Your experience might differ, but I find that those with a passion for philosophy (including the philosophy of religion) tend not to share a passion for theology, and vice versa. This has sparked a question in my mind: what is the difference between "philosophy of religion" and "theology"? In this post, propose a theory that hopefully gives us a satisfactory answer. I propose that, in order to understand the difference between "philosophy of religion" and "theology", you ought to accept the following:
1. "Philosophy of Religion" and "Theology" both refer to logically consistent inquiries, which usually take the form of arguments.
2. The subject of the inquiries of both "Philosophy of Religion" and "Theology" is the same: divinity. This is, presumably, a subset of the supernatural.
3. As the subject of both inquiries is the same, the differentiating factor must lie in the form of the inquiry itself.
4. Inquiries can only prove the veracity of their conclusions if the negation of the conclusion yields a contradiction.
5. The only truths philosophy has available are those which are tautologically true-- that is, true by nature of their logical form. The proposition, (a) or [not (a)], is true by nature of its form. Yes, this seems to entail classical logic, although the truth is that it need not. Roll with me, here.
6. Theology has all philosophical truths available to it (that is, theology does not embrace contradictory claims).
7. The truthfulness of premises in a philosophical argument can only be evaluated in terms of their internal/external logical consistency.
8. Here's where the difference lies: Theological claims can also form inquiries where the truthfulness of a premise is not determined simply by logical consistency.
By now, you're saying... "Zach, this is too much. Break it down for me". To quote Dale Cooper... "Okay."
1. All arguments that are sound in the philosophy of religion are sound in theology.
2. Not all arguments that are sound in theology are sound in the philosophy of religion.
Example of a Philosophical Argument
1. Either God exists or he does not.
2. If God exists in possibility, he exists in necessity.
3. It's possible that God exists.
4. Thus, God exists necessarily.
This argument may not be sound, but it can be understood and evaluated in philosophical terms. An individual might critique the second or third premise, but his critique would be grounded in logic.
Example of a Theological Argument
1. Either humans are predestined or they are to be held responsible.
2. God holds humans responsible.
3. God does what he ought to do.
4. Thus, humans are not predestined.
Philosophically, this is not an interesting argument. Premises 2 and 3 are determined to be true or false depending on adherence to religious principles, not logical necessity. However, this argument can be converted into a philosophical argument...
Example of a Philosophical Argument
1, Either humans are predestined or they are to be held responsible
2. Thus, if [God exists] and [God holds humans responsible] and [God does what he ought to do], then humans are not predestined.
This is actually philosophically interesting-- it doesn't presuppose the existence of God, but is concerned with logical entailment if he does exist (and other premises follow).
In conclusion, all truths determined through the philosophy of religion are true according to theological inquiry as well, as theology has all the tools of philosophy of religion available. However, not all truths revealed by theological inquiries are true in accordance with the philosophy of religion. It may be possible to convert these to philosophical claims, but the inquiry loses some of its impact.
Thoughts/comments/suggestions/criticisms will be much appreciated!
Friday, October 29, 2010