Just Under the Wire

In Allen’s and Springsted’s Philosophy for Understanding Theology, chapters 7 through 11 builds upon the established philosophies of Plato, Aristotle, Aquinas, and Barth.  They move to modern philosophies as methods for understanding how man assesses his relationship to The Divine.

The authors illustrate in the seventh chapter through several approaches:  moderate realism, humanism, hierarchical methodology, and mechanical philosophy.  In moderate realism we understand an object by assessing its knowable essence.  Interestingly, Ockham rejected natural philosophy and based his awareness of God on faith as opposed to “philosophical demonstrations” in nature proposing that nature is “sheer fact” and contingent upon God, thus, contradicting Aristotle’s process (117-118).  Humanism aided the philosophical evolution through the Enlightenment as it defined a structural hierarchy, macrocosm and microcosm, and established man’s place in that universe.  Newton was aware but did not fully ascribe to the Deist theory in that he used God as a stop-gap for those occurrences in nature which could not be explained.  His checkered illustration could be unraveled as we see later in the text (124-127).

Next, the authors illustrate the notion of modern philosophy and the demise of natural theology.  In modern philosophy there is more to experience than sensory experience; Descartes’ “I think, therefore I am” postulation arises and concludes with three ontological realities:  mind, extension, and God (129-133).  Disturbingly, morality is contingent upon logic, and matter determines viability (134-138).  Additional is Bayle’s notion that Christianity does not inherently equate to morality, thus, arises a “rational, enlightened religion” (142).

In the following chapter, the authors focus on Kant’s terms of knowledge:  a priori and a posteriori.  The authors also illustrate Kant’s branches of metaphysics:  “self (rational psychology), world (rational cosmology), and God (rational theology)” (160).  The authors note that Kant needs qualifiers to the third branch to distinguish practical reason from pure reason and to allow an aspect of faith to prove God’s existence (163); he posits that we would seek morality for itself, not for the pursuit of happiness (167).

Hegel then proposes that God manifests Himself historically and that our awareness of His inclusiveness is a continual process, “self-unfolding and self-realization” (169).  Hegel’s criticism of philosophical theology was that it is too narrow; his emphasis on reconciliation of finite man to the infinite God embodies his theology in an historical context (179).  Furthermore, we cannot comprehend reconciliation without the foundation of the incarnation.

One of the main threads in the last chapter is the intentionality of consciousness.  We become aware of God as we recognize the chasm between man and The Divine.  Existentialism reveals that we believe in God but are without God (191); phenomenology and hermeneutics offer the approach to know God through matter and the interpretation of events (201-203).

A subcurrent of the text is the relationship between God and Christ to man’s morality:  Christ does not guarantee moral actions nor does morality, when stripped away, reveal a Christian.

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