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Question 1 on Theology

Francis Turretin (1623-1687) - The Most Precise Theologian of the Reformation Era

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“Every decree of God is eternal; therefore it cannot depend upon a condition which takes place only in time. (2) God’s decrees depend on his good pleasure (eudokia) (Mt. 11:26; Eph. 1:5; Rom. 9:11). Therefore they are not suspended upon any condition outside of God. (3) Every decree of God is immutable (Is. 46:10; Rom. 9:11).”

The Scholastic Reformer explains what the Creed means when Christ descended into hell – its not what you might expect it to mean!

Extract from Institutes of Elenctic Theology,
Topic 1 Question 1, “The Use of Theology”

Should the word “theology” be used in the Christian schools, and in how many ways can it be understood?

I. Since, according to the laws of accurate method, the use and true sense of terms (proton exetatein ta onomata) are first to be explained (as the Philosopher [Aristotle) has it), for words are the types (typoi) of things, some things must be premised concerning the word “theology” before we come to the thing itself. But although the proposed question may seem hardly necessary (in the common sense and in that received by almost all who think it should be retained as a technical [technikon) word properly and emphatically declaring its subject), yet we must meet the opinion of those who dislike it because it does not occur in Scripture and is used to denote the false system of the heathen and who judge that it would be more suitable to use other words drawn from Scripture.

II. Although the word “theology” is not in so many words inwritten (engraphos autolexei), yet it is not altogether unwritten (agraphos). The simple words of which it is composed often occur there: as logos tou theou (“word of God”) and logia tou theou (“words of God”; cf. Rom. 3:2; 1 Pet. 4:11; Heb. 5:12). Therefore it is one thing to be in Scripture as to sound and syllables (or formally and in the abstract); another to be in it as to sense and the thing signified (or materially in the concrete). Theology does not occur in Scripture in the former manner, but in the latter.

III. Although it is not lawful to form any doctrines not in Scripture, yet it is lawful sometimes to use words which are not found there if they are such as will enable us either to explain divine things or to avoid errors. For this purpose, the words “triad,” homoousiou, “original sin” and the like have been used by theologians.

IV. Although the heathen often abused this word to designate their false system, yet this does not prevent applying to our true and saving science what was wrongly given by them (falsely and falsely socalled [pseudonymo]) the name of theology. Just as the word “God” (which among the Gentiles denoted a false and fictitious god), and the word “church” (which was applied to a secular assembly) are used in the Scriptures in a sounder sense for the true God and the assembly of the saints. The word “theology” (of Greek origin) was transferred from the schools of the Gentiles to sacred uses, just as the vessels of the Egyptians were appropriated to sacred purposes by the Israelites.

V. We do not deny that there are various synonyms in the Scriptures by which the heavenly science might be designated; as when it is called “wisdom in a mystery” (1 Cor. 2:7), the “form of sound words” (2 Tim. 1:13), the “acknowledging of the truth which is after godliness” (Tit. 1:1), “doctrine” (Tit. 1:9) and is expressed by other like words. But nevertheless this name can and ought to be retained because it has been used so long and is the most appropriate for expressing this saving science.

VI. It is evident that the word “theology” was used by the Gentiles. For they who discoursed sublimely of God, or settled the worship of the gods, or set forth their birthdays, marriages, offspring, dominion and achievements were called “theologians” and their science “theology” (see Lactantius, The Wrath of God 2 [FC 54:8588); Clement of Alexandria, Stromata 3.3 [ANF 2:384; PG 8.111920); Isidore, Etymologarium 8.6.18 )PL 82.307); Aristotle, Metaphysics 3.4.9 [Loeb, H2627]).

VII. Among Christians, the word “theology” is used Use of the word. either inadequately (with reference to the efficient to mean a discourse of God [Theou Logon), and with reference to the object, a discourse about God [logon peri tou Theou)) or adequately inasmuch as it denotes both a discourse of God and a discourse about God. These two must be joined together because we cannot speak concerning God without God; so that it may be termed the science which is originally from God, objectively treats concerning and terminatively flows into and leads to him, which Thomas Aquinas aptly expresses, Theologia a Deo docetur, Deum docet, et ad Deum dtucii (“Theology is taught by God, teaches God and leads to him,” ST, I, Q. 1, Art. 7 +—not in Thomas, but a medieval scholastic adage). So this nomenclature embraces the twofold principle of theology: one of being, which is God; the other of knowing, which is his word.

VIII. Again it is used by authors in three ways: (1) broadly; (2) strictly; (3) according to the true extent of its signification. In the first way, it is accommodated to metaphysics, and in this sense Aristotle calls the first philosophy “theology” (Metaphysics 6.1.1011 [Loeb, 1:29697) and 11.7.89 [Loeb, 2:8689)). He divides theoretical philosophy into three parts: physical (physiken), mathematical (mathematiken) and theological (theologiken). In the second way, the fathers designate particularly that part of the Christian science which treats of the divinity of Christ by the word “theology.” In this sense, John is with emphasis styled “Theologian” because he boldly asserted the deity of the Word (ten tou logou theoteta, cf. Rev. 1:2). The other fathers applied to Gregory Narianzus the name of “Theologian” because he demonstrated the divinity of Christ in various orations. Hence a distinction was made by them between theology (theologias) and economy (oikonomias). By the former, they meant the doctrine of the divinity of Christ; by the latter, the doctrine of his incarnation. Theologein Iesoun is with them to discourse of the divinity of Christ (Eusebius, Ecclesiastical History 5.28 [FC 19:343; PG 20.512); Basil the Great, Adversus Eunomium 2 [PG 29.601); Gregory Nazianzus, Oration 31*.26, “On the Holy Spirit” [NPNF2, 7:326; PG 36.161] and Oration 38*.8, “On the Theophany” [NPNF2, 7:347; PG 36.320)). In the third and most proper sense, it denotes “a system or body of doctrine concerning God and divine things revealed by him for his own glory and the salvation of men.” In this sense, we use it here.

IX. The use of the word “theology” is either equivocal and abusive (when it is applied to the false theology of the heathen and heretics); or, less properly, when it is referred to the original and infinite wisdom which we conceive to be in God knowing himself in an unspeakable and most perfect manner (for the word cannot reach the dignity of the thing itself); or to the theology of Christ and to angelic theology; or, more properly, when it is applied to the theology of men on earth which (as we shall see hereafter) is divided into natural and supernatural.

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