There is no such thing as ‘Theology’ in practice. No-one studies God. What does exist is the study of peoples’ understanding of their gods.
It is possible to maintain a position whereby one believes one is studying God. For this to be true, the scholar must have something representative of the deity that is the subject of study. In Christian seminaries, this is the Bible. The Christian Bible is not just a book, according to a certain majority, but is the actual, living embodiment of the Word of God. The line separating scripture from the actual Godhead is very blurry: “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.” (English Revised Version)
This is a most fascinating bit of text whose meaning remains one of the great mysteries of Christianity to this day.
The odd thing is that, in most seminaries, Biblical origins is a required subject wherein it is taught that Christian scripture has been authored by many people. The student learns that God did not write the Bible, but that its authoritativeness is born out of the assumption that the authors were inspired by God.
The implications of that word, ‘inspired’ is, in all fairness debatable. Paul, the author of sixteen letters included in the Christian New Testament, wrote one particular verse on scriptural origins that is hermeneutically problematical.
(New International Version): “All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness . . .”
This is where some people make the claim that the Bible is the direct, inerrant, capital-‘W’ WORD of GOD.
But, it wasn’t always so:
King James Ver: “All scripture is given by inspiration of God . . .”
Not so cut-and-dried, eh? This precedes the NIV by several hundred years.
It gets even better. As modern language scholars dig in to the text it becomes:
“Every scripture inspired of God is also profitable for teaching . . .” American Standard Version,
It isn’t difficult to see the subtle shift in meaning possible in this translation: only scripture that is inspired of God is profitable,
from which it can apparently be understood that, not only is scripture merely inspired (not penned) by God, not all scripture is even given the distinction of having been inspired. I think this is stretching it a little further than necessary. Doubtless, these men and women who wrote the letters and histories that became holy-writ, were inspired by their devotion to God. Doubtless, they wrote what they through their experiences – sometimes direct experiences, knew about the Creator.
Here is what I am convinced of:
The Bible as we know it is invaluable as a Rule and Guide of Faith to all Christians whether they believe in scriptural infallibility or not. Yes, it is the centrepiece of my faith.
The authors were keenly aware of the immanent presence of the Supreme Architect, and many had direct, shamanistic experiences with deity.
The authors’ awareness of the divine produced an implacable desire to record their experiences and the wisdom gained thereby.
The authors were humans and therefore subject to human deficiencies.
The Word of God is never-ending and is not trapped in 66 books.
The same applies to scripture of all religions.
The Bible is not God, but it is the record of humankind’s relationship with and struggle to understand God and the cosmos, therefore:
a study of sacred text is not a study of the deity referenced within the text, but rather it is a study of the people who wrote the text and their understanding of God – i.e.: Theophilosophy.