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Thread: Does Theology Need Philosophy?

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    tWebber
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    Does Theology Need Philosophy?

    Richard Howe wrote an article defending the idea that theology needs philosophy. Here is the link: http://richardghowe.com/index_htm_fi...idISCA2016.pdf

    Here is the thesis of the paper:

    My aim in this paper is to argue that there is a very real sense in which sound philosophy is also necessary for sound Christian thinking. In other words, I contend that the task for the Christian vis-à-vis philosophy is not only a negative one (being aware of and avoiding unsound philosophy with its erroneous theological implications), but also a positive one (advancing sound philosophical arguments as a prerequisite to sound theology). It is not only the case that there are elements of philosophy to be avoided for Christian theology (using the phrase 'Christian theology' here as a synecdoche for 'Christian thinking'), but that there are also elements of sound philosophy that are essential for Christian thinking.
    One example Howe gives for theology needing philosophy has to do with "adjudicating literal descriptions of God from figures of speech." According to Howe, The Dake Annotated Reference Bible has study notes that say that God has a literal body with literal body parts. This body and these body parts are not physical; they are spiritual. Howe argues that we need philosophy in order to discern what should be understood literally and what should be understood figuratively.

    Here is an article by Paul Gould that discusses the same topic: http://www.paul-gould.com/2016/04/20...-a-case-study/

    Here are some quotes from Gould's article:

    Lesson #1: Philosophy can bring clarity and coherence to biblical theology. Carson’s use of a term that has a standard usage in philosophy contributes to confusion in theology. There needs to be a two-way conversation between theology and philosophy. As the early Church Fathers put it, theology is the queen of the science and philosophy is the handmaiden (the servant). Carson would benefit from allowing the handmaiden to help!

    Lesson #2: Often, the biblical texts are underdetermined with respect to a position, and it is left to philosophy to fill out the details. Even as divine sovereignty and human responsibility are demanded by Scripture, the exact nature of each of these doctrines is underdetermined by Scripture and it is left to the philosophical theologian to press on for more clarity and precision. This is why we have Calvinists, Molinists, Thomists, Arminians, Open Theists, and more. As McCall nicely summarizes, the biblical theologian helps us with “narrative coherence” and the philosophical theologian can assist with “logical coherence.”

    Lesson #3: Some theological claims are demanded by Scripture (e.g., divine sovereignty and human responsibility), others are consistent with Scripture (compatibilist and incompatibilist views of freedom, divine atemporality and divine temporality) and some are inconsistent with Scripture (e.g., Arianism, Gnosticism, Pelagianism, etc).Consistency with Scripture is the minimum “revelational control”[8] that should guide the philosophical theologian. We first ask, what is Scripture’s clear teaching on the matter, and then push forward using the tools of analytic philosophy. The goal of this “faith seeking understanding” approach to theology is clarity, precision, and ultimately truth. With respect to the doctrine of God, it will also lead to an expanded view of God’s greatness, a renewed sense of awe, and worship.
    What do you think about all of this?
    Last edited by Hornet; 05-07-2019 at 09:31 AM.

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    tWebber Chrawnus's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Hornet View Post
    Richard Howe wrote an article defending the idea that theology needs philosophy. Here is the link: http://richardghowe.com/index_htm_fi...idISCA2016.pdf

    Here is the thesis of the paper:



    One example Howe gives for theology needing philosophy has to do with "adjudicating literal descriptions of God from figures of speech." According to Howe, The Dake Annotated Reference Bible has study notes that say that God has a literal body with literal body parts. This body and these body parts are not physical; they are spiritual. Howe argues that we need philosophy in order to discern what should be understood literally and what should be understood figuratively.

    Here is an article by Paul Gould that discusses the same topic: http://www.paul-gould.com/2016/04/20...-a-case-study/

    What do you think about this?
    Not only is philosophy needed for theology, I would go so far as to claim that by the mere act of engaging in theological study and reflection you're automatically engaged in philosophical reflection as well.

  3. Amen Rushing Jaws amen'd this post.
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    Oops....... mossrose's Avatar
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    Colossians 2

    6 Therefore as you have received Christ Jesus the Lord, so walk in Him,

    7 having been firmly rooted and now being built up in Him and established in your faith, just as you were instructed, and overflowing with gratitude.

    8 See to it that no one takes you captive through philosophy and empty deception, according to the tradition of men, according to the elementary principles of the world, rather than according to Christ.
    9 For in Him all the fullness of Deity dwells in bodily form,

    1 Timothy 6

    20 O Timothy, guard what has been entrusted to you, avoiding worldly and empty chatter and the opposing arguments of what is falsely called “knowledge”—

    21 which some have professed and thus gone astray from the faith
    James 3

    15 This wisdom is not that which comes down from above, but is earthly, natural, demonic.
    1 Corinthians

    13 which things we also speak, not in words taught by human wisdom, but in those taught by the Spirit, combining spiritual thoughts with spiritual words
    Etc.


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  5. Amen Faber amen'd this post.
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    tWebber Chrawnus's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by mossrose View Post
    Colossians 2




    1 Timothy 6



    James 3



    1 Corinthians



    Etc.
    Using these as passages against theologically/biblically informed philosophy hinges on the supposition that what Paul meant by "philosophy", "knowledge" "earthly wisdom" and so on is the same as the modern notion of philosophy, something which I am not at all convinced about. I don't see anything in these passages that would make engaging in biblically and theologically informed philosophical reasoning problematic.

  7. Amen Christianbookworm, Rushing Jaws amen'd this post.
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    Oops....... mossrose's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Chrawnus View Post
    Using these as passages against theologically/biblically informed philosophy hinges on the supposition that what Paul meant by "philosophy", "knowledge" "earthly wisdom" and so on is the same as the modern notion of philosophy, something which I am not at all convinced about. I don't see anything in these passages that would make engaging in biblically and theologically informed philosophical reasoning problematic.
    What is the definition of biblical and theologically informed philosophical reasoning?


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    tWebber Chrawnus's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by mossrose View Post
    What is the definition of biblical and theologically informed philosophical reasoning?
    Philosophy that presupposes the truth of and works from biblically informed starting presuppositions/axioms, would be a good working definition, I think.

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    Oops....... mossrose's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Chrawnus View Post
    Philosophy that presupposes the truth of and works from biblically informed starting presuppositions/axioms, would be a good working definition, I think.

    Maybe. And what do you do when someone starts adding their own worldly wisdom to the discussion.

    If you are strictly talking with others of like mind, then yes, I suppose it's fine. But trying to discuss in this manner with unbelievers can only lead to exactly what scripture teaches against.

    Anyway, I just wanted to throw those scriptures in. I am not up for discussing philosophy of any kind, even with my favourite blue-haired Finn.



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    tWebber Chrawnus's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by mossrose View Post
    Maybe. And what do you do when someone starts adding their own worldly wisdom to the discussion.

    If you are strictly talking with others of like mind, then yes, I suppose it's fine. But trying to discuss in this manner with unbelievers can only lead to exactly what scripture teaches against.

    Anyway, I just wanted to throw those scriptures in. I am not up for discussing philosophy of any kind, even with my favourite blue-haired Finn.


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    See, the Thing is... Cow Poke's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by mossrose View Post
    Anyway, I just wanted to throw those scriptures in. I am not up for discussing philosophy of any kind, even with my favourite blue-haired Finn.

    Don't those people over there use whole bunches of consonants, particularly the Kven component? Shouldn't "Finn" be "Fink"?


    Every problem is the result of a previous solution.

  13. Amen Chrawnus amen'd this post.
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    Quote Originally Posted by Cow Poke View Post
    Don't those people over there use whole bunches of consonants, particularly the Kven component? Shouldn't "Finn" be "Fink"?


    Oh, you big meany.


    Securely anchored to the Rock amid every storm of trial, testing or tribulation.

  15. Amen Cow Poke, Chrawnus amen'd this post.

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