Study theology: what are the four types of theology?

In traditional Christian theology, there are four main pillars, or types. These four types are foundational in terms of providing specific areas of reflection. When you study theology, you may choose to focus on one of them. Each can provide a deeper understanding of faith and religion.

So, what are the four types of theology?

Biblical studies

This pillar of theology is the critical examination and interpretation of theological texts. In Christian theology, this refers primarily to the Bible – but can also be extended to other texts that provide comment on the Bible.

Where does the name come from? Dr Jeffrey Aernie, Head of the School of Theology at Charles Sturt University, explains.

“Christian theology is rooted in the Bible – the Old and New Testament. Biblical studies allows us to learn how to read a passage of scripture and discern its implications. This process is called exegesis.

To study theology through exegesis means connecting deeply with a text and explore meaning within it. You also investigate how the historical period in which the Bible was written may have influenced the text and its interpretation.

Church history

As the name suggests, this is the study of how Christian theology has changed over time. How has it interacted, shaped and been influenced by historical events across the world.  After all, Christianity has shaped a great deal of human civilisation’s recent history.

This strand of investigation looks at that influence – and how Christianity has adapted to a changing world. As Dr Aernie puts it: “This historical engagement gives us an opportunity to study theology in our own contexts and communities in light of what has come before.”

Systematic theology

This type of theology looks at how to formulate a coherent system from the doctrines of Christian theology. Dr Aernie explains best what this means when you study theology in this area.

“Christian theology is rooted in doctrine – the core set of beliefs that make up Christian theology. Systematic theology allows us to organise our beliefs into a coherent system. As a result, systematic theology helps Christians to consider how their beliefs about God relate to one another. Christians throughout history have created formulations of teaching (creeds) and resources for teaching others (catechisms). Systematic theology helps to explore those ancient resources. Subsequently, we can apply them to contemporary life and study.”

For example, how, as a Christian, does one understand and act (or not) with regard to the concept of sin? How has doctrinal teaching changed on key theological topics – and how, therefore, does that affect how a Christian person lives their life? What system or framework of faith informs behaviour?

Practical theology

How is Christian theology put into action? How does it engage with culture and society? In many ways, practical theology is where various strands of theological thinking come together. University research, religious leaders, faith groups and seminaries can all contribute learning in this area. And it helps to guide ‘living faith’. Indeed, this is arguably the type of theology into which the work of Charles Sturt’s Centre for Public and Contextual Theology fall. The team at the Centre focuses on several research areas, including:

  • the intersection of faith and culture
  • the impact of public theology
  • the outworking of Christian ethics.

For example, the centre collaborates with our Centre for Islamic Studies and Civilisation to research areas such as religious instruction in schools and the prevalence of Islamophobia.

Study theology and progress your faith journey

Whichever type of theology most interests you – or indeed, if exploring how different types influence one another fires your imagination – we’ll have a course for you. Discover the next step in your faith journey.