This distinguishes it from revealed theology, which is based on scripture and/or religious experiences, also from transcendental theology, which is based on a priori reasoning. It is thus a type of philosophy, with the aim of explaining the nature of the gods, or of one supreme god. For monotheistic religions, this principally involves arguments about the attributes or non-attributes of a deity, and especially the deity's existence, using arguments that do not involve recourse to revelation.
The ideals of natural theology can be traced back to the Old Testament and Greek philosophy. Early sources evident of these ideals come from Jeremiah and The Wisdom of Solomon (c. 50 BC) and Plato's dialogue Timaeus (c. 360 BC).
Marcus Terentius Varro (116–27 BCE) established a distinction between political theology (the social functions of religion), natural theology and mythical theology. His terminology became part of the Stoic tradition and then Christianity through Augustine of Hippo and Thomas Aquinas.