Christian philosophy

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Christian philosophy is a development in philosophy that is characterised by coming from a Christian tradition.

Origins[edit]

There is no record of any written works produced by Jesus. Nor is there a record of any systematic philosophy or theology written by him. Several accounts of his life and many of his teachings are recorded in the New Testament. Those records form the basis for some Christian philosophies, such as Jesusism.

Saul of Tarsus (later Paul the Apostle or St. Paul) was a Jewish Roman citizen who persecuted the early Christian church and who helped to facilitate the martyrdom of Saint Stephen, a Greek-speaking Jewish Christian. Saul underwent a dramatic conversion, becoming a Christian leader who wrote a number of epistles, or letters, to early churches in which he taught doctrine and theology. In some ways he functioned in the manner of the popular marketplace philosophers of his day (Cynics, Skeptics, and some Stoics). A number of his speeches and debates with Greek philosophers are recorded in the Biblical Book of Acts, and his epistles became a significant source for later Christian philosophies.

Hellenistic philosophy and early Christian philosophy[edit]

Hellenism is the traditional designation for the Greek culture of the Roman Empire in the days of Jesus, Paul, and for centuries after. Classical philosophies of the Greeks had already expired and diluted beyond recognition except for small bands of continuators of the traditions of the Pythagoreans, of Plato, and Aristotle (whose library was lost for centuries). The new philosophies of the Hellenistic world were those of the Cynics, Skeptics, and increasingly the Stoics; it's these philosophers who bring us into the world of Hellenistic philosophy. Slowly, a more integral and rounded tendency emerged within Hellenism, but also in certain respects in opposition at times to it in regard to one philosophical problem or another, or an ensemble of problems. Here are some of those thinkers most closely associated with Hellenistic Christian philosophies, listed more or less in chronological order:

  • Justin Martyr: Christian apologist and philosopher whose work often focused on the doctrine of the Logos and argued that many Stoic and Platonic philosophical ideas were similar to ideas in the Old Testament
  • Tertullian: Tertullian was a philosopher before he converted to Christianity; after that change of direction he remained a prolific writer in the second century A.D., and is commonly called the "Father of the Western Church." He was the first church father to use the term Trinitas in reference to the Godhead and developed the doctrine of traducianism, or the idea that the soul was inherited from the parents, the idea that God had corporeal (although not fleshly) existence, and the doctrine of the authority of the gospels. He fought voraciously against Marcionism, and considered Greek philosophy to be incompatible with Christian wisdom. Toward the end of his life, he joined the heterodox sect of Montanism, and thus has not been canonized by the Catholic Church.
  • Irenaeus of Lyons: Irenaeus is best known for his writings arguing for the unity of God, and against Gnosticism. He argued that original sin is latent in humanity, and that it was by Jesus' incarnation as a man that he "undid" the original sin of Adam, thus sanctifying life for all mankind. Irenaeus maintained the view that Christ is the Teacher of the human race through whom wisdom would be made accessible to all.
  • Clement of Alexandria: Theologian and apologist who wrote on Greek philosophy, using ideas from pagan literature, Stoic and Platonic philosophy, and Gnosticism to argue for Christianity
  • Origen: Origen was influential in integrating elements of Platonism into Christianity. He incorporated Platonic idealism into his conceptions of the Logos, and the two churches, one ideal and one real. He also held a strongly Platonic view of God, describing him as the perfect, incorporeal ideal. He was later declared a heretic for subscribing to the "too Platonistic" doctrine of the preexistence of the soul.
  • Augustine of Hippo: Augustine developed classical Christian philosophy, and the whole of Western thought, largely by synthesizing Hebrew and Greek thought. He drew particularly from Plato, the Neoplatonism of Plotinus, and Stoicism, which he altered and refined in light of divine revelation of Christian teaching and the Scriptures. Augustine wrote extensively on many religious and philosophical topics; he employed an allegorical method of reading the Bible, further developed the doctrine of hell as endless punishment, original sin as inherited guilt, divine grace as the necessary remedy for original sin, baptismal regeneration and consequently infant baptism, inner experience and the concept of "self", the moral necessity of human free will, and individual election to salvation by eternal predestination. He has been a major influence in the development of Western theology and his thought, and in particular his works, City of God and Confessions, laid the foundations for Western Philosophy, influencing many of philosophers and making him one of the most influential figures in the history of philosophy.
  • Athanasius of Alexandria: father of trinitarian orthodoxy involved in the formation of the Nicene Creed, who vehemently opposed Arius, the bishop of Alexandria who held that Christ was a created being, and his following.
  • Dioscorus of Aphrodito
  • Gaius Marius Victorinus
  • Nemesius
  • John Chrysostom
  • Pseudo-Dionysius the Areopagite
  • The Cappadocian Fathers: Gregory of Nyssa, Gregory of Nazianzus, and Basil the Great.

Medieval Christian philosophy[edit]

Renaissance and Reformation Christian philosophy[edit]

  • Jacobus Arminius (1560–1609) A preacher, theologian, and church court operative.
  • Jean Bodin (1530–1596) French legal scholar and political philosopher, he wrote widely in a number of areas
  • Desiderius Erasmus (1466–1536) was not a philosopher strictly speaking; indeed, he wrote excoriatingly about philosophers. He consolidated the space of Humanism in the late Medieval scholarship of letters, and came to represent its acme. He was a leader of the development of the humanities into a department of European scholarly activities. He bent his studies to recovery and exegesis of the Hebrew Bible's ancient languages and began building the first critical text, and the New Testament became a formal scholarly text. He wrote about issues relevant to the Catholic Church and its ignorance. He spent six years in an Augustinian monastery; he was a joyful satirist; and became most famous for his book The Praise of Folly.
  • Hugo Grotius (1583–1645) His early work on the law of the seas was outdistanced by On the law of war and peace (1625).
  • Martin Luther (1483–1546) -- also not strictly a philosopher, although he knew something of William of Occam and nominalist epistemology), from an earlier era of European thought. He had also studied some philosophical materials of Augustine of Hippo, and did not follow Thomas Aquinas. Luther followed Erasmus in developing a critical text of the Biblical manuscripts. Luther went a step beyond Erasmus in actually translating the Bible into the vernacular. Luther's German Bible had a tremendous impact on the development of the German language and its literature.
  • John Calvin (1509–1564). Calvin was a dogmatician (systematic theology), as exhibited in his Institutes of the Christian Religion, and an exegete who over time translated the Bible from the "original languages" in the form of his grand series of Commentaries on all but one of its books (the Book of Revelation, which provided a problem to him in its metaphory, not yielding robustly to his binomial formula of letter and spirit: either literal, or figurative). He courageously tried to avoid allegorizing, which had had a long history ever since Philo of Alexandria had interpreted the Pentateuch in an allegorical fashion that de-literalized and over-metaphorized (into symbolic systems) many passages of the ancient manuscripts of the Bible (now and developingly a critical text itself). Calvin tried to distance himself from the allegorical method of Christian interpretation of the Bible, attempted distance certainly from the method's primacy, while facing in the Gospels "the parabolic message of the Cross" (Leon Morris, etc.). Not strictly a philosopher, he had a major impact on the quest for a Protestant philosophy (see Jacob Klapwijk, "John Calvin" in the volume he edited with Griffioen and Groenewoud, Bringing into Captivity Every Thought (Eng trans 1991; pp 241–266)). Calvin's seed begat Reformational philosophy 450 years after he planted it.
  • Marsilio Ficino (1433–1499) Influential Italian humanist philosopher who revived Neoplatonism and was a leader in the Renaissance; translated all of Plato's and Plotinus' works into Latin, as well as many Neoplatonic authors and the Corpus Hermeticum. He also wrote many commentaries on Plato and Christian authors as Pseudo Dyonisius.
  • Giovanni Pico della Mirandola (1463–1494) Italian philosopher who was a major figure in the Renaissance; at the age of 23 he proposed 900 theses on religion, natural philosophy and magic, writing the Oration on the Dignity of Man, which was a central text in Renaissance humanism and has been called the movement's manifesto
  • Huldrych Zwingli (1484–1531) was a leading Reformer who was influenced by a party in his church congregation to de-metaphorize the understanding of the Lord's Supper into a memorial only (no real presence, and no communion of saints, therefore no eschatological community of saints composed of the believers at the Communion Table).

In most cases, these writers reference something in an earlier philosopher, without adding to the ongoing problem-historical shape of Western philosophical knowledge. Between Calvin, and Arminius, born four years before Calvin's death, a Protestant Scholasticism took from various loci and authorities of the Western Middle Ages. It begins already with Luther's colleague Philip Melancthon, who turned from Luther's sola Scriptura to philosophical theology; but Protestant Scholasticism's Reformed variants are diverse. There were no real alternatives until Herman Dooyeweerd and D. H. Th. Vollenhoven in the last century.

Modern Christian philosophy[edit]

17th century[edit]

  • Thomas Browne (1605–1682) English philosopher and scientist who also made contributions to the field of medicine
  • Joseph Butler (1692–1752) English bishop, theologian, apologist and philosopher who offered critiques of Thomas Hobbes and John Locke and influenced figures such as David Hume, Thomas Reid, and Adam Smith
  • Galileo Galilei (1564-1642) Italian philosopher, physicist, mathematician, and astronomer who played a central role in the Scientific Revolution, controversially advocating heliocentrism, leading to the Galileo Affair, he also wrote about the relationship between science and religion; often labelled "The Father of Modern Science"
  • Joseph Glanvill (1636–1680) English philosopher, writer, and clergyman who was a major apologist for natural philosophy, although he was not himself a scientist
  • John Locke (1632–1704) Extremely influential political philosopher often dubbed "The Father of Classical Liberalism"; many of his philosophical concepts were developed from his religious beliefs, which included his development of the social contract theory. He also wrote an apology entitled The Reasonableness of Christianity (1695).
  • Nicolas Malebranche (1638–1715) French rationalist philosopher best known for his ideas of occasionalism and Vision in God; he drew heavily from the work of Augustine and Thomas Aquinas
  • Isaac Newton (1642–1727) English physicist, mathematician, astronomer, natural philosopher, alchemist, and theologian who was one of the leading figures of the Scientific Revolution, he wrote often about religious and theological issues; authored Philosophiæ Naturalis Principia Mathematica; considered by some to be the most influential scientist of all-time.
  • Blaise Pascal (1623–1662) French mathematician, physicist, inventor, and philosopher who wrote widely on religion and Catholic theology. Pensées is considered a masterpiece of theological thought and Will Durant hailed it as "the most eloquent book in French prose." Also developed Pascal's Wager to argue for belief in Christianity.

18th century[edit]

19th and early 20th century[edit]

Contemporary philosophy[edit]

  • William J. Abraham, Irish philosopher, theologian, and United Methodist pastor teaching at Southern Methodist University, known for his contributions to the philosophy of religion and religious epistemology
  • Marilyn McCord Adams, philosopher of religion and philosophical theologian who is also a leading authority on medieval philosophy
  • Robert Merrihew Adams, analytic philosopher specializing in metaphysics, morality, and the philosophy of religion who taught at Yale, UCLA, and Oxford; husband of Marilyn McCord Adams (see directly above)
  • Diogenes Allen, philosopher of religion who spent most of his career at Princeton Theological Seminary
  • William Alston, leading figure in Reformed epistemology who specializes in the philosophy of language and epistemology
  • Rubem Alves, philosopher, psychoanalyst, and theologian
  • Robert Audi, philosopher whose work focuses on epistemology and ethics who has also written on the relationship between church and state
  • C. Anthony Anderson, philosopher who specializes in the philosophy of religion, philosophy of language, and philosophy of logic
  • G. E. M. Anscombe, British analytic philosopher who was a close friend and student of Ludwig Wittgenstein; influential in the fields of the philosophy of logic, philosophy of action, and philosophy of the mind, and ethics, writing from the perspective of Analytical Thomism
  • Craig Bartholomew, philosopher dealing with biblical hermeneutics, postmodernism, and deconstruction
  • Francis Beckwith, social philosopher and ethicist
  • Daniel Bonevac, logician at the University of Texas at Austin
  • Jay Budziszewski, a political philosopher at the University of Texas at Austin who develops the natural law ethical tradition.
  • Frederick Buechner, American writer, theologian and minister
  • Maxence Caron, French write, poet, philosopher, and musicologist
  • John D. Caputo: American Catholic deconstructionist theologian; most famous for his development of weak theology
  • Gordon Clark, American Calvinist philosopher, polemicist, and staunch defender of Platonic realism. He developed a strictly rationalist variety of presuppositional apologetics in contrast to Van Til's fideistic approach.
  • Stephen R. L. Clark, British philosopher of religion who also wrote extensively on animals and applied philosophy
  • Sarah Coakley-Anglican philosopher of religion and systematic theologian who has taught at Harvard, Princeton, Oxford, Cambridge, and Lancaster University
  • Paul Copan, professor of philosophy at Palm Beach Atlantic University currently holding the Pledger Family Endowed Chair of Philosophy and Ethics as well as president of the Evangelical Philosophical Society
  • Robin Collins, an expert in philosophy of science. He is thought be the leading expert on the teleological argument. He is a professor of philosophy at Messiah College. He is a senior research fellow at the Institute for Faithful Research
  • William Lane Craig, Evangelical apologist, philosopher and theologian; frequently participates in debate on topics related to Christianity and theism. He is known especially for his methodical presentation as well as his articulation and defense of the kalam cosmological argument.
  • Keith DeRose, philosopher of language and epistemologist at Yale University.
  • Herman Dooyeweerd, Reformational philosopher and legal scholar; brother-in-law of D.H. Th. Vollenhoven
  • Terry Eagleton, Not a philosopher by vocation, he is a leading British literary critic and important figure in contemporary social philosophy, often addressing religious issues from a Christian Marxist perspective
  • C. Stephen Evans, American historian and philosopher teaching at Baylor University
  • Jacques Ellul, French philosopher, legal scholar, sociologist, and legal scholar who was a leading Christian anarchist who wrote prolifically on topics such as technology, propaganda, and justice
  • John Frame: an American Calvinist philosopher focused in the areas of epistemology and ethics
  • Étienne Gilson, who wrote The Spirit of Medieval Philosophy, The Spirit of Thomism, Being and Some Philosophers, and many other works. In the field of Thomism he is considered one of the main figures credited with starting the movement within Thomism known as Existential Thomism, which emphasis the primacy of the act of Being (Esse) in understanding everything else that is.
  • René Girard, French philosopher of social science, anthropologist, historian and literary critic who developed the idea of mimetic desire and wrote on scapegoating, reinterpreting the atonement as a mechanism for overcoming human violence and the sacrifice system
  • Juozas Girnius, Lithuanian existentialist philosopher
  • Robert Kane, philosopher who works on free will, now emeritus at the University of Texas at Austin, who is also a Catholic
  • Anthony Kenny, English philosopher specializing in the philosophy of the mind, philosophy of religion, and the history of philosophy; leading figure in Analytical Thomism
  • Luigi Giussani, an Italian priest of 1922-2005, who wrote the Why the Church?
  • William Hasker, American philosopher who specializing in philosophy of the mind, writing extensively on the mind-body problem and arguing for emergentism, former editor of the journal Faith and Philosophy; advocates for open theism
  • Robert Koons, metaphysician at the University of Texas at Austin
  • Peter Kreeft, an American Catholic philosopher and Christian apologist at Boston College
  • Roel Kuiper, Dutch historian and philosopher who is part of the Reformational philosophy movement
  • Jon Kvanvig, epistemologist at Baylor University
  • John Lennox, mathematician and philosopher of science
  • Knud Ejler Løgstrup: Danish philosopher of religion who wrote widely in the area of ethics, metaphysics, and phenomonlogy
  • Bernard Lonergan: He was a Canadian Jesuit. The Lonergan Institute specializes in his works, while The Lonergan Review is an academic journal which is dedicated to researching and expanding upon his thought.
  • Aleksei Losev, Russian philosopher, philologist, and culturologist who was a leading figure in 20th-century philosophical and religious thought
  • J.P. Moreland, American philosopher, apologist, and theologian
  • Alasdair MacIntyre, Scottish ethicist and political philosopher whose works After Virtue and Whose Justice? Which Rationality? have been massively-influential in modern ethics; notable advocate of virtue ethics; argues from a Thomistic perspective
  • John Macquarrie, Scottish theologian and philosopher who was one of the most influential figures in 20th-century Anglicanism
  • Gabriel Marcel, French existentialist philosopher and playwright who wrote on metaphysics, ontology, and ethics
  • Jean-Luc Marion, French postmodern philosopher and student of Jacques Derrida who specializes in phenomenology and philosophical theology
  • Jacques Maritain, a French philosopher in the Thomistic tradition
  • Trenton Merricks, renowned metaphysician at the University of Virginia
  • Paul Moser, American philosopher focusing on the philosophy of religion and epistemology
  • Nancey Murphy, philosopher of science who has written extensively on postmodernism and currently teaches at Fuller Theological Seminary
  • Tim O'Connor, metaphysician at the Indiana University, Bloomington
  • Thomas Jay Oord: theologian and philosopher of religion who is a leading advocate of open theism, and writes on topics such as the relationship between science and religion and postmodernism
  • Jean-Michel Oughourlian French philosopher, psychologist and neuropsychiatrist has worked with René Girard, further developing a mimetic theory of desire and its religious implications
  • Pope John Paul II, who wrote Fides et Ratio, as well as Love and Responsibility and other works in Thomistic phenomenology
  • Josef Pieper, a German Catholic philosopher whose work concentrates particularly on Plato and Thomas Aquinas
  • Alvin Plantinga. moderately Calvinist American philosopher, one of the key figures in the movement of Reformed epistemology, which synthesizes Analytical Philosophy and Christian philosophical concerns. He is professor emeritus at the University of Notre Dame.
  • Michael Polanyi, Hungarian-British polymath and brother of Karl Polanyi
  • Vern Poythress, Calvinist philosopher and New Testament scholar who advocates multiperspectivalism and specializes in the philosophy of science, philosophy of mathematics, linguistics, and hermeneutics
  • Stephen G. Post, American ethicist and interdisciplinary scholar specializing in the study of altruism, bioethics, and compassion
  • Alex Pruss, metaphysician at Baylor University
  • Michael C. Rea, analytic philosopher specializing in metaphysics and the philosophy of religion who teaches at the University of Notre Dame
  • Paul Ricouer: philosopher who wrote written widely in the areas of hermeneutics, phenomenology, psychoanalysis, political philosophy, ethics, and the philosophy of language
  • Hans Rookmaaker, philosopher specializing in art theory, art history, and music; friend of Francis Schaeffer
  • Peter Rollins: an Irish philosopher whose work brings together the deconstruction of Jacques Derrida, the "religious turn" of recent works by Slavoj Zizek, and traditions of apophatic theology within Christian mysticism.
  • Francis Schaeffer: pastor, philosopher and theologian who founded the L'Abri community in Switzerland and was a major influence in conservative evangelicalism
  • Egbert Schuurman, the leading philosopher of technology who actively espouses a Christian philosophical approach
  • Robert Spaemann, German Roman Catholic philosopher
  • Holmes Rolston III, American philosopher dealing with environmental ethics and the relationship between science and religion
  • Eugen Rosenstock-Huessy, German historian and social philosopher
  • Pope Shenouda III, (b. Nazeer Gayed, 1923) Pope of Alexandria (1971–2012) has written on almost every aspect of Oriental Orthodox Christianity. Has pioneered Christian ecumenism and written over 150 books on many topics including theology, dogma, comparative theology, spiritual theology, and church history.
  • Melville Y. Stewart, editor, author of books in philosophy of religion, and a Series on Science and Religion 科学与宗教 (5-volume Series in Chinese, and 2-volume Series in English). Visiting Philosopher at various universities in China.
  • James K.A. Smith: a Canadian-American philosopher who draws on three different traditions of Christian thought (Pentecostalism, Calvinism, and Radical Orthodoxy) in dialogue with deconstruction and phenomenology to create practical works for broad, general audiences
  • Richard Swinburne: British philosopher of religion
  • Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn, Russian writer and philosopher; won the 1970 Nobel Prize in Literature
  • Peter van Inwagen, a metaphysician who is one of the leading figures in contemporary philosophy of religion, teaching at the University of Notre Dame
  • Charles Taylor: Canadian political philosopher, philosopher of social science and social theorist
  • Charles Taliaferro, an expert in the philosophy of religion and the philosophy of mind. He is a professor of philosophy at St. Olaf College and a senior research fellow at the Institute for Faithful Research
  • Paul Tillich Rather than beginning his philosophical work with questions of God or gods, Tillich began with a "phenomenology of the Holy." His basic thesis is that religion is Ultimate Concern. What a person is Ultimately Concerned with in regard to their Ultimate meaning and being can be understood as religion because, "There is nobody to whom nothing is sacred because no one can rid themselves of their humanity no matter how desperately they may try" (Young-Ho Chun, Tillich and Religion, 1998, pg. 14.
  • Denys Turner: British philosopher and theologian teaching at Yale University whose work focuses on political philosophy, social theory, and mystical theology
  • Nick Trakakis: Australian philosopher who specializes in the philosophy of religion and theodicy
  • Bas Van Fraassen, world-renowned philosopher of science, who is also a Catholic
  • Cornelius Van Til: Dutch-American Calvinist philosopher, who contributed especially in epistemology and developed one variety of philosophical apologetics known as presuppositional apologetics.
  • Gregory Vlastos: philosopher specializes in ancient philosophy
  • D. H. Th. Vollenhoven: Vollenhoven's Calvinism and the Reformation of Philosophy (Dutch, 1933) launched a philosophical movement that, after the massive re-inforcing effect of his brother-in-law Herman Dooyeweerd's first trilogy, Philosophy of the Law-Idea (1935–36), led to the formation of the Association for Calvinist Philosophy in 1936. For decades, Vollenhoven served as president of the aforementioned association, which has become the Association for Reformational Philosophy/ Vereniging voor Reformatorische Wijsbegeerte (VRW), still based in the Netherlands but with ever-enlarging interest in the rest of the world. It is disputed whether Vollenhoven's, his colleague Herman Dooyeweerd's, and many among the subsequent generations of philosophers in the Reformational philosophy movement are best described as "modern" or "postmodern," since they anticipated numerous themes that resurfaced in postmodernism, yet remain steadfastly and would-be distinctively Christian and non-Roman.
  • Keith Ward: British philosopher, theologian, and pastor who has written widely in the areas of the philosophy of religion and comparative theology, has also made major contributions related to the relationship between science and religion; advocates for open theism
  • Simone Weil: French philosopher, mystic, and social activist
  • Cornel West, Philosopher, writer, public speaker and political activist who argues for Christian Socialism; has taught at Harvard, Princeton, Yale, and Union Theological Seminary in New York
  • Dallas Willard: notable Christian philosopher at the University of Southern California. Willard has written extensively in philosophy but also in practical Christian theology with an emphasis in Christian spiritual formation.
  • Nicholas Wolterstorff: American philosopher at Yale University associated with Reformed epistemology who has written on epistemology, metaphysics, aesthetics, political philosophy, and the philosophy of religion
  • Christos Yannaras, Greek philosopher
  • Linda Trinkaus Zagzebski, American philosopher specializing in the philosophy of religion, epistemology and ethics; pioneer in the field of virtue epistemology
  • Dean Zimmerman, American philosopher whose work deals with metaphysics and the philosophy of religion
  • Shawn Graves, American philosopher who specializes in epistemology, ethics, and philosophy of religion.

See also[edit]

References[edit]

Further reading[edit]

  • Baird, Forrest E.; Walter Kaufmann (2008). From Plato to Derrida. Upper Saddle River, New Jersey: Pearson Prentice Hall. ISBN 0-13-158591-6. 
  • Hillar, Marian (2012). From Logos to Trinity. The Evolution of Religious Beliefs from Pythagoras to Tertullian. Cambridge, UK; New York: Cambridge University Press. ISBN 978-1-107-01330-8. 
  • Richmond, James. Faith and Philosophy, in series, Knowing Christianity. London: Hodder and Stoughton, 1966.

External links[edit]