The results: a complete and complex system
The core doctrines always remain simple, and the work of theology is the work of applying the understanding of those doctrines to the revelations. Once a revelation has been sufficiently confirmed by the judicious application of the core then that revelation may serve as the basis for our complete theological system.
In the first place a good theology will yield a comprehensive set of moral rules which always apply to any and every situation in life. This set of rules is often so complete that it can, and should be, used to pass judgment on people of other beliefs. In fact one of the most basic moral mistakes made by people is the mistake of having the wrong beliefs. The divine being has given its core doctrines to all those who are meant to know it, and thus those who don’t are either rejecting those doctrines and should be punished or else they are ignorant and need to be converted.
A good theology will also explain what the purpose and function of everything and everyone is in the universe. Usually this amounts to a sort of general, everyone exists to serve God’s will, kind of idea. Although, it can also lead to a very specific understanding of things in the natural world. Thus when they observe the hatching of a bird from its egg, the religious person knows that this is proof of God’s goodness who designed the bird’s beak to be sharp enough to break the egg shell.
A strong theology will also develop the rules for a community of believers. Religion is nothing if not interpersonal, and churches, temples, Mosques, synagogues, and meeting houses all testify to the shared nature of religion. Theology creates communal identity and through that identity it can be used to determine politics, medicine, education, the military, and even the markets. Belonging to a religion is not merely a social club, it also involves access to a cultural network of privileges and powers. Indeed depending on one’s society, the right religion can mean fame and fortune, and the wrong one can mean death and torture.
Lastly, a strong theology determines your personal identity. It gives your life meaning and purpose as well as defining all of your relationships, duties, pleasures, and allowances. To be religious is to be always defined by that above all else. Even in pluralistic and largely secular societies, religious identification still holds tremendous significance for the individual believers.
Yeah, but is it rational?
If it isn’t yet obvious, yes it is rational. Theology is in the first place logical, and so it is rational right there. It is also systematic, consistent, and concerned with a system of accurate categories for the world.
The only concerns about the rationality of theology lie in its insistence that there are divine beings, knowledge of these beings is both possible and obligatory, and that our starting point for this knowledge is an unprovable set of core doctrines. Beyond that there really are no problems of rationality.
Now the idea of God is not in and of itself an irrational idea unless we take atheism to be our starting point. If we take atheism as our starting point, then based on the core doctrines of atheism, theology will always fail to yield truth about the world.
If on the other hand we take theism as our starting point then atheism will always fail to yield truth about the world.
The trouble always comes down to how we choose our starting points, since the choice of where to begin determine everything we are capable of knowing.
How do I resolve the problem of what the right starting point is?
Well that is simple, though not easy.