Saturday, December 10, 2016

Thomas Aquinas: Scripture, Philosophy, and Science

In some of his theological writings, Thomas Aquinas taught that philosophy (human reason) and theology (divine revelation) must be compatible. In other words he felt that some concepts (e.g., the existence of God) could be demonstrated through reason, but on the other hand, he believed that the Trinity doctrine or the Incarnation of Christ were mysteries that could only be understood by faith based on divine revelation. Aquinas sought to reconcile and use both reason (philosophical inquiry) and sacra doctrina to undergird the veracity of Scripture. Needless to say, that while some of Aquinas's works were monumental, the Church did not always take such a view. After his death, some teachings that Aquinas had formulated were banned, although the ban was later lifted, and in the 16th century, Thomist thought became the official Church philosophy.

In Aquinas's theology system, Aristotle and the Bible were so completely harmonized that any attack on astronomy or physics not only seemed to reject Aristotelian philosophy, but Biblical revelation as well. This synthesis between philosophy and the Bible had set the stage for a confrontation that would continue until our day. One can't help but wonder how Christendom was benefited by synthesizing Greek thought with "Christianity." It seems that the Bible contains counsel about mixing human philosophies with the teachings of Christ. We are also told about the potentially fatal result of synthesizing human wisdom with Christian doctrine (Col. 2:8 1 Tim. 6:20, 21)

One thinker described as being "too smart to be a philosopher" (i.e., Blaise Pascal) made a distinction between the Abrahamic God and the god of the philosophers. As we trace the history of science and philosophy, we began to get an idea of the breach that developed, and how that science eventually displaced religion for many people; science became the new priesthood in a sense. Next, I want to look further at the progress and limits of science more fully.

1 comment:

Duncan said...

A relatively new lecture from Alister McGrath:-

Touching on the limiting factors of Radical empiricism.