Philosophical theology

Philosophical theology

“The ordered, systematic study of God and of God’s relations to his creatures. There are many different types of theology. Philosophical theology attempts to discern what can be known about God without presupposing any particular revelation or church teaching as authoritative.”

Evans, C. S. (2002). In Pocket dictionary of apologetics & philosophy of religion (p. 114). Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press.

“Philosophical theology Theology that employs the resources of philosophy. This may involve either reflecting on the philosophical issues of theology, such as the existence of God and the problem of evil, or drawing more content from philosophy than from Scripture.”

Erickson, M. J. (2001). In The concise dictionary of Christian theology (Rev. ed., 1st Crossway ed., p. 155). Wheaton, IL: Crossway Books.

“philosophical theology: The study of theological topics that primarily employs the tools and methods of philosophical reasoning and what can be known about God from observing the universe. (1A.1)”
Grudem, W. A. (2004). Systematic theology: an introduction to biblical doctrine (p. 1251). Leicester, England; Grand Rapids, MI: Inter-Varsity Press; Zondervan Pub. House.

“Systematic theology also utilizes philosophical theology.30 There are three contributions different theologians believe philosophy or philosophy of religion may make to theology: philosophy may (1) supply content for theology; (2) defend theology or establish its truth; (3) scrutinize its concepts and arguments. In the twentieth century, Karl Barth reacted vigorously against the first of these three views, and to a considerable extent against the second. His reaction was aimed at a type of theology that had become virtually a philosophy of religion or natural theology. At the same time, the influential school of analytical philosophy restricted its work to the third type of activity. It is here that there lies a major value of philosophy for the theologian: the scrutiny of the meaning of terms and ideas employed in the theological task, the criticizing of its arguments, and the sharpening of the message for clarity. In the judgment of this writer, philosophy, within somewhat restricted scope, also performs the second function, weighing the truth-claims advanced by theology and giving part of the basis for accepting the message. Thus philosophy may serve to justify in part the endeavor in which theology is engaged.31 While philosophy, along with other disciplines of knowledge, may also contribute something from general revelation to the understanding of theological conceptions, this contribution is minor compared to the special revelation we have in the Bible.”
Erickson, M. J. (1998). Christian theology. (2nd ed., p. 29). Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Book House.
“The discipline of thought which attempts to demonstrate truths of God and religion by means of philosophical methodology. Philosophical theology does not seek to correlate revealed truths as do dogmatic or systematic theology. Instead, it relies on a rational exploration of the issues. Philosophical theology need not be a natural theology, which assumes a general revelation of God. Philosophical theology may operate apart from such a stipulation though it does not foreclose it.
The beginnings of philosophical theology maybe traced to the pre-Socratic philosophers, each of whose first principle also had divine qualities. For example, Thales, who believed that all was water, also endowed water with the spiritual qualities of deity. Plato’s speculative explorations, such as in the Timaeus, come under the heading of philosophical theology, as does Aristotle’s argumentation for an unmoved mover. Philosophical theology continued throughout the Middle Ages under the aegis of natural theology. As the world of thought moved into the modern period, philosophical theology remained an important enterprise, but with a significant difference. The new critical spirit also made it possible to reach more critical conclusions. David Hume in particular must be mentioned as a philosopher who came to negative assessments on virtually all areas of philosophical theology.
Some of the more significant issues frequently addressed by philosophical theology are: (1) the relationship between faith and reason; (2) the meaningfulness of religious language; (3) the validity of religious experience; (4) the existence of God; (5) the nature of God; (6) the possibility of divine revelation; (7) the rational tenability of the Incarnation; (8) the compatibility of evil with the existence of an all-good and all-powerful God; (9) the possibility of miracles; and (10) the religious basis for ethics.
In North America philosophical theology has been carried out within a number of schools of thought. Jonathan Edwards himself was not disinclined toward philosophical matters with his own synthesis of the Platonic-Augustinian tradition and the Locke-Newtonian innovations of his day. Edwards came to the startling conclusion that God is identical with space and that empirical reality is produced by the mind of God.
Analytical philosophy is dominant in American universities today. In this broad tradition, which comprises approaches varying from the logical positivism of A. J. Ayer to the ordinary language philosophy of Ludwig Wittgenstein, questions of the meaning of religious language have dominated. Technical issues have been assessed on the basis of whether the language used is meaningful at all. Where meaningfulness has been allowed, the meaning of specific terms has been settled by observing their function within specific contexts of use, not in their reference to independent reality.
Pragmatism has been considered a uniquely American philosophy. Roughly speaking, in this tradition truth is determined by the practical consequences of a belief. Consequently, pragmatism has yielded relativism (William James) and atheism (John Dewey).
Another American contribution to philosophical theology has been the process thought of Alfred North Whitehead and Charles Hartshorne. In this system God is seen as a finite, changing being who influences the world only through moral persuasion. In the 1980s process thought was becoming increasingly influential in seminaries and other theologically oriented schools. Finally, neo-Thomism and Augustinianism (in several variations) have continued to make their presence felt in the thought-world of philosophical theology. In these various schools classical and medieval categories continue to be applied to contemporary issues.
Philosophical theology holds an important place in American philosophical thought. It is unlikely that it will become less significant in the foreseeable future.”
BIBLIOGRAPHY. J. D. Collins, God in Modern Philosophy (1959); B. Kuklick, Churchmen and Philosophers (1985); A. Flew and A. MacIntyre, eds., New Essays in Philosophical Theology (1955); T. V. Morris, The Logic of God Incarnate (1986).
W. Corduan
Reid, D. G., Linder, R. D., Shelley, B. L., & Stout, H. S. (1990). In Dictionary of Christianity in America. Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press.

“Philosophy is the critical examination of the meaning, truth and grounds of ideas, and of the methods by which ideas are arrived at. Philosophy of religion is the critical examination of religious ideas in general. By contrast, philosophical theology pursues such an examination of the ideas of a theology associated with a particular religion.
Philosophy is not a subject which has its own autonomous subject-matter, as does astronomy, biochemistry, English literature or international law. It is an ancillary discipline which examines the ideas, truth-claims and methods practised in a discipline, and seeks to elucidate and evaluate their nature. Thus there is philosophy of science, behaviour (see Ethics), art (see Aesthetics), knowledge (see Epistemology), history, education, logic, and religion. In each case philosophy is not a short cut to achieving the results otherwise arduously obtained in the discipline concerned. It is rather an attempt to clarify and reflect critically on what is entailed in the truth-claims and methods of the discipline. Christian philosophical theology takes the Christian faith as its starting-point and examines it philosophically.
Among the questions examined by philosophical theology are the following:
Grounds for belief in the existence of God. This includes discussion of the traditional arguments for the existence of God: the ontological, the cosmological, the teleological and the moral arguments (see Natural Theology). It also examines the nature and validity of appeals to experience and revelation (cf. Religious Experience; Scripture) as well as the claim that belief in God is a necessary presupposition for making sense of the world and our experience. It takes account of arguments for agnosticism and disbelief in God (cf. Atheism).
The identity of God and God’s relation with the world. This includes evaluation of the competing claims of theism, deism, idealism, pantheism, and panentheism.
Religious language. Discussion of the structure, meaning and use of religious language has been a major preoccupation in philosophical theology since the advent of logical positivism. However, the problem of using ordinary language to describe transcendent reality was a concern of the Neoplatonists (see Platonism) and the medieval thinkers. Logical positivism claimed that religious language is meaningless, since it is not open to verification in the way that scientific claims are verifiable. This gave rise to much discussion of verification, falsification and ways of testing meaning and truth-claims. Even scientific claims are not always strictly verifiable. Words for God are not literally true, since God is not an object in time and space. Meaningful talk about God presupposes analogy rather than direct literal correspondence. Recent investigation into religious language has drawn attention to the richness of its variety and use, and to the complexity of symbolism.
History and religion. This includes the way God may be thought of as acting in history, the question of miracles, and the clarification of the distin tion between history and myth.
Revelation, faith and reason. This includes discussion of revelation as a form of knowledge, the role of faith in cognition, assent, trust and interpretation, and the role of reason in apprehending, discerning and explaining (see Epistemology).
Evil. How can the existence of physical and moral evil be reconciled with belief in an almighty, loving God (cf. Theodicy)?
Freedom. In what sense may we speak of freedom and free will, in the light of theological considerations concerning the sovereignty of God and philosophical considerations concerning human beings who are products of their physical environment and whose activities are capable of explanation in terms of physical processes?
Human identity. Are human beings more than bodies? What is meant by the mind, the self and the soul? What is the relationship between the brain and the mind and between the body and the self?
Life after death. What grounds are there for belief in life after death, and what are its possible forms?
Prayer. What sort of an activity is prayer? What are the logic and implications of intercessory and other forms of prayer?
The relation of Christianity to other faiths. This includes examination of the conflicting truth claims of different religions and ways of testing them.
C. Brown, Philosophy and the Christian Faith (London, 1969); M. J. Charlesworth, Philosophy of Religion (London, 1972); A. Flew and A. Maclntyre (eds.), New Essays in Philosophical Theology (London, 1955); B. Davies, An Introduction to the Philosophy of Religion (Oxford, 1982); S. T. Davis, Logic and the Nature of God (Grand Rapids, MI, 1983); C. S. Evans, Philosophy of Religion (Downers Grove, IL, 1985); F. Ferré, Basic Modern Philosophy of Religion (New York, 1967); N. L. Geisler, Philosophy of Religion (Grand Rapids, MI, 1974); J. Hick, Faith and Knowledge (London, 21966); idem, Philosophy of Religion (Englewood Cliffs, NJ, 31983); idem (ed.), Classical and Contemporary Readings in the Philosophy of Religion (Englewood Cliffs, NJ, 21970); G. MacGregor, Philosophical Issues in Religious Thought (Boston, 1973); H. A. Meynell, God and the World (London, 1971); B. S. Mitchell, The Justification of Religious Belief (London, 1973); B. S. Mitchell (ed.), The Philosophy of Religion (London, 1973); N. Smart, Philosophers and Religious Truth (London, 21969); R. Swinburne, The Coherence of Theism (Oxford, 1977); idem, The Existence of God (Oxford, 1979); idem, Faith and Reason (Oxford, 1981); K. E. Yandell, Christianity and Philosophy (Leicester and Grand Rapids, MI, 1984).

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Ferguson, S. B., & Packer, J. I. (2000). In New dictionary of theology (electronic ed., pp. 510–511). Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press.