Theology translates into English from the Greek theologia (θεολογία) which derived from Τheos (Θεός), meaning "God", and -logia (-λογία), meaning "utterances, sayings, or oracles" (a word related to logos , meaning "word, discourse, account, or reasoning") which had passed into Latin as theologia and into French as théologie. The English equivalent "theology" (Theologie, Teologye) had evolved by 1362. The sense the word has in English depends in large part on the sense the Latin and Greek equivalents had acquired in patristic and medieval Christian usage, although the English term has now spread beyond Christian contexts.
Augustine of Hippo defined the Latin equivalent, theologia, as "reasoning or discussion concerning the Deity"; Richard Hooker defined "theology" in English as "the science of things divine". The term can, however, be used for a variety of different disciplines or fields of study.
Theology begins with the assumption that the divine exists in some form, such as in physical, supernatural, mental, or social realities, and that evidence for and about it may be found via personal spiritual experiences and/or historical records of such experiences as documented by others. The study of these assumptions is not part of theology proper but is found in the philosophy of religion, and increasingly through the psychology of religion and neurotheology. Theology then aims to structure and understand these experiences and concepts, and to use them to derive normative prescriptions for how to live our lives.
Theologians use various forms of analysis and argument (experiential, philosophical, ethnographic, historical, and others) to help understand, explain, test, critique, defend or promote any myriad of religious topics. As in philosophy of ethics and case law, arguments often assume the existence of previously resolved questions, and develop by making analogies from them to draw new inferences in new situations.
The study of theology may help a theologian more deeply understand their own religious tradition, another religious tradition, or it may enable them to explore the nature of divinity without reference to any specific tradition. Theology may be used to propagate, reform, or justify a religious tradition or it may be used to compare, challenge (e.g. biblical criticism), or oppose (e.g. irreligion) a religious tradition or world-view. Theology might also help a theologian to address some present situation or need through a religious tradition, or to explore possible ways of interpreting the world.