Featured Theology as king of knowledge

Discussion in 'Daily Devotional Forum' started by greenbaggins, Feb 7, 2019.

  1. greenbaggins

    greenbaggins Administrator Staff Member

    James Thornwell, referencing Aristotle and John Locke, said it this way:

    (B)oth Aristotle and Locke regard it (theology, LK) "as the comprehension of all other knowledge," so that without it all other knowledge is fragmentary, partial and incomplete (Works of Thornwell, volume 1, p. 25). ​

    When the Enlightenment came along and dethroned theology from its rightful place at the head of all knowledge, then the rest of knowledge immediately started breaking up into smaller and smaller fragments, as it is today. Bits of knowledge float free-form and utterly isolated from anything else.
  2. Taylor Sexton

    Taylor Sexton Puritan Board Sophomore

    This is very good. I would go a step further and say that without theology, conscientious knowledge is impossible. Yes, we can certainly know things without theology, but such knowledge is in spite of the fact that we reject the sole foundation for knowledge at all—a biblical worldview.
  3. Ask Mr. Religion

    Ask Mr. Religion Flatly Unflappable Staff Member

    At such points in their thinking the systematic theologians of the CRT [nb: Classical Reformed Theology] are more like grammarians than like scientists or detectives. They attempt to show us (from Scripture, if they are being faithfully Christian) how to think, and how not to think, about God, and so how to talk about him. Or perhaps it is more faithful to the order of these things to say: taking our cue from Scripture we learn to talk in certain ways about God, and in learning to talk in these ways we learn to think reflectively in ways that our talk directs, and to avoid what it forbids (thinking of God as physically diffuse, or as merely local, say), and what it requires (thinking of all places as equally “open” to God), and what it allows (such as saying that God is “everywhere”). Definitions, drawn from Scripture and continually refined by the Scriptural data, tell us what to say and what not to say, in rather the way that grammarians codify a natural language, telling us what can and cannot make sense in that language, what is a mistake, which leads to the utterance of nonsense, and so on. Theological grammarians do not themselves control the things that we say: they attempt to indicate the rules of intelligible speech about revealed realities.​

    Paul Helm, Faith, Form, and Fashion: Classical Reformed Theology and Its Postmodern Critics, 2014, p. 32
  4. Alan D. Strange

    Alan D. Strange Puritan Board Junior

    Which is the death of the university. The idea of a university (with apologies to John Henry Newman) presupposes a unity of all knowledge, made possible, and completed, by theology.

    We no longer have, without theology, anything to give the university its oneness. We have only manyness without oneness, Heraclitus wins, and the university dissolves into a multiversity.

    The university arose in the Middle Ages out of the monastery schools, like the one headed by Alcuin in the Carolingian Renaissance, founded upon and explicative of the trivium and quadrivium from a Christian perspective.

    Alas, because of the reasons cited, the university as a whole is no more. Perhaps it will be revived, but we must recognize that it is largely moribund.

    To such, given the dissolution that you describe, we must now say, "ave atque vale."

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  5. greenbaggins

    greenbaggins Administrator Staff Member

    Yes, Alan, you went right where I was thinking, too. We only have multiversities, not universities. "University" is one of the biggest lies in modern education.
  6. Stephen L Smith

    Stephen L Smith Puritan Board Junior

    Agreed. That, to me, is why it is sad that a doctorate today is a PhD, rather than a Doctorate in Theology.
  7. Reformed Covenanter

    Reformed Covenanter Puritan Board Doctor

    Believe it or not, University College Dublin still sells Newman's book in its gift shop.
  8. Harley

    Harley Puritan Board Sophomore

    This thread reminds me of an interesting experience I had, I think, when I was converted. I could not account for it, but it happened, I started seeing subjects and sciences as all related. At first it's as if (in the words of David Murray) all subjects were in their segmented silos, but I began to see a oneness in all areas of study. I don't think I was thinking along the lines of the unity of subjects according to what is in this thread, but it did happen.

    What a broken model we have of education now, and I feel the effects of it. I still feel like my thinking on subjects is very silo'd. Before conversion, for that reason I had trouble with the doctrine of the unity of Scripture.

    You go to university, there's the math class, there's the accounting class, there's the business class, there's the marketing class, there's the audit class, but I could never see the interrelatedness of things and events that are so necessary to being a good businessman. I see the unity much better now, but such segmenting makes everything abstract, vaporous, and all the more confusing because these fragments of knowledge mean nothing in themselves. How sad to see the oneness of all things after the schooling is done!
  9. jwithnell

    jwithnell Moderator Staff Member

    Those contemporary to Isaac Newton had a difficult time incorporating the implications of an ordered, logical, scientifically-ordered universe with the earlier Roman, largely Aristotelian perspective. Our US universities seemed to fall one after another as each embraced the answers given by the emerging enlightenment thinkers.

    Have we ever been able to successfully marry (philosophically) that God ordains and orders whatever comes to past, and the physical laws of the universe that keep the planets spinning? Notice I'm not saying the two are at odds with each other, just that we need the correct language to settle the two into a truly universal language.

    I recently was reading Abraham Kuyper on science (he takes the historical view given in the OP that theology is the king of the sciences and that physical sciences are merely a part of the whole). He ends up making a deep separation between the physical and spiritual, perhaps under the influence of S. Kierkegaard? I do applaud his sense that scientific education must be fully Christian to be consistent and rational.
    Last edited: Feb 8, 2019
  10. Taylor Sexton

    Taylor Sexton Puritan Board Sophomore

    In my current view, it doesn't seem to me that God created the cosmos and then weaved in physical laws to ensure things would work well and consistently. Rather, God by his providence so consistently governs and maintains the universe that we can formulate, for example, mathematical constructions to demonstrate the effects of gravity on all objects, or things like that (I am no scientist). A miracle, therefore, is not something that "breaks the laws of nature," as some say, but it is rather a work of God outside his normal, consistent working.
  11. jwithnell

    jwithnell Moderator Staff Member

    That only makes sense. And those physical processes glorify God! The better capability to know and model those laws almost immediately drove many to deism, and an emphasis on particulars over universals. As a result reformed theologians branded deism atheism since God was removed from the moment-by-moment ordering of the cosmos. (George Marsden's assessment).
  12. Harley

    Harley Puritan Board Sophomore

    Is there anything I could read (online) or listen to related to this, both your comments and Lane's comment? Now that what I've been struggling with is now in words, I want to learn more. Where do I start? That is, this one and many, and all things unified in God.
  13. bookslover

    bookslover Puritan Board Professor

    As I understand it, though, Aristotle and the other Greek thinkers probably had philosophy in mind when making such statements, primarily, since "theology" in the sense we think of it really wasn't a "thing" yet. There were lots of stories and fables about the ancient (false) gods, but not a developed "theology," at least in the way we think about theology. "Comprehension of all other knowledge," for Aristotle, was a philosophical concept, not really a theological one.
  14. greenbaggins

    greenbaggins Administrator Staff Member

    Thomas Albert Howard's Protestant Theology and The Making of the Modern German University. For more theologically oriented works, Richard Lints's The Fabric of Theology is good, as well as Richard Muller's book The Study of Theology. Also read Abraham Kuyper's book Principles of Sacred Theology. The Howard book is the place to start, though, if you want to look at all knowledge and how it started to get really fragmented. Get the paperback, though, since the hardback is ridiculously expensive.
  15. Stephen L Smith

    Stephen L Smith Puritan Board Junior

    Thank you Lane. I had been looking for something like this for some time so this book looks ideal.

    I have looked through sample pages on Amazon. What I am unsure about - is this material useful for critiquing the fragmentation of modern knowledge in general, for example discussing this with a postmodernist and showing him that only Christian theism can give true unity in diversity. Any thoughts on this, Lane?

    I got a second hand copy on Amazon. It is worth looking at because some paperback editions are quite expensive too.
  16. Alan D. Strange

    Alan D. Strange Puritan Board Junior

    Lane answered in one direction (respecting the university and theology broadly). To go in a slightly different direction (explicating the one and the many particularly), Vern Poythress has written widely on this (numerically, especially in his work on Logic and Redeeming Mathematics), the latest being Knowing and the Trinity (P&R, 2018).

    Poythress seeks to ground ontology and epistemology in the Trinity and has a pervasive approach to this, applying in particular ways Van Til's assertion of all reality and knowledge as grounded in the ontological Trinity (and the self-attesting Christ of Scripture), played out in the Creator/creature distinction.

    Check out Poythress for what he has to say about the "one and many" and "all things unified in God."

  17. Taylor Sexton

    Taylor Sexton Puritan Board Sophomore

    I would like to point out that Dr. Poythress offers many of his books online for free.
  18. jwithnell

    jwithnell Moderator Staff Member

    Thanks! I didn't know this was available.
  19. greenbaggins

    greenbaggins Administrator Staff Member

    Stephen, the Howard book is historical in nature. Howard himself respects unity in knowledge, I believe. Howard answers the question: how did it get to where we are today in the multiversity setting? If you want something more constructive to try to rebuild unity in knowledge for yourself and others, you will need more than Howard. The other books I mentioned, plus the ones Alan recommended are the place to go.
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  20. Stephen L Smith

    Stephen L Smith Puritan Board Junior

    You do have me keen Lane :) In your list of books you included Abraham Kuyper's book Principles of Sacred Theology. From what I have seen on the Internet this book appears to be a good starting book regarding theology and unity in knowledge, and a reflection of the rich Dutch tradition in this area. Agreed?

    Also I see the Kuyper book "Encyclopedia of sacred theology : its principles" is also available, but this seem to me to be just another transltion of the Kuyper book you recommeded. Is this so?

    Further, I did wonder if Bavinck's insights in Revelational Epistemology are also relevant here - such as his Reformed Dogmatics and Philosophy of Revelation?

    Last edited: Feb 9, 2019
  21. greenbaggins

    greenbaggins Administrator Staff Member

    Kuyper's book "Encyclopedia of sacred theology: its principles" is actually the exact same book as "Principles of Sacred Theology," just a different printing. Kuyper wrote a 3 volume Encyclopedia, of which this volume is all of volume 2 and parts of volume 1. I am hoping that the new Kuyper translation project will include the rest of the encyclopedia as well. "Encyclopedia" here refers to the "circle of learning," not an alphabetical reference work.

    I am sure Bavinck is relevant. I read through volume 1 of his RD, and there are some brief comments on the subject matter. It was not, however, a subject which gripped Bavinck like it gripped Kuyper.
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