Classroom Preview: Why Theology Is Different

Posted On November 24, 2017

How is the study of theology different from the study of biology or history? Dr. Keith Mathison defines the difference by underscoring the object of theological study is not a “thing” but a person.


It’s important for us to understand that theology and the study of theology is not like the study of anything else that we study. Many of us in high school and in college have taken science classes in subjects like biology and chemistry. In biology class, we might be asked by our professor to dissect a pig in order to understand what the internal arrangements of the organs are. We might be asked in a chemistry class to do an experiment to test the results of various chemicals on oxidation of different materials. In all of these types of classes and in many other types of classes as well, whether history, or English, or languages of various kinds, we’re treating the subject of the study as an object. It’s on a lab table, it’s in a book, and it’s something distinct, and abstract, and separate from us. In theology, we’re doing something different. We don’t place God on a table and dissect Him. We don’t do experiments on God.

With theology, we’re dealing with our triune God—our Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, the One who has loved us, the One who has redeemed us, the One whom we love in return. We’re dealing with a person, not with an object. And so there is a different relationship between the object of study in theology as opposed to other things. When we grasp this idea, when we understand that the subject of theology is our God, our Father who loves us in the Lord Jesus Christ, then we understand more about the relevance of theology. When we treat God as simply a subject of study—something to argue and fight about—then we can understand why many Christians consider theology just a dry and dusty irrelevant subject to be ignored. And it doesn’t have any impact on their life because all it does is puff people up in their pride and in their ability to throw out obscure theological phrases. Our study of theology is a study of a person, and it impacts not only our mind but our heart as well, and leads to a response of praise to Him.

Dr. Keith Mathison is professor of Systematic Theology at Reformation Bible College.