Theology and philosophy relationship

theology and philosophy relationship

Theology is the branch of philosophy dedicated to understanding God. Given that it tends to be specific to a particular religion, perhaps it might be more accurate. THE RELATION BETWEEN PHILOSOPHY. AND THEOLOGY·. By medieval writers, and still by orthodox Roman Catholics and. Protestants of the more rigid type. It was during this time however that St. Thomas Aquinas offered yet another model for the relationship between philosophy and theology.

The philosophy of religion is by no means merely another name for rational theology as traditionally understood, for the very standards of reason which are applied to theological issues have changed. If the theologian is not to be caught off guard, he must be prepared to question these standards, and thus, to adopt an unfamiliar hypercritical stance toward the cannons of reason themselves. The dialogue between philosophy and theology today is not simply an affair between the questioning mind of the philosopher and the pious spirit of the theologian.

Every question comes with unspoken expectations of what sort of answer will be considered suitable. Every search for a reason presupposes a standard of explanation. The expectations and presuppositions that inform the philosophy of religion are deeply colored by the entire history of recent Western thought. Since many of those who write and publish in the area of philosophy of religion have been trained in analytic philosophy, the standards of analytic philosophy, which are influenced to a great degree by empiricism, positivism, pragmatism, and naturalism, play an important but subtle role in this field.

The situation is complicated by the fact that many philosophers of religion, and even more Christian theologians, are influenced more by what is often called "continental philosophy" than by analytic philosophy.

The Relationship Between Philosophy And Theology In The Postmodern Age

Most of the important continental philosophers have been from France or Germany, while the majority of analytic philosophers have taught at American or British universities. While philosophy in the U. What is emerging is a "world philosophy", but one from which the Islamic world is largely excluded. The reason for this exclusion is not because of some conspiracy to suppress Islamic thought, but because we Muslims have not seriously attempted to enter the discussion.

If we are to enter the discussion, we must beware that it takes place in what is often hostile territory, in the context of expectations, presuppositions and standards of reasoning many of which are quite foreign to those found in the Islamic sciences.

These issues must be kept in mind before the Muslim scholar attempts to survey the questions contemporary philosophy of religion poses for theology, where here, and in what follows, theology is to be understood as including not merely kalam, but 'irfan nazari, religious ethics, and even some discussions of fiqh and usul. What appears to be a dialogue between a philosopher who relies on pure reason alone and a theologian is in reality a complex discussion about philosophy, the sciences, theology and the various ideologies which have influenced these broad areas of intellectual endeavor.

Perhaps the attitude of the Muslim scholar to the complexity of the situation will be one of dismissal; the Muslim theologian might come to the conclusion that the philosophy of religion is the product of Western intellectual attitudes toward science and religion and does not apply to the Islamic world.

The conversation between philosophy and theology is really a conversation between a Western philosopher and a Christian theologian. However, we ignore the philosophy of religion at our own peril. The ideas and attitudes that inform the philosophy of religion are not confined within the walls of a few universities in distant foreign lands.

They are part of the Western cultural atmosphere whose volume is so large that it will find itself invading the Islamic world, or rather has already started invading, whether anyone wants it to or not.

The international commerce in ideas-mostly Western ideas-cannot be slowed, let alone stopped. Faced with a trade imbalance, attempts may be made to preserve local markets, but ultimately the only successful policy will be one in which locally manufactured products of export quality are made widely available.

Since there are so many different kinds of Western intellectual products on the market, we Muslims cannot hope to gain our market share in all fields any time soon. However, we can hope to compete aggressively in those areas in which Islamic thought has demonstrated its strength in the past, and build on this to expand into other areas.

In order to compete in the international market of ideas, Islamic thought must not only answer the doubts raised by various Western thinkers, it must do so in a way that is distinctively Islamic. We cannot simply look at the answers Christians have given and then search for an appropriate ahadith to make them seem Islamic.

theology and philosophy relationship

Serious full time work has to be done to begin to formulate contemporary Islamic theologies which are in harmony with the tradition of Islamic sciences, especially kalam, falsafah, and 'irfan. With these points in mind, we can turn to some examples of the sorts of questions raised by the philosophy of religion for the theologian. One of the deepest areas to be surveyed is that of epistemology.

theology and philosophy relationship

This is also an area to which medieval thinkers devoted less attention than our contemporaries. How do we know that God exists? The traditional answer given by Christians as well as Muslims was that we can formulate sound deductive proofs whose premises are self-evident and whose conclusions state the existence of God.

How Can Philosophy Aid Theology?

The problem with this answer is that many of the premises that seemed self-evident enough in the past have now come to be questioned. Consider, for example, the role of the principle that an actual infinity of causes is impossible. A number of Western philosophers, physicists and mathematicians have come to doubt this principle. In defense of the principle, an important book has been written in which some of the ideas of Muslim philosophers are given attention: The continued discussion of this work in scholarly journals sixteen years after the publication of the book is testimony to its significance.

The important point is that what has seemed for centuries to be a self-evident principle is now the topic of vigorous debate. At first glance it seems that what we have here is a case of a principle of reason defended in Islamic philosophy and theology pitted against the modern skeptics of the West. If we look closer, however, we find that the principle has undergone its own evolution within the tradition of Islamic philosophy.

By the time we get to Sadr al-Muta'allihin the principle is limited to series of actual causes of existence occurring simultaneously. The question that needs to be addressed here is how the unqualified principle came to be qualified in Islamic philosophy, for the unqualified principle was also taken by some such as Ghazali to be a self-evident principle of reason, and the version of the principle still defended by Craig is not subject to the qualification of simultaneity!

In any case, what we find here is rather typical of the philosophy of religion. Philosophers impressed with the principles employed in the natural sciences or mathematics raise doubts about what had been considered to be self-evident or nearly self-evident principles which had been used as premises of proofs for the existence of God. The result is an epistemological problem. What was once claimed to be known is now doubted. The doubts raised are not unanswerable, but the formulation of answers requires a fair degree of sophistication, including a certain amount of familiarity with current physics and mathematics.

William Lane Craig and Quentin Smith take up the debate about the cosmological argument and the new physics in a more recent book: Theism, Atheism and Big Bang Cosmology. Alvin Plantinga has become famous among philosophers of religion for his defense of what he calls "reformed epistemology". He claims that the founder of the Reformed Church, John Calvin, held a similar view. The Catholic response to Plantinga is especially interesting because in the Shi'i tradition there has been a similar respect for the powers of reason.

I suspect that in the long run, the responses of Catholic and Muslim philosophers and theologians will be similar in being diverse. Another major figure who has defended the rationality of religious belief without reliance on the traditional proofs for the existence of God is William Alston. Since the beliefs based on sense experience are considered to be rational, the same must be granted of religious beliefs.

Alston's work, like Plantinga's, has generated volumes of criticism and responses, most of which focus on such epistemological questions as the nature of knowledge and rationality, faith and belief, or evidence and justification. Other defenders of the Christian faith have argued that the doubts raised by Hume and Kant about the rationality of religious belief can be answered through an examination of the standards of reasoning employed in the natural sciences today, which are far from what Hume and Kant imagined.

In many of the discussions of the rationality of religious faith, the concept of religious experience plays a pivotal role. This is especially true of the writings of reformed epistemologists and of William Alston, but of many others as well, including Gary Gutting, 8 Richard Swinburne 9 and John Hick. Even the very term "religious experience" is difficult to translate into Farsi or Arabic. The most commonly accepted translation seems to be tajrobeh-ye dini, but tajrobeh has the odor of the laboratory and a sense of repetition, which is absent from the Western concept.

theology and philosophy relationship

Other terms which might be suggested each have their own problems, for example, idrak, shenakht, and ma'rifat each are appropriate only when some reality is successfully apprehended, while the term "religious experience" is supposed to be neutral as to whether it is illusory or veridical.

It is to be understood on analogy with scientific data, and just as the scientist uses reason to judge which of competing hypotheses can best explain the available empirical data, Gary Gutting and Richard Swinburne hold that the hypothesis of God's existence can best explain the data of one's inner religious feelings and intuitions.

Alston and Plantinga, on the other hand, claim that for the believer, the proposition that God exists is more analogous to the scientist's presumption that there is a physical world to be investigated and about which empirical data convey information. They hold that religious feeling and intuitions, including mystical visions, provide data that convey information about God and His relation to the believer, information that presupposes the existence of God.

To say that according to Alston and Plantinga religious experience presupposes the existence of God does not mean that for these philosophers God's existence is a mere assumption, for they hold that the assumption is warranted, and that its warrant can be demonstrated through a rational examination of the relation between the assumption and the sorts of religious experiences that are important to Christian life.

The focus on religious experience has led some philosophers, such as William Proudfoot, 11 Steven Katz 12 and Nelson Pike, 13 to an epistemological examination of the reports of the mystics. They ask such questions as whether a meaningful distinction can be made between what appears in the heart of the mystic and how he interprets this appearance, whether mystical appearances must be analogous to sensory appearances, whether mystics of various traditions all have the same sorts of experiences, whether training determines the sort of experience the mystic will have and whether the mystics themselves take these experiences to have epistemological significance.

Here we find a number of issues about which the philosopher and the theologian can be of mutual service. The theologian provides the philosopher with the doctrinal setting in terms of which reports of mystical experiences are understood, and the philosopher provides a critical analysis of both doctrine and report in order to place mystical experiences within the framework of a broader epistemological theory. It is not only epistemology that serves as a source of the problems posed in the philosophy of religion for theology, virtually all the branches of philosophy have some bearing on the philosophy of religion, and raise questions about theological doctrine.

One of the most distinguished areas of philosophy is metaphysics, and metaphysics has long had an intimate relation to theology, especially to Islamic theosophy Al-Hikmah. Muslim, Christian and Jewish theologians have often utilized metaphysical systems based on ancient Greek thought in order to explain theological doctrines.

Many religious philosophers have come to prefer other systems of metaphysics; as a result, they find themselves engaged in an attempt to restate religious doctrine in a way that does not use the language of the older metaphysics. Sometimes, however, doctrine becomes so intertwined with the older metaphysics that they are difficult to separate. For example, the Christian doctrine of the Trinity was stated in terms of metaphysics of substances, modes, persons and attributes drawn from Roman as well as Greek philosophy.

Many contemporary Christian thinkers are now willing to concede that the traditional statements of the doctrine of the Trinity in these terms have not been successful.

Philosophical theology

But rather than reject the claim that God is to be understood as the Holy Trinity, they have claimed that the doctrine is better explained without the claim that God is three persons but one substance, or with an interpretation of this claim that would have been unthinkable in past centuries.

Robert Cummings Neville, the Dean of the Boston Theological Seminary, completely dismisses the claim, and defends the Trinity as three ways or aspects of divinity understood with reference to the creation. God is the source of creation; He is the end or tools of creation, and He is the very activity of creation itself, according to Neville. Aside from this, there is little left of the traditional doctrine of the Trinity in Neville's theology.

Morris uses the methods developed by analytic philosophers to defend a version of Social Trinitarianism from the heretical claim made by some process theologians that God is in need of the world. Process theology itself developed as a reaction against metaphysics of substances inspired by Whitehead and Hartshorne's idea that the world consists of essentially interrelated events.

According to this idea the identity relation is always governed by the category of its terms. Defenders of the Trinity such as Peter Geach and Peter van Inwagen have used the theory of relative identity to defend the proposition that while the persons of the Trinity may be different persons, they may at the same time be the same God.

Older than epistemology and at least as ancient as metaphysics is ethics. Philosophical reflections on good and evil, right and wrong and virtue and vice have always mingled with religious thought, and today, as well, philosophers whose primary concern is the nature of value and morality are raising important questions for theologians to ponder. All of the religions systematize moral thought to a certain extent, for all religions issue imperatives disobedience to which is considered morally as well as religiously wrong.

Must moral theory conform to the moral concepts embodied in religion? Can there be altruistic ideals that go beyond the moral ideals of religion? Can religion issue orders which nullify moral imperatives? Can a person be morally reprehensible without violating any religious law? Can a rational ethics put constraints on an acceptable interpretation of religion?

How could God, who is perfectly good, order Abraham to kill his son? This last question was forcefully raised by Soren Kierkegaardand it is still a problem frequently discussed among Christian philosophers and theologians.

Kierkegaard's answer, of course, was that religion issues orders with a force beyond anything found in morality orders which from the point of view of reason, would be considered wrong. Philosophers and theologians who are not satisfied with this fideist approach to religious commands must find a plausible reconciliation between reason and moral intuition, on the one hand, and religious rulings and actions of those considered faultless, on the other.

The question of the relation between divine commands and moral imperatives has become the focus of considerable debate among contemporary philosophers of religion largely as a result of the work of Robert M. Adams is no Ash'arite, and will not accept the claim that if God were to command cruelty and infidelity then torture and treason would be morally praiseworthy. God's commands have moral force, according to Adams, only because God is perfectly good, just and benevolent; but without God's commands, Adams contends there would be no moral imperatives at all.

Other recent publications in which the relation between religion and morality are discussed include J. He even confesses that if no variation on Hume's theory is ultimately defensible, we should be forced to seek a religious explanation to the manner in which values seem to supervene on natural properties.

theology and philosophy relationship

But MacIntyre is not satisfied with the notion that facts are related to values by divine decree; instead he seeks to revive a version of an Aristotelian teleological ethics, but one in which perfection is to be understood by means of attention to the movement of tradition and historical narrative, rather than though biology as Aristotle sometimes seemed to suggest. Religion becomes paramount in MacIntyre's thinking because it is only religion that is able to support the sorts of traditions and historical narratives that can provide a firm basis for the moral life.

No discussion of the way religious narratives can contribute to our understanding of, who we are and where we are headed would be complete without some attention to the issue of religious language, and this brings us to another area in which the philosopher may be seen as posing questions for the theologian. One of the areas of most intense activity in twentieth century Western philosophy is that of the philosophy of language. Frege's program was carried on by RussellWittgensteinCarnapQuine and Kripketo mention just a few of those whose ideas about the logical analysis of language have provoked extended debate.

The program of logical analysis was soon extended to theological statements. Philosophers of religion began to ask questions about the logical analysis of such claims as "God is eternal" 20 and "God is omnipotent", 21 and the ways in which we may succeed in referring to God. Many of these theologians have been more favorably impressed by Wittgenstein's later writings, and his suggestion that religious language may be compared to a game or a form of life significantly different from scientific language to prevent the possibility of any conflict between religion and science.

Although the verificationist theory of meaning advocated by the positivists has been generally rejected, the Wittgensteinian slogan, "meaning is use", provided theologians with a basis in the philosophy of language for turning their attention to functionalist theories of religious language which seemed to dovetail rather neatly with the anti-reductionism popular in Protestant theological circles. These tendencies among many although by no means all of those who have been attracted to functionalist explanations of religious language are largely anti-philosophical tendencies, even when they turn to the philosophy of the later Wittgenstein for support.

Although there are many disagreements among those who find themselves supporting some variety of fideism, there is agreement among the fideists that religion does not need any philosophical explanation or justification.

So, after our tour through the philosophical territories bordering on theology, we find ourselves back where we started, at epistemology and the question of the rationality of religious belief, for functionalist approaches to religious language, including theories according to which religious language serves to express attitudes rather than to describe reality, are often attempts to escape rational criticism of religious beliefs.

No justification is needed, the fideist proclaims, because the language of religion is independent of and irrelevant to the language of justification. Here the reformed epistemology of Alvin Plantinga, or the related ideas of William Alston may be seen as a sort of compromise between those who would justify religious claims by rational proof and those who deny that any such justification is needed or desirable.

What Plantinga and Alston offer is a philosophical argument as to why religious belief may be considered warranted and rational, even in the absence of direct evidential support.

Today's Christian theologians, however, are often unimpressed by the works of Christian philosophers such as those mentioned above. These philosophers are primarily concerned with the issues of rationality and the justification or warrant that can or cannot be provided for assertions of the truth of various religious claims.

The theologians, on the other hand, often seem to be more interested in the effects in the lives of believers that are associated with adhering to various beliefs and participating in the Church. Thomas Aquinasone of the most influential philosophers and theologians in history, for instance, borrowed much of his concepts from Aristotle. Scholasticism dominated both the philosophical and theological landscape in the Middle Ageswith theologians such as Aquinas, Anselm of CanterburyDuns ScotusWilliam of OckhamPeter AbelardBonaventureand Albertus Magnus playing key role in both philosophy and theology.

Philosophical theology - Wikipedia

In modern times, Anthony Thiselton has shown in his Fusion of Horizons the role that philosophy has played in the interpretation of scriptures, i. Philosophy provides interpretive grids for apprehension of revelation. There are others, like Sadhu Sundar Singhfor instance, who believed that it is the illumination of the Holy Spirit 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. Foundations of modern philosophical theology[ edit ] During the 18th, 19th centuries, and 20th centuries many theologians reacted against the modernistEnlightenmentand positivist attacks on Christian theology. Some existentialistic or neo-orthodox Protestant intellectuals like the Swiss Reformed theologian Karl Barth turned away from philosophy called fideism and argued that faith should be based strictly upon divine revelation.

A popular approach in some circles is the approach of Reformed epistemologistssuch as Alvin Plantinga and Nicholas Wolterstorffwho 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 or the external worldrather than inferentially derived from other beliefs; it can, however, be subject to defeatersrationally requiring that one give up the belief.

Many other philosophers and theologians, however, disagree with this perspective and provide alternative views. Many other theologians have turned to continental philosophyanalytic philosophyand postmodern philosophy in attempts to analyze and reframe the Christian theology in contemporary contexts.

Philosophical theology[ edit ] While philosophical theology can denote an approach to theology which is philosophical in nature, it can also denote a specific area of theology in which philosophical methods and terminology are used to analyze theological concepts.

One task of philosophical theologians is to attempt to reconcile certain aspects of Christian doctrine with developments in philosophy. One question concerns how to prove the existence and nature of God.

The knowledge of God is dealt with in the epistemology of religion. There are many different perspectives with philosophical theology on such questions. In modern times process theologyopen theism 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.

Christology[ edit ] Within Christologya number of philosophical questions have been raised, such as how the divine can incarnate as a human, how the eternal can enter the temporal, and how the divine and the human can be united in one yet remain distinct.

theology and philosophy relationship

Such questions led to earlier heresies like ArianismSabellianismDocetismetc. Often, one's epistemic theory can play an important role in how one answers such questions.

There is, for instance, sometimes a clash between those who want to emphasize the rational foundation for theology and those who want to emphasize the empirical foundation for theology.