The fascination with what lies beyond corporal existence is a basic and intrinsic element of humanity. The greatest minds in our history sought these philosophical queries not just to understand their function and development but more to understand humanity and existence. This interest is such that the earliest civilizations were based on the worship and teaching about gods and the supernatural (Trigger 5). Religion and Theology are studies that consider these interests.
Though they both deal with often metaphysical concepts, they still follow a scientific approach in defining the elements and components of their field. As fields of study, they are among the most ancient and are fundamental in a philosophical inquiry. However, there are distinct differences between the two not only in their apparent area of study but also in their fundamental structures. Theology and Religion Defined Religion is a common set of beliefs among a group of people regarding a system of though, omniscient person or object that is considered as holy or divine.
According to Hebding and Glick, it provides explanation for events in the social and physical world, serves as basis for ethics, morality and social regulations, provides justification for past, present and future events, is a basis of identification within a group and provides personal emotional and spiritual support (346). Religion developed as a social institution in ancient Mesopotamia and became the central feature of the civilization as well as all other civilizations to come after it (Trigger 8-10).
Religion became the binding mechanism of the various tribes of the Levant region (“History of the Levant”). The etymological meaning of theology is “discourse of God” (McGrath 141). It finds its foundations in cosmology and metaphysics. Theology is the practice of studying religious subjects, its significance in the religion it is set in and also among other religions. Theology is a reasoned discourse on the truth of a religious thought, idea or object and does not present the truth itself.
Theological studies can be from religious institutions and the objective of their studies is in validating beliefs or understanding the origin of belief systems. Studies can also be done secularly and the usual focus of study is regarding the religion in contrast with other religions or social institutions. Methods of Study It should be understand the theology originated from Christian traditions of study and only more contemporarily is applied to kinds of belief systems as well.
The study of theology is done by presenting arguments for and against the religious claims or assertions and criticizing arguments and evidences of the claims and assertions. The focus is not only in the facts of the issue but also focuses on the tradition behind the issue or object of discussion in the context of its origin and continued prevalence (152). Therefore, the study of theology is not focused on the assertion of truth and rather on the discourses of the assertions mainly because many religious thoughts are in itself inaccessible to reason.
In effect, theology tries to separate itself from the belief system and studies the object of the discourse as an independent context. Like theology, religious study finds its roots in metaphysics and cosmology. In contrast to theological studies, the study of religion is often approached in context of society in general or through the people who believe in it. There is an assumption that religion is universally and absolutely true.
The focus of the religious studies is the belief system rather than its truth. Studies of religion as a social construction for example, conduct their studies in the context of the society where the religion is present rather than it being supernatural phenomena (Hebding and Glick 353-355). On the other hand, another approach to religion is focused on studying it through these phenomena not necessarily in a non-scientifically but rather in its implications to the belief systems of the religion.