Philosophical Theology

Philosophical Theology

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Philosophical theology is the disciplined employment of philosophical
Philosophy is the study of general and fundamental problems, such as those connected with existence, knowledge, values, reason, mind, and language. Philosophy is distinguished from other ways of addressing such problems by its critical, generally systematic approach and its reliance on rational...

 methods in developing or analyzing theological
Theology is the systematic and rational study of religion and its influences and of the nature of religious truths, or the learned profession acquired by completing specialized training in religious studies, usually at a university or school of divinity or seminary.-Definition:Augustine of Hippo...

 concepts. It therefore includes natural theology
Natural theology
Natural theology is a branch of theology based on reason and ordinary experience. Thus it is distinguished from revealed theology which is based on scripture and religious experiences of various kinds; and also from transcendental theology, theology from a priori reasoning.Marcus Terentius Varro ...

 as well as philosophical treatments of orthodox
The word orthodox, from Greek orthos + doxa , is generally used to mean the adherence to accepted norms, more specifically to creeds, especially in religion...

 and heterodox theology.

Philosophy and theology

Quintus Septimius Florens Tertullianus, anglicised as Tertullian , was a prolific early Christian author from Carthage in the Roman province of Africa. He is the first Christian author to produce an extensive corpus of Latin Christian literature. He also was a notable early Christian apologist and...

, a Church father had asked the question 'What has Athens to do with Jerusalem?' Here Athens
Athens , is the capital and largest city of Greece. Athens dominates the Attica region and is one of the world's oldest cities, as its recorded history spans around 3,400 years. Classical Athens was a powerful city-state...

 symbolized the philosophical approach and Jerusalem the revelational. Few Church leaders saw any relationship between philosophy and theology. Justin Martyr
Justin Martyr
Justin Martyr, also known as just Saint Justin , was an early Christian apologist. Most of his works are lost, but two apologies and a dialogue survive. He is considered a saint by the Roman Catholic Church and the Eastern Orthodox Church....

 looked at people like Heraclitus
Heraclitus of Ephesus was a pre-Socratic Greek philosopher, a native of the Greek city Ephesus, Ionia, on the coast of Asia Minor. He was of distinguished parentage. Little is known about his early life and education, but he regarded himself as self-taught and a pioneer of wisdom...

 and Socrates
Socrates was a classical Greek Athenian philosopher. Credited as one of the founders of Western philosophy, he is an enigmatic figure known chiefly through the accounts of later classical writers, especially the writings of his students Plato and Xenophon, and the plays of his contemporary ...

 as possessing the divine light of revelation and so able to be true philosophers. Justin saw Christianity as the True Philosophy. Philosophy and theology have had deep connections and interactions between them were crucial in the formation of Western (and also Asian) theologies. Thomas Aquinas
Thomas Aquinas
Thomas Aquinas, O.P. , also Thomas of Aquin or Aquino, was an Italian Dominican priest of the Catholic Church, and an immensely influential philosopher and theologian in the tradition of scholasticism, known as Doctor Angelicus, Doctor Communis, or Doctor Universalis...

 borrowed much of his concepts from Aristotle
Aristotle was a Greek philosopher and polymath, a student of Plato and teacher of Alexander the Great. His writings cover many subjects, including physics, metaphysics, poetry, theater, music, logic, rhetoric, linguistics, politics, government, ethics, biology, and zoology...

, for instance. In modern times, Anthony Thiselton
Anthony Thiselton
Anthony Charles Thiselton has written a number of books and papers on Christian theology and the philosophy of religion. He has recently served on the Human Fertilisation and Embryology Authority, appointed by the Minister of Health...

 has shown in his Fusion of Horizons the role that philosophy has played in the interpretation of scriptures, i.e., in the field of hermeneutics. Philosophy provides interpretive grids for apprehension of revelation. There are others, like Sadhu Sundar Singh
Sadhu Sundar Singh
Sadhu Sundar Singh was an Indian Christian missionary. He is believed to have died in the foothills of the Himalayas in 1929.-Early years:...

, for instance, who believed that it is the illumination of the Holy Spirit
Holy Spirit
Holy Spirit is a term introduced in English translations of the Hebrew Bible, but understood differently in the main Abrahamic religions.While the general concept of a "Spirit" that permeates the cosmos has been used in various religions Holy Spirit is a term introduced in English translations of...

 that gives the truest meaning of revelation. Yet, one can't fail to see that cultural grids play an important role in the development of theology.

Philosophical theology (proper)

The problem concerns the problem of the existence and nature of God. The problem of the knowledge of God is a concern of the epistemology of religion
Religion is a collection of cultural systems, belief systems, and worldviews that establishes symbols that relate humanity to spirituality and, sometimes, to moral values. Many religions have narratives, symbols, traditions and sacred histories that are intended to give meaning to life or to...

. A new field Epistemics of Divine Reality deals exclusively with the epistemological problems surrounding the knowledge of God. Immanuel Kant
Immanuel Kant
Immanuel Kant was a German philosopher from Königsberg , researching, lecturing and writing on philosophy and anthropology at the end of the 18th Century Enlightenment....

 had argued in his Critique of Pure Reason
Critique of Pure Reason
The Critique of Pure Reason by Immanuel Kant, first published in 1781, second edition 1787, is considered one of the most influential works in the history of philosophy. Also referred to as Kant's "first critique," it was followed by the Critique of Practical Reason and the Critique of Judgement...

that the traditional arguments for the existence of God were invalid under his new theory of knowledge which he described to be a Copernican Revolution
Copernican Revolution (metaphor)
The Copernican Revolution, which in terms of astronomy amounted to the acceptance of heliocentrism as suggested by Nicolaus Copernicus, has also been used widely as a metaphor supporting descriptions of modernity...

 in the field of epistemology. Instead of the mind conforming to external objects, now external data was seen as conforming to the intuitions and categories of the mind. In such case, causality, relation, etc become mental categories and not an exact representations of reality. If this is true then, man can never come to any conclusion about God based on arguments from cause-effect and design since these concepts are purely mental. The concepts themselves involve a contradiction, a clash which ended in antinomies. Neither finitude nor infinitude could be predicated about the universe since the mind can't conceive of either successfully. The ontological argument
Ontological argument
The ontological argument for the existence of God is an a priori argument for the existence of God. The ontological argument was first proposed by the eleventh-century monk Anselm of Canterbury, who defined God as the greatest possible being we can conceive...

 assumes the quality of necessity
In U.S. criminal law, necessity may be either a possible justification or an exculpation for breaking the law. Defendants seeking to rely on this defense argue that they should not be held liable for their actions as a crime because their conduct was necessary to prevent some greater harm and when...

 predicable of being, which, however is false since necessity
In U.S. criminal law, necessity may be either a possible justification or an exculpation for breaking the law. Defendants seeking to rely on this defense argue that they should not be held liable for their actions as a crime because their conduct was necessary to prevent some greater harm and when...

 can only be predicated of statements. Thus, the arguments for God's existence fall to absurdity. Kant
KANT is a computer algebra system for mathematicians interested in algebraic number theory, performing sophisticated computations in algebraic number fields, in global function fields, and in local fields. KASH is the associated command line interface...

 on the other hand opted for the moral argument as better answering the epistemic problem of theology. He considered ethics a category of practical reason.

Few theologians were content with the modernist
Modernism, in its broadest definition, is modern thought, character, or practice. More specifically, the term describes the modernist movement, its set of cultural tendencies and array of associated cultural movements, originally arising from wide-scale and far-reaching changes to Western society...

Age of Enlightenment
The Age of Enlightenment was an elite cultural movement of intellectuals in 18th century Europe that sought to mobilize the power of reason in order to reform society and advance knowledge. It promoted intellectual interchange and opposed intolerance and abuses in church and state...

 and positivist
Logical positivism
Logical positivism is a philosophy that combines empiricism—the idea that observational evidence is indispensable for knowledge—with a version of rationalism incorporating mathematical and logico-linguistic constructs and deductions of epistemology.It may be considered as a type of analytic...

 attacks on the rational grounds for theology. Some existentialistic
Christian existentialism
Christian existentialism describes a group of writings that take a philosophically existentialist approach to Christian theology. The school of thought is often traced back to the work of the Danish philosopher and theologian considered the father of existentialism, Søren Kierkegaard...

 or neo-orthodox
Neo-orthodoxy, in Europe also known as theology of crisis and dialectical theology,is an approach to theology in Protestantism that was developed in the aftermath of the First World War...

Protestantism is one of the three major groupings within Christianity. It is a movement that began in Germany in the early 16th century as a reaction against medieval Roman Catholic doctrines and practices, especially in regards to salvation, justification, and ecclesiology.The doctrines of the...

 intellectuals like the Swiss Reformed
Swiss Reformed Church
The Reformed branch of Protestantism in Switzerland was started in Zürich by Huldrych Zwingli and spread within a few years to Basel , Bern , St...

 theologian Karl Barth
Karl Barth
Karl Barth was a Swiss Reformed theologian whom critics hold to be among the most important Christian thinkers of the 20th century; Pope Pius XII described him as the most important theologian since Thomas Aquinas...

 turned away from philosophy and toward pure faith (that is, fideism
Fideism is an epistemological theory which maintains that faith is independent of reason, or that reason and faith are hostile to each other and faith is superior at arriving at particular truths...

) based strictly upon divine revelation. Reformed epistemologists
Reformed epistemology
In the philosophy of religion, reformed epistemology is a school of thought regarding the epistemology of belief in God put forward by a group of Protestant Christian philosophers, most notably, Alvin Plantinga, William Alston, Nicholas Wolterstorff and Michael C. Rea...

, such as Alvin Plantinga
Alvin Plantinga
Alvin Carl Plantinga is an American analytic philosopher and the emeritus John A. O'Brien Professor of Philosophy at the University of Notre Dame. He is known for his work in philosophy of religion, epistemology, metaphysics, and Christian apologetics...

 and Nicholas Wolterstorff
Nicholas Wolterstorff
Nicholas Wolterstorff is an American philosopher and currently the Noah Porter Emeritus Professor of Philosophical Theology at Yale University...

, assert that belief in God might be foundational (or, properly basic) and warranted without the need for logical or evidential justification, like belief in other minds
Problem of other minds
The problem of other minds has traditionally been regarded as an epistemological challenge raised by the skeptic. The challenge may be expressed as follows: given that I can only observe the behavior of others, how can I know that others have minds? The thought behind the question is that no matter...

 or the external world
Philosophical skepticism
Philosophical skepticism is both a philosophical school of thought and a method that crosses disciplines and cultures. Many skeptics critically examine the meaning systems of their times, and this examination often results in a position of ambiguity or doubt...

, rather than inferentially derived from other beliefs; it can, however, be subject to defeaters, rationally requiring that one give up the belief.

Other issues related to philosophical theology proper are issues related to the nature of God and His relation to the world. In modern times process theology
Process theology
Process theology is a school of thought influenced by the metaphysical process philosophy of Alfred North Whitehead and further developed by Charles Hartshorne . While there are process theologies that are similar, but unrelated to the work of Whitehead the term is generally applied to the...

, open theism
Open theism
Open theism is a recent theological movement that has developed within evangelical and post-evangelical Protestant Christianity as a response to certain ideas that are related to the synthesis of Greek philosophy and Christian theology...

 and Christian panentheism have tried to look at God as the Being who is not only the Source and Ground of all being but also influenced by the people and processes of the world which he created and to which he belongs—rejecting or at least amending the classical medieval doctrine of impassibility
Impassibility describes the theological doctrine that God does not experience pain or pleasure from the actions of another being. It has often been seen as a consequence of divine aseity, the idea that God is absolutely independent of any other being, i.e., in no way causally dependent...



The doctrine of Christ
Christ is the English term for the Greek meaning "the anointed one". It is a translation of the Hebrew , usually transliterated into English as Messiah or Mashiach...

 faces the philosophical problems of how the divine can incarnate as human, how the eternal can enter the temporal, how the divine and the human can be united in one yet remain distinct. Such questions led to earlier heresies like Arianism
Arianism is the theological teaching attributed to Arius , a Christian presbyter from Alexandria, Egypt, concerning the relationship of the entities of the Trinity and the precise nature of the Son of God as being a subordinate entity to God the Father...

, Sabellianism
In Christianity, Sabellianism, is the nontrinitarian belief that the Heavenly Father, Resurrected Son and Holy Spirit are different modes or aspects of one God, as perceived by the believer, rather than three distinct persons in God Himself.The term Sabellianism comes from...

, Docetism
In Christianity, docetism is the belief that Jesus' physical body was an illusion, as was his crucifixion; that is, Jesus only seemed to have a physical body and to physically die, but in reality he was incorporeal, a pure spirit, and hence could not physically die...

, etc. One can see how one's epistemic theory can play an important role in looking at such problems. There is obviously a clash between the rational and the empirical
The word empirical denotes information gained by means of observation or experimentation. Empirical data are data produced by an experiment or observation....

. There has been a contrast made between Christology
Christology is the field of study within Christian theology which is primarily concerned with the nature and person of Jesus Christ as recorded in the Canonical gospels and the letters of the New Testament. Primary considerations include the relationship of Jesus' nature and person with the nature...

 from above and Christology from below. The former emphasizes the divine side of Christ
Christ is the English term for the Greek meaning "the anointed one". It is a translation of the Hebrew , usually transliterated into English as Messiah or Mashiach...

; the latter, the human side. The human side obviously tends to look at it more empirically. The Scriptures call the Incarnation as a mystery of godliness. It baffles human imagination. Yet, it is also important to find a philosophical ground for asserting the divinity and humanity of Christ. One is aware that apart from divine revelation the knowledge of Jesus as the Christ and as divine was impossible. Anyone who saw Him just thought He was a man. It was divine revelation that showed that Christ was God. However, Bultmann and others in their venture of demythologizing the New Testament
New Testament
The New Testament is the second major division of the Christian biblical canon, the first such division being the much longer Old Testament....

have looked at Christology as greatly tampered with and in need of being demythologized. There has been a separation made between the Jesus of history and the Christ of faith. There has also been the problem known as the Scandal of Particularity that relates to how one man, Jesus could be divine and also savior of the whole world.