Philosophy

“For philosophy is the offspring of right reason:
and this light of reason is infused into the human mind by God Himself,
according to that remark of Tertullian,
‘Reason is of God.'”

John Davenant
on Col. 2:8, p. 290

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Order of Contents

Articles
Book
Quote

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Articles

1600’s

Davenant, John – on Col. 2:8  in An Exposition of the Epistle of St. Paul to the Colossians, vol. 1 (London, 1831), pp. 387-407

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Contemporary

Articles of Richard Muller

De Boer, Cecil – ‘Cecil De Boer on Van Tillianism and Idealist Pantheism’  from  De Boer, ‘The New Apologetic’, The Calvin Forum, 19, nos 1-2 (August-September 1953), pp 2-3.  Van Til Responded to De Boer in The Defense of the Faith, 4th ed., pp. 284-287.

Duby, Steven J. – ‘In Defense of Christian Philosophy: A Response to Peter Leithart’  2018  22 paragraphs

“…it’s possible to articulate Christian doctrine without formally invoking concepts like “essence,” “substance” and so on. Instead of saying, for example, that in the incarnation there is one hypostasis subsisting in two distinct natures, one can say that there is just Jesus and not someone else and that Jesus always remains both truly God and truly human.

However, the fact that the use of the metaphysical language is not absolutely necessary does not mean that the metaphysical resources in question are detached from reality.  It does not mean that what they offer us is just a set of coherent rules for saying things – rules that we might either take or leave. On the contrary, the classical metaphysical tradition developed by Christian thinkers like John of Damascus, Thomas Aquinas or the early Reformed theologians and philosophers involves a knowledge of how things are. Indeed, it is fundamentally an exposition of things human beings know to be true prior to engaging in any formal academic work. For example, things do have natures by virtue of which they are similar to other things. There really are substances in which accidents inhere…  As we seek ways to express what God is like according to scriptural teaching, we should look to this philosophical tradition, not Kant or Hegel, because it sheds light on reality.”

Haines, David

‘On the Use of Philosophy in Theology’

Abstract: “The claim that I would like to consider in this article is that it is wrong to mix philosophy and theology, or the stronger claim, that a Christian should have nothing to do with philosophy.  I propose that the problem springs, primarily, from a faulty understanding of the relationship between faith and reason.  In this article we will be attempting to answer the question what place is there, in Christian theology and practice, for Philosophy? We will note, first of all, the relationship between faith and reason, theology and philosophy. Secondly we will consider the ways in which it is permissible to use philosophy in theology, and finally, we will look at some errors that are frequently made when we use philosophy in theology.”

‘The Metaphysics of Scripture’  a chapter in ed. Joseph Minich, Philosophy & the Christian  (2018)

Haines has been a professor of philosophy at Veritas Evangelical Seminary.

Abstract: “…not only can philosophy help make sense of our common experience, but the Bible appears to assume a number of important philosophical concepts which, best explained by early Greek philosophers such as Aristotle and Plato, are assumed by most people. This will be shown through a consideration of how the Bible takes for granted an approach to the world which is best described via a number of key Aristotelian concepts, such as, the four causes, act and potency, and the principle of causality…  We will conclude with some considerations about the importance of moderate realism for biblical and theological studies.”

‘The Use of Thomas Aquinas and Aristotle in Reformed Theology’

Introduction: “We will do this by showing that far from being contrary to the spirit of the Protestant Reformation, the use of the writings and teachings of Aristotle and Thomas Aquinas, and, indeed, dependence upon these two great thinkers, can be both beneficial and useful for the development and defense of evangelical Protestant theology. 

The first step, which we propose to take in this blog post, is to show that the very theologians who began the Protestant Reformation, and who provided it with its enduring form, not only used Aristotle and Thomas Aquinas, but, in fact, that their theology was, on many points, dependent on Thomas Aquinas and Aristotle.  To do this we will begin by articulating the main premises that an argument of this nature requires.  We will then consider, briefly, those facts of history which may support the premises of such an argument.  This will be done by pointing out some of the most recent research concerning the relationship between Aquinas, Aristotle, and the early reformers. We will also note the continued Reformed dependency upon Aquinas and Aristotle.”

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Book

Feser, Edward – Aristotle’s Revenge: The Metaphysical Foundations of Physical and Biological Science  Buy  2019  515 pp.

“Actuality and potentiality, substantial form and prime matter, efficient causality and teleology are among the fundamental concepts of Aristotelian philosophy of nature. Aristotle’s Revenge argues that these concepts are not only compatible with modern science, but are implicitly presupposed by modern science.” – Blurb

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Quote

Herman Bavinck

Reformed Dogmatics (Baker), vol. 1, p. 607

“Though Christian dogma cannot be explained in terms of Greek philosophy, it also did not come into being apart from it.  There is as yet no dogma and theology, strictly speaking, in Scripture.  As long as revelation itself was still in progress, it could not become the object of scientific reflection.  Inspiration had to be complete before reflection could begin.

To speak of “Mosaic”, “Pauline”, or the “Bible’s” theology and dogmatics therefore, is not advisable; the word theology, for that matter, does not occur in Scripture and has only gradually acquired its present meaning.

Theology first arose in the Christian community after the naïveté of childhood lay behind it and the adult thinking mind had awakened.  Gradually a need arose to think through the ideas of revelation, to link it with other knowledge and to defend it against various forms of attack.  For this purpose people needed philosophy.  Scientific theology was born with its help. This did not, however, happen accidentally. The church was not the victim of deception. In the formation and development of the dogmas, the church fathers made generous use of philosophy. They did that, however, in the full awareness of and with clear insight into the dangers connected with that enterprise; they were conscious of the grounds on which they did it with express recognition of the word of the apostles as the only rule of faith and conduct. For that reason also they did not utilize the whole of Greek philosophy but made a choice; they only utilized the philosophy that was most suited to help them think through and defend the truth of God. They went to work eclectically and did not take over any single philosophical system, be it either from Plato or from Aristotle, but with the aid of Greek philosophy produced a Christian philosophy of their own.

Furthermore, they only used that philosophy as a means.  Just as Hagar was the servant of Sarah, as the treasures of Egypt were employed by the Israelites for the adornment of the tabernacle, as the wise men from the East placed their gifts at the feed of the child in Bethlehem, so, in the opinion of the church fathers, philosophy was the servant of theology.

From everything it is clearly evident that the use of philosophy in theology was based, not on a mistake, but on firm and clear conviction.  The church fathers knew what they were doing.  Mind you, this does not rule out the possibility that at some points the influence of philosophy was too strong.  But in that connection we must make a distinction between the theology of the fathers and the dogmas of the church.  The church was at all times alert against the misuse of philosophy; it not only rejected Gnosticism but also condemned Origenism.  And up until now no one has succeeded in explaining the dogmas materially in terms of philosophy; however often this has been attempted, in the end the scriptural character of orthodoxy has been vindicated.

Initially the Reformation assumed a hostile posture toward scholasticism and philosophy.  But it soon changed its mind.  Because it was not, nor wanted to be, a sect, it could not do without theology.  Even Luther and Melanchton, therefore, already resumed the use of philosophy and recognized its usefulness.  Calvin assumed this high position from the start, saw in philosophy an “outstanding gift of God”, and was followed in this assessment by all Reformed theologians.

The question here is not whether theology should make use of a specific philosophical system.  Christian theology has never taken over any philosophical system without criticism and given it the stamp of approval.  Neither Plato’s nor Aristotle’s philosophy has been held to be the true one by any theologian.  That theologians nevertheless preferred these two philosophical systems was due to the fact that these systems best lent themselves to the development and defense of the truth.  Present also was the idea that the Greeks and Romans had been accorded a special calling and gift for the life of culture.  Still to this day, in fact, our whole civilization is built upon that of Greece and Rome.”

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