What’s the Difference Between Philosophy and Theology?

As I’ve been rereading sections of my favorite theology book, Doctrine of the Knowledge of God, by John M. Frame, I ran across this gem and thought I should share it:

It is hard for me to draw any sharp distinction between a Christian theology and a Christian philosophy. Philosophy generally is understood as an attempt to understand the world in its most broad, general features. It includes metaphysics or ontology (the study of being, of what “is”), epistemology (the study of knowing) and theory of value (ethics, aesthetics, etc.) If one seeks to develop a Christian philosophy, then he will certainly be doing so under the authority of Scripture, and thus will be applying Scripture to philosophical questions. As such, he would be doing theology, according to our definition [Frame’s definition of Theology is “the application of God’s word by people to all areas of life.”]. Philosophy would be a subdivision of theology. Further, since philosophy is concerned with reality in a broad, comprehensive sense, it may well take it as its task to “apply the word of God to all areas of life.” That would make philosophy, not a subdivision of theology, but identical to theology.

If there are any differences, they would probably be (1) that the Christian philosopher spends more time studying natural revelation than the theologian, while the theologian spends more time study Scripture; (2) that the theologian seeks a formulation which is an application of Scripture and thus absolutely authoritative; his goal is a formulation before which he can utter “Thus saith the Lord.” A Christian philosopher, however, may have a more modest goal: a wise human judgment which accords with Scripture thought is not necessarily warranted by Scripture.

A Christian philosophy can be of great value in helping us articulate in detail the biblical world view. We must beware, however, of “philosophical imperialism.” The comprehensiveness of philosophy has often led philosophers to seek rule over all other disciplines, even over theology, over God’s word. Even philosophers processing Christianity have been guilty of this. Some have even insisted that Scripture itself cannot be properly understood unless it is read in a way prescribed by the philosopher. Certainly philosophy can help us in the business of Scripture interpretation; philosophers often have interesting insights about language, e.g. But the line must be drawn: where a philosophical scheme contradicts Scripture, or where it seeks to inhibit the freedom of exegesis without Scriptural warrant, it must be rejected. (Doctrine of the Knowledge of God, 85-86)

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Posted on August 7, 2007, in John Frame, John Frame Stuff, Philosophy and tagged . Bookmark the permalink. 7 Comments.

  1. That is not the difference between the two. Christian Philosophy is theology, because that’s what theology is, religious philosophy, but Philosophy is not Theology, and most certainly not a subdivision of it.
    Theology is Philosophy with an agenda, it starts from the stand point that something is already true and then goes on from there. Philosophy doesn’t just assume anything is true. That is why theology isn’t respected as a real academic field. Real philosophy questions assumptions and in fact all things and constantly reevaluates itself, its goal is TRUTH.

    • You state that “Philosophy doesn’t just assume anything is true.” Is that not just starting the investigation with skepticism of any objective truth, which in and of itself is a beginning presupposition that any and all things must be questioned and in fact that ‘truth’ is not inherently knowable without skeptical and scientific experimentation. Philosophy by that standard also has an agenda, though a naturalistic rather than supernaturalistic or faith-based agenda.

  2. good articles.please more information i want if possible

  3. nice answer..
    it would easily understood by all who wants to read
    A M A Z I N G !!

  4. nice agenda please share more information about what is the real essence between the two..

  5. loved your oppions, very intresting and well worded

  6. i have a copy of his book with me right now. could you furnish me with a page number or section where i could find this passage? thanks!

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