Theology is first the activity of thinking and speaking about God (theologizing), and second the product of that activity…. As an activity, theology is a cat’s cradle of interrelated though distinct disciplines: elucidating texts (exegesis), synthesizing what they say on the things they deal with (biblical theology), seeing how the faith was stated in the past (historical theology), formulating it for today (systematic theology), finding its implications for conduct (ethics), commending and defending it as truth and wisdom (apologetics), defining the Christian task in the world (missiology), stockpiling resources for life in Christ (spirituality) and corporate worship (liturgy), and exploring ministry (practical theology).
J. I. Packer, Concise Theology: A Guide to Historic Christian Beliefs (Wheaton, IL: Tyndale House, 1993), xi–xii.
As usual, Packer is so on point and so clear, but there may be slight room for improvement here. I can accept many of these helpful definitions as written, but a few I would seek to improve slightly.
Here’s my take:
- Theology: thinking and speaking about God
- Exegesis: elucidating texts
- Biblical theology: synthesizing what the Bible says about theology on its own terms, by noting its own order, identifying its own center, and distilling its own story
- Historical theology: seeing how the faith was stated in the past
- Systematic theology: formulating and organizing the faith for today
- Ethics: finding the Bible’s implications for conduct
- Apologetics: commending and defending the Bible as truth and wisdom
- Missiology: defining the Christian task in the world
- Spirituality: stockpiling resources for life in Christ
- Liturgy: articulating and arranging the Bible for corporate worship
- Practical theology: exploring ministry as a way of life