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Sunday, June 23, 2013


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What do you think of the following argument against philosophy as a way to God?

Since God is all-good, he wants us to partake in the greatest possible good, which is to have a relationship with him (since he is the greatest possible good). But he will also want us to enter into that relationship in the best possible way. And since being in a relationship with him involves more than just believing he exists, but involves a transformation of the whole person, we can eliminate certain paths as not being conducive to having a relationship with him. For example, since philosophy rarely affects one's whole being - it often (not always!) becomes a merely intellectual pursuit, disconnected from one's deepest moral and existential problems - God will unlikely want us to know him just through philosophy. We see this in the case of brilliant thinkers who devote their lives to the pursuit of truth, but have broken relationships with those around them.

At most, philosophy can probably give us reason to think God exists, but if God is perfectly good, he will want us to have more than mere head knowledge about him. He will want something deeper for us. This is not to say philosophy can never be a way to having a relationship to God. It's just to say that such a path is not likely to succeed, or if it succeeds, it will do so in not many cases. And of course, this is not to devalue philosophy. After all, this is a philosophical argument. But philosophy here seems to point us beyond philosophy.

You might appreciate an article that changed my perception of Tertullian: David F. Siemens, Jr., "Misquoting Tertullian to Anathematize Christianity" Philosophia Christi 5/2 (2003): 563-66.

Thanks for the reference, Jim. But I hope you are not suggesting that I have in any way misrepresented Tertullian's position. I am basing myself on Gilson (cited in the main entry)and the Frenchman was one careful scholar.

I do recall, however, someone arguing that T. never wrote "Credo quia absurdum." Nietzsche's response to that putative misattribution was that T. should have written "Credo quia absurdus sum."


You've done a fairly good job of summarizing my own position.

Is “either Athens or Jerusalem” a false dilemma?

Maybe both are necessary for a complete human life, each having a specific set of responsibilities. Perhaps the tasks of A and J overlap. As reason and will harmonize in a whole person, A and J are allies, each posting diplomats in the embassy of the other.


That's what I would say.

If man is made in the image and likeness of God, then man is a spiritual being possessing free will and reason. To denigrate reason is then to denigrate the *imago dei.* Or should we say that God is not rational, but unlimited arbitrary power? Next stop: Islam.

Oh no, I wasn't trying to suggest you misrepresented Tertullian at all. That article just made me realize he can't be fit into the simple, one-dimensional category that I had been, up till then, shoehorning him into, and I thought you might appreciate it since it's relevant to the post.

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