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Allegory of Theology, Frankfurt am Main, Gutenberg Monument by Eduard Schmidt von der Launitz (1840) at Roßmarkt

Theology (Greekθεολογία theología, from θεός theós "God" and λόγος lógos "word, speech, reason, teaching") is the "doctrine of God" or of the "gods" in general and of specific traditional religious beliefs and teachings in particular.

Overview of the development of the concept of theology

Theology, literally the "speech of God", in ancient Greece originally referred to mythological narratives about the polytheistic Greek world of gods. Plato, on the other hand, in his Politeia (379a) already poses the question of the truth of the One supreme imperishable good and sees a "myth-critical speech of God" as important for the construction of the state. Finally, for Aristotle, theology as the "first science" forms the apex of the theoretical sciences and becomes metaphysics.

In the 2nd century, the term was taken up in this sense by the first Christian apologists and used as a tool to consolidate and defend the Christian faith against the heretics, especially against the Gnostics, though still without a comprehensive system. Augustine conceived of theology as "reasonable God-talk". It was not until the high medieval scholasticism that theology systematically encompassed the entire "field of sacred knowledge", i.e. all Christian doctrine, culminating in Thomas Aquinas' extensive Summa theologica. Man is indeed related to God, but God can only be imperfectly grasped by reason. Theology is therefore essentially a "science of faith".

In the age of the Reformation, especially following Martin Luther, theology turned again to more practical and less theoretical questions. On the Catholic side, the teaching of Thomas Aquinas was elevated to the binding basis of theological education by Pope Leo XIII's encyclical Aeterni Patris in 1879 and repeatedly confirmed in this sense to this day.

Theology in this sense is a predominantly Christian phenomenon and does not occupy a central position in other religions, including the other world religions, to say the least. Judaism does not need such a theology, nor does Hinduism or Buddhism. Only in Islam, in addition to the much more important Islamic legal sciences of Fiqh and Sharia, is there also a traditional theology based on theological debate (Kalam, Arabic كلام), the Ilm al-Kalam (Arabic علم الكلام, literally "science of discourse").

Theology, as it is understood today, is based on the historically given revelation that was once received by founders of religion and prophets by divine grace. Christian theology builds on the Old Testament, which, according to Christian theological interpretation, finds its conclusion and completion in the Word of God revealed through Jesus Christ and recorded in writing in the New Testament. Theology reckons with people to whose consciousness the spiritual world remains permanently closed, as is indeed largely the case for people who draw their consciousness primarily from the intellectual or mind soul. Man and God stand opposite each other and between them lies a gulf unbridgeable for human consciousness. Not knowledge, only faith can bridge this gulf: "Blessed are those who do not see and yet believe!" (John 20:29). Private revelations may be "recognised"[1] by the Church, but they are not binding on believers.

„Where, you may ask, did these religious teachers get their knowledge of the things that lie beyond human consciousness? You know from the various lectures and theosophical communications that there was an initiation, the so-called initiation, and that all the great religious teachers had to let themselves be initiated in the end, that is, they had to ascend to a certain occult path in the end, or that they had to be taught by other initiates who had ascended to the occult path, that is, by those who did not grasp the divine with their earthly consciousness, but with the consciousness which placed itself outside the earthly consciousness. Hence the ancient religions. All the communications and revelations which the peoples received in pre-Christian times from great teachers of humanity lead back to such founders of the great religions who were initiates, who had experienced in superphysical states what they communicated to humanity.

And therefore the relationship of religious man to his God always remained such that man imagined his God as a being outside his world, as an otherworldly being from whom a revelation can only come to him through special means. If man does not raise himself to initiation, this religious relationship must also remain such that man feels himself standing here on earth, feels himself in such a way that he surveys the objects of the earth with his consciousness, and through the founders of religion learns something about things which lie outside the world of the senses and outside the world of the intellect, outside the world of human consciousness in general at first. So it was with all religions, and in a certain respect it has remained so with religions up to the present day [...]

This characterises the relationship of religious man to the spiritual world, and this relationship is such that it cannot be thought of in any other way than as a confrontation between man and the divine world. Whether in this divine world a pluralism, a multiplicity of beings is seen or a unity, whether polytheism or monotheism is taught, that need not concern us so much in this question. The most important thing is that man as man finds himself confronted with the divine world, which must be revealed to him.

This is also the reason why theology is so insistent that one's own human knowledge should not flow into religious ideas. For as soon as one's own human knowledge flows into religious ideas, it is a knowledge which must have been attained by the human being in superphysical states by growing up into the spiritual worlds. It is a kind of penetration into the realms which theology, not religion as such, absolutely wants to exclude from influencing the religious ideas of humanity. That is why theologians are so careful to teach that there are two ways off which theology must avoid. The first is when theology degenerates into theosophy, because through it man wants to grow up to his God, as it were, but he should only face him as a man. That theology must not degenerate into theosophy is taught everywhere by theologians.

The second degeneration, say the theologians, is mysticism, even if they themselves sometimes make small excursions into theosophical or mystical territory. Thus we can quite well separate all merely religious people from the mystics, for the mystic is something different from the merely religious person. The religious man is characterised by the fact that he stands here on earth and acquires a relation to his God who is beyond his consciousness.“ (Lit.:GA 137, p. 68ff)

„For theologians who at the same time want to be philosophers, who want to penetrate theology philosophically, a very special difficulty has arisen and will always arise. For the theologian is dependent not merely on seeing things in the world, but on thinking them in a certain relation to the divine primordial being, and he comes into difficulties if he cannot himself bring the concepts and ideas which he gains from things and which form the content of the only ideal knowledge - if one does not ascend to spiritual science - into some relation to the Deity, that is, if he cannot think them as universalia ante rem, as universal concepts before things.

Now something very significant is connected with what I have said. There will always be people who can see nothing in the concept that has anything to do with things, who therefore see only the material in the things outside, and on the other hand those who can see something real in the concepts that has something to do with the things themselves, what is in the things, and what the human spirit draws out of the things again, what the human spirit turns from universalia in re into universalia post rem. Those who acknowledge that concepts have a reality outside the human spirit were called realists in the Middle Ages and onwards, especially in Catholic philosophy. And the view that concepts and ideas have a real meaning in the world is called realism. The other view, which assumes that concepts and ideas are only fabricated as words in the human mind, so to speak, is called nominalism, and its representatives are called nominalists.

You will easily see that the nominalists can actually only see the real in multiplicity, in multitude. Only the realists can see something real in the summary, in the universal. And here we come to the point where a particular difficulty arose for the philosophising theologians. These Catholic theologians had to defend the dogma of the Trinity, of Father, Son and Spirit, the three persons in the Godhead. According to the development of ecclesiastical theology, they could not help but say: the three persons are individual, self-contained entities, but at the same time they are to be a unity! If they were nominalists, the Godhead would always be divided into three persons. Only the realists could still think of the three persons as one universal. But for that, the universal concept had to have a reality, for that one had to be a realist. Therefore the realists got through with the Trinity better than the nominalists, who had great difficulties, and who in the end, when scholasticism had already come to an end and had degenerated into scepticism, could only hide behind the fact that they said: "One cannot understand how the three persons are supposed to be one Godhead; but for that very reason one must believe it, must renounce understanding; such a thing can only be revealed. Human understanding can only lead to nominalism, it cannot lead to any realism. And basically it is the Hume-Kantian doctrine that has become pure nominalism on the diversions through phenomenalism.

The central dogma of the Trinity, of the three divine persons, was thus linked to realism or nominalism, to one or the other conception of the essence of the universals. You will therefore understand that when Kant's philosophy became more and more the philosophy of Protestant circles in Europe, a reaction asserted itself in Catholic circles. And this reaction consisted of saying to oneself on this ground that one must now again go through the old scholasticism in detail, must fathom out what scholasticism actually meant. In short, one tried - because one could not arrive at a new way of looking at the spiritual world - to reconstruct scholasticism. And a rich literature arose, which simply set itself the task of making scholasticism accessible to people again.

Of course, this literature only lived among the studied Catholic theologians, but there it was on a broad scale. And for those who are interested in everything that is going on in the spiritual culture of mankind, it is not at all useless to look a little into the extensive literature that has come to light. It is useful to look into this neo-Scholastic literature for the very reason that it gives us an idea of how black and white can live side by side in the world - please, the word has no connotation now! The whole way of thinking, the whole way of looking at the world, is different in the progressive current of philosophy that follows Kant, Fichte, Hegel, for example, or earlier Cartesius, Malebranche, Hume, up to Mill and Spencer. This is a completely different research of thought, a completely different way of thinking about the world than that which emerged, for example, in Gratry and in the numerous neo-scholastics who wrote everywhere, in France, in Spain, in Italy, in Belgium, in England, in Germany; for there is a rich neo-scholastic literature in all countries. And all the orders of the Catholic priesthood took part in the discussions. The study of scholasticism became particularly lively in 1879, when Pope Leo XIII's encyclical "Aeterni patris" appeared. In this encyclical, the study of Thomas Aquinas was made a duty for Catholic theologians. Since that time, a rich literature based on Thomistics has emerged, and the philosophy of Thomas Aquinas has been studied and interpreted in depth. The whole current, however, had begun earlier, so that today one can fill libraries with what has arisen in this renewal of Thomism in very many spiritual ways.“ (Lit.:GA 165, p. 191ff)

„It is deeply significant that Nietzsche's friend, the really important Basel theologian Overbeck, wrote his book on the Christianity of modern theology by trying to prove that modern theology, even Christian theology, is no longer Christian. So that one can say: Here, attention has already been drawn by external science to the fact that modern Christian theology understands nothing of Christianity, knows nothing. One should only recognise thoroughly what belongs to the un-Christian. In any case, modern theology does not belong to the Christian, but to the un-Christian.“ (Lit.:GA 207, p. 184f)

„This Christ impulse is most of all fought against by today's theology, and it is characteristic, my dear friends, that a theologian at the University of Basel, a colleague of Nietzsche, Overbeck, as a theologian in the seventies of the nineteenth century, was made to think about whether today's theology - since as a professor he also had a say - if it is still Christian at all. And in a very witty book, which made a very deep, if not exactly pleasant impression on Nietzsche, Overbeck proved: There may still be much that is Christian in people's minds today, but there is certainly nothing Christian left in theology; in any case, it has become un-Christian. - This is how one would summarise what Overbeck has described. People are not even aware of this. They are not aware, for example, that in such a writing as Harnack's "Essence of Christianity", wherever Christ or Jesus is written, the name can be crossed out and simply Jahve, Jehovah can be written, and the meaning does not change at all. For he takes this meaning especially to mean that the Son does not belong in this Gospel, but the Father alone; that which is called the Son is only the teaching of the Father. - That the essential of the Gospel is the message of the Son, that is the Christian thing. But Harnack no longer has that; he is no longer a Christian.“ (Lit.:GA 255b, p. 366f)


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