Christianity and (or versus) philosophy

Christianity is compatible with (and even demands) some rational theist doctrines and is incompatible with others. Philosophical theism has been used as a perfectly fine club to beat Christianity with- and it makes a better club than atheism or naturalism.

There are three steps in the hierarchy of natural doctrines opposed to Christianity 1.) A naturalism that doesn’t even bother to take what Christianity is about seriously, but insists  its object is in every way a pure illusion of ignorance and/ or stupidity 2.) A naturalism that takes the object seriously, though it denies such an object exists, and tries to explain the desire for this object as a misplaced desire for something else (Feuerbach, Marx) 3.) A robust philosophical theism (or natural pluralist religion) that sets itself against Christianity or “religion” while still admitting the reality of some of the objects the Christian holds to exist (an absolute, an afterlife, mystical experience, etc.)

Christianity can present wildly different  (though very compatible) visions of itself depending on which of the above three is dominant in a given culture. We are all quite familiar with #1, and so we tend towards defenses that would be particularly vulnerable to #3; other times (say, 1750-1870- think of Kant- or the time of John Damascene vs. the Arians) were more familiar with #3, and so they tended to stress the mysterious character of Christianity.


  1. bruce said,

    January 25, 2010 at 7:08 pm

    Summa Theologica, part 1, article 1; ‘Whether, besides philosophy, any further doctrine is needed?
    It seems that, besides philosophical science, we have no need for further knowledge. For man should not seek to know what is above reason “Seek not the things that are too high for you” Ecclessiastes 3:22. But whatever is not above reason is fully treated in philosophic science. Therefore any other knowledge than philosophic science is superfluous.’

    Just Thomism having a little joke?

    • January 25, 2010 at 7:25 pm

      Well, I hate to be the guy who isn’t getting the joke- but I don’t get it.

      • bruce said,

        January 25, 2010 at 8:42 pm

        well, I’ve probably got my head up my butt here. Just started on the Summa. First thing I read, deals with Christianity and (or versus) philosophy. I figured Just Thomism was setting something up.

  2. skholiast said,

    January 25, 2010 at 8:24 pm

    It has always struck me as telling, somehow, that the greatest persecutions of Christians were not under Nero and Caligula but under the gentle Stoic emperors like Marcus Aurelius. I wonder whether they did not see a deeper rivalry than mere political dissent.

  3. Brandon said,

    January 25, 2010 at 8:26 pm

    I like this schematism, and will probably steal it at some point.

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