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Philosophy in the Service of Theology 3

May 16, 2009

Interacting with Reasons for Faith by Scott Oliphint

Can we really know God in any real or significant way since he is the “Thing” that could never be experienced (according to Aquinas)?  Can we say anything meaningful?  Anything more than metaphorical?  If we say that “Tim is good” secondarily, and “God is good” primarily, are we saying anything with substance?  How do we delineate the difference between God and us?  Aquinas’ formula of analogy fails to answer these questions.  

Oliphint suggests that the Creator/creature relationship (see part2) should be the fundamental interpretive grid when saying anything meaningful about God.  So when we speak of “being” (Aquinas’ unity of Being), we must ask, which being?  Creator? or creature?  This is supported by the first 2 chapters of Romans which expresses our knowledge of God as creaturely.  If God is Creator and we are creature – two kinds of beings – then the knowledge we as creatures have of God comes solely by revelation.  Therefore, Aquinas’ suggestion that knowledge of God comes by observing the world around us is true, yet with some qualifications.  It must be clear that our knowledge is primarily not through reason, or even reasoned observation, but by revelation (Oliphint would suggest immediate knowledge by revelation, Calvin’s sensus divinitus).

So then, Oliphint’s suggestion, contra Aquinas, is that revelation over being is the primary object of rational intellect.  God can be known, but only at a creaturely level.  This Creator/creature framework allows us to say something meaningful about God.  While what we say can only be creaturely and nothing exhaustively, it can certainly true and meaningful.  

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