There are as many definitions as there are theologians. Mine is:
Theology is investigating the implications of a particular model of God.
Thealogy is investigating the implications of a particular model of Godess.
- You start from some model of what or who God is, then you follow the out-workings of that model. You could do theology starting from a model of God-as-omnimax, for example, or God-as-orthodox-trinity or God-as-deistic-God.
- Inevitably there are lots and lots of implications. So you have to choose which you’re interested in. In western Christian theology there have been a set of particular topics that theologians address. Things like ontology, eschatology, soteriology, hamartiology, ecclesiology, missiology.
- It is also possible to do theology on a specific topic, considering a set of distinct model of God. Some feminist or liberation theologies do this (though most stick to a single model of God).
- A good theology is one that finds new implications, or that uses a new model to get further.
- You don’t need to be a believer to do theology. While Anselm wrote that theology was “faith seeking understanding”, my experience is that many if not most theologians don’t exactly share the model of God they use as the basis of their work.
In this framing of theology, it is possible to do atheistic theology. One starts with a particular model of God (as an epiphenomenon of belief in God, for example), and one can hunt down the implications.
It is important to me that any such theology be relevant to the historical and cultural context of western theological discussion. To do that, one would have to address the conventional topics of the discipline. I struggled to get very far there with a bald atheistic model of God (i.e. having no referent when talking about ‘God’).
But now I’ve found that my meta-cognitive God allows interesting theological investigation in areas such as ontology, hamartiology, ecclesiology and missiology. It is less, but still somewhat relevant to areas such as pneumatology and Christology. It is even less useful in soteriology and eschatology, but I can still chase some new implications there.
I think the idea of an atheistic theology is very exciting. I think there are probably vast numbers of models to investigate, and vast numbers of topics to use them in. I’m starting with one.