Academic Scholarship

Philosophia Obscurans? Six Theses on the Proper Relationship between Theology and Philosophy

Nova et Vetera, English Edition, 12(2), 349-394, March 2014

Photo Needed Rev. Thomas G. Guarino, S.T.D.
School of Theology

The precise relationship of philosophical thinking to theology has vexed thinkers for centuries. Particularly influential has been the so-called “Hellenization thesis” popularized by Adolf von Harnack, which claims that the Gospel of Jesus Christ was badly deformed by Christianity’s early encounter with Hellenistic (and so, philosophical) thought. 

In this article I treat of the relationship between philosophy and theology in six foundational theses. Among my conclusions: 1) the Hellenization thesis has now been discredited; 2) theology must, of necessity, performatively discipline philosophical thinking (and all human wisdom); 3) nonetheless, philosophy (and other academic disciplines) possess a real but relative autonomy; 4) theology always takes “spoils from Egypt,” i.e., theology makes use of, and incorporates wisdom wherever it is found; and 5) ultimately, theology needs metaphysics—commodiously understood—certainly not to justify its conclusions, but to ensure that theology’s universal, normative and perpetually true doctrinal claims are intelligible within the natural order.


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