The Christian Religion and Christian Theology


There are theologians who suggest the following distinction between Christian religion and Christian theology. They say that the Christian religion in its subjective sense is the knowledge of God which is possessed by every Christian believer, while Christian theology in its subjective sense is the knowledge of God which is possessed by the official teachers of the Church. Rightly understood, this distinction may be accepted; for Holy Scripture, while teaching that all believers possess knowledge of God, emphasizes the fact that the official teachers of the Church must possess knowledge of God in a higher degree, John 6, 45; 1 Cor. 12,29; 1 Tim. 3, 2; 2 Tim. 2, 1. In these passages it is taught that, while believers are “all taught of God,” yet they are not “all teachers” and that bishops, or ministers, must be “apt to teach” and must therefore have the doctrines of God’s Word committed unto them in such a way that they “shall be able to teach others.” – Nevertheless it must be maintained that there is no essential difference between religion and theology. Both have the same principle (principium cognoscendi), or source, namely, Holy Scripture, and both are received in one and the same manner, namely, through faith in the Word of God. John 8, 31. 32: “If ye continue in My Word, then are ye My disciples indeed; and ye shall know the truth.” 

We hold, then, that both the religious and the theological knowledge are fundamentally the same and are obtained by the same method, namely, through the believing study of, and prayerful meditation, upon God’s Word. Whatever is not taken from, or whatever goes beyond, Holy Scripture is neither religion nor theology, but human speculation. Quod non est biblicum, non est theologicum. This truth must be held over against all rationalistic theologians, who assert that Christian theology is something that lies beyond the Christian religion as basically different from it, and in particular, that the Christian theologian intellectually comprehends the mysteries of faith, whereas the ordinary Christian believer merely accepts them by faith. That such views are disastrous both to religion and theology requires no further proof. 

As a matter of fact, Christian theology is not a speculative system of philosophy, the substance of which lies within human intellectual comprehension; but it is “the wisdom of God in a mystery,” 1 Cor. 2, 7. (The meaning of Paul’s statement is evidently: “In speaking the wisdom of God, we proclaim a mystery.”) For this reason a childlike faith in God’s Word is essential no less to the Christian theologian than to the ordinary Christian believer. A theologian is a Christian theologian only inasmuch as he implicitly believes in Christ and unconditionally accepts His Word.

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