Sat. Apr 17th, 2021

Volume16 Issue 11


Religion and philosophy now let me think, I believe I can get this all together, and given a little time, I can reach some sort of spiritual nirvana. Oops, sorry, I’m already into a little cross-religion or cross-philosophy there. Didn’t mean to do that.

Anyway, the Apostles doctrine or teaching is a bit absolutistic, based on a revelation/truth claim, but nevertheless, some theologians/philosophers think it may yet be explored from a philosophical perspective. One might have to work through some reservations, but I am here to provide guidance.

I quote David Tracy from his assigned chapter (A Theological View of Philosophy: Revelation and Reason) in the book The Question of Christian Philosophy Today edited by Francis J. Ambrosio:

My hope is to clarify one way in which a theology grounded not in religion but in revelation may nonetheless relate in significant ways to philosophy indeed, must relate to philosophy insofar as a revelation-constituted understanding of faith as knowledge is a meaningful cognitive claim.

Well, I suppose we should say of course, (one is supposed to be cool about all this philosophical muddle) but Tracy’s statement jumps into this whole thing about fideism (the doctrine that knowledge depends on faith or revelation) and rationalism (in philosophy, the theory that reason rather than experience is the foundation of certainty in knowledge), which demands some thought. Warning: if you make a mistake here, you can get into trouble. Some big hitters have visited this canyon: the likes of Barth, Ogden, and Kant, not to mention a host of others. And they — what shall I say — got ambushed. I suppose I would ride with Barth for part of this trip; he advocated that all Christian theology must be based in Gods self-revelation. But he is a somewhat fickle companion because, as Tracy points out, Barth was not a complete fideist. And then, in the interest of philosophical broadmindedness, we should respect the others, such as Karl Rahner who, to quote Tracy, (for the last time) posited a different idea: Rahners transcendental reformulation of both philosophy and theology does insist that philosophy can show that the condition of possibility of human being is that we are none other than continent, temporal, and historical hearers of a possible word of revelation.

Are we still talking about the Apostles Doctrine? Maybe, but for sure we are not talking about it in the manner the Apostles preached it. Nor with the passion that led them to die for it. And just think, we haven’t even got started. Attempting to reconcile philosophical theory with religion is a laborious, worn-out undertaking.

My brief presentation here is a bit tongue in cheek, but the quotes and arguments are real. The point is (acknowledging the difference between Christian philosophy and religious philosophy and philosophy at large) that the preoccupation with trying to synchronize men’s philosophical views of theism, atheism, naturalism, dualism, humanism, pantheism, etc. with the revelation of the Mighty God in Christ is a waste of time.

There are philosophical (using the word in its truer sense) elements to all learning and knowledge, including religion. Others may be called to explore the subject in a deeper way or more academic way, but my point is this: to become so preoccupied with the theoretical thinking found in this discipline that one distorts, blurs, or loses the simplicity or the hope that is in message of Jesus, who is the way the truth, and the life, is to fail this generation, and it is a failure of one’s calling.

Human philosophies that advocate a progressive rational search for truth do not lead to repentance or the empowering of the Holy Ghost. This world needs real thinkers, deep thinkers who will lay their hands on the sick and baptize sinners in Jesus name – preachers who will lead us out of the world into holy living and not into pseudo-intellectualism.

I remember reading, back in the sixties, a book entitled Introduction to Religious Philosophy by Geddes MacGregor. (A good read; don’t skip the epilogue.) I kept and used this quote often in my ministry, not to discourage thinking, but to remind people to think about their thinking.

The most deeply religious people are often people who do not think about theology or religious philosophy very much. Indeed, thinking about anything is always attended by certain dangers.


Will this be our lot? Will we become so intellectual we forget how to preach?

1 Corinthians 2:1 1* And I, brethren, when I came to you, came not with excellency of speech or of wisdom, declaring unto you the testimony of God.
2* For I determined not to know any thing among you, save Jesus Christ, and him crucified.
3* And I was with you in weakness, and in fear, and in much trembling.
4* And my speech and my preaching was not with enticing words of mans wisdom, but in demonstration of the Spirit and of power:
5* That your faith should not stand in the wisdom of men, but in the power of God.

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