I recently wrote about my preference for the phrase theology of nursing over the phrase nursing theology. The major reason for my preference has to do with my interest in viewing nursing through the lens of a fully developed theology rather than understanding “just enough” theology to make sense of nursing. My perspective on the two phrases mentioned above was formed largely by consideration of the word order involved. With word order in mind, the idea of a nursing theology seems quite different from a theology of nursing. I’ll explain why.
For many people the differences between these phrases are minimal. On a superficial level, I would agree. After all, both phrases contain the words nursing and theology. On a deeper level, though, how the word nursing is used in relation to theology produces an important distinction between these phrases.
In both phrases, theology is used as a noun. With either phrase we’re talking about or seeking to understand God and his relation to the world. Both phrases refer to something rather than nothing, and that something is our endeavor to think about and understand God in some way.
In the phrase nursing theology, the word nursing is used as an adjective. It seems to describe just what type of theology is in view. It suggests a theology of a nursing variety, a theology viewed through the lens of nursing. One might even think of theology discussed in the style of nursing.
Theology of nursing, on the other hand, utilizes nursing as a noun within a prepositional phrase. Theology comes first, both literally and figuratively. The theology in view is “of nursing.” We may be discussing theology as it relates to nursing, but with this phrase it’s easier to see that theology transcends nursing and defines it. It’s not truncated or reduced in scope by nursing.
Theology is more foundational than nursing. Its roots are deeper, and its reach is more comprehensive than that of nursing. There was a period in history when theology was referred to by learned men as the “queen of the sciences.” In some sense, that remains true, even if we don’t acknowledge it. I’m aware that that statement warrants more discussion, but that’s a topic for another time. In this post, I merely want to offer more reasoning for my preference for the phrase theology of nursing.
As I said previously, the content of the field of inquiry known as theology of nursing should “relate the realities of nursing with the ultimate reality of God.” By nature, ultimate reality transcends the contingent reality of things like nursing. The phrase theology of nursing rightly reflects the order of relations between theology and nursing. One can truly say that nursing has its foundation in theology, not the other way around.
That statement will be one of my basic assumptions moving forward. I believe it will be an important guide to my understanding. I hope it will be that for you as well.