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What is Theology? A Medieval or Premodern Perspective.


'Theology' comes from two Greek words - 'theos,' meaning God, and 'logos' meaning word or speech.


So, we might say 'Theology' is talk about God, 'God-speech,' or discourse on the topic of God.


However, over time, theology has taken many different forms and formulations; practices and articulations: from a focus on doctrine, dogmatics and belief; to ethics and practice; philosophy and metaphysics.


In Medieval times, theology was Regina Scientiarum or 'Queen of the Sciences,' owing to central role that God (and thus, by extension, theology) played in all forms of knowledge.

In Medieval times, theology was Regina Scientiarum or 'Queen of the Sciences,' owing to central role that God (and thus, by extension, theology) played in all forms of knowledge.


This is because, in the medieval period, prior to the European Enlightenment of the 18th century and the disenchantment and secularisation it encouraged, God or 'theos' had played the central cosmological role in the universe (the Enlightenment altered this, decrying 'supernaturalism' in favour of the power of human reason).


Thus, in the medieval period, all knowledge was seen as related to and coming from God, as his creation. In this way, all knowledge in the world was God's self-revelation in the world; thus all other forms of knowledge were intricately connected to God, and thus overruled or governed by theology.


While the modern period focussed on the superiority of human reason over religion, with theology loosing its importance in a secular age, today we might argue for a renewed role for theology in the pursuit of knowledge more broadly; not in the search for right or final doctrine, but rather in a relational sense, allowing us to relate to more in all our pursuits; whether we call that 'God,' divinity, transcendence or something else.


In this way, theology is a kind of philosophy, albeit one that makes space for mystery, excess, and that which is beyond full grasp by human perception and knowing.


Indeed, such seems to be the case as some scholars have indeed argued in relation to an apparent 'theological turn' in the humanities.


What do you think? Can you see a renewed role for this kind of medieval or 'premodern' theology today, which encourages us to relate to that which is more than ourselves - understood as God or something else - in modern life and modern pursuits of knowledge?


 

Interested in learning more about premodern theologies and philosophies, and their continued relevance to our lives today? Follow my new Instagram, Embodying Philosophy, or YoutTube Channel, to stay up to date with content.


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