What Is Natural Theology?

H. Bliss

Natural theology is essentially a field of study that takes a look at the nature of God by examining the nature of God independently of the ways God has been defined by others. Information in natural theology comes from observing the world and its inhabitants seeking evidence that supports or denies attributes that are often assumed to be held by gods. Common questions asked in natural theology seek to determine whether any God exists and what God is. Essentially, it is an exploration of God using what is observable. Well-known philosophers who have worked in this field are many, but include Thomas Aquinas, Aristotle, and David Hume.

Natural theologists strive to avoid dogmatic beliefs and to explore god through observation.
Natural theologists strive to avoid dogmatic beliefs and to explore god through observation.

This type of study is designed not to prove or disprove the dogma of any faith, but to look for answers about God in a different way. Answers to the questions posed in natural theology are sought not from the doctrine of any faith, but from human reason outside of doctrine. Conducting a study of this type of theology inherently involves shedding dogmatic beliefs in an effort to explore God based on experience. Students of natural theology seek to understand the evidence that God does or does not exist, to define the meaning and identity of God and to determine how God interacts with the world. Natural theologists look for signs of God in nature, in history and within personal and collective feelings of spirituality and faith.

Aristotle is one of the well-known philosophers to work in the field of natural theology.
Aristotle is one of the well-known philosophers to work in the field of natural theology.

In natural theology, the exploration of God is not restricted to a monotheistic God; it also questions whether God is one or many. Each religion, and sometimes each different group within a religion, has its own set of viewpoints on the nature and attributes of God. This field of study also examines the world as it relates to God, including the way the world came to be, the nature of matter, and how God interacts with the world.

A person wishing to explore this field can learn about it alone, in theology classes, or with some churches or spiritual organizations. Most basic college philosophy courses study some degree of natural theology as part of the class, since the question of God's existence and nature is a common one in philosophy. Common attributes of God that are explored by natural theology include questions of whether God has a body, and if so, what kind. Natural theologists ask whether God is benevolent, cruel, or indifferent and whether God is powerful or powerless. Natural theologists also look for evidence that tells them whether God was created or always there, and if God is finite or infinite.

The belief that Jesus' conception was immaculate is an example of a dogma.
The belief that Jesus' conception was immaculate is an example of a dogma.

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