The relationship between theology, science, and philosophy is one that can be strained at times. Perhaps this is putting it mildly. There are some who see any innovation in the sciences and philosophy as an affront to faith, and to be fair, in some cases this is the case, but not in all cases. Roger Olson lays out an interesting summation of the events that lead to our modern times, mainly that modern theology is an attempt to respond to what has happened in science . There need not be a conflict between theology, science, and religion. However this is easier said than done so to speak. Theology once held the title of “queen of the sciences” and richly so .
At the heart of theology is the study of God. This includes His attributes, divine revelation, and it can extend to His creation. Understanding the physical sciences, from a theological perspective, keeps us is awe at what the Lord created and puts us in touch with His majesty in a deeper way. Theology and philosophy have always enjoyed a close relationship. Some of the greatest theologians in the history of the church, were also some of the world’s best philosophers. Thomas Aquinas comes to mind in the regard. Philosophy helps us find answers in regard to to human nature, the nature of reality, and the pursuit of truth . These things are not opposed to theology, but can help. We run into trouble when we put science or philosophy in a place that informs our theology instead of the other way around.
Theology, Science, and Philosophy
In one way or another everyone is on a quest for truth. Though Jesus is the truth, there are some who seek in in science and philosophy. In the enlightenment some would hold a position of empiricism, that rejects the truths of reason for those proven by experimentation . One can make the argument in the creation account in Genesis 1:28 that God encourages scientific exploration by the order to rule over the Earth. The Bible speaks about the universe being fixed in Jeremiah 31. That there are nonmaterial parts of reality and that there is a first cause. All which science has proven, and all appear in scripture.
Philosophy, at its root, means “the love of wisdom” . Jesus is called wisdom personified in Proverbs 8, and in the prologue of John’s Gospel we read about the Word being from the beginning. The search for wisdom is at the heart of philosophy and the Bible encourages us to grow in wisdom. In the modern era science and philosophy have a subordinate place in the study of theology. Theology will not change based on what one or the other says, but will be enhanced with a deeper appreciation and knowledge of the human person and natural sciences. Some discoveries in science and philosophy can change and adapt, but the truths of theology will not. They are not at odds with each other, but science and philosophy work to helps us with a better understanding of some aspects of theology.
God bless you all.
1. Olson, Roger E.. The Journey of Modern Theology : From Reconstruction to Deconstruction. Westmont: InterVarsity Press, 2013, 44.
2. Ibid, 37.
3. Schumacher, Lydia. “The History and Future of Philosophy’s Relationship with Theology.” International Journal of Philosophy and Theology 83, no. 5 (2022): 318-330.
4. Olson, 52.
5. Sweet, William. “Philosophy and the Love of Wisdom.” Algemeen Nederlands Tijdschrift Voor Wijsbegeerte 112, no. 3 (2020): 307-323.