The 11 topics of theology

Basic Bible knowledge is essential for the continual growth of the Christian. Many have placed their faith in Jesus Christ but they know very little about the Bible and the basic doctrines of the faith. This article seeks to provide an understanding of the eleven topics of theology that all believers should be familiar with. The purpose is to come to a basic definition of each topic that would provide an overview that would encourage the reader to study these truths further.
The term ‘theology’ refers to the science of God and His works. It is the body of Christian doctrine. According to Dr. David E. Luethy there are four basic divisions of theology:
1. Exegetical – The study and interpretation of the Biblical text.
2. Historical – The history of God’s dealings with mankind and their responses to Him.
3. Systematic – The organized presentation of God’s revealed truth.
4. Practical – The application of Christian doctrine in the disciplines of life.
The entire purpose of Christian doctrine is to inspire us to live godly. Knowing the truth of God’s Word equips us to serve God effectively. It is vital that every believer has the right theology in order to properly and effectively fulfill the doxological purpose of God in our lives. A look at the basic topics of theology will strengthen our understanding of God and His purpose for our lives.
The first topic of theology to consider is theology proper. Theology Proper is the study of God. In order to study God Himself, we must begin with the presupposition that there is a God. The belief in the existence of God is necessary. Henry C. Thiessen writes: “It is necessary in the sense that we cannot deny His existence without doing violence to the very laws of nature. If we do deny it, the denial is forced and can only be temporary.” So, what is the essence of God? Sense it is impossible to deny His existence, and then who is He? John 4:24 tells us that “God is a Spirit.” In other words, God is immaterial. He does not have a physical body. First Timothy 6:16 states: “Who only hath immortality, dwelling in the light which no man can approach unto; whom no man hath seen, nor can see: to who be honor and power everlasting. Amen.” This is an issue that many who claim to be atheist struggle with. The argument is given that if you cannot see God then God must not exist. Though we cannot see God, we see the effects of God all around us. For example, we cannot see the wind, but we can see the effects of the wind. There are, however, several Biblical references to ‘seeing God’. These apparent sightings of God do not refer to seeing His essence, but only to manifestations of His presence. (Exodus 33:23; Genesis 32:30; Isaiah 6:1). Even though God is a spirit and we cannot see Him, He is a personal being. God has all the essential characteristics of a human being such as: freedom to make choices, ability to think, feelings or emotions. God is self-existing; He is not dependent on anything outside Himself. Acts 17:24-25 reads: “God that made the world and all things therein, seeing that He is Lord of Heaven and earth, dwelleth not in temples made with hands; Neither is worshipped with men’s hands, as though he needed anything, seeing He giveth life, and breath, and all things.” No matter what you believe about God, you cannot deny or disprove the existence of God.
The next topic of theology is Christology. Christology is the study of Christ. Throughout scripture we see an underlining theme of the redemption of man for the glory of God. This redemption comes through the person of Jesus Christ. Emery H. Bancroft writes: “Since God had from eternity determined to redeem mankind, the history of the race from the time of the fall to the coming of Christ was providentially arranged to prepare the way for this redemption.” We see Jesus as the incarnation of God. Jesus is God in the flesh. The reason He came to the earth is for the redemption of mankind. Basically, Jesus came to die. He came to die for you and me, to pay the price of our sin. As a result of His sacrifice on the cross, He was the atonement for our sins. The guilt of our sins was laid on Jesus when He died for us. (2 Corinthians 5:21; 1 Peter 2:24; Isaiah 53:6) Jesus not only atoned for our sins but He is also the propitiation of our sins. God cannot look upon sin. His wrath will fall on all sin that it is not paid for. The term propitiation refers to ‘appeasing the wrath of God.’ In other words, through Jesus, God’s wrath his held back. As you look at Christology, you will come to the conclusion that Jesus is God and He is the one and only sacrifice for sin. It is only through Jesus that we can have eternal life in the presence of God.
The next topic of theology to consider is Pneumatolgy. Pneumatology is the study of the Holy Spirit. In John 16:7-5, Jesus tells His disciples that when He would leave the earth that He will send them a comforter, that comforter is the Holy Spirit. The Holy Spirit is the third part of the triune God. He is just as much God as God the Father and God the Son. He has a specific personality and work. In a sermon that I have preached on the resume of the Holy Spirit, I give some basic points on the personality and work of the Holy Spirit:
1. He has a mind (Romans 8:27)
2. He has a will (I Corinthians 12:4 ; 12:11)
3. He forbids (Acts 16:6-7)
4. He permits (Acts 16:10)
5. He speaks (Acts 8:29 ; 10:19 ; 13:2 ; Revelation 2:7)
The question for born-again believers is whether or not we listen to the Holy Spirit, are we sensitive to His leading in our lives? The Holy Spirit is also responsible for many other things:
1. He authored the Word of God (2 Peter 1:20-21)
2. He intercedes for us (Romans 8:26-28)
3. He is easily offended (Ephesians 4:21-32 ; 1 Thess. 5:19)
The Bible commands us to be filled or controlled by the Holy Spirit. We are to submit to His leading and power in our lives. We prove whether or not it is the Spirit of God by careful examination of scripture. The Holy Spirit never does anything outside of the Word of God.
Another topic of theology to discuss is Bibliology. Bibliology is essentially the study of the Bible. There are three basic terms to examine: inerrancy, infallible, and inspiration. Inerrancy refers to the fact the Bible is without error. E.J. Young gives us a good definition of inerrancy: “By this word we mean that the Scriptures possess the quality of freedom from error. They are exempt from the liability to mistake, incapable of error. In all their teachings they are in perfect accord with the truth.” The next term to examine is infallible. The definition of infallible is similar to inerrancy. Infallible basically refers to being total trustworthy. The Bible is trustworthy, it means what it says and you can count on it. The promises that God gives us in the Bible are sure and secure, the Bible will never fail. The last term to consider is inspiration. Second Timothy chapter three and verse sixteen states: “All scripture is given by inspiration of God.” The word inspiration means ‘God-breathed.’ God breathed the scriptures. In other words, God is the author of the Bible. When we read the Bible we are reading the very words of the living God. The Bible is God’s love letter to mankind as he reveals Himself to us through His word. Inspiration is necessary for the liability of the Bible. Paul Enns writes: “Inspiration is necessary to preserve the revelation of God. If God has revealed Himself but the record of that revelation is not accurately recorded, then the revelation of God is subject to question. Hence, inspiration guarantees the accuracy of the revelation.”
The next topic of theology to look at is angelology. Angelology is the study of angels. Dr. David E. Luethy writes: “The Christian doctrine of angels is substantially different from pagan notions of spirits, demons, and gods. Christian doctrine is based not on speculative fancies, but on the revealed truth of God.” There are several things to understand about angels:
1. They are created beings (Col. 1:16)
2. They are spiritual beings (Luke 24:39)
3. They have intelligence (1 Peter 1:12 ; Eph. 3:10 ; Luke 8:31)
4. They serve God as His ministers (Heb. 1:7 ; Ps. 103:20-21)
5. They worship God (Heb. 1:6 ; Rev. 5:11-12)
6. They minister to the heirs of salvation (Heb. 1:14)
The next theological topic to consider is Anthropology. Anthropology is the doctrine of man. Man was created in the image of God (Genesis 1:26-28). Man is created in the image of God in that he has a mind, emotions, and a will. Man can think and reason just like God does. Man experiences emotions such as joy, anger, and sadness. Man also has a will, the ability to choose. Man can choose whether or not he will follow and love God. The purpose of man is to glorify God. The work of man is to bring glory to God by carrying out God’s instructions to man. Unfortunately man failed (Genesis 3). As a result of the fall of man, all mankind is cursed with sin. The only hope of salvation for man is through the grace given to us through the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ.
Another topic of theology is hamartiology. This is the doctrine of sin. Sin is disobedience to the word of God. Sin is ‘missing the mark’. Our ‘mark’ is the Bible. Anytime we do something the Bible tells us not to do then we have sinned. Anytime we do not do something the Bible tells us to do then we have sinned. The truth of the matter is that since the fall of man (Genesis 3) all have sinned against God (Romans 3:23). Dr. David E. Luethy gives us the consequences of the fall of man in his Bible Doctrine Notes:
1. Depravity (1 John 1:8 ; Ps. 51:5 ; Romans 5:2,15,19)
2. Guilt (Isaiah 1:5 ; Jer. 17:9 ; John 3:18,36)
3. Penalty (1 Cor. 15:22)
The penalty of sin includes both physical and spiritual death. Spiritual death is the soul separated from God throughout all eternity in hell. Sin is a serious matter. Our only hope of redemption from sin is through the shed blood of Jesus Christ.
The next topic of theology to consider is soteriology. Soteriology is the doctrine of salvation. This salvation is made available only by the grace of God through faith in Jesus Christ (Ephesians 2:8-9). When looking at the doctrine of salvation there are several terms that need to be defined:
1. Substitution – The vicarious (one in place of another) death of Christ.
2. Redemption – agorazo – ‘to purchase in the market place’ Jesus has bought us out of the slave market of sin and made us one of His children. (1 Cor. 6:20 ; 7:23)
3. Reconciliation – Making peace with God. (Romans 5:10)
4. Propitiation – To appease the wrath of God. God’s holiness is vindicated and satisfied by the death of Jesus Christ on the cross.
5. Justification – God’s stamp of pardon on our lives.
The steps to salvation are simple but often times some to comprehend. In order to receive the gift of salvation you must first admit you are a sinner (Romans 3:23). Believing that Jesus died on the cross for our sins and rose from the grave (Romans 5:8) is also a requirement for salvation. Then, you must repent of your sin and give your life to Jesus (Romans 10:13). Once you have turned from your sin and trust in Jesus totally and completely then you can be saved and have the gift of eternal life.
The ninth topic of theology is Israelology or the study of Israel. You cannot study scripture without considering the nation of Israel. Leon J. Wood writes about Israel: “Israel was one of the smaller countries of the pre-Christian era, but her history has had a major impact on the world. In fact, the history of no other ancient nation has had more influence on the western world. Israel’s law contains God’s standards for a just law, suitable for a country of Israel’s size and situation. Its basic principles, when observed, have provided guides for lawmakers since.” Israel is more than just a country but they are God’s chosen people through which He brought about His redemptive plan. This plan began with Abraham (Genesis 12:1-4) and culminated in the cross of Christ. God’s plan for Israel continues after the rapture of the church and into the millennium reign of Christ as God sets up His kingdom in Israel.
Another topic of theology is Ecclesiology. This is the study of the church. Henry C. Thiessen writes: “With the coming of Christ and His rejection by the nation of Israel, God set Israel aside for this age and founded the church of Jesus Christ.” The birth of the church is seen in Acts chapter two. Throughout the book of Acts we see the work of the early church that serves as a pattern for the church today. The church is the bride of Christ and as His bride we will one day join Him in heaven at the marriage supper of the lamb. All those who give their life to Jesus become a part of the church, the body of Christ.
The final topic of theology to define is Eschatology, or the study of last things. According to Thiessen there are two broad areas of eschatology: “General eschatology covers the sweep of future events from the return of Christ on to the creation of the new heaven and the new earth. Personal eschatology relates to the individual from the time of physical death until he receives his resurrection body.” There are many scriptures that speak of the end times from the books of Daniel and Ezekiel to Matthew chapter twenty-four and then of course the book of Revelation. There are many views and opinions on the interpretation of these scriptures. Some believe that the church will go through the tribulation period; still others believe that the church will go through part of the tribulation. This author holds to a pre-tribulation view. I believe that the church will be ‘caught up’ or raptured into heaven before the signing of a seven year peace treaty between Israel and the anti-christ which will then usher in the tribulation period. After the tribulation period Jesus will return with His bride, the church, to overthrow the armies of the earth and set up His earthly kingdom in which we as the body of Christ will rule and reign with Him for 1,000 years.
The study of theology can be very extensive. This article gave you a simple overview of each topic of theology. Further study is needed in order to grasp and understand each topic to its fullest. The one thing we learn from it all is the amazing knowledge and work of God. We can never fully understand all there is to know, however, let’s remind ourselves that the entire purpose of Christian doctrine is to inspire us to live godly. Knowing the truth of God’s Word equips us to serve God effectively. It is vital that every believer has the right theology in order to properly and effectively fulfill the doxological purpose of God in our lives.

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