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Philosophy in the Service of Theology 1

May 13, 2009

What is the task of reason in the knowledge of God?  How has the Church, historically, employed reason?  How (means) does the Church understand the nature of reality?  These are the questions K. Scott Oliphint takes up in his book, Reasons for Faith: Philosophy in the Service of Theology.  I wanted to quickly look over Part 1: Introduction and Survey over faith and reason – epistemology and metaphysics.  

Oliphint’s basic effort in Part 1 is to critique the Enlightenment’s insistence on autonomous reason.  He, following Calvin, sets a course to see implanted knowledge of God and acquired knowledge as almost indistinguishable.  Rather, the acquired knowledge and implanted (not innate) knowledge are both from God as Creator.  Throughout, Oliphint is delightfully reliant on Cornelius Van Til – presuppositionalist.  How then do we understand the task of reason?  Reason helps theologize, organize, and articulate revelation.  Revelation is the foundation of ultimate reality.  Therefore, philosophy is the handmaid to theology.  

Finally, Oliphint points four errors that occur when there are no proper boundaries in use of philosophy in theology from Francis Turretin:

  1. Illegitimate transfer of principle from philosophy to theology.
  2. Must not introduce philosophical teaching denies Scripture.
  3. When philosophy becomes office of master rather than servant.
  4. Introducing more new phrases or concepts then are necessary into theology under which new and dangerous are concealed.  

Part 2 of Oliphint’s work looks at Epistemology in particular and begins the discussion of how to know God and his character.  This concerns the doctrine of the simplicity of God, which he looks specifically at how Aquinas and Platinga approach this topic.

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