“Theology” literally means “the study of God,” and Christian theology is the study of God based on His self-revelation to humanity. Like biology, astronomy, and many other disciplines, theology is a vast area of study that deals with complex and beautiful realities. Yet, it is different from biology and astronomy in that it provides answers to the most critical questions of life, such as “Why does human life exist?” “What is wrong with humanity, and how can the problem be fixed?” and “How can I have peace with God?”
The journey of learning theology is never-ending, but its foundational points and message are easy for the average person to understand. At St. Hilda’s, we use an outline of theological beliefs that comes from a document called “The Fundamental Declarations of the Province.” It was written by the Anglican Church in North America, which we belong to. The document is long and hard for outsiders to understand, so we have put the main ideas into plain English below.
If you would prefer to take the time to read the declarations themselves, you can view the statement here.
- We believe that the whole Bible is God’s Word for us and that it teaches us the truth about God and shows us the way to a relationship with Him.
- We believe that baptism and Holy Communion (also called the Eucharist, the Lord’s Supper, or the Mass) are central to church life because they are symbols and channels of God’s grace.
- We believe that the Christian church should be led by bishops, who are commissioned by other bishops, who were commissioned by other bishops—and on and on the chain goes, back to the early years of Christianity. (Bishops are important for several reasons; for example, they represent the unity and continuity of the Christian church and provide accountability to local congregations.)
- We believe that three ancient theological statements—the Apostles’ Creed, the Nicene Creed, and the Athanasian Creed—are true and totally consistent with the Bible. (They are also signs of the unity and continuity of the church, as they proclaim beliefs held by Christians across the world and since the early days of the religion.)
- We believe that the major Christian councils—theological conferences with representatives from various areas—drew correct conclusions about the nature of God and Jesus based on a proper understanding of the Bible.
- We believe that we should follow the teaching of the traditional Book of Common Prayer, which gives us a very helpful and time-tested order for our church services and prayer times. (We also encourage spontaneous prayer using one’s own words in church and in private.)
- We believe that the Thirty-Nine Articles of Religion contain important truths that are still true and applicable for us today. (The Thirty-Nine Articles were written during the English Reformation of the 1500s, a movement in which Christian leaders re-anchored the church in the teaching of the Bible.)
We realize that for people who are unfamiliar with the Christian faith, this summary might not directly answer your deep questions about faith and life. It would be best if we could discuss those questions with you personally. Please don’t hesitate to contact us. However, if you want to dig deeper into theology right away and see what Christianity and St. Hilda’s are all about, we have a short article explaining the Apostle’s Creed.