Augustine of Hippo defined the Latin equivalent, theologia, as "reasoning or discussion concerning the Deity"; Richard Hooker defined "theology" in English as "the science of things divine". The term can, however, be used for a variety of different disciplines or forms of discourse. Theologians use various forms of analysis and argument (philosophical, ethnographic, historical, spiritual and others) to help understand, explain, test, critique, defend or promote any of myriad religious topics. Theology might be undertaken to help the theologian:
- understand more truly his or her own religious tradition,
- understand more truly another religious tradition,
- make comparisons among religious traditions,
- defend or justify a religious tradition,
- facilitate reform of a particular tradition,
- assist in the propagation of a religious tradition, or
- draw on the resources of a tradition to address some present situation or need,
- draw on the resources of a tradition to explore possible ways of interpreting the world, or
- explore the nature of divinity without reference to any specific tradition.
- challenge (ex. biblical criticism) or oppose (ex. irreligion) a religious tradition or the religious world-view.
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