Etymologically speaking, the word ‘theology’ comes from two Greek words ‘theos’ (θεός), meaning ‘God’ and ‘logos’ (λόγος), meaning ‘word,’ so in simple terms, theology is ‘words about God.’
God calls all of humanity to know Him in an intimate way. We see that throughout the journey of the Old Testament, God is constantly calling His people to know Him and to return to Him (Isaiah 1:3, Neh. 1:8-10), to know His law and walk in His ways (Deut 8:6, 26:17, 30:16), and also warns that those who reject Him, “reject the knowledge” of Him, and as a result are “destroyed.” (Hosea 4:6)
But now, after the Incarnation, Christ has proclaimed to all of humanity– past, present, and future– that life is given to us, but we need to know Him first: “This is eternal life, that they may know you, the true God, and Jesus Christ whom You have sent” (John 17:3). It is in this that we know that we can understand who God is through the power of the Incarnation of the Word Himself, for Christ “declared” (John 17:26) to us who the Father is and has sent us His words so that we may believe, know, and live in Him.
The Church Fathers have given us an abundance of resources to understand the Faith that has been handed down to us since the beginning. About this Faith, Saint Athanasius says in his famous epistle to Serapion, Bishop of Thimuis in the 4th century that it is ‘what Christ gave, the apostles preached, the fathers kept.’ It is therefore our duty to not keep the faith (theology) as something hidden away on the top of our bookshelves and pull it out when necessary or if crisis hits in our lives, but to have it as a living expression in every moment of those lives.
Theology is not solely knowing about Him, but knowing and experiencing Him as a Person, not a textbook character. We see in the gospel according to St. Matthew that those who call “Lord, Lord” will not be saved, but those who do His will (Matt 7:21-23); and what is His will but to know and live with Him.
Christopher Hall summarises what the Church’s notion of theology is in writing:
“The task of theology is the constant, nuanced, prayerful re-appropriation of the heart of the Christian faith and its careful and sensitive communication to the modern world in which we live.” (Learning Theology with the Church Fathers, p.27)
I welcome you to this new academic semester, and pray that it is one filled with breathing, thinking, and moving in the words of our Lord, and thus living a life of knowing Him now and forever.
Archbishop Angaelos, Principal Of The College, October 2010
In the first century, shortly after the Coptic Church was founded by Saint Mark the apostle, the first theological college, the School of Alexandria, started in Egypt, becoming the lampstand to the whole Christian world at that time.
At the beginning of the twentieth century, the theological college flourished through the work of Archdeacon Habib Girgis, whose efforts were then continued by the generations which he himself taught.
Over the last five decades, since the late pope Kyrellos VI consecrated Bishop Shenouda as a bishop for education religious institutes, a new era of theological colleges has started. Since His Holiness become Pope in 1971, he paid attention to establishing theological colleges throughout and outside Egypt in the lands of immigration, and Saint Athanasius the Apostolic Theological College in the United Kingdom was the first in Europe.
His Holiness Poe Shenouda III came especially to United Kingdom to the inauguration ceremony of St. Athanasius the Apostolic Theological College in September 1997 and he started the teaching in the college with the Comparative Theology course.
The aim of the college to teach Orthodox Theology and Coptic Heritage to those who are interested among the Coptic congregation in the United Kingdom, and to ensure that this is delivered in a spiritual and liveable way.
We pray to the Lord to prosper this work for the benefit of the Church and her children in the United Kingdom through the prayers of St. Mary, St. Mark, St. Athanasius the Apostolic, His Holiness Pope Tawadros II and His Eminence Archbishop Angaelos.
Father Shenouda Asham, Vice-Principal Of The College, October 2010