look at those reasons and answered the “Why we would want to study theology?” another question came to mind. This question perhaps is even more foundational to the previous in regards to the nature and beginning of theology. It is as follows:
1. How can Theology even be possible? Before we travel to far down the trail of asking ourselves why we would want to study God Himself, we must put on the brakes and ask ourselves how is the study of God even possible to us finite human beings? How can we even begin to grasp even a glimpse of almighty God? How do we understand His judgements, His character, His ways, and His plans? What is there in this world that can show us the nature of its very Creator? The answer to these questions should make us stand in awe. The reason that theology is possible, the reason that we can know God is because God has chosen to make Himself known! The answer to how a knowledge of God can be possible is found in God Himself. We can study God because God has revealed himself to us. Without this revelation of God to man, there would be no way for us to truly know God.
So what do we mean when we say that God has “revealed” Himself to us? Henry Thiessen writes describing the revelation of God in this way, “Revelation is that act of God whereby He discloses Himself or communicates truth to the mind, whereby He makes manifest to His creatures that which could not be known in any other way.” 1 This revelation of God can take place in various ways and is never complete to the human mind on this earth or in eternity. Whether it is in this life or in the next, our understanding of who God is and His revelation to us will be ever growing and increasing.
It is the revelation of God to mankind that makes Theology possible. Without God making Himself known to us there would be no way to intimately know Him. As we embark on a journey to understand and know God we need to know first, how God has made Himself known to us. There are two broad categories that are used today to describe the revelation of God to mankind. God has revealed Himself to mankind through General Revelation and also through Special Revelation. Definitions to these terms are as follows:
General Revelation can be defined as, “The disclosure of God to mankind through conscience, nature, and history, through which we receive a basic understanding of God.” Special Revelation can be defined as, “God’s personal and detailed disclosure of who He is, what He is like, and how we are to respond towards Him as outlined in His Word.
It is upon these two categories that a knowledge of God exists. It is upon these two categories that Theology is possible. The great God of the universe has chosen to reveal Himself to us in a great and grand way for His glory! In the next two posts, we will unpack the details of general and special revelation and see how God has so beautifully made Himself known to us, so that we can, in an intimate and personal way; know Him! What an amazing God we serve!
Lectures in Systematic Theology; Henry Clarence Thiessen; Pg. 7