Beyond Reason

More of the Same

Posted in Faith by Abigail on December 7, 2006

I recently ordered a book for my Aunt which has a quote inside the front cover from Dr. John Frame, Professor of Systematic Theology and Philosophy (Reformed Theological Seminary).

But, neither the quote nor the book interests me. Just his title. He is a professor of theology and philosophy. Why? What is the connection between those two? This is extremely similar to the issues I was posing in my previous post.

I remember walking the hallways of the Cedarville Bible building and noticing that the philosophy department was housed there. I thought that was odd. I recognize that theology and philosophy ask the same big questions. Some of their differences come in their method of answering those questions and in many of the specific questions asked. Other than that, they appear awfully similar.

But, why, at a seminary, do you teach philosophy? (For anyone who may be thinking that I’m losing sleep over this, I’m not. I just find it severely intriguing. I’m odd, I know.) There’s nothing wrong with philosophy. I love it, personally. I can’t think of anything I like better. But doesn’t it come with inherent dangers for the Christian? A Christian says I believe these things on faith not on a series of thought experiments. In other words, I believe this because I can’t turn to myself anymore, ‘cause it’s all over on my end, my fallibility has proved itself one too many times. So, I suppose I could turn to a seminary catalog and read their descriptions, but that’s no fun. I prefer to post this on my blog.

Any thoughts?

If not, no worries – I’m stuck on this topic. It’ll come back.  🙂

(Brad and Joel – I’m still getting back to your comments.)


3 Responses to 'More of the Same'

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  1. Chris Poteet said,

    Remember that philosophy and theology are not mutually exclusive entities (“they appear awfully similar”). The greatest metaphysical questions are theological in nature (unless one presumes Atheism shaping epistemology, ontology, etc).

    The doctrine of the Trinity is a great example. There is no way to even come close to articulating that doctrine without metaphysical logic. I look forward to studying philosophy from a theistic vantage point.

  2. amandalaine said,

    Hey Chris!

    That’s a good point – they definitely aren’t mutually exclusive but there can be huge barriers between the two. I suppose it depends on what sort of assumptions you make or what your faith is in. I’m not sure where most people start when they ask a philosophical question, but, I tend to start at square zero (at least that’s what I think I’m doing). This means no theology or atheism shaping my epistemology… but then you get nowhere, obviously. Another way of saying this is that I constantly start with epistemology – hence my whole post on “philosophy and theology.” How do we know what we know? If we are fallible, why do we keep trusting ourselves (philosophy) and how much more trustworthy is theology if it also is a form of philosophy? But I recognize we have to make assumptions (many assumptions). Hence, faith. Faith seems completely reasonable when you are fallible and limited.

    So that’s a really good point you make about studying philosophy based on your theology, “from a theistic vantage point.” And obviously that’s what Christians are called to – leaving our own understanding and following someone who truly does know. And yet certainly we are called to think also? It is that tension that I believe I am trying to get at.

    Thanks for your post!!! I didn’t mean to talk so much…

  3. Brad said,

    Philosophy is at its core an attempt to understand the world in broad strokes. It is also a desire to explain things without superstition. The very first Philosopher in the Western (Greek) tradition Thales attempted to cut free from the pantheon of gods as the explanation for previously unexplained phenomena (like lightning). This is a good thing. The problem with the modern viewpoint that troubles us sometimes is that Christianity is heaped together with all of those old “superstitions”. I’ve not found anything in the Bible that smacks of superstition or blind speculation.
    The point from Chris above is a good one. Some things in Theology just can’t be properly defined without Metaphysics. But those Metaphysical tools are not necessary for faith to be honest and fruitful. It only helps to define and defend the truth against false beliefs. The historical development of Philosophy and Theology (at least in Christian traditions) happens hand in hand to protect against false teachers. But to then say that this is “man made” kind of misses the point. Much of the early clarifications of doctrine in Church creeds and councils is negative. This is true because someone came forth with a real test of the truth. If someone says Jesus rose as a spirit and not a body as we commonly define it. The best way to fix that from happening again is to clarify further what you already believe (using scripture and logic). When you look at the finished product of that investment it looks awfully presumptive and/or artificial. But every fine grain of doctrine (at least for the big stuff) is there because someone thought something untrue and needed to be corrected.

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