The Word: A Handy List of Theological -ologies

When I started studying religion, I realized there were A LOT OF TERMS. In particular, it took me a while to get all of the  “-ologies” straight. How many sub-sets of theology can there be?! Turns out, there are quite a few. So, I thought I’d do you a solid this week and give you this handy little cheat sheet of all of them, defined. You’re welcome.

Theology: the study of God

Christology: the study of Christ

Soteriology: the study of salvation (as in, discussing how salvation happens, what it is, what happened on the cross, etc.)

Pneumatology: the study of the Holy Spirit

Ecclesiology: the study of the Church

Missiology: the study of the mission of the Church

Eschatology: the study of last things (or, what will happen in the end)

Bibliology: the study of the Bible

Hamartiology: the study of sin

Mariology: the study of all things pertaining to Mary, the mother of God

Patrology: the study of the early church fathers (also and more commonly known as patristics)

…we also continually bump into Anthropology: the study of the nature of humanity

 

Within theology, of course, there are numerous subsets. I’ve listed the main ones below.

Sytematic theology: the study of theology that seeks to give a coherent, comprehensive account of the whole. (Systematics usually follow the pattern of beginning with the doctrine of God, to the doctrine of Christ, to the doctrine of the Spirit, and then the doctrine of the Church.)

Biblical theology: studying theology in the context of the entire biblical story (specific to texts, but also broadly including themes, patterns, etc.)

Exegetical theology: the study of theology as it pertains to a biblical text (not all of them, in contrast to biblical theology)

Historical theology: the study of how theology developed over time throughout history

Practical theology: the study of theology as it relates to Christian practice

Moral theology: the study of theology and ethics

Pastoral theology: the study of theology in the context of pastoral ministry to individuals and communities

 

Then, there is theology done within a specific paradigm/community: African American theology, liberation theology, process theology, Latino/a theology, feminist theology, narrative theology, LGBTQ theology, dispensationalist theology, fundamentalist theology, postmodern theology, postliberal theology, etc. etc.  This list just keeps growing, but you see how it works.

 

Whew. I’m certain I’ve left out plenty. What did I miss?

 

 

 

 

 

 

14 Comments

  1. I need to print this out and save it in my wallet for when my husband starts talking about one of these and I want to play it cool. I have asked “Wait, which ology is that one?” so many times it’s a little embarrassing.

    Especially when I just haven’t been listening very carefully and it’s actually something about geology.

  2. Hagiology – the study of the saints

    Lots of sub-categories within systematics … Anthropology, etc

  3. Fatima FoustJanuary 19, 2016 at 1:28 pm

    Demonology: the study of demonds

  4. Really, Mariology, blasphemy God has no mother he is the begining the end, the first and last and the alpha and the omega

  5. Thank you for publishing this!

  6. This is so helpful!!! Thank you for making this handy list, Danielle!

  7. You left out the s in systematic theology.

  8. The “-ologies” are the invention of higher education in Bible theology to label and package doctrine. Why? Because there are so many varied doctrines that are not necessarily true to the Bible. These words are not in the Bible. This kind of labeling is a practice that tends to take away from the simplicity of true exegesis of Bible doctrine. I like KISS-ology. Keep it simple Saints. And do it in love.

  9. by the way–thanks for the list.

  10. Is there an “-ology” for what happens when you die (like souls go straight to Heaven or Hell, or do they wait somewhere for the Judgement Day to occur)?

  11. SUsan,

    that would be Eschatology. it was included in the above list.

  12. How would an error in one those theologies affect the other divisions?

  13. Hi Mike- well, certainly all of these theologies are inter-related and affect each other. But it’s important to remind ourselves that theology is a thoroughly human affair. And there’s no way we are going to get it all right. Personally, I think the wisest way to approach theology is to receive what is helpful and beneficial for faith, be thankful for what gives words to your own experience and understanding of God, and give more thanks for words that expand it or make you look at it anew. There’s no way to make it into an air-tight system. God is far bigger than the words we can say about God. I’m partial to the way Moltmann describes his own theology as contributions to a conversation. I think that’s humble and right; and it’s a conversation that will continue long after we’re gone.

  14. Justin BernalDecember 2, 2018 at 9:52 pm

    There is a study of the Jews roll in the Bible, or what God has promised to fulfill for the Jew in the Bible but I cant think of what that is called. This study helps us rightly divide the word of God, like in the new testament when the bible talks about the time of Jacobs trouble, we know that is for the Jew and not the Christian, but the name of this ology fails me.

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