In the first post in this series I focused on the differences between Dooyeweerd and Vollenhoven’s philosophies in terms of pedagogy. In this post I’m going to fulfill the promise of the series title and discuss what I see as the proper relationship between (Christian) philosophy and theology.
Following Vollenhoven’s statement on the fourth page of his Isagoge Philosophiae, we argue that philosophy is both deed and result. Wisdom is something which must be striven after and knowledge/understanding is the end result of that striving. Inasmuch as philosophy is, at bottom, a striving after wisdom, and, inasmuch as Jesus is God’s Wisdom (c.f. Colossians 2:3 – one might say that the fullness of God’s wisdom dwelt within Him, and thus now dwells in us) striving after wisdom is striving after God, desiring to conform ourselves to Christ’s likeness. Thus, as a Christian philosopher, I am constantly striving for wisdom which is not primarily existential or ideal – it does not come from experience necessarily nor is it a product of logic – wisdom is found outside of myself.
Non-Christian philosophy also often strives for wisdom outside of the self, however, the ground-motive or ontological engine (I will discuss this in a future blog post) of their philosophy is not the revelation of God in Christ. Therefore the wisdom they seek is not God’s wisdom. Any philosophy which does not take the revelation of God in the incarnate Christ as its arche and animating principle cannot count as Christian philosophy.
Ontology is paramount to the philosophical enterprise. That is why it is so vital that philosophers get their ontology clear in their hearts and minds. Whether one’s philosophy is Christian or not, if it be solely an internal intellectual enterprise, it is doomed from the outset, for philosophy properly so-called must strive towards wisdom which is not something intrinsic to the philosopher herself. This means that the grounding for one’s philosophy must come from somewhere outside of the self.
Now I’m going to make a statement that most Dooyeweerdian philosophers may cringe at. Ground-Motives point outwards. Dooyeweerd argued that ground-motive is an apt description of the animating impetus of one’s philosophy and this is true. However, if one is able to do an immanent critique of a philosopher’s thought and discern their ground-motive, then it seems plausible that from this one should be able to discern the direction toward which one’s philosophy points. If this is the case, then the central principle of one’s philosophy determines all avenues that philosophy may take.
Relation Between Philosophy and Theology
Study of and meditation on the Biblical witness is the primary way that the revelation of the God of Christianity comes, although information regarding God’s plan may come through prayer and extra-Biblical sources, if what is revealed lines up with Scripture (based on one’s hermeneutic) and is counted as such by the community of believers.
Theology strictly defined means “words about God.” Thus, it is speech/thought related to God. This could mean that philosophy as a discipline is always caught up in theology, inasmuch as it counts God as part of its ontology. However, theology as as discipline is distinct from philosophy more generally because philosophy is not necessarily aimed at God directly. Yet, as I argued above, striving after wisdom is always already striving after Christ so that philosophy is always aimed towards God obliquely.
Thus, I argue that worries about strict divisions between the disciplines of theology and philosophy are frivolous and a waste of time. What matters most is that Christian theologians and philosophers work together – the disciplines ought to be informing each other and, as they inform each other, they ought to be in(en)forming and impacting the larger world. If it is true that the ground-motive of Christian philosophy (and theology) ought to be the revelation of God in Christ, then both disciplines are always already proclamation!!
If this is taken seriously, then the ultimate task of Christian philosophy and theology within their spheres is to do and proclaim the Gospel, to set captives free, and to break the yoke of bondage in which all of Creation is entwined.