What Is The Difference Between Theology And Religious Studies?


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Christopher Adam Profile
Some universities will offer both departments of religious studies, as well as theology. It is important to remember that in these instances, the way in which courses are presented and the topics explored are not identical. Religious studies tends to be more inclusive in the sense that these departments will usually explore the world's major religions, as well as smaller faiths, and there is no expectation that students taking courses in a given field adhere to any specific faith, or organized religion. In other words, courses in religious studies are often taught from a secular, non-committed viewpoint.

Theology, however, is somewhat different. The term itself means "God's word" and most theology departments will, as such, focus their courses on the Christian (Catholic, Protestant and Orthodox) religions. In some cases, the department may take a broader approach and focus on the Judeo-Christian tradition. Nevertheless, the key differentiating factor between theology and religious studies, is that most students taking theology will already have some type of faith. This does not necessarily mean that they will accept and believe all teachings of a given denomination, but they will usually profess faith in God more generally. Saint Augustine (A.D. 354-430) explained the core of the theological discipline best when he summed it up as "faith seeking understanding."

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