Having recently read Bavinck’s RD on the principles of theology (principia theologiae) wherein he touched on the “divisions of theology,” I wanted to take the opportunity to survey Francis Turretin’s discussion of the divisions of theology as found in his Institutes of Elenctic Theology (which can be purchased at the WSC bookstore here).
The discussion is found in Topic 1, Second Question. The Second Question concerns “whether there is a theology and its divisions.”
It is in Second Question, V. that Turretin begins his discussion of the various divisions of theology.
Most basically, theology can be distinguished into true theology (theologia vera) and false theology (theologia falsa). False theology is “equivocally” called theology. This is to say that the material content of false theology is utterly different than what true theology teaches.
False theology can be broken down broadly into two categories: “that of the Gentiles” and “that of infidels and heretics.”
The false theology of the [ancient] Gentiles manifests itself in various ways. Plato spoke of a twofold manifestation of it: symbolical/mythical theology (signs which pointed to esoteric mysteries) and philosophical/demonstrative theology (the contemplative pursuit of philosophers). Marcus Varro saw a threefold distinction in Gentile theology: mythical/fabulous theology (created by the poets, promulgated for the stage and theater), political/civil theology (ministered by the priests, taught in temples), and physical/natural theology (created by the philosophers, taught in the schools).
The false theology of infidels and heretics can be broken down into two categories: those who “openly reject Christ (as the Jews, Mohammedans, etc.)” and those “who, while they retain the name of Christ, are in fundamentals at variance with the word of God (as the theology of the papists, Socinians and other like heretics.”
Question 2, VI. Meanwhile, true theology, which teaches “a system or body of doctrine concerning God and divine things revealed by him for his own glory and the salvation of men” (1. First Question. VIII.), can be distinguished into archetypal and ectypal theology.
Archetypal theology is “infinite,” “uncreated” and is God’s “essential” knowledge of himself (as knower, knowledge, and object known) and “that which he decreed to reveal to us concerning himself.”
Ectypal theology is “finite”, “created” and is the “image” of God’s essential knowledge of himself (that is, ectypal theology is the creaturely, finite copy of archetypal theology). This ectypal knowledge is communicated to intelligent creatures (i.e., human beings and angels) in three different ways: by hypostatic union (Christ in the incarnation), by beatific vision (angels, and also those saints who from their labors rest), or by revelation, “which is made to travelers” (those pilgrim-believers still on the way to Glory).
Question 2, VII. The theology of revelation can further be distinguished into two categories: “natural” and “supernatural.” Natural theology can be distinguished into: “innate” knowledge of God and “acquired” knowledge of God. “This [knowledge] was exquisite in Adam before his fall, but is highly disordered in corrupted man.” Supernatural theology “transcends our reason and is communicated to us by God by the new light of grace.” It “is from Christ (Jn. 1:18) and speaks of him (Acts 1:1; 1 Cor. 2:2).”
Question 2, VIII. Supernatural theology can be divided into: systematic theology “denoting the system of saving doctrine concerning God and divine things drawn from the Scriptures,” and habitual theology describing “a habit residing in the intellect.” Habitual theology can be broken down into: the “habit of principles (by which each believer perceives things foreign to and remote from reason)” and “the habit of conclusions (by which from principles known by the light of faith we unfold and confirm the saving doctrine).”
Question 2, IX. briefly distinguishes the three ‘schools’ of God (nature, grace, and Glory), books (of the creature, of Holy Scripture, and of life), and parts of theology (natural, supernatural, and beatific).